The breathtaking Vu is out of this World: (Legal) Alien Sasha Vujacic floats in 20 and takes One Giant Shot for Laker-kind, Celtic Stars are Marooned, and Phil Jackson Phones Home to get NINE points from Bruins to win SIX-point Close Encounter of the Third Game with Brittle Green Men from Boston
The Lakers have made First Contact. Voo-yah to ya!
The Lakers’ re-entry into the L.A. atmosphere ended in a successful splashdown after the smog cleared, when the Boston Celtics threw in the towel prematurely, and L.A. escaped with an 87-81 Game 3 victory. The Lakers now trail the best-of-seven series 2-to-1, with the next two games also here in L.A., where the Lakers have yet to lose a Playoff game this year. In fact, the Lakers haven’t lost at Staples since March… but the Celtics almost changed that on Tuesday night.
Boston had a lead in the 4th Quarter, despite a stellar all-around night by Kobe Bryant, and an injury to Celtic Point Guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo had been dissecting the Lakers’ D with penetration-dishes all Series, but when he sprained an ankle (the THIRD Boston injury this series), the Celtic Offense, which was already struggling in Game 3, really ground to a halt. Sam Cassell (who LOOKS like an Alien, by the way) did NOT get the call to replace Rondo, because he has been playing selfishly and out of control throughout the series, so Eddie House from ASU filled in. House did a decent job, actually stretching out the Defense with his superior range. That change opened up some inside moves for the Celts, who needed all the help they could get. Their two biggest stars both had horrible nights, as Kobe Bryant completely took Paul Pierce out of his Offensive rhythm, and Kevin Garnett just missed shot after shot, after shot, open or not.
Garnett finally heated up late in the game, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Kobe Time. After Sasha Vujacic hit his HUGE three-pointer with 2 minutes left to put the Lakers up by 5, it was Kobe who made the last two shots that kept the green-clad wolves at bay.
It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t easy, but the Lakers kicked it up a notch PHYSICALLY, and powered their way to the win. Even with FOUR STARTERS — Lamar Odom, Vlad Radmanovic, Derek Fisher, and Pau Gasol — ALL failing to perform up to their potential, and even while missing THIRTEEN Free Throws, the Lakers still had plenty in reserve to get the job done.
And it was one of the L.A. Reserves who set the tone physically, and made a statement, over a loose ball: Jordan Farmar had a ball almost violently ripped away by veteran big man P.J. Brown, but Farmar would have none of it. He quickly gained control of the ball, and got right into the much taller Brown’s face as the whistle blew to break up an impending brawl. The players received a Double Technical, but Boston received a message: The Lakers are not SOFT.
Jordan went on to have another solid game. He scored 5, hitting a long three and completing a beautiful Give and Go with Luke Walton by sneaking a reverse lay-up under a big defender. Farmar also dished out 5 Assists, grabbed 4 Rebounds, and even blocked a shot. Late in the game, he stood his ground while defending Pierce, and Pierce was called for a Charge, his FIFTH Personal. And best of all, in Jordan’s TWENTY minutes of play, all at Point Guard running the Offense, he committed ZERO Turnovers.
And Farmar must have really made Phil Jackson a Bruin Believer, because he also gave Trevor Ariza some quality minutes, and was rewarded for it. Ariza came in and immediately hit a long jumper, and later added a driving lay-up off a ricochet to tally 4 Points for L.A. Trevor played 9 minutes, also contributing a Board and a Dime to the Laker cause. And even more exciting for Trevor: In the final desperate possession for Boston, Phil inserted Ariza as a Defensive Specialist… with the NBA Championship on the line. As you know, NO ONE has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA Finals, and that’s what the Lakers were looking at, if it weren’t for the bench really stepping up. And Farmar, Ariza, Walton and Rony Turiaf all did good things coming off the pine, but it was Sasha who was the unexpected Hero.
His 20 points included 9 from behind the arc, with his key shot coming right after Kobe talked to him about exercising poor shot selection on the previous possession (not to mention the last big possession of the Game 2 loss). But Vujacic isn’t shy, and now Boston will have to replace their broken Vu-finder. Someone ELSE’S Defender will have to double Kobe, who scored 36 despite missing SEVEN Free Throws.
The Lakers will definitely have to play better to keep winning, because Garnett and Pierce won’t keep shooting 23% from the floor, even against the tougher, more aggressive Laker Defense. Vlad and Lamar, however, are no guarantees to bounce back. That’s okay, because Derek and Pau pretty much ARE shoo-ins to step up, and with the way the reserves are getting comfortable, the Lakers should be able to withstand good games from all of Boston’s big three on Thursday night, and still even up the series at two apiece.
Speaking of tougher and more aggressive, Josh Shipp confirmed earlier reports by Officially pulling out of the NBA Draft and announcing that he is returning to the UCLA Mother Shipp. Excellent.
And speaking of being ecstatic over a supremely talented Bruin returning next year, here is a long-overdue pictorial. These photos enlarge when you click on them, and even though they truly speak for themselves, these photos have hidden captions, using most browsers. If you can’t read them, you won’t learn how sweet, tolerant, understanding, and down-to-earth she is, and how naturally beautiful she looks, just strolling through campus between classes. So, with no further ado, here is a heartfelt tribute to Michelle, who, like Sasha, is truly an Unsung Hero.