May 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) calls a play against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of game two of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
Kobe Bryant scored 38 points Tuesday night and the Lakers went up 2-0 on the Denver Nuggets. After year full of skepticism, here are the Lakers again, peaking at the perfect time.
The Lakers were supposed to drown in a sea of complacency, Mike Brown's incompetence and Kobe Bryant's petulance. It was going to be a fun disaster -- full of Kobe death stares, Mike Brown blank stares, and Andrew Bynum tantrums -- but still a disaster. Except ... it just isn't happening. If anything, after a season full of soap operas, the Lakers are peaking at the perfect time.
The Nuggets rolled over in Game 1 Sunday, but Tuesday night they bounced back, clawed at L.A. the entire game and didn't quit until the final tip. And they still had no answers for Kobe and the Lakers.
Denver is much younger and much deeper, but every time they'd get within five or six points, the Lakers would kick into high gear and extend the lead again. The textbook example came in the fourth quarter. After trailing by nine or 10 for most of the quarter, Denver went on an 8-0 run and finally got the lead to five points with about four minutes left.
On the very next possession, with the Lakers needing a bucket, Kobe stared down the defense from the top of the key, and nailed a three right in Corey Brewer's face. Just vicious.
RELATED: Paul Pierce, And The Mastery Of The Moment
All the same, Denver still wouldn't quit. They clawed back again, and got it within four with two minutes left. Cue a Kobe steal on one end, followed by Kobe sprinting the length of the court and eventually shoveling it to Andrew Bynum for an easy dunk. Every time Denver got close, Kobe would do something to show us how wide the gap really is. Watching the Nuggets-Lakers series is like watching a pro boxer spar with an amateur.
All of which is to say ... Kobe had 38 points Tuesday night, Bynum added 27 of his own, and Ramon Sessions does just enough on both ends to make the Lakers legitimate contenders again. If you were expecting the Lakers to self-destruct and collapse, it's time to rethink the ending.
They may not win a title this year, but there will be no spectacular collapses like last year. Kobe looks better than ever, Bynum's a problem for defenses in his own right, and however it ends, they will not go quietly.
Speaking of the Lakers and Nuggets...
Important News About Timofey Mozgov
If Timofey Mozgov blogging about his Las Vegas wedding and/or attending said wedding in a track suit wasn't enough to make you love him, apparently his nickname in Denver is "Tinafey" Mozgov. Annnnd ... yep, that's now the best nickname in the NBA. No contest, really.
Also, he once wore this shirt.
Basically, we should all be Timofey Mozgov fans.
The Sixers Get A Second Chance
The Sixers team that showed up in Chicago for Game 1 was ready to roll over. They finished the year skidding into the playoffs, nobody on the roster was playing well. Against the Bulls, they didn't stand a chance. During Game 2 and afterward, announcers kept talking about how Derrick Rose's injury affected the Bulls. But Chicago's played on-and-off all year without D-Rose. They'll get over it.
What's scarier on Chicago's end is that Philly suddenly thinks they have a chance to win this series. After they sleepwalked through Game 1, Rose's injury at the end swung the door wide open for them to pull off the upset. For a team that had been inexplicably headed in the wrong direction for months, a little hope could be what turns them around and turns this series into a war. Now, they've got nothing to lose and absolutely no fear of the Bulls. In Game 2, it showed.
The Hawks Are Still The Hawks
This does a nice job capturing Game 2 for Atlanta.
The Quote Of The Playoffs
Courtesy of Paul Flannery, here's Mickael Pietrus talking about being Mickael Pietrus.
"I don’t project myself, say I have to bring more points for the team. I just have to be Mickael Pietrus, bring the all-around game: rebounding, defense. I’m not putting any extra pressure on myself. Yeah, I have to score. Yeah, I have to eat some chicken. Yeah, I have to eat some beef. At the end of the day it’s basketball."
Walk into your office today and when someone asks how your day's going, tell them, "Fine, fine. I just have to be (your name here). I'm not putting any extra pressure on myself. Yeah, I have to eat some chicken. Yeah, I have to eat some beef. At the end of the day it's (insert profession)." The world would be so much better if we all talked like Mickael Pietrus.
The Anecdote Of The Playoffs
Once worked at a sneaker store in Eugene, OR. Ivan Johnson came in with a girl & said, "Bitch, buy me these!" She was his coach's daughter.— SoleCollector.com (@SoleCollector) April 30, 2012
It's unrelated to anything, but the world needs 10,000 words' worth of raw and uncut Ivan Johnson. Somewhere, anywhere, anytime. He can be the sequel to the Lil B lecture at NYU. Or maybe he can give a TED talk. We just need 45 minutes of Ivan Johnson tellin' the world what's real, along with a live feed of Adam Silver hyperventilating as it happens.
Speaking Of Ivan Johnson, What Would The Gulliest Team On Earth Look Like?
Well the easy answer is the mid-2000s Trail Blazers. (Ruben Patterson, Bonzi Wells, Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, AND Zach Randolph. Seriously.) But if you're talking about the NBA Playoffs and looking for a team full of gradioactive personalities so hazardous to everyone's sanity that you can't help but love them... Here are the choices.
- PG Delonte West -- Has "G-Code" tattooed on his hand next to a barcode. Enough said.
- SG Kobe Bryant -- Once inspired me to call him a sociopath as a joke, but upon fleshing out the comparison, it became dead serious. (Kobe may not seem like he fits here, but Kobe is gully in the same way Dick Cheney and George W. Bush were gully.)
- SF Tony Allen -- He gets the nod over Metta World Peace because he'd do a better job documenting the team's exploits on Twitter.
- PF Zach Randolph -- Allegedly robbed a drug dealer last summer. GULLY.
- C Reggie Evans -- You're damn right this team has a center who's only skill is hard fouls and throwing elblows.
- 6th: Ivan Johnson -- "Bitch, buy me these!"
- Coach: Stan Van Gundy -- Because Stan Van coaching this team would give us so much daily comedy we'd probably have to shut down the internet, and because now that Phil Jackson's retired, Stan Van's indisputably the gulliest coach in the league.
That team could charge $100,000 for season tickets, and I'd still find a way to buy in.
Finally, Rest In Peace Derrick Rose
Wasn't really that heartbroken about D-Rose going out this year. Then I saw this.
Playoff Talking Points is a daily series bringing you sights and sounds from the NBA Playoffs. You can read Tuesday's entry here.