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Monday, May 7, 2012

Lakers Great Team Effort, Win Game Four (5.6.12)

In the end, it wasn't Bryant, it wasn't Bynum, and it wasn't Gasol. The two biggest plays of the game came from Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake in the final minute of the game. The Lakers scored 28 points off of second chance opportunities, as the Lakers grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, with Jordan Hill pulling down 7 and Pau Gasol gobbling up 5. Bill Macdonald, play-by-play voice of the Lakers, said it best, "You know Stu, it's a cliche that's used a lot in sports, but really, it pertains to tonight. It was a team win. A lot of guys did a lot of wonderful things tonight for the Lakers to secure this victory." In what may be the final broadcast ever on KCAL 9, the Lakers sent the station out with a team victory. What a way to end 35 years of great coverage.

The Lakers began the game with a putback for their first bucket of the night. Kobe missed a layup, and missed the tip in, but he continued battling on the boards, and the ball bounced right to Pau at the near block. Pau went up and finished the putback. This activity on the glass would foreshadow the effort of the Lakers for the rest of the game. It seemed that the Lakers might be tentative on the glass due to the numerous leakouts the Nuggets capitalized on during the previous games. After Pau missed an isolation fade from the near elbow, no one crashed the glass, causing Stu Lantz to state, "Because the Lakers are so concerned about getting back, nobody is even close to getting an offensive rebound." Mike Brown must have addressed this situation. Following that, the Lakers had very few possessions where they failed to have at least one guy in the paint going for an offensive rebound. 

Andrew Bynum also lived up to his promise to come out ready for game four. Although he turned it over on his first possession, Bynum showed an aggressive side that was clearly lacking in game three. Bynum caught the ball at the near mid block in an isolation set. Gallinari came from the far side to double Bynum. Bynum kept his elbows up and was strong with the ball. Bynum attacked baseline and spun back to the middle. Although he stepped out of bounds for a turnover, Bynum's aggressiveness against the double and on his step through was great to see. Following that, Bynum switched onto Ty Lawson and contested his 3 from the far wing. Bynum leaked out and Kobe hit him with a half court alley oop lob for the layup on the break. Following that, Sessions ran a pick and roll with Pau from the top. Sessions attacked, hit Pau at the near elbow, and Pau attacked the rim. As he drew the defender, Pau sent a perfect bounce pass to Bynum for the open dunk. 

Then Kobe got involved. He hit Sessions on a drive and kick for an open long 2. Then he went inside-out with Pau to sink an open 3. Following that, he pulled off his signature spin fadeaway. Following a Bynum offensive rebound, Kobe caught the ball at the far mid wing. As he jabbed right, Kobe continued his jab with one dribble to the middle, then he reverse pivoted to spin back and shoot the fading 17ft jumper over Gallinari, swish.

Following Kobe's fade, Andre Miller took over. Miller abused Ramon Sessions with numerous back downs and finishes at the rim. First, Miller posted Sessions at the far mid block. He attacked the middle and finished with his left on the near side. Bynum followed with a nice seal on McGee and open dunk at the rim. Miller came right back. He used a pick at the far wing to get to the far elbow and hit the jumper. Miller followed that with another post on Sessions. Miller caught it at the far mid wing. He backed down Sessions to the far mid block, turned middle, and hit the jumper in the lane over Sessions. 

The Lakers responded with great effort on the glass. Kobe missed a catch and shoot jumper at the far wing, but he gathered his miss at the far mid wing and attacked the basket. Kobe went strong to the rim, made contact with McGee in the air, and missed the layup. Hill followed Kobe's miss, but missed the tip. Hill got his offensive rebound and missed the putback. Hill gathered the fourth offensive rebound of the possession, went up for the putback, and McGee spiked the ball away for a goaltend violation. Miller followed by schooling Steve Blake. Miller used a pick from McGee to get to the far mid wing. He picked up his dribble, pumped, looked to hit the rolling McGee in the lane, then looked to hit Lawson at the far wing. Blake finally recovered, but Miller sent him flying with another pump fake. As Blake flew by, Miller hit the shot off the glass. Then Miller followed a transition layup miss from Lawson for the putback. 

Bynum finished the quarter strong. Utilizing an iso at the far block, Bynum took one dribble, turned baseline, went through McGee, and hit the lefty bank. Bynum made sure to prove in the opening quarter that he could destroy McGee. To end the quarter, McGee was called for his second goaltend violation. Bynum finished the quarter, 4-4 for 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 turnover. Kobe finished 3-9 for 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 turnover. Although Kobe had a lot of misses, 4 of them came right at the rim when he was either attacking the basket hard or going for a putback. Miller went a perfect 5-5 for 10 points and 2 rebounds in 4:30 of play. Just like game three, the Nuggets had someone catch fire in a limited stretch (Lawson in game three) to start the game. The Nuggets finished up 26-28. 

The Lakers opened the second quarter with some more great effort. On the first play, Jordan Hill gathered an offensive rebound at the near mid block after battling both Al Harrington and JaVale McGee. Hill attacked middle, and then drop stepped baseline for the righty turnaround hook. Two possessions later, Steve Blake showed his inner Derek Fisher by coming up with a scrappy, feisty play. Blake passed up an open 3 from the far wing to attack middle and get into the lane. Brewer caught up to Blake and swatted his shot from behind in the lane. As the ball bounced up in the air, Brewer got his hands on it first, however, Blake ripped the ball out with a forceful swipe at the near mid wing. Blake immediately hit Pau in the lane with a bounce pass for an open layup. Blake then set up a wide open jumper for Matt Barnes at the near top 3. Barnes missed, but Pau gave some great effort to tap the ball out. Barnes tracked the ball down to the near side. Barnes dribbled in to the near top 3, no one closed on him, so he decided to attack the middle. Barnes went straight to the rim and threw down the nice two handed slam in traffic. Andrew Bynum also made a great effort play and showed off some high basketball IQ. Kobe used a pick at the near wing to go right and come back left. As he came back to the near wing, Kobe hit the flashing Barnes in the lane. Barnes' shot was blocked in the lane. Bynum ran it down and recovered it at the near mid block. As he chased it down, Bynum made sure to look at the far shot clock. Bynum snuck a peak, noticed there was 2 on the clock, gathered the ball, and shot the fading jumper in the lane. He hit the 9ft jumper to beat the buzzer.

Kobe followed with some great plays. In an iso on the far block, Kobe was doubled. He spun baseline, pumped, watched Afflalo fly by, and stepped through to split the double. With McGee rotating to swat the shot, Kobe shot the ball high off the glass to get it just over McGee and sink it. Then Kobe was involved in the comedic high point of the game. Kobe caught the ball at the far mid wing in an isolation set as Andre Miller was forced to switch onto him. With 7 on the shot clock, Andre Miller decided to take the foul instead of allowing Kobe to get off a good look against him. Miller began slapping Kobe's waist with both hands. The move could have been a nice boxing combo if his fists were closed. Kobe followed this by taking a handoff after inbounding the ball and hitting a 27ft 3 from the near top. 

With Kobe getting into a nice flow, Bynum robbed him from getting hot. Kobe stood at the near wing in an iso. He attacked baseline, and once he got to the near block, he spun back to the middle. The double came, so Kobe hit Bynum at the near high post. Kobe immediately reposted just outside the parabola in the lane to establish good position. Kobe demanded the ball, but Bynum didn't send it. Instead Bynum attacked left to get into the middle. Bynum threw up an ugly contested running jumper that came nowhere close. It was pretty funny to see the role reversal. Usually, Bynum is the one with good position and Kobe goes away from him. This time, Kobe got to feel how frustrating it is to have great position and not be rewarded. Bynum followed this up with consecutive mistakes. As Sessions pushed the floor in transition, he got under the rim and dumped the ball off to the trailing Bynum. With JaVale McGee loading up for the jump at the rim, Bynum shuffled his feet as he caught the ball in the lane. Bynum pumped, and JaVale flew over him and landed with his whole body parallel to the ground, face first. Bynum was whistled for traveling. Then in an iso on the far block, Bynum turned baseline to spin away from the double. McGee was able to get his hands in on the ball and was awarded the jump. Bynum lost the jump and Lawson hit a jumper on the way down the court to give the Lakers their biggest deficit of the game, down 42-49. 

Then crazy happened. Kobe pushed up the near side and hit Ramon at the near wing. Ramon attacked the basket and finished with a layup. As Lawson dribbled up the near side on his way back down the court, a woman stepped onto the court on the near side. It has been reported that she used to stalk Kenyon Martin. Supposedly the woman was yelling to the Nuggets bench, "Where is Kenyon?" just before she stepped onto the court. The woman walked on the court for a good 6 seconds before she was escorted off. Although quite crazy, it's pretty funny that a stalker didn't even know that Kenyon Martin now plays for the Clippers. Hopefully the woman has her wits about her. She will surely face some sort of punishment, including an arrest. 

Following the delay, the Nuggets finished the half ahead 45-51. In the second, Kobe went 2-4, 1-3 from deep, for 5 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist. After an aggressive first quarter, Kobe settled for jumpers in the second. Bynum went 1-2 for 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block, and 2 turnovers. The Lakers committed 8 turnovers in the half, and the Nuggets capitalized by scoring 15 points off of those turnovers.

To start the third, Kobe provided a glimpse to later in the game. Kobe caught a drive and kick at the far top 3. Kobe attacked left to get into the middle. Kobe could have pulled up, but he hit an open Sessions at the near wing 3. Sessions missed. Kobe then showed off his impressive fundamentals. Kobe curled to the near elbow and caught the entry while sealing Afflalo on his back. Kobe never took a dribble. Instead he hesitated, anchored his left foot and swung his right foot through to step in and hit the leaning jumper in the lane. Two possessions later, Kobe executed a perfect jump stop. Kobe attacked from the near wing into the middle of the lane. Kobe jump stopped as his man flew by, and he spun back to hit the turnaround 8ft jumper. 

Bynum followed with another aware play, his second of the game. After Sessions avoided his pick, and essentially denied Bynum the opportunity for the ball, Drew looked pretty disappointed as he threw his arms down at the far elbow. Sessions instead ran a high pick and roll with Pau. Sessions attacked to his left and hit Pau at the far top of the key. Pau drove left into the lane, but he was stripped. Bynum then hustled to battle Kenneth Faried for the loose ball. As Bynum gathered the ball at the top 3, Bynum looked at the far shot clock, noticed 3 on the clock, and turned and went up to shoot a 3. Faried swatted the shot from behind, but Bynum stuck with it. With 2.1 on the shot clock, Bynum regathered the ball, took a dribble in to his left and made contact with Mozgov at the near elbow. As he bumped Mozgov, Bynum instinctively shot the ball and drew the foul. Bynum sank the free throws.

Kobe followed this with a mirror image of his previous leaner. Pau came from the free throw line to set a down screen for Kobe at the near mid wing. Kobe curled to the far elbow, caught the entry, and pumped. Afflalo bit, Kobe took a dribble to his left and stepped back. Kobe pumped again, causing Afflalo to fly by again. With his right foot as his anchor, Kobe swung his left leg through to square up and hit the lean in 14ft jumper from the near elbow. 

To end the third quarter, Kobe showed some more trust in his teammates. Kobe stood at the near wing, used a Bynum pick, and attacked to the top of the key. Kobe elevated to take the good look, but instead Kobe sent a pass to a wide open Blake in the near corner. Blake missed. On the next possession, Kobe stood at the far wing. Once again, Kobe used a Bynum pick, attacked middle and got to the top of the key. He elevated with an opportunity for another good look. The defense got caught staring, and Kobe rifled a pass to a wide open Barnes in the near corner. Barnes' shot went in and out. Jordan Hill followed it up with a great offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback. He sank both free throws. Kobe's trust in the role players in the third quarter failed him on three different occasions. First to start the quarter, two times at the end. However, Kobe would keep looking for them in the fourth. The Lakers won the third, 25-20, and entered the fourth down by one, 70-71. Kobe went 4-7 for 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 turnover. Bynum went 2-5 for 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block. 

In the fourth quarter, the Lakers came up with numerous clutch plays. To start the quarter, Sessions used a pick from Pau, and with 7 on the shot clock, he got to the far block. Sessions' floater missed the rim. Pau got the offensive rebound, went up, and had his shot blocked. Pau recovered the ball, kicked it out to Blake at the near wing, and Blake swished the 3. The shot left Blake's fingertips with .2 left on the shot clock. The Lakers capitalized on another huge break just under the six minute mark. Kobe backed down from the near mid wing, drew the double, and kicked to Sessions at the top 3. Sessions attacked straight down the lane. Sessions elevated in the lane and tried to dump the ball off to Jordan Hill at the far block. The ball had too much speed and flew right off of Hill's hands. Luckily the ball took a crazy bounce and went straight to Blake in the far corner. Blake swished the long 2. After contesting a Kobe shot clock beater from the far wing 3, Gallinari leaked out as Kobe held his form. Lawson pushed up the near side and hit Gallo under the rim. Gallo pumped, getting Kobe to fly by. However, as Kobe flew by, it bought just enough time for Blake to recover. Gallo went up for the layup, and Blake came from behind to swat the shot out of bounds. The Nuggets came up dry on the possession.

Following a Gallinari jumper that was just millimeters away from being a corner 3, Gallo's long 2 made the score 86-86 with 1:06 remaining in the game. Kobe brought the ball up to the near wing. Pau came to set a pick on Kobe's man (Gallinari). As Pau set the pick, Gallo dropped to the floor and writhed. Kobe slowly dribbled to the far wing in order to assess the situation and capitalize on the 5-on-4 situation. The Nuggets should have fouled, but maybe they didn't even notice Gallo was down. Kobe got to the far wing and hit Pau at the dotted line on the far side of the lane. Pau caught the pass and noticed Ty Lawson coming over to help on him. Lawson left Sessions at the far corner, so Pau immediately kicked it to Sessions. Sessions hit the wide open 3 to make the score 89-86, Lakers lead. The screen was completely legal, but it looked like Gallo took incidental contact to his throat, causing his windpipe to get hit. 

The Nuggets took a timeout to give Gallo a breather and advance the ball. Al Harrington caught a drive and kick from Lawson at the far wing 3. Ramon Sessions closed out hard at the three point line, forcing Al to put the ball on the floor. Al attacked the basket, and the Lakers seemed intent on giving up the basket instead of fouling for an and one opportunity. Al went up for a layup, and just about made it. However, the ball rested on the lip of the rim, and Andre Miller couldn't resist the temptation to tap it in. Miller tapped it and was called for offensive interference. He knew he messed up and he did not argue the call.

Miller's offensive interference set up the most important play of the game, and highlighted Kobe's unwavering trust in his teammates. Up by three and a basket away from sealing the game, Kobe brought the ball up with 40 seconds to go. Kobe got to the near side, waved off a pick from Pau, and instead called for a pick from Bynum. Kobe used Bynum's pick with 10 on the shot clock. Nothing materialized as Kobe came off of it, so he dribbled out to the far top 3. As Kobe went to the far top, Blake slid up from the near corner to the near wing. With 7 on the clock, Kobe crossed right to left, hesitated with the ball in his left hand for just a moment, and then attacked to the middle. As Kobe got to the middle, Blake slid back down to the far corner. Blake's IQ here was impeccable. Kobe got to the near elbow, and Blake's man, Lawson, got caught staring. Lawson stood right at the elbow and helped on the drive. Kobe jumped in the air to get a better angle and he kicked it to Blake in the near corner. Blake caught the ball with 4 on the shot clock and he went up with confidence. Blake swished the wide open 3 as Ty Lawson furiously attempted to close out on him. As the Nuggets called timeout, Blake jogged back down the court and Kobe embraced him with a man hug. Pau followed with a hug from behind. Blake stated after the game, "It's always good when you get a hug from Kobe. It means you did something right." Blake's 3 affirmed Kobe's trust and sealed the game, putting the Lakers up 92-86 with 18 seconds left in the game. The Lakers gave up a gimme layup to Lawson and won the game 92-88.

Kobe shed some light on his key pass during his on-court post game interview. Mike Trudell asked Kobe, "You kicked it out to Steve Blake, what were you thinking when the shot went up?" Kobe replied, "Well defensively, they just wanted to see if I was going to trust them. They had missed some shots earlier in the game, and they wanted to see if I was still going to believe in them, and they stepped up and knocked it down." When Blake hit shots against OKC to close out that great comeback at the end of the season, I wrote, "It was nice to see Kobe trust someone who hasn't been by his side for 13 seasons." My sentiment refers to Derek Fisher. Well, Kobe did it again, and once again, his teammates rewarded him. Blake knocked down a shot that the likes of Derek Fisher and Robert Horry used to hit. We've all seen Kobe drive and kick to Fish and Big Shot Rob for a huge playoff shot. We've never seen him do it in the playoffs with any of the current guards on the roster, until now.

Kobe needed every ounce of help from his teammates in the fourth quarter. Kobe went 1-5, 0-2 from deep, for 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers (his final one coming off of an obvious foul during the final seconds of the game that the refs decided not to call). Bynum went 1-1 for 2 points. Pau went 1-3 for 2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 turnover. Jordan Hill had a nice fourth quarter, going 1-1 for 3 points, with 4 rebounds (2 offensive), and 1 steal. Steve Blake went 3-4, 2-3 from deep, for 8 points, with 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 1 block. Ramon Sessions went 2-5 for 5 points, with 1 rebound, and 1 steal. Those five players scored every point of the quarter.

Overall, Kobe struggled with his jumper. When he attacked the basket, Kobe was very efficient, but when he settled, Kobe struggled. Kobe went 10-25, 2-7 from deep, for 22 points, with 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 5 turnovers. Kobe's consecutive games with shooting struggles and turnovers is troubling. Kobe will need to be on his A-game in order to deal with OKC. However, Kobe wisely chose to be the set up man on the two biggest plays of the game. Kobe needs to step inside that three point line and continue attacking the basket. Kobe did attack the rim to begin the game, but once he noticed he wasn't going to be getting the calls, Kobe shied away and settled. The refs allowed the game to be physical, and Kobe didn't seem intent on getting hammered for a trip to the charity stripe.

The Lakers as a whole shot 45.3% and were very solid. Bynum went 8-12 for 19 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks, and 3 turnovers. Pau went 6-12 for 13 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block, and 1 turnover. Sessions went 5-11, 1-3 from deep, for 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers. Blake and Hill were great off the bench. Blake went 4-9, 2-5 from deep, for 10 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block. Hill went 4-9 for 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 1 steal.

The victory was truly a team effort. Contributions came from all around at different points throughout the game. Going up 3-1 with a trip back to LA, the Lakers should close out the series in five and move on to the Thunder.

If the Lakers close out the series in LA in game five, this game will serve as the final KCAL 9 broadcast of a Lakers game. I have watched almost every KCAL 9 road game since I was six years old. The voices of Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz will forever be a part of my Lakers' consciousness. Memorable moments such as the battles with the Sonics and Gary Payton in the late 90's, young Kobe battling MJ in Chicago, the playoff games against Stockton and Malone, Kobe always getting booed in Philly, the foursome of Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal running teams out of the gym, Shaq's 61 on his birthday against the Clippers, the trips to Sacramento in the early 2000's, Horry's playoff game winner in Portland in '02, Kobe's two buzzer beating 3's against Portland in '04, the 0.4 DFish shot in San Antonio, Kobe's 61 against the Knicks, and the recent trips to Boston, they all happened on KCAL 9. Don't forget James Worthy in the studio with "The Worthy Spin," and Lawrence Tanter with his post game stool in the studio and his booming voice before the commercial break. For those older than myself, I'm sure images of Magic, Kareem, and the "Showtime" Lakers jump to the forefront. Throughout it all, KCAL 9 has been there on the road to bring the Lakers into our homes.

With all the wins, and all the losses, thank you KCAL 9 for all of the memories. It just won't be the same seeing the purple uniforms on a different station. Who wants to watch a Lakers broadcast where live news updates don't pop up on the screen? Or when the power ball numbers don't roll across the screen? KCAL 9 will forever be appreciated in my heart, and in the heart of Lakers' fans everywhere. KCAL 9 closed the broadcast with a wonderful video to celebrate their 35 years of broadcasting the Lakers. Click the link and enjoy the nostalgia.

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