|Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press|
|The magic didn't work.|
What's happened? I thought the Lakers started forcing matters and grew impatient and looked nervous in the second quarter last night/this morning. The Suns, smaller at every starting position, were quicker to the spot to draw numerous charges, and quick and smart with their double teams. The Lakers, by the end, began to doubt each other and were back to the Kobe-and-four-bystanders approach in the fourth quarter. He got 50 in a fantastic performance, but when it came time for someone else to make a shot -- most glaring point came with Smush Parker's runner being smushed by Boris Diaw with minute to go in regulation, and Lamar Odom missing a wide-open 3 in OT -- it didn't happen.
As for the Suns: Steve Nash had his most MVP-worthy night, and was perfect at the free-throw line -- it seemed Nash could get whatever he wanted on offence and Kwame Brown is probably having nightmares about facing him after a switch; Shawn Marion had one of the most subtle superb games I've seen in a while, taking over checking Kobe at times, getting his shot going early and grabbing a key offensive rebound late that led to waiver pickup Tim Thomas hitting the game-tying 3 to force OT, then the coup de grace 3 in OT. Oh, and Leandro Barbosa stepped in for Bell and gave them far more offence than the suspended one.
|Michael Conroy/Associated Press|
|Vince getting all goo-goo with Stephen Jackson.|
At the buzzer, Phil Jackson seemed to actually slump in his chair. I don't recall ever seeing that before. Jackson usually stands up, turns on his heel and marches out like Gen. MacArthur. This was the Lakers' big chance, though, and he knew what had happened. They blew it, giving up an incredible 21 points in OT.
I've stopped making predictions, but I will say this: I can recall only a handful of series with this kind of ebb and flow. One, the Bulls vs. Pacers in 1998, was probably the most taut, gripping spectacle I've ever had the privilege of covering. Jackson won that one in seven. He's sure up against it here.