The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who is about to take you to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into the wondrous land of the NBA. Next stop, the Basketbawful zone. Enjoy!
That was just so Hollywood. Kobe Bryant got his perfect script. On the night he was presented his
Lifetime Achievement Award MVP, his 34 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists helped lead the Lakers to a 120-110 victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 2 of the teams' second-round series. The only thing missing was Mamba slithering back to the locker room in slow motion while Chariots of Fire played in the background.
The Lakers continued to bake their bread at the line, and it was some real sour dough for the Jazz: L.A. shot 43 free throws compared to only 16 for Utah. And this discrepancy wasn't lost on Jerry Sloan. "We've put them on the line 89 times (in two games). That's way too many. That was the difference in the game, free throws." Uh, yeah, you could say that. As General Obvious Carlos Boozer might say, "Them getting 27 more free throws than us really helped them a lot."
Speaking of Carlos, his slump continued (10 points, 3-for-10) and he played only 24 minutes due to foul trouble in the first half. Deron Williams shook off a slow start to finish with 25 points and 10 assists, leading seven Jazz players in double figures. Paul Millsap added 17 points (7-for-13) and 10 boards, and he was the only reason Utah didn't go down by 30 in the first half.
Derek Fisher twisted the knife in the Jazz fans' back a little bit more with a 22-point, 7-for-10 game. Pau Gasol also had 20 points, and Lamar Odom continued to thrive in his "third option" role with 19 points and 16 rebounds.
Now the series moves to Utah, where I hear the Jazz play pretty well...
The return of the $110 Million Man. Rashard Lewis had kind of been sucking so far in this second-round series: Over the first two games, he had gone 15-for-41 from the field and 2-for-12 from three-point range. It's like his bionic eye was really just an olive somebody shoved in there and his bionic arm had been replaced with a cheese log. Which might have actually happened in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. It was Return of the Deathprobe Part I, if I'm not mistaken.
Uh, anyway, Rashard got his superpowers back last night — 33 points, 11-for-15 shooting, 5-for-6 from The Land of Three — and the Magic ended their nine-game playoff jinx against the Pistons with a convincing 111-86 victory.
The win was made possible in part by hard practice and a healthy lifestyle, and also by the fact that Chauncey Billups strained his right hamstring and played only the first 3:49 of the first quarter. Detroit fell behind 30-16 in that opening stanza, and despite a little third quarter run, they were overwhelmed, much like I was while trying to think of an analogy with which to end this paragraph.
Pistons coach Flip Saunders said: "I'm concerned because (Billups is) our quarterback; he runs our team. You saw our first two games. He's been a huge part of why we've been successful - that matchup has been huge for us." No kidding. So is this the part where the MVP voters start recasting their ballots for Mr. Big Shot?
The Magic hit 54 percent of their shots as a team. Lewis got capable backup from Dwight Howard (20 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocked shots), Hedo Turkoglu (18 points, team-high 6 assists), and Jameer "Thank God I didn't have to play against Chauncey" Nelson (18 points, 7 rebounds). Rip Hamilton led the Pistons in both points (24) and turnovers (6), Tayshaun Prince added 22 points and 7 boards, and Rodney Stuckey did a poor man's impersonation of Billups (19 points, 3 assists).
Fun fact(s): Steve Austin's boss was named Oscar Goldman. And the Six Million Dollar Man toy line featured a bigfoot doll.