Around the World (Wide Web): That Last Minute…

Phillip Barnett —  April 12, 2010

Kobe Bryant calls for the ball against Blazers' Webster in Los Angeles

I spent the better part of my day yesterday on the road back from San Francisco, so I ended up missing the game live. While compiling some of these links and after reading Darius’ post, I had to put in the tape and watch the fourth quarter. As of right now, I still haven’t seen the first three quarters of the game, but here are a few notes from what I got in the fourth quarter:

– Pau Gasol had 19 and 10 going into the fourth quarter and that immediately stood out to me. Gasol has been on an absolute tear lately. In the Lakers last five games, he’s averaged 24.8 points and 12.6 rebounds and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 60 percent from the field and 79 percent from the line. That 79 percent looks even better knowing that he’s also been to the line 8.6 times per game during that same five game stretch.

– Kobe’s last three games have almost been the complete opposite. Yeah, he’s scored at least 20 in all three of them, but it’s been 25 points on 23 shots; 22 points on 24; shots and 20 points on 23 shots. Not only has his shooting been down from the field, but he’s only shooting 74 percent from the free-throw line in this games. He just doesn’t seem to have the legs he needs to elevate over defenders on his jumper and explode past guys to get to the rim. JVG argued that the Lakers are going to need him to be great to get back to the Finals. I don’t completely agree with that sentiment, but they are going to need better performances from him if the Lakers are going to beat Cleveland, Orlando or even Boston in a seven game series.

– As bad as the Lakers have been playing, it’s become clear to me that the Lakers are still the last team in the West that any of these teams want to play. San Antonio, Denver, and now Portland have come out with a one-and-done mentality against a Lakers team that is seemingly going through the motions. I’m still not quite sure where I stand on the Lakers mentality down the stretch.

– The events that happened at the end of the game were baffling to say the least. After Kobe does his Kobe thing to eliminate a five-point deficit with a one-point lead, they give up an offensive rebound to Marcus Canby to put Portland back up by one. Kobe comes down the floor and Martel Webster commits a terrible foul to put Kobe on the line. Kobe misses both, but just seconds after JVG finishes talking about the importance of the defensive team to grab rebounds after free-throws, the Lakers get the offensive rebound and Derek Fisher is fouled. Fish misses the first (WHAT IS GOING ON?) then nails the second – right before he nails Martel Webster behind the three point line – AS HE’S SHOOTING. Webster knocks down all three of the freebies before the Lakers call a timeout to set up one last play. Now, I just got done watching this play about seven or eight times and I’m absolutely positive that the Gasol three is what Phil drew up. Kobe starts out at the top of the of the three-point arch and comes down to set a screen with LO inbounding. Gasol is on the right block and sets a screen for Fisher cutting across the baseline to the right corner. After he sets the screen for Fish, he cuts to the top of the key. Kobe, after he sets his screen, begins sealing off his man getting in rebound position, knowing he isn’t getting the ball. After LO throws it in, he just walks on the court and watches, knowing that isn’t going back to him either. The last minute of that game was just plain ridiculous.

To start off the links, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook does a great job of detailing that final possession for the Lakers.

From NBA Playbook: After a series of really bone-headed plays where we saw two fouls that shouldn’t of happened (Martell Webster’s foul to give when the Blazers didn’t have one/Derek Fisher’s foul on a three point shot), the Lakers were down three points with about three seconds left.  The Lakers have 4 three point threats on the court in Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, and of course Kobe Bryant.  Instead of running a play for one of those guys, Phil Jackson decided to run one for Pau Gasol who was 0-4 from the three-point line before the play started

From Land O’ Lakers: A lot of things happened Sunday afternoon at Staples in L.A.’s 91-88 loss to the Blazers, some requiring a little reflection.  One, though, does not: It will be difficult to find a stranger seven seconds of basketball than the final ticks of this afternoon’s game, no matter how hard you look. The Lakers, who had in the fourth quarter against the Blazers scored all of four points over the first 8:30 of play, played well enough on the other end to keep themselves in it, then used a deep Kobe Bryant three-pointer to pull within two with 49 seconds to play and went ahead on a Bryant driving layup and free throw about 20 seconds later. This isn’t the strange part, given how commonplace nature of the Kobe Komeback. No, the rabbit hole stuff was still to come.

From Silver Screen and Roll: So much for a quiet, boring end to the regular season. It might be getting about time for the 2010 Lakers to head home, but like a belligerent drunk at last call, they’re determined not to go calmly into the night. They’re resolved to turn over as many tables and break as much glass as possible on their way out the door. Their antics are likely to embarrass themselves and anyone in the vicinity who happens to be watching. Undergarments might or might not be soiled. Who needs dignity anyway?

From Basket Blog: The Lakers may have locked up home court advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs with Friday evening’s win at Minnesota, but that didn’t take the intrigue out of Sunday afternoon’s contest against potential first-round playoff opponent Portland. In fact, it’s hard to draw up a more dramatic, or more strange, final minute of regulation in which the Blazers appeared to have the game locked up … then lost … and finally won again, 91-88.

From the Los Angeles Times: A funny thing happened to the Lakers on their way to the playoffs — Oh, sorry, I just had something caught in my throat. That’s what happened to the Lakers too. In the last six seconds of Sunday’s game, Kobe Bryant missed two free throws, Derek Fisher missed one and Fisher then fouled Portland’s Martell Webster while he shot a three-pointer, sending Webster to the line for the three free throws that won the game, 91-88. On the bright side for the Lakers, they may not have to worry about losing to Portland in the first round!

From the OC Register: Their best player said he was “very concerned” about the team’s recent slide. Yet Kobe Bryant was laughing during the final timeout. Their starting point guard admitted “our margin for error isn’t as big as it’s been in the past.” Yet Derek Fisher was smiling after his crushing error – a missed free throw – in the closing seconds. Their coach conceded that “no, no,” none of his previous 10 championship teams have finished a season this out of sorts. Yet Phil Jackson designed a last-chance play to get a three-point shot for a player who has made one three-pointer in two years.

From ESPN’s Daily Dime: Even with Brandon Roy sitting out the second half with a knee injury Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers still beat the Los Angeles Lakers. And that might be the worst thing that happened to them. By beating L.A. 91-88, the Blazers decreased their chances of facing the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, thus decreasing the chances of facing the coldest postseason-bound team in the West, a squad with a cold-shooting superstar, shaky defensive rotations and injury concerns of its own.

From Portland Roundball Society: Martell Webster showed the signs of battle. His left foot soaking in a tub of ice while his right was wrapped. But they hurt a little less, the small forward said, because of the way things came together. After committing a silly foul on Kobe Bryant, something coach Nate McMillan dubbed a “miscommunication,” Webster got the chance to redeem himself. But it wasn’t a selfish thing. What Webster Sunday was for Brandon Roy, who watched from the training room with an injured right knee. Even more so, it was for his team. And he was ready. Before Sunday’s game Webster got a text message from his dad. It said: “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

From the Los Angeles Times: Kobe Bryant returned to the lineup, but the confounding ways of the Lakers came back too. Where to begin, other than that the Lakers lost again, this time to the undermanned Portland Trail Blazers, 91-88, and it wasn’t even in Portland. There were missed free throws, bad shots and, curiously, an obvious lack of desire, the part that’s of greatest interest this time of year. After all, the Lakers’ first playoff game is expected to be next Sunday. All-Star guard Brandon Roy didn’t play the second half because of a sprained right knee, and the Lakers couldn’t do anything about it Sunday at Staples Center.

From the LA Daily News: The Lakers put on a clinic on how to lose a game in the closing seconds Sunday afternoon, when they went haywire down the stretch against the Portland Trail Blazers. They missed free throws, committed an unwise foul and missed a shot at the buzzer. All of it happened after they started the fourth quarter by going scoreless for more than five minutes of a tight game. Their scoring drought happened after they started with good intentions and then settled into their all-too-familiar low gear.

From Ball Don’t Lie: There are a few hard and fast rules to consider when watching Kobe Bryant play basketball. First, just assume anything is within the realm of possibility for Kobe when he’s on the court. That way, when he does something unbelievable you don’t go in to cardiac arrest. You should also probably know that nine out of ten times, Kobe is taking the game’s last shot. Of those nine shots, probably four of them are going in, even if they seem like a terrible look. Just be prepared. And probably the most important, especially if you happen to be a broadcaster, never tell Kobe Bryant he can’t do something because he’ll make you look silly on national television.

From Kobe Bryant won’t be missing any more games this season to rest his legs and swollen right knee. He plans on playing when the Lakers close the regular season with a back-to-back Tuesday against Sacramento and Wednesday against the Clippers to “sharpen up” and said “we want to win both of these games.” Bryant’s shot could certainly use a little sharpening. Bryant shot just 8-for-23 on Sunday after sitting out the Lakers last two games in hopes of getting back the lift in his legs that was lacking and affecting the trajectory of his attempts. Bryant’s shot total in the last three games he’s played in is an alarming 21-for-70 (30 percent).

From ESPN’s E:60 Program: Kobe Goes Home – Although he was a suburban Philadelphia high school basketball standout, Kobe Bryant has never enjoyed a warm relationship with his hometown and has often been booed when his Lakers have played the 76ers. Reporter Lisa Salters goes back to Philadelphia with Bryant where they visit some of his favorite places and learn that the estranged relationship may be warming. (Note: This program will air on ESPN this coming Tuesday, April 13th, at 4 p.m.)

Phillip Barnett