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10:32 PM ET, 5/6/06

Thoughts through half of Game 7

Posted by Arash Markazi
Some thoughts on the Lakers-Suns game at the half:

-- I'm not sure which is worse, Cedric Ceballos the player or Cedric Ceballos the pre-game introductions emcee.

-- For all the praise he's been getting lately for his improved play let it be known that Kwame Brown easily has the worst hands in the league. The next time he cleanly catches a pass in the post without fumbling it will be the first. He also has a hard time making anything outside of a short layup or a slam-dunk and even those seem to be adventures at times.

-- Smush Parker is 4-for-28 in the last three and a half games. That's a hard percentage to shoot even if you tried. You had to know it was only a matter of time before the unlikely play of Kobe Bryant's teammates came to an end. I'm not saying Bryant isn't a ball hog, but there was a reason he took the number of shots he did during the season. His teammates have played above and beyond expectations for about five games in this series, but over an extended period of time the truth will eventually come out. The fact of the matter is outside of Lamar Odom, they just aren't that good. It's hard to continue to say Bryant should be more of a team player when teammates continue to miss chippies while he hits fadeaway jumpers with two defenders in his grill.

-- Apparently TNT doesn't change the advertisements it runs in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. The ad TNT had in the Los Angeles papers advertised the start time of the Lakers-Suns game as 8 p.m., which would work on the east coast, but any fan in L.A. that tuned in that late would probably get to see the start of the post-game show.

-- It seems like Lakers fans who celebrated a first-round series win and began to purchase bootleg "Hallway Series" shirts after going up 3-1 against the Suns have short attention spans. Back in 1993, the eighth-seeded Lakers, two years after the retirement of Magic Johnson, went into Phoenix and took a 2-0 series lead on the top seed back to the Forum. They ended up dropping the next three games as the Suns, who went on to play the Bulls in the Finals, became the first team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series. Now they have a chance to become only the eighth team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series against the Lakers.

-- Leandro Barbosa's speed was a big factor in Game 6 and he has been even more deadly in Game 7, slashing through the Lakers' defense just as effectively as Steve Nash. His effectiveness in getting to the basket whenever he wants caused Odom to give Barbosa a hard foul on the head that could get him fined. After Game 6, Barbosa -- who received four stitches in the lip after being elbowed in the face by Bryant -- said he didn't mind that he wasn't getting the calls he thinks he deserves. "I know I'm not going to get the fouls I think I should and that I'm going to get called for fouls others wouldn't because people don't know me," he said. "I'm fine with that. I just have to play through that."

-- Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski and his assistants Jim Boeheim and Nate McMillan were in Phoenix to meet with Suns chairman and CEO Jerry Colangelo and Suns coach Mike D'Antoni for meetings on Team USA as Colangelo is the team's managing director and D'Antoni is an assistant on the squad. Bryant, Odom, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, who are all on the team, also met with the coaches before the game.

-- A classic pre-game line from Bryant on Raja Bell: "He's a good defender, but I can score on him anytime I want to." The two almost got into it again as Bryant's elbow caught the side of Bell's jaw as he moved toward the basket in the second quarter. Either Bryant is one of the dirtiest players in the game or Bell and Barbosa are getting a little to close for comfort when defending Bryant. I have a feeling it's a little bit of both.

-- The game quickly dissolved into Phil Jackon's worst nightmare. After being tied 6-6, the Suns went on a 28-9 run to give them a 34-15 lead in the second quarter. Even after the Lakers cut the lead to 45-36, the Suns ended the quarter on a 15-9 run to give them a 15-point lead at the half. Kobe Bryant has 23 points at halftime while the other four starters only have 16 points. Thanks to the play of Tim Thomas and Barbosa, the Suns' bench is outscoring the Lakers' bench 23-6. If this pace continues the Lakers will be lucky to keep it within single digits.

I'll be back after the game with a six-pack of thoughts.

Comments:

Posted: 11:07 PM   by venky
What an amazing set of games for PHX to come back from being 1-3 down. Go Suns! Go Nash! O Canada!
Posted: 11:07 PM   by Anonymous
Where's Phil's Zen? Go Suns!
Posted: 11:26 PM   by Anonymous
So much for a hallway series. I think I speak for most NBA fans when I say we all wanted the Kings, Bulls, Pacers and Lakers to advance. Now it's time for the ever-so-predictable NBA second round tournament of top seeds. Can we please get an upset!? (And no, the Clippers don't count.)
Posted: 11:33 PM   by Anonymous
An amazing set of games indeed. A #2 seed got worked by a #7 seed all the way to a game seven. And now they get to face a well rested and hungry Clippers team. Good luck!
Posted: 11:44 PM   by Anonymous
I was hoping for a more exciting game but I'll take the 30 point blowout. Bring on the Clips, the SUNS are hot confident and on a roll. Look out LA!!!
Posted: 12:08 AM   by Kaya
Whomever said they could speak for most NBA fans about who they wanted to advance needs to either start thinking period or realize that most NBA fans like good teams who play a good game. Fortunately that leaves out the Lakers :)
Posted: 12:15 AM   by IrvPit
And the LATimes sport page carried
an item claiming Phil Jackson was worth 10 million a year.I'm sure
glad it's not my money. Looks like
Jackson and Kobe really can't make it together. Which one goes????
Posted: 12:21 AM   by Anonymous
That was Game 7 but Phil Jackson elected to play the game through Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom. No suprise Kobe Bryant sat it out on the second half. Bryant was making good in the first half and the Lakers were catching up with the Suns. However, Jakson wanted the "inside game" even though Brown kept on fumbling the ball and not making the shots just 5-10 feet away. Jackson forgot that this is Game 7 - you either lose or win with your franchise player. I can't blame Kobe for taking only four baskets in the second half because Jackson wanted Kwame and Lamar to win the game. You either swink or swim with your Superstar player. They were beaten with the same pick-and-rolls over and over again yet Jackson won't replaces Smush Parker who has been a great disappointment offensively (4 for 28) and defensively. I say Bryant should have guarded Steve Nash. He guarded Allen Iverson during the Lakers-Sixers NBA Finals. He is used to guarding the opponent teams' best players like Ray Allen, Lebron James, Tracy McGrady, etc. Jackson is to blame for the Lakers' breakdown.
Posted: 12:32 AM   by Anonymous
How do Kobe explain why he can't win playing with a "kid" like Raja?
Posted: 12:42 AM   by Anonymous
Mitch Kupchack partly is to blame for the Lakers' not making to the second round this year. Kobe is in his prime - he is peaking. He should be surrounded by good players. Look at Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. There were Pippen, Grant, Rodman, Kerr, Paxson, Harper . . . Jordan did not make them good - these players were already good. Their talents complemented Jordan, not the other way around. I'm tired of hearing the MVP makes his teamates better. No! Look, whom Kupchack assembled on the roster - Smush, Kwame, George, and the rest of the second stringers. He had a chance during the trading season but he blew it. Kobe needs to be playing with a good supporting cast while he's still in his prime.
Posted: 12:45 AM   by Anonymous
It was only a matter of time before the Suns solved the symbolic riddle of the "D'Antoni Code", that is that the combined talents of Nash, Marion, Diaw, Raja, Leandro,Tim Thomas, JJ and the rest can produce wonderful results inside or outside of the paint. Speed, style and scoring when combined with sensibility, team-play and floor-savvy ususally succeeds. The theory still proves true that most of the time, all else being equal, the best team will win in a seven game series. Great job Phoenix! That said, Kobe was only six seconds and one shot away from sticking the dagger in the Suns in Game Six. I still don't like Kobe Bryant, but I do respect his game when he's keeping it clean. As for the rest of the Lakers, I was surprised to find out that they have the potential to play very well together as a unit, again, when they are not throwing elbows or flagrant hands to the face ala Lamar Odom tonight in Game 7. The Suns were not going to be fooled into that kind of trash play again. Bring on the Clippers!
Posted: 1:09 AM   by Anonymous
Great series! Great job Suns to battle back! Bring on the Clippers!!!
Posted: 1:34 AM   by Anonymous
...or Bell and Barbosa are getting a little to close for comfort when defending Bryant.

Funny thing about that. How close - exactly - is too close? Or is this a special Kobe rule (elbows to the face aren't a foul when the elbow belongs to Kobe Bryant and the defender was close enough to get it on the jaw)? I wasn't aware that there were rules preventing a defender from being close to an offensive player.

To rephrase your point, it sounds like the options are either Kobe is a really dirty player or Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa are incredibly in-your-grill defenders. You might be able to make the case on Raja Bell with that, but you have to be the first person that would ever credit Leandro Barbosa with tenacious defense.

Raja Bell is a pest, and he flops, but Kobe is a dirty player. He is also a very good student of the game, so he is smarter about being dirty (in a Larry Bird kind of way). But he is dirty.
Posted: 5:52 AM   by Anonymous
I remember a playoff game between LA and SAC back in 2002. Doug Christie (someone who plays like Raja Bell) is guarding Kobe. Doug is giving giving Kobe some space, and Kobe landed an elbow to Doug's nose. Ref calls a foul, guess who? Yup, on Doug Christie. I mean, when elbows and noses collide, it's the nose's fault. Espcially if the elbow is attached to an all star player.
Posted: 5:52 AM   by Anonymous
Anonymous, if you ever played ball you'd know that there isn't a rule against playing too close but if your grill is constantly around your opponents shoulder and/or elbow that you're going to get one in the mouth sooner or later. So the point Arash was making was that Kobe might be a dirty player, but Bell and Barbosa are also getting close enough to Bryant were they are putting themselves in a position to get get hit. It's like being in a guy's grill after he gets a defensive rebound and tries to make room. The rebounder can legally do that, and if you want to, as a defender, get an elbow to the face while he makes room that's up to you. Just don't complain about it when you do.
Posted: 10:30 AM   by Anonymous
Phil or Kobe can't always believe that playing mind games will get them win in NBA. Even if Bell was out in Game 7, lakers wld have lost big time. The fact that the combination of best coach and best player in NBA now can't rise to the occassion when it matters most only proves that NBA is all abt team game and not an one-man show. I bet neither kobe or phil will ever win another ring.
Posted: 11:55 AM   by Anonymous
Kwame Brown has horrible hands, but he does NOT have the worst hands in the league. I submit that he may have the worst hands that an LA journalist who only pays attention to big games may have seen, but Tyson Chandler is worse, Adonal Foyle is worse, Michael Ruffin is worse, Francisco Elson is worse, Orien Greene is worse, Mark Blount is worse ...
Posted: 8:41 PM   by Anonymous
Anonymous, I beg to differ. I have had NBA League Pass for the past three years and have watched practically every player in the league a hand full (pun intended) of times and Kwame's got the worst hands in the game today. Dude couldn't catch a cold buck naked in Alaska. He's definitly got worse hands than Chandler, Foyle, Ruffin, Elson, Greene, Blount or any other underachiever you want to name drop. And lay off Arash "the LA journalist who only pays attention to big games." Homeboy used to work for SLAM and has covered NBA games on both coasts so I bet he's watched more hoops than you have.
Posted: 12:27 AM   by Anonymous
...Bell and Barbosa are also getting close enough to Bryant were they are putting themselves in a position to get get hit.

Kobe's posting up, and you want Raja and Leandro's face to be at least 2 feet away from Kobe's shoulder? Or - if they aren't - it's OK for Kobe to pop em? That's crazy talk!

Yes, putting your face there is bound to get some contact at some point - but when it's an elbow thrown, it's a foul (even if it happens to be Kobe's eblow). I don't think that they are upset that Kobe throws elbows - it's that he gets away with it. If the refs called Kobe's elbows, he'd stop doing it real quick. Instead, it's not called, defenders complain, and people call the defenders whiners.

For normal players, popping somebody in the mouth with their elbow while posting up just isn't an option. For whatever reason, the refs seem to facilitate it with Kobe, and he's smart enough to take advantage of it.
Posted: 1:52 PM   by Anonymous
I doubt it.
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