In an absolute rip-off of the Sports Guy, here is my minute-by-minute diary from Christmas Day. (Well, not the entire day, unless you want to read about how many times you have to change a six-month-oldâ€™s diapers in an afternoon. This just covers game time, sparing you some ugly descriptions of smells.)
12:10: I sit down on the couch, granted a three-hour no-baby-care window by my wife so I can watch the game weâ€™ve all been waiting for. The problem is we’re supposed to be at my brotherâ€™s condo in Hollywood â€” 40 minutes away from me in Redondo Beach â€” at 3 p.m., which is just about when this game should end. Iâ€™ve already got the reputation as the guy in the family who shows up late for everything, but Iâ€™d like not to be too late.
12:17: In his pre-game analyzation Hubie Brown says the Lakers need to â€œplay their age.â€ I have no idea what that means, but heâ€™s a basketball guru so they should do that.
12:19: Shaq gets a nice, if mixed, standing ovation. Glad to see it, he didnâ€™t deserve to be booed. A minute later Mike Tirico chimes in to tell us it was a 37-second standing ovation. Would love to have been in on that production meeting. â€œSo, Mike, youâ€™ve got the stopwatch on Shaqâ€™s ovation? Great! The fans need to know that.â€
12:20: We get to watch the cameras focused huge pieces of cloth where the Laker highlights are being shown. Itâ€™s dark and bad television for 60 seconds. How about this in the production meetings â€” rather than worry about the stopwatch, try to get any videos the Lakers may show before the game.
12:24: Has there been anything as over-hyped since Al Caponeâ€™s Vaults as the pre-game handshake between Shaq and Kobe?
12:25: The first two trips down the court, Kobe drives right at Shaq, making one and missing one. So much for the recent trend of getting Odom involved early. I get the feeling today is going to “all Kobe, all the time” radio.
12:29: The Lakers have just hit three-pointers on their last three trips down the court, giving them the early lead. Iâ€™m not happy. When they hit early threes they stop penetrating or moving and spend the game just looking for them. Theyâ€™ve done it all season. I was hoping that for this game the bad habits from the rest of the season would disappear, but apparently not.
12:30: The Lakers are now five of five from three point range. If they can shoot 100% for the game from out there, this strategy could work.
12:31: You know things are going well when Chris Mihm hits a running jumper over Shaq. 19-11 Lakers, who look fired up.
12:37: The first Coach Carter ad. I wonder how that movie ends?
12:40: Dwayne Wade gets his second foul on Kobe, with 4:25 in the first. If I had a bigger ego, Iâ€™d say somebody was listening to me. This, Laker fans, is the problem with Kobe at the point â€” he canâ€™t defend really quick guards without getting fouls. (I still think they should use it, at least at times.) The Heat should keep going back to this well, the Lakers need to make a switch and get Kobe off Wade.
12:46: Kobe, and Shaq, go to the bench.
12:48: With Kobe on the bench, Lamar Odom becomes an aggressive floor leader. He needs to be more like this when Kobe is still on the floor.
12:53: Coming out of commercial is the funniest thing Iâ€™ve seen in a while: Luke Walton rips his father on national television, saying his fondest Christmas memory is how Bill would get free stuff over the course of the year â€” â€œPower Bars and NBA-logo T-shirtsâ€ â€” then wrap them and give them to the kids. As much as tickets to this game cost, it would have been worth it if you could have seen Billâ€™s face as that aired.
12:55: Kobe and Shaq are back and Kobe continues to drive right at him. At least this time he got a foul on the big guy.
12:58: Hubie Brown says, â€œEvery time the Lakers drive into the paint good things happen, so you wish theyâ€™d stop settling for threes.â€ It took Hubie just a little over a quarter to get to the core problem with the Lakers offense right now. If he can see it so plainly, why canâ€™t Rudy T. or the players? (Well, Hubie is a guru, but still.)
1:04: Sometimes you forget just how quick Shaq is for a big man. He just blew past Mihm.
1: 15: The crowd erupts on a high-flying, one arm dunk by none other than â€” Chris Mihm?!? Heâ€™s playing another better-than-I-expected game.
1:20: This is a really entertaining game. I expected to be let down, but this is fun.
1:22: Odom just abused Christian Laettner. The offense just looks smoother when it runs through him, everybody moves rather than just hovering around the three-point arch.
1:26: Kobe picks up his third foul. Miami should have whoever he is guarding (itâ€™s not Wade anymore, mostly Eddie Jones) go right at him.
1:27: Laettner scores as time runs out in the half, and I canâ€™t help but have Duke flashbacks. The good news for me is this game has been going pretty quickly, Iâ€™m not going to be too late to my brotherâ€™s.
1:40: ABCâ€™s halftime interview is called â€œAccess Amahad.â€ That is enough to drive me to the fridge for a beer, even though I said I wouldn’t drink today until I had to start dealing with my parents.
1:51: This is the kind of thing you can only see if you stop and rewind with TiVo. On a free-throw attempt by Eddie Jones, Odom and Jumaine Jones are on either side of Shaq and want to box him out. When the shot comes off the iron Shaq steps back and Jones and Odom just crash into each other. Great stuff.
1:55: ABC just flashed a stat that said Odom has 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting. So, what happens the next time down? Kobe shoots a three without trying to penetrate. And you wonder why the offense looks sad.
1:56: A hustle play by Mihm draws the third foul on Shaq.
1:57: ABC just went to commercial with â€œThe Way We Wereâ€ as the background music. As a rule, Streisand should never be played at an NBA game. Never.
2:01: Jumaine Jones is doing a good job covering Dwyane Wade. Part of it may be that Wadeâ€™s leg is bothering him, but Jones is doing a better job than Kobe was.
2:03: Wade just hit an impressive reverse lay-up. I take back anything I said about his leg.
2:04: In an amazing coincidence, Samuel L. Jackson, star of the Disney movie â€œCoach Carterâ€ has got courtside seats with the REAL coach Carter for this game shown on a Disney-owned network.
This kind of modern cross-promotion drives me nuts, but at least Jackson is a hoops fan and a Laker regular. Itâ€™s better than when the cast of â€œMalcolm in the Middleâ€ shows up with great seats for a Yankees World Series game.
2:11: The quarter ends and that was one of the better quarters the Lakers have played overall this year. Theyâ€™re up by 4. Iâ€™m feeling optimistic about getting a win and getting to my brotherâ€™s at a reasonable time.
2:16: Jumaine Jones hits a three to give the Lakers a 7-point lead. This seems a good time to mention that the Lakers got only 4 points from their bench in this game.
2:19: Shaq blocks an Atkins shot and I can see why Miami is doing so well this year â€” Shaq is playing defense like he did in 2000 and 2001.
2:30: This has been a fun game to watch â€” the Lakers are up by 4, 86-82, which helps I guess, but really this has been an entertaining match up. I know I’ve said this before, but it needed repeating.
2:31: Shaq gets foul number 4 because Mihm out-hustled him to a rebound.
2:35: Thatâ€™s foul number 5 on Shaq as Kobe goes right at him. The Lakers need to exploit this, start driving and passing into the paint every time down.
2:37: Itâ€™s 89-89 now and any confidence I had before is gone because in crunch time the Heat have two options â€” three if you count Eddie Jones â€” and the Lakers will never leave option #1.
2:40: Great drive by Kobe to get the sixth foul on Shaq. That is a huge advantage for us â€” itâ€™s 91-91 but my confidence in getting a win and getting to my brotherâ€™s at a reasonable time is back.
2:45: Kobe just picked up his fourth foul. He has to be careful, his loss to the Lakers would be bigger than Shaqâ€™s to the Heat.
2:48: Tied at 94-94, one minute left, Lakers have the ball. Please, go into the lane, no fade-away threes. Thereâ€™s no Shaq in there, go to the hole.
2:50: That may have been the worst single possession of the season. Laker after Laker drives into the lane but, rather than looking shot first, they are looking dish-out for the three first. The Heat donâ€™t buy it and stay out on the perimeter players and dare the Lakers to shoot inside. They donâ€™t â€” 24-second shot clock violation. Iâ€™m feeling sick to my stomach. And I havenâ€™t even had my brotherâ€™s cooking yet.
2:51: Christian Laettner out hustles the taller Laker team on the floor, giving the Heat the last two shots of the game. Iâ€™m really feeling ill.
2:52: Wade misses, for once. We go to overtime.
2:55: Still no Shaq for OT. Will we get the ball to Odom in the low block and try to take advantage of this?
12:56: Eddie Jones and Odom trade quick baskets.
2:57: Wade scores on an impressive spin move. Then steals the ball and leads the break, dishing to Eddie Jones for a long two. The Lakers are down by four. Of all their weaknesses, I didnâ€™t think transition defense would be the one that kills them today, but the Heat have gone small and weâ€™re just watching them run the floor.
3:01: Iâ€™m now officially late for the family Christmas party, depriving the first-time grandparents of time with their favorite person. Plus, the Laker offense now consists of Kobe shooting fade-away threes while double-teamed. Iâ€™m not feeling good about anything right now.
3:03: Odom hits a three on penetration with a kick-out pass. How did the Heat not see that coming?
3:04: Lakers down by 2 with 45 seconds left in OT and the ball. Please get a good shot.
3:05: Shockingly, the Lakers drove the lane with the intent of kicking-out for the three. Nobody was buying it. We didnâ€™t score.
3:06: The final Heat possession and the Lakers are playing good defense, although the Heat donâ€™t appear to care if they score or not.
3:08: Last shot of the game time. Rudy T. is drawing up a play in the timeout. Three seconds left and down by two. My fervent prayer â€” thereâ€™s more than just one option. Kobe, donâ€™t be afraid to pass.
3:10: Kobe misses a fade-away three over a double team. Chucky Atkins stands alone in the corner with an open look and can do nothing but watch it clank off the rim. Game over.
3:13: Can we move past the Kobe/Shaq thing and get on with our season now? Thatâ€™s what I want for Christmas.