Lakers/Rox Game 3 Recap
The Lakers steal home whenever they want.
Game 3 had all the build up of a prize fight between Ali and Frazier, with the assumed advantage going to Houston at home, particularly with Derek Fisher serving a one game suspension. Yeah, about that.
Before the game, there were some intriguing sights.
In case you had forgotten, Adam Morrison still plays in the league. The NBA Playoffs. Where the kid on side of the milk carton happens.
Also, Von Wafer will have a job as the And 1 hype man once he leaves the league. Just saying. The cat is intense.
A sign in the crowd read “Kobe: When Ron says no, he really means NO.” Houston fans aren’t pulling any punches this series, but neither is Kobe, so does that make them even? Nah, it doesn’t. Those signs are uncalled for.
The L.A. Lakers looked once again like a championship team, or to go Dennis Green on you, “They are who we thought they were!” The Lakers got off to another tremendous start but you got the feeling that if the Rockets could handle the surge of the Lakers’ home cro… oh wait.
Kyle Lowry said, “Those guys came out aggressive. They put their stamp on this game, so we have to come back and put our defensive stamp on the game. We had a good defensive stretch but they made some big plays and hurt us.”
Much was made of Derek Fisher’s one game suspension, but it actually helped the Lakers. Jordan Farmar’s quickness limited the passing windows for Aaron Brooks, clearly frustrating him. His 12 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 1 turnover were critical to the win.
In the locker room after the game, Farmar told me the key was, “Really controlling the tempo was important, especially on the road in the Playoffs. You can’t let the game get out of hand. It starts with me, the point guard, to not turn the ball over and distribute the ball when you need it. Kobe was hot early. We got Pau the ball, got Odom the ball and got Trevor some shots. We just spread the ball around and use our talent.”
You have to cheer for a hometown guy like Farmar. He has fought through adversity and come out on top. After the game, he talked about what this game meant to him.
“You never know how this league works or what the situation is going to be,” said Farmar. “We have a team that’s going for a championship and a whole city behind me. It’s a place that I grew up in, and loved and watched. You just gotta be ready to step up when you get that call.”
Kobe Bryant echoed those sentiments.
“I’m very proud of him. It’s one of the things we talked about while he wasn’t playing for a period. He stayed with the team and worked on his game, because the opportunity’s going to come. You have to be ready to step up for it. Tonight he played extremely well for us.”
Lamar Odom chimed in with some love for Farmar as well.
“Jordan, it was tough. He missed time because he got hurt and wasn’t playing as much. He got his call tonight and he answered it. That’s why we call him Little Pro. Derek [Fisher] is Big Pro and Jordan is Little Pro. He was ready, prepared and I don’t think he turned the ball over tonight.”
Kobe switched up his game tonight, getting teammates open looks. He told me, “I’m just doing what I do best, challenging other teams to do something with it. We. as a team, play off of that. It’s on me to be aggressive. When a double team comes, I gotta hit my teammates.”
Let’s make something clear. Kobe’s an amazing player, arguably the most skilled player in the game, maybe ever. He can break down any defender, and I mean any. Nobody doubts that. But dude threw ANOTHER elbow on Artest in the 3rd and he continues to jaw at Shane Battier without provocation. His 3 at the end of the 3rd was the dagger in the Rockets’ heart, but he kills the beauty of it by rocking a Buffalo stance in the middle of the court after. Kobe is too talented to be doing that, but I guess that’s what makes him such a polarizing character. He has become the Alex Rodriguez of the NBA, a rare talent that is letting it get drowned out by the things that don’t matter. Play ball and we will love you for it, Mamba, I promise.
I’m not going to be confused for Rick Adelman any time soon, but has anybody considered double teaming Kobe? Anybody? Luic Scola shaded him in the 3rd quarter, but the Rockets need to make it their mission to contain Kobe. If they get beaten by the rest of L.A., like they did tonight, so be it.
If Barack Obama wants to push for a more environment friendly America, he could start by cleaning up a nuclear meltdown in Houston.The Rockets lost because they continuously made uncharacteristic mental errors and bad passes. The Rockets have made their name because of their crisp defensive rotations, which were surprisingly absent in the 1st quarter, and limitation of turnovers. They had 11 by the half. Sick.
Yao Ming spoke about the breakdown, saying, “Each quarter we had our problems. The first quarter we gave them fast break points. The turnovers in that second quarter. Then the third, we didn’t show up. By the fourth quarter, it was too late.”
Von Wafer said, “We have to give a better effort. They killed us off the turnovers. They got 20 points off the turnovers. You have to limit that because they’re already the best or second best team in the NBA. You can’t give them that many points. They’re going to beat you every time.”
The Lakers matched the Rockets’ aggressiveness and were quicker to 50/50 balls. Luke Walton, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom had timely shots, killing any momentum the Rockets were gaining.
Luke Walton talked to me about the depth of the Lakers, saying, “We pride ourselves on being a deep team. We know we have the superstars and we feel like if we get production out of different guys each night, along with scoring from our stars, we are really tough to beat. You have to give credit to a lot of guys. Jordan that haven’t been in the rotation lately. He comes in and plays 32 minutes, has double digit scoring, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. That type of performance s huge for a team. It’s a big reason that we won the game.”
Ariza has been great all season and doesn’t mind his guy doubling Kobe.
“That’s fine with me. I’m going to keep shooting them as long as I’m open,” said Ariza.
The Rockets had more rebounds on the night, but it looked like the Lakers were getting every second chance opportunity. That’s what happens when a team is aggressive.
The story of the night will inevitably be Ron Artest’s ejection. We should be talking about the Lakers’ defensive intensity and bench support, but let’s get on the refs for a bit. I don’t want to say the refs in the NBA Playoffs are smoking crack, but they just hired Pookie from New Jack City to sub in Game 4. The officials are calling the games far too tight as a preventative measure. Every player I talked to said that the ejection was uncalled for, even Pau Gasol, who said, “It wasn’t an intentional hit to be dirty, but at the same time it was still physical.”
Yao told me that he’d have committed the hard foul the same way as Ron on the play ,and that the physical play isn’t hurting the Rockets.
“We still play the way we play. The foul that got Artest ejected, it seems like I’d foul a little hard too because I don’t want to get dunked on. It looked like on that, an and one play, you want to foul hard. Ron did and he’s obviously strong.”
By the way, if anybody sees Sasha Vujacic, tell him to give Von Wafer his head back. Vujacic cracks me up. He hits one shot all game and runs to tell Andrew Bynum that he’s on fire. Then he proceeds to miss his next 2 shots. Not that the Vujacic- Von Wafer battle isn’t the stuff of legends, but maybe it’s time to tone it down. I also think “The Machine” has a man crush on Kobe. Just saying. He should. He’s made his postseason career off Kobe’s leftovers.
I called Lamar Odom the X-Factor of this series and he proved me right this game. He got into foul trouble but set the pace on the first score of the game, a crowd dejecting alley oop. His dunk off a rebound near the end of the game put the exclamation on the Lakers’ statement. They aren’t afraid of anyone on the road. Yeah, even you, Cleveland.
Luis Scola is going to get a fat paycheck for the way he has played. Mark it down.
Now down 2-1 at home, the Rockets must win Game 4. It’s that simple. Whether they can do that depends on Yao Ming’s health. He is getting tests on his foot, which was aggravated in Game 3. Also, we will see if Stu Jackson decides to suspend Ron Artest. If so, the Rockets are as good as done. If Houston wins Game 4, this series is going to 7. Believe that.
The Lakers have officially shaken off the rust that came from a layoff, and have taken control of this series. They’ve also proven they can win playing any style of basketball. But they also know that the Rockets aren’t going to give them any game for free. There’s no quit in Houston. That’s okay. The Lakers are proving that they have the killer instinct, as they have almost all season long against Houston. A win in Game 4 for them essentially ends the series. I’m calling it. Kobe scores 100. Okay, not really… maybe.