By Craig Kwasniewski
Denver was virtually whitewashed in the 4th quarter: With Denver rallying back to close the game to within 6 after 3 quarters, Phil Jackson throws out a lineup of Vujacic, Walton, Radmanovic, Farmar and Turiaf... a Chris Mihm shy of a whitewash. Normally this results in Kobe rallying the Lakers back from a 10 point deficit. Shockingly the Lakers pulled away with cerebral and fundamental basketball... just kidding. Actually the Lakers pulled away with improved defense (especially from from Walton and Farmar) timely outside shooting. Most importantly, Odom, Fisher, Bryant and Bynum didn't play at all after the 3rd quarter, getting much needed rest for tomorrow's game at Utah.
The Vujacic Effect: I can count all of Sasha Vujacic's great games on one hand... after having a thumb and two fingers amputated. Last season he played his best career game ever, nailing several huge jumpers in a come-from-behind win against Dallas. Now you can add this one to the Vujacic vault as he played... (this is really hard to type)... the role of closer. Trust me, this guy is still a piece of garbage, but tonight Sasha, you really came through. He even got under Carmelo Anthony's skin, which brings me to...
No matter how great he is for Team USA, Carmelo Anthony is still a thug: Just when people were ready to forget about that cheap shot in the Knicks game last year, Melo gets tossed tonight. With 6:18 remaining he hits Vujacic in the throat away from the ball resulting in a flagrant 2 and an immediate ejection. Vujacic has this ability to get underneath people's skin (even I want to punch him out every time I see him), but Melo should know better. He's way too good of a baller to get dragged down to the level of scrubs like Sasha Vujacic. So disappointing... Melo's offensive game was virtually unstoppable in the first half tonight. He was nailing jumpers left and right with Odom right up in his grille and I was mentally writing a "Melo's finally getting it" post until the Vujacic incident.
Jackson's key adjustment: Besides the 4th quarter whitewash, the other key adjustment by Jackson was starting Walton over Radmanovic to start the second half. Radmanovic hasn't been drawing iron at all during this three game home-stand and Walton's been having a hard time adjusting to his new role off the bench. So Jackson simply switched both players and viola, the Lakers responded with a more fluid offensive game and a 14 point lead midway through the 3rd quarter. I expect Walton to start against Utah tomorrow.
Denver's very weak at the point: The Nuggets started Anthony Carter at the point. Yes the same Anthony Carter from the Miami Heat, made famous for that over-the-backboard game winner in the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals against New York. The dude had zero offensive game back then and STILL has zero offensive game. Denver is a much more dangerous team with A.I. at the point and J.R. Smith at shooting guard. But of course it makes no sense to start your 5 best players on the roster. Instead, with Carter starting, the Nuggets got 5 points, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 30 minutes with the Lakers using his man to double the perimeter... basically daring him to shoot Now Denver knows what the Smush Parker era feels like to Laker fans.
I still love watching A.I.: Not much to say here except that I really enjoy watching A.I. play in person. He brings a type of energy that transforms the crowd. The fans are more into the game, the hot chicks roll out to see him play and the player bring a late season type of effort.
We want tacos: The Lakers promotional staff gives out free tacos whenever the Lakers win AND hold their opponents under 100 points. Tonight with the Nuggets stuck at 99 and under 60 seconds left, Staples Center was going ape shit with "We want tacos!" and "Defense...defense!" chants. Hilarious stuff! Dude, we're talking $1 tacos and hours of indigestion and the place was rocking like Kobe just hit a playoff buzzer beater. Again... High-larious!!!!
I took a photo of the scoreboard leading the "We want tacos!" chant: