By: Holly MacKenzie
Okay, lets just get started. Last night was ridiculously amazing and we have got a ton to get through. I’m still on a complete high as well as feeling more than a little delirious from my big Lakers win. Oh yes. Since the Laker/Phoenix game was such a huge deal for me, I have to admit I flipped through games before it started but once it came on, that was it. I didn’t watch anything else and I feel okay with that, even though there were some WILD performances going on around the L.
Because we have so many individual performances to talk about (not to mention discussing the seemingly-limitless possibilities for the Lakeshow), we will see how many recaps we get down. Knowing myself, there is a chance I will still be writing when it is time to post, so lets just see where we end up.
Before we get into any actual games, while watching the Raptors pre-game show they were discussing the age limit in the NBA draft before talking about Dwight Howard (since the Raptors were facing the Magic), and how well he has done in the league straight from high school. They put up their list of top five high-school-to-pros. The line-up was ridiculous.
KG, Kobe, LeBron, Dwight and Amare. Pretty crazy that those five right there were all high-schoolers who came straight into the L and blew up from there. I’m not sure my feelings on the whole age-debate and the college issue, because everything I may think that supports an age limit gets thrown out the window when I look at guys like this. Either way, that is one hell of a starting five and I’d take any one of them five times over.
CP3. CP3. CP3.
Last night, as a result of the extreme state of bliss that I was in there would have been an expletive thrown in there for good measure. Holy Hell, this boy is straight up balling out of his mind. Kidd’s debut, who cares? CP3 is not only the future, he is proving night in and night out that he is the present while he is making some of the best point guards in the league look more than a step slow along the way. Let’s look at this:
31 points, 11 assists, 9 steals. NINE STEALS. This is an NBA season-high and a career-high for Paul. As ridiculous as that line looks, he looks even crazier doing it. Watch the highlights if you can, this boy is something else. Deron might have his number in their head-to-head match ups, but it doesn’t even matter to me. If I have one point guard, I’m going with Paul, over ANYONE in this league, Nash and Baron included. Big statement, yup, but the kid is looking like a seasoned vet and last night, he just made Kidd look old.
Kidd’s debut for the Mavs: 8 points on 3-6 shooting, 6 rebounds, 5 assists 3 steals and 6 turnovers. I expect the turnovers to go down as he gets used to the offense and his teammates, but, today it is all about CP.
Shaq’s debut for the Suns last night: 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks Konate sent me a message I had written him last week with my predictions for his first game:
“Shaq will have…. 14 pts, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block. But the Lakers will win and I will be smiling as you try to turn that frown upside down. hahaahha”
Also, let it be known that I do not call myself “Hollywood”, that is all Mr. Primus. The point here is how close I was to getting the numbers right. Maybe the rest of the things I see happening in the near NBA future will come true too? Hope so.
If Kobe is not awarded the MVP this season, then it had better be Paul walking away with the hardware. I know, Bron is ridiculous, I agree with you all on this, but Paul and Kobe, playing in the wild, wild West, keeping their teams at the top of the conference? If either the Hornets or the Lakers end up in any of the top three spots in the WC, one of those guys needs the award, simple as that.
Bron, back-to-back triple-doubles on the road, coming off of an All-Star MVP award. All I can hear running through my head is Jay’s “What More Can I Say”. There really is nothing else to say. Bron is amazing, we are all just lucky to watch his greatness unfold.
Huge night from Vince Carter in the Nets 110-102 OT win against Chicago. VC finished with 33 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 steals. Could this be a showcase for Carter’s last game in NJ? It’s going to be an interesting day, waiting to see if any more big trades go through.
Speaking of trades, Kurt Thomas and the Spurs. The rich get richer. Thomas is a smart, smart guy who is going to give the Spurs some added depth and will bring yet another veteran mind to this already battle-tested and savvy roster. Great pick-up for San Anton, although they will miss Barry’s three-point shooting when it comes to stretching the defense.
Really, really nice to see the crowd at Arco give Bibby some love in his “return” to Sacramento. Ron-Ron is doing his thing, leading them with 29 points in their win against the Hawks. It will be interesting to see if he is still a King at the end of the day.
Baron…..Davis! Giving the Celtics their second consecutive loss with the game-winning jumper in Tony Allen’s grill. Yeah, he didn’t need to come to New Orleans with Kobe sitting. Nope, he most definitely could not have helped the West when Dirk was losing his mind at the end of the game.
As for Jax chilling on the bench, he needs to get that ankle healed. I miss seeing him out there in the middle of things. In the meantime, he is looking good in that suit. Keeping it classy and unexpectedly dapper.
Toronto shot 59% for the game in their contest against Orlando last night. The match up between Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard was ridiculous.
Tell me someone else noticed Sasha throwing his arms around Gasol after his big dunk and three-point play opportunity in the fourth? Love the heart. There are not enough adjectives nor exclamation marks to accurately describe how I am feeling this morning. It is only February and I’ve got a long way to go and it is dependent upon one man’s pinkie and another young man’s knee. This is going to take its toll on me, because I am SO invested in this Laker squad.
The more I think about my team, the happier I get and it runs a lot deeper than just this win against the Suns.
Vincent said it best in his fantastic piece yesterday. To quote him,
“And, at the end of the day, every Laker could have been playing on broken ankles, with no arms and guess what? They’d all have believed they had a chance because Kobe was balling on their squad. That’s a Franchise Player.”
To anyone watching, it is clear. This Laker team has no fear, is full of confidence and is ready for whomever and whatever is in front of them. Kobe Bryant’s swagger is not only back and better than ever, it has infiltrated this entire squad from Pau’s chest pumps, to Sasha’s unconsciousness when jacking those threes all that way down to Coby Karl and his dunks the other night in garbage time and DJ MBenga’s willingness to challenge each and every dunk, even if it means he is the face on a thousand posters.
I don’t remember the last time I have felt this much excitement and PRIDE for my team, from player one through to the entire coaching staff. There is something special going on and Kobe is the catalyst.
The way the guys handled the push by Phoenix, the way they were “all-business”, the way they simply got it done, someone needs to send out the official memo; Opponents, beware.
The scariest part (or the most exciting, if you are a laker fan like myself), is that this is all happening without Bynum and Ariza. We all know what Bynum brings to this team, how much deeper they are with him. Many people don’t realize the depth that Ariza gives and the combination of athletic defense and offensive agressivensss he provides, along with being a spark plug off of the bench.
Dropping 130 points on the Suns while beating them at their own game is a statement. This team can run and gun with the best of them, but put them in a half court set and they will make the right passes and score by executing the right plays. Their basketball is beautiful right now. And, when it is all said and done, the Lakers have #24 on their team and he is the best player in this game, so I wouldn’t ever bet against him.
Now, to make it to the Playoffs staying on top in the West. It’s going to be real fun watching how this unfolds.
Toronto 127 Orlando 110
One night after blowing out the Pistons, the Orlando Magic had the favor returned by Toronto. Thanks to a 40-point effort from Chris Bosh, the Raptors knocked down the Magic, 127-110 after jumping out to an early lead in their game. Bosh hit 14-16 shots for the night and the Raptors led by seven early before extending that lead to a 64-50 advantage at the half. The Raptors would continue to roll from there, despite giving up 37 points to Dwight Howard and having seven players off of the Magic end up in double-figures. In addition to Bosh’s big night, Jose Calderon continued the strong play with 19 points and 13 assists, Jamario Moon added 17 points and 12 rebounds as Carlos Delfino scored 23 points off of the bench. Howard had 15 rebounds to go with his 37 points for Orlando while Hedo Turkoglu had 16 points and 9 assists and Rashard Lewis also added16 points in the loss.
Cleveland 106 Indiana 97
Another “W”, another triple-double from LeBron James last night in Indiana. After jumping out to an early lead the Cavaliers let the Pacers get back into the game after being outscored 27-19 in the third quarter. With things even in the fourth, James got to work. In the final period alone he finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists, both scoring and distributing to ensure the Cavaliers took control of the game again. Leading by five points, Larry Hughes hit a three to extend the Cavs lead to eight and while the Pacers would cut it down to five, they would not get any closer along the way. The triple-double was the second in as many nights for James who finished with 31 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot. He was aided by Hughes who added 19 points, Drew Gooden scoring 17 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Daniel Gibson added 15 points off of the bench before leaving the game in the third with an ankle-sprain. Indiana was led by Danny Granger and his 30-point effort as Troy Murphy scored 20 points and Jeff Foster added 9 points and 15 rebounds.
Golden State 119 Boston 117
After each team had dropped contests on the road the night before neither the Warriors nor the Celtics were ready to lose two in a row. While Paul Pierce was clutch from the line in the final seconds of the game to tie things at 117 all, Baron Davis was better, dribbing, waiting, and rising to hit a long jumper with .3 seconds on the clock to win the game for the Warriors and hand the Celtics what was only their second loss to a Western Conference team so far this season. With Monta Ellis scoring 12 of his 26 points in the fourth, the Warriors held the lead for most of the period before Paul Pierce pushed the Celtics back into the picture by scoring seven points in the final two minutes of the game. Ray Allen hit six three-pointers to finish with 32 points and Kevin Garnett added 17 points and 15 rebounds in his second game back in the lineup, but no one played better than Davis who finished with 29 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in addition to his game winner. Andris Biedrins had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Al Harrington added 22 points and 12 boards. Outside of Boston’s big three, Tony Allen added 18 points off of the bench in the loss.
Milwaukee 103 Detroit 98
After getting ripped at home by the Magic, the Pistons faced the Bucks on the road, but the end result was the same. Milwaukee built up a 21-point lead against the Pistons before watching as Detroit cut the deficit to three points with just over a minute left to play. Luckily for the Bucks, they were solid at the free throw line and connected on 10-12 free throws in the final minutes to ward off the Detroit push, led by Rasheed Wallace and his four three-pointers in a 2:20 span. For every Detroit score, the Bucks found a way to get to the line and stay ahead until finally, they extended their lead to four points before Chauncey Billups would miss a three-pointer. When Mo Williams grabbed the rebound, the Bucks thought they were safe until Williams started to fall out of bounds and called for a timeout that they did not have. After Billups hit the technical free throw, the lead was down to three points with seven seconds remaining and Wallace finally missed a three, allowing Milwaukee to escape with the win. Michael Redd had 27 points to lead the Bucks as Desmond Mason scored 16 and Andrew Bogut had a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double. Billups had 34 points for the Pistons as Wallace finished with 21 points, Tayshaun Prince scored 13 points and Antonio McDyess added 14 rebounds in the loss.
LA Lakers 130 Phoenix 124
Shaquille O’Neal’s debut in Phoenix. Kobe and the Lakers in town. Raja vs. Kobe? Hell no, don’t get it twisted, this is all about Diesel vs. Kobe and how the West will be won. With a record of 6-1 since the addition of Pau Gasol, the Lakers have spoiled the debut of Shawn Marion in Miami, Mike Bibby in Atlanta and now, Shaquille O’Neal in Phoenix. Last night the Lakers continued to roll as they grabbed the huge win over the Suns to tie them for second place in the West as each team is only one game behind the Hornets for the top spot in the crowded conference. LA came out focused and jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first half before the Suns came charging back in the third to tie the game at 87 all with 2:30 left in the quarter. Going into the fourth, the Lakers were up by four, 95-91. In the final period, O’Neal was solid for the Suns, nabbing nine of his 15 points in the quarter, but he also gave the Lakers an assist when he accidentally elbowed teammate Raja Bell, knocking him to the floor and knocking him out for a few seconds before he would have to leave the game for good with a mild-concussion. The final quarter was filled with spectacular play from the stars of both teams as Bryant managed to score again and again both on jumpers and maneuvering his way to the basket getting a score every time his team needed him. Leandro Barbosa gave the Lakers trouble as he got his transition game going and scored on back-to-back baskets to cut the LA lead to three and from there Amare Stoudemire attacked the rim and was fouled, completing the three-point play and giving the Suns a 107-106 lead midway through the quarter. The Lakers were not leaving Phoenix without the victory, and used a 9-2 run to take a seven-point lead, just large enough to withstand the final push by the Suns and O’Neal, who scored six straight to cut the LA lead to one. With four minutes remaining, Bryant led the Lakers to the “W”, knocking down two jumpers to give them a four-point lead and from there Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol would score, LA would go up by six, 123-117 and despite two rim-rocking dunks from Stoudemire, the game was over as Sasha Vujacic and Gasol iced the game at the line. Bryant finished with 41 points while Gasol added 29 and Lamar Odom had a 22-point, 11-rebound double-double. Vujacic added 15 points off of the bench. Stoudemire was fantastic for the Suns in the loss, finishing with 37 points and 15 rebounds while Steve Nash had 26 points and 8 assists, Barbosa finished with 17 points and Grant Hill added 17 of his own to go along with 10 rebounds. In his debut Shaquille O’Neal had 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists.