So I made my bi/tri-annual trip to Staples Center to watch the Hornets tonight. We "lost" the game, but does this give us hope for the rest of the season or what?
The reason I say "lost," obviously, concerns how the 4th quarter ended. Up by 3, 20 seconds left, Chris Paul leading a three on one. From my vantage point, I couldn't tell if it was a charge or not. Judging from the comments here on the game thread (thanks for holding that down guys), it was.
Either way, it was a fluke ending to an awesome game by the Hornets. We battled back from a double digit deficit, took the lead, and absolutely stifled Kobe. Chris Paul makes that mistake maybe once in a thousand tries. It happens. ESPN can talk all it wants about how Kobe "dominated" this game. The fact is, we came to Staples Center minus our best defender and had the game in hand.
Some bullets after the jump.
- I got to Staples about 3 hours before tip. The Lakers' D-League affiliate was playing the Hornets' D-League affiliate. Awful, awful basketball (think college, minus the fans). There's nobody on either squad that would even remotely warrant a call-up at this point. Joe Crawford was a Lakers' draft pick this offseason, but even he has a ways to go before reaching the bigs.
- This game was decided at the free throw line. Now I'm not implying poor officiating by saying that. The referees did a great job tonight. It was a combination of the Lakers drawing a lot of contact and Melvin Ely/David West playing horrific defense. Ely's normally a decent defender, but I wasn't too surprised to see Gasol abuse him. It's West that concerns me more. His help defense was downright terrifying to watch. I am so glad OKC turned down Tyson.
- James Posey contineud to be the bane of Kobe Bryant's existence. Posey had been struggling defensively a little bit, but tonight he was on his game. Kobe shook him free exactly twice all game (a brilliant jab right, shimmy left, jab left, fade right move and the drive in OT). Everything else was heavily contested. The 39 points is more an indication of how many times Kobe shot the ball, rather than how well he played.
- David West had 6 turnovers, including two horrifically ugly ones in overtime. He had his issues last year, seemingly conquering them as the playoff began. So I'm not worrying until this becomes a pattern.
- Peja Stojakovic was ice cold. He missed five threes with nobody within fifteen feet of him. It's funny, he had perhaps the most awesome pre-game shootaround I've ever seen. He literally missed two threes on at least 50-60 attempts before the game. I think it speaks to how fleeting this sport can be. It's mere inches that separate a gut wrenching loss from a comfortable win. And that works both ways.
- Rasual Butler more than evened that out though. Aside from a 6-8 night from deep, Butler was making some great plays off the dribble and in the lane. If he had taken as many shots as Kobe, he would've easily matched Mr. Bryant's point total.
- Hilton was fantastic. He finished up his plays strong, and he took four offensive rebounds right out of the hands of Gasol and Odom. I'm quite surprised Byron didn't go to him more down the stretch.
That's it. I'm probably forgetting a whole bunch of stuff, but whatever. Utah tomorrow, where I'll be happy if we manage to lose by single digits...