Last night, I found myself watching the San Antonio Spurs come back to beat the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Los Angeles Lakers fall to the Charlotte Bobcats. The Spurs were simply on cruise control and biding their time for most of the game, before flipping on the switch in the fourth quarter and shutting out the Clippers as Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Michael Finley took over during the final two minutes of the game. Granted, it was the Clippers. But still, any team that has the ability to execute in crunch time like the Spurs do is a lock to have success during the intense finishes in playoff games.
After the Spurs' comeback, the Lakers were desperately trying to do a similar feat on their own home court as well. For a team that is best built for the playoffs, with the best player in the world, who happens to be the best clutch performer, they were anything but that. Instead, the Lakers were scrambling on defense, giving up easy penetration and wide open three point shots to a bunch of no-names. Granted, it was the Bobcats and the Lakers were due to put up a dud of a game, especially without Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Trevor Ariza.
I will not miss out on the chance to compare the Spurs and Lakers though. In my mind, these are the two favorites to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. The veteran Spurs are poised, primed, and look ready for the playoffs executing in crunch time. On the other hand, the Lakers, in the same type of situation, self-destructed against a lousy team. After watching last night's games, it was no contest as to which team is best suited to win come playoff time. Instead of taking over the game in the fourth quarter, as usual, Kobe Bryant got the second of his two technical fouls and consequently got ejected.
Now Kobe has a league leading 15 technical fouls. A player or coach receives an automatic one-game suspension after receiving his 16th technical foul. Every other technical foul beyond 16 (18, 20, 22, etc.) will also result in a one-game suspension without pay. Going into the playoffs, Kobe will now have to significantly cut back on his constant complaining and whining to the officials, or be faced with the possibility of severely hurting his team down the stretch and in a vital playoff game.