Some nights you should know when to quit. Kobe Bryant kept throwing and shooting and missing. He finished with 10-27 from the field, including 0-4 from three. The Lakers, who shot at 42.9% from the field were almost at 50% without Bryant. He did lead the scoring with 28 points, but it was one of those night where he didn’t have the help he HAS TO HAVE so the Lakers can win in the playoffs, something that’s been working well since the All-Star break.
Against a team like Denver, without a superstar but with depth and width all over, defending very well and aren’t afraid of a shoot out or an up tempo game, Kobe can’t be left alone. Odom was good off the bench, but these are the game Gasol and Bynum need to step up. They combined for 24 points, while Denver didn’t have a seemingly formidable option on the bench (Andersen out) while Martin and Nene were resting. Team rebounding, team everything actually.
With everything that didn’t go well for the Lakers, they were still a shot away from tying or winning this game. They lost the agressivness battle, which also came down to the last play, as Martin scored off Nene’s free throw miss, sealing the win for the Nuggets, 15-4 since the Carmelo trade. Still, the Lakers didn’t seem to worried about the loss when it ended. They were right about losing the game themselves. Gasol said they just kept giving the Nuggets chance after chance until the visitors seized it and sticked to it till the end.
I wouldn’t be worried too. Seventeen wins, two losses since the All-Star break. The Lakers probably won’t catch the Spurs (who finally won last night) but in general they’re looking good right on time. I’m sure they’re a bit worried about not having home court advantage, but as long as they keep their intensity level up and Kobe Bryant doesn’t continue to have shooting nights like on Sunday, they’ll be OK in the playoffs.
On the other coast, the Miami Heat are peaking at the right time. LeBron James didn’t need a lot of help from Wade and Bosh (18 & 16), scoring 31 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing 7 assists, shooting 13-18.
Now, the Nets aren’t exactly what the Heat are going to face in the playoffs, but like the Lakers, the Heat are looking good, winning eight of their last nine. About not having home court advantage? The Heat have the best road record in the East. Nothing that will blow your mind (26-13) but this is probably the team and player who have seen the worst of crowds this season. Not having the home court advantage in the Eastern Finals or Semi Finals won’t be what sends them packing.
Its the other stuff that will, and right now the fact that the Heat haven’t beaten the Bulls or the Celtics this season is a major factor. Boston are losing depth in the paint as we speak, and who knows what their DL will look like as those old bones are getting worn out with the playoffs looming. Miami got a surprising double double from Dampier last night. I don’t know if they can count on it in the post season. The Heat will have a chance to figure it out against the Celtics in a few days.
Back to LeBron James – He pulled off the best move from last night around the league with a 360 lay up or some spin reverse lay up, call it whatever you want. He also set a new double figures scoring record for the Heat, making it 75 games in a row with at least 10 points, breaking Alonzo Mourning’s record.