Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lakers-Spurs Game 1 Thoughts

  • Kobe Bryant is better than you.
  • And you.
  • And me.
  • And you.
  • And Ime Udoka.
  • You're cool (Tim Duncan).
  • And you.
  • The Lakers, more so than any team this season (and yes, I'm including the Suns and Warriors), have an undeniability once they awake. It's almost worse than when you've been in a slugfest with them the entire game. The Spurs settled into a groove, and had their usual clamps on. Then, Kobe. And more Kobe. And Kobe forcing, literally forcing Gasol to become involved. That got Vujacic going. And when they needed a big one, the MVP was ready.
  • Two years ago I wrote about how there was a level of fear that certain players can strike into your heart and how that was Kobe's biggest flaw. Because even though you can't stop his scoring and he was still a phenomenal player, you knew he was going to try and do too much, was going to force it too hard, was going to exert himself beyond the frequency of letting the game came to him. I have to tell you this, and trust me, it makes me sick to say it, but when he came up the court, taking the ball from Vujacic (who for some reason had dreams of being a point tonight, silly little mophead) and crossed over the half court line, instantly assessing where his teammates were, the screen, his defender, and using that ridiculous controlling dribble of his which is more confident than I've ever seen, and you just knew he was scoring? I got chills. I really did. I've hated Kobe Bryant for the majority of his career. And while I still can't bring myself to root for him, tonight, instead of just pushing me to anger or disgust, it was different. Maybe it was the Spurs. Maybe I've just become a smarter fan of the game since starting to write and cover it so much. Or maybe Kobe Bryant has really reached that level where he's one of the greatest of all time. Instantly, people who have brief timeout blogs or want us to give Kobe respect are going to say he's been doing this for years, and they're right. He's been putting up the same numbers, getting the same wins, showing off the same moves. But it's different. I'm telling you, it's different. He's letting the game come to him. And he's not bitterly demanding wins, nor is he cold bloodily chainsawing the court for them. He's in his groove, he's confident, he's taking advantage of defensive weaknesses, making the passes he needs to and then, when he smells blood? Crossover, crossover, goodnight Ime.
  • The Lakers played Duncan as well as you can without a dominant center tonight. The goal is simply to hassle him as much as possible and then make sure you rebound. It's funny how fast the Spurs fall apart when you cut off their least valuable asset on the floor, Fabricio Oberto. They don't know how to react without his easy buckets. He made Odom his chump in the first half. Then the Lakers realized, "Wait a tick. This is freaking Oberto. Screw this.
  • Dear Spurs: I know you hate defensive switching, double teams, and man-help. But you should probably hate Kobe Bryant annihilating you more. Please to bring teh double teamz if you wantz compeitiv serees. K Thx Bai.
  • Welcome back to the land of the living, Jordan Farmar. His stat line didn't show it, but Farmar was obviously a lot more comfortable against the Spurs. Mostly because Tony Parker doesn't call him "small fry."
  • Ginobili had a terrible night. So did Odom. What do you want to bet both those guys have a bad Game 2?
  • The TNT Yellowbook Cam may be the coolest thing I've ever seen. Here's a screen shot.

    If you can't tell what's going on, they had four different cameras streaming online. One was mounted on the scoreboard (bottom right), one was behind the glass (bottom left), one player followed a Lakers player voted on by the fans (Kobe) and one followed a Spurs player voted on by the fans (Parker and Ginobili). It was fascinating. My favorite moment that I saw was a timeout after Manu contributed one of his 4 turnovers, leading to a Kobe score late in the third,just as the Spurs were coming undone. During the timeout, Ginobili did what he always does whenever he's screwed up and doesn't want to get reamed by Popovich, immediately heads for the bench. There, Robert Horry came over and gave him a 2 minute coaching session on how to get Kobe off of him with a ball fake/swipe. He went over it four times and kept staring at Ginobili, who was just staring off into space before finally nodding. They NEED to do this for every single NBA game and then sell them online. I would do anything for a complete game's tape of Tyrus Thomas, to see him lollygagging through screens and then bursting on fast breaks. Or Antoine Walker on the bench, as Trey suggested, or JR Smith during a game. Think about it. Plus it gave you a fantastic sense of how much work these players go through just trying to get open and the little ways they support each other. In a long line of failed camera gimmicks, this is the coolest thing I've seen in years.
  • Spurs shot .250 from the arc, Lakers .400. The West has been entirely decided by three point shooting, I've decided.

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