All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘yao ming’

All Tied Up

Posted by hiphopmama on May 10, 2009

What's that expression? A picture is worth a th-... Ah fuck it. If they can't put in the effort, I can't either.

What's that expression? A picture is worth a thousand... Ah fuck it. If they can't put in the effort, I can't either.

LA Lakers 87, Houston 99
     Series tied 2-2

I’ve been dreading doing this write-up, not because the game was so painful – which it apparently was – but because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it in its entirety after learning and partially witnessing the debacle. I was busy today with Mother’s Day activities – thanks again to Miguel and Mari for their thoughtful gifts =) – but I checked in from time to time and watched in horror as the lead ballooned to near 30 points. The only extended stretch I watched was in the last few minutes when they cut it to 13, but after a couple minutes of that I decided my Thai food was more engrossing and went back to that instead.

There’s nothing to say about this game that we haven’t already repeated ad nauseum, all season long. They just don’t have that killer instinct, even with the best closer in the game on their roster, and they simply refuse to put teams away when they have the chance. And tonight was a chance if ever there was one, up 2-1 and facing a team that had just lost its best player. Will they still win this series? Yeah, probably, if for no other reason than because Yao is out of the picture, but this loss, more than even the sweep by the Bobcats, puts in question their title hopes for me. During the year, the excuse was always that they were too good and played down to the level of their competition because they were focused only on the bigger picture, meaning a championship. Now, there is no such excuse as they are in the thick of a contentious playoff series and supposedly keen to get in a position to redeem themselves for last year’s failings. Yet instead of putting the series essentially out of reach and burying a wounded Houston team, they let little Aaron Brooks run rampant and boost the Rockets to a 2-2 series tie. That they allowed Brooks to beat them says a lot about their effort today, after having bottled him up for games 2 and 3. They had clearly devised a good solution to the problems he presented, but despite seemingly learning their lesson in game 1, they let up on the gas and let Brooks carouse in the lane once again, helping the Rockets to an easier victory than either of the two we earned against them. Oh, and on top of all that, LO got hurt. More updates on that as information becomes available.

I can’t bring myself to write any more about this one, so I’ll leave it to a writer as sarcastic as I am, T.J. Simers from the LA Times. His piece captures the sheer disbelief I feel at the display my team put on today. Read it at your own peril.

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Aww Shit

Posted by hiphopmama on May 9, 2009

yao

You never wanna see someone go out like this, let alone a team’s most important player. Having already lost Tracy McGrady long ago, the Rockets are now down 7 feet and 6 inches of wow as Yao Ming has sustained a fracture in his foot and will miss the remainder of the playoffs. I’m a Laker fan, but I don’t like to see anyone win at the expense of another player’s health, and I’d much prefer us to face teams at full strength. It’s pretty much a given that T-Mac will get hurt and miss games at some point during the season, but if Yao is going to be doing the same the Rockets will have a tough road to hoe. And I love the guy, so I wish him all the best. 

I’m not sure yet what this means for the Rockets’ line-up or for match-ups with the Lakers. With Mutombo out as well, they don’t have a true center backing up Yao, so maybe Scola moves over to the five with Landry entering the starting line-up at four. It’s a small front court, to be sure, but I’m not sure what other options they have at this point. Chuck Hayes is a heckuva competitor and quite a scrapper on the boards, but at 6’6″ he barely qualifies as a forward to begin with. You can’t help but think this depletes their squad just too much, but I won’t put anything past this group, especially with Artest fueling them. As a Laker fan, though, I still hope we can close this thing out in 5. Let Yao start his road to recovery that much sooner.

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A Champion Caliber Win

Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009

Lakers Rockets
LA Lakers 108, Houston 94
     Lakers lead series 2-1

Now that is how you play and win a playoff game.  Not just any playoff game, either, but a potentially series-swinging one in a contentious match-up against a serious contender. There was very little in the way of “afters,” as they would refer to it in soccer, referring to the extracurricular activities that marred game 2. There were a couple of contentious moments, but other than that, both teams just played hard, playoff basketball and gave it absolutely everything they had.

The normally stellar refs had another good game under difficult circumstances. They managed to keep a lid on what could have been a powder keg of a game, and they got the Vujacic call right even if they got the Artest call wrong. Sasha did come down a little hard on Wafer on that three-point shot, but in reality the Nilla-man jumped at a 45-degree angle into him, which could have been called a foul on the Rockets player instead. They gave him his three free throws and got on with the game, as they should have. The Artest call, on the other hand, was not so artfully handled. Yes he came across Pau’s head a bit and he crashed awkwardly to the ground, but he at least appeared to have some intent to go for the ball and clearly wasn’t looking to cause any kind of injury. It was either a hard regular foul (my vote) or a flagrant 1 at most. I could have understood the refs going with the flagrant 1 because of the circumstances of this series, but a flagrant 2 was pretty excessive. I fully expect that one to be overturned or at least reduced, and certainly no suspension handed down.

And the game. What a game. As a Laker fan, it was about all I could have hoped for. At this point you know they’re not going to blow anybody out and keep them down double digits the whole way, especially not against as tough a team as the Houston Rockets, so grinding out a convincing victory even through the nail-biting moments is as good as it gets. It shows that kind of champions poise that we’ve been looking for in them, and which they lacked woefully in game 1, and it is the first serious indication that they may be back on the right track. 

The first quarter was close, and the biggest edge we could claim was that we won the battle of the pace of the game by putting up 30 points in the first 12 minutes. We played the second quarter even but claimed the moral advantage by taking a 2-point lead into halftime with some good play to close the half, but we really got our mojo working in the third quarter, when we scored 24 and held Houston to a mere 14 points. As always, when our defense is knuckling down, there is little anyone can do to hang with us since we have such a killer offense. 24 points isn’t exactly a huge haul for us in a single quarter, but when we hold our opponents to 14 it is as good as 30 or more. 

We rode that 12-point advantage through the fourth quarter to a victory despite a few tense minutes when the Rockets got to within 6 on a Yao Ming slam dunk. Instead of panicking, though, we simply ran our offense, upped our defense, and gritted our teeth to get the victory. The next trip down court, Farmar calmly drained a baseline jumper, and Kobe hit a ridiculous three as the shot clock was winding down to bump it back up an 11-point gap.

And that, effectively, was the game. This was a quintessential playoff game in many ways, with defense being the foremost. Neither team made it to 44% shooting, but we won that stat battle, holding the Rockets to 41.7% while shooting 43.9% ourselves. Our distributed scoring was another hallmark of our good team play, as Kobe’s 33 was amply supported by 16 from Odom, 13 from Pau and Ariza, 12 from Farmar, and 8, 6, and 4 from Brown, Walton, and Bynum, respectively. The most impressive stat of the night, for my money anyway, was the turnover breakdown. While we scored 20 points off 17 Rockets turnovers, they were only able to capitalize with 5 points off just 6 turnovers. That means that all game long, we took care of the ball every single possession except for 6. That is simply incredible, especially for this Lakers team, which often seems to think it can get away with any number of turnovers by hitting shots. 

To me, this game came down to good coaching. No disrespect to Adelman, who has clearly done an incredible job getting the most out of this team without its best player and leading scorer, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the savvy – or star power – as Phil Jackson, and PJ worked his magic again tonight. No Derek Fisher? Fine, we start Jordan Farmar and instill the confidence and readiness in him to go out and have the biggest game of his career. (His stat line was 12 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 turnover, by the way.) We lost home court and need this win to put ourselves back in the driver’s seat? Okay, our guys will come out ready and grind through a tough defensive game despite the “soft” label that is still being bandied about. The accusation that we don’t want it enough? Pfft. Just read our efficiency statistics and tell me who was better prepared for this game.

Let’s not get it twisted, now. This series is still a long way from over. That 75% number they kept quoting for teams who win game 3 after being tied 1-1 is all well and good, but it still means that 1 in 4 teams who lose game 3 come back to take the series. Those aren’t the most reassuring numbers as far as I’m concerned, and when this Rockets team is involved, I’m even tentative to call this more than a momentary advantage. But tonight’s was a huge game, make no mistake, and I do believe it will be a postseason-defining moment for us. If we can really drive the stake into their hearts all the way in the next game, we could essentially break their spirits and set ourselves up to close it out at home just like in the first round, as remarkable as that sounds. Will it happen? I’m not sure, but I’d say we have a good chance of doing it with our squad back at full strength Sunday with Fish’s return. My fingers are definitely crossed, though.

Highlights:

And here is Kobe’s 30+ footer to close the third quarter and give us the 12-point cushion that saw us through:

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Upset

Posted by hiphopmama on May 4, 2009

Story of the game: Yao tougher than Pau.

Story of the game: Yao tougher than Pau.

Houston 100, LA Lakers 92
     Rockets lead series 1-0

“Upset.” The word works on so many levels, but it’s still not the official word of the game. I’m going with the Josh tactic on this one and summing this game up with a single word: complacency. It wasn’t our ugliest game of the season, but the result was. Once again, we coulda/woulda/shoulda, but it means nothing as we head into game 2 down a game having lost home court advantage. And for the other Josh, anyone who says they’re “not worried” IS a lying little bitch. (And thanks for reading.) The Rockets are for real and look like a serious playoff team. They have all the ingredients even without their main man: a serious low-post threat, hard-nosed team D, and TWO good one-on-one defenders to put on Kobe, who, sore throat or no, could have done more in this one. 

The most troubling aspect of the game was how little involved we were able to get Pau over the course of 48 minutes. Phil kept talking about it in his stupid little mid-game interviews, but the result never changed. He kept getting pushed off the block and just looked tired to me. You knew all those extra minutes were going to have to catch up with him sooner or later, but this was a bad time for it to happen. To be honest, his game has been somewhat on the decline since the last few games of the regular season, as his usually astronomical shooting percentages started coming down into mortal territory – like, say, 60% or so. We didn’t really need a lot from him to topple Utah, but that won’t be the case in this series.

Which brings us to Bynum. It’s gotta be said – he needs to be coming off the bench. Not, in this case, because he’s playing poorly – which he kind of is – or because our chemistry was better with Lamar – which it was – but because the little dummy can’t stay out of foul trouble. I think he could be a huge asset in this series – he’s big, physical, and can bang Yao around on the block – so it’s crucial that he not be saddled with early fouls that keep him out of the game in important situations. Especially with Yao playing so well, we’ve got to have somebody in there that he has to work to defend. Otherwise it’s just too easy for him.

And Yao has certainly stepped his game up. I remember feeling bad for him when I’d watch him play because he looked so unsure of himself out there. He looked like he was scared to step on anyone’s toes or go up for a hard rebound. He’s still not the most physical player, but now he’s playing with some aggression and looks completely comfortable in his game, both the outside and inside components. Talk about clutch. Doug Collins kept saying how the script was similar to the four regular season meetings, but tonight Yao and Artest played the Kobe role of clutch shooting to hold onto their team’s lead and edge us out for home court advantage. Big hat-tip to them for that one. Adelman may be a twat, but he instilled some big ones in his boys to convince them they could come into our arena and beat us in a playoff game after getting swept 4-0 in the season series. He earned that number two spot behind Mike Brown for Coach of the Year.

This one hurt, no point denying it, but there are more games to come. PJ has been there enough that I can only figure he’ll have the right tools to get the team back on track and have them ready to even it up on Wednesday. That damn lay-off lasted too long and accounted for some early rust, but that’s not why we lost. The Rockets simply had a superior strategy for defending us that involved forcing our number one into difficult shots – worked for the first half – and forcing our number two out of his game completely – worked for the whole game – and outside of those two players we’re pretty shallow. Save for Lamar Odom, of course, who never seemed to get in the flow either with the physical interior play of Houston. Lesson learned, Tejanos. On to game 2. And Champions League action, to take my mind off that debacle.

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<3

Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009

Lakers Rockets

LA Lakers 102, Houston 96

(51-13)

That’s what we showed tonight: heart. And composure. And persistence. And even a little bit of that swagger that eluded us last year against Boston. We came out decent enough and ended up playing the first quarter even, but the Rockets jumped on us in the second and took an 11 point lead and all the momentum into halftime. I don’t know what Phil told them at halftime, but it worked, because the Lakers rediscovered their defense and held Houston to 19 points in the third quarter and slowly but surely chipped away at the lead. Instead of wilting in the face of pressure, they just kept at it, knowing that if it was close down the stretch, only one team had the necessary tools to close the deal.

We reclaimed the lead on a Vujacic jumper at the 9-minute mark of the fourth quarter and never looked back. It was still tight the rest of the way, with the Rockets hanging around and occasionally tying it up, but they never had quite enough to take it from us. Or more accurately, we never let them. We really won this one in the second half with our defense. We suffocated Yao Ming on the block, making him look like a total butterfingers out there, and they were unable to punish our hanging off the weak side by knocking down outside shots. One V. Wafer had another good game against us, as did Aaron Brooks, but Houston had no one to go to in those close late-game possessions, while we rode comfortably on Kobe’s back. He had only 6 points in the first half, but his 21 in the second – including 18 in the fourth quarter – buoyed us to the victory. He did it in typically spectacular fashion, with the extra twist being his jawing session with Ron Artest. It started when the two got tangled up halfway through the fourth, Kobe taking exception to Artest’s physical play and responding in kind. From then on, they never stopped the back-and-forth, all the way through the requisite free throws and final buzzer. Artest is a good defender, but he didn’t do much to stop Kobe tonight, as Kobe scored on pull-up jumpers and slashes to the basket, as well as from the line to close it out. It was exactly as Clyde Drexler said – if it’s close in the final minutes, it’s advantages Lakers simply because of the existence of number 24.

I rarely do this, so let’s make it count: the Houston announcers were really good in this one. Clyde Drexler and the other dude were completely painless during the whole game, which is rare indeed for announcers of teams taking on the Lakers. Kudos to them. 

Highlights:

Game recap:

This was a much needed win after some extremely shaky play from us, especially going into the game tomorrow night against San Antonio. As I watched the game slip away from us in the second quarter, I started questioning the team, wondering if this would be the point in the season when it all slipped away. But then they found their resolve, played some D, and put the Rockets in their place, which is the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture. That’s pretty good considering they are without T-Mac, but still nowhere near challenging us in crunch time. 

One final shout-out: to Josh Powell for his 17 points and 9 boards in his cameo as starting power forward in Lamar’s absence. That was a serious contribution from a player who has earned his minutes in our crowded rotation. That face-up jumper is deadly and could be real helpful down the line. Oh, and his slam dunk on Yao was the play of the night.

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Clutch Performers

Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009

Lakers Rockets

LA Lakers 105, Houston 100

(31-6)

This is the kind of game that would make me grimace if it were at home, but on the road it’s a perfectly acceptable win. I should preface that by saying that I missed the first three quarters – damn familial obligations =) – but from what I can gather it was played pretty close the whole way through. Neither team was able to win a quarter by more than four points. Until the fourth, that is, when the Lakers turned it on and proved just how important it is to have players confident enough to take, and fully expect to make, the big shot at the end of the game. I think we all know what that guy is for us.

Kobe was amazing last night in another heroic late game performance. I can’t vouch for his play the rest of the game – he shot only 13-for-32 overall – but he was 5-for-8 in the fourth quarter and kept the team afloat until the Rockets fumbled away their chances. From 93-93, a couple of Kobe jumpers and an Odom hook shot bumped us up to a four point lead, before Alston made a little floater in the lane with a minute and a half left. The next offensive set, a perimeter jump shot from LO was the best we could get, and when it missed, we watched as Battier got the ball after a broken play and drilled an open three from the corner to give the Rockets a one point lead. Frustrating, to say the least, because we’ve seen that scenario one too many times.

But from there on out, it was clear which team was built for these situations. With the shot clock winding down, Kobe pulled up – officially from 27 feet, but more subjectively from what I would call “way the hell out there” – with defenders in his face and absolutely drained a killer three. It was a knock-out blow; the Rockets never got another point. They had plenty of chances. Carl Landry, who was in the midst of a great game, looked at and then passed up an open shot, Alston missed a pair of free throws, and Yao wasted their last shot on a turn-around jumper (which he missed) despite the fact that they were down three and a two was essentially worthless. A few free throws from Pau were enough to seal the deal, but Kobe’s three was the real end for the Rockets. It sure is nice to have someone who can do that, eh?

And that’s all I know. Someone else will have to fill me in on how we were played so tight by a team missing both Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest, and how Kobe ended up with a Nelly band-aid over his right eye, but none of that matters too much since we got the W. Like I said, you expect to have less than perfect games on the road. What it’s really all about is keeping yourself close enough to give yourself a chance if you can finish well. And I think we all know we have the best in the business in that department.

Game recap and highlights:

And the last minute and a half, for your viewing pleasure:

My apologies for all the late write-ups recently. Apparently reading and the Lakers don’t mix – put that one in an NBA Cares commercial – because ever since I got hooked on books again my viewing and watching schedule has been thrown off. We’ll see if I can figure out how to do both, although my guess is that the books will fall by the wayside before the Lakers do. Just a hunch.

And now we are upon a serious set of games. We have the second of our back-to-back tonight in San Antonio to face a Spurs team that is almost as hot as us of late, winning eight of their last ten. They are coming off a loss, but it was to Orlando, which is an understandable defeat (let’s not bring that game up, please). On Friday we’ll be back at home to face the Magic ourselves and try to get some redemption after we couldn’t pull one out on their home floor a little while back. Orlando is a disgustingly good 31-8, just two losses off our pace, and they have been playing consistent ball the whole season, for the most part spacing out their losses and getting good wins in between. They have beat heavy hitters like San Antonio (twice), New Orleans, and us, and they’ve done it in multiple ways. Just looking at their line-up makes me shudder. Dwight Howard is a beast, averaging 20 points and more than 3 blocks a game, and pairing him with a surging Jameer Nelson is a potentially lethal combination. We haven’t exactly held our own against speedy point guards, especially when they have a big man counterpart, but I’m hoping that we can get the job done on our home floor. Finally, we take on Cleveland – again at home – on Monday in a battle between the teams with the best records in the NBA at the moment. I don’t think I need to say any more about that one. All I can say is I’m glad Lamar is back. We’re going to need every weapon we have to come out of these on top.

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Lakers Keep Rolling

Posted by hiphopmama on November 10, 2008

Houston 82, LA Lakers 111

(5-0)

They started slow, but in the end the Lakers made easy work of the Houston Rockets in their toughest test of the young season. They were outscored by 12 in a sluggish first quarter, but they pounded the Rockets the rest of the way, winning the second quarter by 14, the third by 5, and the fourth by a whopping 22 points to push their record to 5-0. 

The Lakers shot better than they have so far this year, going 42/79 for 53.2% while holding the Rockets to 37.8% shooting (31/82). They out-rebounded Houston by 14 as well, and once again they got solid contributions from the whole line-up. All 12 guys played and all but Luke Walton scored. Kobe unsurprisingly led the way in terms of scoring, but the points were well distributed as well, with four players in double figures (Kobe 23; Gasol 20; Farmar 16; Bynum 13) and great all-around games by many others, including Trevor Ariza, who has continued to prove himself to me and plenty of others (see J.A. Adande’s article on his plus/minus for the Lakers). Gasol had the most impressive game by far, securing 15 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks. Bynum came through as well with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks in a good defensive effort. D-Fish started, but Farmar played more minutes and racked up a bigger statline, with 6 assists to go with his 16 points.

Artest and McGrady both had off nights, although Aaron Brooks had a good outing off the bench with 20 points and Yao chipped in 12 as well. The real Yao story of the night, though, was Kobe’s block of the 7 1/2-footer. It’s included in the highlights below.

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