by Craig Kwasniewski
The Los Angeles Lakers' rally fell short in overtime against the New Jersey Nets on Sunday night, losing 102-96. Los Angeles had closed the gap from an 18 point 3rd quarter deficit to send the game into overtime. It wasn't until the last half of the 3rd quarter that Kobe Bryant got untracked and almost single-handedly carried the Lakers to victory. The furious rally in the last 4 minutes of the game made up for what was a rather boring affair as the Lakers offense was bogged down by New Jersey's defensive quickness.
Still, in the first month of a long regular season, what tends to interest fans are the individual match-ups. In this case we had Kobe Bryant versus Vince Carter. Last season, "The Vinsanity" returned to his 2001 form with several highlights in a very impressive victory. Included was a 360 degree finger roll down the throat of the Laker defense and over 7-footer Chris Mihm. The highlight that night reminded me why Vince Carter is always a huge draw.
Well, tonight The Vinsanity was not to be. In typical NBA-style motivation, Kobe looked to shut down VC from the start. He was face guarding Carter all over the court, practically ignoring defensive help side principles for his teammates. As the game moved along, you can see the frustration in Carter's actions. The Vinsanity seemed to have this, "Hey Kobe, you DO realize that it is November, right?" attitude about him throughout the first half.
Tensions reached the surface in the 3rd quarter when Kobe fouled Carter hard along the perimeter. As Kobe looked to apologize (see picture), The Vinsanity started jawing, verbally reminding Kobe to "dial it down a little." I'm not much of a lip reader, but in a playground-style jawing, Carter said something that made Kobe flip out. It was on....or at least I thought it was. At that moment, my feeling was that Kobe should have left Carter alone. The Vinsanity was obviously mailing it in tonight, and the best thing was not to provoke him. Don't wake a sleeping giant, or at least a former superstar in full blown mail-it-in mode.
I was anxious, hoping that the confrontation would lead to a classic one-on-one match-up with Kobe and VC trading blows. This was not to be. Instead the V in VC stood for vagina tonight as Carter strayed out on the perimeter on the offensive weak side. The Nets even called a back-door alley-oop in an attempt to wake up VC. Instead, Carter decided not to engage Kobe in the match-up. After the confrontation, Kobe raised his offensive game up a notch and forced an overtime. He ended with 46 points in a loss and Carter had 10 points in 39 minutes. Sure Carter's team won a hard fought road game, but by not engaging Kobe in a rather worthless November game, it is the fans that lost.