Day after Christmas a downer for Lakers, Celtics fans

Did you get what you wanted?

If you are a long-suffering Clippers or Knicks fan, you sure did. If you are a Mavericks fan, you sorta did (a banner), sorta didn’t (a shellacking).

If you are a member of the tribes known as Lakers Nation and Celtics Nation, no you did not!

Today dawned with a post-Christmas hangover in a lot of places where folks had been accustomed to having their wishes fulfilled and their dreams come true.

The Lakers were up six points with less than a minute left, then Derrick Rose happened.

The Celtics had the ball in Kevin Garnett’s hands for the game-tying shot, then something even worse happened. Not only did Garnett miss the shot that would have sent their season-opening tilt against the Knicks into overtime, he went after the ex-teammate who defended him on that final play, Bill Walker, and gave him a half-slap, half-shove to the neck that Stu Jackson will be contemplating first thing this morning. And if the NBA’s VP of violence determines that KG crossed the line, the Celtics will be down another aging superstar (they didn’t have Paul Pierce on Sunday) when they play at Miami on Tuesday night.

After one (heckuva) long day to start the truncated, lockout-shortened NBA season, it was good to be a fan Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, who came through like the superstars that they are.

Rose sank the game-winning shot over Derek Fisher, a 10-foot floater from the lane after Pau Gasol did not step out quick enough to receive a pass from a double-teamed Kobe Bryant, leading to a turnover that Rose turned into an isolation play that he converted to give the Chicago Bulls an 88-87 victory at Staples Center — a victory that wasn’t wrapped up until Luol Deng blocked Bryant’s last-second drive.

As Mark Heisler says, there are only two states of being in Lakerdom: panic and euphoria. The later rules the day this Monday.

From Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: “For all the good Lakers feelings that emerged from their 88-87 loss Sunday — this Mike Brown guy has fitted them with fists and scowls and defense — there was one siren of doom. Bryant needs help, the Lakers need another skilled player, and they need one soon, or they won’t simply bore us to death, they will also lose a bunch of games while doing it. “It’s going to be ugly,” Bryant said. “We’re going to be grinding it out.” A Staples Center crowd that spent the first half of the game Sunday as if trapped in a giant yawn will buy this grind if the Lakers win. The roar returned when the Lakers’ elbows and hips held the Bulls to a dozen points in the third quarter and led to an 11-point advantage late. But the party ended with shocked silence everywhere, and nobody will buy this grind if the Lakers lose. This includes Bryant, who is not complaining yet, but he will eventually, and who can blame him? … Besides throwing the last pass to nobody, he took the final running shot while being triple-teamed, and that wasn’t Bryant hogging the ball, that was a designed play. Bryant needs help, and the Lakers front office knows it, or it wouldn’t have tried to trade for Chris Paul, a rebuffed effort which led to one Staples Center fan dancing around in a white T-shirt reading, “Trade David Stern.” Bryant needs help, and if the Lakers can’t figure out a way to get Dwight Howard, they needed to check out Sunday’s earliest NBA game to find their next target. How about Bynum to the Boston Celtics for Rajon Rondo? The Celtics also need to rebuild, and maybe they would rather do it around a big man than a temperamental little guy.”

Yep, that would be panic.

And it didn’t make it any easier for Lakers fans to cope when they watched the nightcap of Sunday’s season-opening quintuple-header and saw the big fish that got away, Chris Paul, knock down all six of his second-half shots in a 105-86 victory over Golden State that was closer than the final score indicated (it was a one-point game with 6:51 left before the Clippers scored 23 of the final 28 points.)

Myself, I still want to see what the Clippers can do against a higher-quality opponent before I back off my preseason prediction that they’ll be such a pedestrian team (no depth, no rebounding, bad FT shooters) that they’ll be pedestrians when the playoffs start.

But it was worth staying up into hours 13 and 14 of a marathon day of basketball watching to see Paul apply the finishing kick.

From Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times: They’re expected to win now, and that’s a big difference. They were the nightcap of a nationally televised season-opening quintupleheader and inspired chants of “Beat L.A.” from the holiday sellout crowd Sunday at the Oracle Arena. Imagine that: the Clippers — not the Lakers — generating genuine hatred around the NBA instead of pity. Handling those new expectations will be the theme of the Clippers’ season. Two exhibition games were enough for them to warm up their muscles but not to test their character and develop their timing, and their ability to develop cohesion will be crucial in a season that will be short but could be very sweet. “I’ve said it over and over and over. It’s going to take time. We have to feel each other out,” Griffin said. “Every game’s not going to be like a blowout. We’re not going to jump right out of the gate. “You saw the Heat last year, they came together with all those guys. It takes time, and that’s what’s going to happen with us. We just have to stay calm and use our defense to help win games.”

In the first game of the day, the Knicks were great early, horrible for a long stretch after that, then good enough to get the job done in the fourth quarter behind Carmelo Anthony (37 points).

It was a huge mental boost for them to outlast the team that swept them out of the playoffs last season, and let’s just say Garnett did not respond well to missing the game-tying jumper.

From Neil Best of Newsday: “After Bill Walker contested Kevin Garnett‘s unsuccessful attempt to tie the score in the final seconds, the two former Celtics teammates exchanged harsh words. Garnett then put his left hand on Walker’s throat before the two were separated, first by injured Knicks guard Baron Davis. “I guess he got mad that I contested his shot,” said Walker, who had scrambled to cover Garnett after colliding with Tyson Chandler, who was supposed to be guarding the Celtic. “He grabs my hand, tangles it up, I pulled my hand away and then we had a situation.” Did Walker do anything to provoke Garnett? “I’m a grown man,” he said. “You’re putting your hands in my face . . . Come on. Y’all know what the man does.”Walker said he was unsure precisely where Garnett made contact with him. “I don’t know where he caught me,” he said. “I just know I saw his hand coming in my face, you know what I mean? That’s disrespectful.” Garnett declined to discuss the incident with reporters.

Memo to KG: Ted’s Hideaway on South Beach is a nice salt-of-the-earth spot to watch the game if Stu Jackson bans you from the building Tuesday night.

And if the Heat look even half as good as they did against the defending champs, Celtics Nation will have an even worse hangover Wednesday than they do today.

LeBron James (37, 10 and 6) and Miami sure know how to ruin a championship celebration:

From Israel Gutierrez of the Miami Herald: “Before the Mavericks had their brief, faintly emotional and surprisingly traditional banner-raising ceremony, the Heat quietly stepped away, heading to the hallways of the American Airlines Center rather than watch highlights of memorable Mavericks moments produced on Miami’s home floor. It wasn’t a dismissive act. It wasn’t a defiant act. It wasn’t even an uncommon act.It was simply an expression of what the Heat is at the moment: a team playing in the present and looking toward the future.Reliving the past isn’t what this team wants to do, regardless if every outsider believes last season’s failure is what should motivate this group every moment of every game.“It’s not about last season’s storylines,” Spoelstra said. “We already left last year behind.”

Last but not least, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked worthy of the No. 2 ranking I gave them in the preseason power rankings by smoking Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in front of an audience that included commissioner David Stern, who had a doubleheader of his own yesterday when he watched the Mavericks raise their banner and then made the 2-hour drive north to OKC for the day’s second blowout.

From Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Magic took a 18-11 lead with 7:44 remaining in the first quarter and then suddenly went cold. They missed 25 of their next 30 shot attempts, and they found themselves trailing 48-31 with 5:02 remaining in the second quarter. Their struggles worsened. After the Magic showed some fight and cut the Thunder lead to 64-54 with 7:53 left to play in the third, Orlando did not make another field goal until 7:57 remained in regulation.“I thought we played pretty well defensively in the second half, but offensively we just weren’t good all night,” coachStan Van Gundy said. “The first five minutes we were pretty good, and other than that, we just weren’t good. We weren’t sharp. We didn’t execute.” Van Gundy did not like the pace of the offense. He did not like how players often settled for a shot after just one pass. He did not like his players’ screens, or lack thereof.”

Next, we’ll see how this performance influences Dwight Howard’s mindset. Everybody already knows he wants out of Orlando, and as Stern said while once again showing off his vocabular skills, it’ll play itself out.

“That’s the beauty of the soap opera of basketball,” Stern said. “As in life, it’ll play out the way it plays out, and we’ll all be observers of it. I just don’t know. But, to me, I am of the view that when somebody has put in his years, so to speak, and he has earned his free agency, he’s free to decide where he’ll sign, and he’s not under a compunction under our system to re-sign with a team if he doesn’t want to. But how it plays out? We’ll all wait and see.”


  1. Mark says

    Chris: your analysis of the Clippers is shallow and beneath your enormous skills as a journalist. The Paul trade represents so much more than the immediate won loss record. It brought excitement to the franchise, and all but assured that Blake would remain a Clipper down the road. Further, the team is loaded with guards — and Bledsoe will be back — allowing them to make a deal to get needed big man depth. Of course, free agents will be more likely to look to the Clippers than they have in the past.

    As for this year, the team does have some flaws. They need another rebounder. But Paul’s impact on the Hornets was unquestionable. The team tanked when he got hurt a few years ao and then rebounded to the playoffs when he returned. They should be good this year but their future (assuming people stay healthy) is even greater.

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