Game Notes: Magic at Lakers
What can Brown do for you?
The fans spoke. They wanted Shannon Brown in the Slam Dunk contest. Turns out, the NBA was listening and made things official on Monday morning with the announcement that the explosive guard will be a part of the high-flying festivities during All-Star Weekend.
Later in the evening, after hearing the good news, Brown was on top of the world. And for an encore, he went out and played some inspired ball, scoring a career-high 22 points for the Lakers in a 98-92 victory over the Magic in front of a crowded house at Staples Center.
With Kobe Bryant struggling, Phil Jackson was in search of a spark.
Brown provided it, of course. He came off the bench and scored 11 points in the second quarter as the Lakers took a five-point lead at halftime. Another nine points down the stretch, in the fourth quarter, sealed the win in a rematch of last season‘s NBA Finals.
One of the main reasons Brown received the invite to participate next month in Dallas is his knack, or flair, for finishing around the rim, sometimes above the goal, in dramatic fashion. It’s worth mentioning that his cause was helped by an underground movement that made its rounds on the Internet. Go ahead and check out LetShannonDunk.com for further proof.
“First, I’d like to say thank you to everybody out there that campaigned for me, everyone that voted for me, everyone that had my back this whole time,” Brown said. “It’s going to be something to watch. I have a couple dunk ideas, but I’m not going to give them away.”
Whether he takes home the hardware as the best dunker the League has to offer remains to be seen. One thing is certain: Brown is going to give defending champion Nate Robinson, Gerald Wallace, and either Eric Gordon or DeMar DeRozan, a run for their money.
*** During warm-ups, in the layup line, Vince Carter looks loose. He‘s dunking like he did back in the day. Maybe he hasn’t lost a step after all. Not to be outdone, Dwight Howard unleashes a couple of monster two-handed slams, much to the delight of the spectators sitting courtside. Matt Barnes gets in on the act too, showing some of the hops that made him a fan favorite when he attended college at nearby UCLA.
*** Did that really just happen? Jason Williams throws down a tomahawk dunk of his own. Well, kind of. He attacks the rim, and after getting a big boost from Rashard Lewis, White Chocolate finishes with authority. The Magic players get a kick out of the antics.
*** Enough fun and games. Time to get serious. Derek Fisher, the class act he is, is handed the microphone, steps to midcourt, and offers up some thoughtful words about Martin Luther King Jr. in observance of the national holiday. A standing ovation ensues.
*** Fisher is hot early on. He hits a pair of three-pointers, makes a layup and hands out an assist to Ron Artest, who buries a shot from way downtown. Lakers lead 21-8 at 5:01.
*** Lewis restores some order, knocking down a perimeter jumper. Carter nails one from beyond the arc. And Mickael Pietrus converts a layup as Orlando cuts the deficit down to six points with 3:35 left. Jackson has seen about enough and calls a timeout to regroup his team.
*** With Carter guarding him, Artest takes advantage of the size mismatch. He makes a layup as well as the subsequent free-throw to complete the conventional three-point play. Carter heads to the bench with his second foul. The Magic trail by nine points at 2:49.
*** Howard is having his way underneath the basket, throwing down his third dunk of the game to keep Orlando somewhat close. At the end of one, the Lakers lead by seven points.
*** After picking up a pair of quick fouls, Bynum returns and makes his presence felt immediately, on the opening possession. He follows a Jordan Farmar miss with a dunk over a Ryan Anderson.
*** Brown gets busy, hitting a pull-up jumper and knocking down a 21-footer and an 18-footer to prove he does more than just dunk. Two free-throws and a three-pointer later, the Lakers increase the advantage to 48-35 at 5:52.
*** Howard goes to work. A reverse slam and a jumper over Bynum appear effortless. A dunk in between Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom proves a bit more difficult. A bank shot from the wing shows his versatility. Unfortunately, the Magic are down nine points at 4:37.
*** Bryant makes a 16-footer, just his second field goal of the game, to give the Lakers and 11-point lead with 3:02 remaining. Kobe finishes the first half with a mere four points on 2-7 shooting. He does, however, contribute five assists and two rebounds.
*** Anderson knocks down two three-pointers just before the break. The Lakers are up 52-47 at intermission. Howard has 18 points, more than twice as many as any of his teammates.
*** Orlando opens the second half with a sense of urgency, Lewis in particular. Two easy buckets and three-pointer makes things interesting. Ultimately, the Magic battle back and take a one-point lead on a Jameer Nelson three-pointer at 7:01.
*** Another three-pointer from Lewis and one from Pietrus extends the advantage to 67-58 with 3:15 left on the clock. All this without the help of Howard
*** Gasol, Odom and Brown respond with baskets. At the end of the three, the Lakers trail by four points. Should be an interesting final 12 minutes.
*** Odom starts banging the boards, getting free down low and scoring on a pair of tip-ins to tie the score, 68-68, with 9:52 remaining in the game.
*** Farmar takes over. Truth be told, someone has to because it’s not going to be Bryant, not tonight. Farmar scores nine consecutive points. All of a sudden, the Lakers regain the momentum and the lead, for that matter, 71-68, at 8:17.
*** Gasol makes a demoralizing basket, capping a 15-0 run to extend the advantage to 11 points with 7:28 left. He finishes with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
*** At 6:37, Howard makes a free-throw, his first points of the second half, ending a personal 19-plus minute scoreless drought. The Magic are down 79-69 at this stage. Time is running out. Running out really fast.
*** Orlando makes one last rally. It wasn‘t meant to be. And Brown makes sure of that. He converts a pair of clutch free-throws to make it a two possession game with less than :30 seconds on the clock. Fittingly, he dribbles the ball across halfcourt as the final buzzer sounds on a 98-92 victory.
*** Kobe didn’t play particularly well. Everyone has an off night. It happens to the best of them. He finished with 11 points on 4-19 shooting from the field. It was that bad. Luckily, for once, he had help along the way. “Jordan and Shannon did a great job of coming in and creating havoc and that’s what we need them to do, create turnovers, create energy for us,” Bryant said afterward in front of 20-plus members of the media. “It was a bonus that they made shots.”
*** Howard managed just six points, one field goal, in the third and fourth quarters. He ended up with 24 points and 12 rebounds. “I don’t think they put the clamps on me,” he said. “They just double-teamed, and I had to pass it out to guys who hit shots. We just turned the ball over too much in the second half, and they went on a big run.”
*** Things don’t get any easier for the Lakers, who are about to embark on a road trip, beginning with Thursday’s game against LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers. During the press conference, Jackson was asked if his team was ready. His response: “I’m not totally sure about that. I’m not so happy about the way we’re playing.”