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A Bad Night

Tough losses for all three of the teams I was supporting tonight. Being on hand to see the Wizards lose a game in which the Cavs held a lead for maybe two minutes total (of course it's not how many minutes you hold the lead for, but which minutes) is, of course, especially disappointing. Arenas is going to have to try to add "hitting the big shots" to the Gilbertology arsenal. I note, in addition, that at one point in the fourth quarter he was shooting free throws and substantial portion of the crowd failed to observe the traditional "shut up while your guy is shooting" rule, then Gilbert missed the shot and Antonio Daniels motioned for everyone to quiet down. Since life was made for second-guessing, I think it was a mistake on Eddie Jordan's part to keep Brendan Haywood on the bench once Big Z fouled out. The point of benching Brendan once he picked up his fifth seemed to be to save him to defend Ilgauskas late in the game if necessary. But with Z gone, there was nothing to save him for and it would have been worth trying to take advantage of Cleveland's reduced size.

Meanwhile, there's something downright creepy about the new, team-oriented Kobe. Obviously, enhanced maturity is a good thing. But if Kobe really wanted to be team-oriented, it was in his power at one time to have Shaq as a teammate.

April 29, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

"Being on hand to see the Wizards lose a game in which the Cavs held a lead for maybe two minutes total"

Yup. The Cavs stole a game the Wiz by all rights won.

Amazing drive by LBJ for the winning margin.

Hughes completely blew his coverage on Arenas on the final play. It was as bad as Bibby's breakdown on Brent Barry. Hughes fuckup left Arenas completely open, and Gilberto just couldn't knock the shot all the way down.

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Bonzi Wells had 10 offensive rebounds? WTF?

The final play in the Sac/SA game was pretty amazing. Perfect defense from Duncan, and even better finish from Martin.

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"Meanwhile, there's something downright creepy about the new, team-oriented Kobe."

Wipe the guy's slate clean.

I wasn't a Lakers fan a week ago, but I am now. Kobe is running the Jackson triangle better than Jordan ever did. The fact that they're manhandling the Suns with Bryant, Odom, and a bunch of CBA guys is a thing of beauty.

To understand the brilliance of Phil Jackson, you just have to compare and contrast the Lakers and the Cavs. The Lakers' system is designed to maximize the benefits of having the best player on the floor, and to prevent the opponent from overloading on him. The Cavs' system, not so much.

I know it's early, but the Lakers have a pretty do-able glide path into the Western conference finals. We all thought this playoffs was going to be a coming out party for LeBron. Maybe it's going to be a coming out party for Kobe instead.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 29, 2006 2:54:03 AM

Kobe is a confusing guy to figure out sometimes. For example, his career high in assists came last year, the year they didn't make the playoffs.

Kobe's stats tonight look horrible, but he played 46 minutes, touched the ball on most every possession to draw the double team and basically let the other guys play four on three.

Posted by: Mark | Apr 29, 2006 3:04:08 AM

Bonzi Wells had 10 offensive rebounds? WTF?

Bizzarely enough, Bonzi has really been carrying the Kings this series. By all rights, they should be up 2-1, but I can't really hold it against him for missing a few free throws when he was so great everywhere else in Game 2.

Oh, and Adelman won't be back next year. His decision making in Game 2 was piss poor, and not much better Game 3 - Martin's last second layup was a bail-out; Miller seriously needs his minutes cut given what a defensive and offensive liability he's becoming. A small-ball lineup would be killing the Spurs, especially with what Wells and Thomas have proven themselves capable of (and Kenny Thomas has been spectacular all season, out of nowhere).

Posted by: Kurt Montandon | Apr 29, 2006 3:10:34 AM

"Kobe's stats tonight look horrible, but he played 46 minutes, touched the ball on most every possession to draw the double team and basically let the other guys play four on three."

Exactly the case.

The Lakers are playing such methodical and disciplined ball that it really does make me wonder how far they can go. Of course, they're playing a team with zero interior presence, which won't be the case against the Clippers or against the big boys. But it's fun to watch while it lasts.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 29, 2006 3:23:46 AM

But if Kobe really wanted to be team-oriented, it was in his power at one time to have Shaq as a teammate.

Re-signing Kobe might have been one of the reason for the Shaq trade, but the main reason is that Shaq wanted too much money to re-sign with the Lakers, especially due to his declining performance.

Kwame won't ever be Shaq, he is about 12 points short, but the rest of his line: 13 points, 11 boards, 5 assists, 3 blocks, no turnovers. That's more creepy than Kobe being the team player.

Posted by: cedichou | Apr 29, 2006 4:05:01 AM

Kwame is playing a team of midgets. People forget that the Suns are not only missing Amare but the long-underrated Kurt Thomas (who, if he played more in 2000 under van Gundy agst the Pacers -- rather than the thoroughly forkified LJ -- coulda made a huge difference).

It is much easier to implement Suns-defeating strategies not only when they are playing with smoke & mirrors themselves (aside from Marion, Diaw, and Nash, is it clear that anyone else should be in the top 7 of the rotation of a playoff team? Tim Thomas is an odd case, but he is overratable on past "promise" himself), but when you're playing them in a best of 7 rather than than after facing some slow-down team.

That said, if Suns were healthy (i.e., Amare no more or less hobbled than Duncan), they are the best team in the NBA.

Posted by: Jeff H | Apr 29, 2006 7:30:20 AM

re: Kobe's brilliance at running the team offense and Phil Jackson's scheme and all that...what I don't understand is, WTF did we just see for the last six months? An 82 game bout of rope-a-dope?

Posted by: Quarterican | Apr 29, 2006 7:57:19 AM

1. Kobe shot more and played less team ball during the season because he trusted his teammates less. Part of their problem, it turns out, was that they didn't understand the triangle. But partly, they were just playing poorly. Odom looks unbelievable right now; that was not always the case during the season.

Also, Kobe always got a bad rap on the Shaq-Kobe thing. I assume there will be a Shaq-Wade problem in two years, if not next year.

2. I'm lovin' Kwame. Yes, he still gets too excited on the offensive end. Yes, if he actually worked for position, he might get ten more boards again. But in Game 2 I saw a seven foot player move his feet and stay in front of Nash on the perimeter. I didn't know that was possible.

3. Gawd help me, the Lakers could probably use that fuck Redick as the uber-Kerr. Just writing that sentence makes me want to cry.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 29, 2006 8:55:20 AM

"WTF did we just see for the last six months? An 82 game bout of rope-a-dope?"

Right. Cloak the awesome power of Kwame until just the right moment...

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I think Phil let Kobe have his fun this season, putting his name into the record books with Wilt and MJ. And it certainly doesn't hurt to mau-mau the rest of the league with the legends of Kobe's brilliance.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 29, 2006 9:13:40 AM

LeBron took a few extra steps on that last drive, but the finish sure was impressive. The man-to-man duel with Gilbert down the stretch was great, and it is pretty amazing that the Cavs pulled it out, considering how little help LeBron was getting on offense. Hughes sure did fuck that defense up on the last play, but Gilbert just couldn't get that one last shot to fall, in spite of having hit a lot of big ones already in the 4th.

SA is looking a little discombobulated...Duncan finally had a dominant game, and Finley was both productive and clutch, but Ginobili struggled, and Parker got badly outplayed by Bibby. I wasn't sure the Kings were doing the right by not fouling on that last SA possession, since the shot/game clock difference was only about 3 seconds, but it sure worked out OK for them.

The Lakers are looking good, I've got to hand it to them. Phoenix is displaying very little heart, and Phil's recognition of the Suns' inability to guard anyone (plus his convincing Kobe of that fact) has helped everyone else on the Lakers to get involved.

Posted by: Haggai | Apr 29, 2006 10:33:00 AM

haggai, i'm glad i wasn't the only one who thought lebron got away with an extra step on that last play, but it was spectacular nonetheless.

Posted by: howard | Apr 29, 2006 11:15:47 AM

LBJ took extra steps on the final play because he was being fouled multiple times by the 'zards.

I agreed with the refs in not calling the fouls, but once you don't call the fouls, you can't call steps that result from the non-called fouls.

All in all, it was good no-calls all around on that play.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 29, 2006 11:27:30 AM

All the attention seems to be on the Lakers moving away from their Kobe-centric offense but what's really killing the Suns is their lack of scoring. If Phoenix is going to score 92 or 93 points per game ( pace has not been the issue), it's over.

Now maybe, as Doug Collins was saying, Marion and Diaw aren't scoring as they can because of the pounding Odom and to a lesser extent Brown are putting on them when the Lakers have the ball. Still, if the Suns are going to win, they're going to have to play better offensively. Lakers defense, more than offense, is what's done the Suns in.

Posted by: QuietStorm | Apr 29, 2006 11:28:34 AM

"Phoenix is displaying very little heart"

I don't think it has anything to do with heart. Phoenix just has a threadbare active roster that can't match up with the Lakers. All the heart in world will only go so far under those circumstances.

And FWIW, to my eyes, Phoenix has been fighting hard.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 29, 2006 11:29:57 AM

"Lakers defense, more than offense, is what's done the Suns in."

Not to get all zen on you, but in the playoffs when you're seeing the same team game after game, dominance on one end of the court starts to transfer toward dominance on the other end of the court too.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 29, 2006 11:32:52 AM

They didn't look they were fighting that hard last night, at least not as hard as the Lakers. The Suns missed a lot of easy shots in the lane that should have resulted in either dunks or FTs.

Petey, funny bit from ESPN's Dime on that last LeBron bucket:

"Oh, and that final play in which he scored the winning basket? Six violations, by one observer's TiVO count (three fouls on the Wizards, three traveling violations on LeBron). If memory serves, MJ may have committed a violation or three on winning hoops back in the day."

I actually thought LeBron travelled "only" once, switching pivot feet after he first planted once he picked up the dribble. I guess the case can be made that he didn't get the shot off until he came down and touched the floor, but I thought he released it just in time.

Posted by: Haggai | Apr 29, 2006 11:33:53 AM

Meanwhile, there's something downright creepy about the new, team-oriented Kobe.

Hate only makes him stronger.

Also, the knock that "Kobe doesn't make the players around him better" should be off the table too, as others (and reluctantly, myself) have noted about the astounding rise of Kwame.

Could be Phil Jackson's best coaching job ever, as well.


Posted by: SoCalJustice | Apr 29, 2006 12:50:38 PM

The officiating in basketball is atrocious. I thought that was a blatant travel by LeBron and thought Ginobli was fouled leading to the Kings bucket. In the Miami game there a number of questionable calls including a clear path non-call and a ball that seemed to go over the top of the backboard but remained in play. The accepted practice of refs favoring star players, or calling the game differently in the 4th quarter, or against a player who already has 5 fouls should be unacceptable. This issue has come up recently in discussions about clutch play and again in discussions regarding comparing players from different eras. In no other sport is such subjective and inconsistent enforcement of the rules tolerated. While instant replay is obviously not an option in basketball, I think something should be done. Officiating is too often the difference between victory and defeat.

Posted by: Just Karl | Apr 29, 2006 2:14:16 PM

The question is -- what happened to the "hard fouls" game plan? What was Michael Ruffin put on earth to do if not rough up the opposing star a little bit? I yelled and yelled at Eddie Jordan (from close by, Row C) but to no avail.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Apr 29, 2006 3:29:33 PM

The whole Lakers/Suns situation is tragic. I'm a Kobe skeptic and a Phil Jackson skeptic and this has all been a serious "silence their critics" moment. I'm silenced. On the Zen Master issue especially. No one should ever listen to me again.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Apr 29, 2006 3:36:05 PM

On traveling - the whole switching pivot-foot thing is epidemic in both pro and college basketball. It's as if they have repealed the rule. It happens on every other possession in some games.

Posted by: Ugh | Apr 29, 2006 3:57:02 PM

I think one can still safely be a Kobe skeptic, if not a Phil skeptic. After 82 games he finally decides to spend a few games being a "team player," but his comments after game 1 seem to indicate that it was only begrudgingly and at Phil's insistence despite the fact that it's obvious to anyone that the team he is playing has a major weakness in the frontcourt. I don't count being a "team player" only when your coach forces you against a decimated opposition as a virtue. Let's see Kobe make his teammates better for more than one series before we pronounce him the second coming of Magic Johnson - his teammates could have been doing this all year for all we know given the number of touches they got during the regular season. Everyone is going to get so excited about how great the Lakers are in this series, when really the Kobe/Nash matchup is a draw, the Odom/Marion matchup is a draw, and the rest of the players on either team are all journeymen. If Phoenix had Kurt Thomas or if all of their role players weren't missing wide open 3s that they made consistently during the regular season this would be a different series, and if the Lakers should actually make it to the next round they will be obliterated by the Clippers. Let's see the new, rejuvenated Kwame Brown go up against Elton Brand, or Kobe have to deal with the defense of Quentin Ross. The Clippers would take them in a maximum of 6 games.

God I hate the Lakers.

Posted by: Nathan F. | Apr 29, 2006 4:23:34 PM

In no other sport is such subjective and inconsistent enforcement of the rules tolerated.

You're kidding right? Remind me again, what's the standard strike zone in baseball?

I hate the MVP voters for making root against Nash, but it has to be done. If Kobe and the Lakers don't kill the Suns, then Nash might end his carreer with 3 MVP trophies.

Also, I'm not ashamed to say that I like Kobe Bryant. He's self absorbed yet driven. A stone cold assasin yet terribly insecure. He's like AI circa 1999, only not so much misunderstood as pure evil. What's not to love.

Posted by: WillieStyle | Apr 29, 2006 4:24:11 PM

Let's see the new, rejuvenated Kwame Brown go up against Elton Brand, or Kobe have to deal with the defense of Quentin Ross.

So Quentin Ross is the new Ruben Patterson? The "Kobe Stopper" du jour? When did this happen? I somehow doubt that Kobe is quaking in his boots over that potential matchup.

Posted by: Haggai | Apr 29, 2006 4:48:24 PM

F Kobe. That is all.

(actually, not it's not.)

Whenever people start talking about travels not being called, I'm reminded of a play where Barkley caught the ball at the elbow, pivoted for a while, and shot a three. All without dribbling.

Posted by: Pooh | Apr 29, 2006 4:59:38 PM

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