Game 31 Recap: Kobe Gives Spurs a Late Christmas Present

Game 31, Vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Spurs 97-82       (Record 27-4)           RAGE: +4

My sister and her dopey boyfriend were supposed to be home three days ago. They live in New York and as you've no doubt heard, the weather over there has been somewhat less than balmy of late. The blizzard they experienced over the weekend shut down the airports for a couple of days and canceled literally *thousands* of flights. They've been sleeping at the airport for the past two nights in the futile hope that somehow, someway, that as standby passengers they'll be granted passage on some plane out of town going anywhere and make it to California with a few connections. So far, no dice.

The sick thing is their LUGGAGE is already here. It was permitted to be on a plane last night even though they were not. Doesn't that strike anyone else as frightfully stupid? If I was a terrorist and there was a way to stow a bomb of some sort on the flight without having to be on it personally, isn't that the ultimate win-win scenario, unless you actually believe in that 72 virgin mumbo-jumbo?

And no, I'm not demeaning the Muslim religion. At least no more so than I demean any of the other ones. I'm just pointing out that mathematically and logistically, the concept of having 72 virgin females for every male in heaven makes no sense, unless you're counting all the still-born and miscarriage babies and immediately exporting them to paradise where they grow up to be beautiful, nubile Victoria's Secret-worthy 20-year-olds for all of eternity, ready and willing to be a harem for Muslim min who led a holy and faithful life. Because if that's what really happens, I'll totally convert.

For now, I remain skeptical.

Anyway, the airline business is totally fucked. The storm is over and thousands of people in New York and other eastern cities are stranded, desperately wanting to go home to loved ones for the holidays. Why aren't the airlines from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and all the other hubs sending out extra planes 24 hours a day like shuttles to get all these people home? Why aren't they creating new flights? The last plane out of JFK last night was 8:15 p.m. for some reason. They should have them going all throughout the night until people can GET THE FUCK HOME.

I have to commend my sister for being able to put up with it, because I know I sure as hell couldn't have. The longest I've ever had to wait for a plane in an airport was four hours, and that was agonizing. I would've completely flipped out and lost my shit by the middle of the second day and threatened the whole airport with nuclear destruction. I'm almost positive I would've gotten arrested at some point. Mostly I would've made life wholly miserable for whoever was with me and whoever was in earshot.

And what a cruel tease those standby lists are. My sister told my mom a story where a couple a few places in line ahead of them won some bastard lottery for the last two seats on the plane, only the guy was in the bathroom. The lady with him desperately pleaded with the airline person to wait 30 seconds for him to come back, and was told, sorry, too bad, and another couple got the last seats. Just awful circumstances.

[POSTSCRIPT: Sis got on a 12:15 flight and was home by 7:30. By about 8:15 I was ready for her to go back to New York.]

Here's Wednesday's 80's video. Did you know in 1985 you could openly have gay slurs in your song lyrics and nobody said anything? Nowadays you have to listen to rap to hear the homosexual f-bomb. The 80's were filled with politically incorrect pop hits. The Nails' "88 Lines About 44 Women" has a lyric that goes, "Mary was a black girl and I was afraid of a girl like that." Casual racism, hooray!

  (via Ismind)

Anyone else think the skinny delivery guy looked like "Weird" Al Yankovic?

Okay, so I'm usually loathe to give TNT's Kenny Smith any credit, especially since that story came out eight or nine years ago where he was a guest speaker at some NBA rookie seminar, and he was blatantly talking to just the American rookies and ignoring the foreign contingent and basically telling his audience that foreign players were a fad and that owners push to sign such players because the fans at the games want players that look like them. Jiri Welsch, of all people, called him out on it. Being disrespectful of foreigners is a quick way to get on my bad side, since I am one myself.

But I will give Smith this much, I thought he made a really good point a couple of weeks ago, after the win at Denver on TNT, where he made a point, albeit highly inelegantly, that the Spurs were an "insulting" team. What he meant is that while the Spurs don't disrespect opponents by talking trash or posing for fake team pictures or going into choreographed dance routines after every dunk, they insult teams in a subtler, yet far more personal manner, by questioning their intelligence. He explained that Pop and his coaches, and by extension, his players, design and execute game plans built around the common notion that most of the teams they're playing are filled with morons, or at least, guys who don't have the basketball I.Q.s that they have.

Smith said that the Spurs are definitely the least talented of all the contending teams -- which I don't necessarily agree with, as definitions of what exactly constitutes basketball "talent" wildly vary -- but that they bridge the talent gap offensively by being the most patient team as far as working to get the best possible high percentage shots and defensively by knowing that their opponents won't have the intelligence, patience and discipline to work for those same quality looks for 48 minutes.

Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with Smith on his thesis, but, not to sound arrogant or anything, I'm almost positive that in all the years I've contributed to PtR I surely must have made this same point a time or three, in my own way, and it's a fair bet that a lot of others have as well. Frankly, if someone as obtuse as Smith can make such an observation, it's a good bet that it's anything but novel.

Tuesday's game against the Lakers was a textbook example of Smith's point in that I thought the Lakers played, for lack of a better word, a stupid game against the Spurs, which was ironic considering that A) as the two-time defending champions with an entirely veteran-laden roster and an 11-time title winner at head coach, it should be practically impossible for them to be snookered by Pop's tactics, and B) with arguably the best roster top to bottom in the league, they're exactly the type of team that Smith was referring to in that the only way the Spurs could beat them is to outsmart them because on paper they don't match up.

Obviously, the lion's share of the blame goes to Kobe Bryant. He took 27 shots last night, and according to the play-by-play, three of them were classified as layups. Seven were threes. That means he took 17 perimeter jumpers, which is, quite frankly, insane. He can try couching it with any excuse he wants, whether it's "I had a good look," or "I was looking to be aggressive and set the tone," or "Who the fuck is this and how'd you get my phone number?" but they're all lame.

Dude has one of the worst shooting percentages on the team at 44.0. Lamar Odom is shooting 57%. Pau Gasol is at 51%, as is Andrew Bynum. Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes are filling it up at a good rate as well. At any one time one of the skilled Lakers bigs was being guarded by either DeBeast or the Red Rocket, and those guys were on the floor at the same time for a considerable period as well.

There were very, very few instances where a Kobe Bryant perimeter jumper wasn't the lowest-percentage option for the Lakers quintet in the half court set outside of a turnover.

There's no denying it -- this was Bad Kobe, the guy we remember fondly from 2005-2007, before a certain Spaniard entered his life. He willfully, selfishly and stubbornly shot his team out of the game, and did it for no other reason than because he could.

Understand that very little of Kobe's actions had to do with what the Spurs were doing. And I'm not saying that to demean the defensive efforts of Manu, Hill and Jefferson. They were all fantastic in their own end, particularly Hill who had an outing that Bruce Bowen in his prime would've been envious of. Nor am I critiquing the work that Timmeh, Bonner, or Blair did. Everyone gave their maximum effort on defense, without question (which is all Pop asks for and all that we should as well).

This was not about picking up the slack for teammates who weren't trying. Kobe was gunning from the opening tap, and if anything, the fool's gold of his initial success -- he made four of his first five shots -- spurred him on to keep jacking. And the Lakers certainly had better match-ups with their bigs, either on isolation or on the pick-and-roll. Don't tell me we were making it complicated on them by fronting or packing the lane or any such nonsense. Whatever we did, LA's seen a thousand times before and they know how to exploit it, and it's not with Kobe shooting a thousand contested jumpers.

The game just happened to fall on one of the Kobester's annual mood swings, where he feels like being an asshole. He starts the game shooting, his teammates get bored and listless, they lose their energy and focus at both ends and pretty soon even when Bryant is looking to pass and get others involved it's too late and his teammates aren't cutting aggressively or posting up like their hearts are in it. It's a vicious cycle where there are no winners but whichever team they happen to be playing. Kobe can say nobody wants the ball so he's shooting and his teammates can say they weren't trying for shots because there was no point in asking for the ball. Gasol and Odom and the rest of them recognize what's happening really early, shrug their shoulders and say "fuck it" knowing an embarrassing loss and a terrible stat-line will be the only way to teach Kobe a lesson.

"We didn't play a smart game, put it that way," Gasol said afterward, adding, "We have to recognize what's going on and understand what our strengths are against certain opponents and exploit them."

It's no secret who he was talking about and what he thought those strengths were.

We've seen this movie with the Lakers many times before. The real difference, in my mind, was the staggeringly poor quality of the shots he took. 24 jumpers! I go bonkers enough as it is when Tony takes 15+ shots in a game. Can you IMAGINE what I'd be like if I ever saw him take 24 jumpers in a game? I'd learn how to swear in French just to heckle him from a courtside seat I'd spend my lifetime savings on. Two dozen jumpshots in one game is an unfathomable total.

And no, Kobe, there is no such thing as "a good look" from 20-feet. Not for a guy with your field goal percentage. Either shoot threes or take it to the hole. Do you realize he's shooting just 33.1% from downtown? That's DEAD LAST among all the guys on his team who shoot threes regularly. That's even worse than psychopath Ron Artest.

So because of Kobe's sabotaging efforts, I'm taking the game with a grain of salt. Don't get me wrong, it's entirely possible that we are indeed better than these guys, especially considering we beat them handily with Tim and Manu combining for 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting, but the time for proving that will come in May, not December. I commend our defensive effort, but I just can't realistically believe that our game plan was so effective that it "forced" Kobe to take three less shots than the Lakers' other four starters combined. And I sincerely doubt that Pop knew Bryant was planning on doing this because if he did he's some kind of psychic.

The Spurs played the Lakers at the right time and took advantage of it, winning a game when their own stars were at far less than their best and where they shot just 28.1% from three despite having open shots all night. I'm sure we have their attention now, but at the same time these guys have gotten killed at home by Milwaukee and Indiana, so it's clear to me they're still hitting the snooze button. In the end it's just another win in the standings, and if the game helps guys like Blair, Bonner and Hill gain confidence against the Lakers going forward, all the better. But let's not read too much into it for now.

Your three stars:

3. Tony Parker - Not only was he the only one of The Big Three who could throw it into the ocean, but his defensive work cannot be overlooked. He had a couple of big steals, he drew a charge, and he just completely kicked Derek Fisher's ass at both ends of the floor, which is always cause for cheers.

2. George Hill - 0-of-2 from downtown, but otherwise quite possibly the best overall game Hill's ever played. He was all over Kobe like a tarantula and never backed down from his elbows or bully intimidation tactics. Pop and R.C.Buford get a lot of praise for drafting Blair, but really lots of people knew he had value, we all saw him play at Pitt and I don't think anyone thought he would be a shitty basketball player, it's just that most people were scared off about him medically. Hill was a much more impressive draft heist in my mind, even though he was a first rounder. Nobody knew about him. He's been quite the find.

1. DeJuan Blair - Season high 17 and 15, and easily the best "big" on the floor in a game involving Gasol, Timmeh, Bynum and Odom. Pretty impressive. With his knack for offensive boards and his new found teardrop, the 17 points isn't that surprising, but the real story was that he wasn't killed on the other end of the floor. I still contend that Kobe made it easy on Blair and really, all of our bigs.

Up Next: Thursday, @Dallas (24-6): I'm no fan of the sneering German, but it's hard to argue his MVP credentials after seeing how easily Dallas got waxed at home against a terrible Toronto team missing most of their best players. I have no idea if Nowitzki is playing, as he's day-to-day with a knee injury, but his status determines whether this is a positive or negative RAGE game. If he plays, I want us to play them straight up, don't double, don't leave people open, and make Dirk beat us by scoring 60. If he doesn't, than let's just pummel 'em. It'd be nice to see Tim and Manu get it going after they both had forgettable shooting nights, but I also remember how crappy Tony was against these guys the first time and it's more important for him to get some confidence against Dallas.

This is fan-created content on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at Pounding the Rock.

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