"Truth is generally the best vindication against slander"
Across this great nation Sunday night a mighty exhalation whooshed forth from sports bars, family dens and man caves as
But to credit this victory solely to Amar'e is to overlook the contributions of the player who may be the true x-factor in this series, not to mention one of the more entertaining defenders to watch in the league:
Yes, it is a popular joke. Coming out of Stanford,
In Game 3, Lopez will be remembered for his (relative) scoring explosion and getting into a near-skirmish with
So valuable was Lopez that he even took grief when trying to get a rest. Late in the third quarter, while running down on offense, he looked at the bench and tugged on his jersey, asking to come out. Granted his wish at the next stoppage in play, he walked over and caught a stern glare from assistant coach
And, I suppose, most of us think we know exactly where these Western Conference finals are going. The Lakers will come back to win Game 4, then close it out in L.A. in 5, or maybe in Phoenix in 6. Then again, who knows? After all, how often does Kobe have a great team game -- not individual -- and the Lakers lose (Bryant finished with 36 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists on 13-of-24 shooting)? And how often has Phoenix won this season without getting anything from its bench marksmen (
Rather, the point is that, at least for a day or two, we can entertain the possibility of some drama in these playoffs. So enjoy it while you can, even if Lopez isn't. Seriously, the poor guy has one of the best games of his life at a crucial time and then, when reporters want to talk about it afterward, he appears painfully uncomfortable. So he answers in short, staccato bursts of clichés and credits his teammates relentlessly. Asked by a TV crew about his offensive output, he starts his answer with, "We really came out with a team focus tonight." When a newspaper reporter presses about whether he surprised even himself, he talks about how he'd never have been so open if
"Hi," he says, then pauses, listening. "Thanks ... It was a team focus tonight."