Last night’s game 5 may have been the best game the Lakers have played in this young post season. No one player was that great, but the cumulative production that the players produced made for a great win. With 6 Lakers scoring double figures and the bench players bringing a spark with their energy and hustle on both ends, every player that saw game action contributed positively. In a 16 point win it’s not rare to have every player with a positive plus/minus, but the Lakers are one team where that’s often not true. Often times, even in blowout wins, the bench unit gets outplayed and there’s a player or two that are -4 or -6 on the night. Or, there’s a starter that had a couple of particularly poor stretches and he ends up on the negative end at the game’s conclusion. Last night, even if it was only a +2, every Laker had a positive plus minus. I know it’s not an end all stat, but it does show that every Laker was able to contribute to helping the team win in the minutes he played.
A few other thoughts from game 5 and the rest of the series…
- After the game, everyone had an opinion on Kobe’s ankle injury. Most of the Hornets players (plus coach Monty Williams) said that Kobe really wasn’t that hurt, essentially saying “did he look hurt out there?”. And while Kobe was surely good enough to play, I thought he was noticeably moving gingerly early in the game and later on you could tell he didn’t have a lot of burst when moving off the ball. Plus, on defense, he didn’t have any quickness when trying to move laterally to keep up with guys off the dribble. Several times even Belinelli went right by him off the dribble when Kobe tried to close out.
- As for the dunks he threw down being evidence that Kobe’s not hurt, go back and review them. Notice that neither of his dunks came off his bum left leg. The Okafor dunk was a two footed takeoff and on the left hander he tossed in over Landry, Kobe jumped off his right leg. Neither required a lot of lift from his bad leg. Even when Kobe was driving he was pushing off his right leg a lot (something he does frequently anyway). Basically, I thought Kobe compensated for his injury well but that the plays he made last night don’t really erase the fact that he’s pretty banged up.
- After game 2, I mentioned that the Lakers needed to help Pau help the team by setting more screens for him and not ask him to simply back his man down to get post position. I acknowledged that Pau did need to work harder to be effective, but the solution to his problems didn’t lie just with Gasol himself. In game 5, we saw improvement in both aspects. The Lakers ran several center opposite sets for Pau, setting cross screens for him to make the catch coming to the strong side (his 2nd basket of the game came on this set). Pau also got in a lower stance when posting up and that allowed him to better back down Landry on several plays that set up his jump hook and turnaround jumper. It only took 5 games for this to happen, but better late than never.
- Is it just me, or does Trevor Ariza look like the 2009 version of himself? He’s canning open jumpers, driving to the cup hard, and finishing acrobatically over big men challenging. Yesterday on twitter someone (I can’t recall who) commented that Ariza was obviously so bad the last two regular seasons because those games weren’t in the playoffs. It came off as mostly a joke, but Ariza does seem a like a guy that raises his game in the post-season. All I can say is, good for him. After all, stepping up in the post-season helped earn our guys some hardware.
- Since I brought up Ariza, it’s only fair to bring up Artest too. He’s having himself an excellent series and last night’s effort was no exception. For a good take on what Ron’s done so far these playoffs, go read this. It’s worth your time.
- Last night Jarrett Jack was 0-3 from the field and scored 1 point. He also had 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 turnovers. Surely the Hornets need more from him than this if they expect to win. Since he went 5-6 for 15 points in game 1, Jack is a combined 4-21 with only 14 points total (though, to be fair, he also hit a big jumper in the closing seconds of game 4 that ultimately clinched that win). And while this may just be coincidence, Jack’s decline coincides with Steve Blake’s return from the chicken pox.
- Lastly, is it just me or is this Hornets team hard to hate? Every playoffs I find myself utterly disliking the opposing team. Last year, even the Thunder brought it out of me with Durant’s arm sweep to draw fouls, Westbrook’s screams after a big play, and Thabo’s defense (and I generally like those guys a lot). This year though, I just can’t bring myself to those levels with the Hornets. Sure Landry upsets me at times but that’s about it. Chris Paul has been brilliant, Okafor has been stoic and classy (even after getting raked in the face by Kobe last night), and their head coach has been nothing but professional the entire time. Maybe I’m alone here but I’d like to see this team win if they weren’t facing the Lakers.
Kobe is getting hacked pretty much too,first monster dunk should haven been a ref course on how to blow and one whistles..
I’m so sick and tired of this “Kobe wasn’t really hurt” angle from our opponents. With the exception of Paul Pierce and Marcus Camby, when an NBA player is hurt, I take them for their word. Did these guys see how Kobe hobbled in Game 4; leaving the arena on crutches? What Kobe did (refusing MRI, etc.) was downright stubborn, but it sent a message to the team: I have no excuses, what are yours?
Why don’t we bring David West back and question whether he’s really hurt? Give me a break! As for Trevor, what I miss about him the most is that we used to stick him on guys like CP3. I love what Artest is doing, but he cannot guard the CP3s of this world. Speaking of “windows,” I’m hoping that Ebanks watches his clone Ariza out there and tries to emulate the positive things.
Craig W. says
I really don’t get why everyone is saying Kobe didn’t get an MRI. He didn’t get one from the Laker doctor – who would have had to report the results to the Lakers and others.
Since he uses his own staff to handle almost all his body work and massage and he is fairly extreme in his dedication to maintaining his body conditioning, it is most probable that he did have an MRI, just not one that was reported to the press and fans.
Kobe does want to know what is going on in his body. He just isn’t interested in letting us in on what the results are.
I’ve got to say that Artest is my favorite Laker right now. I love the effort. I love that he is trying to fit in (And succeeding as the SS&R post shows). I think people really underestimate how good he is and how much he has sacrificed and adjusted to give this Laker team what it needs, while letting the other guys (Kobe, Pau, Andrew) be the stars.
Totally agree on Hornets being likable, but I feel that way about several teams – Thunder, Spurs and Bulls. Despite my frustration with the Lakers, it has been a great first round of games and teams.
He has improved his shooting this series. In the regular season he shot 40% and so far in this series he is shooting 41%
The two times Artest guarded CP3 last night he blocked one shot and made him re set by growing the ball out to the top of the key the other.
I wouldn’t hate on the Hornets, if Paul wasn’t flopping all the time.
J.D. Hastings says
-What I liked about the game was the steadiness of it. No, the Lakers didn’t lead all the way through, but they plugged away at their game plan throughout. Things went against them in the first- the Hornets hit everything, if it touched the rim, it rolled in- but they continued to plug away (with the aforementioned momentum shifts already mentioned), and managed to pile on a lead, first getting it to ~8 points then finally getting into the 16 point region. In the last 8 minutes they never let the Hornets make too strong a push by continuing to be steady. That’ll always be better than a feast or famine approach we’ve seen before. Maybe because Kobe’s limitations required for a more balanced attack.
-In 2009 Ariza did well against several teams, but really made his name against Orlando in the finals- a team that he had a similar relationship to with the Lakers. Ever since he left this team he’s enjoyed playing against us. I’m happy for him, but not for how we allow him to play this way…
-The biggest change I’ve noticed in Artest is how I react to him getting the ball on offense. In the past I viewed it as a strategic necessary evil- it may not end well, but we need him to be engaged on defense and occasionally get hot outside, so the possessions he comically wasted were like investments in other things. Now when he gets the ball, I feel comfortable with his decisions and aren’t surprised by positive results. He feels like a legit threat the entire time. It’ll be interesting, if LA and Dallas advance, to see if it continues against a team whose owner talked smack about him.
-The Hornets seem to be a class act. Last night was the first time they seemed upset at the podiums. Particularly Monty Williams seemed angry, so it’ll be interesting to watch going forward.
Craig – he might have his own personal trainer, but I’m almost positive he doesn’t have his own MRI machine. And you don’t want to know how much it costs to book one for a scan. Those charges you want the Lakers to handle.
I feel pretty much the same as Darius. The Hornets are eliciting less hatred from me than most of the teams we’ve played. The slight exception is Chris Paul’s flopping and whining to the refs about continuation calls from half-court.
If I had the time, I’d go through the teams and list all the players that generally get under the skins of fans and other players. There might be a general correlation with team success … the greatest competitors tend to scrap for every point, and it seems like most good teams have an agitator or two.
Also, I have to admit that I was very wrong about Artest. I didn’t want to post him up on the block because in the past, his post-ups had bogged down our offense and gotten mixed results. But the results have been great so far. Against someone as weak as Bellinelli, I’ve wanted us to run more plays for Ron. His moves in the post have been quick, decisive, and although he still uses some weird-angled shots, they go in most of the time. He’s become a lot more decisive in the offense and a much more efficient force on the block.
The Dude Abides says
IMO, this series ends tomorrow. Five consecutive close-out victories on the road for this team, and seven overall. The team smells blood in the water in these situations, and Kobe is the alpha shark.
Chris J says
“Okafor has been stoic and classy” — Seriously?
That guy’s done more crying than my 13-month-old when she’s cutting teeth. There have been numerous points in this series where he literally looked like he was on the verge of tears.
Likewise, I’m sick of the Hornets’ bench players hopping up and down all over the sidelines, a la Jack Haley and ML Carr back in the day.
Paul’s flopping has already been noted.
Disclosure, I was born in New Orleans.
Fact, I like the Hornets notwithstanding that.
They are fun to watch, play a brand of basketball we do not, have strengths where we do not, and seem to play hard with a commendable young coach. It’s the perfect compliment to liking the Lakers. And now they’re playing and I want the Lakers to win, but not the Hornets to lose. I want a game where they both play well but we close out Thursday.
@1 nimble I was also screeming for a foul on the first dunk by Kobe. He was smacked by Okafur on the head while he was on the air. I dont complain about the ref considering that in every game in any series both teams are burdened with stupid calls and non- calls by the refs. But to see kobe get whacked and hacked 3-4 times every game without getting a foul just sickens me. He is the only superstar that doesnt get the same treatment like D. Wade or Lebron gets.
Kobe didn’t get an MRI because he did not want doubt to creep into his mind.
Have you guys seen this latest article that shows Kobe missing 16 game winning shots?
Its been going around the internet and the guy abvoisuly didnt take enough time to do presetn the facts fairly. Just more haters.
Darius Soriano says
11. Point taken on Okafor. He’s complained plenty, though more so earlier in the series. Really, I was thinking about last night most – especially in relation to Kobe’s hard foul where he hit him in the face.
I like the Hornets as a team, but their fans have been playing the ref conspiracy card with an alacrity that would make Celtic fans envious.
it would be laughable if it were not so pathetic how people are saying kobe really wasn’t injured. we all saw the injury with our own eyes. I wonder if these same people questioned if Jordan really had the flu in the legendary Flu Game in the finals
Spurs have zero answer for Randolph down low. I’m rooting for them to pull this out, but he’s going to eat their front line for brunch.
Annnd… instant replay finally is of use.
It’s a shame OKC matches up too well with them; it’ll be a short one.
Who would have ever thought that Memphis would be this good .
Without Rudy Gay.
They’re letting McDyess get away with murder down low.
damn..the 3 pt shot of Neal…that was a lucky shot..Now it is OT, what a game and a series.
that was a lucky shot by neal.. nice substitution by Pop sending parker out for Neal probably extended and saved their season.
The Spurs are like cockroaches, remember. You just can’t kill them.
Credit them for making big shots down the stretch. But they really have no chance against Randolph. I don’t know if a 4 has ever eaten them up like this during the Duncan era.
Credit to the Grizz though. They were executing like a veteran playoff team in the 4th. Neal hit a big shot and Parker just took over in OT.
Kobe’s own words on why he decided not to have an MRI:
“I was moving OK and I didn’t feel like it was broke or anything like that. If it was, it wouldn’t really matter anyway. I would have played anyway. So it would have been a waste of time to go all the way up there and do that and then sit in the 405 traffic for two hours.”
Let us at least base our speculations on something more substantial than guess-work, please?
Let’s face it, Kobe’s just never going to be free from controversy. I’m not exactly sure when that train left the station, but it’s way too far down the track now to worry about it.
It’s too bad that some people are going to look back a decade from now and realize that, while they were busy trying to pinpoint everything that Kobe wasn’t, they missed appreciating one of the most incredible careers in basketball history. I’m glad I’m not one of those folks, and I’m grateful to be enjoying the story in real time.
I have no problem intensely disliking Chris Paul when he is on the court…
Chris J says
Nuggets are unbelievable chokers. Up nine with 4:15 and they blow it.
You can’t take MRI’s on your own, those things are fairly expensive, require lots of power and dedicated personnel to run them. All possible within Kobe-world, yes, but highly doubtful.
As much as I trust Kobe, injuries, especially those you suffer, are hard to evaluate even if you think it’s a run of the mill injury. He may be right, he may be wrong but there is good risk in not knowing for sure.
Still, I’m sure that Vitti and other trainers are good enough a judge on those things to make an MRI seem fairly unnecessary.
As for the Hornets, I find it difficult to dislike a team which poses little threat to us…
3. Craig W.
I completely agree. I’ve been telling my buddies the same thing. How can Kobe direct any type of therapy without a diagnosis? Also, no legit doc in his/her right mind would treat without a diagnosis. You can’t empirically treat this, you have to know what the problem is.
Craig W. says
I have had MRIs myself and, while expensive if you don’t have insurance (I have VA coverage), you really don’t need to buy your own machine.
Kobe can easily afford to have an MRI – especially when you realize that he fly’s his massage therapist to destinations when he gets injured on the road.
My theory: Kobe knows he broke a bone in his foot. He has simply decided he can play through it, and will worry about it in the off-season.
You know who I can’t stand? Reggie Miller. When Barnes fouled I think Landry while CLEARLY going for the ball but ended up hitting him in the neck or head Reggie kept saying how it should be a flagrant because it was above his shoulders. Then 10 times a broadcast they show the Chris Paul foul on Kobe where he karate chopped down on top of his shoulder and Reggie talks about it being just a good clean playoff foul. That’s just one example but he’s miserable.
Also, I really had no idea how much of a punk CP3 was. He’s been flopping/b!tching/taking cheap shots all series. He’s way too good for all of that bull.
I feel this game was won because Bynum/Odom/Gasol hit the boards much harder. On another defensive note, has anyone ever seen a team play defense just the way they want and get the players they way to shoot the shots they want and have that many go in (in the 1st QT)? Obviously it corrected it but when you have their big men and Ariza taking long 2’s or contested 3’s, they shouldn’t make 13-16.
I have a feelings we’ll lose tomorrow but then wrap it up in Game 7. This series has that Rockets series feel to me where just when we have a great game they just mail it in until it really counts. I really hope Phil goes for the jugular so we can get a little extra rest before the next round, assuming me advance.
It wasn’t that Okafor was stoic after Kobe’s flagrant foul butchering, he was just punked. He didn’t complain that it was flagrant because he realized who did it and was scared to retaliate. He was like a bully who met up with the guy HE is scared of. A few seconds later he was called for a foul. He went whining to the bench throwing his towel in frustration but the fact of the matter was he was embarassed by Kobe’s pimp slap.
I have no problem intensely disliking Chris Paul when he is on the court…
Neither do I with all his flopping, running into players to get a call, grandstanding when he gets one on one with a big and sinks the shot, and his bullying the opposition when he’s up attitude. He even slaps at people’s heads and everything when he’s frustrated. Look at the picture when they beat us in game 4. He is an asshole. I would take Deron over him in a heartbeat. I used to hate Rondo for telling Paul that he would never win a championship, now I understand the hatred. (Think My Cousin Vinny…. “I’m his fiancee”, and the judge says “That explains the animosity.” Classic)
The Picture that allows you to hate Chris Paul.
You can’t get me to hate a team I don’t fear or haven’t feared in the past. Hence why I hate the Celtics (feared in the past) and Heat (fear in the present). I have no feelings on the Hornets other than they’re the Lakers sacrificial lamb in the first round. They truly are the 09 Rockets. A team with a quick point guard that runs pick and rolls every time down the court to take advantage of the only position where we don’t have a star. The reason this series won’t go seven is because we now have a healthy Bynum and Ron Artest.
I completely agree that the 1st Quarter was an aberration. What I really admired was the Lakers (both players, but more importantly coaches) recognizing that nothing was wrong, the Hornets were simply getting good bounces and making low percentage shots.
They showed patience, and determination, stayed with it, and were rewarded when New Orleans shot 35% or so for the rest of the game.
THAT is the sign of a championship team.
The playoffs bring out the nasty in any player, CP3 included. The fact that his team and him are facing the two time back to back champs will elevate that nasty to 100x the usual. This is the Playoffs, the stakes are high, and the Hornets want to (and have) shut up anyone who brushed them off and had the Lakers sweeping them. This I don’t mind, because if the Hornets are going to be nasty, the Lakers will respond in kind (none more so than Kobe Bryant and Derrick Fisher).
While I HATE the way Okafor looks like a spanked baby anytime things don’t go his way, I can’t hate a superstar like CP3 who is overlooked as an elite PG by the likes of Rose, Rondo, and Russel (Westbrook), all the while cursed to stick with a team like the Hornets until 2012.