-Keeping it very short because I have a final in 13 hours:
-Yes, the Lakers came out EXTREMELY flat today against a pumped-up Rockets team who benefited from having guards more comfortable playing pick-and-roll/up-tempo ball having the games of their life and being allowed to freestyle. Just a very lackluster performance from them all around.
-At the same time, I hate when I hear “oh, this means they’re not a championship team, real champions would’ve done X, X and Y.” You know what makes a team not a championship team? When a team beats them four times before they beat them four times. If Lakers/Boston told us anything in their respective playoff runs last year, it’s that the playoffs are played one series at a time. If they beat the Rockets, which everyone seems to think is still very likely, then they’re that much closer to a championship. Losing to the Nuggets or whichever team comes out of the East would make them not a championship team. Body language and “heart” in the sec0nd-round doesn’t change how the series are played.
-And yes, this team terrifies me. When the Rockets were up 29 in the fourth quarter, I was thinking “I’ll relax when they get it to 30.” They never did, and now I think I have an ulcer.
-Just when you think the playoffs couldn’t get any more fantastic, Glen Davis hits a game-winner and shoves a child. I’m pretty sure he did it to impress KG.
-How actually working NBA games makes your life more complicated, part 1: of all the players I’ve met, two stand out in terms of how nice, smart, and willing to talk to you they are: Ron Artest and Lamar Odom. So as much as I’m happy as a Cavs fan that Lamar has been inconsistent and might be out or limited going on in the series, what I really wish is for Lamar to have a speedy recovery and play a great series. He really deserves it, and is as good of a role model that exists in the NBA, despite his early missteps. Of course, Laker fans are probably wishing to ship him out for “toughness” as I type this.
-I’ve seen some LA whining about the lack of fouls on Kobe Bryant in this game. Guess what: when 15 of your 17 field goals are jumpers, you’re probably not going to get all that many trips to the line. And what LeBron’s been doing, barreling to the hole and exploiting slow help and crashing to the rim at every possible opportunity and taking advantage of bigs who aren’t big enough to contest his shots or quick enough to get into position as he’s coming at them? Turns out that leads to fouls. It’s weird. Oh, and the Rockets shot 2 free throws in the entire first half today, and the Lakers had more free throws until they began intentionally fouling.
-Of course, I’m biased since I’m under the ESPN flag, because ESPN loves LeBron and wants everyone else to fail. Because 7 straight playoff blowouts and a PER of freaking 45 happens every other day from league MVPs. Nothing notable about any of that. I’m sure everyone would rather there be more flagrant foul debating. It’s all an ESPN creation. Remember, ESPN loves LeBron and LeBron only. It’s not like they’ve been advertising a fauning Kobe puff piece/documentary for a month and a half that they’ll be airing commercial-free. After all, it’s easy to rack up stats against this Hawks team, just ask Dwyane Wade, who got more 1st-place MVP votes than anyone but LeBron!
-How actually working an NBA beat makes your job more complicated, part two: I’ve met Brett Pollakoff, and he’s a nice, hardworking, knowledgeable guy who respects the game, does his job the right way, and provides good insight. But he’s followed up his all-important and not-at-all petty overturning of LeBron’s triple-double in New York (which I’m sure had nothing to do with trying to discredit LeBron’s acheivment-IF REBOUNDS AREN’T PROPERLY RECORDED, HOW LONG UNTIL WE JUST START LIVING IN COVENS AND WORSHIPPING SHEEP?) with a FanHouse piece saying, in so many words, that Shane Battier drawing a charge on Lamar Odom was a “reckless and dangerous play,” comparing it to Trevor Ariza’s flagrant foul on Rudy Fernandez. (By the way, look at Kyle Lowry running over to help Battier up and the Lakers wandering in the direction of Lamar.)
Never mind that Battier had his hands down and was drawing a charge, and the call went his way, and at no point attempted to do anything than make a correct defensive rotation-Lamar had gone into his move milliseconds before! Shane Battier, I expect more from you than to try and play fundamentally sound team defense. Clearly, you should have the reflexes of The Sentinel and know exactly when Lamar Odom starts his move, and once that’s established gingerly get out of his way so that he can have a layup. Brett, unlike most idiots on the blogosphere, I’m actually going to run into you at some point in the near future, so I’m not going to call you an idiot or tell you to put your crack pipe down. But you’re off-base on this one. See you at Staples.
-Reason Number 125 why I’ve switched from my first love, baseball, to being almost exclusively a basketball fan now: we learned about LeBron James. We got excited. He got drafted first. He played the summer league, and in a few months was starting in the NBA and showing his stuff. Now the pitching equivalent to LeBron James is about to get drafted first overall.
Now, instead of thinking “Man, I better check my schedule to see when the Nats are coming into town next year, I wonder if he can blow that 102 fastball by major leaguers or not,” my thought process is “well, hopefully Boras doesn’t hold him out and he can get a contract signed and not have to play independent league baseball for a year. And I hope he rises through the minors without hitting any snags or getting addicted to crack or oxy because he gets stuck in some podunk town with 20 million dollars and nothing to do. And I hope he doesn’t get held in the minors for two extra years because his team is cheap and wants to keep as much of his rookie eligibility as possible. And above all, I hope to see him throwing gas before his arm blows out, because almost every pitcher has major arm surgery at some point and every game there’s a chance he’ll be done for a year and probably never throw as hard again.”
So above all, be glad we’re basketball fans. See you tomorrow, where hopefully we can close things out so I don’t have that on my mind as I finish my finals.