Lakers gift-wrap it for Cavaliers
All I want next Christmas is the day off.
That way if the marquee games bomb as this Christmas’ games did, I can just hit the remote.
On the bright side for the NBA, which designed a special snowflake logo for Friday’s games, the Lakers haven’t already turned the season into a romp.
The Lakers proved that, if nothing else. In this season’s first game in front of a national audience, reports of their awesomeness -- several of which I’m on the hook for -- turned out to be exaggerated.
Reports of this season’s new focus -- yeah, I said that too -- turned out to be delusional. Forget focus, they were a complete no-show Friday when the supposed upstart Cleveland Cavaliers buried them, 102-87.
Despite suggestions to the contrary by the promoters, it was just a regular-season game and an anomaly at that for the Lakers.
The real embarrassment came late in the game, with the irate Lakers challenging the referees and getting one technical foul after another, when perhaps 50 of the yellow foam fingers given out to spectators sailed onto the court plus a plastic bottle or two.
Happily for Lakers fans, who aren’t all front-running crybabies, the only people in the TV audience who still had the game on had fallen asleep in front of the set.
Unhappily for Lakers fans, there’s such a thing as videotape, so get ready to see a lot of sailing foam fingers in the next day or two.
“I’ve never seen an L.A. crowd react like this before,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “I liked their enthusiasm. I didn’t like their demonstrative act.”
In all, the Lakers got five technical fouls, one each for the Lakers’ bench, Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, and two for Lamar Odom, who was ejected.
With Jackson taking his time to replace Odom to let the officials know what he thought, referee Danny Crawford issued a delay-of-game warning.
With Jackson making no move to send anyone in, Crawford then called another technical foul, charged to the Lakers bench.
The next thing you knew, it was raining foam fingers.
“Let me see, Fish’s technical, I don’t even remember that,” Jackson said.
“Lamar got two but that was just jawing at the end of the game, obviously. Kobe obviously needed to express his disappointment with some of the calls.
“And the crowd deserved theirs.”
The crowd didn’t actually get one but would have deserved it if it had.
Bryant didn’t get calls on several drives, including two on which he collided with, uh, former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, but said afterward the Lakers’ problem wasn’t the referees, but themselves.
The Cavaliers showed up looking like a hunted team, with ABC’s Mark Jackson, noting O’Neal’s issues covering pick and rolls, calling them “a disaster waiting to happen.”
Well, the disaster didn’t happen on Christmas, at least to the Cavaliers.
Minutes into the game, there was a discernible difference in the level of effort, which soon showed on the scoreboard as the Cavaliers went on a 45-19 run.
The Lakers’ express screeched to a halt. Bumped around by the physical Cavaliers, Pau Gasol had an 11-point game, missing seven of 11 close-in shots.
Andrew Bynum, the other tower, at least on paper, went for four points and six rebounds.
The Bryant-Gasol-Bynum core makes this Lakers team special, on paper. Either because of Bynum’s cold, or because his effort drops when he doesn’t get touches and shots, he hasn’t been anything special lately.
Averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds when Gasol returned, Bynum dropped all the way to 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds over the last seven games, but he has been playing with a cold, and, perhaps, a maturity issue or two.
Said Bryant when someone asked whether the Lakers’ big guys needed more touches: “I just think they got out-worked.”
If this was last season, when the Lakers were often sloppy or casual in their 21-2 start, Friday wouldn’t just be a wake-up call, it would be an entire fire company parked outside, sirens wailing.
Jackson says he’s willing to call it an off night -- as long as it doesn’t continue tonight in Sacramento.
After last spring’s Game 4 massacre in Houston, ABC’s Jackson, who called Sunday’s game, ranted, “I’m through with the Lakers,” vowing never to pick them again because he knew the other team, at least, would try.
“I didn’t hit them as hard today,” Jackson said. “Cleveland outplayed the Lakers. You’re going to have nights like that.
“I don’t think the Lakers’ track record this season is the same as it was last spring when I made that statement.”
Not yet, anyway. They’re still better than last season, so far.