Sunday, May 10, 2009

Houston Game 3 thoughts

This was a very satisfying win, as the Lakers responded to their first real adversity of the season with a championship performance. But the joy lasted less than 24 hours, as the news broke last night that Yao has a broken foot and will miss the rest of the playoffs. Even when it helps make your road easier, you never want to see the game’s best players unable to play on the biggest stage. And this guy is not only a great player but a true warrior – he played the last 2+ quarters of Game 3 on that broken foot, limping but still contributing even late in the game.

First quarter:
* Jordan gets the start for Fisher. Probably a good call given his tenure with the team.

* In a surprise, they are letting them play early. I had expected it to be called tightly after the incidents in Game 2.

* Houston is not respecting Farmar early, leaving us playing 4 on 5 on offense. He needs to make them pay.

* And so he has, with a couple of assists and…you’re probably not going to believe this but…no turnovers!

* Yao is hot early, in fact both teams executed very well and the Lakers lead 30-28 after 1.

Second quarter:
* Sasha continues to miss. He just has to hit some shots to stay in the rotation.

* Luke needs to hit some shots too, on a lesser scale.

* Bynum is helping a lot, he looks much better tonight.

* Luke gets a dumb tech for kicking the ball after the play was over. Lightly, but given the atmosphere you just can’t do those things tonight.

* They get into the penalty with 5:46 to go, hope they don’t get too many free points out of that (they got 5, on 6 attempts, not good).

* The Lakers have been whistled for 11 fouls so far to Houston’s 3.

* And now Lamar has his third.

* They had a 13-2 advantage in free throws attempted until Ariza just split two (the half would end 15-6).

* Luke hits a 2 followed by a 3 on consecutive possessions late in the quarter; huge.

* 50-48 at the half with Pau only putting up 4 and 3 and the free throw disparity, I can’t complain.

Third quarter:
* Kobe finally gets to the line on the first possession of the half.

* Lamar and Trevor hit 3’s to stretch it out a bit, 60-52. We are 6/12 from distance tonight, after the struggles of the first two games.

* Kobe blocked Yao’s shot!

* Ron-ball has made an appearance, as we have been hoping all series. Three times in a short run.

* We need to involve Yao in pick and rolls more, it gets him on the move and opens up the lane, win-win.

* We had a lot of chances to really open this thing up this quarter but did not get it done as both teams went through droughts.

* More Ron-ball, a fourth-fifth(offensive foul)-sixth and seventh times as the quarter wound down. He is 1/6 from 3, most of them not close.

* Kobe hits a 35 footer at the buzzer for a 12 point lead.

Fourth quarter:
* Houston is going small to try to scramble their way back in.

* Sasha makes a 3! And as a team we are 9/17, compared to 8/35 in the first two.

* Wafer makes a pump fake, gets Sasha in the air, and jumps hard left into his ribs. That should be an offensive foul, and they had to look at the video to check whether it was flagrant on Sasha. They had to be embarrassed at calling the defensive foul there after seeing that replay.

* Bynum is looking great – moving well and being a force on D, setting solid screens, and rolling to the basket with authority (even if they don’t find him much yet). Very encouraging.

* Kobe is just getting hammered on some of his drives, but he’s got to keep trying, they’ll put him on the line eventually…I think.

* Artest checks back in and throws up an airball 3.

* Lowry seems to be getting the crunchtime work over Brooks tonight. After Brooks dominated us in Game 1, Fisher dominated him right back in Game 2 and Farmar has carried that on tonight.

* Kobe cannot start jacking 20 footers here, let’s hope that was an aberration.

* Crucial Ron-ball, he gets an offensive rebound and immediately backs out to shoot a quick 3, keeping us ahead 92-84.

* Yao is really limping badly now, it seems to be progressing whatever he did. Knee, ankle? He runs on it like an ankle, but not sure, but they’re not getting this warrior out of this game. (It turned out to be the aforementioned hairline fracture in his foot).

* Gasol draws attention underneath and kicks out to Kobe for an open 3 at the shot clock, 95-84 with 2:21 left and probably game over.

* Man, Yao is one tough m-f-er.

* Artest gets a flagrant 2/ejection for fouling Pau hard from behind on a breakaway late. It looked like an F1 live and on replay it looks like maybe it shouldn’t even be flagrant, Ron is a victim of his own violent past and the earlier rough stuff in this series there.

Then again, it’s no different than the foul that Ariza put on Rudy Fernandez earlier in the year, but since he landed more awkwardly than Pau and got hurt Ariza’s F2 stood and they added a one game suspension. They judge those things by how the guy lands as much or more than the actual foul.

I’ll tell you one thing: if that’s a flagrant, how many flagrants has Shaq taken over the years? Whacking him hard on the head on follow through, or just whacking him on the head being the foul itself, happened several times a game, hundreds of times a year, for pretty much his whole career. I’ll bet he still absorbs 2-3 fouls a game that would be flagrant if they were whacking somebody else.

We ended up with no turnovers in the fourth and only 6 for the game, to their 19. And we shot 11/20 from 3. There’s you ballgame, and if we can come back with a strong effort on Sunday, your series.

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