Monday, January 5, 2009

It's Official - Lakers Are Now The Best

With their win against the Portland Trail Blazers after the Celtics lost at New York and Cavaliers lost at Washington Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers claim the top spot with a league-best 27-5 record. Boston (29-6) and Cleveland (27-6) are now looking up to the Lakers' best record in the league.

Kobe Bryant played for 33 minutes and scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 19 points in 28 minutes and Los Angeles beat the Portland Trail Blazers 100-86 Sunday night for its sixth consecutive victory and 15th straight at home.

Earlier, Paul Pierce played 42 minutes and scored 31 points, Ray Allen contributed 16 points in 37 minutes but Boston suffered another loss to a sub-.500 team, the New York Knicks (13-19) 88-100.

On the same night, the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the first time this season, lost to a team with a losing record. Lebron James played for 41 minutes and scored 30 points in a 77-80 loss to the Washington Wizards (7-25).

Cleveland and Boston are really trying hard to win regular-season games by playing their MVPs playoff-level minutes. In spite of James playing 41 minutes and Pierce 42 minutes, they both lost their game against their respective opponents last Sunday.

And the Lakers? Kobe only played 33 minutes and they won by 12 points!

So which team is the best now? The Lakers best record of 27 wins with only 5 losses says it all.

The Lakers might have won more games had Phil Jackson allowed Kobe Bryant to play the kind of minutes that Lebron and Pierce are playing. Remember their 1-point loss in Indiana? It was a won game that was lost when Kobe was resting on the bench.

Even Jackson admitted it was a coaching mistake, he should've put Bryant back at least two minutes earlier in the fourth quarter. He vowed he'd play Kobe more in the fourth quarters of their succeeding games.

Phil Jackson is more concerned about preparing his team as a potent group for the playoffs than boosting his best player's statistics. He's probably the only coach in the league who gets a bit frustrated when his best player scored 40 points in just 31 minutes saying that Bryant “tried to do too much” in the fourth quarter in their “win” against the Utah Jazz on their first game this year.

Wow! Can you imagine Mike Brown or Doc Rivers saying things like that about their best players? Only the highest paid NBA coach can do that!

James averages 36.8 minutes per game this season compared to 36.4 for Pierce, 35.7 for Allen and 35.3 for Kobe. Not much, you'd say. But the disparity in their playing times is more prominent in their crucial games.

Lebron had 10 games where he played 40 minutes or more including a 46-minute game in a loss in Atlanta and 43 minutes each in back-to-back games against Miami. He even played for 43 minutes in Oklahoma!

Yes, that's right! Forty-three big minutes against 4-and-30 Thunder! What was it with the Thunder that made Mike Brown so nervous that he wouldn't take Lebron out of the game even when his team was leading by 14 points in the last 2 minutes?

The Celtics are even worse. Or better if you feel that grinding it out in the regular season is more important than preparing your team for the playoffs and risk losing some games by giving playing time to your supporting casts.

Paul Pierce had played a staggering 15 games in which he played 40 minutes or more including a four-game stretch against Toronto, Atlanta, Denver (a loss) at home and in Milwaukee. And another three-game stretch in home games vs. New Orleans and Utah and a road win in Atlanta.

Oh, I thought Boston didn't have one MVP--they've got three!

Well, the other MVP, Ray Allen, played nine 40+ minute games including a three-game stretch in a loss to Denver (yes, the same game where Pierce played 41 minutes), a road game against the Bucks, and home game against the Knicks.

Boston even had a game where all of their “big three” played more than 40 minutes--a narrow 122-117 win in Indiana. Pierce played for 44 minutes, Garnett for 42, and Allen for 41 in avenging their 16-point road loss early in the season.

No wonder they won that game!

In stark contrast, Kobe Bryant only played four 40+ minute games. One of those games, of course, was their Christmas day match up against the Celtics where he played 43 minutes.

Of course, everybody knows who won that game.

He also played 41 minutes in a close game vs. the Knicks and 40 minutes in a 7-point win against the Mavericks.

The Lakers only loss when Kobe played 40 minutes or more was their game in Orlando. Bryant scored 41 points in 43 minutes in that game but they still lost by three points!

Could they have won that game if Kobe played a few more minutes? Maybe!

But you know, Phil Jackson wouldn't want that. He'd do everything to keep Bryant from “trying to do too much...”

So what do you think is more impressive?

The Lakers achieving their best record without burning out the reigning MVP...

Or the playoff-level minutes being played by Boston's big three...

Or maybe the unstoppable force in Cleveland who stays on the floor even on blowout games to dominate video highlight plays on TV and YouTube...

You pick! I already made mine...


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