On a night in which every ridiculous quality was blown up to an absurd degree, by virtue of the technicality that even pieces of bizarre performance art such as this one require a "winner" and a "loser", the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Indiana Pacers by the final score of 79-77. But make no mistake, this was not a basketball game. This was satire of the finest quality.
Or, at least, I hope it was satire. If not, we may have just witnessed the worst professional basketball game in history. The Lakers shot 31.6% from the floor, including 21.4% on TWENTY EIGHT three point attempts. They were bested by the Pacers, who shot 36.7% from the floor and 21.1% from three point range. The Lakers had 21 turnovers to the Pacers' 17. The Lakers missed 20 of their 43 FT attempts, good for 53.5%, while the Pacers missed 10 of their 27 attempts, 63%. The Lakers missed four free throws on a single possession while down one with less than a minute to play. And the overall numbers, as horrific as they are, were glorious in comparison with tonight's main star. Not Kobe Bryant, who was both hero and villain all at the same time. Not George Hill, who hit the game winning layup as the buzzer sounded (which, you know, SHOULD NEVER EVER HAPPEN) and was the only Pacer with a decent stat line.
No, tonight's star was Joey Crawford. The famously bald-headed ref was officiating this contest as if he was doing an impression of himself in a Lifetime movie. He called a technical foul on Kobe Bryant in the middle of a 4 on 1 Indiana fast break. In a game with 57 fouls called, he must have been responsible for 40 of them. By the end of the game, the other refs were sitting in the front row, deferring to Joey on out of bounds calls from across the court. And then, with 1:15 left, he managed to do something previously thought impossible. Joey Crawford jumped the shark.
That is Joey Crawford, high stepping his way through a blocking call half way across the court. Forget for a moment, that it was probably the wrong call. This is a referee so very much trying to make himself the center of attention that if he behaved this way in the NFL, he'd be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. In a game in which both teams were terrible, Joey Crawford was legendarily terrible. Sum it all up and you might have the worst basketball game in history.
And yet we were still entertained, because Kobe Bryant threw down one of those ridiculous contests that only he can. You knew ahead of time, with Kobe sporting "flu like symptoms", that we were in for something interesting, because Kobe Bryant never goes down without a fight, even if the fight is what makes him go down. Early, it was all magic and fairy tales as he hit shot after shot. Then, it was a nightmare in repeat feedback loop, as Kobe must have forced his way into the lane for terrible shots and turnovers on 75% of the Lakers' 2nd quarter possessions. And he closed with more ridiculous shot making, including a game-tying three with 24 seconds that should have made a difference if not for the awful end game defense. While suffering from the flu, Kobe played 44 minutes, scored 40 points (more than half his team's total), and pulled down 10 boards. He also shot poorly (12-28), shot too much, and completed his triple double with 10 turnovers. Kobe was everything that was right with the Lakers tonight, and most of what was wrong, too.
Other than free throws, Dwight Howard was excellent. The rest of the team was horrifically bad. But in the end, we should appreciate this game for the satire it was. Otherwise, you might as well gouge your eyes out with a spoon.
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