by Craig Kwasniewski
The Miami Heat are very competitive and Dwyane Wade is having an MVP-type of year very much like Kobe did in 2005-06... and that is exactly why he should *NOT* get the MVP. Kobe had one of the most dominant offensive seasons by a backcourt player ever, leading a very average Lakers squad (Smush Parker started and Brian Cook had mad minutes... need I sat more?) to an near upset of the Suns. Yet Kobe finished a distant 4th (???) in the MVP voting despite averaging 35.4 points including those memorable 62 and 81 point games. The arguement was that that as a 7-seed the Lakers weren't good enough, which makes sense to finish second to Steve Nash (who was clearly the best player on the best team, as many people noted while voting) but not 4th. That's because Kobe was still pulling Barry Bonds level of hatred back then. Anyway, Wade is having a stellar season and along with Erik Spoelstra's coaching, the Heat are playoff bound. But they are not even close to the Lakers, Cavs or Magic (but maybe Boston, but does that even count?)... they won't even get past the first round. So give the MVP to LeBron or Kobe and give Wade a 3rd place vote but the media needs to live by their own rules set in 2006.
Anyway, here are a few other thoughts on the Lakers 108-105 win over Miami from my seat high up in Section 316:
Phil Jackson almost cost the Lakers the game tonight. I know PJ coaches over the entire season instead of game-to-game but he needs to get a better feel of momentum during the 4th quarter. Much like the NOLA game last week, Jackson kept Kobe out too long and the Lakers lost all offensive momentum. The only things that saved LA tonight is that Miami's an average team, but the Lakers went from a comfortable 8 point lead to trailing by 2 with Kobe out for 5 minutes in the 4th. Miami was rolling and LA couldn't buy a hoop. Kobe comes around the 7 minute mark completely cold and the Lakers are predictably scrambling to regain control. PJ needs to get a better feel of the game down the stretch or more better he needs to not be so damn stubborn with his rotations and put Kobe back in faster.
Pau Gasol was very impressive despite being cold offensively. Andrew Bynum dominated the smaller Heat, but the real story is how Gasol adjusted to an off night offensively by hitting the glass for 18 boards. He saw that Bynum was on tonight and stayed out of the key, giving the youngster space to create in the post. Not many players in today's game will sacrifice points (especially offensive-oriented guys) and do the dirty work on the boards. I'm really enjoying the high basketball IQ in the Gasol era.
The Lakers need to work on defending the three. For the second game in a row the opposing team got W-I-D-E O-P-E-N looks from beyond the arc with the game on the line. Unlike Friday, where Mike Dunleavy tied the score up after his own W-I-D-E O-P-E-N three, Chris Quinn missed his from the corner with a chance to win it. How are these guys getting open??? I know the defense is keyed on Wade as he drives and looks to kick, but it's okay to singe guard a guy and give up a two if you're up three with the clock winding down.... no seriously, it's okay. This goes back to the type of players the Lakers are forced to play down the stretch with Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar and Lamar Odom... I'm talking specifically about you Vladi! Forget the 18 points tonight, Radmanovic had several serious head scratchers on defense that almost cost the Lakers. On Friday both he and Sasha Vujacic rotated into the low post, both allowing Dunleavy that uncontested three and tonight Radman turned the ball over and committed a dumb foul on an uncontested break.