Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Second Season: Day 4

Here's the goal: after each day's slate of games wraps up, I want to get a post up about the night that was in the NBA. Now, keep in mind that I have fallen short of every single goal I have ever set for this website - seriously, every single one - so, you know, take this for what it's worth.

Just to get it out of the way: the Raptors evened their series with the Nets, but since it was on NBATV, five people saw it. Good for you, Toronto. Steal one in NJ and we'll talk.


TNT beamed two beat downs into my living room last night: Chicago kicked off the evening with a thorough thrashing of the listless Heat and then Phoenix annihilated the Lakers. Here's the difference: both losers head home where they have a chance to even their respective series. If Miami won a game, I don't think you'd be too hard pressed to find someone who was all that caught off guard. If LA somehow managed to come up with a W, I would be shocked.

PHX didn't just blow out the Lakers, they crushed their spirit. They broke them. They tore their heart out. The Suns were relentless. They just pushed and pushed and pushed and then crammed the ball down the Lakers' throat. It was almost to the point where it was too much. I kept seeing Mel Gibson in
Braveheart killing dudes that'd been dead for ten minutes. You could see it in Phoenix' eyes: they were sending a message, and if the Lakers didn't get it, let me paraphrase: You can not play with us. Get the hell off our court. Don't even bother trying, because it won't be worth it.

And you know what? LA did just that. Early in the third quarter, the Lakers - sans Ronny Turiaf (maters) - quit. They just had enough. They couldn't take it anymore. They just laid down and let Phoenix run all over them. They didn't put up a fight. No one yelled, slammed a ball, committed a hard foul (Odom grabbing Nash for no good reason doesn't count; in any other game, Nash kissing his little biceps in response would have been the most denigrating aspect of the night). They just let Phoenix score, hung their head, inbounded the ball, made some sorry, half-assed attempt to score and then let the whole process happen all over again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Kobe took it personal when he was accused on bailing on his team in this exact same instance last season. All signs pointed to him tanking, but, hey - he was the ultimate competitor, the closest thing to MJ since MJ, and it just didn't add up. But he quit last night and you'll never convince me otherwise.

There was a play early in the third quarter where he had the ball stripped from him and he just stopped playing. Just stopped. He didn't bust his ass back to try to get the ball back, he didn't trail the play, he didn't even bitch to a ref. He just stopped, like,
fuck this. He just had enough of killing himself for no good reason. Whether he has reason enough to quit - hey, they ain't winning anyways - is up to smarter people than me to figure out, but he quit tonight (and probably last year, too).

He has to be feeling underappreciated. He kills himself for 48 minutes trying to keep a critically undermanned team in a game to the point that he's so exhausted in the fourth quarter that he can barely keep up, and then all he hears - from the media, from his
own coach - is that he has to involve his teammates more. You can see why he'd balk at the idea: no one out there is playing even half as hard as he is, except for Ronny Turiaf (matters). Smush doesn't even try, Odom gets lost staring into space, Kwame is worthless, Farmar is better off not trying because every time he does, Nash takes it personal for some reason and just abuses him for the next minute or so (Nash had some weird fixation with Farmar, I think: watch the next time Farmer scores - Nash will push it faster than usual, take him one-on-one, get to the rim and either score or find some one. Every time). So, yea, Kobe stops being Kobe just to send a message. It's a misguided attempt to show just how important he is, but I can see where he is coming from.

But the Lakers are done. They are 12 mental midgets being coached by someone who thinks he's "letting his players figure things out" but is really "not coaching." Seriously, Phil - 9 and a half minutes to call a time out in the third? You sure you are trying?

That series is over.

The Heat, on the other hand, still have a chance, but that is about it. If they don't get both games in Miami, they are D-U-N.

Miami's guards just can't handle Chicago's. It looks like a March Madness game, guards penetrating at will, driving and kicking all over the place. In fact, that is exactly what it is: the Bulls are a random 12-seed you never heard of who pull the opening weekend upset.

They have guards who can drive and kick and then knock down the open shot, they have the foreign dude who does a little bit of everything, they have the freaky athletic guy who wreaks havoc all over the place, and they have the small, undersized post player who has to outplay everyone with his effort.

The Heat are the under achieving conference powerhouse: the dominant big man, the super star guard, a bunch of role players who defer to them and then un-clutch when they get called upon in the big stage.

Lucky for the Heat this is a seven-game series and not a one-and-done proposition. How can anyone really expect the Heat to win this series, though, when after Game 1, Wade said the Heat played like this was a regular season game (I
knew they didn't always play hard!) and then after Game 2, Shaq says the intensity needs to go about by "two times, three times, ten times." They are just getting outplayed; the Bulls want it more.

It'll be interesting to see how both the Heat and Lakers play for game three. If the Heat show up, they have a chance; it really doesn't matter what the Lakers do.

3 comments so far. Might as well add your own.:

twins15 said...

I really do think the Bulls and Suns are just too good. It's obvious with the Suns, but I think with an ailing Wade the Heat just don't have near the firepower to keep up with Chicago. I honestly wouldn't really be surprised with a sweep.

grittysquirrels said...

Agree with Jon (as usual). I really with Wade was healthy for the Heat because I think that would be an extremely entertaining series if he was.

point 23 said...

I'm with you fellas: the Heat and Lakers are just fighting fights they can't win.

Although I think even with a healthy Dwyane Wade, the Bulls still come up with this series. It would be much closer, but I think the youngster have just passed The Retirement Home by.

Miami gives serious minutes to five guys who have been in the league for at least a decade and their starting PG was been playing 8. They're just too old.