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Lakeshow Episode 04: The View from OKC

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I don't have anything against the Clippers, really I don't.

Sure, their owner seems to have figured out how to make sales of a generally inferior product into a personal profit center, but hey, this is America — the land of the Ford Pinto™®, Ragu™® spaghetti sauce, and Cream of Wheat™®. Got for it. If you can round up enough addled Sports Guys and trick them into writing you large checks to watch your team implode game after game and year after year, stuffing their cash in your wallet as you send your free agents out the door, more power to you.

Keeping the market stocked with former Clippers helps keep the price of free agents down, enabling less wealthy teams around the NBA to compete with the big boys. It's downright patriotic.

But there comes a time, my friends, when I must draw the line.

When your team beats the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the NBA's benchmarks of badness, 93-90, largely because the refs decide to swallow their whistles on a Chris Kaman foul, pulling your record all the way up to 1-4, you should not go around spouting silly scheiße like this:

"We had to get this win tonight," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We want to be a playoff team."

Well, I want to be an astronaut and to sleep with a supermodel. Neither one of us are achieving our big dreams in 2010, bucky bear. I know you're a little too close to what you think is a forest to see the shrubbery that you think are trees, and it's still early days and all, but your Clippers are not gonna be a playoff team in the Western Conference this year.

Sorry to be the one to break that to you.

More sorry stuff after the break...


Channel Surfing:

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Monday, Nov. 2.

Memphis at Sacramento. The Kings may well be the worst team in the Western Conference, if not in the entire NBA, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while — and Memphis has plenty of nuts to choose from (see: Iverson, Allen; Randolph, Zachary). Believe it or not, this game was actually good stuff — played at a high level with back and forth scoring and numerous lead changes down to the wire.

With a minute to go in regulation, Kings clinging to a 1 point  lead, Israeli rookie SF Omri Casspi outwrestled Fat Zach Randolph for a critical defensive board underneath, saving a sure putback bucket. The Kings then made it a 3 point margin with an open jumper by Spencer Hawes, only to leave Rudy Gay wide open on the arc for a game-tying trey at the other end with 36.9 showing on the clock. D'oh!

The Kings failed to score and then Fat Zach lucked in a really terrible fadeaway with 6.1 remaining to put the Grizz in position to win. Stop me if you heard this story before. Yet, contrary to character, the Kings somehow managed to answer with a textbook backdoor cut by Beno Udrih, playing off Hawes. So it was overtime, 110 all.

Fat Zach picked up 2 quick personals in the extra frame, fouling out with 30 points & 16 boards. Most importantly, the lack of Memphis' portly PF enabled the Kings to bring back the offensively proficient but defensively deficient Andres Nocioni, who quickly got the Kings back on top by smoothly driving to the rack. After a defensive stop, K-Mart dropped a long 3 from the clouds (he finished with a cool 48) and the Kings were officially on the way to their first win of the season, 127-116. Yaay.

When asked about his tender old guy's hamstring after the game, tatted team-first trooper Allen Iverson said, "I had no problems [with it]. I had a problem with my butt from sitting on that bench so long. That's the only thing I got a problem with."

Asked as to whether he'd be disappointed if Head Coach Lionel Hollins played him as a reserve this year, Iverson said, "I'm not a reserve basketball player. I've never been a reserve all my life and I'm not going to start looking at myself as a reserve. ... To answer the question, 'No, I'm not a bench player. I'm not a sixth man. Go look at my resume and that will show you I'm not a sixth man.'"

Yo, A.I. — meet Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo.

I'm lovin' this stuff.

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Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Atlanta at Portland. Add Portland to the list of nearly 30 NBA teams with sizable contingents of their fanbase sharpening their pitchforks and gathering torches to run riot on the coach's manor...  After pissing away a 12 point first quarter lead, Nate McMillan came up with the genius concept that the best way to beat the undersized Atlanta Hawks was match them weakness-for-weakness, sitting his Centers and his best available perimeter defender so that he could run two point guards (neither of whom can shoot), Brandon Roy (who seems to have forgotten how to dribble), a gunner wing out of position as a big, and a Charmin™®-soft power forward. Gosh, the Blazers started to give up dunks and layups and layups and dunks. In fact, they gave up FIFTY points in the paint for the night. FIFTY. The Itty bitty Hawks outrebounded Nate McMillan's Small Ball Blazers™® 46-36. And the Blazers lost. Golly, who would have guessed?

Bill Simmons predicted this year's Blazers' team  would be 41-41, and at this point he's looking like a shameless homer. Next loss for PDX comes to the Spurs, stay tuned for that. Hawks were nothing special — it was the kind of night when Jamal-fuckin'-Crawford, of all people, looked like a superstar (27 points). But it didn't take much of significance on this evening to come out on top of the disjointed, disorganized, dysfunctional Blazers. Now I have dyspepsia. Hawks 97, Blazers 91, Bill Simmons 1, Nate McMillan -1. Next!

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Lakers at Oklahoma City. I am not among the 85% or so of Lakers fans who thought this game would be a walk in the park. Nosirree, Bob, if I were a betting man in need of a thrill, I'd have been in Vegas two weeks ago laying down the old plantation on the "over" for wins for these Thunder guys this season. The Thunder are young and quick and athletic and came into the night with a 2-1 record. The Lakers were great in one game and meh twice. I'd seen a superior NBA team come into The Big City in the Middle of Nowhere™® before and leave town stripped to their skivvies and riding borrowed mules... With Kobe feeling green and Pau riding pine with his owie, this one had a really ominous feel. It ultimately came to overtime (SHOCKING, isn't it, Reggie?)... Luckily, the Lakers pulled it out. 

Mutilating my own quote, "Priests, politicians, and Blazer fans absolve and condemn — devotees of The Popcorn Machine's GAME FLOW CHART attempt to understand what happened and why." So click that link, if you would, and we'll see if we can make sense of what we saw on NBA-TV or KCAL-9.

First observation:  Plug your ears and pardon my French: "HOLY SHIT!!!" I knew PJ didn't really trust his Double Extra Fluffy bench, but look at the absolutely nutzoid usage rates for the starting five!!! Bynum: 48.7 minutes, Artest 46.9 minutes, Action Flulikesymptom Kobeman with 45.7, Odom at 42.9... Even Derek Fisher's tired old bones were out there for nearly 35 minutes. Bear in mind, if you will, that the Lakers are on the front end of a dreaded road back-to-back here. Wow. Good luck Phil, I hope you brought a couple cases of Five-Hour Energy™® on the trip. You'll be needing 'em for the starters' IVs at halftime tonight in Houston. (Lakers are in deep doo-doo tonight, BTW...)

Second observation: Lakers started strong and the home team whittled it down in the first half. That's par for the course in the NBA. The Lakers once again lost the 3rd Quarter — a big change this year from last and I'm not sure what to make of it. Any ideas? Then the Lakers started their vaunted 4th Quarter victory acceleration (a big 11-2 run) but the young Thunder failed to fold. Who were the Thunders out there in the 4th? The starters plus Manly Man Etan Thomas playing down low — with 7-foot softie Nenad "I'd Like to Buy a Vowel, Please" Krstic out. 

Third observation: In the all-important 4th Quarter, it was Ron Artest (11 points) and Action Flulikesymptom Kobeman (8 points) doing the scoring for the Lakers. Nada from Fish, Odom, Bynum, UPS, Sasha, or Powell. That's indicative of something not good, I think, but I'm not quite sure what it is. While there was no scoring balance in the 4th Quarter, the burden was spread out in the extra frame, with only Ron Ron not putting the globe through the ring.

It was basically a coin toss of a game at the end of regulation. "Heads!" — the Lakers won, 101-98 (OT). Yaay.

Now, before we move along to the ACTUAL POINT of this meandering mess of a column, the story of the recently-completed Laker game as seen by the bloggers and beat reporters of Thunderland, please remove your hats and join with me in watching the latest installment of THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD:

 

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(1)

Thunder is Making Progress, But Still Has a Ways to Go

by Barry Trammel, The Oklahoman

Always good when the Lakers come through town.

The regal purple uniforms. Phil Jackson's musings. Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom. More celebrities than a Hollywood premier.

But LA's marquee sports franchise offers something even better than all that glitz and glamour and excitement in the Ford Center.

The Lakers teach you something about yourself.

And here's what the Thunder discovered at the end of an exhilarating, exhausting Tuesday night, when they lost 101-98 in overtime to the best team in basketball.

The Thunder has come a long way. The Thunder has a long way to go. * * *

This game looked over once, twice, maybe thrice, including in the first two minutes of the game, when LA led 9-0 and seemed capable of scoring 200 points until Etan Thomas entered and started cracking Laker skulls.

"We didn't put our heads down and let the Lakers run away with the game," Jeff Green said, and there's something to be said for that. * * *

 

(2)

Missed it by thaaaaat much: Thunder comes up just short against LA

by Royce, DailyThunder.com (ESPN TrueHoop)

After a game like that, you tell yourself not to be sad. You tell yourself to look at the improvement. You tell yourself to look at a young, evolving team hanging with the NBA champs and taking them to the brink. You tell yourself that your team played its heart out and gave everything it had.

You tell yourself these things. But it doesn't make you feel any better. In the end, it just sucks to lose. Especially when you're that close to a big time win.

The Thunder took the Lakers to overtime, but came up just short, 101-98. And it's not like the chances weren't there. They were right there. The ball in your possession with 25 seconds left in a tie game. That's what you want. Down one with 30 seconds left and a stud scorer waiting to take the shot. You want that. But both times, it didn't work out for Oklahoma City.

The ball went to Kevin Durant both times and both times, KD came up with all air. It's not like Durant was having an off night again - he scored 28 points on 10-24 shooting. He had a good night. Without him, OKC isn't in the position it was. But what's weird, is that Durant went 0-8 from 3. He's actually 2-20 from deep on the season and has missed his last 13. I don't know what the deal is, but it's clearly a mental thing. * * *

Even if OKC had won the game and even if KD had hit the game-winner, the MVP of this game was Thabo Sefolosha. You see the box score and see Kobe went for 31 on 9-22 shooting. Maybe you'd assume Thabo just did decent work on The Mamba. But Thabo absolutely tormented Bryant tonight. He stripped him, blocked him, frustrated him, pushed him, pulled him and in general, just pissed him off. You can't say enough good stuff about the way Thabo played tonight. He had four steals, hit two gigantic 3s and just made play after play after play. *  *  *

 

(3)

Quarter by Quarter observations Thunder v Lakers 11-3-09

by Ezellion, BlueBlitz (Bloguin)

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Fourth Quarter:

Going back and forth to end the third, we need to get some defensive stops. * * *

They are really playing all out but just can not seem to get the shots to fall and stops on the defensive end. The Lakers bench did a good job of preventing the Thunder from extending the lead. The Thunder are only up 3 and the starters are getting back in.

Late turnovers are going to cost us this game.

Sefolosha hits a big three from the corner, cutting the laker lead to two then gets a huge deflection to force a bad shot.

Sefolosha scores again to tie the game.

Kobe hits the fall away to put the Lakers at 90 up by two.

Green ties it up at 90, he setup at the three point line pump faked Odom into jumping past and stepped in to drill the long duece.

Kobe on Sefolosha to finish and Sefolosha stymies him and forces the shot clock violation.

25.9 left and the Thunder have the ball. Westbrook takes the inbound and dribbles out high, looks like they are going to isolate him on Fisher that's a good matchup Westbrook should be able to drive the lane and lay it in or kick it out to Green, Durant, or even Thabo if they collapse on him. Instead Westbrook passes to KD with about 8 seconds left. KD starts to bring it up, Artest is really playing tough defense, and shoots from way out and doesn't catch anything. Lakers ball with 3 left.

Score to finish the Quarter 90-90 * * *

 

(4)

Run for the Money

by OKCThunderFan, Oklahoma City Thunder Forum

The Thunder gave the defending world champs a run for their money. This was no easy win for the Lakers. And the whole world watched it on NBA TV last night.

For those who did watch, they witnessed a number of things besides the game itself. For one, the Thunder finally earned the respect they deserve. From the Lakers and the NBA, to the entire world who watched. Second, the Thunder proved they are the real deal. To all the nay-sayers who thought the Thunder were the laughing stock of the NBA, who's laughing now, biotch?! And thirdly, we all witnessed a turning point of the OKC Thunder last night. Keep in mind this is just the 4th game of the season....and we're competing!

I'm very proud of the Thunder for putting up such a fight...damn proud. And I'm also very proud to be a Thunder fan. Witnessing that game in person last night was quite the sight to behold. The crowd was phenomenal. They cheered on the Thunder when they kept it close and cheered even more when they tied and also led the game.

For the last five minutes of regulation and most of overtime, all 18,000+ were on their feet. The 'BEAT L.A.' chants was reminiscent of the Boston Garden back in the 80s.....I actually got goosebumps. And to think we almost pulled it off. * * *

 

(5)

OMG and WTF!!!

by Robert Swift, ThunderMadness.com

* * *
I think at least 25% of the people there last night were cheering for the Lakers. I just think that is a joke. You could look around the stadium and tell by who was standing, who actually comes to games. Some guy behind me told me to sit down, this was as overtime started. I told him to stand up, he said he cant, I asked him if his legs were broken b/c if they are not, they might be in a minute. There was a couple sitting beside him. The girl was sitting in the guys lap and they were making out like 9th graders. True fans!

Listening to the radio on the way home after the game, all the moron callers saying how big a moral victory this was... come one, what is this, 8 year old soccer... really, moral victory! These are professional athletes, the only victory is the scoreboard. AND morons, the Lakers did not even have some guy named Pau Gasol, you might have heard of him!

The tard doing the radio broadcast kept saying the Thunder had 21 turnovers, but the lakers had 26 (or something like that) and was acting like that was significant b/c we played better. Hmmm, so the way I see it the Lakers played worse..... and still won! Whew, moral victory! Kind of like you all talking about an MVP of a game we LOST!

Do the Thunder run an offense? Durant just stands around, doesn't work for position. No one helps the other get out of a trap. I think Kobe got some crap calls against him in this game, but he usually gets every call. Watch Kobe work the entire time to get open. He is moving non stop. Same defensive problem as last year, everyone collapses to the middle and cant get back to cover the outside shooter. * * *

 

(6)

No Pastry for Me

posted by "Wiff" to RealGM Thunder message board

You know Westbrook and Durant need to stop cooking up so many of these....

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These two are a couple of pastry chef's.

They combined for a baker's dozen tonight. Durant had 7, and Westbrook had 6 turnovers.

Against Portland Westbrook had 9.

I know these guys have the balls in their hands a lot but they HAVE to get a grip on it if they want some success this season.

 

(7)

Live and Die by the Durantula

posted by Podirk to ESPN.com Thunder message board

* * *
It looked like KD and RW were trying to see who could commit more TOs...surprisingly...or not..KD won that.

Sefolosha earned every penny last night...his D was even more insane then I expected on Kobe, AND he was big late in the game with his O. I was hoping we would go to him to end the 4th...he was in the zone. (5 / 9 from 3 opposed to KDs 0 / 8)

But if you do call the play for Durant to end the game...end the game with the dang shot. KD air balled and gave them plenty of time to win the game. * * *

Etan again is 'nasty' but needs to be solid on his FTs..especially bein a big.

Biggest thing that killed us...Laker TOs...Lakers turned it over ~25 times...and everytime in the second half...KD or RW gets the ball and drives when we don't have the numbers...and commits a TO.

Overall I wanna be happy cause it was OT with the Champs..but playing close shouldn't be good enough in yr 2.

 

(8) *********ADDENDA **********

Game 4 Recap: Los Angeles Lakers 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 98 (OT)

by Zorgon, Welcome to Loud City (SBN)

* * *
Eventually, it came down to overtime, and it didn't disappoint. Etan Thomas and Russell Westbrook both threw in points, and Jeff Green hit a clutch jumper to put us within 1 late in the quarter. Eventually, Sefolosha and Westbrook both missed two potentially tieing 3 pointers at the end, and the Lakers came out victorious.

When you lose by 3 points in overtime, there's no obvious flaws to point out about our performance. Nevertheless, we could definitely do with a consistent 3 point shooter. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were ice cold from the arc, and while Sefolosha and Green did admirably, neither are specialists, and it would be nice to have a go-to guy for the type of thing. I'm looking at you, James Harden.

One thing to be proud of is how many turnovers we forced them to have tonight. On thing not to be proud of is how many turnovers we had ourselves tonight. They had 25, we had 21, and Kobe Bryant had a whopping 7. It's fair to say that if we took care of the ball more we could have established a solid lead, but it's amazing how close we were in the first place. * * *

 

The Bottom Line:

1.