Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Scanning the blogs and beats following the Lakers' 103-94 win over the Nuggets in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals ...

Bill Plaschke, LA Times: "The guy who supposedly doesn't care carried them. The guy who some believe is just renting the uniform owned it — the moment, the night, and the town, roaring as Lamar Odom(notes) roared during a 103-94 Lakers victory. 'Just gutting it out,' he said. Just throwing it down, he did, the basketball and the gantlet, with a late push that led to 19 points, 14 rebounds and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals. 'I just tried to pick up my effort, energy, and I guess sometimes when you do that, sometimes it spreads,' he said. Yeah, it spreads, sometimes even from here to Orlando or Cleveland. The Lakers are now one win from their second consecutive conference championship, and five wins from Odom's first NBA championship, and don't you think he knows it? Walking slowly and painfully through the Staples Center tunnel to his car late Wednesday, he stopped suddenly when I asked whether he was close enough to feel it. 'I'm 29, I've been playing 10 years, I've been through so much,' he said quietly. 'I don't know if I'll ever get this close again.' Anybody still wondering how bad he wants this? Anybody still wondering how much he needs this?"

Pickaxe and Roll: "... the refs did not cost Denver the game. Did L.A. get away with some physical play in the paint? You bet. Did Denver get away with some physical play in the paint? You bet. The Nuggets should not have taken so many long shots and gone away from aggressively attacking the rim. Too often did I see Nuggets go into the paint and not attack the rim. You are never going to get calls when you double-clutch or turn down a dunk for a lay in attempt. There is a difference between getting into the paint and attacking the rim and Denver must get back to knowing that difference in Game 6 at The Can. You want more calls? Go get them. Attack the rim and force your opponent to foul the crap out of you."

Forum Blue and Gold: "One thing the Lakers did much better was handle the aggressive double teams and traps of Denver. Especially when it happened to Pau Gasol(notes), he had been kicking it out for a three, which the Laker guards had been mostly missing. Tonight it was Kobe trapped in the corner passing to Gasol single-covered in the post. Or, if Gasol was doubled in the post he could hand off to the cutter going right by him. The Lakers moved without the ball when there was a double, and that led to layups. And, that is something that can happen in Denver. That was not about friendly home rims, it was about effort and willingness to take the punishment to be the aggressor."

TrueHoop: "Lamar Odom approached the free throw line, after getting fouled making a mean dunk. But his face was sweaty. So he did what anyone would do, he wiped his face ... on his shorts. Seriously. Bent over in half and stuck his face down by his knees. Flexible, open-minded dude. (And what's wrong with using the shirt?)"

Silver Screen and Roll: "Predictably, Jon Barry and Michael Wilbon spent much of the post-game rehashing their absurd theory that the less Kobe shoots, the more successful the Lakers are. Like many that contribute to the discssion here at SS&R, I am utterly dumbfounded that they continue to interpret a causational relationship between the two. In fact, it is the other way around; Kobe shoots more when the Lakers are behind with time running out, and he feels the need to get them back into it. While JB and Wilbon incorrectly insist that it was because Kobe took fewer shots that his teammates were able to get involved in the game, the opposite was actually true. It was because his teammates played so well, removing any need for Kobe to carry them, that he took only 13 shots."

Dave Krieger, The Denver Post: "How arrogant are the Lakers? Thanks for asking. So arrogant that they feel free to change the lyrics of the national anthem. Now, fans cheer different parts of the anthem for partisan reasons all over. In Baltimore, they cheer the 'Oh' in 'Oh, say' because of the Orioles. In Houston, they cheer the rockets' red glare because of the Rockets. But in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, singer and actor Tyrese Gibson changed 'our flag was still there' to 'our Lakers were still there.' I think we can all agree that's just not right. Up the road, on the sound stages of Hollywood, such arrogance is guaranteed its comeuppance, but not until the last 10 minutes of the movie. And let's be honest: If you were writing a script in which the world was ganging up on the underdog, you would have the referees conspire against them, too. With Game 5 tied after three quarters, the Nuggets had attempted 23 free throws to the Lakers' 19. In the lopsided fourth, the Lakers got 16 more. The Nuggets got seven."

Lake Show Life: "I hate to be a premature prognosticator, but David Stern should just go ahead and crown our ass; the Los Angeles Lakers will be your 2009 NBA Champions. [...] I honestly think this team transformed into a champion before our very eyes tonight. That run just felt special. You had Shannon Brown(notes) electrifying the Staples Center. Pau Gasol running the offense. Lamar 'Candyman' Odom in full-fledged beast mode. Most importantly, Kobe Bryant(notes) had his M.J. game. You know, the game where it is rendonkulously obvious that he cares more about winning than any stat. The point where the player says, you obviously have to respect me, so now I am going to help my teammates become just as good at beating you as I am."

Denver Stiffs: "Karl had no problem complaining about the refs after the game and yet during the game (based on what we could see on TV) it appeared as though he did nothing to support his players whom he apparently felt were getting no calls when driving to the basket. For several years now, Nuggets fans have been begging and pleading that Karl work the referees, stop runs by opposing teams and call timeouts to bring his team into line when they lose sight of what they're supposed to do offensively (read: take the ball to the @#$%& basket instead of chucking long jump shots!!). In his franchise's most important game to date, Karl again did his Phil Jackson impersonation (or maybe we should call it his 'anti-Doc Rivers' impersonation) by sitting quietly still throughout much of the contest and letting the players 'figure it out.' If ever we needed 'Fiery George' it was on Wednesday night, and he was nowhere to be found."

Bucks Diary: "If the Nuggets are to turn this thing around, and I don't see much chance they will, George Karl has to immediately amend his rotation. He's playing guys who simply aren't contributing (Dahntay Jones(notes), JR Smith(notes), Kenyon Martin(notes)) while sitting guys who have been consistently productive (Anthony Carter(notes), Linas Kleiza(notes)). He needs to recognize his error quickly or the Nuggets are sunk. I don't expect he will, though. Remember, I'm a Bucks fan. I watched Karl's eccentricities for years. (Remember how he insisted on playing that Mark Pope character and Darvin Ham(notes) instead of going full blast with win producers like Scott Williams? Its the same thing with Kenyon Martin and  Dahntay Jones. Karl thinks "energy" equals production ... it doesn't.)"

Talk Hoops: "The Nuggets lost because they were sloppy and lacked the same aggression and teamwork that won them game four. This loss put the pressure on the Nuggets for two very big reasons. First of all, they are now in a win or go home mode which can kill a team that hasn't been there before. Second, They only played poorly for about seven minutes of this game, but that stretch effectively took them completely out of this game. This has to hang in the back of their minds heading into game six. Basically they have to play perfectly in order to win. A team that thrives and plays their best basketball when they're loose can't play not to make mistakes because that's when mistakes happen."

The Baseline: "There's been a little bit of Jordan Farmar(notes) or Derek Fisher(notes) here and there, or spurts of Bynum or Shannon Brown that have made people think they deserve a bigger role. Odom, too, has had his moments. But he's the one you want to see sustain it for an entire game. You want to see him follow through on what it always seems he could be, or could contribute if things fell into place. If you're a Laker fan, you like seeing Lamar Odom in top form because it means your team's headed for a win. What makes other people queasy is that this team could win a championship without Odom having to have another big night."

Empty The Bench: "The term 'x-factor' has been used ad nauseum, and I hate to apply it. But Odom is one of the few players in the NBA who is exactly that. When he plays his best the Lakers are the best team in the NBA, when he doesn’t they aren’t. There’s very little this man can’t do on a basketball court, and yet on a given night you never know what Lamar is going to bring to the potluck. Since his high school days it’s been obvious that he’s capable of taking over games so many ways, and yet his complete disappearance is never a surprise. Despite the goodwill earned with the performance, the question has to be asked: Where were you, Lamar? Why can’t you do this every night? And, failing that, why can’t you even bother to show up half the time? 'Got to come ready to play,' perpetual professional Kobe Bryant said after the win. Amen. But will Lamar Odom continue to do so? I have absolutely no idea."

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