Did you see Kobe's hands? All I think about is Harrison Ford's character Decker in Blade Runner when the Replicant bends back his ring finger... it's all gnashed up and bent in like 75 places... THAT was Kobe's hands right after he dislocated his ring finger literally seconds into yesterday's Lakers-Cavs clash. Give LeBron the MVP but give severe big ups to Kobe for out-gritting LeBron with only 2 good fingers on his hand (have you forgotten the torn ligament on his pinky finger?) and leading the Lakers to a big 105-88 win over Cleveland. Here are a few thoughts from my seat in Section 316:
Kobe knows how to play hurt. Unlike Pussy Pierce and his wheelchair, Kobe goes old school when he's banged up; never let your opponent on to how serious the injury. Literally seconds into the game Kobe dislocates his finger! He slowly jogs over to Lakers trainer Gary Vitti for treatment. He has that "dayum this f-ing hurts!" Damn! We've been looking forward to Kobe vs LeBron for weeks and POOF! it's over (seriously, the way Kobe was playing it I seriously thought Kobe was done simply because be never let's on to the pain). Vitti gives the finger a once-over and Kobe returns to play decoy/facilitator for the rest of the half. Clearly with his shot waaaay off, Kobe found other ways to keep LA in the game by defending LeBron in his "lock-down corner" way and the Lakers bigs pounded the Ilgauskus-less Cavs to keep it close 50-49 at the half.
Lakers showed up tonight. Maybe it was the fear of a three game losing streak (yes) or the Lakers truely respect the Cavs (also yes), but the Lakers showed up tonight with the same kind of intensity as the Celtics game. The second unit of Vujacic, Ariza and Odom used length and intensity and exposed the short handed Cavs (without both Ilgauskus and Delonte West).
Orlando Magic is NOT a Contender. Btw - you're honestly telling me that over a very long 82 game season that opponents give Orlando the same intense effort as when they face Cleveland, Boston or LA? I went to both the Magic and Cavs games and there was a definite difference in attitude by the fans and players. Whereas the Orlando game was a date night (and trust me, the crowd was very "talented"), the Cavs game is a total guys night out... you never waste a great game like this on a chick! Anwyay, if advancing to the second round of the playoffs defines being a contender, then add in Orlando. But they lack that clear-it-out-and-take-over guy needed to win in the playoffs like a Kobe, Paul Pierce or LeBron.
The Lakers key adjustment. Derek Fisher's play of late is killing the Lakers! It's hard to say it considering that he's possibly the truest "good guy" in the NBA, but playing 40-plus minutes a game since Farmar's injury is taking a toll on his body. Opposing point guards look like All-Stars (Jameer Nelson... are you kidding me??) and shots are clanging hard off the rim. FINALLY, Phil Jackson made an adjustment and had Odom bring the ball up the court. Seems like minor adjustment but that extra break along with reducing his minutes to 34 tonight was the right move as Fisher was fresh down the stretch. Farmar's still 3 weeks away from returning so Jackson needs to do everything he can to keep Fisher to 30 minutes a night for him to be effective.