Game 5 and Acceptance

Kurt —  May 13, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets NBA Game 5 Western Conference semifinals in Los Angeles
Nearly a year-and-a-half ago I came to a rather Zen acceptance of Lamar Odom for who he is as a player — both brilliant and mercurial. They are part of the same package, the yin and the yang. As a whole, he paints a fantastic picture, but if you live and die with him day to day as a fan, the frustration will overwhelm you.

I am reaching the same place with this Lakers team as a whole. Beginning to accept that their Achilles’ heel is focus and motivation, that it will come and go, and that will not change. During the regular season, two quarters of the good Lakers may often be enough, and during the playoffs it will not be.

But I’m pretty much done talking about lessons learned, thinking this team has finally turned a mental corner, because I don’t think it has and I don’t think it will. I have no idea what to expect in game six. I know what to expect from the Rockets — they are a scrappy team that will come out and play hard, like their season is on the line. With the Lakers, I don’t have a clue. It could be four quarters like Tuesday, although probably not. And I’m not at all convinced that the “lessons” of this series will carry over to games against Denver or Cleveland. The Lakers could actually show up focused for all the games in the Finals, but that would be to me more a matter of circumstance than growth.

These Lakers just are what they are. And I can accept that.


As for the game itself, realize that the 25-6 run the Lakers had to end the first quarter consisted mostly of made jumpers — they hit 6 of 7 in the stretch. In that same time they had one layup and two dunks. And Kobe was back to destroying Battier on the night, shooting 8 of 13 against him (and 2 of 6 against anyone else.

Aside that, I thought Zephid had a great wrap so I’ll just steal that one.

I think this 40 pt win is a little misleading. Yes, LA was the better team tonight, but the fact is that Houston simply missed a ton of shots. 29-89 from the field, 5-29 from three? Some of that was improved Laker defense, but most of it was simply shots not going in. That being said, if Houston had made about average percent of their shots, this still would’ve been a 20 pt win. Now for some likes and dislikes:

Likes?1.) Kobe Bryant, 10-19 from the field. When Kobe starts driving, like he did tonight, we’re almost unstoppable. He forced up maybe 2-3 bad shots, but mostly we stuck to the game-plan, ran the offense through Gasol, then switched to the Kobe-Gasol PNR so Houston couldn’t get too comfortable. Like Doug Collins said, when he scores 1.4-1.8 points per shot attempt, we’re unbeatable.

2.) Houston Rockets with 17 turnovers. Admittedly, some of this was Houston simply passing the ball to the Lakers. However, as we’ve all seen, when the Lakers get turnovers, both our offense and defense really get going. Everyone gets hyped up from seeing Trevor or Sasha dunk, which gives us more effort on the defensive end, which forces more bad shots and opportunities to push the pace. Turnovers really fuel our team, so the more we get, the better we play.

3.) Ron Artest, dribbling. I started becoming almost school-girly giddy whenever Ron Artest started dribbling the ball outside the 3-point line or in the corner. Of course some of this was Ron Artest being Ron Artest, forcing up shots, but the Lakers did a great job trapping him and forcing him to pass, something he’s really, really bad at, evidenced by his 1:4 assist to turnover ratio last night. I seriously think that with each dribble, Ron Artest lowers his team’s chances of scoring by like 5%.\

4.) Derek Fisher, 18 minutes, Jordan Farmar, 22 minutes, Shannon Brown, 17 minutes. I really liked this distribution of PG minutes. Yes, Fisher got beat a couple times by Brooks, but I don’t think we should under-estimate the couple times that Fisher posted Brooks up. Like was said, Fisher posting up Brooks is like delivering body blows to a boxer; it takes his air. I doubt Brooks was used to taking a beating like he did in the post against Fisher, so I have a strong feeling that it affected his game, 4-11, 0-3 from three as evidence. Farmar and Brown also came in and played great, almost mistake-free basketball. Can’t really ask for more from our PG’s.

Dislikes?1.) Officials: Ken Mauer, Bennett Salvatore, Derrick Stafford. I don’t think we could’ve gotten a more home-team favorable officiating crew than the one we got tonight. The Hayes fouls were all fairly ticky-tack, while a lot of Laker contact went uncalled, especially Andrew Bynum man-handling dudes underneath the basket. Not saying that the Lakers didn’t earn the foul calls on the Rockets, it’s just that the favorable officiating helped.

2.) Derek Fisher, 1-6, Sasha Vujacic, 1-5. ?Our top two shooters, going 2-11 from the floor, including 0-3 from three is a bad sign. Sasha’s big brick in the 3rd quarter had him really upset, as you could see Kobe “consoling” him on the bench. That being said, we need these two to step up and start making shots. I don’t feel confident with the game on the line having to kick out to Odom, Ariza, Walton, Brown, or Farmar for the win/game-tying basket. We can only hope they can back on track soon.

3.) Von Wafer, dribbling. For those of us who actually watched the last 6 minutes of the 4th quarter, it was disturbing how easily Wafer was getting in to the lane. He was lightning quick out on the perimeter, repeatedly beating our guards off the dribble and getting easy scores. Some of this was lax Laker defense, but I for one would love to see Wafer taking contested outside shots over driving on Sasha any day. Sasha has done a great job on Wafer all series long, so I’m a little disturbed by Wafer getting to the basket at will in the 4th.
Overall, it was a great win for the Lake Show. Good to see them close out a game strong, finally. Let’s hope this win doesn’t go to their heads and they come out strong in Houston.