San Antonio - Not Too Shabby
Some think there's no such thing as a good loss, but I disagree in the case of the Lakers 90-84 loss to the Spurs. Put that first quarter aside (a tempting offer, considering how ugly L.A. played) and I think this was the best The Lakers have looked in a while. The Spurs are a team they have no business beating. Seriously, their bench smokes the Lakers' starting five. By miles. And the Lakers are missing Devean George, Kwame Brown and Slava. The Laker Nation should actually feel pretty stoked about this one, despite clocking another "L." It was far from perfect, with that "Okay, for real... Can Kobe and LO actually play together?" matter still a bigger mystery than the Iraq exit strategy. But the team was more energetic, more so than the usual Kobe-watching strategy. Keep up that kind of effort on a regular basis, and they'll inch themselves closer to .500... And maybe further.
Anyhoo, the game...
First half Observations:
I've seen turnovers before, but 90 seconds into the game, Mihm lost a pass from Cook because he was facing the opposite direction of the action. He didn't even see the ball. It was actually mystifying. Seriously, where the hell was he looking? Must have gotten a look at Eva Longoria in the crowd (and kudos to Stu, Joel, and the KCAL production staff for limiting the Tony-Eva segments to just one, and a brief one at that. Paying attention, TNT?)
I can totally understand getting beat on a rebound by Duncan. Happens to everyone. But seeing Rasho Nesterovic beating 3 Lakers to a loose ball for a put back? Fellas! Pick it up! Later on, Duncan's bounce pass from the high post to a cutting Rasho (who seemed temporarily Godlike) was just silly good. That's why the big Fundamental could always win MVP, even with his new natty lid.
Honestly, the most overlooked problem the Lakers are having right now is their FT shooting. Outside of Kobe, no current rotation regular is hitting 75%. That's ridiculous. Smush isn't even hitting 60%! I have one of the worst strokes in North America, and still might not bring this crew down too much.
Finley's first attempt comes on a wide open jumper, which he sank. While it was nice of L.A. to help acclimate Michael to his new squad, I would have guarded him instead.
Odom's referee issues hit varying high and low points throughout the game. LO's first basket came after a clear foul, and against his typical grain, he didn't immediately bark at the refs and let his head to leave the game. Just as I wondered if maybe he was en route to killing this bad habit, he drew some contact, seemed to anticipate a call, and didn't finish, no whistle coming. I'm actually starting to wonder if Odom's recent problems finishing layups are coming from the expectation of a whistle and getting distracted upon not hearing one. Later, he made a great play putting back a miss, but slammed the ball after it wasn't "and one," drawing a delay of game. Again, he had a legit gripe, but he's gotta learn to pick his spots. Otherwise, the refs are just gonna think of him as a whiny chick, if that's not the case already. Plus, compared to #8, Odom didn't have jack to bitch about (more on that later).
The first quarter's low point (a tougher moment to single out than the worst scene in "Gigli") came after a Lakers basket and Joel Meyers commented that they "were now back within 14."
Andrew Bynum came in during the second and really did a great job. He got 3 quick boards, and tossed a quick bounce pass to a cutting Smush for a reverse layup. He also snatched a board from Tim Duncan. He followed the theft with a missed dunk, but his debut mano y' mano with the 2-time MVP basically was a draw, which ain't bad for an 18-year old.
The refs must have just been watching "Slap Shot" before the game or something, because they were allowing a hockey match to go on out there.
Early candidate for the Best Lamar Odom Move Of The Season Award (BLOMOTSA): LO cruises down court off a rebound, Duncan in pursuit. LO puts on the brakes for a split second, then hits 90 mph, beating TD to the rack for a layup. Sick. Duncan had no idea what hit him. Laker fans had no idea why he can't do this stuff on a consistent basis.
An 11-2 Lakers run in the last five minutes leads to a 43-38 halftime score. That the Lakers are this close would qualify as a bigger miracle than a Beatles reunion tour.
Second Half Observations:
Smush absolutely posterizes Nazr Mohammed. It ain't the first time he's thrown down on a big dude this season. Mark your calenders for the Houston game, and see if he can match the classic "Kobe on Yao" jam.
Physics lesson. A moveable object, Tony Parker's layup, meets an immoveable object, Andrew Bynum's big freakin' paw. Guess what wins?
I always try not to use refs as an excuse, since most of the time bad calls go both ways and end up evening out, whether fans wanna admit it or not. But Kobe would have taken less abuse getting jumped into a gang. As the game continued, he kept attacking, despite a dwindling success rate (he only hit 3 in the second half). Part of me was wondering why he didn't let Odom, the serious hot hand, take over. The other part of me felt like Kobe was just on a mission to get a call, just one call, and wouldn't give up no matter how many misses it took (Hardly a legit reason, but I still wouldn't blame him). In the meantime, Odom really had a great game, a nice recovery from Sunday's lethargic showing. Unfortunately, his best moments still came with Kobe off the floor, which can't be providing Phil Jackson solid REM.
Nice offense from Bynum, who took it to Nesterovic, using his left hand to bank one in. He also may have gotten away with a right hand shove, making him seem even more like a real pro. On the defensive end, he also successfully jostled with Duncan for position, forcing him to take a missed outside jumper. The kid seriously did well, and could find himself maintaining his minutes even with everyone healthy.
Not that I doubted Sasha's 31% from the field, but I was still pretty shocked seeing him sink 3 treys in the same game. He even drilled one after getting fouled by Tony Parker. Whatever flavor Gatorade he sucked down before this one, keep it in the cooler, buddy.
Go figure. Ginobli, 78% at the line, misses 2 FT's down the stretch, but Duncan, typically crappy at the line (although solid this season), sinks both of his. That's why this is a really tough team to beat. Which the Lakers didn't.
Your Box Score: http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/boxscore?gid=2005112924