Archive for May 2009

Lakers-Nuggets Game 2 thoughts

May 22, 2009

As a Lakers fan the only word that keeps coming to my mind is “disappointment”.  I keep looking for other words to describe what I saw tonight and it all keeps coming back to that one word.  Game 2 was a complete reversal of game 1.  Tonight it was the Nuggets that trailed by double digits and came back to even up the best of seven series at one game apiece. 

Denver was once again led by Carmelo Anthony’s 34 points.  Anthony is on a complete hot streak right now having scored 30 or more points for the fifth consecutive game in this years playoffs.  Chauncey Billups finished with 27 points.  Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 32 points.  Pau Gasol finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds. 

A big difference in tonight’s game was the free throw shooting in the fourth quarter.  Late in the fourth quarter with the game tied, Pau Gasol missed two crucial free throws that would have given the Lakers a two point lead.  The next possession on the other end, Nuggets center Nene was able to get to the line and make both of his shots from the charity stripe to give the Nuggets a two point lead.  The Lakers were just 9-of-14 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.  Denver’s bench was outscored 30-16 in game 1 but tonight Linas Kleiza gave them a big lift finishing with 16 points all by himself including shooting 4-of-7 from the three point line.  The rebounding seemed to be a tale of two halves.  In the first half it was the Lakers who were controlling the boards and getting the extra opportunities.  In the second half the momentum switched over to Denver and they were the ones who were winning the battles on the glass. 

Nuggets head coach George Karl did a good job of making adjustments in the second quarter when Denver completely erased a 14 point Laker lead.  LA was doing plenty of damage in the paint and getting second chance opportunities but he switched things up defensively and forced the Lakers to have to hit outside shots and the Los Angeles simply did not execute. 

Tonight’s win was huge for Denver not only for the obvious reasons in that they have tied the series up 1-1 and have stolen the home court advantage away from the Lakers but it’s huge in the fact that they erased an eleven game playoff losing streak against Los Angeles.  Had they gone down 2-0 in the series I think some doubt might have been able to creep in and the Lakers would have had a huge mental edge.  Now it’s a best of five with three of those games being played in the mile high city.  Although they are just 2-3 on the road in the playoffs, the Lakers did finish the regular season with a 29-12 record which was the best in the league so if there is a team that has the ability to go out on the road and take care of business away from home it is the Lakers.  They were able to do it against Houston and they are more than capable of doing it against Denver.  Personally, I’ll feel a lot better if they get that road win out of the way in game three.

There is an old saying that a playoff series doesn’t begin until the road team wins a game.  Let the series begin Saturday night in Denver.

Lakers-Nuggets Game 1 thoughts

May 20, 2009

First off lets start with the obvious.  The Lakers won tonight’s game on the greatness of Kobe Bryant who led his team to victory scoring 15 of his 40 points in the final 6:48 of the fourth quarter which included six free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory.  Bryant brought his “A” game tonight and the Lakers needed every bit of it to match the top notch performance of Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony who poured in 39 points on 14 of 20 shooting that included 4-of-5 from three point land.  For Anthony this performance was a complete departure from his previous performances against the Lakers this season in which he averaged just 14 points per game.  A second glaring statistic that contributed to a Laker victory was that Denver shot just 65.7 percent as a team from the free throw line that included 12 misses.  Three of those misses were by Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups who entered tonight’s game shooting 96 percent from the charity stripe.

A win is a win but the Lakers escaped with the victory tonight.  They were able to survive another poor start and another sub par game from Andrew Bynum.  Although he had six rebounds and two blocked shots in just 16 minutes of play, he was never able to get in a rhythm offensively due to the fact that he was in foul trouble for much of the game, finishing with five.  Gasol was limited to just 13 points but had a strong performance on the boards for the second game in a row pulling down 14 rebounds.  I still believe that Los Angeles must get these two going on the offensive end in order to achieve overall success in this series.  Nuggets center Nene had a solid game in the paint against these two scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting but the way that he did it has to be the biggest eye raiser as the big Brazilian was able to get numerous dunks and uncontested drives to the basket. 

Both teams have solid benches and after just one game its obvious their play is going to be a big difference maker in this series.  The fact that the Lakers bench outscored the Nuggets bench 30-16 while receiving offensive contributions from six players as opposed to only two Nuggets players registering in the scoring column was a huge factor in tonight’s game.

In game two I look for the Lakers to try and get more point production from their two big men and as well as make adjustments to slow down Carmelo Anthony by having Ariza play a more physical style down low while using his quickness to try and physically make Anthony work harder to get quality looks at the basket.  I also look for them to even put Kobe Bryant on him to try and slow him down if Ariza is unsuccessful.   Phil Jackson and his coaching staff should be able to make the necessary adjustments that they weren’t able to make with only one day to prepare.  The Lakers should come out ready to play from the opening tip off which they weren’t able to do tonight. 

I look for Denver to try and get more production out of their bench and see if they can get JR Smith going.  Expect Nene to have plenty of touches in the opening minutes to see if he can get Bynum into early foul trouble and force the Lakers to go to their bench early.   I think they will also try and exploit the strength advantage that Carmelo Anthony has on both Trevor Ariza and Kobe Bryant. 

Although it’s only one game, Thursday night is a must win game for the Nuggets if they expect this to be a series.  The Lakers have won eleven straight playoff games against Denver.  They can not afford to go down 2-0 to start this series and give the Lakers all the confidence heading back to the mile high city.   After all momentum is a funny thing, it can take you a long time to get it but you can lose it in an instant.

NBA Western Conference Finals preview

May 19, 2009

In one corner we have the team that played the best over the 82 game regular season in the Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles Lakers and in the other corner we have the team that has looked the best since the playoffs began in the Chauncey Billups led Denver Nuggets.  Both teams have reached this point on completely different terms with the Lakers getting pushed to the brink before dispatching a shorthanded Rockets squad while the Nuggets dispatched the talented Mavericks in convincing fashion.  Because we have short memories and live in a “what have you done for me lately” society some of the experts and fans alike have designated the Nuggets as the favorites in this series.  Don’t be fooled.  The Lakers didn’t luck their way to the best record in the western conference.  Basketball is a game of match ups and the Lakers plain and simple didn’t match up well with a tough defensive team that has a couple of top notch defensive options in Shane Battier and Ron Artest that they can throw at Kobe Bryant.  Denver does not have that option.  Guard Dahntay Jones is expected to get the start at shooting guard in this series and match up with Kobe Bryant.  This should pose a favorable match up as far as the Lakers are concerned and should allow Bryant to score with more ease than he did in the second round series against Houston. 

Both teams have solid players that can come off the bench and provide a spark.  Denvers bench is led by JR Smith who provides an offensive spark plug averaging 16.2 points per game during the playoffs and should provide a scoring boost.  Chris “Birdman” Andersen is averaging two blocked shots per game in the playoffs and will provide a defensive presence and front court depth.  Swingman Linas Kleiza is also capable of providing a scoring touch and has an outside shot that keeps defenses honest.  The Lakers bench is led by Lamar Odom who has been less than 100 percent since landing awkwardly on his back during game 4 of the Rockets series.  Odom is capable of scoring, rebounding and has been known to knock down an occasional shot or two from the outside.  Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown provided solid guard play last series and will be looking to do the same while Sasha Vujacic has range from behind the three point arc. 

The key for the Lakers will be the play of their front court and more specifically Andrew Bynum.  If he plays like he did in games 5 and 7 of the Rockets series then Denver will have a tough time matching up.  I look for the Lakers to get the ball in down low to their two seven footers in Bynum and Pau Gasol and let the two go to work and try and use their height advantage to get the Nuggets front court into foul trouble and force them to go to their bench.  A second key for the Lakers will be the defensive play of Trevor Ariza against Carmelo Anthony.  If Ariza can use his speed and quickness and force Anthony into bad shot selection or neutralize him as an offensive force then that will greatly increase the Lakers chances of reaching the NBA finals for the second time in as many years. 

The key for the Nuggets will be the play of Billups and how much he will be able to exploit the match up against Derek Fisher.  Denver has a distinct advantage at the point guard position with Billups playing as well right now as he’s ever been and that includes the Finals MVP performance that he had in 2004 against the Lakers that included Derek Fisher as his point guard adversary.   I look for Billups to do what Rockets guard Aaron Brooks did and drive the basketball and look to take advantage of his speed.  Another key for Denver will be the play of emerging center Nene.  If he can get Bynum into early foul trouble and get him out of his game then this will force the Lakers into sliding the less physical Gasol to center and force the still recovering Odom to play more minutes. 

My prediction:  Lakers in 6

24 Season finale

May 19, 2009

I just finished watching the 24 Season 7 finale and overall I would say I’m satisfied with how things turned out.  As to how it stacks up with past 24 season finales, I would put it somewhere in the middle. 

Some of the things that I did enjoy in the episode were the final twist with Tony Almeida declaring that all his actions were to get to Alan Wilson, the man at the top of the conspiracy who was behind the killing of his wife Michelle and their unborn child back in Season 5.  I think this explanation of Almeida’s actions makes things a little easier to understand.  Although his actions were wrong and contributed to the loss of many innocent lives you can understand the fact that he was doing it in the name of someone that he loved.  Love is the most powerful emotion that people feel and can make a person act in many different ways both right and wrong. 

I really enjoyed the scene between Jack and Gonar, the Muslim Imam.  I thought it was a beautiful way for Jack to confess and ask forgiveness for his wrongs as he lay dying and it was a great way to symbolize peace between two sides in a modern day war. 

I’m alright with the fact that a couple of loose ends were left untied between what will happen with Tony Almeida and what will Renee Walker do in her interrogation with Alan Wilson.  After all, there needs to be something to build next seasons plot lines around. 

Something that should have been tied up was what will happen with Jack Bauer himself and his daughter Kim’s willingness to use her stem cells to help him back to life.  In a world with information just a click or two away and many viewers already knowing that 24 will be back for a Season 8 in January, I thought it would have made much more sense for the treatment to have worked and Jack’s life to have been saved and on the road back to health before the ending.  There is no show without Jack Bauer as the main character so there is no sense in leaving his well being in doubt. 

As for what happened with President Taylor and her daughter Olivia’s role in the death of Jonas Hodges, I can’t say that I’m surprised that she made the decision to send her up the river and prosecute her.  All during the season the President had acted in a way that showed she believed that the duty of the oval office and protecting the constitution and the American people was above all else.  If she had given her daughter a free pass it would have gone against everything that she stood for.  While I completely understood what the President’s husband was saying, he is not the one who would be taking the fall had any information about the President’s daughter getting away with her role in someones murder been leaked to the media. 

As someone that has watched 24 from the very beginning I understand people’s complaints with some of the story lines and unrealistic scenarios but long ago I decided to suspend my disbelief and take this show for what it was, an hour of entertainment once a week for several months out of the year.  I have no doubt that the eighth season of 24 will deliver in the same way and so it is for that reason that I look forward to January 2010 with great anticipation and eagerness for another entertaining ride.

Lost season 5 finale

May 15, 2009

I know that the finale was two nights ago but I had to watch it a second time to have any kind of chance of absorbing all two hours.  As has been the MO with previous Lost season finales, the end of season five left us searching for more answers as opposed to answering all the questions.  Who was that disguising himself as Locke?  What was the “loophole” between Jacob and his adversary?  Did the “Losties” live through the bomb detonation?    What effect did the explosion have?  Did it reset things in a way that Jack had hoped or did it ensure that things will happen just like how it did since the time Oceanic 815 crashed on the island in 2004?  What was the name of the man that was talking to Jacob in the very beginning and why does he want to kill him?  Is Jacob really dead?

At least we got some answers as to whatever happened with Rose, Bernard and Vincent the dog.  I think that the writers did a good job of answering the question of what happened to those three in regards to the fact that they are living peacefully with each other near the beach in a state of “retirement”.  Those two truly love each other more so than any two characters love each other on the show with the possible exception of Jin and Sun.  When told of how a bomb going off could kill them both, they were completely unphased because they had each other.  That love in itself is more powerful than any other force on the island.  Another answer in the episode was that we were able to find out why Dr. Chang has the prosthetic left arm that was seen in the Dharma instructional videos from earlier seasons.  It also looks like we are going to get an answer in season 6 as to how the Black Pearl ship wound up on the island.  The ship was spotted in the beginning when Jacob and his adversary were having their conversation in the beginning of the episode.  I also think we’re going to get an answer as to how the ageless wonder Richard Alpert got to the island next season and we’ll also find out what metaphor or symbolism his character represents.  When you’re the only character that is in both time periods and you don’t age at all, you are not a character that can simply be taken at face value. 

All things considered I really enjoyed the season finale.  I wish Jacob’s story could’ve been developed over more episodes as opposed to cramming it all in over the two hours of Wednesday night’s episode.  I wonder if the season six opener will show flashbacks of any kind of interactions his adversary had with the characters before they got to the island in the same way that they showed Jacob’s flashbacks with the Ocanic 6 in the season five finale? 

The show has definitely taken on a conflict theme, whether that conflict is good vs. evil a la Stephen King’s The Stand with Jacob and his adversary being God and the devil using those on the island to wage their war or the two being on different sides of the fence between fate/destiny vs. people being in control their future?  Unfortunately those questions will have to be answered in January when the sixth and final season begins.  I will be counting down the days until then.

Second half effort slightly better but overall still embarrassing

May 14, 2009

The second half effort for the Lakers was slightly better than the outright disappointment of the first half.  I did get my hopes up for a moment when they cut the deficit to four points but my hats off to the Rockets as they once again showed their resilience and responded to the Lakers challenge by defeating them 95-80.  Overall the night was still an embarrassment for those on the basketball court wearing a Lakers uniform but the bright spot is that they have the opportunity to fight another day.  Game 7 should be another adventure to say the least.  The fun begins on Sunday at 12:30 pacific.

Embarrassing

May 14, 2009

That’s the only word that I can come up with after watching this poor effort by the Lakers in the first half of this game.  I just don’t understand how a team coached by 9 time champion Phil Jackson with the players that are on this roster can come out this flat for the second time in three games.  Before my seat was even warm for tonights game the Lakers were down 21-3.  

I’m going to use a reference that I received from a text message during the game but how in the heck do you let Luis Scola play like he is Hakeem Olajuwon circa 1995?  It was so bad that I thought the MVP trophy was presented before the game and I was seeing David Robinson out there against the Rockets in the post.  With every effort I see like this, I become less and less confident of a Laker championship this season.  I just feel that when you have an undermanned opponent on the brink of elimination you need to show your killer instinct and put that team away.  Last time I checked the team’s got better as you advance in the playoffs.  I really thought the Lakers had turned a corner after the 40 point blowout in game 5 but after the first 24 minutes of play tonight I see that I was wrong.  Maybe things will change in the second half but at this point I will not be getting my hopes up.  That being said…Go Lakers!