Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yao Doesn't Need Paul Pierce's Magic Wheelchair

Tonight in Los Angeles, with his team leading in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of a series that no one really gave them much of a chance to win, Yao Ming banged knees with Kobe Bryant and went down in agony. Pau Gasol converted a slam dunk to make it a six point game with just under five minutes left, and Team Rocket's medics quickly hobbled the big man off to the locker room. The Lake Show looked like it would escape with a rusty win on a night where Kobe Bryant wasn't getting to the line or hitting enough shots, and was fighting off illness.

And then Ming, a guy who's career has been defined by injury, waved off the trainers and came back. He also did more than just return, scoring eight points in crunch time and ensuring the road team win the start of a suddenly interesting second round series. And it's not like the Lakers are going to be able to just work the refs for next game (they were just 12 of 19 from the line, compared to Houston's 25 of 29), since they were the ones causing a huge cut on Shane Battier's face on a Trevor Ariza no-call, and they also just didn't seem all that interested in going to the rack against people like Ming, Battier and Ron Artest.

To be sure, the Lakes played their worst game of the playoffs, but that's what happens when the Rockets win; they make you look terrible with Battier's brand of effective hoop on the small points. They also exploited the Lakers' Achilles heel at point guard, with Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry outscoring Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar 25 to 11, and fought the bench to a draw (16 to 18), which basically means that Lamar Odom didn't do much. Andrew Bynum had some moments tonight, but he still seems like a fifth wheel to me, and more than a little lost on defense.

I still think the Lakers will win this series, but tonight's game was the perfect starter for the Rockets... in that they not only got the win, but they also had the Lakers standing around watching Bryant (31 shots for him, 57 for the rest of the team), which sows the seeds of distrust for later. The Lakers lose when the big men aren't involved as passers, and that can't happen when Kobe is doing his Atlas Shoots routine. The playoffs just got more interesting.

1 comment:

CMJDad said...

What, you mean they're still playing basketball? Damn, doesn't it ever end?

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