All it takes is two words to describe Game 2 and the rest of the series: “It’s on.”
I was taking all kinds of notes Wednesday night during the game and was preparing for my standard post-game analysis, but after seeing how things went down, I’ve got to put those notes aside for a few minutes. I’ll write about the game itself further down the page.
Right now, it’s obvious what the storyline of Game 2 is. It’s not that the Rockets lost 111-98. It comes down to one thing: thuggery. Which is too bad, because before Game 1, you could at least respect the Lakers for being a good team that won games fair-and-square.
Maybe all that talk about not being ‘tough enough’ when they lost in the Finals to the Celtics last season had gotten into their heads after losing Game 1 against the Rockets. They were out to prove a point against a tough group of Rocket players that they were going to come out aggressive. In fact, too aggressive. Unfortunately for them, I think it’ll backfire.
First, let’s talk about the no-brainer call that the refs got right, to their credit. Derek Fisher throwing an elbow — and body — into Luis Scola was bush league. It was the right call to give him a “flagrant 2” and eject him. You gotta love Scola for then stepping up to the line with everyone booing him and hitting the two technical FTs.
It’s just too bad that TNT analyst Doug Collins, who had the benefit of the replay in front of him, was actually complimenting and fawning over Fisher for being a “tough guy” in a good way! If there was ever a time an analyst had to be embarrassed for not even coming close to seeing what the refs saw — a premeditated act with intent to excessively harm another player — this was it. I like Collins, but I’ve heard other fans call into radio shows wondering why the guy is so biased for big name players. I now see what they mean.
Of course, the biggest episode was the REFS BLOWING THE CALL BY NOT CATCHING KOBE’S DIRTY ELBOW TO RON ARTEST‘S THROAT, INSTEAD CALLING A FOUL ON ARTEST, AND THEN EJECTING ARTEST AFTER HE CONFRONTED KOBE WHEN THE REFS WOULDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THE CHEAP SHOT!
I wish there was a better angle from the other side where you could actually see the full force of Bryant’s elbow hitting Artest’s windpipe.
I really believe this cheap shot deserves a suspension, especially if you take into account the other elbow and knee that he threw on Battier in Game 1…
…and then tried to rope him like a calf to take him to the slaughtering pen. Disturbing…
Don’t buy Bryant’s glossing over this with the B.S. line that this is simply “playoff basketball.” It’s called a cheap shot to gain an unfair advantage. Anyone who buys that line is a fool, and I’ve got some AIG stock to sell them.
If the refs or league execs had done the right thing after Game 1 and suspended Bryant for what would have been classified as assault and battery on a city street, then maybe it would have sent a message to Bryant that crap like that wasn’t going to be tolerated, no matter how big of a star he is. BUT NOOOO, STU JACKSON AND THE LEAGUE EXECS DID NOTHING AND HE DID IT AGAIN!
Now you’ve got the outcome of Game 2 marred because of what happened with Artest reacting, as he’s entitled, after HE is called for the foul instead of Bryant, then doing what Charles Barkley said after the game he thought Artest was entitled to do — go confront Bryant about it.
And it wasn’t the initial confrontation that got Artest ejected. It was poor judgment by a terrible official — Joey Crawford — to give Artest another technical that ejected him when he was a far enough distance away from Bryant, still jawing at him for telling him don’t ever do that again.
I’m sorry, but when you’re about to give a 2nd technical to a player, if he has separated himself from the initial dust-up, and he’s jawing at another player who just hit him in the throat, you don’t give him a second tech unless he’s having to be physically restrained to keep him from hitting or killing someone.
I think if you look at Bryant’s ‘body of work’ in this series, or should I say “ELBOW of work,” Bryant (and Fisher) should be sent a clear message that no matter how big of a star you are, how nice of a guy you may appear to be, or how many playoff games you’ve played, THEY SHOULD BOTH BE SUSPENDED FOR 1 GAME EACH.
I think these blows by Bryant will backfire. When he was lighting Houston up with all those jump shots early in the game (25 at the time of the elbow), I was thinking man, this guy is going to torch the Rockets the rest of the series and the Rockets are going to be in serious trouble.
But now, I think he has ignited a fire under the Rockets to send them into orbit. I liked how Kenny and Charles on TNT were saying that Houston has tough guys (or “pit bulls”), naming off Artest, Battier, Landry, Lowry, Hayes and Scola as examples. Hell, when the Rockets are getting Kenny & Charles’ respect, you’ve got to think they’ve reached the next level.
I agree the Rockets are tough. And I think Bryant has angered them, and Houston fans, such that Bryant will not only hear it at Toyota Center in Games 3 & 4, there will also be some old Evergreen, Colorado signs coming out of mothballs from the Red Rowdies to taunt him.
But I think the Rocket players are hopefully going to take it a step further: make sure when they foul him, they will be HARD FOULS that will throw him off his game. His trash-talking a couple of times during Game 2 to Battier saying, “You can’t guard me” will give them even a little more motivation to shut his trap up.
Ironically, the little dust-up between Von Wafer and Rick Adelman where Wafer was sent to the locker room after the 3rd quarter has been completely overshadowed by Fisher and Bryant’s bush league plays. I can bet you that Wafer and Adelman are going to be fine. Adelman will probably say on Thursday that he’s just a young player who is passionate about wanting to help his team win, it was in the heat of the moment, and Adelman did the right thing by telling Wafer to go to the locker room to chill.
There was a game played, too
Sure, Rockets fans were disappointed that Yao didn’t get more touches (3-of-4 FGs for 12 points). He got into foul trouble early, legit calls or not, which affected some of that.
Yao sat on the bench for about 14 minutes more than normal because of foul trouble, but was still active in cheering his teammates on. Click here for more photos from the game.
But the real problem was the Lakers applying a fronting defense like he encountered during the Portland series. Pau Gasol ended up fronting Yao many times, and it worked.
For some reason, Yao didn’t seem to be fighting all that hard to get open all the time in the paint. And where were the 22-foot jump shot opportunities like he had in Game 1 that he drained? It’s not that hard to get open for those.
Not that the defense was all that great, but Yao just doesn’t seem to be able to fight all that hard to get open, either down low in the paint, or even coming out to take 15-20 foot jumpers. And on top of that, he was congesting the lane and not spreading out the defense, such that Aaron Brooks couldn’t drive through open lanes to the bucket, which mitigated the success he had against the Lakers in Game 1.
If anything, if Yao can’t get open, the Rockets need to call plays for Brooks because we’ve seen what he can do when he blows by Fisher. After scoring 19 points on 7-of-14 shots in Game 1, Brooks only scored 15 on 5-of-15 shots, with some of those shots made in the fourth quarter after a victory was out of reach.
On the bright side, Artest had another good game before getting ejected. 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting. And Carl Landry was the Landry of old, scoring 16 points in the 2nd quarter, although he did miss 5 free throws in that quarter, and finishing with 21. But at least he may be back to his old form under the boards and around the basket, something we hadn’t really seen that much from him since the gunshot wound.
There’s so much more to this game I want to write about, but the Fisher-Kobe thing really got me going, it’s getting late, this post is getting long enough, and I’ve got plenty to say about Game 2 for my next post before Game 3. If you want to read some of what Yao had to say after the game, Raymond has transcribed it in the forum here.
Before signing off for now, I do need to end this post with the following thoughts (recommended if you’re a Kobe hater)…
I used to hate Bryant when he came into the league. I thought he tried to talk and be like Jordan too much. The tone of his voice, how he would never look an interviewer in the eye trying to look too cool,, and the way he moved his tongue around his mouth. He was a Jordan wannabe. Hated it.
Then that incident in Evergreen, Colorado happened and the drama around his trial really got him hated. He got off (no pun intended), and you had to think maybe whatever happened in that room was consensual after all. Still not very good to his image as a family man, but better than the ‘R’ word.
But he was tremendously embarrassed and his marriage almost fell apart in front of the whole world to witness. He then realized he had to work very hard to try to gain back some of his reputation, not only with his wife, but with the general public. And after all, endorsement dollars were at stake as some of his sponsors dropped him like a hot potato.
I was skeptical, and it took me awhile, but he eventually seemed to be humbled by all of it. Humiliation will tend to do that to even the toughest guys. He obviously got some personal coaching on how to rehabilitate his image: he stopped the nonsense in trying to act like Jordan, started looking interviewers in the eye, forced a smile on his face more often, and said all the right things (except for getting caught on that camera phone throwing Andrew Bynum under the bus a couple of years ago; and the drama saying he wanted to be traded, then denying it later). And when he scored 81 points, the second highest number of points in league history, he was pretty humble about it.
He did the some of the obligatory nice-guy things you’d expect to see, like befriend that little kid who went through Hurricane Katrina, and becoming that kid’s big buddy, which all looked great on camera at Kenny Smith’s charity game he threw together all within a few days to raise money for the Katrina victims. It looked a little contrived, but at least he was trying. And he carried himself well in Beijing on his way to helping the U.S. win a gold medal.
[I know I’m rambling here, but bear with me.]
So I finally thought, yeah, he may be a little phony, but he seemed to have become a better man in my mind after the Evergreen incident. I decided I was going to cut him a break.
HOWEVER, after seeing what I’ve seen the past 2 games: NO LONGER!
The dude has regressed in my mind as a person by showing when he gets irritated by Shane Battier or Ron Artest, who are playing solid and legal defense, he turns into a cut-throat thug, doing shit that he hopes the cameras won’t catch that could re-tarnish this image he has tried so hard to rebuild.
But the cameras don’t lie, Kobe. You’ve been busted for everyone to see the real you. Some of your apologists who have man-crushes on you like Doug Collins may say it’s you being a competitor. But they’re blinded by your act, or too forgetful, to remember what I described above.
Houston is watching you, and regardless of who wins this series, you’re going to wish you never brought it on. Here come the harder fouls. You’ve given your opponent even more reasons to want to beat you like a drum. Payback can be hell.