L.A. 2, Rest of the League 0

05.20.09 8 years ago 76 Comments
Kobe Bryant (photo. Mannion)

Kobe Bryant (photo. Mannion)

Carmelo was smooth as butter, but Kobe was the hot knife that ruined what should have been a Denver win last night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals … With Carmelo getting savage buckets early and often, the Nuggets looked like they were gonna walk into Staples and blow the Lakers out. By the time L.A. hit 14 on the scoreboard in the first quarter, ‘Melo already had 14 by himself. The jump shot was flowing like liquor on the “Rock of Love” bus, and nobody could stop him. When ‘Melo (39 pts, 14-20 FG) dropped another effortless three midway through the third quarter, he couldn’t help but crack a wide smile … Denver was up double-digits in the first quarter, and despite falling behind at halftime, led by as much as seven in the fourth. But Kobe (40 pts, 13-28 FG, 12-13 FT) wasn’t having that. He scored 18 in the fourth, and down the stretch he won it at the free throw line. With 30 seconds left, Kobe put L.A. ahead with a pair at the stripe, then he hit two more with 10 seconds left to extend the lead to four, then with just under six seconds left, hit another pair for a three-point lead. The Lakers fouled J.R. Smith before he could get off a trey, and after making the first FT, he missed the second on purpose, but Denver couldn’t get the rebound … You almost can’t do anything about Kobe in those late-game situations other than hope he’s off, but when it mattered most, the Nuggets were really hurt because couldn’t they keep Pau Gasol (13 pts, 14 rebs) off the boards and let Derek Fisher (13 pts) kill them with open shots. Fish gave L.A. the lead at halftime when he stuck a corner three at the buzzer off a Kobe drive, and on pretty much an identical play, put the Lakers up for the first time in the fourth quarter … The biggest play of the game, though, came from Trevor Ariza. Following Kobe’s go-ahead FT’s with 30 seconds left, Ariza jumped in front of an Anthony Carter inbounds pass that was intended for Chauncey Billups, and instead of going in for the highlight, waited for his team to catch up and got it around to Kobe, who forced Denver to foul him … Chauncey (18 pts, 8 asts) deserved some blame on that Ariza steal for not coming to the ball (same as an NFL receiver), but he made up for it when he hit a cold-blooded step-back corner three over Ariza with six seconds left (yes, we know he stepped out of bounds, but the refs didn’t call it) that kept Denver alive. If Kobe had just missed one free throw in that last stretch, Chauncey would have had a chance to win the game …

Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers (?)

Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers (?)

If you’re a Knicks fan, are you mad that Spike Lee has basically disowned your team and is a full-fledged Kobe/Lakers fan now? As soon as the final buzzer sounded, Spike was the first guy to jump out of his seat and gush over Kobe … For teams that both play solid D, it’s all the more glaring when the Nuggets just let Ariza have all the space he wants to shoot jumpers, and the same with L.A. not even pretending to guard Anthony Carter … Obligatory “You gotta love Birdman” play of the game: Late in the third, he set up a pick in the backcourt and CRUSHED Shannon Brown. In a very physical game where the L.A. crowd and the players were already on-edge feeling they weren’t getting calls, Birdman almost set off the powder keg … Blake Griffin is headed to L.A., after the Clippers won last night’s Draft Lottery and scored the No. 1 overall pick. At least we think Blake is their guy. If there’s one franchise that could mess this up, it’s the Clippers. Memphis got the No. 2 pick, followed by Oklahoma City. The Kings, who had the best chance at No. 1 and sent Chris Webber to represent them, ended up fourth, and the Wizards got fifth … And a few minutes after the order was made official, we rolled out Dime’s first official ’09 Mock Draft. Who’s gonna go after Blake? Where will Ricky Rubio end up? What about Stephen Curry? And did Tyler Hansbrough drop to the second round? … Busy day over at HighSchoolHoop.com yesterday, beginning with the news that John Wall finally committed to a college. There’s also a piece about Brandon Roy, who recalls his days playing junior-varsity ball in high school and how that made him the player he is today … Cavs/Magic is tonight at the Q. Who do you got? … We’re out like C-Webb’s lucky charms …

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