Archive for May 2009

Lakers-Nuggets Game 6 Thoughts

May 30, 2009

Tonight was the night.  Lakers fans had been waiting for it from the moment that they painted the words “NBA Playoffs” on the floor of 16 arenas around the country.  It was on this night that the Lakers finally played to their potential, showed a killer instinct while putting  a quality Denver Nuggets team down in their building and in convincing fashion on their way to a 119-92 victory and a second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

Their performance in Game Six reminded me of the dominant Laker teams from earlier this decade that won three straight championships.  It didn’t matter to those teams whether they were playing in the Staples Center or on the road, they had a mission to accomplish, a game to win and they did it and left no doubt.  Tonight gave me great optimism that they can go into either Cleveland or Orlando and get the job done. 

What stood out most to me was the fact that they had a balanced attack getting contributions from several key players.  Kobe Bryant led the attack with 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 10 assists.  Pau Gasol finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds.  Lamar Odom brought his best effort for the second straight game en route to a 20 point, 8 rebound night.  Trevor Ariza made the Denver defense pay by sinking 3-of-4 three point shots including the executing of big shots in the first half when the game was still up for grabs.  Ariza finished with 17 points on the night. 

As the game progressed, the Lakers continued to play aggressive basketball, never taking their foot off the gas and putting away what has been a top notch Denver.  It was only a series ago where the Lakers went into Houston and laid two eggs there.  It was in the Utah series where they held a double digit lead in every one of those games and eventually gave the lead back in all of them, losing one.  On the road this playoff season they had shown up on the nights where they had to have victories on the road which were Game 3 of both the Houston and Denver series but had failed to give their best effort in road games where they didn’t have to win.  The Laker teams from earlier this decade wouldn’t do that.  They brought the same intensity on a nightly basis and would put you away when they had you down.  Those teams eventually became champions.  That’s how champions play.  If they bring this same effort for one more series, they will once again become champions…for the 15th time in franchise history.

A Lifelong Lakers Fans Perspective On Kobe Bryant

May 29, 2009

I have been a diehard Lakers fan my entire life and as a product of that I am conditioned to root for the jersey above all else over any one individual on the team.  While I don’t hate Kobe by any stretch, I have never been the biggest fan of his for some of the reasons that many have stated:   he played selfishly, whined publicly about management decisions and was partially responsible for a dynasty coming to an end well before its time.  Had Shaq stayed with the Lakers I am convinced that they could have won at least two more titles together. 

Over the last few years I have grown to like him because although he is not the quintessential teammate, he has matured as a player and as a person.  Without that maturity, he would not have won an MVP and the Lakers would not have reached the finals last year and be on the verge of getting back there this year.  And lets face it, as basketball fans, the guy has given us some great individual moments: scoring 81 points in a game, outscoring the Dallas Mavericks by himself after three quarters 62-61 and a streak in which he scored 50 or more in four straight games are just a few.

As a die hard fan of the purple and gold, I have forgiven Kobe for most of the mistakes that he made in his past but the one thing that I am still having a hard time forgiving and forgetting five years later was the selfish display that he put on against the Pistons in Game Four of the 2004 NBA Finals.  If you remember, Larry Brown was refusing to double team Shaq and he was having a field day against Ben Wallace, and every player on the Lakers whether it was Fox, Fisher, Malone, Payton, Horry, etc. knew it and kept feeding him the ball so that he could just continue to abuse Wallace.  Everyone knew it except Kobe Bryant.  He showed one of the most selfish displays I have ever seen and basically shot the Lakers right out of that game and the series.  Shaq finished with 36 points on 16-of-21 shooting to go along with 20 rebounds while Kobe shot just 8-for-25 to score 20 points and also finished with more turnovers (3) than assists (2) that night.  How a player could be that selfish while competing for the league’s most important trophy is beyond me.  Had the Lakers won that night, the series would have been tied 2-2.  To say they would have won it all after winning that game is absurd because there is no way that anyone could ever know for sure.   The one thing that I can tell you is this, there chances were a lot better had the series been tied after four games rather than trailing 3-1 with the next game in Detroit.  Five years later, his performance in the game that night still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Lakers-Nuggets Game Five Thoughts

May 27, 2009

Both teams came out in this game knowing how important a victory would be as far as their hopes of advancing to the NBA Finals. The first half was a back and forth battle with neither team leading by more than five points. In the beginning of the third quarter, the Nuggets began to take control of the momentum, leading by as much as seven and controlling the pace of the second half.

But with 4:24 left in the third quarter and the Lakers trailing 73-68, Pau Gasol intercepted a Chauncey Billups pass, Gasol then dished it over to Shannon Brown who threw down a one handed tomahawk dunk over Chris “The Birdman” Andersen that ignited the Lakers crowd and changed the momentum of the game. It was this play that sparked the Lakers 21-3 run which put them ahead for good and eventually gave them the 103-94 victory and a 3-2 series lead.

Brown’s dunk was the big play of the game for the Lakers and the fact that it came against Andersen who has been the symbol of emotion, hustle and inspired play off the bench for Denver was huge. It was Andersen that had been igniting the Nuggets with his emotional play all series and when Brown posterized him, it was as if he reached in and forcefully took the mojo right out of the Nuggets. Remember that it was Andersen that finished with only six points in Game Four, but every time that he did score, it was in a way that seemed to ignite the crowd and his teammates.

This time it was the Lakers that had players who provided them with an emotional spark off the bench. Brown had not played the entire first half but when his number was called in the second half he responded. Although he finished with only six points, the baskets that he did make were big plays. The other big play that Brown made was a big 22-foot jumper to beat the shot clock which capped an 11-0 Lakers run that began the fourth quarter and gave them the lead for good.

Another crucial factor in this game was the fact that Lamar Odom brought his “A” game for Los Angeles. He finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Tonight the basketball world saw the Odom that makes you think, “Why is this guy not a multi-time all-star?”. He played with passion, aggression and like Brown, provided the Lakers with a lift from their bench. When Odom is playing at or near his potential, the Lakers are as tough to beat as any team in the NBA. The fact that he is 6’10” and can handle the ball makes him a touch match up at the power forward position.

Before Game 5, Pau Gasol said that the Lakers need to take advantage of their size and get the ball into the post more. The stats show they did exactly that. Gasol, Odom and Andrew Bynum combined for 42 points, 26 rebounds and 9 blocked shots. By comparison Nene, Andersen and Kenyon Martin combined for 18 points, 21 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.

If the Lakers can get this kind of play out of their big men in Game 6 along with some bench production, they stand a great chance of wrapping up the series. But the fact that you never know what Lakers team will show up makes for must watch TV on Friday night.

Former baseball MVP Jose Canseco taking a shot at MMA

May 26, 2009

Who knows how long this will stay up but I had to post this up for pure entertainment value if nothing else. My oh my how baseball’s first 40/40 man has fallen from grace.  Check out the fact that he seems to injure his knee running from his opponent.

Lakers-Nuggets Game 4 thoughts

May 26, 2009

I thought this game came down to two things, hustle and energy and the Lakers had neither.  The lack of hustle and energy contributed to the Lakers getting outplayed in two crucial categories: bench scoring and offensive rebounding.  All this results in a Lakers 120-101 loss.

We all knew that both of these teams had some of the deepest benches in the league and that they would play a big factor at who would emerge victorious in this series.  In game 4, a big reason for the Nuggets was the play of J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen and Linas Kleiza.  Smith finished the night with 24 points, Andersen had 14 rebounds and two blocked shots and Kleiza added 10 points.  Denver’s bench outscored the Lakers bench 42-24.  In addition to their contributions in the stat column, all three provided energy, especially Andersen.  He only had six points but they were all on thunderous dunks that got the crowd going and provided momentum for his team.  He seemed to always be making a big play which would ignite the crowd. 

The Lakers lack of effort on the glass was painful to watch.  Denver had 20 offensive rebounds in the win last night.  That’s not a typo right there.  Read it again.  They had 20 offensive rebounds last night on their way to out rebounding the Lakers altogether 58-40.  Rebounding is all about hustle and wanting the ball more than your opponents.  Denver played with a greater sense of urgency and knew that they could not go down in the series 3-1 and it showed in their effort in being able to get repeated possessions and second chance opportunities. 

I give a lot of credit to Denver and doing what they had to do in evening up the series.  The Lakers performance was sub par but it was nowhere near as bad as the efforts in game’s 4 and 6 of the Houston series.  Those games were flat out embarrassing.  The Lakers looked like they were trying but they weren’t playing with near the sense of urgency that they had in game 3 when they knew that they had to get a win on the road in order to get back the home court advantage.  The Lakers did look tired at times in game 4 and that had to be a contributing factor in their effort.  It’s looking like those extra games against the Rockets are coming back to bite them a little bit now. 

I don’t need to be captain obvious and state the importance of game 5 Wednesday night in Los Angeles.  The Lakers know what’s at stake and I have to think that they will come out with a greater sense of energy and hustle than they showed Monday night.  After all, you can’t do much worse than allowing your opponent to grab 20 offensive rebounds.

Lakers-Nuggets Game 3 thoughts

May 23, 2009

I thought the Lakers really stepped up tonight in their 103-97 victory and showed me that they have the one trait that is common in all potential champions and that is confidence.  Even after a disappointing game 2 loss in which they gave up home court advantage for the second straight playoff series their play tonight in Denver showed me a lot about the character and heart of the team that I thought had been lacking in the playoffs.  I saw it in the opening seconds of the game when Derek Fisher came out and hit his first jump shot of the game.  Here is a guy that has epitomized the word “struggle” in this years playoffs, but his actions showed that despite his recent lack of success that he was not afraid of the moment. 

As for Kobe Bryant, what can you say that hasn’t been said about the former MVP.  His ability to step up and hit big shots time and time again while leading the Lakers to victory was nothing short of amazing and he did it again hitting a huge three pointer with 1:09 left in the game that put the Lakers up for good.  He also showed his poise down the stretch by calmly sinking four free throws in the final 22 seconds to seal the win.  Bryant finished the game with 41 points.

Pau Gasol really stepped up in the game finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds.  I thought the way that he was able to take advantage of his height and use it against the smaller Denver front court was a big key in the Lakers victory this evening. 

Defensively the Lakers were able to hold Carmelo Anthony to just 21 points for the game, 18 of which were accumulated in the first half of play.  Anthony finished the game shooting just 4-of 13 and eventually fouled out of the game.  The Nuggets really seemed to show a lack of maturity, committing three technical fouls in the game that kept the Lakers within striking distance which eventually came back to the haunt them as the Lakers outscored them by 14 points in the crucial fourth quarter. 

While the win was huge for the Lakers going forward and helped them to gain back the home court advantage in the series, the night was not all roses and wine.  If I were Phil Jackson, I would have them doing nothing but shooting free throws during practice tomorrow.  To say that the Lakers free throw shooting was just awful would be a understatement.  The Lakers missed 14 free throws tonight and shot just 68.9 percent as a team.  Aside from Kobe Bryant who was a respectable 15 of 17 from the charity stripe, the rest of the team was just 16 of 28.  If they had made half of the free throws they missed, the game would have been decided long before the final minute or two.  How pro basketball players who make millions of dollars can be this bad at a fundamental part of the game is beyond me.  If this trend is not reversed, this could come back to haunt the purple before this playoff year is done. 

At least now I can sit back and watch game 4 with less pressure knowing that the worst that can happen is that they come back to Los Angeles with the series even at 2-2.  What I would like to see is for the Lakers to show a killer instinct and treat this game as if its a must win situation and go for broke.  If they can do that then I really like their chances to win another NBA championship.  Will they?  I guess we’ll find out Monday at 6 o’ clock Pacific.

UFC 98 thoughts

May 23, 2009

The only fights I was able to see were Rashad Evans vs. Lyoto Machida and Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra so those are the only two I will be commenting on. 

Lets start with the obvious.  If anyone had any doubts, Lyoto Machida is the real deal.  After the feeling out process in the first few minutes of the fight, he dominated Rashad Evans and completely controlled the pace of the fight and never allowed Evans to get into any kind of rhythm.  As has been the case in his previous fights, he used his “stick and move” tactics to land effective punches and then quickly back away from Evans and never allowing him to use his counter punching strengths.  While I have seen more lopsided fights and many worse knockouts, Machida beat Evans soundly and left no doubt about who was the better fighter on this night after knocking out the former Michigan State wrestler in the second round.  Right now I don’t see anyone in the light heavyweight division who can matchup with Machidas unique style and defeat him.  I can see The Dragon making a run at Anderson Silva’s title defense record and dominate the deep light heavyweight division.  This is just my opinion here but the only guy that I think has a chance at defeating him right now is Silva.  That’s a fight I love to see.  I know that Silva is currently the middleweight champion but he has been moving up in weight recently to fight in the 205 weight class.  I know that Silva’s recent fights have been anything but exciting but he is still one of the best fighters in the world and I really think that an opponent the caliber of Machida would bring out the best in him.  Of course all of the above is contingent on Anderson Silva being able to defeat Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 in August.

I was glad to see welterweights Matt Hughes and Matt Serra finally get into the octagon to settle their long running war of words.  I was not surprised to see Matt Hughes get the victory in this fight.  The only thing that did surprise me was that he was not able to get a submission victory through use of his ground game.  When these two were on their feet I thought that Serra was getting the best of things and winning the battle.  Hughes

 

UFC 98 Results

Undercard

George Roop over David Kaplan by split decision

Yoshiyuki Yoshida over Dave Wolff by submission in the first round

Krzystof Sozynski over Andre Gusmao by TKO in the first round

Kyle Bradley over Phillipe Nover by referee stoppage in the first round

Tim Hague over Patrick Barry by submission in the first round

Brock Larson over Mike Pyle by submission in the first round

Main Card

Frankie Edgar over Sean Sherk by unanimous decision

Chael Sonnen over Dan Miller by unanimous decision

Drew McFedries over Xavier Foupa-Pokam by TKO in the first round

Matt Hughes over Matt Serra by unanimous decision

Lyoto Machida over Rashad Evans by KO in the second round to capture the Light Heavyweight Championship