No need to talk about a zig-zag season this morning, and don’t think I’ll bother with All-Star picks and misses. The OT game last night against the Celtics was a blow-by-blow affair and depending on your POV, either extraordinarily ugly or truly sweet. Personally, I go with the latter. Great outing for Pau Gasol, and now on to an early game tonight in MSG, against a team with a lot to prove and a kid with a red-hot hand in Jeremy Lin (again, depending on perspective, heh). On to the links:
Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’Lakers: Pau Gasol was huge, playing an excellent floor game providing all the scoring, facilitating and rebounding the Lakers need from him. On the night he was officially left off the this season’s All-Star team, Gasol turned in one of his best games of the season. He put the ball on the floor effectively, showed some good footwork in the post, and made some excellent passes as well. Then there were three key second-half putbacks, including one that tied the game at 82 with only 8.2 seconds remaining. Save a couple truly horrible decisions early, leading to turnovers and opportunities for the home team, Gasol was on point. Defensively, Gasol was big against Kevin Garnett, who basically disappeared as the game went on, then saved the game by blocking Allen at the buzzer on what would have been a game-winning putback off a Paul Pierce miss. Gasol finished with 25 points (12-for-20), plus 14 rebounds, three dimes and that one massive swat.
Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports: It’s no accident that Bryant loves to walk the streets of Boston on off days here and commune with the Commonwealth. For all the nastiness inside the arena, he’s always amazed at the way they welcome a Lakers star here. There’s a connection, and they all want to hold onto it as long as they can. “The fans hate your guts when you’re playing here, but very appreciative of the talent,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “When you see them out on the streets, it’s always a warm reception. ‘Man, I hate you, but … I love watching you. How do you think the Celtics are going to do?’ It’s a running conversation.” Bryant had to stay on the floor a little longer for the postgame interview, and when he finally ran through the tunnel on the way to the Lakers’ locker room, you could see all those Celtics fans leaning down, screaming, taunting, cursing him. Oh, how he loved it. And how he’ll miss it. Kobe Bryant will be back in Boston, but that old-school gang, those most familiar reflections with the Celtics, won’t be waiting for him. “We’ve played against each other so many times, you know what’s coming,” Bryant said. “It’s been a dream come true. I’ve grown up watching it, and here I am, part of it.” For one more night, when it still mattered anyway, when the Celtics-Lakers still commanded the sport’s stage. Next month, next year, it’s all coming fast now. Everyone wanted to hold onto this stage, this night – this long-running fight – a little longer on Thursday. Celtics-Lakers in overtime again, the clock running down. On his way out of Boston a winner one more time, Kobe Bryant made sure to breathe it all in.
Paul Flannery, WEEI Radio: The names on the periphery change, but it’s always the same central cast of characters. The Lakers played their Kobe-zone on Rajon Rondo. The Celtics trapped Bryant, something they rarely do against any player but him. Of course, all that trapping left the rest of the floor open for Gasol and Bynum to do their thing. “Rebounding, they’re big, man,” Garnett said. “Bynum’s come into his own. It’s good to see a big guy like that just kind of reestablish the big man back in our league. He and Pau have a great chemistry. They work really well together. The second-chance points hurt us, but we knew that coming into the game.” These two teams know everything there is to know about each other, and maybe we know everything about them, as well. The Celtics are 14-11 and stuck in the seventh spot in the East. The Lakers are 15-11 and mired in an also-ran logjam in the West. They are the proverbial teams no one wants to face in the playoffs, but they’re also no one’s idea of a true contender “Both teams shot 39 percent, so someone had to win,” Rivers said. “The game looked in slow motion, at times. So, I’m sure all the jokes, two old teams, Jurassic Park.”
Kurt Helin, ProBasketBallTalk: If you are going to impress Kobe Bryant, you’re going to have to do a lot more than have three good games in February. A lot more. Jeremy Lin is a sensation, “Linsanity” is sweeping New York as Kobe Bryant and the Lakers come to town Friday night. Two weeks ago the Knicks looked lost, then Jeremy Lin — the twice cut Harvard grad — burst on the scene with a skill set that fits the Mike D’Antoni offense. Suddenly the Knicks have won three games with Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony out of action, and New York is fun to watch.
Kobe is still not impressed. Via WEEI in Boston.
“I know who he is, but I don’t really know what’s going on too much with him. I don’t even know what he’s done. Like, I have no idea what you guys are talking about. I’ll take a look at it tonight though.”
[Asked again about Lin] “I don’t even know what the [expletive] is going on. What the [expletive] is going on? Who is this kid? I’ve heard about him and stuff like that, but what’s he been doing? Is he getting like triple doubles or some [expletive]? He’s averaging 28 and eight? No [expletive]. If he’s playing well, I’ll just have to deal with him.”
[Would he consider guarding Lin?] “Jesus Christ. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
First rule of Kobe — the more he cusses in a conversation the closer you get to the truth. That said, Kobe is a guy well aware of what is going on in the NBA — he knows who Lin is and what he’s done. He’s just not impressed.
C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: In what was one of the uglier games you’ll see all season, the Los Angeles Lakers got a much needed road win, by the final score of 88-87 in overtime. They achieved victory by sucking slightly less down the stretch. Kobe Bryant was at his brilliant worst, taking terrible shots throughout the 4th quarter and overtime, hitting just enough impossible looks to keep his strong 1st half looking decent, ending the game with 27 points on 11-24 shooting, and Pau Gasol had one of his best games of the season, possibly in response to being left off the All-Star team, going for 25 and 14 boards, and a key block of Ray Allen on the Celtics final possession of overtime. Andrew Bynum struggled with the Celtics physical defense, but made a few very big plays, including an and one buzzer beating offensive rebound just before the half. Off the bench, Matt Barnes provided great energy, Troy Murphy somehow found ways to contribute while he missed nearly every open shot he took, and Steve Blake played big minutes in his return from injury due to Derek Fisher being Derek Fisher.
There’s plenty more good reading to be had today but my laptop has been playing cruel tricks on me all morning and I weary of battling it. Plus, the neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking and I’m about to go over there with a tree branch. Talk amongst yourselves, figure out the next great free agent signing that won’t happen. If it comes down to it, we can always bring Ammo back.
– Dave Murphy