Wake-up call: Lakers, USC, Joe Paterno, Eagles, Kings
First things first: How good are the 5-0 Lakers? They are so deep that you couldn't be sure at times toward the end last night that Kobe Bryant wasn't in the game as the Lakers blew away the Rockets 111-82. Coach Phil Jackson praised Trevor Ariza (see photo above) in the postgame news conference (see video below). But what about the play of Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar? In the second half, Odom seemed to do everything right and could be seen smiling. A lot. And Farmar made some razzle-dazzle plays, finishing with 16 points and six assists. But here is the stat that if you missed the game will make you want to watch the next one. The Lakers had 10 blocked shots (Bynum 3, Gasol 3, Bryant 2 and Odom 2). And while Kobe Bryant's consistently spectacular play doesn't come up very often in these news conferences, he never should be taken for granted. Jerry Buss sure isn't.
Clippers Win! No, that isn't a mistake. They beat the Dallas Mavericks 103-92 and Ricky Davis decked Dallas center Dirk Nowitzki in the third quarter. And because of that Lisa Dillman had the quote of the night. It came from Marcus Camby. And as much as Farmar stands out in reserve for the Lakers, let's not forget Clippers 2nd-year starter Al Thornton, who finished with 17 points in last night's victory.
Another question: Will USC rise above the crazy BCS system? Alabama and Texas Tech and their perfect records were on top of the BCS standings, followed by Texas, Florida and Oklahoma (each have one loss). USC (8-1) jumped to No. 6, but as Chris Dufresne points out this morning, don't get your hopes up that they have a real chance to be in the title game. Not with the BCS system. Penn State's one-point loss to Iowa Saturday leaves only one question: whether Texas Tech can jump over Alabama to No. 1 if they blow away Oklahoma.
Another question II: With Penn State's loss, the Nittany Lions are out of the running for the BCS championship now that they dropped from third to eighth in the BCS standings. Too bad. It would have been great to see Coach Joe Paterno in the title game. Now the question is whether he will retire. Joe Paterno retire? No. He's 81 and breathes not air but Penn State football. Next question. If you've never seen one of his weekly news conferences, last Thursday's touched on his bum leg (he'll get it fixed, he says, when he finally can give the doctors the time they need), the election of Barack Obama, and, of course, the team as it headed into the Iowa game. Here it is.
No question: There is one thing that is certain about Paterno. He hates having to use a cane and coaching from the press box this season because of a painful leg and hip. For Paterno, not coaching from the sidelines has to be more painful.
Poor Eagles fans: OK, class. Here is a question of stats and predictability. The Philadelphia Eagles stayed toe-to-toe with the New York Giants for the most part last night. The Eagles, down 36-31, face and fourth-and-one on their own 45-yard line with 1:55 left. What will Coach Andy Reid do? Yes, that's right. Keep the ball on the ground. Do not pass. It is always what Reid does. This time the ball went to Brian Westbrook, who of course was stopped. NBC analyst Tiki Barber predicted Reid would do just that. The whole world knew Reid would do just that. And sure enough, so did the Giants.
Are Kings fans ready? The Kings play the Dallas Stars tomorrow night. The Stars (5-7-2) are at the bottom of the Pacific division, but the Kings (5-6-2) are only one notch above with the teams tied at 12 points. The Ducks were done in by penalties when they played the Stars on Friday, losing 5-2. And it does seem that Kings goalie Erik Ersberg still hasn't found the right pace, appearing to physically and mentally fade in the third period of each game he has played. But then, he hasn't played much and it takes a while to hit your stride when in goal.
Add hockey: Ducks at least have some time off after last night's 3-1 loss to Florida (which is still at the bottom of the Southeast division). Anaheim hosts Nashville on Friday.
-- Debbie Goffa
Photo: Lakers forward Trevor Ariza drives to the basket in the first half. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times