I spent the extended weekend camping at Pismo Beach,
so this blog will cover the last three Laker games.
It’s been 24 years since the Denver Nuggets last appearance in the Western Conference Finals. Thursday night constituted a moment in time that a young team could make history. They could snatch the confidence and aura that accompanies the Los Angeles Lakers, an organization that has been there more than any other team. On Saturday night Carmelo Anthony and friends could have shocked the world…but didn‘t.
Not on this day. The Lakers roared back from a two touchdown deficit to take a 2-1 lead in the best of seven match-up. I found it fitting that on Memorial Day weekend a veteran stepped up. A veteran whose age, agility and ability may sometimes come into question -but never his heart, effort or commitment.
He is a pros pro.
A player who made 0.4 an iconic number in Los Angeles…and infamous in San Antonio.
Sunday night saw that Derek Fisher show up.
After trailing for most of the game the Lakers woke up late due to a game time decision by Fish to rally the troops and remind them exactly what it was that was at stake. He gathered them close to block out the noise of the Denver crowd and let them know it was now or never. They had to send the Nuggs back into irrelevance, if only for a single game. Kobe, Pau and Lamar soaked it in and then exacted it on the floor, leaving behind beads of sweat on the hardwood and Kobe doubled over in exhaustion during the post game interview. His critics will point to such things as contrived, but what actions of his don’t they see that way? He may well be the single most critiqued player in history, spending his entire career under a microscope. We tend to forget he grew up before our eyes coming straight out of high school to the league as a 17 year old kid in 1996, the same draft class as the veteran Fisher, who played four years at his hometown college of Arkansas Little Rock.
The series wasn’t won or lost on that game but it would make it a much more imposing task than being down 2-1. Instead, Kobe and the four dwarves put things back where they should have been since dropping game two at home and with the Denver tonight, it’s back to being a push. It is now down to a three game series, but the Lakers have been down this road a millions times. This evening the home team played with more intensity, sense of purpose and urgency and came away with a win. It took a huge rebounding advantage, several elbows, Birdman flying all over the court, some intentional foot tripping by Dahntay Jones, some elbow locks by K-Mart, and a bevy of over-reactionary technicals and hard playoff basketball fouls being deemed flagrant.
The officiating crew seems to want to keep a lid on emotions yet fuel the flames of discontent with their inconsistent calls.
Denver’s flamboyant JR Smith provided scoring, energy and plenty of showboating for the Thuggets. He made it a point to savor the moment and enjoyed each and every one of his 24 points, and made sure to let the visiting Lakers know who’s house they were in…and when he made a three, he made sure anyone viewing knew it as well by extending three fingers and dancing his way back down the floor doing the crip walk and whooping it up….Maybe he thought this was game seven, but in reality it’s only 2-2 with lots of basketball to be played yet and visions of a hot-dog dancing in the heads of the Los Angeles players.
I can only hope L.A.’s coaching staff runs these clips on a continuous loop on the plane, at practice and again before tip-off on Wednesday to provide the spark that was missing in the Lakers step last night. If that won’t suffice, maybe audio of Thugget coach George Karl saying over and over to his players that they are the better team will. Another lethargic showing like this zebra induced snore fest (49 free throws for the Thuggz and 35 for L.A.) could bring about more Denver posturing and rap video antics…hell, we might even see a superbowl shuffle type clip from these clowns. I can hardly wait for that new JR Smith chicken dance craze.
Why he would want to draw the ire of a sleeping giant is beyond me, the bipolar Lakeshow was content just getting out rebounded, out hustled and out muscled, but if his act got me riled you can be sure the Lakers and staff took notice and intend to quiet the yapping mutt on Wednesday night.
The only way to do that is to win game five because if the Thuggets win in L.A. you might just get to see JR bust out his best T.O. performance at Staples Center….Maybe he’ll even get his own puppet and crash the LeBron/Kobe Howdy Doody commercials complete with three finger wagging, shouting about who’s house it is and some goofy dancing…maybe even some new ink to savor the moment.
Memo to Lakers: My TV screen won’t survive another assault like the one it saw tonight, so I implore you to take this affront personally…I know I do.
Fast forward to Wednesday night…After watching the first three quarters at the sushi bar (and three large Kirin’s later) I’m now picking up at the 7:40 minute mark of the fourth and on my drive home the Lakers have pulled away for an 89-81 lead since playing to literally a stand still previously. Los Angeles may sleep walk through half their games thus far this post season but have answered the call in must win situations. The Shannon Brown show, including facial slam dunk on the Birdman has the Staples crowd on their feet. Linus Urlacher continues to be a force for the Thuggz off the pine and is keeping them in the game but the Lakeshow is now up by 10, 91-81 by outscoring the visitors 15-5 so far in the fourth. Lamar Odom even came out of hibernation earlier for a left handed monster dunk in traffic, he even sacraficed his body just now to dive for a loose ball. I’m putting this game in the refridgerator with just under five minutes minutes left and an 8 point spread…When Odumb is actually awake the Lakers can’t lose……Or can they?
Kleiza and Melo just cut the lead to 4, but The Predator: aka Nene just fouled out to join Chris Anderson on the bench and the horrible hairdo’s and ink per square inch just increased for the blue and gold. Ariza banks in a nice and one for a three point play the hard way to extend the lead back to 7, 96-89. Odom swats Kenyon Martin at the rim for his fourth shot attempt of the evening on ly to see Martin return the favor on Gasol on the next play on the other end. Replay shows the backboard did the work for L.O., but he would have snuffed it anyway. Melo lets out a squeak while whining to the officials that sounds like the three year old girl I spent the camping trip tolerating…I thought I was done with that now that I’m at the Ponderosa, thanks for the reminder Melo. 19 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three assists for the ever puzzling #7 in purple and gold. He may be an egnigma, but when Odom plays like this, the Lakers are the best team in the league bar none.
Five Lakers in double figures and a dominant fourth quarter put the Lakeshow back in control of this WFC, much to my pleasure. I guess they took it personally. One more win ends it, but Denver won’t go quietly into the night and the Jekyll and Hyde Lakers might come out sedated next game…who knows? Will L.A. close it out or will the Nuggets force another game seven for the Lakers? Last year’s champion Celtics had several gut wrenching seven game series before reaching the promised land last year, maybe the Lakers will do the same this year.
We’ll find out Friday night when the series shifts back to Denver where the home team figures to fight like a cornered animal. I can’t tell you which Lakers squad will show up, but I can tell you it’ll be exciting.
The Los Angeles Lakers,
WE KNOW DRAMA