by John Krolik

Pre-game

“Going to school in LA without a car” remains an advantage: The F-Dash bus scores a DNP for a half-hour, then a cab conveniently comes to the bus stop. So that’s 10 extra dollars.

Phil Jackson, in his pre-game conference, talks about how he’s trying to get Sasha Vujacic to settle down like he did last year and not take his reduced minutes as a reason to start gunning madly, stating that they had a talk a week ago and noting a game where “in the fourth quarter, of our first 10 shots, Sasha took seven of them.” Sasha Time.

Vlad Radmanovic, still ailing from a nasty poke that left him with a pretty gruesome-looking Inspirationbloodshot eye, reveals to all of us his solution for the problem: not just goggles, but Amber-tilted Oakley sunglasses that look like they’re used for skiing. DJ Mbanga is amused by this to no end, and when Radman isn’t looking puts them on to go warm up. Words don’t really do this exchange justice—you haven’t lived until you’ve seen massive people giving each other crap about ridiculous-looking goggles.

Overall, the Laker locker room is very loose and everybody’s having a good time—this is what a one-loss locker room looks like.

In-game

– Hey, the Maroon 5 guy is here! I guess there’s no reason for him to be at the AMAs across the street. (Ba-ZING!)

– Don’t tell the Laker crowd the Kings rivalry is over (officially ending with the Arco crowd giving Kobe an “M-V-P” chant last season). There’s HEALTHY booing when the Kings are announced.

– Radman bangs his first three in the goggles. I’m going to follow this storyline.

– The Kings appear to really want to push the ball, but they run the funniest break ever. There’s no spacing at all, they don’t give up the ball, and they don’t give each other angles. They basically just get a lot of people up there fast and try to figure everything out.

– Entering the game for the Kings: Bobby Brown! (Ha Ha something something.)

– Wow, Bobby Brown is actually REALLY fast with the ball. Everyone on press row just went to their game notes to find out who this guy is: undrafted, played in Europe last year, Hornets summer league invite, played well, Kings snapped him up with a two-year guaranteed deal while the Hornets were still waiting on Pargo.

– Kobe comes out 4-4, with two free throws giving him 10 points in the first five minutes. Kobe Bryant: Good at basketball.

– Sasha ends the quarter with a pull-up three with nobody in front of him as time expires: you don’t see that every day. If it weren’t for Bobby Brown turning it over instead of running the clock down (Ha Ha Whitney Houston something something), the Kings would only be down two: they came out banging jumpers and got 27 points on the Lakers’ no. 1-rated D.

– Sign of the Lakers defensive emphasis: They give tacos to the fans for a win where the other team is held to under 100 points. So there you go.

– In the third quarter, the Lakers open the game right up with an eight-point run accentuated by Lamar Odom getting a fast-break block and running the floor for a layup at the other end. The Lakers are up big, and the Kings are all but dead in the water. Wild card, bitches.

– The “noise-meter” gets the crowd louder than it’s been all night. I hate this city. I really do.

– Part of the Lakers’ home-court advantage: time-outs don’t quiet the crowd, because the Laker Girls perform during time-outs. I see the famed Song Girls every Saturday, and I’ve seen a lot of cheerleaders in my life: whatever the Laker Girls do, they’re the best at it.

– Kobe, quiet since the opening five minutes, gets annoyed with John Salmons and gets two quick baskets on him. You could literally tell from the look on his face that he was going to score when he caught the ball.
Bobby's rockin'
– Bobby Brown is flat-out keeping the Kings from folding—he’s hitting everything he looks at, and he can get wherever he wants on the floor. (Ha Ha Crack Cocaine something something.)

– Bobby Jackson’s hot too—Put 3 Doors Down on the radio! It’s 2001 in the Staples Center! The lead is cut to six.

6:17 to go — Mamba’s back in the game.

4:26 to go — 10-point Laker lead, and the Laker Girls are dancing to “Tricky.” Morale: High.

1:30 to go — It’s a 12-point lead, and everyone’s leaving. Good Game. The Kings wanted it more, but the Lakers are much better at basketball, although this was a shootout instead of a showcase of the normally suffocating Laker D. Bobby Brown goes off for a career-high 21 points on 13 shots. Remember how that Laker D might be especially vulnerable to penetration by fast guards? Vlad: 4-5 from three with the goggles. I thought Kobe had a bad game, but then I checked the sheet and he got 24. Kobe Bryant: again, he’s good at basketball.

Post-game

Radmanovic:

– Winning without the Lakers playing their best can be both a good thing and a bad thing, as it shows they’re talented but can lead to complacency.

– When told he hit 4 threes with the goggles, Vlad immediately replies, “I hit five threes in Phoenix without them.” You don’t hit 23-foot shots for a living without confidence.

– Sadly, Radman won’t keep wearing the goggles past when he needs them, saying he’s not superstitious like that.

The One and Only Bobby Brown:

– When asked how he feels shattering his career high in a loss, Brown is refreshingly honest and says he felt pretty good out there playing so well against a top team. You ask me, nearly doubling your career high against the best team on the planet right now means you should feel good about yourself.

– He reveals that Theus told him to make sure he was pushing the ball at all times and keep the Lakers’ extreme zone from getting set up or comfortable.

– His year away from the NBA with ALBA Berlin under coach Luka Pavicevic was beneficial for him, as he got to spend time starting at point guard for a good team with a taskmaster coach who forced him to play the right way.

– When asked the most obvious question there is, Bobby anticipates the end of the question before it’s finished, laughs, and says that going by Rob or Robert or Robbie or Bob just wouldn’t feel right to him, saying Bobby was what they called him in elementary school and that’s what he’s going to stick with. I like it. You need thick skin to succeed in the NBA.

– When asked if anything “clicked” during his last two games, clearly the best ones of his career, he says it doesn’t feel different, he’s just working out and shooting the ball.

– Kobe Bryant in person: Really intimidating, polite, cordial, extremely well-dressed. He says he “takes the shots when they’re there,” says it’s tough to adjust to the great passing Sacramento gets from their bigs, and when asked how a team adjusts when an unheralded guy like Bobby Brown gets hot, says “You have to identify on ‘em, contest their shots, make sure they’re not getting easy looks.” Kobe Bryant: Good at…basketball.