1-0 in games where I'm on the road and dealing with annoying issues left and right
NOTE: AK had some serious tech issues both at the Arena and the hotel. Thus, there's a lot that didn't make it in, or did... but perhaps rather less elegantly than he'd prefer. That which is missing he'll try to deliver Wednesday.
But more on that in a bit.
Whatever complaints I have on the evening, I imagine they're all canceled out to some degree (at least in a Laker fan's head) by tonight's 102-100 win over the Mavericks. The victory featured its fair share of chills, thrills, spills, good, bad, and ugly. The Lakers came out of the gate humming on all cylinders, racking 59 points while holding the Mavs to 38 points and 33% from the field. After halftime Gatorade and orange slices, the good times kept going for the Lakers, until, oh, about three minutes short of the end of the third. At that point, L.A. enjoyed a comfortable 22 point lead, and seemed destined to win in shockingly convincing fashion. Unfortunately for them, league rules insisted the Lakers play until the last of the third... and fair to say the final fifteen minutes belonged to the Mavs.
Dallas shaved the Laker lead was shaved down to one, and had Dirk Nowitzki's prayer at the buzzer found some cord (or if NBA games were 49 minutes), we'd be having a very different conversation right now.
Vlad Radmanovic (especially in the fourth): All in all, Vlad was pretty good in the first half, too. 3-5 for 7 points to complement his eight rebounds. But he didn't necessarily impact the game in strong fashion during the opening 24. Down the stretch, though, Vladdy came alive like Peter Frampton. 10 points in nine minutes. Three of four from behind the arc. Two key rebounds in traffic. Put it together and you get 21 points, tied for a season high, and 10 rebounds, his second double-double as a Laker. Given how up and down his purple and gold career has been, when I say this was one of Vlad Rad's best games as a Laker, I'm not going out on a limb.
Kobe Bryant: I'd have put him in here just on the merits of his ultra-acrobatic third quarter twirling layup (the sort of thing most can't do in a game of HORSE). But the rest of his game was pretty good, too. 29 points (20 of which came in the first half) on a none-too-ball dominating 12-23 shooting clip, seven assists and a trio of steals. That being said, looooooved the layup!!!
Lamar Odom: 17/17, with the points coming more at the stripe than from the floor (5-15). Odom got to the line with aggressive play, making seven of eight overall, including two massive makes in the last minute of the fourth. Six rebounds in the final frame also reflects an assertive mindset. His D on Dirk was also big on several occasions, including Dallas' final possession.
Ronny Turiaf's D: Some very tough play on the "other" side of the ball. Four blocks, five boards and a few plays where his contesting directly set up a Dallas miss and a Laker make. His physical play against Dirk inside (both delivered and absorbed) is also worth noting. Offensively, Ronny helped fuel L.A.'s early lead with ten first half points. From there, the sledding grew considerably more difficult. But when a guy works so hard to defend his squad's paint, it's easy to overlook a one-point second half.
The First Half: Like I mentioned earlier, pretty freakin' good.
Turnovers: The Lakers may have lost some composure and/or focus in the second half, but they didn't often lose the ball. Only nine turnovers in all. In a game where everything else seemed to fall apart around them, refusing to gift wrap the rock for the Mavs might have been the difference maker.
Luke Walton: Eight attempts with only two makes (it felt like fewer). Two shots blocked (it felt like more). Sometimes Walton manages to get away with poor shooting by filling up the stat sheet and doing some of the proverbial "little things" that help a team win. Making the great outlet pass. The "pass before the dime" pass. Crashing the boards. Taking a few charges. Whatever might counter some rather touchless shooting. Wednesday wasn't one of those nights, especially in the second half where he brought little to the table. There are times when I think fans reflexively pile on Walton, rather than citing legitimate criticisms. Tonight, Lakers fans have plenty to gripe about, at least as #4 is concerned.
The Third Quarter Upon Kobe Taking a Seat: With just over three and a half minutes to play in the frame, Kobe picked up his fourth personal. As he went to the pine, I noted during the live blog that you never like seeing Bryant in foul trouble. At the same time, the Lakers were sitting on a 22-point cushion. Kobe may be a great player and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum may be unavailable, but all the same, I figured these guys were capable of holding down the fort for a few without their star. I figured dead wrong, as evidenced by a 10-1 Mavs run filled with lifeless Laker play. When it was over, the Mavs were down only a dozen, and they'd keep the momentum into the fourth.
Laker PG Play: Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar combined for just a quartet of field goals on a very unlucky 13 tries. That quartet of buckets also matched their combined assist total. Not the most noteworthy of evenings for either.
Technical Difficulties: I wasn't given the individual log-in code each member of the media receives when they pick up their credential in order to access the arena's wireless network. By the time I managed to track it down, the first quarter of the live blog had elapsed. Sorry about the delay. On top of it, I also had trouble staying online.
Tech problems extended to our MP3 recorder, where I somehow managed to record thirty-plus minutes of nothing, but at the same time erase most of the good stuff (and by "good stuff," I mean "Lakers talking").
Difficulties Getting Into the Mavs Locker Room: Mark Cuban wouldn't let me in. Well, to be more specific, his goon wouldn't let me in. Truth be told, the guy wasn't a goon (he was actually pretty nice), but that's a lot more fun to describe him that way. In any event, when I showed up at the door and showed my credential, I was immediately greeted with, "Hold on a second. You've been asked not to be in the locker room." The security guy literally recognized my name on the spot, which normally would be flattering but tonight was simply annoying.
I was offered the chance to speak with Sarah Melton, the Mavs' head of media relations. Sarah, an extremely nice woman with whom I've worked before, came out and we discussed the situation. Nothing heated or out of hand. Just me breaking it down exactly like I did in my open letter to Cuban, reiterating my opinion that the Mavs owner is both abusing his authority and not being honest about why he's doing it. I'm curious to see how the league handles this issue (I can't imagine it won't come across their desk at some point), but in the meantime, I'm enjoying my status as an E-list folk hero of sorts.
Somewhere between Rubin "Hurricane" Carter while in prison and Smush Parker while in Miami.