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The Lakers Got Lucky

- Danny Neubert
I hadn't planned to post anything following the Lakers game. Instead, I was going to do a recap of the Nuggets' back-to-back after the Phoenix game tonight, which kicks off a tough March that will likely determine where the Nuggets are seeded when the postseason begin.
I didn't even watch the Lakers game in real-time. I was up in the mountains snowboarding and waited to watch a recording of the game after I got back. By the time I had finished watching the Nuggets self-destruct in the second half and hand the game to Los Angeles, ESPN.com had a game recap posted. In the interest of objectivity, they had included a companion piece from a Lakers blog. Because that's the only side of the story anybody cares about, right ESPN?
Well, this drivel from Dave McMenamin over at ESPNLosAngeles.com forced me into action. In typical self-serving, oblivious-to-reality Lakers fan fashion, McMenamin disregards the Nuggets' prior two DOMINATING performances against the boys in purple and gold and instead uses this game (one in which the Nuggets led virtually the entire time and still had multiple chances to win it down the stretch despite off games from nearly everyone and a 35% shooting performance overall) to demonstrate how the Lakers and their fans aren't worried about the Nuggets now and won't be come playoff time. He doesn't say it outright, but read the paragraph about Chauncey Billups' shooting for the game and the way he condescendingly quotes Billups as saying he feels the Nuggets are on the same level as the Lakers. McMenamin practically scoffs at the notion, it seems.
Why is that, hmm? Has David Stern already assured LA they are going to the championship, for his dream Lebron vs. Kobe Finals matchup? It honestly wouldn't surprise me. But for one second, let's just assume the NBA isn't fixed and Stern doesn't have an overwhelming preference for the Lakers. It's hard, I know, but go with me on this. Why shouldn't the Lakers fear the Nuggets?
The Nuggets, when healthy, match up with them better than any other team in the Western Conference. Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Birdman are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the taller Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, because what they lack in height they make up for in physicality. Carmelo Anthony is better than Ron Artest, no matter what Melo's numbers were yesterday. Billups and Ty Lawson are enigmas that the Lakers simply have no answer for. And as we saw yesterday, the feisty shooting guards, Arron Afflalo and J.R. Smith, are up to the task of scoring and defending Kobe Bryant.
Denver has beaten LA twice this season convincingly, and almost beat them again yesterday. They reverted to selfish basketball in the second half, with too many one-on-one jumpshots (Melo and Chauncey mostly), and as we have seen in the past, that consistently will doom the Nuggets. Was it good defense from the Lakers? Partly, but not overwhelmingly so. The Nuggets were just forcing shots; the Lakers weren't doing anything special.
What Artest does is only considered defense in the loosest sense. Artest even told an ABC reporter before the game that he had been practicing flopping, and he certainly demonstrated it throughout. As for those six steals he had? Decent, but how many of them came while he was hanging all over Melo? It's even more outrageous when you see that Melo only shot three free throws. I know he isn't getting fouled every time but come on! And don't get me started on that BS offensive foul call that gave Melo his sixth.
McMenamin also tries to emphasize what a bunch of "trash-talkers" the Nuggets are. Oh right, because everybody on the Lakers is a choir boy. Any team that starts serial screw-up artist Ron Artest should not be calling another team's character into question. And is it not considered trash-talking if you are only berating the refs? Gasol is quoted as saying the Nuggets talk "way too much." I am sure there are a few officials out there who would say the same about you, Pau. Or should I say Pout?
And Kobe needs a reality check. I hate how the refs are so scared of his wrath, like Kobe can get them blackballed from the league somehow. Sure, he got an early technical foul, but I saw at least five or six equally egregious reactions to non-calls on his part that definitely merited a second. I did get a good chuckle watching him go apoplectic over the CLEAN Afflalo block that came on Kobe right after Afflalo blocked Gasol's first attempt, but I know if Melo or Chauncey or J.R. does that, it's an automatic technical, no matter if it's their second. A technical is a technical, and Kobe abuses the refs like few others in the league do.
Whatever. McMenamin is biased, just like I am. Whereas I do give the Lakers some credit from time to time (Kobe is an amazing player, even if he is a jerk, and the Nuggets still have no answer for Lamar Odom), Lakers fans and sportswriters go out of their way to make sure the Nuggets receive little to no credit. When they do beat LA, it's LA's fault, not a result of anything the Nuggets did. Trying to talk basketball with Lakers fans is like trying to teach a toaster arithmetic; it just doesn't work. And until the Nuggets beat the Lakers in the postseason en route to a championship, the inevitable comeback will always be, "Look at the rings."
Well turnabout is fair play, no? In keeping with the traditional grace and dignity Lakers fans have shown me, I give the Lakers absolutely ZERO credit for their victory yesterday, and they should send the Nuggets some Harry and David gift baskets for their generosity in handing the game over. When, not if, these two teams meet in the Western Conference Finals, I expect Denver's engine to be running extremely hard, due to the disrespect shown by LA and their drive to do right by Coach Karl. And you know what else? Just for Pau and McMenamin's sake, I hope the Nuggets keep their mouths running, too.


  1. strongly agree, the toughest part of all this nuggets laker debate is the postseason. Even though the nuggets dominated the lakers in the first 2 games this season, and should have won yesterday, regular season games don't mean much it all comes down to the playoffs. Unfortunately, lakers always come to play hard in the playoffs, and the nuggs haven't done much to stop that. Last year was better, and could arguably have been swayed by the refs, but this year we look even stronger. Still I hope the nuggs can finally knock the lakers out of the playoffs, and hopefully do it strong like in 5 games, to finally shut up the lakers fans. Though nothing will truly ever shut a laker fan up, they will always have excuses to whine about. But finally getting a ring of our own would go a long way to keeping them quiet for a little while.

  2. Couldn't agree more Danny, well said.

  3. yea except the lakers have OWNED the nuggets in the playoffs the last two years. Do it when it counts then talk. just cuz u win a buncha games in the regular season don't mean they should fear u. You also forgot to mention the lakers third best player... lamar odom. he gets the crunch time minutes over gasol. Ty Lawson is not exactly an enigma. Defending Champions also get calls thats the way it is and always has been. Look at jordans push off agaisnt byron russel to seal the championship in 96. i'm not a lakers fan but these are things you forget to look at objectively.

  4. in response to the pro-lakers comment... the writer did mention lamar odom, albeit briefly, in the second to last paragraph. he says the nuggets have no answer for him. as long as we're poking holes in your comment, odom gets the crunch time minutes for bynum, not gasol. ty lawson IS an enigma, his presence changed the pace of the game. the lakers have nobody that can stay in front of him, and his dribble drives led to easy buckets and fouls until he got hurt. also, definitely wouldn't say the nuggets were OWNED last year in the playoffs. it went six games, and two inbounds plays completely changed the series. ron artest is not the defending champion of anything, and he was mugging melo the whole game, so your argument that the lakers should get calls holds no water. that's a super weak argument anyway. Fouls are fouls, i don't care who plays for what team. Basically you are confirming the writer's statement that David Stern prefers the Lakers and orchestrates the officiating. You sure you're not a lakers fan? You would make a perfect one, because you make lame arguments/excuses just like they do.

  5. good analysis of a poor second half. hopefully they snap out of the current funk they are in tonight against OKC.

  6. "Any team that starts serial screw-up artist Ron Artest should not be calling another team's character into question"

    Chris Anderson was convicted of possessing and using meth, so let's not get too far into the whole character issue, it's not basketball related.

    "But for one second, let's just assume the NBA isn't fixed and Stern doesn't have an overwhelming preference for the Lakers."

    A very safe assumption...in fact, THE TRUTH. Anyone that OBJECTIVELY pays attention to the referees in Laker games, will actually see an anti-laker bias. For all of the hype about technicals, free throws and fouls, the main problem area with the referees is actually non-calls, or what I call the ODPD factor. ODPD stands for Offensive & Defensive Physicality Differential. The ODPD stat calculates and measures any differences between the level of physicality and contact allowed for one team VS the opponent. The process is largely used to measure differences in what players can do at each end of the floor, and if there are differences between players on each team, and how much impact those differences have play to play, possession to possession, etc. The calculation is mostly for plays NOT resulting in any whistles, although sometimes the difference can be measured in traditional statistics as well.
    Components considered are affects on indivudal shots and possessions, disadvantages in match-ups, minutes of lost efficiency and effectiveness both for players out of the game due to foul trouble, and for players in the game who are playing in foul trouble. Also measured are calls that are either completely wrong, or are misinterpretations of the rules of basketball, and their resulting effect on each team. By these calculations, the Los Angeles Lakers are giving up (based on a generous model) a minimum 3 to 1 disadvantage in ODPD. This means that the opposition is able to get away with 3 times more physical violations of the rules before they receive a whistle...it's how Nene, K-Mart and Birdman can make Bynum, Odom, and Gasol look like the physically overmatched players, and how one of the most physically imposing 10 man rotations in the NBA is repeatedly accused of being "outphysical-ed."
    The Lakers are most often held to an irregular level of scrutiny at both ends of the floor, a level very inconsistent with what you see for any other team in the league. In stark contrast, LA's near nightly opponents are given a virtual Carte Blanche for their level of physicality and contact. While players on the opposing side are routinely able to follow through on screens (to the point that it devolves into NFL blocking) throw elbows, make faces, gloat and generally aggitate, despite popular opinion, the Lakers are most often (by far over any other team in the league) penalized for the slightest of infractions, up to and including no infraction whatsoever!

    ...I believe that you summed it up a different way...

    " I am sure there are a few officials out there who would say the same about you, Pau. Or should I say Pout?"

    It makes no sense to say on the one hand that LA gets every call, and then go out of your way to gloat about how Pau pouts all the time about the calls.

    "And Kobe needs a reality check. I hate how the refs are so scared of his wrath, like Kobe can get them blackballed from the league somehow."

    I would have prepared a retort for that, but I'll let you do it for me...

  7. "I did get a good chuckle watching him go apoplectic over the CLEAN Afflalo block that came on Kobe"

    I find it difficult to imagine that if the refs are so afraid of Kobe's wrath, that they would so blithely ignore his apoplexy. Well, anyway, let's not get into technical fouls and all that, because you'll lose that argument as well.

    "if Melo or Chauncey or J.R. does that, it's an automatic technical, no matter if it's their second."

    OK, if you insist on measuring technical fouls, then here we go. Let us examine the technical foul numbers, shall we? Of the all the Players in the NBA with at least 3 technical fouls, the Lakers have 5 in the top 50 (30 Technical fouls) and FOUR players in the top 25 (27 Technical Fouls). The Nuggets have 3 players in the top 50 (16 technical Fouls) and only TWO in the top 25, Chauncey @ #25 (13 Technical Fouls). If you subtract the total for the top player from each team's Technical foul list (Kobe-12, and K-Mart-9), the Nuggets remaining players have 7 technical fouls, the remaining Lakers have 18. This analysis does not paint the picture of a team that is getting the calls, or getting treated preferentially by the referees.

    "A technical is a technical, and Kobe abuses the refs like few others in the league do."

    Actually, the common consensus, and a proper evaluation of the criteria by which a Technical Foul is supposed to be called, suggests quite the opposite. You should have said...

    "A technical is not always a technical, and the refs abuse Kobe like few other players in the NBA"

    This would explain his supposed abuse of the refs... Well, one good turn deserves another as they say...Wait, that's not right...Oh, I know, perhaps I meant...

    "Well turnabout is fair play, no?"

    PS - Would you be arguing against the rings argument if it were the Nuggets holding the trophy from last year, and the Lakers winning 2 of this year's 3 in the exact same way? My guess is NOT A CHANCE, and that is the differnce between the Nuggets and the Lakers, the Nuggets TALK a good game, the Lakers PLAY a good game. Perhaps one day you'll learn what that looks like...Perhaps even sooner? We shall see. It is the glory of the competition that shall settle this dispute, and all the opinions and stats won't matter in the end, until they do again, and then HAVE AT YOU! I CAN'T WAIT TO FACE YOU IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!

  8. Well I am glad that this blog is starting to make some headway and getting a following (even if part of that following is oblivious). Snakell Beast you are a perfect example of one of the things this author was trying to illustrate. You lakers fans are so in denial of the bias that your team recieves that you invent stats like ODPD. After doing a little research I could find nothing even that resembles a stat like this. So basically what you are doing is justifying what EVERYONE, not just nuggets fans, in the league says: that the lakers front court IS SOFT. By creating this falsehood of a stat that states somehow because the Lakers are so "tough/good" that the refs have to compensate for that "toughness/goodness" and give opposing teams the benefit of the doubt when making calls is just ludacris. I realize that you are defending champs and you have this aura of cockiness about yourselves, but when of the rest of the league calls out this "toughness" in the national media I feel like this ODPD stat starts to crumble underneath itself.

    You can keep staying in your "imaginationland" and say that the NBA doesn't love its darlings the Lakers & Celtics but the fact of the matter is Los Angeles is one of the biggest TV markets in the country and the NBA is a business. So naturally any business is going to do all it can to make profits, and guess what where the most profits are to be made. Big TV markets.

  9. There is nothing imaginary about my ODPD system. It's not an established system yet, it's my own idea and it is not yet a published, sourced reality. It's a raw concept at this point. You can say what you will of it, stats and analysis of hypothetical and intangible effects can most definitely be up to interpretation, but it is a foolish thing to be willfully ignorant or to dismiss the concept outright as either denial or cockiness, or even "imaginationland." I don't see any fantasy involved in ordered, systematic observation and categorization. I suppose you do...

    I will, however, agree that speculation, anecdotal evidence, and personal theories are not reliable sources of information in a rational and logical debate. This is why I honestly don't see a method of proving favoritism toward ANY team. Speculating about the performance or potential motives of referees, with an intent to discern any possible tangible effect on the outcome of a given game or series, is, as you said, "just ludicrous"

    I just wish you would have the integrity not to engage in the exact same behavior when you make arguments like the refs are bought for the Lakers and Celtics, without any evidence to back up your claim, all while calling the Lakers players bad names and castigating their character...as well as the character of their fans. I have been watching every game of the Lakers season for nearly 15 years now. I have supported them through thick, and through thin. I have the integrity to admit when a bad call is made in my favor, and I expect the same of the opposition. In all of the time that I have watched the Lakers, I have not HONESTLY observed ANY consistent or provable or even reliable evidence of any CONCERTED effort or conspiracy to engineer series or games. If you wish to claim otherwise, that is your right. Just don't ask me to recognize it as logical or rational or factual if it, indeed, is not!

    As far as what type of LA fan I am, how about a very good, loyal one. You want me to feel ashamed or somehow ignorant or guilty for defending my team when they are attacked as supposedly in some corrupt conspiracy and are not even winning the games and rings that they won by talent or hard work, but because it's all a set-up? No, I don't feel bad or wrong about recognizing and calling out ignorance and prejudice when and where I see it.

    As far as I am concerned, you are free to say you think that Denver was CAPABLE of beating the Lakers last year. You are free to say that chance or luck MAY HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO the outcome of a play or the ending of a given game. Anything more than that is not even close to provable by any scientific method, ON EITHER SIDE. You believe that I am in denial or fantasy because I don't take your completely unsubstantiated blog post as scientific proof of a Lakers conspiracy theory. I guess if that's the argument you are comfortable with making, then go right ahead; I will respond on my end with the exact same contentions and observations, and when all is said and done, one team will be left standing. We will soon discover the identity of that team.

  10. Snakell uses big words for a Lakers fan. i have one too... "implausible". As in, it is beyond implausible that Snakell is as good and loyal Lakers fan as he claims. You see, if he really truly had watched the Lakers all these years, he would have seen the infamous 2002 Western Conference Finals. You know, the same series where Mike Bibby's face was called for a foul because it got in the way of Kobe Bryant's elbow in a crucial moment in Game 6. Nothing weird about that right? That whole series, besides Robert Horry's miraculous 3-pointer, was orchestrated by David Stern. Even if you don't believe Tim Donaghy, any NBA fan watching those games that year could tell something was fishy. Well, everyone except Snakell, obviously. What was the Lakers ODPD in that series, eh buddy? Was the league actively working against the Lakers? Would your incredibly delusional "stat" prove that?

    What you don't get is that there is no way to prove any of these conspiracy theories. Not until Stern confesses on his deathbed, at least. Nobody is saying the blog post is proof-positive of a conspiracy; it's an opinion, just like your (flawed) one. But trying to say the league has an anti-Lakers bias, and trying to back that up with a made-up stat that makes absolutely ZERO sense, is insane. I honestly would rather hear the "count-the-rings" argument, because at least it has a modicum (ooo, another vocab word!) of truth to it. And take a look at your last paragraph; you completely negate your whole ODPD argument by claiming that chance and luck contribute to the game, and anything more than that is provable by science (like ODPD, if you can call that science) on either side. Make up your mind, please!

    Us Nuggets fans see with our own eyes what happens when the Lakers play. We don't need stats to tell us the truth. Yeah, sure sometimes they do play well and don't need help from the officials. But come playoff time, which markets are going to garner more ratings, i.e. money, for the league? LA, Boston, New York, etc... It's a no-brainer. Factual? Maybe not. Can't be proven. Logical and rational? Absolutely! And since there is no way even Stern could justify the Knicks making it to the Finals with their roster, he really has no choice but to try and ensure the Lakers go as far as possible. I don't fault Stern for wanting to make as much money for the league as possible, especially since its apparently losing money left and right. But pretty soon the NBA is going to devolve into something that resembles professional wrestling. Everyone involved will know the outcome before the game.

    I admire you for stepping to the plate for your team, but you have to look at this from an NBA fan's perspective, not as a Lakers fan. Just once I want a Lakers fan to admit to me, "Hell yeah, the fix is in and it is awesome! Championship parades up the wazoo!" I would respect that much more than the fumbling, bumbling, quasi-intellectual nonsense I hear from most. You can call it jealousy, bitterness, whatever. I only hope the Nuggets can overcome the officials and the Lakers en route to a championship. But sometimes it's not always the better team that wins, and it has more to do with the officiating and the powers-that-be than you think. Oh and one more thing...

    GO NUGGETS!!!!!!!!!!

  11. For that last post from me, the end of the second paragraph is supposed to say "anything more than that ISN'T provable by science". My mistake. GO NUGGETS!!!!!!!!!