Monday, June 29, 2009

Gratuitous, but funny

Andrew Young is a former aide to John Edwards, the ambulance chaser turned empty suit presidential/VP candidate who turned out to have had a baby with his mistress Rielle Hunter (which the press knew about but covered up to aid his 2008 candidacy, but I digress) while his wife was fighting cancer. He's now writing a tell-all book, which will only be interesting to those who are taken by salacious tales of inconsequential people.

Despite the overwhelming lack of importance of any of these people, I'm compelled to bring it up because it has emerged that Edwards and Hunter made a sex tape, leading the New York Daily News to issue this bit of genius:

"[the tape] show[s] [Edwards] taking positions that weren't on his official platform."


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Friday, June 26, 2009

Silly headline of the day

NYT: Senators Worry That Health Overhaul Could Erode Employer Insurance Plans

Duh, that's the whole idea. Shouldn't the verb be "Hope" instead of "Worry"? Those Senators are misunderstanding the role of the useful idiot.

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The national energy tax bill

As you may know, Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote today on what a "cap and trade" bill, more accurately known as "cap and tax" and what really boils down to a massive national tax increase on everybody who uses any form of energy, either directly or indirectly (for example, if you have electricity in your home or if you eat).

Since you may not have taken time to read this bill, the Powerline guys have stepped up to help you out with this handy chart...looks like a great idea to me!

Global Warmism is the great totalitarian threat of the 21st Century. Like the totalitarian ideologies of the last century, proponents pretend that it's only for your own good that they want government to take control of your life.

Truly free citizens are much too threatening to their Utopian fantasies, thus the continuing struggle between between the people and those who seek to control them. Global warming and socialized medicine are but the latest fronts in this ongoing battle.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The road to state-run media

There's not much that shocks me anymore when it comes to big media's support for Democrats and liberalism in general and the president in particular, but even my jaded sensibilities are rocked by ABC's decision to turn over its news organization to the Obama administration today for a day so that it can serve as a propaganda arm of the government.

Every news show, from Good Morning America to World News Tonight to a prime time puff special to Nightline, have been turned over to the administration for them to use to try to drum up support for the government takeover of roughly 1/6 of our economy.

You must understand the distinction here between mere advocacy, of the type that every television network does to one degree or another (Fox for Republicans; MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and PBS for Democrats), and the outright ceding of editorial control to the government. This is not the difference between an adversarial press and advocacy, this is the difference between an independent press and one that is an arm of the government. To call it a dangerous precedent is a massive understatement.

Since socialized medicine is a purely partisan political issue, you might think that ABC would give some time to a dissenting voice. But you would be disappointed; ABC is not allowing even the purchase of time to present an alternate point of view. Sorry, no dissent will be tolerated today!

What's in it for ABC is pretty obvious: the quid pro quo of being allowed more access to the White House than other outlets. Whether that's worth abdicating their objectivity and their responsibilities to the public as a journalistic organization is fodder for journalism schools, I suppose. Clearly ABC has decided that a transformation from news organization to propaganda tool is worth it if they can gain a few scoops in the bargain.

The implications for the broader media are more ominous. It's no secret that the newspaper industry is in trouble; most periodicals and television news divisions are not exactly printing money either.

With the expectation that the newspaper industry is gearing up to ask for a bailout of their own, we may be closer than you think to the nationalization of major newspapers, or at least conditional infusions of cash. And given that bank bailouts have come at the price of congressional micromanaging, and that the GM nationalization has come with administration strong-arming to force them to start making unprofitable vehicles the public does not want, does anybody really believe that media bailouts or nationalizations would be offered without some level of editorial control?

If you find press freedom to be a core principle of a free society, ABC's day of Utopian socialized medicine propaganda certainly must give you pause.

Addendum for any locals: there will be a protest of ABC's action outside the Channel 8 studios in Victory Park beginning at 5:30. Yes, it will be 100+ degrees today, but hope to see you there anyway.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

How not to deal with terrorists

An Instapundit correspondent reminds us of a 2005 quote from then-Prime Minister John Howard of Australia which seems particularly relevant today:

"If you imagine that you can buy immunity from fanatics by curling yourself in a ball, apologising for the world - to the world - for who you are and what you stand for and what you believe in, not only is that morally bankrupt, but it’s also ineffective. Because fanatics despise a lot of things and the things they despise most is weakness and timidity. There has been plenty of evidence through history that fanatics attack weakness and retreating people even more savagely than they do defiant people."

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Orlando Game 5 thoughts

This one reminded you of Denver Game 5, didn't it? For all of this team's flightiness at various times in this run, once they got a whiff of the title they took care of business in emphatic fashion.

First quarter:
* Orlando blows a 3 on 1 fast break, but they still lead 9-6 early on as they are playing with some desperation.

* Bynum is 0/6, although a couple of those are missed tips and a couple have rimmed out it's still striking; 11-6 Orlando.

* The Earvins are on an 8-0 run to stretch their early lead out to 15-6, and Kobe aggravated his finger to force the Lakers into a timeout. We've seen this before, I think it is just contact pain that will go away pretty quickly.

* Bynum with a putback and-1, 15-8 after he misses the freebie.

* Orlando leads 17-8 and each of their starters has scored and assisted already, that's amazing balance. They are usually such a poor passing team that thier ball movement really stands out so far.

* Kobe walks into a 3 that cuts it to 19-15.

* Deja vu, they are 10/11 on 2 point shots and lead 21-15.

* Pau gets a putback off the Lakers' 6th offensive rebound to cut it to 25-22, and we have officially weathered the early storm.

* Rafer picks up his 2nd foul at 1:40, but was probably about to sit anyway. Kobe makes the pair to make it 25-24.

* They lead 28-26 at the end of 1, but I like our position. If we hang around a run will come and their mettle will be tested, in combination with our reaching for the prize.

LA has a 9-5 FT edge (!!!) for +3 points. And 1-0 made 3 for another +3. Orlando is 12/25 including 0/6 from 3, but in a switch the Lakers are 4-1 turning the ball over. Orlando is up 20-12 in the paint, that needs to change.

Second quarter:
* I did not realize that this was Phil's 300th playoff game. That's more than 25 of the other 29 franchises according to ABC/ESPN.

* Howard with the and-one, he misses the FT but puts them up 34-28.

* Lamar with a spectacular reverse and-one of his own, and he makes his to cut it to 34-31.

* Neither team is playing much defense right now as Orlando leads 40-36.

* Fish hits a 3 to get it back to one at 40-39.

* 5:28 to play and our entire front line has two fouls. And this is an improvement from the last game!

* Trevor hits a triple to give LA their first lead at 42-40.

* Kobe extends the run to 8-0 and 16-6 with a deuce; 44-40.

* Another 3 from Ariza and it's 47-40 on the 11-0 run. If there's a sound of silence, you can hear it in the O-rena right now.

* Fish pump fakes to open a lane to the basket and lays it in, 49-40.

* Trevor with a steal and Hedo fouls him on the break. He splits them and it's 50-40 on a 14-0 run.

* Trevor steals it again, leading to a break that is kind of ugly but Lamar finishes it anyway. 16-0 run, 52-40 lead, and their season is looking close to done.

* Rafer finally ends the run with a layup after getting switched with Lamar guarding him, 52-42.

* Lewis hits Orlando's first 3 pointer of the game, they had been 0/7. Some life at 54-46, we need to finish the quarter here.

* Lamar picks up his 3rd, a charge into Gortat at 56.7.

* Farmar hits a banker late to get it back to 10 at the half, 56-46. I think they will have a very tough time climbing out of this hole, the Lakers look like a team that is ready to claim their destiny after a 30-18 quarter.

LA is still up on FT, 12-8 (+4 points), just incredible given what we have seen in this series and the last. Also a 5-1 edge on made 3's (+12 points), as we have gradually shut down that weapon as this series has progressed, a familiarity thing that illustrates why regular season games are so different from playoff series.

Ariza has 12 on 4/6, 11 of them in the 2nd as he sparked the rally that has us in position.

Third quarter:
* Bynum picks up his 3rd at 11:15.

* And his 4th at 8:49, time to sit.

* Lee has 12 on 5/10 shooting as Orlando cuts it to 58-50.

* The Lakers are sputtering, 2 points on 1/5 shooting with 2 turnovers as we reach 4 minutes into the quarter.

* Rafer hits a 3 to get it to 58-53, closest they've been since early in The Run. But Lamar comes right back at the other end, hitting a left corner 3 to get it right back to 61-53.

* Howard picks up his 3rd, dipping a shoulder into Pau for a pretty obvious charge.

* Lamar hits another 3 from the same spot, and we have separation at 64-53. That has to be demoralizing for Orlando, cutting it to 5 and getting the crowd back into it only to see the air sucked out of the building as it goes back to 11 in the blink of an eye.

This is looking like a championship performance.

* Fish nails a J to give us our biggest lead at 68-55.

* Pau with his 4th block, with Kobe also at 4. Length kills.

* Pau draws Howard's 4th at 4:20, splitting the FT to make it 69-55.

* Kobe weaves through the defense on a drive to earn a trip tot he line, where he hits a pair to make it 71-55.

* Fish picks up his 4th at 2:39, but right now that only concerns he because I want him on the floor as the final horn sounds.

* With Howard back into the game with his 4 fouls, the Lakers smartly run a clearout for Pau to go to work, he takes Howard and draws his 5th with 1:14 left.

* Lamar draws his 4th, a charge over Gortat with 29.4 to play. See the Fisher comment above.

* 76-61 at the end of 3. Orlando went 5/18 in the quarter, as the Laker defense is just swarming since the mid 2nd.

LA is still up in FT, 18-14 (+4 points). And we have totally eliminated their 3 point game, up 7-2 for +15 points. LA is outshooting them by a 48%-39% margin.

Basically the Lakers have figured them out on both ends and have total control at this point. I'm not sure Orlando would win another game if we played an extra week at this point.

Fourth quarter:
* Pau starts the quarter with a deuce, 78-61. But Redick comes right back with a trey, 78-64.

* Now Jameer hits a triple to cut it to 80-67, still plenty of time.

* But Kobe gives it right back with a dagger 3 on the other end, 83-67 with 8:13 to play and that will just about do it.

* An alley oop to Trevor makes it 85-67 with a little over 7 minutes left in the season.

* Mostly garbage time, but Orlando has hit six 3's in the quarter, a testament to them not quitting and an indictment of our backing off on defense, not that I am as intense either at this point...from the Kobe 3 that made it 16 I've just been savoring this.

* 99-86 is the Final, and Phil appropriately got he championship lineup (Fish, Kobe, Trevor, Lamar and Pau) back on court together for the end.

16 titles, and I have popped the cork on my champagne.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

16 and counting

It's been a long 7 years since the last championship, so many things have happened with this team that it seems much longer.

2002 was the year of the epic WCF struggle with the Queens, having to endure them poisoning Kobe and needing the legendary Robert Horry shot to even the series in Game 4 before putting them away in an overtime Game 7. It looked like only a matter of time before Sacramento was able to claim a title of their own, but in reality they never recovered from this series. The Lakers were the 6th team (and 3rd Laker team) to threepeat.

And looked like a good bet to become the 2nd of those to get a fourpeat, it only having been done before when Boston won 8 in a row in an era where it was so much easier, with the 9 team league and no salary cap or full inverse draft to spread the talent. Shaq had been the best player on the planet for half a decade, and was still in prime and maybe getting better as a coming toe surgery would relieve the debilitating pain he had been fighting through. And Kobe was certain to get better, not even in full prime yet.

2002-03 was the year that began with a 3-9 start as Shaq recovered from that toe surgery, and saw them still meandering around the .500 mark as the All Star Game approached. A late run got them to 50 wins, but they would have to win every series on the road, and after 5 of the 6 legitimate rotation players were either out or severely limited with injury by the second round the team's low seeding and lack of depth was just too much to overcome (although they came an in and out Robert Horry 3 from likely winning another title anyway).

2003-04 was the season that saw the signings of Malone and Payton and the sexual assault charges against Kobe all occur in a whirlwind couple of weeks in July, taking us all on a rollercoaster ride that would last all season. This was a great team when all on the court, off to an 18-3 start and 20-5 when Malone tore his knee up, an injury from which he would eventually return but never really get right.

After meandering around for a couple of months with no real replacement for Malone, they rallied after his return and looked set to fulfill their destiny anyway. There was adversity in the playoffs, notably falling behind 2-0 to San Antonio and almost blowing a huge lead in Game 5 before a fluky no-look 22 foot fallaway jumper from Duncan was answered by Fish's glorious "0.4" shot that will live in Laker lore forever.

Alas, Malone reinjured the knee in the WCF against Minnesota and could never really go in the Finals against Detroit, once again exposing a team with no backup to be exploited by a healthy quality (if lesser) opponent for the second straight year.

Then the meltdown of 2004-05, as Kobe essentially forced out Phil and forced a trade of Shaq that everybody who knew the game realized would signal the end of the Lakers as a serious playoff team (along with the reurement of Fox and the departure of Horry and Fish). A bizarre split among some Laker fans into Shaq and Kobe factions developed, which I always found incomprehensible - after all these guys had given us, the dynasty they had forged, choosing one of them was to me like choosing between one's children. Then again, I'm sure there were Laker fans who hated Magic in 1992, it takes all types I guess.

At any rate, it was back to square one, as even the blindest of Kobe sycophants were forced to acknowledge after an injury-plagued 2-19 finish to a very un-Laker 34-48 season that featured new coach Rudy Tomjanovich melting down and leaving midseason. It turned out that Kobe and a couple of minor star types (Odom and Caron Butler had come over int he Shaq trade) was a recipe for mediocrity, as even Laker fans had underestimated Shaq's greatness and how much he would be missed.

2005-06 brought back Phil back to the fold and a trade of Butler for the the prayer that Kwame Brown would tap what people still thought was potential. There was the master stroke of drafting Bynum with the 10th pick, but he was 17 so that would not help for a while.

Even with Phil's deft touch, this was still a team with Lamar as its #2 player and that featured Kwame Brown and Smush Parker playing featured roles as starters, one that was weak enough that Kobe was able to score over 35 a game. Phil got them to overachieve enough to take a 3-1 lead over a vastly superior Phoenix team before losing a great first round series.

2006-07 was the ecstasy and the agony. The ecstasy, as it became clear to (most of, anyway) us that Bynum was good enough to be a franchise player, a guy who could lead us to our next championship as either the top dog later on or part of a core of stars very soon. The agony, as it became clear that while Kobe is like Jerry West as a player, he is like Isiah Thomas as a talent evaluator.

He regressed into an anti-leader, snarling at his teammates and coaches and, after a 5 game first round playoff exit, lashing out at the front office that he was too foolish to realize had him in a position to win again while still in prime. He publicly admonished them for not making what would have been disastrous trdaes of Bynum for Jason Kidd or Jermaine O'Neal, aging stars who would not even have been particularly likely to be better than Drew the coming season, with no chance of being as good going forward. He asked to be traded. Bottom line, he made a complete fool of himself with his idiotic pronouncements on the state of the franchise.

That carried exactly one game into the 2007-08 season. In game 1, Kobe scored 45 on a ridiculous 44 shooting possessions, playing perhaps the most selfish game in a career characterized by selfish play and sabotaging a winnable home game against a quality team.

In game 2 three nights later, he was mostly an observer as Bynum was dominating in a road blowout win over championship contender Phoenix, and it's as if a light went off in his head: this guy can lead me to the promised land.

By January, Bynum was dominating on a nightly basis, the athletic slasher Ariza had been added from Orlando in a steal of a trade for Brian Cook and Mo Evans, and the Laekrs were moving up the standings. Even when Bynum suffered the fluky serious knee injury that would ultimately end his season, Kobe was fully on board.

However, Bynum's injury had derailed the current season, so it looked like things would have to be out on hold for a year even if he came back late as he would surely be out of sync. Enter Mitch Kupchak, who turned Kwame's expiring contract, two young players (Marc Gasol and Javaris Crittenton), two #1 draft picks and more cap relief into arguably the most skilled big man in the game, Pau Gasol.

Suddenly, the Lakers were contenders again, and the team took off on a run that landed them at the top of the Western Conference standings. From there, they rolled to the playoffs without any stress beyond having to win a Game 6 in Utah, a dominating 12-3 run.

In those Finals they met a historically good Boston team, who was underestimated because they had struggled in the playoffs (two 7 game series and a 6) and because people just did not recognize how damned good they were during the season. LA was actually favored, but they were not quite ready for that level of competition. A comically one-sided officiated Game 2 put them in a hole, a blown 24 point lead in Game 4 at home put them on the brink, and giving up after falling down in a humiliating Game 6 ended their dreams, but they were back.

And from the moment they walked off the court after that Game 6, they had a singular obsession with getting back and finishing the job. From the offseason workouts, to the day they reported to camp, to the night the season tipped, through a season when things did not always go as planned, through a playoff run to glory, this was a team that was not, under any circumstances, going to be denied.

That's the context that led to this 16th championship in the franchise's storied history, I'll continue later with some reflection and a look at the season as it unfolded.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Orlando Game 4 thoughts

That one was an all timer, in the running with the Robert Horry game against Sacramento in 2002 and the Derek Fisher "0.4" game in San Antonio in 2004 for Lakers game of the decade, and surely in the top 5 overall. Fisher cements his status as one of the greatest big shot makers in the history of this game, an Horry for a new generation as it were.

Fisher's heroics paper over what would have been the game most blatantly decided by officiating since...well, only Game 2 of last year's FInals, but the 17-0 fourth quarter free throw advantage for Orlando and the 11-2 foul disparity is a black eye for a league that does not need them in the wake of the Donaghy scandal. David Stern owes Fisher a huge debt of gratitude for forcing that issue into the background instead of being the main topic of conversation for two off days as it would have been otherwise.

First quarter:
* The Lakers are 6-0 after a loss in these playoffs.

* They are leaving Lee and he is chucking, taking 4 three pointers in the first 3 minutes. He only makes one, vindicating the Lakers strategy as they take the early 4-3 lead.

* Howard gets two offensive boards on one possession before drawing a foul, looks like he's beasting it tonight. He splits the FT for a 4-4 tie.

* Lee picks up his second early foul, falling for Kobe's bait at 8:54. Early run for Pietrus.

* Bynum draws his 2nd at 8:42, helping as Hedo converts the and-one to make it 7-6 Orlando.

* Lamar steals a rebound from Howard and puts it back, 8-7 LA.

* After a Kobeball miss, he comes right back for an and-1 from the right baseline to cut Orlando's early lead to 12-11.

* Howard rejects his third shot in 7 1/2 minutes. Did I mention he's beasting it tonight?

* Pau picks up his 2nd at 3:44, the Bennett Salvatore Effect fully in, umm, effect. Howard misses them both to keep it 16-13 Orlando but we are going to have ot buy some time with Mbenga here, dangerous.

* Still 16-13, and the Lakers are 5/17 while Orlando is 6/11 for 54%.

* Good lord, now Odom has his 2nd at 2:48. Add an Ariza tech for bouncing the ball in frustration while sitting on the floor and Orlando is able to stretch it to 20-15 led by Howard's 11 rebounds (!). Not much choice but to bring Luke in at the 4 here, playing Mbenga and Powell together is just too much of an offensive hit.

* Pietrus picks up his 2nd at 1:42, but I'm sure they are thrilled to trade their two SG's for our entire front line.

* Turkeyglue is 3/3 for 10 points as they lead 22-17.

* And Alston is 4/5 for 9 as it's 24-18.

* 24-20 Orlando at the end of 1. Kobe has 13 on 4/7, having to take too much offense because of the bigs' foul trouble but making lemonade of it.

Orlando has a 10-7 FT advantage, but has failed to parlay it into any net points.

They are +6 on made 3's with their 2 makes to LA's 0.

Orlando is shooting 8/16, LA 7/20, but the Earvins have turned it over 6 times to LA's 1 to keep it close.

Second quarter:
* Sasha misses back to back 3's to keep us from cutting into a lead that is now 26-20. Sigh.

* Farmar is playing some awful D so far. The problem is, where Fish funnels guys into help and into their cold zones, Jordan funnels them into open spaces or open lanes to the basket. I really like the kid and hope he learns some defensive technique at some point, that will determine whether he's a solid rotation guy and perhaps starter or a guy who is always on the fringe of rotations.

* The Lakers are 0/6 from distance and trail 30-24.

* Hedo has 12 on 4/4 shooting as the lead swells to 32-24.

* Orlando has a 14-10 edge in the paint in leading 34-26, frankly not that bad for us given how much our front line has had to sit so far.

* Lewis hits a 3 to make it 37-27, their first double digit lead of the series. It might be worse but for their 8-1 turnover "lead" giving us a 9-0 bump in points off.

* Odom picks up his 3rd at 5:53, and this one is entirely on him as he bites on a shot fake from Hedo. As if you would not want him to take the long deuce. He splits them, 38-29.

* Gortat slips to his second pick and roll dunk to make it 40-31. I'm going to go ahead and name him the greatest Polish player ever.

* Hedo now has 15 after his fast break layup makes it 42-31. Redick has been a spark with 3 points and 3 assists off the bench.

* Phil takes a rare "message" tech and they lead by a dozen at 43-31.

* Bynum picks up his 3rd foul at 3:52. Mark Landsberger and Jim Chones are seen dressing for possible second half duty.

* After 2 offensive rebounds on a possession, Howard now has 14 total with still 2:43 to play.

* Howard hits those sweeping hooks with both the left and right hands on back to back possessions to give them a 47-35 lead.

* Now he blocks a shot that turns into a jump ball, and wins the tap forward for a 2 on 1 runout fast break where Pietrus is fouled, poor floor balance by LA. He hits the pair and it's 49-37, and that's where the half ends.

Orlando has a 16-11 free throw advantage (+2 points).

LA is 1/10 from distance, helping Orlando to +6 points on 3-1 made 3's.

Orlando has a 47%-33% shooting edge and a 22-15 rebounding edge, overcoming their 11-3 in turnovers.

Kobe has cooled, with 16 on 5/12 shooting.

Third quarter:
* Ariza with a steal and dunk to cut it to 51-41.

* Kobe nails a 3, 51-44.

* Trevor hits a 2 and then a 3 and it;s down to 54-49, we're applying pressure here.

* Hedo picks up his 4th foul at 7:11. He had 17 on 6/7 from the field and 5/6 from the line. Trevor splits the FT and has 8 in the quarter and it's 54-50.

* Now Trevor hits a 3 and it's a one point game, 54-53 on his 11 in the quarter.

* After abusing Gortat, Bynum hits a pair of FT to give us a 55-54 lead, our first since 8-7. It's an 18-5 quarter so far.

* Bynum picks up a phantom loose ball foul, his 4th, as he and Howard jump for a loose ball at 4:54.

* Orlando has 15 turnovers to the Lakers' 4 and trail 58-56.

* Fish pumps fakes and blows by Lewis on the baseline, causing Rashard to grab him around the waist to take the intentional foul and prevent the uncontested layup. Only problem is all three guys somehow miss it, giving us a side out instead.

* Lamar hits a 3 from the top of the key to give LA a 61-58 lead, but Redick erases it with his own from the left corner, 61-61.

* Ariza's transition layup gives him 13 for the quarter and puts LA back up 63-61.

* Kobe rips a rebound from the hands of Howard and then draws the foul, grown ass man play there. He hits the pair and is 8/8 for the game, 65-61.

* Kobe hits a tough leaner to make it 67-63 at the end of the 3. That's a 30-14 quarter, arguably our best of the playoffs.

Free throws are 18-18 but LA is +3 points as they have missed 7.

LA is up 5-4 on made 3's, another +3 points.

Orlando outscored Ariza 14-13 in the quarter. Unfortunately for them, other guys played too.

Fourth quarter:
* Awful play by Lamar. We are in a position to get some separation, up 71-65 and them wiht the shot clock running down. And Turkoglu gets Lamar with a shot fake...again...from behind the arc. That's his 4th, and even in missing one Hedo cuts it to 71-67, huge play.

* Kobe just gives the ball away, but Pietrus blows the fast break layup, looked like he kind of wrong footed himself trying to jump.

* Howard picks up an offensive foul at 9:09, that's his 4th and it gives him 6 turnovers for the game.

* Now Lamar has his 5th, on an offensive rebounding attempt at 8:53. Crunch time minutes for Bynum coming.

* Howard with his 7th turnover. That's 6 FG and 6 TO for Orlando in the half, and the Lakers lead 71-67.

* Luke has 6 and the lead is 73-67. But Pietrus answers with a corner 3 to cut it to 73-70.

* Bynum picks up his 5th at 7:07, Pietrus splits them to cut it to 75-71. Then Pau gets his 4th, running through a screen off ball at 6:55. If this goes OT we may run out of (quality) frontcourt bodies.

* Pietrus with a transition and-one on a retreating Kobe, and the Magic take a 76-75 lead.

* Howard goaltends Pau's shot to put LA back up 77-76.

* Trevor picks up an off-ball foul on Hedo, which is 5 fouls on LA to 0 on Orlando in the quarter and will give them a 12-0 free throw advantage to go with that. Karma, he misses them both.

* Kobe hits a 2 in the lane, 79-76 with 4:48 to play.

* Nelson feeds Howard for a dunk, 79-78.

* Kobe is mugged with no call for the second time in three possessions.

* A breakdown leaves Kobe with an open 3 at the top of the key, but he misses it. Orlando dodged a bullet there.

* Hedo is fouled hard by Ariza at 3:24, making fouls and free throws 6-0 and 14-0 for the quarter. He splits them to tie it at 79.

* Fish has an alley oop to Pau set up but Howard makes a great read to block it at 3:09. Then he beats Pau down the court and throws up a layup which goes with a foul (7-0 fouls, 15-0 FT). He makes it, and suddenly Orlando is up 82-79 with 3:02 to go even though it seems like LA has been in control.

* Ariza hits a big from the top of the key as the shot clock winds down to tie it at 82 with 2:37 left, wow.

* Hedo comes right back with a step back 3 to put them back up 85-82 at 2:12.

* Howard rejects Pau at 1:52 for his 9th blocked shot, a new Finals record.

* Hedo pumps fakes and drives for a floater to put them up 87-82 with 1:34 to play, putting us in danger.

* Nelson wiht a blocking foul at 1:14, but no FT because it's their first foul. Not of the last two minutes (well, actually that too), but OF THE QUARTER!

* Kobe with an awful Kobeball 3 after dribbling in place beyond the arc for a while, they have the ball with a 5 point lead and 1:04 to go and we must get a stop here.

* We get it, as Lewis misses an off-balance banker and in transition Kobe slashes into the lane to draw Howard and dishes it back to Pau for the dunk, 87-84 with 31.9 to go.

* Howard gets loose in the lane and Kobe wraps him up with a good foul with 11.1 to play. 17-0 free throws for Orlando in the quarter, 8-1 fouls on LA.

More karma, as Howard misses them both to leave the door open as Ariza boards with 10.4 and the Lakers set up a play.

* The Lakers cross them up by taking it out in the backcourt. Kobe takes the inbounds and passes out of the double to Ariza, who hits Fish in space cross court. He advances as Nelson doesn't crowd him at the 3 point line, so Fish rises up and...NAILS IT! 87-87 with 4.6 in regulation!

That is a shot that, should we win this one, go down in Laker lore as one of the all time clutch shots. Hell, maybe even if we lose, I still see replays of Jerry West's halfcourter in a game we lost in 1970.

Fish has established himself as one of the greatest clutch shooters in Laker history (or NBA history, for that matter), a Big Shot Rob for a new generation.

* Turkeyglue takes a timeout on the inbounds, they will set up something else.

* After we pushed out the inbounds pass, Pietrus is forced into a tough long 2 from the left wing, falling away left as he throws it up, a prayer that is not answered. Overtime!

He missed Howard on Kobe underneath, where we would have had to foul and give him two to make one. And replay shows he also had an open Lewis after Pau hedged toward Howard.

Orlando shot what has to be an unprecedented 17 free throws to the Lakers 0 in the quarter, picking up 10 points despite shooting them poorly. That puts them up 35-18 for the game (+7 points). Made 3's are 6-6.

* Lewis hits what is just a silly 3, up against the shot clock off a pump fake and fallaway to the right from the left wing. Orlando draws first blood, 90-87.

* Kobe hits a deuce to cut it to 90-89, 4:13 to play.

* Howard misses a banker, and Kobe hits another one to give the Lakers a 92-91 lead at the 3:33 mark.

* Lewis has the ball stolen, but a Kobe miss at 2:49 keeps it a one point game.

* Howard misses a chippie, but Nelson tips out the offensive rebound. Lewis misses a banker, and Howard grabs a huge handful of Pau's jersey with no call, but no harm as Lamar secures the board.

* Kobe throws up an "airball" at 1:57 that replays show was the result of Pietrus making contact with both ball and wrist. The 8 on 5 power play continues unabated.

* Fish fouls Howard on the floor at 1:39, smart play to keep him from getting anything off there.

* Hedo misses a wild banker and Howard pushes Pau to the ground hard, foul on...Fisher?!? He did give a minor shove after Howard's throwdown, but what a bizarre call. That's Fisher's 5th, and Howard makes the second to tie the game at 91.

* Tervor misses a corkscrew in the lane but sneaks underneath to get his own rebound and it's knocked out of bounds as he throws it back out, sideout at 1:01.

* Kobe misses but draws enough attention that Nelson is left to fight Pau for the rebound, not surprisingly a battle he loses in taking a foul for the arm bar. 46.9 to go and sideout again.

* Kobe draws the double in the post and whips it out to an open Fish at the top of the key, and he drains it! 94-91 with 31.3 to play, and Fish has 12 after following up his 0/5 start from distance with two daggers that have swung this whole series at this point.

* Hedo panics and shoots a wild early 3 when they had plenty of time to get a good shot and did not have to shoot a 3 yet. He clanks it, and Lewis tips the rebound the open floor and it's picked up by a streaking Pau to go in for the uncontested dunk! 96-91 with 21.6 to play and that may well be the play that earns us a championship. Lots of work left, but 3-1 with two home games is huge.

* Hedo misses another trey and Lamar tips the rebound away from HOward and to Fish. He advances it to an open Ariza on the wing, who holds briefly before finding Pau all alone underneath...slam dunk and-one on the hard foul by Pietrus at 3.4 seconds. And Pau is pissed, but fortunately only lets the Frenchman know that while he could kick his ass if he wanted to, he'll pass because this is the NBA Finals.

Certainly a dirty play, it looked like he undercut him live but replay shows it was a two handed blow/hard shove to the upper back or neck area. That can be very dangerous, luckily Pau was able to hold onto the rim or he could have fallen awkwardly or on something and been injured.

They call it F-1 and double techs, and that is very much a suspendable offense as they need to protect players in the air from non-basketball contact, but I hope they do not suspend him since this is the Finals (they subsequently did not). This is where it would be nice if they had a mechanism for suspending him for a game at the start of next season.

Pau hits 1 of the 2, and we inbound to end the game, 99-91 and now up 3-1 with a chance to close on Sunday. You can taste it now.

Orlando ended up with a 37-20 FT advantage (+6 points), 19-0 (+11) in the 4th and overtime before Pietrus' flagrant. One of the more one-sided runs of officiating you will ever see, it's to our credit that we played thorugh it and got the W.

LA went 8-7 in made 3's (+3 points).

Kobe went 11/31 and Lewis made only one field goal in regulation.

LA won the rebounding battle 39-31, and turned it over only 8 times to their 19 (LA 16-10 points off).

As expected, their shooting came way back to earth, 41.9%. We were just as bad at 41.8%.

So it's on to game 5, a chance to close and an extra day of rest. I like our chances, if we can survive what you would expect to be a frenzied start by them and be in the game as we get to the 4th you have be confident that we can bring it home.

Yes, there are two home games available as well, but the longer you let them stick around the more bad things can happen. I'll have my champagne on ice.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Orlando Game 3 thoughts

Well, that was not the greatest example of fluke shooting that I've ever seen, that would be Villanova in the 1985 NCAA championship game. But it is the second greatest fluke shooting exhibition I've ever seen, which makes it the greatest NBA fluke shooting game (and, certainly, half) I've ever witnessed.

Not much you can do about that, as it will never happen again. There are no moral victories in the Finals, so while the Lakers making this a flip a coin game into the last minute speaks well to their heart and to their fundamental fitness in this matchup, that is ultimately inconsequential. All that matters is that they came here with three chances to get the road win they need, and one of those chances is gone.

First quarter:
* Rhyner is right - the lights in this arena SUCK! A 10 foot wide glare near midcourt running the entire length of the court (from the standard TV angle, but I'm sure all spectators have to endure it on some substantial portion of the court from their vantage points)...seriously?

* Pau with two early dunks to get us off to an 8-2 start.

* Fish is 2/2, and it's 12-9.

* Now Alston is 2/2 and they lead 13-12.

* Kobe hits a 2 and a 3 to make it 17-13 LA, then another shot to make it 19-14.

* Drew with the and-1 on Howard, but he misses the FT; 21-16. And he's staying out of foul trouble himself.

* Rafer with a 3 to cut it to 21-19, both offenses are on fire here. As Kobe makes a shot to make it 23-21 LA they shooting is Orlando 64%, LA 61%.

* Rafer is now 4/4, cutting it back to 25-23. It's not bad defense, they have been inviting him to shoot (and right so) all series. It's just that tonight he is making them, as he will do once every few games, but it helps you many more games than it hurts you.

* And Kobe is 6/7 for 13, giving the Lakers back the lead at 27-25. Did I mention that the offenses are playing well?

* Pau picks up his 2nd at 1:03, the first bad news of the game.

* Rafer now has 11 in a 27-27 game, and the shooting is now Orlando 69%, LA 62%,

* Kobe with a 3 pointer with harm that turns in a 4 point play, giving him 17 on 7/10 shooting and giving the Lakers a 31-27 lead. Which they take to the end of the quarter.

Orlando has the 6-2 FT edge (+3 points), but the Lakers are up 2-1 in made 3's (+3). Orlando outshot LA 69-58% but turned it over 3 times to LA's 1. The Lakers won points in the paint 12-6, underscoring how well they are shooting from outside.

Second quarter:
* Sasha misses a shot, commits a foul, and is posted up by Pietrus for a score to make it 31-29. Sigh.

* Lamar for the and-1 off a great feed from Luke to make it 34-29.

* Orlando is shooting 74% (!), but trails 38-33 to the 57% shooting Lakers.

* An alley oop to Howard gets them to 75% shooting (15/20) and to within 38-36.

* Farmar hits a 3, but Turkeyglue hits one right back; 41-39. Good thing they didn't let him shoot from 2 point range, where they are 14/15 as a team!

* Make that 15/16, as Pietrus ties the game at 41 and they are now at 77% (17/22).

* Kobe hits a 3 and has 20; 44-41.

* Good lord, Pietrus committed the most obvious double dribble in the history of basketball on a fast break and somehow nobody saw it, the dunk cuts it to 44-43. Like their hot shooting asses really need the help.

* More shots, two by Hedo and one by Rafer give them a lead at 49-48. I'm not sure of the exact stat but I think they are 357/359 shooting so far. Alston has 5/5 for 13 points.

* They are shooting 78% to our 58% but we lead 50-49 (until they bring the ball up and score again).

* Alston misses! Yes, that's worth a bullet point.

* Lewis hits back to back 3's to put them up 57-54. Their pick and roll is killing us but not because of the roll action, it's just an incredible fluke shooting exhibition, somewhere John Thompson is cringing.

* 59-54 at the half, their 24/32 for 75% is the best shooting half in Finals history. Duh. Even more amazing, they are 20/23 on 2 point shots. LA is staying in by shooting 22/41 (53.7%) themselves.

Kobe has 21 on 8/15, but only 4 in the quarter as he finished with 4 straight misses. Orlando has the 10-9 FT advantage (+1 point) but made 3's are 4-4. They have a 14-10 rebounding edge, the 24 total is remarkably low and I'm not sure how we got to 10 with so few chances (Pau has 0). Orlando has 4 guys in double figures and another with 8, everybody's hitting.

Third quarter:
* If I miss something that happens this quarter, it's because I was temporarily blinded by Brian Shaw's white suit. But if I'm looking for a high end hooker I know who to call!

* For some reason, Lee crowded and reached into Kobe 28 feet from the basket with the shot clock running down, allowing Kobe the easy swing through for a three shot foul. But he hits only one, and we trail 65-61.

* Ariza with a steal that turns into a 3, cutting it to 65-64.

* Kobe picks up an offensive foul 5 1/2 minutes in, his third. Should not be a problem, he plays well with fouls most of the time.

* Rafer is 7/9 for 17 points as they stretch it back to 69-64.

* Odom also picks up his third, at 4:23, but should be OK.

* Kobe misses another free throw, and is now 4/8, and we are down...4 at 71-67.

* Pau has 16 on 7/9, he's great if we would just get him the damned ball more; 73-69.

* Ugh, Howard shoves Pau down to get an offensive rebound, causing Lamar to have to take his 4th at 2:52.

* Trevor misses an open 3, and Lewis makes one on the other end to give them their biggest lead at 77-69.

* Another missed free throw, this time by Pau, and we are 9/16 in a 77-70 game that should be much closer.

* Kobe hits a 3 to cut it to 77-75.

* Howard makes a pair then hits one of those swooping hook shots to put them back up 81-75.

And that's where the quarter ends. They are shooting 65.3% still, FT are tied at 18 (Orlando +1 point) and made 3's are tied 5-5. The unreal two point shooting is the difference.

Fourth quarter:
* Orlando is shooting 67% for the game. In the 4th quarter. I have never seen that in an NBA game. IN related news, they lead 85-77.

* Farmar now has 7 off the bench as the lead is cut to 87-81.

* Lamar's 1/2 gives the Lakers 9 missed free throws, and it gets worse as Farmar rebounds the miss but thorws it right to Pietrus for an easy breakaway layup; the swing play makes it 93-85.

* Ariza drills a 3 to get it back to 93-88.

* And Fish with one of this own to cut it to 95-93, and the natives are restless. The Lakers are 7/7 in the quarter.

* Kobe hits a J at 3:57 to keep the deficit small at 99-97.

* Hedo fouls Pau in the post at 2:41, great recognition by the Lakers there to exploit the mismatch after a switch. Pau ties the game by making them.

* Pietrus gets a weakside putback dunk to give them back the lead at 101-99.

* Awful Kobeball, as he settles for a bad 3 instead of moving the ball, when the offense has been rolling all quarter.

* Alston is fouled at 1:54, but only makes 1/2, and their lead is 102-99.

* Kobe is fouled when he's crowded on a double team and splits it. Risky move but it worked this time.

* Pau dives for a layin and gets no call despite a lot of contact, 102-101 Orlando.

* Lewis makes a tough bomb with his foot on the line right at the end of the shot clock; 104-101 with 1:06 to play.

* Kobe drives the lane and gets a foul call on Howard at 59.8. Replays showed that it should have been a jump ball, lucky one for us, but he only makes 1/2 and it's still 104-102. Kobe is now 5/10 from the line with a couple of the makes of the rollin variety, he has really looked out of rhythm there.

* Excellent defense culminating in Lamar blocking Lewis at 37.6.

* Oh my God...Kobe drives into a double team and dribbles it away, but Pau recovers on the floor in traffic. And...doesn't take tome out, instead trying to flip it back to Kobe, who drops the hot potato and then has to foul Pietrus at 28.7.

Huge gaffe by Pau, we had a full and a 20 and you will only need at most one more TO to advance the ball (and that only if the clock is almost gone), you just have to stop it there. A boneheaded play by our headiest player looks like ti is going to ruin a great chance to steal one and put this thing away.

Pietrus nails them both and they have the two possession lead at 106-102.

* A series of missed desperation 3's (Ariza, Kobe, Fish) and offensive rebounds ends with Kobe in the lane and forced to lay it in at 0.5. The inbounds to Lewis takes it down to 0.2 and that will do it even if he misses one (as he should on purpose). Instead, he makes them both to make the final 108-104, and we have a series again dammit. So close.

Orlando ends up with a 30-26 free throw advantage (+7 points), but that counts 4 on intentional fouls late so it is really even. Then again they had a lot fewer shots so their free throw rate was still huge in their favor, 0.47-0.33. I've pretty much given up on the Lakers getting a fair shake from the officials this postseason, whether by random chance or because the league is hypersensitive to perceptions of bias in favor of glamor teams, it just ain't happening and I don't see it changing at this late date.

LA killed themselves with 10 missed FT (16/26), even with all of their shooting heroics we still win that one if we make out freebies.

And it's not like it's because they pounded it inside and LA shout outside; LA won points in the paint 40-36.

The Lakers actually win made 3's 8-5, an unexpected +9 points. Both teams again shoot reight around average, neither has yet to shoot either well or poorly from distance in this series even even once.

But the story is Orlando's 62.5% shooting (40/64), as you would expect it is a Finals record. That includes a truly remarkable 35/50 on 2's, a 70% mark that I doubt has ever been matched except by the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. LA shoots 51.3% themselves, normally that will give you nice advantage.

The Earvins shot 15/26 (57.7%) on long 2's, the worst shot in basketball, including a silly 10/13 in the first half. They had been 3/19 (15.8%) in G1 and 7/17 in G2. If they keep throwing up 26 of 64 shots from that range we will be champs in short order, you can't win that way.

The previous highs were 61.7% by the 1991 Bulls and 61.5% by the 1987 Lakers.

Orlando was +2 in rebounding (29-27) and the 56 total was the second least in Finals history. Gotta have a miss to get a rebound, the Laker front line only had 4 by Drew, 3 by Lamar and 2 by Pau. And it's not because we rebounded poorly, we pulled down 76% of their misses and 38% of our own, both very good totals.

Turnovers and points off were dead even.

This was the Lakers' 7th straight road loss in the Finals (tying the 1955-56 Fort Wayne Pistons for the record), and of course ended Orlando's 0-6 overall record in the Finals (the record is Baltimore/Washington's 9 in 1970/1975/1978). We need to end ours on Thursday.

Howard has 20 double-doubles in the playoffs, behind only Barkley's 22 in 1993, Duncan's 22 in 2003, and Shaq's 21 in 2000.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Orlando Game 2 thoughts

This looked like a game later in a series, where both teams have figured out what each other do to the point that neither can do anything. Late in the 2nd I was asked who was winning and could only answer "the defenses" as it was 26-26 at the time.

First quarter:
* Did Kobe tweak his ankle there? He showed some discomfort, but after a couple of trips up and down the floor it seems to be forgotten, to his relief and ours.

* Bynum picks up his 2nd at 7:54 on a Howard repost. Early Odom tonight.

* Lee picks up his 2nd 10 seconds later, Pietrus to make an early entrance as well.

* Brilliant defensive play by Fish, drawing a charge to break up a 2 on 1 fast break. And I'm not sure he didn't force Pietrus to travel before he stumbled into the charge.

* Now Fish gets a steal and draws the 2nd on Pietrus at 5:22. With both of his 2's gone, Van Gundy chooses to go big with Gortat at the 4, Lewis and Turkeyglue on the wings.

* Kobe has thrown up 3 awful shots in the first 7 1/2 minutes, making 1. This is not the time to start settling!

* Lewis becomes the third Earvin with 2 fouls at 4:04. Redick checks in to give them a more conventional lineup without sacrificing shooting.

* Orlando has 6 turnovers already in 8 1/2 minutes, but the Lakers are joining them in the slop as it's only 11-10. Both teams are really struggling on offense and in shooting when they do get a rare good look.

* Fish draws a hip check pick foul on Howard, his 1st, to stop them from getting the last shot. Like they would have done anything with it, or like we would make them pay, good luck with all of that.

15-15 in what is, yes, the lowest scoring 1st quarter in Finals history (they did not say whether that's 24 second era only). Orlando shot 4/14 and the Lakers countered with a red hot 6/20. Orlando benefitted from an 8-4 free throw advantage (+4 points) and the teams each hit a single 3.

Second quarter:
* Orlando is up 8-4 in points in the paint, and it's 19-19. You can tell that the Lakers' approach is not quite as good on the offensive end tonight.

* Farmar hits his second jumper to give us a 21-19 lead, nice spark early.

* Luke picks up his 2nd at 9:12.

* Bynum with a nice and-1 for a 24-19 lead.

* Farmar with a bad heat check 3. Those are the kinds of things that make you wonder if he's ever going to get it.

* Lewis has 11 on 5/7 shooting after hitting three straight hoops culminating with a 3 to tie the game at 26.

* Farmar airballs a reverse layup attempt, gets his own board and barely catches iron on a 3 footer follow. That won't make his resume tape.

* Bynum is hit with his 3rd at 5:54, it's one of those nights for him.

* Ariza and Fish hit 3's to give us some separation at 32-26, but Lewis comes righ bakc with one on the other end to cut it to 32-29. Dare I say, en fuego?

* Pietrus picks up his 3rd at 2:57.

* Kobe hits a 3 for the biggest lead at 36-29, but (you guessed it) Lewis hits one of his own to make it 36-32.

* Another Lewis 3, his 4th, cuts it to 38-35. He has 18 in the quarter, the rest of the team has 2. Odom has to stay attached no matter what the team defensive principles are when this guy heats up, he's one of the game's great shooters.

* 40-35 at the half, with the 45 point quarter looking like an offensive explosion. Orlando did nto shoot a free throw in the quarter but still lead 8-7 in the game (+2 points) and have a 5-4 edge in made 3's (+3). They also have 11 turnovers, a 26-18 rebounding advantage mitigates that some but the Lakers' 13-4 edge in points off TO's is huge. Also notable is the Lakers' 2-0 edge in fast break points, as Orlando has yet to score on the break all series (LA only has 6 points themselves).

Third quarter:
* The Earvins get their first fast break points of the series, an Alston layup, to cut it to 42-41 as LA has come out a little flat.

* Bynum hit with his 4th at 8:59, ticky tack.

* Howard gets his first dunk of the series to cut it to 52-51 with 5 1/2 minutes to go.

* Ariza got caught on Howard on a switch but would not let them get the post entry to him, moving around him for a nice steal leading to a fast break dunk for Kobe; 54-51.

* Turkoglu hits a 3 to tie it to 54.

* And another one, to give them a 59-56 lead. He has 12 in the quarter.

* Now Odom picks up his 3rd at 1:58, our bigs are going to have to play smart from here on out.

* Kobe has 10 in the quarter and the Lakers have a 60-59 lead.

* Fish hits a 3 to tie it back up at 63.

* After Hedo made a jumper in the lane to give them a 65-63 lead, Kobe seemed to not be fully aware of the clock. He got a shot off, but it was rushed and it seemed like he advanced the ball with little urgency then realized he was almost out of time and made the quick pullup move.

A 30-23 quarter for Orlando, easily their best of the series, gives them the 65-63 lead heading to a huge 4th. They have a 16-11 advantage in free throws (+4 points) and a 7-5 edge in 3's (+6).

Fourth quarter:
* Nelson misses two FT to keep it 65-63, hope they keep playing him!

* Odom picks up his 4th at 10:47, not much room for error now on the front line.

* Lamar hits a shot to give us a 67-66 lead, then another to give us a 69-68 lead, and is 8/9 for the game after having scored out last three buckets. The phrase "Grown ass man" comes to mind.

* Great defensive sequence by Drew, as he stops pick and roll penetration in its tracks then recovers back to intimidate Gortat into missing a layup; 71-68.

* But now Bynum picks up his 5th at 8:49, and they are already in the penalty, not good on any front. The Lakers have been whistled for 21 fouls to their 14, and they have yet to really intentionally foul Howard tonight since they are doubling more; this is pretty much just anti-home court advantage. 73-72 Lakers.

* Kobe commits his 5th turnover and Lewis hits a 3 to give them a 77-75 lead.

* Then Kobe turns it over again, his 6th, but makes up for it by getting a steal and throwing a lead pass to Fish for a layup to tie it back up at 77.

* Odom picks up his 5th foul with 5:05 to go. Gotta leave him in and hope for the best, he's too important to remove late in a close game. Howard hits the 2 FT to give them an 81-79 lead.

* Kobe draws the 5th on Pietrus at 3:35, and he misses the front end of the pair to cut it to 81-80 Orlando.

* Pietrus fouls out, and this time Kobe makes then both; 82-81.

* Lamar with a nice strip of Howard to give Fish possession, they have had a ton of success poking at the ball in his uncertain hands tonight.

* Hedo with a hard, and I do mean hard (but clean) foul on Kobe, casuign him to hurt his hip a bit, but he drills the FT o make it 84-81 with 2:40 to play.

* Redick makes an open corner 3 to tie it at 84 with 2:21 to go.

* Kobe misses a baseline runner, quality shot but just didn't go down.

* Lewis escapes a double and hits a banker to give them the 86-84 lead with 1:33 to go.

* Kobe replies with a banker of his own to tie it back up at 86, 1:11 to play.

* With the shot clock running down, Turkoglu makes an impossible step left and back shot with his foot on the line to put them up 88-86 with 47.7 to play. Better to be lucky than good sometimes, that one reminds me of the 3 that Kobe hit over JR Smith late in Game 3 in Denver.

* Fish is run off a shot but makes a nice drive and dish that Howard makes a great reaction to deflect, but it goes right to Pau anyway for a layin. 88-88 with 33.5 to go, and we will get the ball back no matter what happens.

* LA shuts down all of their offensive options, forcing Lee to take a circuitous drive to the lane for an off-balance and contested flip at the basket, which me misses. Lamar grabs the board to set up a chance for the Lakers to win the game.

* Kobe is blocked from behind by Hedo, and probably would have been blocked in front by Howard otherwise. Yes, replays showed he was hit by Lewis, but you're not going to get that call at the end of the game. This was just a horrible decision by Kobe, passing up open shooters all around to take what is maybe a 20% shot, if that, against a triple team. And that's why Kobe, while one of the game's great 4th quarter players, is also one of the worst players in the league on last shots.

Replay shows that there is 0.6 on the clock, time for Orlando to set up some quick catch and shoot.

* Brilliant D by the Lakers, shutting off the Howard lob and their two best perimeter options. Better offensive play set up by Van Gundy, as number 4 option (of 4, since inbounder Hedo did not have time to get it back and shoot) Lee comes free off a Lewis pick on Kobe to receive the lob from Turkeyglue and miss the layup. It's a bit too deep and too far left, but Pau's rotation off Howard is late enough that he didn't bother it much, it pretty much just came down to Lee having to try to twist and reach back from under the backboard to try to make a very difficult and angled layup, which went long, barely catching the front iron. No fault in what Lee did there, that was one tough attempt, but if they lose the game, and especially the series, he will be seen as a goat of sorts.

Orlando has a 26-19 edge in FT (+4 points) and 9-5 from distance (+12). They are also outrebounding the Lakers by 12, but have committed 6 more turnovers.

* Two Orlando turnovers (Fish strip of Howard, Ariza strip off Turkoglu) sandwiched around a Kobe miss keep it tied until a Fish drive sets up an easy Pau opportunity and forces them to foul. He hits them, 90-88 with 3:37 to go.

* The Hedo-Howard screen roll works to perfection, Diwhgt slipping to the hole and getting the and-1 layup. He hit the FT to give them a 91-90 lead at 3:20.

* Ariza misses a 3, but Redick does as well to keep it a one point game.

* Kobe hits a tough little baseline fallaway to give the Lakers a 92-91 lead, 2:19 to play.

* Fish makes a brilliant play, stripping Redick on a drive for the steal, then pushing it hard all the way to draw the foul on a backpedaling Hedo at the rim. He hits them, 94-91, play of the game so far.

* Hedo misses at 1:31, get a score now and we can apply some pressure here.

* Kobe-Pau screen roll, Kobe forces Howard to make the choice to cut him off and shovels it to the cutting Pau for an and-1. Alston was late on the help, but it would have been hard for him to stop there anyway, that's just great offense. He hits the free throw and we have stretched it to 97-91 with 1:14 to go.

* Ariza fouled Hedo at 1:10 but that was one to give. We corwd the 3 point line, so Redick drives for a concession layup to cut it to 97-93 at 56.7.

* Kobe is stripped and it goes off his leg (or does it, replay says no but it doesn't matter now) for his 7th turnover at a very inopportune time. Well, I guess they're all inopportune, but you know what I mean. At any rate, that keeps them right in this game, critical mistake.

* Lewis misses a 3 and Howard gives a hard shove to Pau on the rebound, bullet dodged at 28.2. Pau hits them, 99-93 and we're in pretty good shape.

* They score in 2 seconds on a Lewis 3 from the left corner, keeping them alive at 99-96 with 26.6 to play. They will have to foul, that's not enough time if the Lakers fire off a shot just before the 24 second clock expires even if it misses, the rebound and timeout takes time. Need a solid inbound to a shooter here.

* We get the inbound to Fish, but they smartly do not foul him, waiting from the advance to Lamar near midcourt to take the foul. He has to hit one!

* Lamar this them both, and the Lakers apparently have hit 14 in a row. They lead 101-96 and Orlando is done unless we miss some FT.

* Redick misses a run back 3 in the left corner, then Lewis misses a heavily contested one on the left wing, Ariza secures the rebound and runs it out, 2-0 lead!

The history is that the Lakers are 38-1 when leading 2-0, playoff teams are 94% overall and Finals teams are 27-3 (90%).

What a game, 23 lead changes and 21 ties.

We actually ended up shooting 28 FT to their 17 (+4 points), but the last 4 (all made) were off of intentional fouls so they still really got the advantage, if not in as one-sided of a fashion as Game 1.

They ended up 10/30 from 3 to our 5/15 (+15 points), as for the second straight game neither team shot 3's particularly well or poorly, just average.

The Lakers outshot them 46%-42%, as their shooting woes mostly disappeared.

They turned the ball over 20 times to our 12, a huge factor in the game. Orlando has been a big turnover team the last two years, albeit better lately, but this is not out of character for them.

They outrebounded us 44-35, reversing a problem in the first game and one we now must address.

The Lakers continued to shut down their transition game, with a 6-2 edge in fast break points that is now 10-2 for the series. Orlando will doubtless try everything they can to start pushing the ball at home.

The Lakers won the bench battle 23-17, despite only Lamar playing very much.

I cannot overstate the importance of that game. Win it and they have the near impossible task of beating the Lakers 4 times in 5 games. Lose it and you likely come back home down 3-2 next week. Still lots of work to do, but after this one you can just start to taste it a little bit.

Now Orlando is faced with having to win the next two at home, and really needing to sweep all three. Having to win only one of three on the road is a great situation, but this is the time to go for the jugular. Make any win they might get a war, put pressure on them, two wins to the promised land here.

If I can taste it, I know they can.

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I can relate

From the LA Times Lakers blog:

Woke up early this morning sick. Had a long day at work with
unpleasant clients. Car battery died, leaving me stranded at work for
2 hours and preventing me from watching the game. Lakers won.

All in all, a very good day.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Orlando Game 1 thoughts

That one was all about their poor shooting. Some of it can be attributed to our defense, which was superb, but a lot of it was just random chance. And we did some things on offense that are not likely sustainable. A great win, yes, but there is a good deal of fool's gold here.

First quarter:
* Both teams are just rolling on offense early. So much for the defenses being ahead after a layoff.

* 4 minutes in and Bynum has 6 and 3 in a 10-9 game, just the kind of start we were looking for from him.

* Pau picked up a bad 1st foul, on a rebound well away from the ball. Can't afford to waste those.

* Bynum picks up his 2nd at 3:14, but they were both decent fouls and he stuck around almost 9 minutes, nice work.

* Playing with one foul, they have put Howard on Odom. We can't let them get away with that, Lamar has to drive.

* Howard picks up his 2nd, an offensive foul for displacing Pau, at the 2:23 mark.

* Orlando leads 24-22 at the quarter. They shot 8 free throws to our 2, leading to a +5 at the line. But we held them to one made 3, not making any ourselves to give them a +3 there. Kobe too too many shots, finishing the quarter 3/9 for 6 points.

Second quarter:
* Nelson starts the quarter, so the last version of the ever-changing version of the "will he play?" story from Thursday turns out to be the correct one. Starting him against Farmar and the bench unit seems to be a good way to ease him back in. (They would not ease him back in, he would ultimately play the whole quarter and put up 4 and 4, disappearing after a big start).

* Pau looks really shaky with the ball tonight, always a threat to mishandle or get stripped.

* Nelson is having an effect; he seems hesitant to shoot the ball from very far out but is abusing Farmar with penetration and assists. 33-28 Orlando.

* The Lakers were posting Lee with Kobe earlier, and now they did it with Luke on back to back possessions and then Kobe when he checked back in to get three scores and retake the lead at 34-33. We're going to force them to give him help, significant because he is the only guy they have who can guard Kobe a bit.

* Kobe hit's two midrange jumpers to extend the run to 10-0 and give the Lakers a 38-33 lead. They are running pick and roll and Howard is laying back, giving Kobe the J. While he is taking a lot of shots this is not Kobeball; these are not long twos and are not very (if at all) contested, much less double teamed.

* Bynum is hit with his 3rd at 4:21, a shame since he had just gotten hammered with no call on the other end.

* Fish is 3/4 for 7 points; 41-34.

* Pau picks up his 2nd, on Howard at 3:48.

The Lakers have a 32-16 edge in the paint and lead 47-39, more evidence that this is not Kobeball.

* Is Ariza in the arena? Joking, he is actually doing a nice job on Hedo now after getting whipped early, but it seems like he hasn't even touched the ball on offense. Orlando is cognizant of his 3's, that's for sure.

* Fish hits his second inbounds layup off the game to make it 51-41, nice work by the coaches who obviously saw something on film. He's also playing nice defense, slowing Nelson after the good start although Jameer may be tired as well. Not sure why Stan still has him out there after 4 months off.

* 53-43 at the half. Orlando has a 14-2 free throw advantage (+10 points), I'm sure the internet is buzzing about how the officials are keeping them in the game. Orlando is 3-1 (+6 points) in made 3's. Kobe has 18 on 18 shots but 6 assists and not many of the shots are really bad ones, as I've noted. The Lakers have outshot them 52%-36%, lead the rebounding battle 24-17, and are outscoring them 38-18 in the paint. Everything is flowing from us shooting inside and them shooting outside; I often say that NBA games are own in the paint, and so far that's definitely true in this one.

Third quarter:
* Bynum picks up his 4th foul at 9:48, an early appearance for Lamar this quarter.

* Now Odom gets his 3rd at 9:32, we need to be careful with the front line fouls. We can steal a minute or two here or there with Mbenga or Powell, but playing them (especially DJ) very long is a recipe for disaster.

* The Earvins have hit two 3's this quarter, are now 5/14, and have cut it to 59-50 after the Lakers got off to a good start.

* Tit for tat, as Lewis picks up his third at 7:55. Battie is a solid defensive option, but we can double Howard off him so Lewis is a key player for them in this matchup.

* Kobe's and-1 gives him 27 and puts the Lakers up 64-50.

* Pau draws Howard's 3rd foul at 6:31, the second offensive foul he's taken on Dwight, but has to endure a solid elbow to the ribs for his trouble. Easy for me to say it was worth it!

* Lamar with an and-1, he misses the freebie but stretches the lead to 66-50.

* Pau slips a screen for a layup, 68-50, timeout Magic! Kobe is just screen rolling Pietrus to death, and making good decisions with the ball in doing so. Hard to imagine any of this even two years ago, maybe even last year, he's growing before our eyes at age 30.

* Anothe Kobe and-1 gives him 34 (16 in the quarter) and makes the lead 75-52. It's a 47-19 run since the early 2nd, and that will get it done.

* Ariza hits a 3, 80-55.

* Brown comes in for Fish instead of Farmar, probably a reaction to Farmar's poor play in the 2nd. Phil continues the "hot hand" method of PG rotation.

* 82-58 at the end of 3. We somehow shot more FT than them in the quarter, 9-6 but they still have a 20-11 advantage for the game. They have a 6-2 advantage in made 3's, but 2's...not so much.

Fourth quarter:
* Nevermind the hot hand theory for tonight after all, Farmar is starting the 4th paired with Brown.

* The Lakers have a dominating 50-20 edge in points in the paint, given that it's no surprise that they lead 85-60.

* Lamar with an and-1, biggest lead at 88-60.

* The Earvins are shooting 30% to the Lakers 47% with 5:13 to go, 89-65. Make that 29% with another miss.

* Do we really need the "We want tacos" chant in a Finals game? LA, you're better than that.

* Powell tops off the game with a 3 he had to shoot to avoid a shot clock violation, and he drains it. That's his first three point attempt this year, and he was 0/3 for his career. 100-75 final.

Orlando ended with a 29-18 free throw edge, and +6 points.

And a 8 (of 25) to 3 (of 9) edge from distance, +15 points.

LA outrebounds them 55-41, and outscores them 56-22 in the paint, but Orlando wins the battle of the benches 29-23 (some of that garbage time).

LA outscores them 4-0 in fast break points. That 0 is huge, getting out in transition for spotup 3's and deep Howard position for dunks is a big part of their game that we just completely shut down.

Kobe ended up with 40 but used 37 shots and 38 total possessions (only 1 turnover!) to get them, 1.05 points per possession. Notably, the rest of the team put up 1.25 points per possession, much of it off Kobe passing. The lesson being that the shooting can be fool's gold, but if he's making good decisions the offense will roll anyway.

Bynum's 9 on 10 shots with 9 boards in 22 minutes doesn't jump out at you, but he was a factor making Howard work for everything he got (or didn't get, mostly, he had only 12 points and 1 made FG in 6 tries).

Odom's 14 boards were vital.

Fish was 4/6, and one of his misses was when Alston grabbed his arm to try to take an intentional foul. And good defense, as evidenced by his +22 in 32 minutes, Alston's 2/9 and Nelson's 3/9 overall. Maybe he's coming out of his slump, and the rest had to help.

Luke was solid with 4/5 for 9 points and a pair of assists.

Sasha only got 5 minutes, he's on the fringe of the rotation at this point.

Looking ahead to Game 2, you expect Orlando to start blitzing the pick and roll and generally start doubling Kobe more to make others beat them. We need to be ready to make quick passes to find open shooters and to run the triangle more as a counter to their counter. More running the offense through Pau fits with this theme.

You also expect them to pound the ball in to Howard more, trying to get us in scramble mode off his passes and their swinging the ball. And make more shots, opening things up for him some. We need to continue to mix up our looks on him, and use care in deciding who to leave for any doubles. Pressuring them into getting into their offense slower is also helpful here.

This is the key game. Win it and they are in trouble, needing to win 4 of 5 to win a title. Lose it and they are in a position to come back to LA up 3-2. Both teams can win on the road in this matchup, but that doesn't mean that splitting your home games is a good way to proceed. Keep up the intensity and execution and let's put them on their heels.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The enemy from the eastern front... Orlando, notable because their team is named after one of our former players, so you will often hear me refer to them as the Earvins.

Many Laker fans wanted a rematch with Boston. After the Garnett and especially Powe injuries, I wanted that myself, as they would have easily been the easiest opponent of the three and we would have had home court.

Once we got to the Eastern Conference Finals, most Laker fans seemed to prefer a matchup with Cleveland, based on the tenuous premise that having beaten them twice in the regular season (once even with most of their guys playing) meant that we matched up well with them. But having "witnessed" games before last October, I remember how poorly we have matched up with them in most recent years, and I was not willing to ignore that based on the results of one game. Plus there is the small matter of them having gone 39-1 at home this year, "slumping" all the way to 6-1 in the playoffs. And oh yeah, they have the best basketball player on the planet.

So I was wanting to face Orlando. Yes, they beat us twice, but they were both flip a coin games decided in the last minute and they are missing (or, mostly missing, maybe) the player who was the key to those wins, Jameer Nelson.

For me, the deciding factor is home court. However you feel about the relative matchups, the one thing that is beyond question is that any home games at this level are easier than any road games. Thus, against Orlando, games 1-2-6-7 will be easier, games 3-4-5 more difficult. Had we played Cleveland, the opposite. 4 > 3. QED.

There is plenty of analysis out there, so I won't go into great detail here, but will touch on a couple of things that stand out for me.

* We MUST work the offense inside out: this is always a key for the Lakers, when the offense flows through Pau we are almost impossible to defend. When Kobe dominates the ball, we are not only much easier to defend, but the role players are much less effective.

Kobe allowed himself to get sucked into this in last year's Finals, and on occasion in this run, but he has really matured in the area of playing team basketball. Let's hope he plays intelligently and doesn't regress into Bad Kobe, dribbling aimlessly and firing up 20+ foot jumpers with regularity.

* Bynum must give us something: a healthy Bynum has played Howard to a standstill at times, fallen into foul trouble and disappeared others. This 80% version will have to try to keep up with him getting downcourt, if not he gets deep post position against somebody who will have to foul or allow him a dunk (or both). Drew also has the strength to keep him out of his deep sweet spots, but you have to get in position to get that done.

And don't reach; once the play is in motion, be big and make it tougher for him. Better to give up a contested hook shot, even if it goes in, than to foul and go to the bench. Other players can foul, as you want Howard on the line instead of dunking, but Bynum (and Pau) need to be judicious with their fouls.

Similarly, anytime Bynum can get deep post position he can force Howard into fouls himself - Dwight has been known to work himself into trouble too. Even without great position, showing Howard a patient series of post moves will give us chances to score and/or saddle him with fouls.

Bottom line, Bynum will pick up fouls, often quickly, but we need minutes from him. Use them intelligently and adjust to how the game is being called on a given night.

* Pau's matchups: Much is made of Lewis being a bad matchup for Pau, as you have to watch him out to the 3 point line but guard against him driving by you at the same time. However, Pau is nimble enough to switch the 3/4 pick and pop they run, and long enough to bother his shot some. Lewis also tends to drift at times, he will hurt you but he doesn't have the instinct to be a true primary player as his talent warrants.

And here's the thing: Pau and Odom are a terrible matchup for Lewis on the other end. Pau is too long and has way too many post moves for Lewis to handle him without help. And Odom is too quick for him. We should be able to get as much as we give at worst here. One thing to guard against is Odom's tendency to overhelp; he must stay attached to Lewis and resist his natural instinct to play team defense.

Howard is more problematic. Pau is not strong enough to check him, and cannot afford to get into too much foul trouble. He will have to concede some and we will have to bring smart help, off Alston and Lee primarily, and mix up the looks we give him.

You can't double too much, Orlando's whole game is built around getting teams into scramble mode and they are adept at making the extra pass to find the open 3 point shooter. They are going to get some open looks, but you want to limit those as much as you can, if Howard gets his that's just the price you have to pay, especially if he's getting them at the line.

Pau should also be able to have some success against Howard with his superb post moves and counters, making him work at worst and hopefully putting fouls on him too.

* Somebody needs to hit shots: Howard is the best defensive player in the league, and the best at closing down the paint. This is why establishing our bigs is so important, he wasn't forced to play much man against Cleveland and Boston and could concentrate on inside help.

But no matter what, he will make it tougher to get good inside looks and drives, so we will need some of the role players to hit some shots. They have to choose whether to leave Ariza or Fisher, Trevor needs to continue his great work from distance and Fish needs to break out of his playoff slump. Some help from Sasha would be useful too, they will certainly leave him. ShanWOW is another guy who could get some looks and can knock them down.

Hitting some shots, not a ton of them but enough to make them respect it, will open things up some and give the driving Kobe and Trevor chances to put cheap fouls on Howard and give the triangle's cutters angles to get easy scores.

* Defend the pick and roll: they usually run this with Turkoglu or Alston getting the high screen from Howard, with Lewis rotating to spot up the top of the key. The options are for Howard to get deep position and take an entry pass, Hedo to shoot a midrange or a kickout to Lewis for a 3. We must have the discipline to stay attached to Lewis here, and make smart rotations and recoveries inside. You will want to help off of Alston or Lee, but sometimes it will be Pietrus, and that's what gets dicey. He's not a very good shooter but he was hot in the ECF and can hurt you when he's on a streak.

They also run the play with Rashard set up for the corner 3 and somebody spotted up on the elbow extended (often Pietrus). Again, the key is not to wander away from Lewis, and in this action it's easier to get him the ball (but also easier to play that passing lane). And to give Howard different looks on the help inside. You'll live with Hedo shooting a 2, and you love Alston shooting.

The FB&G guys advocate ball pressure to delay them getting into their offense and force them to rush passes and shots, and that makes a lot of sense to me.

* Dangerous road teams: Sure, I'm happy to have home court, but these are the two best road teams in the league, Orlando will have to win two games on the road to get a ring and LA will have to win at least one. This will be no series to panic over home losses, and no series to mail in road games with weak efforts.

* Brilliant coaching: Phil would have had a major advantage over Mike Brown, but in Van Gundy he has arguably the league's best with whom to match wits. The adjustments will be fascinating to watch, as will the press conferences.

So back we are, a sort of Redeem Team II seeking to erase past sins, with so much historical significance for Phil and Kobe especially. Savor this, while we have been lucky these opportunities should not be taken for granted, continue to enjoy the journey and don't get too high or too low game by game or quarter by quarter, this one will be a dogfight.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Denver Game 6 thoughts

"No mercy, man! No mercy!" -- Kobe Bryant

"This is a team that looks prepared to try to get some jewelry." -- Mark Jackson

First quarter:
* Denver has lost 7 straight elimination games, ouch.

* Pau has two early blocks as it's 9-7 halfway through the quarter.

* Bynum took his 2nd at the 5:22 mark, but both were good hard playoff fouls, which I like seeing in this building.

* Ariza has 7 on 3/4 shooting, keying the 17-13 lead.

* Denver is 2/2 from 3 (Smith, Billups) keeping them in early at 17-16.

* Trevor now has 10 and 3 on 4/5 shooting including 2/3 from distance; 24-18.

* 25-20 at the quarter, but it doesn't seem that close, LA is really controlling things.

Second quarter:
* Sasha hits a 3 to make it 30-24, causing a minor earthquake in Slovenia.

* JR now has 11 and is the spark to this 7-0 Denver run that has given them a 31-30 lead.

* Odom has 6 on 3/4 shooting to give the Lakers back the lead at 34-33 (they would never trail again, only briefly at 31-30 and 33-32).

* Farmar is really struggling, 0/1 with 2 turnovers and awful defense. Probably time to sit him and go with the other two, the only good thing about this three PG setup being that you can go with the hot hand and sit the cold one.

* Fish hits a 3 to make it 37-33; LA is 4/8 from deep. The Lakers have turned it over 11 times or they would be way ahead at this point.

* The run is 7-0 and it's 39-33. Need to end the half well and we can plant some seeds of doubt.

* Trevor now has 13, 5/7 from the field and 3/4 from distance; 44-37.

* Woops, now he picks up his 3rd at 1:40.

* Back to back jumpers by Kobe make it 48-39.

* Kobe hits a dagger step back 3 off Pau offensive board to make it 53-40. Then he gets back to block Melo's short runner at the buzzer. It may have been on the way down, but it also may have been below the rim, it was going to be well short but the instinct is to swat it there. Great finish to the half, a 21-7 run to make the lead 13 and the Thugs have to be dispirited.

Third quarter:
* Billups commits his 4th turnover on their second possession of the quarter. Fish and Brown (and occasionally Kobe and Ariza) are really shutting him down the last two games.

* Kobe throws up a desperation shot clock airball and Jones gets a silly taunting tech; 54-42. Karl much be very pleased.

* Trevor picks up his 4th at 9:54 in a 58-43 game. Luke will need to give us quality minutes here.

* Denver has taken 19 FT to the Lakers 6, despite the Lakers dominating the paint. And two of those are technical fouls shots, so it's really 19-4 on FT due to calls.

I'm sure conspiracy theorists everywhere are decrying the pro-Denver bias...

* Denver got it down to 9 twice, but it's back to 68-55 as the Lakers have a 20-6 edge in assists and a 60-39 edge in FG%.

* Kobe with an and-1 to make it 71-55.

* K-Mart has 8 in the quarter, keeping them in this 71-57 game.

* Luke has 8 as it goes to 75-59, and then takes a charge on JR on the other end. Great play from him tonight, when he hits shots this offense is basically unstoppable.

* Lamar with a tip in, and Kobe with a J and it's 79-59...getting close!

* JR hits a 2 and a 3 to get it back to 79-64.

* Now Kleiza hits a 3 and they are fully back in at 79-67, and the crowd is back into it with the 8-0 run.

* As they try to cut it to 10 o 9, Fish draws a moving pick foul on Andersen, huge play.

* Silly play by K-Mart, as he gets Sasha in an ankle lock and for some reason refuses to let go, they had not blown the whistle at first but he forced them to. He hits the freebies, 81-67. Denver is one stupid basketball team.

* Now Sasha picks up a loose ball with seconds left and JR grabs him from behind instead of making him take a half court shot. He drills them again, the quarter ends 83-67, and unless we stage a historic collapse it's on to the Finals.

Fourth quarter:
* Lamar hits a layin off a great cut and then a 3, 88-67 on a 9-0 run!

* Kleiza hits a 3, 90-74, still barely breathing.

* Kobe hits 2 and we are 15/15 from the line; 92-74.

* JR picks up his 5th at 8:43, but they need him in there as they need scoring.

* They are staging one more run: a Melo 3, JR 3 and Melo almost 3 foot on the line cuts it to 96-82.

* Kobe end sthe run with a layin to make it 98-82.

* Kobe rises up to shoot a 3 and drains it, 101-82 with 6:13 left and we are going to the Finals! 31st tiem in team history, 18th in my 40 years of Laker fandom.

* Pau's offensive rebound prompts a Billups flagrant due to frustration at 5:38; 103-82.

* 19/19 FT now and 105-85.

* ShanWOW hits 3 FT and we are 22/22; 108-85.

* And now 24/24 from the line and 116-90. Even Lamar is hitting them, amazing display.

* The final is 119-92, just a dominant offensive performance. The 24/24 is the second most playoff FT makes without a miss in league history.

Pau had double-doubles in all 6 games.

The Redeem Team did pretty well last summer, now it's time for Redeem Team II to make their statement. This is what this team has been working towards since they started camp in early October. Still a lot of work to do, but we can take a night to savor this one.

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