The Los Angeles Lakers: After so much was written in the last two days about how tired the Lakers were following Game 3, they came out last night and played like they wanted to prove just how exhausted they really were. You know: Like a group of narcoleptics who ate a huge Thanksgiving dinner (I'm talking, like, four or five helpings) after running an ultramarathon and now are snuggled up on the couch under a warm blanket watching the Detroit Lions get destroyed by [Name of Whatever Team They're Playing on Thanksgiving This Year]. It's sort of understandable that the Lakers would be tired, since they've played every other day for three straight weeks now (with the one exception being the two-day break between Games 6 and 7 of the previous round); but then again, they have no one to blame but themselves for not having extra time to rest after needing seven games to beat a depleted Rockets team in the Western Conference Semis. It doesn't figure to get any easier for the Lakers either, as they will continue to go every other day (only now with traveling in between each game) for the rest of the conference finals. On the upside, if they play the way they did last night in the next couple games, they'll soon have a couple months off to rest up.
The Lakers' lethargy was especially evident on the glass, where they were absolutely obliterated 58-40. (That sound you just heard was Wilt Chamberlain rolling over in his grave, probably after zombie-sexing up the hottie three tombstones over.) Even more telling was that they let Denver rip down 20 offensive rebounds. Not only did Denver outboard the Lakers by 18, but it was the first time in 8 meetings between the two teams this season that Denver had outrebounded the Lakers at all. The best Denver had done on the boards against the Lakers prior to last night was just tie them in total rebounds (Game 3), but otherwise the Lakers have held a fairly decisive rebounding edge against these Nuggets all year. Clearly one team came to play last night...and the other team was the Lakers.
Officiating: Unfortunately, this was was yet another game in these Conference Finals where the refs tried to steal the show. And not in a totally sweet "Vanilla Ice cameo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze" kind of way. What had started off as a really great third round in both Conference Finals series has turned into the same traveshamockeriness we saw in the last round, with way too many fouls and free throws, and a bunch of questionable technical fouls and flagrant fouls being called. After Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, some people made a skunky beer stink about the absurd 86 combined foul shots. Well, apparently the NBA doesn't care that the fans don't want to watch a free throw parade, since the Lakers and Nuggets combined to shoot 85 last night.
In the last game's writeup I pointed out that four of Denver's starters had 5 or more fouls. Well, they must have made some pretty big adjustments, since only three Nugget players had more than 2 fouls last night (Kenyon Martin with 3, JR Smith with 4 and Carmelo Anthony with 5). Meanwhile three Laker players had 5 fouls and Luke Walton fouled out in only 12 minutes. In Game 3 the Lakers had a 14 free throw advantage, while in Game 4 it was Denver that enjoyed a 14 free throw advantage. It's just too bad the refs can't be a little more consistent in any area other than with all the excessive technicals (Denver once again had 3 last night, just like in Game 3) and flagrants (Andrew Bynum received one last night for swiping at the ball -- and hitting it -- and ruffling the Birdman's headband in the process). The officiating didn't cost the Lakers the game, not by a long shot, but it's just an ongoing concern for basketball fans that we can't watch the players settle things from somewhere other than the free throw line. Like maybe the Thunderdome.
Trevor Ariza: After being such a major contributor for the Lakers in this series, Ariza was about as invisible last night as Kevin Bacon was in Hollowman. [Edit: Or, alternately, as invisible as "solid plot" or "good writing" or "anything not resembling a giant turd of a movie" in the woefully bawful Terminator Salvation. -Basketbawful] He finished the game with as many fouls (5) as he had points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals combined. He also had one turnover. You could argue that he helped defend Carmelo Anthony into shooting only 3-for-16 for 15 points, but 'Melo looked like he was limping around a lot out there, so I don't know how much credit the Laker defense should get. To be fair, Ariza supposedly is fighting off a couple injuries himself (and possibly an ouchie in his girl parts), but if those wounds are gonna limit him to the kind of performance he had last night, the Lakers might as well replace him with a runway model who can't walk down a runway. Because at least a hot babe falling down is fun to watch.
Derek Fisher and Sasha Vujacic: At this point, I'm ready to write a stock paragraph about these two guys and just auto-insert it into every Lakers-related WotN for the rest of the playoffs. They are officially the worst duo since Coy and Vance Duke. Last night, they combined for 11 points on 11 shots, 1 assist and 2 turnovers in 39 combined minutes of oncourt poopery. There's not much else to be said about these guys that won't make me throw up in my own mouth, so let's just move on to someone who hasn't made a recent appearance in the Worst Ofs...
Lamar Odom: I feel like I'm actually being pretty generous when I say that Lamar is having a subpar series (7.5 PPG, 34 percent shooting, 8 RPG, 2 APG), and last night was his subpariest yet. While he WAS one of only two Lakers to grab more than 7 rebounds (Gasol being the other with 10), Odom needs to contribute a hell of a lot more than just 8 boards if he's only gonna score 5 points on 1-for-8 shooting while committing 5 fouls and turning the ball over 3 times. Missing half his free throw attempts didn't help either. Which reminds me...
The Lakers' free throw shooting: This definitely could have been mentioned after the last game when they missed 14 gimmies, but after last night's 11 misses (in 35 tries), the Lakers have now bonked 33 foul shots in the last three games. In case you don't have an advanced degree in numeromatics, that's an average of 11 misses per game. Did someone expose the Lakers to an open vial of undiluted Shaqnopsis or something?
Dahntay Jones: He swept the leg, just like a good little Cobra Kai should. John Creese would be proud.
J.R. Smith: Dude was celebrating so hard last night you'd think he just got named Super Captain of Giant Awesome or something. Memo to J.R.: You didn't WIN the series, you only TIED it. Calm down. Buck Nasty said: "Yes, you made a three J.R. That is no reason to pretend that you are a three-point shooting chicken, who is also retarded."
More from Stephanie G: "Last night J.R. Smith was extremely animated, mugging and shimmying all over the place. Is this a proper all-time ranking of celebratory moves do you think or am I being too premature?"
1. Antoine shimmy
2. Cassell huevos juggling
3. Mario Ellie kiss of death
4. Reggie Miller choke
5. Shaq arm waving/pointing/looking at his off hand like it's talking to him
6. DeShawn Stevenson "can’t feel my face" / throat slit
Memorial Day lacktion report: Chris trudges on, bringing us lacktion the way we like it: Very hot, and awfully wet. "Josh Powell bricked once in 2:43 for a +1 suck differential, a mark matched by DJ Mbenga in a mere 1:01. For George Karl's Nuggets, Johan Petro and Jason Hart resumed their familiar roles as human victory cigars, with Petro running out of gas during a shot for a +1 in 1:01, and Jason Hart stomping out a Koopa shell in the midst of a 37 second Mario."