Last night, the Lakers absolutely crushed the New Orleans Hornets. The game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score of 110-99 shows. Realistically, the game was a 20+ blowout when the lengthy “garbage-time” 4th quarter started.
When a team with a big lead pulls their starters in the fourth quarter, most teams accept that the game’s outcome has been determined and insert some bench guys to get some playing time. Last night’s game was no different- both teams inserted some bench players to close out the game. The difference, however, came in the closing few minutes.
The fans understand that a losing team will still try to score points in the closing minutes of a loss. They want to pad their stats and show their coaches they deserve more playing time. It makes sitting through “garbage-time” at least somewhat enjoyable, even if only for the hardcore fans.
With 7:25 left in the game, the Lakers were up 98-77. A 21 point lead with just over 7 minutes to go… game essentially over. Over the next 6 minutes, the Hornets took the Lakers bench to school, outscoring them 18-6 and leaving the lakers with a 9 point lead with 45 seconds to go.
The Staples Center fans were chanting the familiar “We want tacos” chant when it appeared that the Hornets would be held under 100 points for the game, thus earning them their precious tacos from Lakers’ sponsor Jack in the Box.
Then came the low point in the evening for the Hornets. After Sasha Vujacic extended the lead to 11 with 27 seconds left, the game was decidedly over. This was not game 7 of the finals, nor was it an incredibly important game for either team. An 11 point lead with 27 seconds left means one thing: game over. Dribble out the clock and hit the showers.
The Hornets were having none of that.
Fueled by a drive to simply score 100 points in order to keep the crowd from earning tacos, the Hornets extended the game unnecessarily. Down 9 with 16 seconds to go, the Hornets intentionally fouled. Why? In an unimportant game with 16 seconds to go with no chance of winning, why foul? Just to upset and anger the fans?
Perhaps there is an explanation that makes sense. Perhaps one could argue that they were simply trying to win. Maybe it was an accidental foul. Ok, I’ll buy that for a minute and continue to an even more bizarre move that occurred next.
With under 5 seconds left in the game and a 9 point lead, the Lakers simply needed to hold the ball to end the game. They didn’t even need to cross half court. The game was 100% over. What did the Hornets do? Intentional foul to send Shannon Brown to the line. I challenge someone to argue a valid reason to do this that doesn’t involve the Hornets being poor sports and sore losers. They only fouled so they could get a last-second opportunity to break the 100-point mark and deprive the fans of tacos.
While the taco promotion is somewhat silly, it has become a cult favorite amongst Laker fans. By going after the fan’s tacos, the Hornets stopped playing against the Lakers and started playing against the Laker fans. There is nothing lower than losing to a team and taking it out on their fans instead of losing gracefully with dignity and respect.
After the intentional foul with 4.8 seconds left and no hope of winning, the Fox Sports feed showed Chris Paul on the Hornets bench laughing about what his team was doing, imploring his new coach to further upset the fans by taking a timeout. You could clearly see the Hornets getting joy out of prolonging the game and annoying the crowd.
That’s not basketball anymore. That’s just provocation. You’re lucky we have Boston to hate already, Hornets, because you have just become the most disrespectful and classless team in the NBA in my eyes.