20 February 2008

Lakers Chat, Part XXIV+XXXII (The Prodigal Sun Returns . . .)

Tonight's showdown between the Pacific Division leading Phoenix Suns and the team just one game behind them, the Los Angeles Lakers, is shaping up to be one of the most hyped regular season games in recent memory.

It helps that the Lakers have been playing very well lately. Last night they avenged their last loss (95-98 in Atlanta), by building a 41 point lead (!) in the 2nd quarter versus the new look Hawks. One play exemplifies what the Lakers were about last night, the Lakers were already up 28-66 after two Odom free throws with 57 seconds left in the quarter, but Kobe and Radmanovic trap Acie Law, strip him of the ball, and Radmanovic gets an easy lay-up plus he's fouled with a chance to make it a 69-28 game with 53 seconds to go in the 2nd quarter. How many teams would trap while up 38 points? How many injured superstars would be taking swipes at the ball with his bad hand in a game his team was leading by 38 points? The Lakers weren't just playing Atlanta last night, they were sending a message that not only do they have one of the best offenses in the league (even without Bynum), but that they were ready to bring playoff level defensive intensity to their play the rest of the season. Before last night, Phil Jackson was saying the Lakers need to go 25-5 in their last 30 games if they want to win the Western Conference. They're off to a pretty good start in that direction.

Tonight's game would be important just for the implications within the division, if the Lakers win, they take the season series 3-1 against Phoenix, and that's the first tie-breaker should they finish the season tied, so in essence this one game is worth 2 victories for either team.

But, that's not all that's going on tonight, this game also happens to be Shaq's debut with the Phoenix Suns. ESPN is in full hype mode, with a big roundtable discussion on the game, the state of the Lakers and Suns, and the Western Conference in general. ESPN must be thrilled that this game was already on their schedule tonight. It ought to get a pretty decent rating for an NBA game in February. Normally this isn't a time anyone is paying too close attention to the NBA, but this game could be pretty special. What else are you going to watch tonight, anyway, American Idol? (that show is best watched with a DVR remote in hand, anyway, watch the game live, and watch Idol afterwards)

And I know the whole Prodigal Sun thing really doesn't make sense, since Shaq isn't actually returning to LA as the game is in Phoenix, but couldn't pass up the pun (even if it's weak).

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