The Hive Five: Game Seventy-Nine

I had the opportunity to be at the Hornets-Lakers game, and put together some thoughts. So in lieu of the normal ‘Hive Five’, here are my game notes:

Arrival at Staples. I’m oddly amused that the three giant player posters adorning the main entrance are of Sasha Vujacic, Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, not Kobe, Lamar, and Pau. By the way, does any other team have three different guys fans know by just one name?

Quick scramble to the front row of the currently on-going D-League game. There’s about 200 people in attendance, 150 of them kids from a neighboring school. A seven footer of Anaheim’s D-League team viciously knocks Coby Karl to the ground. Nobody cares. Hey look! It’s Mike James!

I’m waiting desperately for the D-League game to end; that way, there’ll be a mad rush of little kids leaving, and I can successfully navigate past the security guard between myself and Mike James.

Jesus, Los Angeles Defenders, stop @#%@ fouling! You’re down 12 with 2 minutes to go. I want to meet Mike James!

Those were easily the longest two minutes of my life. Game finally ends, but as I make my move, someone coming from the tunnel catches my eye. Yup, Chris Paul. I gravitate towards him. After a brief acknowledgement, he heads back into the tunnel.

I mill around for a bit, dismayed that Mike is apparently engaged in rapt conversation with some random guy he saw next to him. Then, finally, Jannero Pargo and Hilton Armstrong come out of the tunnel. I yell both their names; Jannero looks up with a wide grin, but Hilton seems pretty pissed off at something and refuses to acknowledge my existence. Next is Rasual Butler, who gives me some dap. Last, it’s Ryan Bowen, who seems stunned I know his name, slightly more bewildered that I hand him a Hornets’ picture to sign, and even more taken aback that I give him a purple sharpie to do the signing with. Some random Laker fans behind me, having heard me say his name, decide they might say it as well and reap the benefits. I have to admit, there aren’t many things better than Ryan Bowen’s signature in this world.

As I begin to dream of further conquests- namely Peja, David, and Tyson- I’m rudely yanked away by a Staples usher who says the lower level is closing. Game over, I suppose. I begin the long, perilous trek to my seats, a mile in the sky.

By the time I get to my seats, Predrag and Morris Peterson have made their way onto the court. Morris can’t hit the rim; Stojakovic can’t either, but that’s because he’s swishing everything. Julian Wright has to have the oddest shooting routine. Instead of just catching the ball from the trainers, and putting up his jumper like everyone else, he busts out street ball dribbles before shooting. Every time. If it weren’t for the fact he kept knocking down the jumpers anyway, I might have yelled at him from my premium seats in the third deck. However, the arena was so empty, he probably would’ve heard me, jumped up into the seat next to mine, and made me shut up. (Giraffes have mad hops, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise).

I am hypnotized by the stream of basketballs going through the net, and thus lose track of time. I rouse out of my slumber when Peja goes to meet Sasha at half-court. Apparently they know each other, and Sasha makes this clear by repeatedly punching Peja in the chest. They shake hands and do the chest-bump-thingTM many times, each time anticipating the end of the conversation. If I were somewhat closer than 8 miles to them, this might be one of those “awkward” moments. Instead it’s just comical.

David West and Tyson Chandler finally make it out on the floor, and West immediately starts burying his patented 17-footers. While the rest of the Hornets continue shooting long jumpers, Tyson Chandler begins to take 3-foot jumpers, where he gets laughably excessive lift off the ground. Sadly, Peja probably drains more threes in a minute than Tyson does 3-footers.

The guys head in, and I head out to get some (madly overpriced) dinner.

I’m back, and so are the Hornets. They run onto the court while the now mostly fulled Staples rains boos on them. For some reason, Tyson gets booed very heavily as does Bonzi Wells. Of course, Byron Scott gets a real loud cheer. The Hornets form their ritualistic circle; my eyes may deceive me but that’s Julian Wright in the center. I’m still waiting for Ryan Bowen’s turn. The Lakers are introduced amidst pomp and splendor.

TIP!

First Quarter:

This thing looks like it’ll be intense from the start. Tyson and Gasol mis-time their initial jumps badly, resulting in a retip.

Something happens as people file into seats in front of me, and I find out Tyson just picked up a personal foul. Not a good way to start, and I start to pray Tyson doesn’t pick up that second.

Following Kobe and Predrag misses from long range, Lamar gets to the hoop for a disturbingly easy deuce. Lakers fans are lame and already sat down before this first score, but if you’re a Hornet fan, you’re still standing.

Kobe from 20, following a tough scoop shot thingy from Morris Peterson. I don’t remember Bryant making that difficult shot look as easy as he does, two or three years ago. I just hope he doesn’t go off for 50 or something.

Oh my GOD!!! Take a seat! That reverse alley-oop from CP to Tyson is a thing of beauty. This draws some oohs from the crowd but Derek Fisher counters by drawing some aahs; his trifecta gives L.A. the early 7-2 advantage.

Chris Paul misses that patented floater. He hasn’t been hitting that host well these last few games, even though it’s been his bread and butter all year. Derek Fisher makes New O pay with another high arcing triple.

Predrag, unlike Radman, actually converts his pre-game warmup skillz to actual game onez. 10 threes like last time would be nice, but I’ll settle for 9 : )

What the hell just happened? One second I’m trying to trying to see who’s courtside, expecting the Hornets to bring it up, and the next second I see Radman lying flat on his back, Chandler sprinting up the court. Oh, here come the boos.

And here comes some sort of punch thrown by Radman. Most of the fans around me are standing and yelling, and I really wish I understood what happened. As far as I can tell, Vlad was accidentally tripped up while running the floor; this somehow inspired within him a personal vendetta against Tyson, and the culmination of said vendetta was a punch. Double techs distributed, Tyson at the line, crowd booing. I just wish Kobe had gotten that tech…

Tyson shuts up the still booing crowd by swishing both free throws. I half expect him to pull out that ridiculous swagger he did in Golden State.

Yikes, here we go again. Not even five minutes into the game, and Tyson is gone. Odom immediately takes advantage with another disturbingly easy slam, leading to New O’s first timeout. Byron starts to gather the guys, while David West gestures angrily towards Hilton Armstrong (who just missed a point-blank layup on the last play after West fed him with a stellar pass).

Morris Peterson hits a long three the refs rule a two. I quite possibly have the worst view of that shot out of anybody in the arena, but dammit, I feel strongly about this.

“Too many steps. Too many steps,” says the PA announcer in reference to the Space Cadet, a.k.a Vladimir “Phil wants me to see a psychiatrist” Radmanovic, a.k.a. the extraordinarily poor man’s Peja Stojakovic. I can’t believe people were seriously comparing these two a few years ago.

Paul misses another floater.

That’s already 5 quick fouls on the Hornets, and the Lakers will be shooting FT’s from here on out. Not a good way to start, since the refs seem quick to blow whistles on the Lakers’ side of the ball. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has been whistled for 0 fouls despite tons of contact on that first Mo-Pete lay-in, and the David West missed layup. If Peja, David, or Chris pick up a second foul now, things could get bad.

Finally a foul call on the Lakers, which is followed by a heavy chorus of boos. Pau scores on a hook shot- the JumboTron is showing a comic-bookesque “Pau” thingy every time he scores. That would be cool if we weren’t down 22-11.

David West gets stripped by Kobe helping from the baseline, in a play sort of reminiscent of Jordan’s famous strip of Malone. It makes me think of that because everybody in the arena could see the strip coming except for the ball-carrier, West (or Malone). Of course Pau Gasol dunks on the ensuing fast break off a sick feed from Fisher. There’s the “Pau” thing again.

Why in the world is David West shooting the illegal defense technical free throw? Right when they called illegal defense, all the Hornets sort of glanced at Peja to go to the line, but instead he was having a discussion with West. Apparently, this talk resulted in the conclusion that an 85% free throw shooter would be better off shooting than a 94% one. In case you’re wondering, Byron Scott didn’t seem to pay attention to any of it.

West hits the foul shot, and then a 14 footer. By my count, this is only the fourth time he’s touched it as “part” of a play and not just a passer. I really think we should be attacking the middle more.

Jannero Pargo checks in. All likelihood of attacking the middle just evaporated. Also, Chris Paul just evaporated off the court and condensated on the bench. Yes, this doesn’t make any sense, but in times as dire as these, every nonsensical joke that can be made should be made.

In the last minute, Odom has made 2 free throws, Kobe has connected on a runner, and Pau just completed a three point play against a totally outmatched Hilton Armstrong. The wheels are starting to fall off, that’s for sure.

Bonzi takes a shot I’d rather he not take, but hits it anyway. Six out of our last eight shots have been jumpers, not what you want to see when trailing by 17.

Kobe for three. It’s 18 now.

Kobe for three. It’s 19 now.

Kobe for three. He misses but looks about ready to kill himself for misfiring. Did I mention his team’s up 19?

2nd Quarter

Notes on the first quarter- We went to David West an abnormally low number of times. I’m assuming he starts the second with the benchies, so this might be the time to get him going. Also a problem: rotation onto shooters. There isn’t any. Finally, the foul discrepancy needs to be fixed. Either foul less or get fouled more. Or both.

Sasha Vujacic drains a triple following an Ely point-blank miss at the rim. It’s now 42-20. That’s now two layups that Armstrong and Ely have failed to convert. The PA announcer dude said ahead of the tip that Chris Anderson will be unavailable tonight, so that’s not an option. Also, some fans yell “The Machine!” at the Vujacic three, which prompts two questions. Why does a bench player deserve such a cool nickname? And if a guy like Sasha is nicknamed the Machine, how does Peja Stojakovic not have a nickname yet? This is an injustice, and I demand a recount. I suggest whoever hits more threes tonight takes over the title of “The Machine.” Bring it Vujacic, you’re not even the coolest Sasha I know (that would be Baron Cohen).

Bonzi settles for the tough 19 foot jumper.

Bonzi Wells doesn’t settle for the tough 19 foot jumper, and instead takes it in hard against Luke “Don’t Call Me Skywalker” Walton. Bonzi is called for the charge.

Again, something exciting happens under the hoop that I inexplicably miss. Every time something cool has happened this game (ie, the fights), I happen to be looking everywhere but at the players. The outcome is a Turiaf technical. Pargo misses the free throw, much to the delight of the crowd.

Pargo misses a 17 footer. Since I originally predicted David West would get the ball more, here’s what our plays accomplished: Ely missed layup, Bonzi missed 19 footer, Bonzi charge, Pargo missed free throw, Pargo missed 17 footer. 0 shots for David West.

And just to rub it in, there goes Fluffy to the bench. I love this game!

Pargo hits a tough fadeaway from the high elbow, prompting some murmurs of “lucky,” and “do it again.” Unfortunately, Pargo tries to do just that, this time badly misfiring on a 21 footer.

Kobe hits a loooong trifecta. It’s now a 27 point lead. A small sampling of surrounding conversation: “This is the number one team in the league?”, “What a joke, I should have sold these tickets”, “Black Maaaamba!”, and “The killer bees collecting honey.” Those last two commenters may or may not have been drunk.

Tyson and Bonzi make back to back layups, prompting me to sit forward in my seat and start building castles in my head. This is my biggest problem in watching New Orleans trail. “The Hornets need to cut this down to 15 at the half to have any chance” goes my thought process. Of course, if the Hornets fail to do this, I feel crushed.

JuJu from downtown. Chris Paul is doing a fantastic job setting people up. It’s odd though- without television commentators letting me know he’s setting up these points, those assists seem easy to miss.

Vujacic begins to build his case for “The Machine” award with a 21 footer. Overall, I’m just extraordinarily depressed right now. A 26 point deficit one and a half quarters in? Ugly stuff.

And there’s yet another layup for the Lakers. Walton uncontested off the backdoor cut, and the feed from Fisher.

Oh wow. It’s gotten so bad that we now have a Mike James sighting in the second quarter. Not that he’s a bad point guard or anything, but Byron’s going to some trouble to shake things up. Somehow I don’t think a third string guard who’s played maybe a combined 17 seconds in the last month will change much.

The layup drill continues. This time the Space Cadet is fed by Pau. Some Lakers fan walks up behind and mentions to his buddy that Lamar was asking a fan for marijuana while on the bench. Somehow, I severely doubt this.

Kobe drills the jumper. It’s now a 30 point lead. Thirty. In the first half. I’m considering walking out and leaving, but that wouldn’t be right. The guys have played reasonably on both ends of the floor, but a ridiculously high percent of L.A.’s shots have dropped.

Paul wheels and deals through the lane, and then shoots and scores over Gasol. There it is finally: the nifty move I was expecting him to pull off and silence the crowd. Only, it seems like it might be way too late, and there’s no way the crowd is letting a 28 point lead be dampened by that.

West goes to the line again; great job by the Hornets in getting fouled this quarter. West hits both.

Paul finds Peja for another strong lay-in. If there’s one thing that’s stood out to me over the last 10 games, it’s Peja’s newfound willingness to finish hard at the rack.

West from 21… got it. The two guys behind me start discussing the suckitude of the Hornets in further detail. One asserts that it’s because “the Hornets have no stars.” The other retorts that the Hornets actually had two All-Stars. Numero uno disagrees, saying nobody on this team should be an All-Star. I chuckle internally.

Paul hits 2 at the line off the Kobe shooting foul, and then gets fouled by D-Fish on the perimeter. 2 more, and it’s suddenly a 12-2 run heading into halftime.

We’re down 20, and I figure I might as well get some fresh air out on one of the balconies. Unfortunately for me, I’m not quick enough to beat the mass exodus of fans heading for the exits, and end up stuck in traffic. This is L.A., after all.

Halftime

That fresh air I was talking about? Yeah, it doesn’t exist in this city. Apparently, every single person in LA smokes (or something like that) and I end up breathing smoke for a while until my lungs can’t take it any more. I guess it would be reasonable to call this the worst halftime show ever.

3rd Quarter

David West throws away the first possession of the half… and Fisher throws it right back. Chris Paul, ever the opportunist, takes advantage with a sick feed to Peja for two. Eighteen point game.

The Space Cadet misses yet another trifecta. I’m pretty sure he’s 0 for the game, and his shot has just been way off.

The fallaway over Gasol is good for West. Sixteen point game. The Lakers’ fans won’t admit it, but they’re scared.

Does Gasol have an awesome free throw stroke or what? The big man hits another two from the line (I don’t think he or any other Laker has missed from the line yet).

Woooh! The David West to Tyson Chandler connection is in the house! I keep saying it and I’m gonna say it again- David West is one of the most underrated passers in the league, and in a year or two, passing will be one of his most feared weapons.

Yuck. An absolute flop by Fisher earns Paul his 3rd foul. Derek was moving backwards, and had no position as he took the hit from Paul. The worst part is that there was no call until Fisher sat up and raised his hands. Even from way up here, I can tell that’s a flat out bad call.

… And CP3 steals it right back. Leaves for West from 15, money. 14 point game.

Wow, what a momentum killer. D-Fish hits a long fadeaway at the shot-clock buzzer, negating a terrific defensive sequence by New Orleans. The defensive intensity has really picked up this half, with pretty much every shot being contested.

A dish by Paul, and then a swish by Paul. The bench is jumping up and down, Paul has the fist-pump going, it’s down to a 12 point game. Everything is working.

Wow. That’s the best pass I’ve seen Paul throw this game. The passing has just been amazing in this third quarter. Maybe it’s just the angle I’m seeing it at, but that looked like a very difficult finish for Morris Peterson. Not sure this is the team to be dancing, but Julian Wright’s doing a little jig as Los Angeles calls for time.

This time, West returns the favor to the back-door cutting Paul. That’s now three backdoor layups the Hornets have had in the third, after, err, unsuccessfully trying the front door all first half.

The Space Cadet throws it away, and Peja gets rid of the ball to Paul like a hot potato. Oh, you can see this one coming, Peterson spots up for the transition triple and bang! 7 point ballgame.

The refs exhibit some signs of confusion- Chris Paul gets what appears to be a steal with the shot clock winding down. One ref signals a shot-clock violation, another signals nothing. They meet at half-court while Paul is running up court full speed before blowing the play dead. It’s ruled a steal, but the Hornets now take it from out of bounds (which is what they would’ve done for a shot clock violation). Odd.

Alley-oop! New O is on a 17-4 run after that latest TC contribution.

Lamar Odom responds viciously, with a two hand throw-down of his own. That’s exactly what you want to see in a good ball player- the desire to take it in strong instead of settling, especially after getting dunked on.

Peja hits his 2nd triple of the contest, and all of a sudden this is a 4 point game. We’ve come all the way back, the Lakers’ fans know it, and the relative silence of the arena shows it.

Man oh man, just as the Hornets pick up steam, looks like Tyson will head back to the bench with foul number four.

Or not… Byron decides to roll the dice, and Tyson rewards him with the putback tip-in.

Kobe finishes up his quarter strong, with a three point play, a couple free throws, and an assist. It seems like the guy hasn’t missed a shot all night. It’s the end of three, New Orleans down 7, and Chris Paul is arguing vehemently at half-court over I don’t know what.

The 3rd-4th quarter break thingy features some dude trying to make a half-court shot. He airballs miserably before bricking a three. This is why more teams need to have mascots- granted, none will be as cool as Hugo, but at least they’ll spare the crowd of having to watch a guy air-ball a half-court shot, and spare the guy air-balling the half-court shot the ignominy of air-balling a half court shot.

4th quarter

Oh, great. Chris Paul does pick up the technical for arguing all through the commercial break- he pretty much just stood at halfcourt, refusing to go back to his bench. Kobe knocks down the free throw, and then sticks a long jumper in Bonzi Wells’ face. Lead back to 10.

Pargo misses a tough jumper, but at least he didn’t take it early in the shot clock.

Chandler gets the offensive rebound, gives it to Pargo, who takes and misses the tough jumper… early in the shot clock.

Jordan Farmar connects on a WIDE open three from the corner. There is no way you can leave anybody on the Lakers team that wide open for three, DJ Mbenga included. The lead is suddenly back to 13, and Byron Scott goes into his squat mode on the sideline.

Alley-oop! Bonzi’s throwdown from CP draws some groans from the crowd, because Wells came off an uncontested back door cut, a recurring theme for this half. Kobe Bryant pretty much forgot to guard Wells. One second they were both standing on the right wing, and the next second Wells was flying towards the hoop with Kobe still glued to the ground. Phil Jackson yells at Kobe who willingly accepts the blame by pointing at himself vigorously.

Ugh what an awful sequence. Sasha “The Machine? To be determined…” Vujacic misses a long triple, which bounces off the hands of many a Hornet. The ball rolls off the fingertips of David West right to Kobe Bryant. And Kobe Bryant plus a clear path to the hoop is never a good thing. Reverse slam by Kobe, 15 point lead, and I’m starting to fear that all that comeback stuff could go for naught.

Byron is really puzzling me tonight. Every time Lamar Odom goes out for Luke Walton, David West leaves too. How does that make any sense? David should have a field day against Walton, and yet hasn’t spent any time on the court with him at all. Still, West’s replacement Peja is reputedly pretty good too.

Bonzi Wells makes his presence felts with an offensive board and dish to Pargo who drains a long jumper. As much as I hate these shots he is taking, Pargo has almost single-handedly kept us in this game, along with Chris’ awesome passes.

Chris Paul finds Peja for… Another. Three Point. PowerShot. The lead’s back down to 10, and this is the time to make a run with several Lakers starters sitting.

Bonzi Wells finds Tyson Chandler on the alley with a beautiful touch pass. One thing Wells has that a lot of people don’t talk about is excellent vision. He saw that potential pass well before the ball even came to him.

And the refs deal a severe blow to the Hornets’ chances in this game. Chris Paul picks up his 5th personal, forcing Mike James back in. Why Mike James? Why not Julian Wright? This game just puzzles me more and more as it wears on.

And Another. Three Point. PowerShot. With Paul gone, Pargo finds Peja for three, and he connects again. The Hornets are within 6, just forced a shot clock violation last defensive series, and suddenly things are looking up again.

Pargo hits the floater over Turiaf! From my vantage point, it looked like there was no way Pargo could elevate that ball enough. Instead he did, and it dropped straight through. Phil Jackson’s pacing up and down, and this place is silent.

Well, not any more. Vujacic hits the humongous three from the left corner. Kobe Bryant has continued to find guys all night long, and that was just the latest in a series of assists for him. The lead’s back to 7 with 5 and change to go.

The Real Machine answers! Peja Stojakovic is just unconscious.

And again! This is unreal. Right now, you can hear a pin drop in Staples Center. This comeback is a point away from being completed, and we’re a bucket away from coming back from a 30 point deficit.

Derek Fisher hits the dagger three with 3:08. It’s still only a 6 point lead with 3 to go, but you could feel the air go out from the Hornets after coming that close to taking the lead, and then falling so far back. D-Fish holds the follow through to add insult to injury, and it’s a TV timeout.

Terrible pass from Chris Paul to David West, and it results in Kobe going to the line. The MVP chants are out in full force here in the upper deck, and they resonate across the arena. The guy they’re chanting for misses the first, but connects on the second. It’s a 7 point margin now. The Hornets need offense.

West takes it in hard against Pau… how is there no foul call on that play?! This is the bad part about blogging about a game with a view from the upper deck- I could very easily have no idea what I’m talking about. But I’m relatively certain I do once I see the replay on the JumboTron.

The Hornets put up a fantastic and desperately needed defensive sequence there, forcing a 24 second shot clock violation. There’s 2 minutes left to go, and the two (now drunk) guys in front of me keep standing and sitting at odd intervals seemingly independent of actual game events.

Pargo hits the shot, and I let out a huge sigh of relief. If that shot doesn’t drop, this game is easily over.

Gasol answers right back with a short jumper on the other end. Three guys shout money even before he releases, and that shot was pure cash from beginning to end. The lead’s back to seven, and we need something to happen on this next possession.

David West makes that “something” happen by drilling the open 17 footer. How big has this guy been with his jumper down the stretches of games? For whatever reason, the Lakers started off guarding that shot well, but slowly the attention they paid to it waned, until this point. And this seems to happen versus many teams.

Kobe goes to the line amidst even louder MVP chants. The guy in front of me notices I’m not cheering when the second of two free throws drops (oddly, this is the first time he’s noticed that all night). In a hushed voice, he informs me he’ll “be nice.” I don’t really care what he’s saying. I’m just feeling worse and worse watching this comeback opportunity slip away. We’ll need to hit another two or three 3’s to pull this game off, and Peja will be heavily guarded. Who else is up to the task?

Instead of opting for a three point look, New Orleans gets two quick ones on the line off the hands of Chris Paul. Throughout both his free throws, Peja hangs around near the bench talking strategy with Byron Scott. Byron keeps making wild gesticulations to a spot on the floor, Peja has his hands on his hips, and nods. This doesn’t make me feel reassured in the slightest.

In a stunning turn of events, Peja and Co. force Kobe into a horrible look with 17 seconds left. That said, he still nearly makes it. Now it’s time for that three ball.

Nope. Lakers play the necessary D, Peja gets a bad look from the deep right wing, and it doesn’t fall. Ball goes to Kobe, Kobe goes to the free throw line, the free throw goes in the hoop. Ball game.

And thus, my night in Staples ends. We may have been clobbered early, we may have lost the game, and CP may have lost the MVP to KB24, but at the end of the day, I feel strangely satisfied. We cut 29 points off of a 30 point deficit, and if that doesn’t tell you something about a team’s character, I don’t know what does.

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4 Responses

  1. Great write up. As I kept reading, I started getting excited, like the Hornets were going to win, despite watching the game last night and already knowing the outcome. Thanks atthehive.

  2. Yeah, that was the main reason I decided to put up my game notes… just to show the flow of the game. It seemed like we sliced the lead from 30 to 5 so quickly, but just couldn’t push past that. And every time we cut it to the low single digits, something very unlucky happened (like David West barely missing the rebound, and Kobe reverse slam) that just killed the momentum.

    The best part for me was seeing how frightened to death Staples was of Peja. It was at the point that as soon as they saw him going through a screen, you could hear murmurs about it. Ten games ago I didn’t think it would be possible, but Peja could potentially set a new personal record for threes in a year (240 and at 226 right now).

  3. i really hate peja (but i’m pretty partial to his alma mater right about now!) (im talking about the queens)

  4. Haha.

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