4/12/11: Lakers Get Back On Track… Sort Of… Not Really…

The Lakers snapped their five-game losing streak with a 102-93 win over the “San Antonio Spurs”.  I put San Antonio Spurs in quotations because the team the Lakers played wasn’t really the San Antonio Spurs.  The team in black started George Hill, Gary Neal, Richard Jefferson, Tiago Splitter, and DeJuan Blair.  LA played everyone… they had something to play for… yet this game was tied at the half.  In fact, LA trailed (although briefly) in the fourth quarter.  The nine-point differential in the final score isn’t a very good indication of what actually happened.  This one was tight right up until the final few minutes of the fourth, when the far more experienced group of Lakers were able to close it out successfully.  I suppose that a win is a win, but I’m hardly feeling encouraged if I’m a Laker fan, especially with this Andrew Bynum injury situation.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose tomorrow, actually.  Their opponents–the Kings–will quite possibly be playing their final game at the famous Arco Arena (F@ck a Power Balace Pavilion!), so you know the intensity will be there.  Not only that, the Kings have played respectable ball lately… they’re one game above .500 over their last 14.  DeMarcus Cousins could be poised for a big night… he’s coming off a career-high 30-point game against OKC, and he won’t have to deal with Andrew Bynum.  Hell, forget all that, I don’t really even need to validate the Kings… the Lakers damn near lost last night’s game to the imitation Spurs… anything could happen.  I will say this: they won’t be winning if they play how they played in this one.  San Antonio shot 35 percent in this game and lost by nine points.  Had they been able to make a basket in the first quarter (15 points) they probably would’ve won the damn thing.  Anyway, Kobe was the game’s leading scorer with 27, but he shot just 8-21.  Pau Gasol had a nice statistical night with 17/17, but he had some Gasoft moments as DeJaun Blair and Tiago Splitter combined for 20/19 on him.  Lamar Odom came up big off the pine with 23/7/4.  After the game, Odom told Cheryl Miller the Lakers have become “overconfident at times”, causing them to drop these games.  He also stated that the Playoffs have come at the perfect time for he and his squad, basically implying that they’re bored and ready to get down to business.  Dangerous attitude… but we all know it’s reflective of what this team’s attitude has been for a few seasons, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.

I find it odd that a Kobe Bryant team can get so complacent.  Hate him or love him, you know Kobe takes every single game of basketball equally seriously… he can’t help it, it’s just the way he is.  The dude is a competitor, and I imagine that every ounce of his self-esteem revolves around how his latest game of basketball went.  He goes hard whether it’s the Finals or a mid-November game against a cellar dweller, but clearly, that attitude doesn’t rub off onto his teammates.  I guess that’s probably a good thing at times, because it would be awfully difficult for a team with a bunch of guys who care as much about their individual performance as Kobe Bryant does (I’m not calling him selfish, but you know damn well he’s very concerned with how he plays as an individual) to build any chemistry and have success as a unit.  It’s almost like the Lakers have to maintain a perfect balance between Kobe’s individual over-competitiveness and the rest of the crew’s layed back nature in order to play at their best.  When they get satisfied with where they’re at, they lose.  When Kobe gets too fired up and tries to do it all himself, they often lose.  Odom says what I’m calling “the balance” will be back this weekend.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

I spent a few days getting all hyped up for this 6th place battle between Memphis and Portland only to turn the game on and find out that Z-Bo and Tony Allen were no-goes on account of rest.  F@ck that.  Memphis was still able to keep it competetive for a while, but Portland began to pull away in the final minutes of the third quarter, and then made it a double-digit game with a 10-2 run between the 9:00 and 6:20 marks of the fourth.  The only Grizzly to score a basket between the 10:40 and 5:45 marks of the period was…you’d never guess this one in a million years… Hamed Haddadi.  Hamed, who had scored a total of 56 points this season coming into this game, dropped seven in a row for the Grizzlies during that stretch.  Good for Hamed, bad for Memphis.  They were never able to make a run, and Gerald Wallace stuck the dagger in ‘em with 49 seconds left (three-pointer, made it 100-89).  So… the Grizz can now finish no higher than 7th, and they have to hope the Mavs beat the Hornets tomorrow if they want to avoid the Spurs.  I guess it doesn’t really matter, actually… they’re most likely going to get LA or San Antonio, and they don’t want to see either of those teams.  They better hope the Lakers choke and the Mavs win tonight.

Derrick Rose got off to a slow start, but, as usual, he picked his game up in the second half (scored 16 of his 26 after halftime) and led the Bulls on a 16-0 early-third-quarter run that blew the game wide open.  The Knicks bench (most notably Bill Walker, who dropped 18) brought them back a bit, but they never got it any closer than six.  D-Rose and company ended up pulling away again and took it 103-90, ending NYK’s seven-game win streak.  The Knicks came out making shots, as they have been lately, but they cooled off dramatically in the third quarter.  They ended up shooting just 41 percent in the game… there’s your answer as to why they lost (along with the fact that the Bulls were able to shoot layups at will, 48 paint points).  At one point late in the second quarter, the Bulls scored on uncontested layups three possessions in a row off of their halfcourt offense.  The camera zoomed in on Mike D’Antoni, who looked completely unconcerned.  I then said to my father something like, “the fact that he isn’t screaming his head off right now really disturbs me.”  It truly does, I mean, how can you expect to win basketball games without giving an 18th of a f@ck at one end of the floor?  So when it comes to the Knicks… seven wins in a row, seven losses in a row, I don’t care.  This team isn’t going to win anything playing this way.  Shots aren’t going to fall every night, especially in the postseason.  As poorly as the Cs have been playing, they still D up.  Congratulations on ending the 10-year playoff drought, New York, but that’s about as far as the train is going to roll.  As for the Bulls, that train is rolling (eight wins in a row now), and I expect it to keep on doing so.  They’ll beat the Nets tomorrow, and if the Spurs lose in Phoenix then Chi-Town will finish alone atop the league’s standings.  San Antonio will probably bench their starters again, so things are looking pretty promising in the Windy City right about now.

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