Sunday Funday for Those in LA, not L.A.

If the title is confusing, re-read it again.

LA=Louisiana (home of New Orleans Hornets)

L.A.=Los Angeles (where the Lakers play)

I’ve had a few hours to digest game 1 of both the Grizzlies-Spurs and Hornets-Lakers matchups, but clarity escapes me. I’ll offer a more in-depth analysis of the latter than the former.

Memphis defeats San Antonio 101-98

Anytime the Spurs let their opponent score over 100 points, they’re less likely to win. While this has been a banner year for the San Antonio offense, and their defense has not been their staple, it remains a sticking point for head coach Gregg Popovich. He’ll be the first to tell you, like he did when they lost to the New York Knicks earlier this season, that he can stomach defensive insufficiency about as well as Charlie Sheen can stomach the writers of  “Two and a Half Men.”

The Spurs looked like they got punched in the mouth and didn’t know how to respond. When that happens, the person/team that gets hit usually takes a few moments to process what happened. Ditto for San Antonio. They eventually got their act together, but they waited too long. Zach Randolph definitely earned his money today.

Tony Parker took over in the third quarter, helping San Antonio take a 74-70 lead (NOTE: as I’m writing this, Amar’e Stoudemire just scored in a way that I’ve never seen done before in the NBA. And then he followed that up with a dunk on Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal and ran back on defense muttering something to the fans sitting courtside. Awesome). As it so often happens, however, when a team spends most of its energy trying to come back, it doesn’t have enough left to close the game.

Shane Battier put the final nail in the coffin for San Antonio, punching their lights out with a dagger three-pointer in the final minute of the game. As a Spurs enthusiast, it irked me; as an NBA fan, it excited me. Jeff Van Gundy argued during the Hornets-Lakers telecast that “No player deserves success more than Shane Battier.” I agree. He’s a gentleman and a scholar.

The Grizzlies uglied the game up, and that worked in their favor, obviously. They have a very advantageous matchup, even if Manu Ginobili were healthy and playing, but don’t count the Spurs out. Potential playoff doppleganger for this series: Denver Nuggets v. San Antonio Spurs, 2005. The Spurs lost game 1 on their home court, but went on to win the next 4 games, closing out the very feisty and physical Nuggets (remind you of Memphis much?).

Even so, a loss like this certainly damages the confidence of San Antonio faithful. Had Ginobili played, things might have been different. But he didn’t. Consider me a San Antonio faithful for the time being, as my confidence in the Spurs has definitely waned. Now I’m trying to convince myself more than anybody else that the Spurs will win in 5. But they will.

Right guys?

Right?

Ahh nuts***.


New Orleans defeats Los Angeles 109-100

This was a wake-up call for the Lakers, who played like a team resting on their laurels. They came out flat, like we’ve often seen from them, and the Hornets came out with a lot of life.

Honestly, it’s what you should have expected from both teams. The Lakers have made a habit out of flipping switches, while the Hornets were apt to respond to the media’s claim that they would merely be first-round-fodder for the defending champs.

In fact, I am very disappointed in myself for not calling this earlier. Not for not predicting that the Lakers would lose in game 1, but for not predicting that the Hornets, with their collection of Laker killers, would play the game of their lives on Sunday.

Think about it: the Lakers are turrrible in games aired on ABC and Sunday, turrrible in matching the expectations of the worldwide media (e.g. expecting them to trounce NO),  turrrible in guarding the pick & roll, and notorious for letting guys that were struggling prior to playing the Lakers look like hall of famers when playing the Lakers.

Jarrett Jack has given the Lakers hell since his Portland days, acting tougher than he is in an altercation with both Kobe and Lamar Odom. He’s torched them no matter what uni he’s donning, from Toronto red to New Orleans green. Or blue green. Or whatever. Color is relative anyway.

Jarrett Jack has a pouty face that only a mother could love.

Carl Landry has caused his share of headaches for the purple and gold as well. In 2008-2009, he and Luis Scola attacked the Lakers frontcourt relentlessly in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. He had a season-high against LA just a month ago in his first game filling in for the indefinitely sidelined black hole David West.

And don’t even get me started on Chris Paul. Even though the Lakers have made a habit out of owning the Hornets since our first of the back-to-backs, Paul has continually been a thorn in the Lakers’ side. Derek Fisher has never had a high opinion of Paul, since the two spend most of their on-the-court time pushing and shoving, with Derek more often than not drawing the ire of the officials.

Needless to say, all of the above came to fruition today. Landry, Jack, Aaron Gray (WHO?!), and Paul destroyed the Los Angeles defense. They made the Laker defense look like “The CatHouse” on HBO. They were open for business, and CP3 was like a customer with a blank check (if you’re not familiar with the show, it’s a reality show about legal prostitutes in a brothel somewhere in Nevada). To continue the corollary,  NO-LA was nationally televised.

Outside of Kobe and Ron Artest, no other Lakers showed up. This is where the Lakers miss a guy like Steve Blake, who’s a pesky on-the-ball defender that does a great job of getting under opposing point guards’ skin. Instead, the Lakers left Fish in the trenches taking grenades that sounded like whistles of the officials, let Shannon Brown get burnt more than toast, and allowed Pau Gasol to receive more facials than Jenna Jameson.

In the midst of all this, CP3 was simultaneously building his case for “best point guard in the league” honors.

Too bad he’s not even top 2.

That’s right. I said it. If you find yourself starting to believe that because of what you saw today, CP3 has been underrated all year, then you’re being infected with media venom. It’s called “flavor of the week-itis,” and you’re a victim. Take it from me: CP3 is a top 3 PG in the NBA, but he sits comfortably behind Derrick Rose and Deron Williams, respectively. Paul is a better pure point guard than the aforementioned duo, but he’s not a better player.

Rose is easily a better, more dominant player, and he’s virtually unguardable. The man is the league MVP (by its current standards). He is more versatile offensively, lightning quick, and an amazing finisher in the paint. His athleticism, coupled with his insatiable desire for perfection, puts him on another level.

Williams can do everything that Paul does on the offensive end, but better. Defensively, there’s no one better than Paul at picking your pocket. However, he’s too undersized to guard the bigger point guards. Williams can body up the smaller ones and he can blow by the bigger ones. He can cover shooting guards, and he can make life hard for super stars close to his size. And every time he shoots the ball, I swear it’s going in. Paul doesn’t induce that same kind of fear in me as a Laker fan.

Was Pauls performance in game 1 fools gold, or a sign of things to come? We shall see.

Hell, I’m more scared of Russell Westbrook than I am of CP3. Westbrook is lightning quick, while Paul is more of an “invade your space” kind of player. He is a very controlled ball-handler. But the man relies more on the officials giving him the benefit of the doubt than the other two.

And what’s sad is that, against the Lakers, he’ll get it. It might sound contrite coming from a Laker fan, but it’s true. The Lakers get calls against teams that don’t matter (and that doesn’t include teams in the playoffs, where every game counts). CP3 looked like a superstar today because he got dubious calls from the officials, and because he was playing the Lakers.

L.A. has a history of making bad players look like good players, good players look like great players, and great players look like gods. Against L.A.,  guys like Chris Duhon, Gordon Hayward, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, and Travis Outlaw look like hall of famers. Ask any Laker fan-if they’ve watched the Lakers annually, they can confirm what I just said. Against L.A., players and teams that are in a drought suddenly get hot. Just ask Miami, Utah, and Cleveland.

Don’t let the big game that Paul had fool you. Yeah, he’s a great player. At times in this series, he might even look like the best player on the floor. But let me douse that fire with a reality check for you: EVERYONE looks good against the Lakers.

Paul is great, but don’t get out the anointing oil just yet.

Imagine what Kobe could do with that kind of referee love; you know, the kind that doesn’t come from exchanging pleasantries with Bennie Adams.

I loved the first half officiating, but it seems like things went downhill afterward. They let both teams duke it out, and the physicality was going both ways. Paul wasn’t getting the typical rub’n’bump calls on the top of the perimeter that he usually gets. In the end, the officials took over the game. It became a free throw contest for CP3, and he was competing against himself.

Beyond blaming the officials for the loss, I blame the officials for the loss of Aaron Gray. He was injured because they didn’t take control of the game sooner. Had they done that, Kobe wouldn’t have driven into the lane praying for a call that they denied him in prior plays, the Laker bigs and Hornet bigs wouldn’t have been pushing and shoving down low more than they should be allowed, and Gray could have played the entire game without ending up being carried off the court by his teammates.

The playoff doppleganger(s) for this series are glaring to me now. The way I see it, the Lakers could end up replaying the Rockets-Lakers matchup in the Western Conference Semi-Finals of 2008-2009, where we lost game 1 on our homecourt but eventually won the series in game 7, or they could end up replaying the Pistons-Lakers NBA Finals of 2003-2004. In both cases, the Lakers were dealing with injuries and malaise. The 2004 Finals is clearly the worst-case scenario for Laker fans, and it’s not likely. But then again, that’s what we said in 2004.

My confidence in the Lakers defeating the Hornets is not as low as my confidence in the Spurs defeating the Grizzlies, but it has some holes. Unfortunately, it’s for different reasons. Let’s just hope that Bennie Adams isn’t officiating any of the games-especially the ones in New Orleans.

Till next time.


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3 Responses to “Sunday Funday for Those in LA, not L.A.”

  1. mr sam Says:

    I do not expect pau to play as bad as he did today the rest of the playoffs, but he was terrible today.
    the way cp3 played today was very reminiscent of 07-08, cocky jerk that gets a lot of calls. hornet bench killed the lakers though, and I’m glad aaron gay got injured.

  2. D-Flo Says:

    So do you still think the Lakers are gonna take it in 5?

  3. daniel "cool beans" lee Says:

    Pau looked like he didn’t know where he was. Hopefully he remembers that it’s the playoffs come this Wednesday. These lower seeds are playing with some vigor to remind the top teams that it’s the post season before a possible lockout.

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