The Starting Lineup: Nuggets Spoil Kobe’s Flu Game

Nuggets 113, Lakers 96: In an exciting turn of events that this first round desperately needed, the Denver Nuggets have come from down 0-2 (and 1-3) to force a game seven in Los Angeles.  Their chances of taking the series?  Historically, 20 percent.  If they can manage to play a game anything like the one they played last night?  Better than 20 percent.

For the sole purpose of referencing Tim Thomas in this post, I’d like to note that the last team to successfully come back from down 1-3 to win a series was the ’05/06 Suns, who beat the Lakers in the first round.  Alright, let’s get going…

The Nuggets twice denied Andrew Bynum at the rim on the opening possession of game six.  After gathering the loose ball, Ty Lawson took it the other way and tossed in a three.  Little did we know it would be his first of five connections from deep, and Denver’s first of 10.  Three of those 10 came in the first two minutes as the Nuggets got off to an incredible 13-0 start.  The run that had commenced with the Lawson three was capped by a Kenneth Faried dunk, and there had been three Denver scores on the four possessions in between.  It was nuts, but had you been listening to an audio-only version of TNT’s broadcast you’d have known nothing of the underdog explosion—only that Kobe Bryant had the flu.  I swear, f@cking Marv Albert and Steve Kerr spent about 97.3 percent of this broadcast jocking Kobe Bryant.  Unfortunately, Marv, Steve, and all the other folks who wanted to write the story before the game started didn’t get to watch Kobe have his “Michael Jordan moment,” as they continuously suggested he could.

After missing his first two jump shots, Kobe actually went on to score 10 of LA’s 20 first-quarter points.  Still, his Lakers found themselves in a 10-point hole.  Denver had run off 30 points, half of which came from beyond the arc.  While impressive, their marksmanship from downtown seemed like fool’s gold.  More promising, I thought, was their work on the glass.  Aside from a couple recoveries of their own blocked attempts the Lakers had yet to collect an offensive rebound in the first eight minutes.

Kobe Bryant continued to score effectively through the second quarter, and the Lakers got a boost from Jordan Hill off the bench.  However, they were only able to shave one point off the lead come halftime due to more sharp shooting from the Nuggets, who had knocked down 8 of 11 from three.

The third quarter got off to an interesting start.  Danilo Gallinari missed a long jump shot, then missed a three-pointer off of an offensive rebound.  Denver collected another offensive board, but only to see a Ty Lawson three-pointer sail out of bounds.  Here we go, I thought.  The game would slow down, the threes would stop falling, and the home team would soon be on the brink of elimination.  Two minutes later, the Lakers called a timeout.  Denver was up 18.

That early-third-quarter explosion seemed to happen even more quickly than the first-quarter run did.  I felt like I’d blinked and Denver’s lead had doubled.  Maybe I felt that way because that’s basically what happened.  I think I took a look glance at my Twitter timeline and missed the whole thing.  Apparently it was Kenneth Faried putting in the work; he produced 10 of his 15 in the first six minutes of the third.

Following that aforementioned Laker timeout, the Nuggets scored on 12 consecutive possessions.  The lead had ballooned to 22 by the start of the fourth quarter, when Corey Brewer (of all people) would dash any hopes of a Laker comeback by scoring 11 consecutive points over the course of about four minutes.  No disrespect to Corey Brewer, but when he’s knocking down pull-up jumpers and contested three-pointers at the shot clock buzzer… ain’t much you can do about that.

One Christian Eyenga sighting later, the game had come to an end.  The Nuggets finished with 10 threes on 20 tries, 50 points in the paint, and a 47-42 advantage on the boards.  Not only was it a wire-to-wire victory, but a wire-to-wire ass kicking, basically.  Kobe was effective with his 31 points on 23 shots, but Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol combined to go 5-21.  To say they played poorly would be an understatement.  Had someone watched this game unaware of who any of the players were, they probably would’ve assumed the Lakers’ starting frontcourt was composed of two lumbering stiffs.

Speaking of assumptions, it’s probably about time I stop assuming Andrew Bynum is going to show up.  I thought he’d pretty much turned the corner, but right now I’m being forced to reconsider.  I believe it was early in the fourth quarter of last night’s disaster when they showed him sitting at the end of the bench, staring blankly into oblivion as the rest of the team took part in a huddle.  Wherever his mind was… it certainly didn’t seem to be on winning a basketball game, or a series of basketball games, for that matter.

One thing I do know about Andrew Bynum: I don’t want this f@cking guy on my team.  I don’t care how big, talented, healthy, and perpetually young he is, Andrew Bynum can take his attitude and his “easy” elimination games elsewhere.

It should probably be noted that Ty Lawson scored a career playoff high of 32 points.  He also grabbed 5 rebounds as he dished 6 assists to 0 (ZERO) turnovers.  His five threes came on six tries and his 32 points came on 18 shots.  Lawson will have to be as assertive as he was in this game if the Nuggets are to win game seven in Los Angeles.

Celtics 83, Hawks 80: I don’t even know where to begin with this game.  The officiating was as terrible as the offense, and the offense was as ugly as a Josh Smith jump shot (probably because it was a Josh Smith jump shot when the game hung in the balance).  The uncheerable douchebag of a scrub who is Ryan Hollins made meaningful contributions in crunch time, and Al Horford missed a free throw that would’ve tied the game with two seconds left.  Can I just leave it at that?

Since I feel obliged to provide deeper insight, I suppose I’ll begin with the officiating.  It sucked, and it was completely one-sided.  On one sequence, Kevin Garnett shoved Erick Dampier square in the back as he attempted to score a layup.  Could Dampier have converted the attempt in an empty gym?  Probably not, but a foul is a foul is a foul.  At the other end, Kevin Garnett proceeds to spin baseline.  Nothing really happens, but Erick Dampier is called for a foul.  If I’m Erick Dampier, I retire on the spot.

The Celtics went on to attempt 24 free throws.  The Hawks took 10.  Since I’m not one to judge a game by the numbers, I’ll provide you with a few more examples of sh!tty officiating.

-Rajon Rondo falls down.  Foul.
-Josh Smith blocks a Paul Pierce dunk attempt.  Foul.
-Kevin Garnett does whatever he wants.  No foul.
-Tommy f@cking Heinsohn says a Celtic fouled in the rebounding action.  No foul.
-Paul Pierce holds Joe Johnson as he drives to the basket in an attempt to send the game to overtime.  On the same play, Pierce hits Johnson’s arm as he tries a layup.  No foul.
-Marquis Daniels grabs Al Horford before the ball is inbounded.  Foul, but not of the “before the ball was inbounded” variety.

Does it matter?  In the sense that neither of these teams will beat the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals, no.  To the Atlanta Hawks, their fans, and that guy who wanted to see a good game?  Yes.

Getting beyond the officiating, both teams played pretty bad.  The Celtics were unable to gain separation despite Atlanta’s inability to put the ball in the basket, and the Hawks were unable to put a run together between the middle of the second and fourth quarters.  Marvin Williams (16/8 on 6-13) was probably Atlanta’s most consistent contributor, which speaks volumes about their 80-point, 41% performance.  Al Horford turned the ball over 7 times, Jeff Teague went 2-9, Joe Johnson shot the ugliest air ball I’ve ever seen, and Josh Smith took a jump shot when the Hawks needed to score.  As for the Celtics, Kevin Garnett delivered 28 points and 14 rebounds.  The rest of the team was bad enough to keep it close.

Sixers 79, Bulls 78: Rumor has it Andre Iguodala made the game-winning free throws.  Someone check Hell, let me know if it’s cold.

Meanwhile… Chris Andersen has become involved in a criminal investigation that I’m sure he’d rather not be a part of, whether he’s done anything wrong or not.  Four people voted for someone other than James Harden in the running for Sixth Man of the YearIvan Johnson held a certain finger to a Celtics fan after receiving a DNPCD.  Kevin Garnett got his Pinocchio on, claiming that he’s “firm, not dirty.

And I’m an acclaimed journalist, not some guy who started his own blog.

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