From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: It’s not easy to do your best work when you’re emotionally wrought. In most endeavors, sound execution depends on a clear head, steady nerves and just generally having your wits about you. Giddiness and elation can be the enemies of a job well done. As we saw tonight at Staples Center, such are the hazards of having to play a basketball game immediately following a goosebump-worthy ring ceremony. The evening began in stirring fashion, as the Lakers were awarded their mammoth new championship rings by David Stern and a new banner was unveiled in the arena rafters. It was a cool presentation. Each of the players said some kind words about one of their teammates, and Phil Jackson took a moment to salute the dearly departed Josh Powell, Adam Morrison and D.J. Mbenga. (Even the Laker massage therapist got a ring.) A nicer person than I would observe that it’s something fans of every team should get to experience once in their lifetimes. Me, I just want the Lakers to keep repeating it year after year until I’m dead.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Thanks, new guys! With just over three minutes left in the third, the Lakers found themselves in a bit of a pickle. Lamar Odom and Gasol were both on the bench with four fouls, and Ron Artest was soon to join them. They hadn’t scored for nearly four minutes until Steve Blake hit two clutch 3s at the end of the quarter keep the Lakers in it. In the fourth, Matt Barnes energized the crowd with some aggressive play, penetrating and breaking down Houston’s defense, opening up the floor for a Gasol putback. With 9:30 to play, Barnes snagged an Odom miss, then his own after an errant putback. Eventually he worked his way to the line, hitting the free throws that tied the game at 86. Oh, and there was the matter of that game-winner from Blake with 18.8 seconds left, as Bryant penetrated and found the newbie wide open on the right wing. Whether he was actually attempting to pass to Blake or Gasol is an open question, but either way… splash. Then he stuck with Aaron Brooks — he’s fast! — on Houston’s final play, disrupting the shot and sealing the win. They say first impressions are the most important, right? We spent most of last season and into this offseason pumping the virtues of bringing Blake to Los Angeles. Way to make us look smart, Steve!
From Jill Painter, LA Daily News: The Lakers hadn’t even held court for Tuesday’s championship ring ceremony or tipped off their season against the Houston Rockets when they received a bit of good news: The Miami Heat lost their season opener. The Big Three started with a big dud. Meanwhile, the champion Lakers, who sported smiles and tears with their new bling presented before the game, did what championship teams do. They won. The Lakers trailed by 15 points in the first half, but they played solid defense in the second half and used Shannon Brown’s hot shooting touch – 14 points in the fourth quarter – to edge Houston, 112-102. Brown, who usually has fans on their feet with his thunderous dunks, got a standing ovation for making five of six shots during that span and all four of his 3-point attempts. Kobe Bryant buried him in a hug during a timeout.
From ESPN Stats and Information: After trailing 62-51 at halftime, the Lakers kicked it up a notch in the second half to pull out a 112-110 win over the Rockets on Tuesday. It was the Lakers’ third straight season-opening win and their eighth win in their last nine games vs Houston. The Rockets have defeated L.A. just twice since their win over the Lakers on opening night of the 2007-08 season. The Lakers are now 41-22 all-time in season openers, and 14-4 when opening the regular season at home since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. Tuesday’s win leaves Phil Jackson one win away from joining Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, Pat Riley and Jerry Sloan as the only NBA coaches with at least 1,100 wins.
From J.A. Adande, ESPN: That other team, you know, the two-time champions, started the season as well, Tuesday night, with a low-key ring ceremony consisting of one teammate introducing the next, followed by a victory produced by some low-wattage players. The first step of the Lakers’ title defense, a 112-110 victory over the Rockets, belonged in part to Steve Blake, one of the less spectacular (albeit fully logical) signings of the summer. Blake hit back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled the Lakers from 11 points down to within five in the final minute of the third quarter. Then Blake delivered the two biggest moments of the game, hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining and deterring Aaron Brooks’ game-tying reverse layup attempt on the final play.
From Rahat Huq, Red94: For as much reason as there was to be excited after the first half, there was cause for the same frustration as the game dwindled. The Rockets came out scorching last night in their season opener, determined to spoil the Lakers’ parade. The team moved the ball quickly off the boards, imposing a frantic pace, and putting the champs on their heels and out of their comfort zone. Guards Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks (of Everybody Hates Chris fame) looked intent on thrusting themselves into the debate as league’s best offensive backcourt, unconsciously netting almost 20 apiece in the first two frames, and second year man Chase Budinger chipped in with his usual share of highlights, looking as smooth as ever. Houston took a double digit lead into the break and all was well in our world until, as it has far too often during the Yao Ming era, everything completely fell apart.
From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: The last time L.A. took the STAPLES Center floor in a game that counted, they came back from a 13-point second half deficit to beat the Boston Celtics and secure the franchise’s 16th NBA title. Fast forward to Ring Night on Tuesday in a game that meant next to nothing in comparison yet retained some tangible energy, as the Lakers fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second half before rallying to secure a 112-110 victory over the Houston Rockets. Pau Gasol led all scorers with 29 points and 11 rebounds and Kobe Bryant added 27 points and seven assists, while reserves Steve Blake and Shannon Brown erupted to nail a combined 7-of-7 combined three-pointers in the second half to turn the game on its head.
From Mike Truddell, Basket Blog: Eighteen years ago, two 12-year-old kids from Queens, New York, met for the first time, paired on the same basketball team due to their already-advanced talents. Back then, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest could only dream to one day, somehow, be standing side by side as NBA Champions. But that, of course, is exactly what happened on Tuesday evening at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. Among the most poignant moments during a pregame ring ceremony in which each of the nine returning Lakers from the 2010 championship team took turns introducing one another was when Odom gave Artest his ring.
From Johnny Luddenn, Yahoo! Sports: Be ready, Kobe Bryant old Steve Blake. His championship coronation nearly doused in defeat, Bryant walked out of the huddle late Tuesday and welcomed his new teammate to the Los Angeles Lakers with a simple, two-word order. A couple minutes later, Bryant rifled a pass behind him and into the waiting hands of Blake, positioned perfectly a step behind the 3-point line. Blake elevated and coolly buried the shot. With less than 19 seconds left, it was the difference in the Lakers’ 112-110 victory over the Houston Rockets. On a night he toasted his fifth championship and began his hunt for a sixth, Kobe put his fortune in the hands of a teammate with whom he’d never played a meaningful game. This was no ordinary assist, and Blake knew it. “It was big of him,” Blake said, smiling, “to trust someone new on the court.”
From Kenny Masenda, Ed The Sports Fan: With the season starting up again, a majority of the folks I know cannot be more excited to see what’s in store. Some are waiting to see the new-look Heat, while others are eagerly anticipating the Lakers’ quest for a fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance and a three-peat. There are some people who want to see if the grumpy old men in Boston can get back to the Finals, and others want to see if Orlando has something to say about them getting there. There are others who are excited to see how the Thunder will do, how the Mavs will look, if the Clippers can make a run for the post-season, if John Wall can bring some excitement to Chocolate City, and even more.