The fact that Utah, the team that fouls the most in the league this year, shot 20+ more free throws than the Lakers is fairly spurious — but odd refereeing aside (including that flagrant 2 pictured above by Ronny Turiaf, which really was a flagrant 1 to me), the Lakers killed themselves by not making the free throws they got and getting away from Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher late in the game yesterday. Kobe Bryant’s back injuries essentially slowed him down, and it looks like he tried to overcompensate by taking ill-advised shots late in the 4th quarter and in the overtime period. Don’t discount what Deron Williams does, though: in getting Derek Fisher in foul trouble early, he was able to do as he pleased because on the court, he ate Jordan Farmar alive — because Farmar just doesn’t have enough bulk on him to keep Williams from the paint.
In another night, we’ll get to see what New Orleans really is made of, because damn near every opinion maker in the country is probably giving a flat “told you so” with the Spurs sweeping both home games. The Hornets let it get out of hand early and wound up losing by 20, with both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker scoring 20+. Chris Paul had 23, but the real evidence of a defensive shutdown was the Spurs holding David West to 10 points and keeping Paul from making a serious dent in terms of assists and distribution to his teammates.
The Celtics have to keep hoping that LeBron can’t shoot straight for the rest of the series, because they’re pulling out wins with his terrible percentage and losing on the road yet again. If they lose in Cleveland again tonight, we can dismiss them as a title contender altogether, because going all of the first round and most of the 2nd without a road win is horrifically bad.
The Magic absolutely blew it on Saturday, because that game was a steal waiting to happen with Chauncey Billups on the bench. Rip Hamilton stepped up in the point guard’s absence and Rodney Stuckey did his best Billups impression, but Dwight Howard still hasn’t taken over a game in this series, and the Pistons look like the only team in the playoffs serious enough to head out on the road and take care of business (that is, when they feel like it.)
Photo: AP/Deseret News/Scott Winterton
(Side note: while going through a particular gallery for game photos, it struck me that more than half of the photos for Jazz/Lakers were of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens because they were in the stands. Fucking lame.)