By Jason Wojciechowski on April 22, 2009 at 3:21 PM
I didn't get to watch the entire Lakers game last night because I was playing [cards -- either my blog software or my host is not letting me type in the actual name of the game I was playing, but I think you can figure it out: it's on TV all the time]. I had set my DVR to record it, but it flaked out on me (or maybe I'd never set it in the first place), so I only caught the last five minutes of the game when I got home. L.A. was up by about eight when I came in, which is enough with five minutes where you'd do more than tip your cap if Utah won: you'd be honestly angry. It did get close to that, as Utah closed within three at one point, but L.A. kept getting just enough stops and just enough rebounds to hold them off. A big trademark jumper by Kobe and an open three by Trevor Ariza off of a Kobe assist when he smartly found the open man in a double (maybe even soft triple) team situation were key offensive plays.
What kept Utah in the game down the stretch was offensive rebounding. The Lakers weren't doing a bad job -- Utah was just crashing the boards with their entire team and getting enough fingertips on balls to keep them alive. It was a case where perhaps earlier in the game or perhaps with a different officiating crew, there could've been foul calls for overaggressiveness, but the refs, as they always do late in the games, swallowed their whistles. I'm not really complaining per se, except in the sense that I hate how games are called differently at the end than they are at the beginning. L.A. has benefited just as many times as they've been hurt, I'm sure, just like every team, but as a fan, it's annoying to watch rebound battles turn into all-out scrums because the officials are committed to "letting them play" or some vague notion of "it's playoff basketball".
Amusingly enough, the refs did not swallow their whistles when Kobe threw a half-hearted elbow at Paul Millsap late in the game. Kobe felt he was being held by Millsap after the refs had blown the whistle, and I think he was also frustrated that he'd been fouled pretty egregiously for a second or two before play was actually stopped. It wasn't a true elbow so much as it was a "get off of me" elbow-shrug, but the refs weren't going to let him walk away from that one.
One more note on rebounding: the game ended with Pau Gasol grabbing a defensive rebound. As he walked off the court, the camera caught him in a moment of frustration, where I'm fairly certain I read his lips saying, "Finally I get a fucking rebound." I like this. I can complain about the refs all I want because I have no actual personal stake in the game. You like to see, however, the players and coaches taking responsibility for their own actions. Pau was clearly frustrated at the fact that the Jazz were tipping balls away from him -- he felt he wasn't getting the job done. Now, I'm not going to be one of those people that says, "He'll come out angry in Game 3 so watch out!" because I find that argument mostly bullshit. But I do think it's generally a good sign for Lakers fans that Pau is this type of player.