So I recently moved to Singapore and will be here for a few months because of my real job. Hence the lack of recent updates. But thankfully, they have cable over here and I’ll be able to watch the rest of the NBA playoffs unfold (if they didn’t I may have considered quitting my job). We’ve got a bit of catch up to do with the votes, but I’ll start with the two games I caught yesterday and today.
Lakers v Suns – Game 5
3 votes – Kobe Bryant. Hidden beneath the other story lines of this series – the Suns incredible bench, Amare vs Odom, Bynum’s knee, and the ageless Steve Nash – is the fact that Kobe Bryant is turning in one of the best individual series in NBA playoff history. Sure you can attribute his inflated numbers to the Suns frantic style of play, but they’re still damn impressive to look at: 33ppg, 9,6apg, 7.4 rpg, 1.4bpg, with shooting numbers of 53% and 44% from 3-point range. Not even Lebron has had a series with 33+ points and 9+ assists before. It’s Kobe unselfishness that has most surprised me. Kobe’s 10+ assist games are usually an anomolay – a flash of selfless brilliance to remind us he can do it, and to throw opposition coaches’ strategies off balance. This series is different though. I haven’t seen Kobe sustain such a pass-happy mentality this long before. Today he was 1 assist off a triple double, and despite some early foul trouble, managed to bounce back and set the tone for the Lakers offensively and defensively. I don’t know how he’s done it, but somehow, Kobe Bryant is playing his best ball of the season in the Conference Finals, and seems to be getting better.
2 votes – Derek Fisher. A super aggressive game from D-Fish, leading the Lakers early with his offense (when Kobe was benched) and hitting big shots late like D-Fish does. Thanks to Kevin Ding, I now know that Fisher has had only 10 career playoff games with 20+ points before tonight, which became his 11th. He just keeps churning out big games when he has to. Oh and btw Lakers fans, you really need to follow Kevin Ding’s Twitter – he’s one of the best in the business.
1 vote – Lamar Odom. Had another great game on the boards, and is by the far the Lakers leading rebounder this series (11.8 per game to Kobe’s 7.4). I can’t help but think that without Lamar playing like this, the Lakers might be down in this series. Consider this – Pau Gasol hasn’t registed a single double-digit rebound game yet against the Suns. For all the supposed advantage the Lakers had in height with Gasol and Bynum, it hasn’t materialised. Odom has essentially saved the Lakers from embarrasing themselves.
Game 5 – Boston v Orlando
3 votes – Jameer Nelson. Doc Rivers said in an interview earlier this week that Jameer Nelson, while arguably not even the 1st, 2nd or 3rd best player on that Orlando team (talent-wise), is their most important. I’m inclined to agree. When Nelson plays well, Orlando usually win. And the fact he’s lined up directly against the world-beating Rajon Rondo, it’s an even bigger reason to believe he holds the key for this Magic team. What I loved about Jameer in this game was his fearlessness. He drove hard into traffic all game long, keeping Boston’s defenders honest who naturally were cautious to stay out on the three-shooters. But he also hit plenty of shots himself, including two absolute dagger threes. The first came after Rasheed Wallace hit his second-straight three, cutting the defecit to 10, and threatening to take over the ball game. Jameer came right back and drained a three early in the shot clock – a questionable shot to be honest, but a massive eff-you to Boston. A minute later, while Rondo and Ray were in the midst of planning to execute a Hack-a-Howard foul, Jameer stopped at the three point line and unleashed another one. The crowd went bonkers, the lead was blown to 18, and Orlando was home. If Jameer keeps playing with this kind of testicular fortitude, the Magic can absolutely win Game 6.
2 votes – Dwight Howard. Blocked a few shots early, had some easy dunks, and never looked back. His effort in this game was phenomenal – a lot of full-court chases, hustling for boards, and getting back on defense. 21-10 with 5 blocks isn’t huge by Dwight’s standards, but that’s precisely why you should never read a box-score to determine a player’s impact. One of the best games I’ve seen Dwight play this post season.
1 vote – Rasheed Wallace. There was only one point in the fourth quarter where the Celtics looked like they might go on to win this game, and it was when Sheed started heating up. He had 10-straight points for the Celtics when no one else could get it going. Usually once that happens someone like Ray or Paul will start hitting their shots, and all of a sudden the game is close again. Sheed built some momentum for his team in that five minute burst, but unfortunately no one was ready to pick it up and run with it. That wasn’t Sheed’s fault. His performance tonight was everything you want in a bench player.