By Khalid Salaam
I go into this game totally assuming that it will be the best game of the series, which it was but it sure didn’t start off like that. I had gotten accustomed to clowning Laker fans for their watery support in the beginning of game 3 (the arena was ¼ empty during a large part of the 1st qt in game 3) but for game 4 they are out in droves. Staples had near full capacity at tip-off, something I have to admit surprised me (Btw I saw way too many Celtic jerseys last night and nobody seemed to say much to the people rocking them. That includes women Boston fans as well. I mean c’mon, there is no way that’s acceptable).
At the start of the game the crowd keeps getting amped whenever Pau Gasol touches the ball and he keeps letting them down. He can’t do anything right it seems but the Lakers fans are so positive that they keep encouraging him. Its actually really weak on the part of Laker fans and if he played on a east coast team he would surely be getting booed by now and possibly assailed with nasty words about his home country. At least Odom started off well. Being more active and seemingly discovering overnight that he was in fact playing in the NBA Finals and not playing it on Xbox.
Celtics are just so jumbled at the start but its not like they haven’t had moments like this during the playoffs, everyone wants them to turn into a superpower but they always seem to make it hard. That’s just their style I guess. Being down by 20 at the end of the 1st quarter still sucks though. And they accomplish all this with Kobe playing set-up man, a role I personally think is okay for him to play but not in game the Lakers had to have. There’s a lot of talk about how he should shoot less but I totally figured and hoped Kobe would come out kamikaze style and drop a 50-point game on the C’s.
During the breaks they bring out the Laker Girls and I have to say they are indefensibly terrible. I noticed that during game 3 but wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, anyone can have an off game I told myself. Well to be certain they come out and dance so rigidly that I just laugh to myself. They are very safe, which is the exact opposite of the Knicks dancers for example, who push the envelope in their creative raunchiness. (I’m sure one of them has syphilis or something.)
In the 2nd qt the Celtics are playing like they did in the Cavs series. Not forming any consistent kind of offensive sets or holding on to the ball. Down 45-21 at the 5:26 mark all the journalists up here in the press box are getting restless. Nobody hates blowouts as much as writers and I look around and see several people with angry scowls and frustrated demeanors. When I glance over at the stat screen in Staples and see that as of Odom hasn’t missed a shot, which makes me think this is the Lakers game even with the recent run the Celtics make to cut the lead to teen numbers. Probably just gonna be one of those boring games I say to myself.
The arena in Staples shows the promo for the new Will Smith movie “Hancock” and then the camera zooms on Smith who smiles at the camera and does his dance from the “Getting Jiggy With It” video. Can’t say that I care much about seeing this particular flick but I respect his latest roles. I Am Legend had me on some other sh*t.
ESPN’s Jemele Hill and Lang talking about the new 90210 show mentally interrupts me. Apparently Lang is amped about this. I just shake my head in disbelief and keep typing. They call a 3rd foul on Kobe late in the 1st half, which infuriates the home crowd. Yeah Laker fans, get angry, please.
I argue with Lang on that Farmar play to close the half. Looks like a walk to me but whatever. I still say the playoffs should add an extra ref since they seem so over matched. Most of these guys are in their 40’s and 50’s. To have them running up and down trying to stay at the pace of guys half their age only adds to their inability to make all the calls necessary. Personally, I’m proud of this idea.
Really disappointed that the halftime show consists of some dude named Peter Rabbit who banged on two buckets and called that an act. I’ve seen better riding the D train home after work. Isn’t this LA after all? The Finals at that, they couldn’t get Usher in here? WTF.
I started drifting off during the 3rd qt, not sleep just staring at the crowd and wishing for a competitive game. For all the mega-hype between these teams there hasn’t been 1 single classic game yet. Besides the Pierce injury moment I’m unconvinced that there has even been a classic moment yet. During one of the TV timeouts they do the obligatory celebrity close-up. When they show Jada Pinkett Lang says something disparaging. I ignore him as always. Never met a sane man who didn’t think she was hot (remember Lang is amped about 90210 so I rest my case).
When Eddie House hits that 3 towards the end of the 3rd qt the mood of the arena changes. People are still clapping and doing the “lets go Lakers!” chant but that’s only because they’re conditioned too, not because they’re energized. The PJ dunk officially sets the crowd into a shook moment.
The Celtics stay flirting with taking the lead for several minutes and even though Kobe is trying to hold them off the score remains close. Everyone in the arena is slathered up now, press included. People are standing and yelling, faux fans are screaming “MVP” and cookie-cutter writers are typing fast as they can, I assume updating their respective websites.
The Ray Allen fall down and then get up and pass to Posey play pulls a yell out of me. Only to be bested by Eddie House’s INYOFACE jumper. When LA falls down by 5 the Lakers girls come back out and fail to impress yet again. This is the biggest potential morale boost of the season and all they do is jump around and clap. I expecting some flips like those high school cheerleaders do. This is just pathetic. The crowd barely acknowledges them and they get a sympathetic applause as they vacate. Kobe is 6 for 19 btw and can’t complain that he didn’t get enough help. Although Sasha allowing Ray Ray to blow past him and the entire country of Slovenia was a disgrace and will end up being the most memorable play of this game. Sasha’s dad is a coach btw, no judgments but crap that was a terrible play. Happy Father’s Day.
When I ask him in the locker room if he was supposed to get help he sighs and shakes his head back and forth slightly before responding with “uuhh, no. It doesn’t matter now I just made the wrong play.”
He didn’t want to throw Pau under the bus it seems but if you watch the replay you can tell that Pau was supposed to help and was way out of position. I thought there was a whistle or something the way Ray Allen strolled to the rim, I just cannot believe how easy that was. Five minutes after the game there are about 50 Laker fans still in the seats and a small (7 maybe) contingency of Celtic fans yelling something indecipherable but surely positive. Laker fans are blown and somewhat in shock. During the postgame TV show Lakers legend Michael Cooper offers up this priceless gem– “The Lakers lost a home game, well, the playoffs have officially started.”
No BS, that’s what he said.
The only silver lining to this game is that now Kobe has a chance to prove once and for all how great he is. This is Kobe’s chance to push himself into all-time top ten considerations. If he wants to be truly great this is his biggest opportunity. I personally think Kobe is amazing but he has not had that unstoppable offensive game yet in this series. Maybe its his finger or the Celtics defense is just truly great. No team has ever come back down 3-1 in the Finals but if KB24 can do it he’ll deserve all the accolades bestowed on him. I think it ends in game 5 but we’ll see.