The Lakers escaped with that Game 1 win because Denver didn't execute on the Defensive or Offensive end when they were supposed to late in the game. The first mistake was the silly foul on Kobe by Kenyon Martin with less then a minute left, he should have just played good defense. The second mistake (one I am still shaking my head at) is the inability to inbound the ball. There is no reason that the team shouldn't have broken their set and scrambled to get free when they realized it was going to be a problem getting the ball inbounds, its called adaptation. Absolutely NO REASON why someone shouldn't have sprinted into the backcourt to receive the inbounds pass, inexcusable. Ditto for Denver having one of the shorter players on the team inbound the ball. It should have been a big man, especially after seeing that 6'9 Lamar Odom was guarding the inbounder. On the good side for Denver, they know deep down they can beat this team and they were allowed
to be physical with this Laker team. They also got a wonderful effort from Carmelo Anthony, who admirably took it upon himself to defend Kobe during the game. I still see this series going to the Lakers, but Denver certainly can make it interesting. 6 or 7 games, especially if Denver can somehow win tonight in Game 2. Also, Nene and Kenyon Martin are making the Laker's front line look Charmin Ultra soft. I haven't seen a grown man dunk on lesser men since that Church league game where Spudd Webb showed up and killed my team (another blog post for another time). Nene looked around in the first half after booming a couple times and realized that he was the only true big man on the floor and proceeded to have his way. Hiliarous.
On the East Coast side of things, I must say I am
surprised Orlando took Game 1 in Cleveland. Looking at the game a second time though, some things jumped out at me:
Cleveland looked downright tired in the second half. I have a feeling this is conditioning based and has to do with the fact that they were probably a little out of game shape after sitting at home 9 days, practices or not. You just can't simulate these late game energy sapping situations, and it cost them the game. Lebron was actually so exhausted he cramped up to the point of not being able to walk off the floor, something I have never seen from him. Dehydration probably played a role. He also didn't deliver in the clutch the way an MVP should have (I know I'm getting email from people for that one). Missed freethrows, losing the ball in the air when he drove to the basket were pretty uncharacteristic for him, (well maybe losing the ball was.) Orlando played pretty well. Dwight Howard HAS to learn how to stay out of foul trouble. If he had just not left his feet on his sixth foul while standing straight up, maybe he is in the game at the end. Hedo played like a beast as well, hitting open and contested jumpers. That is when he is at his most dangerous, when he is able to use his shot making ability to keep the defender honest and drive to the basket. Rashard Lewis was a big key for Orlando as well, hitting the big 3 and playing solid defense. Same to Rafer Alston (Skip from here on out) he played a solid game and contributed by hitting some open 3's, which is something Orlando has to do if they take this series. I still call Cleveland in 6 or 7, but if Orlando keeps shooting and doesn't mess stuff up at the end of games (I'm looking at YOU, Stan Van Gundy!) then we might have to swap out that Lebron puppet for a Rashard Lewis puppet in those Nike Commercials.