Contrary to what Todd may think, I am not dead. I am in Denver. Well, actually, I was in Denver, but now I'm in Castle Rock. Which is not exactly the same as being dead.
I was on a plane during the game last night, and though the plane had several flavors of ESPN available, it did not have NBA-TV. I did watch the game his morning on TiVo, and although I had to listen to Joel Meyers and Stu Lance, I survived. Of course, I won't even have that option for the Seattle game tonight, so unless I can sneak out to a sports bar (not easy at your sister's house with the ClipperWidow, the ClipperKids, nieces and grandparents around), this will be the last Clippers game I see until Sunday.
I wrote yesterday that it would be good to get this win, while Kobe is less than 100%. Too late! The Mamba seems to have rounded into shape, just for us. How nice.
This was the most under control I've seen Kobe in years. For the last couple of seasons, he's been taking a lot of bad shots. Even when he was 'on', although the shots might fall, he was forcing a lot. Last night, he only took a couple of bad shots and the result (40 points on 23 FG attempts, 5 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover) is one of the best lines Kobe's had in a long time. Is it possible that the injury is a blessing? Will he slow his game some, play under control, and then explode when he needs to?
The game was frustrating. Looking at the box score, it seems like a Clipper win. Points in the paint, 54-40 Clips. FG pct 48% to 37%. We should not have been outrebounded, but it was not a huge margin. Sure, 22 offensive rebounds for the Lakers is a lot, but they missed 56 shots, so there were a lot of chances.
All the stats point to a Clipper win.... all except one. Free throw attempts. The Lakers took 46 free throws. That's a big number. A really big number. They were nice enough to miss 15 of them, or this game would not really have been close. The interesting thing about it is, the Lakers took 46 FTs on 33 Clipper fouls. Now, the first 4 fouls of each quarter don't result in FTs, unless they are in the act. And you figure there are some and-ones in there also. So hopefully, on average, each foul ends up producing about 1 FT over the course of the game (on the other side, 23 Laker fouls produced 21 Clipper FTs.)
In fact, 7 of the Clippers 8 pre-bonus fouls in the first half were shooting fouls - which means for all but one whistle on that end, the Lakers were being given a chance to score easy points. Give the Lakers credit - they were taking the ball aggressively to the basket, and earning trips to the line. But if you hold a team under 40% shooting, you really need to win the game. You can't give them so many freebies.
I would bitch about Kobe getting all the calls, but even if you take out his 18 FTs, the Kobettes still went to the line 7 more times than the Clippers. That's not officiating - that's aggressiveness. And over half of the Clippers 21 FTs were earned by one Corey Maggette. The rest of the team? 3 for Brand, 3 for Kaman, 4 for Cassell. That's it. Not good. The really weird thing is, until this game, the Clippers were leading the league in getting to the line (they dropped into a tie for 3rd after the game).
The other thing that hurt was turnovers. The Clippers committed 18 to the Lakers 14 for the game. Not that's not horrible - not good, but not horrible. And, no there's never a good time to commit a turnover, but the Clippers seemed to pick particularly bad times. With a chance to take the lead with 7 minutes left, Thomas commits an offensive foul away from the ball. With a chance to take the lead with 6 minutes left, Kaman travels. Then in the final 3 minutes, after regaining the lead and then losing it again, Brand sets a moving screen, and Maggette makes an ill-advised drive that wasn't a turnover in the box score, but was in our hearts. When it was time to win the game, the Clippers were unable to even get a shot off.
But, no, I'm not suicidal. Frankly, I was much more depressed after the Sixers game. I wanted the Clippers to win this game, and they could have. They played well in many aspects of the game. Kaman looked much better. His shots still won't fall, but he's made good aggressive moves and gotten good looks. He really seems to be just having some tough luck right now, and hopefully that will change. But he outplayed Bynum by a long shot (if not Kwame). Livingston looked very good in the second half, although he did have 2 of those how can someone so talented make such a stupid mistake turnovers in the second quarter when he through an entry pass out oof bounds because he simply got impatient, followed by an 8 second count. But almost every Clipper played pretty well, with the exception of Mobley who was passive to the point of near-invisibility. Is Luke Walton that great a defender? Where the heck was Cat? 4 shots?
The Clips really need to get a win on the road pretty soon. Until they do, they're still just a .500 team, even if they go 41-0 in Staples (with a Clippers logo at midcourt). Seattle tonight is a gimme. The mini-roadie to Minny, Denver and Sacto will be a great test. Minny is beatable, the Clippers have owned the Nugs, while the Kings have owned the Clips. We need to win 2 (and if one of those is against Sacto, so much the better).