Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Total Eclipse of the Suns

Holy cow.... what a crazy game last night!! I watched parts of the first three quarters because I didn't think the Suns would put up much of a fight, we were up by 20 when I checked at one point, and I'm trying to save my roommate from Laker overload until the playoffs at least haha.

I tuned in for good with about three minutes to go in the 4th and the game inexplicably tied! I couldn't believe it. I felt oddly calm though, more calm than I normally am in these situations. I'm not sure whether it's because I didn't see the whole game (doubt it), or whether I just had an overwhelming feeling that they would pull through no matter what.

The game was just incredible. I felt so bad for Lamar because he had been having a stellar game (season high 29 points and 16 boards) and I knew as soon as he committed that foul that Lakers Nation would turn on him. I was miffed, but I also knew that he had done so much for the Lakers already that I wasn't going to hold it against him. Luckily, we won anyway and he had some big plays in subsequent overtimes to kind of erase that foul. Here's a great article by Kevin Ding of the OC Register about Odom and the game last night. I particularly liked these parts:

Odom being Odom, he said with honesty if not profundity before leaving: "I'm tired, I'm ready to go home, and I'm in the mood for pancakes."

No word on whether the pancakes made for a late-night scene in his reality TV show. But pining for pancakes wasn't even the most interesting thing Odom said before leaving the arena. (A close second was Odom expressing admiration for Ron Artest's "antics" by insisting: "He's going to be one of the best wrestlers ever.")

What was most compelling was Odom acknowledging that he played the final two overtimes concerned about having to walk into the locker room and "face these guys" ... meaning his teammates. Odom was shuddering over letting them down with his foolish three-shot foul on Channing Frye.

Channing Frye, ughhhh. Hate. Hate him for that three, and those free throws. I think I'm growing as a person however, because I was so flipping angry at the time but deep down I was still appreciating him. Which is bizarre. Had this happened five years ago, my blood would have been boiling over at the sight of him, like it did for Raja Bell haha.

Pau didn't have a great game (although he still got a double double), but he hit some huuuuge free throws at the end of double overtime. I thought I was going to have a heart attack at that point... that whole sequence was jacked. I still don't know how Kobe managed to get the ball to Pau under the basket and out of bounds, but he did. Clutch free throws in general are almost harder to watch than shots from the field for me. It took all the willpower I had to keep my eyes open and watching Pau shoot those free throws.... it was painful. I don't know why, but I don't always trust him in those situations. However, and I've said this before, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the victory if I didn't have the guts to watch every heart-pounding shot. I wouldn't have felt like I earned the right to celebrate if I didn't have enough faith in my team to make their shots when they needed to.

Which brings us to Mr. Ron Artest. Holy. Shit. I can't think of another player that can literally stop my beating heart whenever he shoots. I'm always sure that he will miss and I'm always sure that he will make it, at the same time every time. He terrifies me, but I love him for it. This put it into perspective perfectly:

The crowd gasped in frustration, pleading for Lakers forward Ron Artest not to shoot the wide-open three-pointer.

He did anyway.

The shot dropped in the bucket, gave the Lakers a three-point lead in the first overtime Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns and the 18,997 at Staples Center reacted hysterically. In return, Artest blew kisses in the air, soaking in all the adulation.

The image surely represents the never-ending anxieties and fickle relationship Laker fans have with Artest, swinging in frustration over his trigger-happy tendencies and distracted persona to admiration for his fearless mindset and goofball behavior.

Ron was fantastic last night, and had 5 points of his 18 in the last two minutes of triple overtime (read that sentence again!). He got a steal and a monster left hand jam down the lane, and followed it up with a running leaning, left footed jumper. Very Kobe-esque. Ron-Ron always seems to come up big when we need him the most, which is a good quality to have and one well known to and cherished by Lakers fans. He is just the latest in a long line of talented Lakers that make their presence known at all times, but save their biggest impact for the biggest moments. Recently Robert Horry and Derek Fisher come to mind of course, not to mention the Mamba.

I love Ron, I really do. I was sad to see Trevor go, but he is a definite upgrade and an amazing player when he puts his mind to it. Plus, he's hilarious. I feel like his off-court personality is starting to show oncourt more and it's awesome. Facing the crowd and blowing kisses after his big three; flexing his biceps and kissing them after his jam (that move seems to be his fav); and that little shimmy after his jumper. I like seeing personality on the court...

Like when we saw Kobe's underbite face again last night haha. I hate that face but I love what it stands for. Kobe had a monster game- 42 points, 12 boards and 9 assists- and had a good battle with Grant Hill going on. It makes me feel old to realize that I remember when Grant Hill was co-rookie of the year with Jason Kidd in 1994. I loved him!! I wrote a report on him in fourth grade and had a reversible teal and white Pistons jersey hahah. I wanted it so badly... my dad promised that if I got straight A's he'd buy it for me, and I did so he did =) Wish I could find it now, and I wish they still made reversible jerseys! Those were dope.

Back to the Mamba: he went a bit cold in the overtimes, but came through in the clutch like so many times before, both at the line and from the field. Just as importantly, he trusted his teammates, getting good looks for Pau and Lamar and Ron. "He hit shots, he was animated, he carried us and then he trusted us when it counted," Artest said. "He trusted us in that last overtime. That's Black Mamba for you."

Fish amazingly had no field goals, but had ANOTHER huge steal in the third overtime, like he did the other night against Portland. And Matt Barnes had another stellar game as well, finishing with 13 points, 5 rebounds and lots of hustle plays and good D. I really like him too, I think he's my favorite new Laker actually.

Perhaps the craziest aspect of the whole game was how rare it actually was: the Lakers' last triple-overtime game was Dec. 29, 2006, at Charlotte. Their last triple-overtime WIN was a 137-136 victory on Dec. 8, 1961, against Philadelphia. Fifty. Years. Ago. That's insane!! They've only played 4 triple-OT games (one was a 4OT) since moving to Los Angeles, and last night's was the second home game in Lakers history (first at Staples Center). I hate how people can make stats and records out of pretty much anything, but that is definitely legit. I think it appeals to the history nerd in me =)

Yes, the Lakers blew a huge third quarter lead, but they came back and won anyway. They battled through the fatigue, both physical and mental, and came up with a scrappy victory that champions know how to conjure. Mental toughness and knowing how to close games is what sets teams apart. It wins championships too.

"We had an opportunity to put them in a little bit of a hole in terms of getting in the playoffs," Bryant said. "And I can't say I didn't enjoy doing that."

The above quote is pure classic Kobe, and I love it! I hated the Suns for knocking us out of the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, and I'm glad he relishes a bit of revenge too. We all know that Kobe doesn't outwardly dwell on losses or on what games or accomplishments mean until well after the fact... but we also all know that he never forgets. He remembers everyone who doubted him, everyone who disrespected him, everyone who beat him. I hope he never becomes as bitter and cynical as Michael Jordan has, but he has that same killer mentality, that vengeful personality that must right the wrongs done to him. He might not admit it, but it is definitely part of what drives him. Along with the need to climb Bill Russell's ladder to the highest rung =)

While not related to last night's game, this quote might be even better. Kobe was asked about Derek Fisher and his penchant for late-game heroics and coming up big over the years: I asked Bryant if he immediately noticed the void of such a presence during his three seasons without Fisher.

"You mean when I was throwing it to Smush (Parker)?"


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