I’ve decided not to drink tonight so that I may take mildly intelligible notes throughout the game. The things that I do for you people.
(Should the Lakers fall apart, however, there’s a very good chance that I will be completing my game notes with a blood alcohol level well above the legal limit. You have been warned.)
Sam Cassell is in the TNT studio tonight, and I couldn’t be happier. Sam is one of my favorite people in the entire Association. How can you not love a guy who gleefully informs you that he has enormous testicles whenever he hits a big shot? He’s damn near impossible to dislike.
Cassell opens things up by chanting, “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe, …” I wonder who he’s rooting for tonight.
Speaking of Bryant, he has to go for 60+ for the Lakers to have a chance tonight, right? Anything less and I’ll be disappointed.
-Raja Bell opens the scoring by wetting a jumper from straight away.
-Two more Phoenix jumpers make it 6-0.
-Make that 9-0.
-An alley oop to a streaking Stoudemire (after rejecting Luke Walton with extreme prejudice) makes it 11-0.
Kevin Harlan: “A DEVASTATING start for the Phoenix Suns!” Thanks, Kevin. I needed that.
(I think some Laker fans are already walking out of Staples. Matter of fact, I might walk out of the room if this nonsense keeps up.)
-Kobe stops the bleeding momentarily by canning a jumper near the free throw line.
-Kobe. Again. Doug Collins is openly calling for Bryant to shoot each trip down the floor. Hard to argue with blondie.
(Here’s a wild guess: The triangle offense will be blatantly ignored this evening. I hope that Tex Winter stayed home.)
-Wow. Jordan Farmar finds himself mismatched with Kurt Thomas and his crazy eyes. Kurt scores with great ease and looks …well, he looks crazy. 11 point lead for Phoenix.
-Kwame Brown – who inexplicably finds himself in the starting lineup yet again. Seriously, Phil, do you enjoy making me suffer? – is actually playing decently in this game. He’s managed to avoid committing offensive fouls (or any fouls for that matter) by pile driving his shoulder into defenders, and has actually gotten two early fouls called on the Suns. It’s a small miracle to be perfectly honest with you.
-Coming out of a timeout, Craig Sager brings us a delightful little story about a car chase on the LA streets that delayed the arrival of both teams to the arena today. It turns out that some shirtless dude (it’s apparently the law that if you jack a car, you have to remove your top) stole a car and drove at amazingly slow speeds before surrendering when both tires gave out. He even dove belly first onto the ground before the cops slapped the cuffs on him. I enjoyed that.
-Kobe makes an INSANELY difficult reverse layup: Right side of the court, nasty shoulder fake to freeze Diaw, hangs for three seconds as he glides under the hoop, gets hacked by Kurt Thomas (no call), pumps a couple of times, and kisses it off the glass as he falls on his back. He’s not half-bad.
-In case you were wondering, Phoenix has pushed their lead up to 16 after Barbosa hits an absurdly open three pointer. What I’m wondering at this point, is what slitting my wrists would feel like…
(Doug Collins, I should let you know, has just shamelessly compared Leandro to Andrew “The Boston Strangler” Toney. I feel ill.)
-Kobe hits a baseline three, making it 31-17. After a rare Phoenix miss, the Lakers come the other way and Andrew Bynum ends up at the line after getting hacked on an alley oop attempt. I would love to tell you that Bynum hit both free throws, but I cannot. That would be a lie. 31-17 after the first q.
-How bad have things gotten for Smush Parker? He’s now coming into the game AFTER Shammond Williams. National television audience, meet Shammond. Shammond, say hello to national television audience.
-Amare – playing with two early fouls – has resorted to guarding Kwame Brown as if the pastry lover has some kind of highly infectious skin disease. As a result, Kwame is scoring with relative ease and looking comfortable in the paint.
-The Lakers have cut the Phoenix lead down to 9 with Kobe looking on from the bench. Your guess is as good as mine, folks.
-Hey, it’s Jack Nicholson celebrating a belated birthday. That’s gotta be a good sign, right? Jack accidentally smeared some of the birthday cake on his jacket but he doesn’t seem to mind a whole lot. To be fair, his nonchalance might have something to do with the 15 Rum&Cokes he inhaled before the game.
-Did Kobe just dunk on Amare (he was late arriving and kind of ducked out the way, but still) after making Marion fall on his ass? The answer you’re looking for would be “yes”. Yes, he did.
-After Diaw converts on a reverse layup, Kwame comes back with a two-handed shot off the window. Whatever, I’ll take it. Kwame for President! 37-30 with 7 minutes to go.
-Bryant gets to the hole and scores on an and-1. TNT cameras then catch Ronny Turiaf dancing in celebration on the bench. His hair (in a ponytail) makes him look like an enormous, cross-dressing grandmother. Not a good look.
-Phoenix is playing at a shockingly slow pace. Barbosa gets ripped in the backcourt and Kobe gets a layup (plus the foul) on the other end. Four point game. MVP chants. Um…
-STAT. Jam inside. Filthy.
-Kobe Bryant has decided to take over this game. A jumper in transition makes it 42-40 with a little over 3 minutes remaining in the first half. Staples is positively rocking. Good times are being had by all.
-Amare and Kwame trade hoops. Kwame shoved Stoudemire out of the way to get his, but we’ll ignore that for now.
(I’m not sure who this Kwame Brown character is, but I like him. He must be new to the team.)
-Lamar knocks down a triple and it’s 51-48 for the Suns as we go into halftime. Hope springs eternal.
-Sam Cassell in the studio at halftime discussing Kobe: “He’s not Jordan, but he’s not Harold Miner. He’s the best we’ve got right now.” (Everyone laughs). Have I mentioned that I’m thoroughly enjoying the Sam Cassell experience?
-The Lakers handed out yellow t-shirts to the fans before the game. This being image-conscious Hollywood, hardly anyone is wearing them. Gotta love it.
-51-50 after a Luke Walton hoop from in-close.
(By the way, I fully expect a back-breaking run by the Suns to happen at any moment. Laker fandom is not enjoyable.)
-Luke ties it at 53.
-It can be argued that Nash is having an off night; thanks to a swarming Laker defense, he has struggled to get into the lane for those little fallaways he likes to shoot and seems to be having trouble finding guys in the right spots. That being said, he still has something like 10 assists. He’s a decent player.
-Kobe – after baiting Raja into a foul behind the three-point line – gives the Lakers their first lead of the night. The crowd is going absolutely bananas. It should be noted that the Lakers are dominating the offensive glass.
-Phoenix comes right back and reclaims the lead as Marion fills the lane beautifully on the break. It must be nice to root for a team that has good players at nearly every position. *Sigh*
-Barbosa is back in the game. I might need a drink…or four.
-Kobe attacks the cup and gets yet another and-1. Lots of layups for the Mamba tonight. He’s going to get the calls on his home floor, so he might as well keep going towards the hoop.
-Oh, sweet fancy Moses! Kwame comes crashing down after missing a jump hook and seems to have twisted his ankle. There can only be one conclusion after this turn of events: Jesus hates the Lakers.
-Brown stays in the game somehow, and even more incredibly, he dunks on three straight possessions. What in the world is going on here? I don’t know, but I like it.
-Kobe eludes both Marion and Nash and scores on a nifty scoop layup; Barbosa answers with a baseline three. One-point game.
-The Suns can’t buy a bucket inside tonight, and like I mentioned before, the Lakers are grabbing every offensive rebound in sight.
(Barbosa coming back down to Earth has certainly helped the Lakers’ cause tonight, as has Kwame’s sudden and completely unexpected transformation into a young Moses Malone.)
-Luke sends Diaw to the line with 23.5 seconds remaining in the third. Boris makes it 74-70 (Lakers leading) as we head into the final quarter.
-Barbosa hits a three. After a Kobe jumper, Leandro knocks down another jumper. Uh oh…
-Kobe then hits a three and Lamar slithers in for a pretty finger roll. 83-75 Lakers lead.
-Diaw takes a leisurely walk around a flat-footed Brian Cook and gets an embarrassingly easy layup. Someone should slap Cook after that.
-Terrible possession for the Lakers: No ball movement at all, Kobe gets iso’d and decides to dribble between his legs for what feels like an eternity before launching (and missing) a jumper. Ugh.
-Barbosa is starting to blow by dudes like they don’t exist. Lead down to four.
-Kobe gets a steal and goes by a helpless Raja for a layup. Diaw comes right back and lays it in. Take that!
-The Lakers aren’t grabbing any more offensive boards and Phoenix is starting to find their offensive groove. Nash is doing that thing he does where he sucks the defense in and finds a cutter (that apparently only he and God can see) at the very last moment for a relatively easy shot.
(Can you tell that I’m nervous?)
-Kobe with another horrendous possession: He tried to go through four defenders by his lonesome and ended up throwing up a no-look fling (hoping to get a call, which he obviously didn’t get). What happened to the trust, homey?
-Phoenix, thankfully, is once again stinking it up on the offensive end. No rhythm and shots are clanging off the rim.
-Kobe redeems himself by getting his 40th and 41st points of the night on an easy drive around Raja. 89-84 (3 minutes to go).
-Amare gets hacked inside and cuts the lead to three with 2 freebies.
-What in the hell?! Shammond Williams, for one brief and disturbing moment, forgets that his name is Shammond Freaking Williams and takes a wildly ill-advised jumper. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. I am stunned.
-F*cking (!!!) Barbosa ties the ballgame with a baseline three. Lawdy Lawd…
-Odom inside. 91-89 (1:30 to go)
-Some dude wearing a hideous red turtleneck (and one of those chin-strap facial hair things) is sitting directly behind Doug Collins and Kevin Harlan. I have no idea why I feel the need to share this information with you all, but I do. I’m delirious at this point.
-Kobe hits a huge fallaway jumper over Raja, and Amare gets stuffed on the other end. Kobe then ices things by getting to the line for two more free throws. Cash.
-With the outcome no longer in doubt, Smush Parker decides to fly in for a dunk, but Raja Bell has other ideas. After the hard foul, Mike D’Antoni can be seen yelling at Smush for trying to show up his squad (I’m pretty sure he said something that rhymed with “That’s bullshit”.) Can’t really blame D’Antoni for being upset there. Dumb move by Smush.
(Alright, time to breathe…Lakers live to fight another day…Final score: 95-89. Bryant ends up with 45 points, 6 boards, and 6 dimes.)
-By the way, if anyone thought I was joking in my game 2 recap about Doug Collins rooting for the Lakers, you need to watch the Inside the NBA Replay on NBA.com. You will see Kobe and Doug sharing a very special moment right before tip off. Hmm…
-Can Kobe go off again? Will Kwame remember to bring his surprising basketball skills with him to the gym? Will Phoenix struggle to run their offense again? Can Barbosa be contained? Can the Lakers continue to dominate the glass?
These are tough questions, and they must be answered on Sunday in game 4. If you’re not eagerly awaiting this game, there’s a very good chance that you are dead.