Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Remember Lakers-Suns in 3OT?
By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- The numbers were so staggering Tuesday night, the stat sheet seemed heavy from all the extra statistics tallied in the Los Angeles Lakers' 139-137 win over the Phoenix Suns in a game that took three overtimes and three hours and nine minutes to complete.
In just the fourth triple-OT game in Lakers history and the first played in L.A. since February 1969, the final box score teemed with enough interesting figures to make a stat geek want to frame it on his bedroom wall.
Four players played for more than 52 minutes in the epic matchup, and 10 played for more than 40.
Seven players scored in double figures for the Suns while five scored 10 or more for the Lakers.
The teams combined to take 226 shots and make 104, with 28 of those makes coming beyond the 3-point arc (and 11 of those misses from beyond the 3-point arc by Vince Carter single-handedly).
Two players for Los Angeles set new season highs for points in a game, while two players for Phoenix did the same, one of them setting a new career high in points in the process.
The accumulation of all these numbers make it a regular-season game for the ages, much the same way that Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals between Boston and Phoenix is on the short list for "greatest basketball game of all time" because the Celtics won 128-126 in triple-OT
But the numbers aren't what the players will remember.
"The foul call. The foul call. The foul call."
That's what Lamar Odom says will stick out in his mind some day in the future when he's long been retired from the sport and reflecting on the overtime thriller.
Odom played a career-high 55 minutes. He scored a season-high 29 points to go with 16 rebounds and five assists while filling in as a starter for the suspended Andrew Bynum. Kobe Bryant praised him after the game by saying, "I don't know what [to say], but he's Sixth Man of the Year. ... He's Sixth Man of the Year, by far."
But the game would have ended as a regular old single-OT win for the Lakers, like the ones they had against Houston and Portland earlier this season, had Odom not fouled Channing Frye with 1.1 seconds left in the first OT with L.A. up by three.
The Lakers had a foul to give and Odom tried to foul Frye on the floor. Frye saw the foul coming and started his shooting motion, earning the trip to the line and knocking down all three freebies to ensure the second overtime.
|Lamar Odom will remember Tuesday's game. He logged nearly an hour of playing time.|
"I always tell you guys basketball is a humbling experience. Because I can think about throughout the game, 'Yeah, I'm playing good. I'm having a good one,'" Odom said. "And then, right before you know it, I'm the dope."
Frye scored a career-high 32 points. He played a career-high 57 minutes, more than any of the other 18 players who checked into the game. He hit five 3-pointers, grabbed 14 rebounds and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the foul line. He had 11 made field goals after having just 14 made field goals in six games against the Lakers in the Western Conference finals last spring.
He'll remember Pau Gasol stealing the ball from him with 1:31 remaining in the third overtime and Bryant making a floater over him about a minute later to put L.A. up by four and finally give the Lakers control of the game with 14.2 seconds left.
"We had the opportunities to win and we didn't take advantage of them," Frye said. "We had some pretty costly turnovers."
Gasol had 24 points and 13 rebounds. He was the third Laker, along with Odom and Bryant, to top 20 points in the game, making the Lakers 19-2 when they have three players top the 20-point plateau since he arrived in L.A.
He was just 9-for-25 from the field, but he'll remember two makes from the foul line rather than the 16 misses from the field.
"I thought to myself, if Channing Frye made three free throws to send it to overtime, I just need to make two so I'm in good shape," said Gasol, who made his pressure-packed charity stripers with just 2.5 seconds left in the second OT to ensure a third.
Bryant scored a season-high 42 points and finished just shy of a triple-double as he added 12 rebounds and nine assists. It was the third 40-point game of the season for him and the 107th of his career.
He'll remember what it felt like to put Phoenix three games out of the playoff picture with just about a dozen games left to play, exacting some revenge on the team that knocked his Lakers out of the postseason two consecutive seasons before L.A. started its run to three consecutive NBA Finals.
"We had an opportunity to put them in a little bit of a hole in terms of getting in the playoffs," Bryant said. "And I can't say I didn't enjoy doing that."
Ron Artest scored seven of his 18 points in the overtime periods. Fans will remember him blowing kisses to the crowd after his clutch 3-pointer and him kissing his biceps after his left-handed hammer dunk on a breakaway he created with a steal.
He'll remember Bryant looking for him when it mattered most.
"He hit shots, he was animated, he carried us and then he trusted us when it counted," Artest said. "He trusted us in that last overtime. That's Black Mamba for you."
Even Phil Jackson, who had won 1,148 regular-season games in his 20-year coaching career before Tuesday's win made it 13 victories in 14 games for the Lakers since the All-Star break, remembered what it's like to get excited for a game that doesn't have a championship on the line behind it.
"It's kind of fun," the 65-year-old Jackson said after joking that it was past his bedtime. "That's the fun part of it -- the involvement of players, the interaction with themselves. Some of the mistakes they make that I hope they grow through those by the time we reach the playoffs [and] that we can learn from them. Also their team spirit, it's a great thing to have."
The experiences, not the numbers, hold the true spirit of the game.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
I always tell you guys basketball is a humbling experience. Because I can think about throughout the game, 'Yeah, I'm playing good. I'm having a good one.' And then, right before you know it, I'm the dope.
-- Lamar Odom, addressing the gathered media, regarding the Channing Frye foul