Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lakers-Nuggets Game Five: Welcome to the Series, Lamar Odom

Tonight in Los Angeles, the Lakers took the predictable 3-2 lead over the unpredictable Nuggets, with a surging fourth quarter run that showed just how potent this team is (a) when their bigs show up, (b) when Kobe Bryant doesn't dominate the ball, (c) when they are at home with the winds to their backs, (d) when Phil Jackson buys the refs with his annual costly referee jockeying, (e) when they've lost a game and have had their hearts questioned. Pick any that apply, or all. And now, your micro-blog.

The first quarter was back and forth, with neither team getting any real separation; the signature play was Chris Anderson rising to block a Lamar Odom dunk attempt with seconds left in the quarter, which kept it tied. The Lakers shot the ball much better, but lost the rebound battle by five as the Nugget bigs continued to dominate. Kobe Bryant worked to get others involved, taking only two shots and generating two assists (along with two turnovers). Chauncey Billups hit two three-pointers but also two fouls, and considering that the home team usually jumps out to an early lead, a tied game wasn't too bad for the Nugs.

The second quarter started with a nice play by JR Smith to set up Kenyon Martin, but he missed the free throw; already four misses from the lines for the Nuggets. As usually happens, the start of the second quarter was ragged, marked by Carmelo Anthony stretching his bad shooting to 1 for 6 before a nice shake and bake jumper. The Laker offense seemed awkward, but Odom collected Anderson's second foul, showing his usual home-court-only aggression. The refs let the Lakers go with some exceptionally physical interior defense, and both teams looked like they left their legs in Game 4.

Anderson guarded Gasol nicely in the post, leading to a Smith make and a three-point Nugget lead. The Lemur gives us the never-tedious celeb roll, ending with more Jack Nicholson face time, because that guy never gets any pub. Bynum found Walton for a lay up where Walton was open for so long, the audience called for it, and I'm not sure how that wasn't three seconds. In general, I wasn't very impressed by the Nugget energy here, but Smith was playing well, and the Nuggets score easily than the Lakers, just from the bigs.

The Lakers played volleyball on the o-glass to tie it back up, but Nene finds Carter -- really, I had no idea the big man was such a good interior passer -- to tie it back up. Bynum got Carter's second foul and made the first, then saw Odom collect the second free throw miss for a fresh possession; Odom then fed Bynum for a made hook, and Bynum is showing some small flash of utility there. After the ads, the Lakers volleyball but can't finish, and Kleiza avoids three Lakers on a runner for the lead. Nene got whistled on a 50/50 loose ball, Fisher with the makes and new lead. Kleiza got Bryant's second foul, this one on a three, and to say that Kobe has snoozed so far this first half would be 100% true. Kleiza made one of three, and that's 6 of 12 from the line. A miss trade ended with Garol finding Bynum for the flush, and the younger Laker big now has 9 points on the night, albeit with another free throw miss.

Anthony to the rack and looking stronger. Bryant walks baldly, and even the most hard-core Association hater has to admit that the traveling calls have been made in this playoff season, at least for the most part. Billups missed a three, and the Lakers answer with good ball movement on confused Nugget rotation, but the Fisher miss from the arc now makes them 0 for 7, and Anthony gets an easy block call on Odom in transition. The Lake Show was in the penalty, and Melo made both for the new lead.

Despite all of the back and forth and the stakes, the game wasn't all that good here; just a dead crowd and the sense that no one should get too excited, since we all know this game is going to the wire. A Fisher layup; an Anderson dunk in transition. Kobe draws the third from Billups -- rut roh! -- with 2:35 left in the half and the Nuggets up by two. Furious George leaves him in anyway. After a pair of Kobe makes, Smith drained a three, but Bryant answered with a circus layup for an old-school three over Anthony; heck of a play by the Mamba. Melo's answer is very nice and healthy, from the top of the key. Odom to Bryant at the cup, and the stars are feeling it. Anthony fed Carter for a corner three. Home Court Odom fed Gasol at the rim for the make and Nene foul; it's missed, but the o-board follow isn't, and that's a four-point trip. Anthony owns

Walton to the line for two makes, and he now has 13 and is looking like his old unstoppable self. Fisher couldn't connect, and Martin called time on the floor to save the possession. The game picked up a little at the end of the second, but no one is mistaking this for crunch time intensity just yet. Karl puts Kleiza in for offense on the last possession, and the Nuggets fail to inbound as Kleiza turned it. Just inexcusable, if you're a Nugget fan, but that's who they are. Bryant fed Vujacic for the Lakers' first three of the night; he had all day to line that up, and it tied the game. Vujacic is shooting 23% for the series, but maybe he can pick it up after that; he certainly can't be any worse. Anthony's half court bank misses, and the first half ended even up at 56.

In a way, I feel the same about this game as I did Cavs-Magic last night -- that the star was doing what he could to have his teammates get comfortable, but knowing that they're going to have to saddle up and lead. But with the Nugs playing as if winning this game was more optional than mandatory in the first, maybe the Mamba picked to right time to conserve his jets.

The third quarter starts with a bang, with Anthony nailing a three and Bryant answering at the rim on a feed from Odom. Dahntay Jones collets an o-board for a layup. The teams traded misses, and Ariza then made an awkward drive and lay up. The Lakers continue to disregard Martin's jumper to their peril off a Billups feed. Bryant owns Jones on a pull up, and the Mamba is now 5 of 6 from the floor; danger, Will Nugget. Jones collected Bynum's third foul and made both for the 3-point lead, 3 minutes in.

Nene with a nice steal, and Anthony makes one of those hidden plays that mean points later on a great catch from a terrible entry pass. Another arc-free Martin jumper goes to make the lead five. Ariza draws Nene's fourth on a pump fake behind the arc, just a terrible decision by Nene. At least there hasn't been any technicals tonight, mostly because there also hasn't been a whole lot of energy. Man, you people are some spoiled sons of bitches.

Jones with a make and a miss, but Anderson gets the board and fed Anthony, who scores and goes to the line on his own. He makes his free throw, and the four point trip pushes the lead to 7, the Nuggets' largest. Bynum picks up his fourth and a turnover; Odom returned for him. The Nuggets volleyball for o-boards but can't score. Anderson's fourth (!) block of the game comes on a drive, but the Nugs turn on the trip back, leading to a Gasol dunk. People talk about how Gasol needs more shots, but the real issue is that the Lakers just don't pass that well, and it's not like Gasol can get down low without the entry pass.

After the commerce, Gasol stops Jones at the rim, and flow be damned; Chris Anderson is going to call time on the floor with a loose ball, and does. Jones with another o-board and make. Bryant with another good assist as Bwon gets the lay up. Anthony feeling it with the drives, but Lakers are D'ing up here and now. Billups turns it, and Brown finishes over Anderson. A good coach calls time there, but not George. Billups turns it on the next trip down, but Bryant matches with his third foul of the way. Anthony travels, the third straight turn for the Nuggets. Still no Karl timeout. Odom hits the open three, and the game is tied. Heckuva game you are watching, George. Fourth straight Denver turnover on good Laker defense. Crowd getting into it now. Bryant missed a long three, Odom can't control it, and we get a TV timeout to stop the bleeding for the Nuggets.

Billups with a monster triple out of timeout, but Kobe Does Not Care, and make his own right back. Martin's jumper missed. Odom begs for a call to no avail on a miss. Smith with a bad and missed three. Smith damn near kills himself on a steal attempt, but can't control it. Odom turned it, leading to Anderson missing at the cup. Smith gets the board and runs clock before missing, Bryant's pass, picked. The third ends with Smith missing from the arc, and just like at the end of the first and second, we're tied after three, 76-all. Buckle up, folks.

A quick flurry to open the fourth to give the Lakers a five-point lead, the largest lead of the game for LA, with Odom continuing his solid game; he's now at 14-9-3, with 3 blocks, and the simple fact is that when Odom plays well, the Lakers rarely lose. Nene got his fifth on a push, and Laker Fan smelled blood as the Brazilian added a technical to the trouble. Bryant missed it to keep it at 5 with 9:33 left. Odom again in the lane to push the lead to seven. Anthony missed the three as Anderson got hammered on the o-board attempt; coming back the other way, Anthony clocks Bryant with a foul that would have been flagrant if Bryant was smaller. Kobe made both and the lead is nine. Anthony missed a tough runner. Brown drains a beautiful leaner as the clock expires, and the Nuggets are not long for this game if things don't change soon.

Two Anthony makes from the line stops the bleeding, but only for a moment, as Gasol scores over Anderson; the Nuggets defense is just not good right now. Kleiza with a corner three to make it 8. Gasol down low on Anderson, and it's a pick and roll clinic right now. Gasol makes two to push it to 10. Anthony can't finish at the rim; nice Gasol block there. With 6:35 left, the Lakers lead by 10, and it's like they just flicked the switch in this game.

Anthony blocks Walton, and Kleiza shows good speed to get to the rack; 8 ponit game. Walton can't finsh inside. Kleiza misses the three after Billups defers. Nugs get another turn. Kleiza fed Nene down low, and he misses a wild layup rather than dunk it. Lakers nearly turn it again on a Smith steal, but Bynum gets it on the floor and calls time. Four second to shoot, 4:58 to go, down 8. Not a game the Lakers should lose, especially not with Kobe Bryant, and especially not with Brayant fresh... but he misses the three, and Kleiza continues his solid play by going hard to the rim and getting the call on Odom. Two makes, and it's six. Nugs are getting something from this small line up... and then Smith stripped Bryant, leading to a Melo slam. Four point game.

At the 4:02 mark, Gasol picks up Nene's sixth on a very questionable blocking foul -- how you block a guy when the offensive player hits you in the gut with an elbow, I have no idea -- but the home team gets calls. Two makes pushed it to six. Melo down low, gets Fisher's fifth, not quite a get even call. Melo now 11 of 12 from the line, a big part of his game. Gasol feeds Ariza on a back door cut, and the Nugs defend it horribly; Kleiza with the foul for the old-school three. Gasol's fifth block on Anthony is huge, and the Lake Show now has five in double figures. Another questionable call, this one on Billups on an errant entry pass to Odom, and the karmic misses are inevitable. Odom and the basket blocks Martin at the rim, and if this Odom showed up every night, the Lakers would be as good as they think they are. Martin gets the block back on Gasol, and the refs are letting things go, with Ariza the next to take advantage, erasing Anthony at the other end. The Nugs got the team board, and there's 144 seconds left and a 7-point Laker lead. In other words, the Nuggets are going to have to be close to perfect to pull this one out, and I don't like their chances.

Billups three misses out of the inbounds; this could be over soon. Not on a Laker turn, but Smith misses the open three. Fisher misses horribly, and Anthony drives and scores to make it five. The Nugs are 3 for their last 21, and still in the game, Amazing. With 65 seconds left, Kleiza and Anthony both inexplicably move away from Bryant, leaving a clear passing path to Odom, who was also open. Wow. Old school three, 8 point lead, ball game. Kleiza missed, and this one's over; Bryant makes two to make it 10. Anthony drives and scores an old-school three, just to show that Trevor Ariza doesn't have much of a basketball IQ, either. Melo puts Fisher on the line, just hoping for drama, two makes gets none. Smith misses a three, the Nuggets don't foul, and that is that. Lakers 103, Nuggets 94.

I don't mean to chastise the Nugs overly much, or to disparage the Lakers; the former weren't going to win this game, or this series, because then the Lakers bring their "A" game, they beat this team, and probably the Eastern reps, too. They are also going to win Game Six, because the Lakers don't show up on the road when they don't have to. But for all of the good things this team has done in this playoff season, and for all of the good feelings that people have from Billups' return and Anthony's emergence, they will never -- never -- get to the Promised Land with George Karl as their coach.

Karl as your coach means small guys inbounding late. Karl as your coach means coddling talented rockheads like Smith, Jones and . Karl as your coach means that players like Kleiza have no clue on help defense late in the game, and that the bigs can't stay out of foul trouble, and that everyone on the team feels compelled to take technical fouls. There's a reason why he's never won, despite some really good talent (the Kemp/Payton Sonics, the Cassells/Robinson/Allen Bucks, these Nuggets, etc., etc.); he just doesn't control his team enough to win when there's no margin for error, and at this point in the Association's development, there are no teams with that margin for error. Game Six is in Denver on Friday...

and as a small programming note, FTT won't be covering that one live, as I'm previously booked. So enjoy the inevitable Nugget win to force LA to win in seven, tune in on Saturday or so to catch my recap, and we'll all regroup on Sunday, when Melo gets his chance to earn the undying hatred of the ABC honchos that really aren't hoping for a Kobe-free Finals. Even in the best playoff year in the history of the Association, some things are predictable.


Aa said...

im not sure i like the novels you are writing about each NBA game. Though, honestly, I think these playoffs are far from anything seen in the early nineties when I was a wee child.

mildly entertaining college basketball if you ask me. check out my blog, I talk about a bunch of weird stuff, but most recently posted about a real sport, FOOTBALL (and not the American kind, which is the ultimate sport) The Barca v Man U game was beautiful unlike the sorry Lakers v Nuggets pee wee b-ball game shown on prime time TV.

DMtShooter said...

Feel free to scroll over a micro-blog, Double A. It's more for the historical record and/or the partisans of each team.

As for your Un-American Ball Fascination... I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong for liking what you like. I even watch some World Cup every four years, mostly in the hope that someone like Cameroon will win. But telling other people what they should like? Seems kinda pointless, really.

Gifting Is Legal said...

I guess that Pau and Odom's imploring to get the ball inside worked.

They have a very strong post game and need to use it. Pau is one of the best centers in the league. It's pretty much 2 points when he touches it or he goes to the line. This effectiveness underneat opens things up for Kobe and Co on the outside.

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