They’ve been formidable opponents all season long. Since the beginning, one has been considered the favorite and likely to take the whole thing. The other has been somewhat revered but has recently improved and gained a greater appreciation of fans and experts. One was a hometown favorite. The other has gained some local following. Last night, both contenders gave it everything they had in a memorable grudge match. Who will be the victor remains to be seen.
But enough about American Idol. And don’t worry. I’m not moving on to speaking about Mario Lopez throwing out the ceremonial first pitch again. Matthew McConaughey is scheduled to do the same this evening in Chavez Ravine. Clearly, with films such as “Dazed and Confused” and “Failure to Launch” (which by the way features Steelers great Terry Bradshaw), McConaughey has had the better career. Okay, let’s get serious. “Failure to Launch” was awful. Wait. Let’s really focus, on sports.
Enjoy your Wednesday, L.A. sports fans. The Dodgers added another win to their impressive home record, the Lakers topped the Nuggets in Game One of the Western Conference Finals and the Clippers (Yes, those Clippers), came away with the first pick in last night’s NBA Draft Lottery.
Staples Center was at capacity Tuesday evening, much to the chagrin of pop-culture experts. Many anticipated the center would be empty due to the “American Idol Finals” held at the neighboring Nokia. It appears that LA Live survived the evening’s festivities. Although, this was similar to the blunder made by the Nugget’s front office.
The Pepsi Center however, is not as equipped as LA Live to handle simultaneous events of such grandeur. Game Four of the Western Conference Finals is in direct conflict with Monday Night Raw, a pre-scheduled World Wresting Entertainment event. Clearly, both platforms of athletic prowess cannot be featured on the same evening.
Hey, even if I didn’t find professional wrestling to be a commendable sport, I’m fearful of what Chairman Vince McMahon might do to me. McMahon recently challenged Nuggets and Pepsi Center owner Stan Kroenke, claiming Kroenke should have expected his team to make it this far in the postseason. McMahon’s negotiating tactic? Giving Kroenke a Kobe Bryant jersey and delivering an invitation to a steel-cage grudge match. So rah, rah for Monday Night Raw!
Still, McMahon might have tipped his hat to the Nuggets last night, as they took on the Lakers in one of the chippiest, hard-nosed games I’ve seen in quite some time. Players were on the floor often. Pushing, shoving and even diving (although nothing off the top turnbuckle) seemed the norm.
The Lakers have recently been criticized for their lack of intensity. Analysts have said the team is not tough enough to be title-contenders. The Lakers hushed “Charles in Charge” (Charles Barkley, former NBA All Star and current TNT NBA analyst) Tuesday night. Kobe Bryant dug deep and even went as far as dislocating a finger. Oh, snap! Literally. The team played tough defense and continued their dominance over the Nuggets (winning their eleventh straight playoff victory against Denver), beating Carmelo and company 105-103.
Friends forever, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant matched up well. Anthony finished the game with 39 points, but was edged out by the more-experienced Bryant who had a much-needed 40.
Anthony, who looked unstoppable early on, finished the first quarter with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He had averaged 14 points in the teams’ four regular season match-ups. Anthony ended the first half with 20, and Kobe was close behind with 18. Anthony took his team to a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter. However, the late efforts of Bryant and the Lakers defense proved too much.
As if he had done it time and time again, Kobe was clutch at game’s end. He grabbed a few crucial rebounds and made all of his fourth quarter free throws, going 9-of-9. Postseason veteran Derek Fisher contributed with some late points for the Lakers, including a critical trey. The Lakers’ Trevor Ariza helped seal the win with a huge steal on an Anthony Carter put-in. Carter, 6’2” could not see over 6’10” Lamar Odom and Ariza made an athletic play on the ball.
With the Nuggets down four and :10 left to play, Denver’s Chauncey Billups hit a huge three-pointer to bring the Nuggets within one. Although it was a no-call, it appeared Billups stepped on the line just before the shot. Still, this oversight wasn’t enough. Bryant was fouled at the other end and made both free throws stretching the lead back to three at 105-102.
J.R. Smith would be fouled at the other end in the final seconds. He made the first freebie and intentionally missed the second for a chance at a put-back to tie the game. No go, Mr. Smith. Kobe came in off of the miss to grab the board and end this nail-biter.
Denver’s inability to grab offensive rebounds was likely the difference in this one. The Lakers led this category 17-7 and ended the game with 22 second-chance points. Pau Gasol had six offensive boards and 11 second-chance points (one more second-chance point than the entire Nuggets team).
Although the Lakers have showed that they do have some fight left in them, the series is nowhere close to being over. The Nuggets can and will come back swinging. They have the veteran leadership to make adjustments. They have only lost three games in the postseason. These losses have only combined for six points.
Both teams appear ready to do whatever it takes in this series. Anthony and Bryant both received technical fouls in the contest. Tuesday’s “T” was Bryant’s fifth in the postseason. If he receives seven, he will be suspended a game. After the game, Kobe assured Laker fans that this would not happen. Kobe realizes the importance of every game, every minute, every second in this series.
Nuggets Head Coach George Karl did not provide any assurance to Denver fans. Karl was virtually speechless when asked about losing a game where the Lakers were on their heels for about 45 minutes. Perhaps Karl was just like the rest of us, in awe of an unforgettable Game One of what could become an instant classic.
Boys in Blue to Host the Surfer Dude
I wish I could sit here and go on and on about McConaughey’s filmography. But honestly, if I’m going to Dodger stadium, I’m going to watch the Dodgers who have won seven of their last ten, three in a row and are now an amazing 16-3 at home. In the sixth inning, Casey Blake hit a three-run home run to compliment Chad Billingsley’s latest impressive pitching performance. Billingsley earned his sixth victory of the year in the Dodgers 5-3 win over the Mets Tuesday evening.
Finally! An opportunity to write about the Clippers!
“They have great players on the team already… I feel that they can be a team that turns around quickly and does really well next year…”
Although this sounds like something I would say, I didn’t. Oklahoma’s Blake Griffen seems excited to make the move to Los Angeles and play for L.A.’s other team.
The Clippers received the first-overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and will likely select Griffen. Although Griffen remains a little raw, he will make an immediate impact. Griffen’s no Michael Olowokandi (first pick in 1998 whose less than stellar career has been subject of heavy criticism) and will prove to be a good addition.