by Adam Figman | @afigman
Yeah, this happened. I imagine you’ve either seen the game or highlights by now, but a quick recap: back-and-forth until late in the fourth, when Miami jumped ahead behind some clutch maneuvers from Dwyane Wade (20 points) and some defensive stops. The Heat were sending intense double-teams at Kobe Bryant (24 points) almost every play, and in the final three or so minutes, the Lakers just couldn’t find the open guy to knock down the needed buckets. Kobe did drain one crazy deep three, but besides that, nothing went down. Miami came through when it mattered and held on for the win.
Two thoughts, not based on any mathematical formula or statistical evidence. Full disclosure: I’m writing this having not even re-watched any highlights or read any recaps yet, so you know it’s from the gut. Just a pair of general feelings:
—There was this intangible, unprovable vibe of shyness that radiated from every Laker not named Kobe, and/or Kobe was just more unwilling to share the crunch-time pressure than usual. Maybe both. I realize this happens every time Kobe is on the floor late, and deservedly so (he is really, really good at basketball), but this time it felt forced, even excessive; Bryant was bringing the ball up the floor, dribbling out of and through double-teams, and launching threes from all over the place, all while his teammates either failed to get open or just went unseen. There were a couple times L.A. simply needed to find the open shooter or an isolated big man, and could’ve with a couple of smart passes, but they didn’t (or couldn’t?), and it was ultimately the difference. Long after the contest was over, Kobe stayed on the court taking shots, which tells me he’s blaming this one on himself and his inability to sink those late, wild Js, but I’m of the opinion that he’d be better off studying film and figuring out how to prepare for double-and-triple-teams 30+ feet from the hoop, rather than refining his already-refined jumper. Although it’s possible that his post-game shooting routine was just some form of therapy/anger management, which is why Kobe is Kobe, and other players are, you know, not Kobe. So, there’s that.
—The Heat, meanwhile, went to Dwyane Wade more than they did LeBron James (19 points, and he did throw in a huge dunk late after Wade forced a steal) in the final minutes, or at least it certainly felt that way. When the Heat are feeding Bron, he truly dominates the ball, diagramming pick-and-rolls and setting up isolations for himself. But with DWade, there was something more subtle about his go-to status, as if the ball knew Dwyane was the guy who could take care of it but didn’t want anybody to know it was thinking that, so it smoothly found him without offending any of the other players. And it worked. The the way Miami maintained control just felt smart, as if the team had actually learned/practiced how to close out games, as opposed to that empty feeling we’ve been constantly left with after watching them brick contested jumpers or force smothered, left-handed drives as the clock winds down. So, there’s that, too.
After a rough loss against the Hornets, it made sense that the Mavs would come out extra focused last night, and that they were, getting going quickly and leading by 20-something by the second quarter. The Knicks threatened slightly, but never got much closer than the mid-teens, and the Mavs held on pretty easily. Shawn Marion led Dallas with 22, while Dirk Nowitzki put in 20. New York was led by Amar’e Stoudemire (36 points), and also recieved 32 from rookie Landry Fields. The Mavericks host the Lakers tomorrow night; the Knicks welcome the Pacers to the Big Apple on Sunday.
(Sidebar: For more Knicks talk, hit up Yves Saint’s post from yesterday.
The Nuggets shot 51.7 percent from the field, 10.6 percent better than the Suns, as they cruised to the win late last night in Phoenix. Nene led ’em with 22, Ty Lawson dropped 20 and dished 11, and Wilson Chandler added 16 in the victory, Denver’s fourth in five games. Safe to say that Melo trade didn’t kill these guys so much as it just made them stronger and a lot hungrier.
Last Call: Charles Barkley’s opening rant yesterday was extra Charles Barkey-ish.