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Appreciate Transcendence

Also file under "That's why they play the game."  Games are not played on paper.  Last night, for example, the Lakers took on the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.  The Nuggets were without their superstar, Carmelo Anthony.  The Lakers were at (relatively) full strength.  The game was at Staples, where the Lakers were 24-3.  On paper, the Lakers clearly had the upper hand.  We all know what happened next.  Chauncey Billups turned in one of the transcendent performances of the season, draining 9-13 3 pt shots en route to 39 points, as the Nuggets brought a mini-gun to a shoot out and beat the Lakers against the odds.

Tonight, it was the Lakers who were staring at the wrong side of the paper equation.  And it was Lamar Odom who provided the transcendent performance which allowed the Lakers to finally get over the hump in Portland, 99-82.

You're probably aware of all of this, but we'll run it down for you.  The Lakers were playing on the second night of the back to back that probably requires as much or more travel than any in the NBA.  Kobe Bryant didn't play tonight for the first time all season.  By halftime, Andrew Bynum joined him on the unavailable list.  I'm not trying to play any pity cards, because it would be foolish to do so in a game played against the most injury plagued team in the league, but Portland has been playing relatively well even without all their missing players.  And the last time these two teams met in Portland, the Lakers were destroyed (by free thr ... oh nevermind) by the Blazers, despite the Lakers being at full strength vs. the Blazers hospital ward.  Then there's the whole "curse" aspect, with the Lakers having lost 9 straight games in Rip City.  There were probably a fair number of Laker fans expecting a loss tonight, and even more who would accept it if it happened.

But, just as Billups refused to let the Nuggets lose last night in L.A., Lamar refused to let the Lakers lose tonight.  Billups' performance was more palpable, more identifiable, and probably a bit more unique, but make no mistake.  Lamar's performance on the glass tonight was one for the ages.  22 rebounds is no record, not even for LO (though he did tie his career best).  But advanced stats can tell you just how special it was.  First of all, this was a slow paced game.  There weren't that many possessions to begin with, which means less opportunities to collect missed shots.  Lamar had 19 defensive rebounds out of a possible 37.  In other words, on the defensive glass, he personally took down more than half the rebounds which were available TO THE ENTIRE TEAM.  The league leader in individual defensive rebound rate is currently Marcus Camby ... with 32.9%.  All those boards helped limit Portland to only 2 offensive rebounds the entire night, or 8% (the Lakers usually give up 3 times that percentage).  Lamar also had 3 of the Lakers 12 offensive rebounds.  He didn't single handedly outscore the Blazers, like Billups did to us last night.  But he damn near out-boarded them, and that is special in it's own right.

He had help, of course.  Much like J.R. Smith picked up where Billups left off for Denver, even a transcendent performance isn't enough all by it's lonesome.  Without Kobe in the lineup, many Lakers stepped up to fill the void.  Most notable was Ron Artest, who's overall play on the offensive end was very good, and the three straight threes he hit at the end of the first half, including a 35 footer at the buzzer, absolutely changed the complexion of the game.  Shannon Brown's shot selection was still pretty bad, but he made enough of them to be patted on the back on this night.  Same for Jordan Farmar.  Even Derek Fisher and Sasha Vujacic, the two villains from last night's game, came through with relatively good shooting.  Pau continues to struggle with other team's physicality, but he did a great job of moving the ball within the triangle tonight, including a layoff to Ron Artest that brought back memories of Shaq to Rick Fox.  As one would expect when the Lakers pick up a big win in a hostile environment, missing 2 of their best players, everybody played a good game.

Was it luck?  Was it the Lakers finally showing their championship mettle?  Was it fate's way of apologizing for Denver's crazy shooting the night before?  Was it statistical noise over the course of a long season?  Let the last two games serve as a reminder to you, that anything is possible any given night.  Last night, the Lakers lost a game they should have won, and considering the circumstances, they actually had no chance.  Tonight, they won a game they should have lost, and considering how things played out, the result was a lock.  Both are evidence that these games must be played to be decided.  And neither one meant anything more than 1/82.












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