Kobe really looked locked-in before tonight’s game

I didn’t think it would ever be possible, but today, I watched four live NBA games in a row. For an Aussie who is regularly starved of NBA on TV, I was in heaven.

Before I get onto the votes there is one thing I want to say that’s been annoying me lately, and it came to mind while watching the Jazz v Lakers game tonight. When discussing Kobe’s all-guns-blazing opening to the game, the commentators chimed in with the following pearl of wisdom (not a direct quote, but close enough): “You could see it in his eyes tonight, before the game in the warm up, he was ready”. I repeatedly hear these kinds of comments in the light of a big game from Kobe, Lebron or Wade. “He wasn’t talking or smiling before the game, everyone thought there was something wrong with him” is another one you’ll hear, as if to suggest that when players have really serious facial expressions they intend to play better than usual. Well shit, this is a revelation. Once I heard the commentators say that tonight I called up my Lakers pal Fred and told him, “Fred, did you hear? Kobe came out tonight looking really serious! He apparently wasn’t talking much before the game! You guys are so going to win this game!”.

Of course, I didn’t really call Fred. I don’t know anyone called Fred. The notion that NBA players would approach some games with more focus than others is not hard to believe, I can accept that, but the idea that you can learn this from watching them run around in the ten minutes prior to the game is ridiculous. Of course, it is only a reference made in hindsight when the outcome is favorable. You’ll never hear Mark Jackson say “before the game Kobe looked like he was really going to stink it up tonight Stan, you could tell from the look on his face, he was gonna shoot 5-20 or something”. So let’s just leave out the Dr. Phil observations, OK?

3 votes – Kobe Bryant. I’ve seen Kobe have a lot of great shooting nights, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him – or any one for that matter – start 14-17 from the field. That is 83% shooting and let me tell you something about those shots: they all had Brewer/Kirilenko/Williams/whoever riding right on his hip. The highlight clips haven’t hit YouTube yet, but when they do, do yourself a favor and go check out Kobe’s shooting in this game. Of course, many basketball purists (and Kobe-haters) will argue that with only 1 assist Kobe’s game was a bit one-dimensional. Hard to argue with really. But in a sense, that’s what makes this particular performance all the more remarkable. It didn’t matter what else was happening in the game – who was rebounding, who was making plays, who was playing great defense – it all was completely drowned out by Kobe’s offensive destruction. In short, Kobe sucked the soul out of the Jazz by his shooting alone. No one else does that.

2 votes – Dwyane Wade. The alternative method for sucking the soul out of a team is to do what Wade did tonight against the Hawks. That is, everything. Soaring dunks, long threes, emphatic blocks, sharp  passing. The kind of stuff that gets you a +34 differential in a game you only won by 29 points (do the math, it’s possible). Apart from Wade’s obviously insane antics, two other things impressed me tonight for Miami. 1) Their defense. They blocked 12 shots, they commanded the paint, they were relentless in their hustle. It was basically championship-caliber defense, for a team that isn’t really known for it. 2) Jermaine O’Neal. For a five minute patch there, it looked like JO had turned back the clock to JO circa 2004. People forget how good this guy was – I routinely used to say he will evolve into a combination of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, which obviously did not happen (thanks to injuries) but at the time it wasn’t such a crazy statement. O’Neal’s 22 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks were huge tonight – but this guy could do that every game if he’s back to his best.

1 vote – Chris Paul. Responded like the true warrior he is, and I loved the fact he was looking for his shot more.  Would have earned more votes if not for the Hornets looking very unconvincing at times and almost blowing the game. In fact, the Nuggets really should have stole this game had Melo passed to an open Billups on their last possession.  When Denver were tuned in – first 5 minutes of the game and last 5 minutes of the game – they completely outclassed the Hornets. It looked like the Nuggets kinda got bored out there and kept the Hornets within striking distance to make things interesting (that sounds like a decidedely Billups-Pistons trait doesn’t it?). But CP3 wouldn’t let his team lose today, and certainly wouldn’t let an old point guard steal the limelight again.

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