Tag Archives: Kobe Bryant

The Lakers Are Growing Old. Are They Growing Up?

The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves at a very interesting crossroads. Considering the age of the team, let’s call it a midlife crisis. After all, isn’t midlife crisis about realizing one’s mortality and diminished strength due to increased age? If mortality for the Lakers is defined by life after Kobe Bryant, then the term fits quite nicely.

 

Almost too well. Acquiring Dwight Howard in the misguided belief that he would stay in Los Angeles, is nothing short of the guy in his mid 50’s buying an expensive sports car in an attempt to recapture his youth. To be fair to the Lakers, Dwight took them farther than Andrew Bynum would have, by virtue of breathing air and being on the floor. But since when has a 7th seed and a first round exit ever been enough for Los Angeles?

I’m not very good at playing general manager but there is one truth about the Lakers. They need to face reality. They can’t win a title next year. They are not even close to being considered contenders. In fact, the Lakers would be fortunate to make the playoffs next year. They are instead engaged in the petty exercise of avoiding rebuilding. Which of course is ridiculous because all teams have to do it eventually. Yet with rumors that the great organization is eyeing Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony in 2014 one can’t help but think that they have learned nothing.

The Lakers should probably take the lumps that come with any amount of sustained success; and just suck for a little bit. I’m not saying tank per se but let nature take its course instead of constantly trying to drink from the fountain of youth by signing young stars in free agency. You think Carmelo is going to fix the Lakers? Nope. Not by himself anyway. Role players are going to be necessary to do anything of substance. Let’s not forget that Kobe Bryant, for all his wear and tear, has no intention of taking a pay cut. And that’s if Carmelo opts out next year at all.

For goodness sake’s just draft already! I mean if ever there was a year to build through the draft, 2014 would be it. For starters there’s next years draft prize Andrew Wiggins. If that doesn’t work out, there is Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, either of the Harrison twins and Dante Exum. The list of potential  lottery picks goes on. There is a way to win this. A good team built from the ground up can have continued success, whereas going for the quick fix, a move the Lakers seem committed until the bitter end, will net them less. A lot less.

I’m not suggesting the Lakers tank. Nor do I suggest that they shouldn’t go after the big name free agents next season. What I am saying is that Mitch Kupchak trying to put together a “winning” team within the next two seasons is a mistake. At best it is fan service. Not unless you actually think the offseason additions of Jordan Farmar, Chris Kaman and Nick Young make the Lakers contenders. Because it doesn’t.

Whatever decision they make it needs to be the right one. It will affect the course of this organization for years to come.

 

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Not So Fast! Steve Nash won’t save the Lakers

On Independence Day the Phoenix Suns agreed to a 3 year/$27 million sign and trade deal that would send him to the Lakers in return for LA’s first and second round picks in 2013 , a second round pick in 2014, and a first rounder in 2015. The message is clear. The Lakers want to win now. Can they?

Nash is certainly the upgrade at the point guard position the Lakers have been seeking. He brings great passing ability, court vision, and consistent 3 point shooting. Even with all of this the Nash won’t make the Lakers championship contenders. Here’s 4 reasons why.

The previously mentioned passing ability and court vision on display.

4. Mike Brown is still the head coach. 

When Mike Brown became the head coach of the Lakers he found implementation of his offense . . . difficult. The Lakers, especially in the playoffs, were plagued by poor spacing and terrible shot selection as a byproduct of the aforementioned poor spacing. If a system is broken putting another player in it doesn’t make it better. If the Lakers still struggle with these issues next season, even Nash’s production could suffer.

3. The Lakers aren’t a running team and Nash is a running point guard. 

Steve Nash spent the majority of his career under Mike D’antoni a most widely know for his uptempo offensive system with emphasis on fast break scoring. The Lakers have been and still are a dominantly half court team. Kobe Bryant is aging, and Bynum and Gasol have never been fast (though Gasol runs the floor pretty well). Stylistically this isn’t a perfect match. There will definitely be growing pains as both Nash and his Laker teammates are acclimated to one another.

2. Steve Nash doesn’t play defense well.

Nash is for all intents and purposes a defensive liability. In a league full of young point guards with speed and quickness Nash, who is 38 years old right now will not only be a hindrance defensively, he’ll be worse defensively than he has ever been in his career. Nash’s size and (lack of) speed means that there aren’t a lot of other people he can guard well, if at all. On the plus side though, Nash is a pretty good help defender.

1. The Thunder still exist.

As long as this is still a fact I don’t see the Lakers getting to an NBA Finals with their current roster. The Thunder are a younger more solid team with experience. They have been playoff tested, they are supremely talented, and they are certainly more athletic than the Lakers. Gasol and Bynum are the keys to that possible match up and they don’t play transition defense well enough to slow up Oklahoma City. Nash can’t change that. It’s out of his control.

The Lakers need to believe that none of this matters because they mortgaged their future for a 38 year old point guard in the hopes that he makes them championship caliber. It’s a lot to ask of one player to do and that’s exactly why it won’t work.

 

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Daily Rain 5-17-12: Celtics Destroy Sixers, Lakers Give Game 2 Away to Thunder & Devils Even Series

The Boston Celtics Amp Up the Defense and Embarrass The Philadelphia 76ers At Home

The Celtics trailed the 76ers by 5 points going into the 2nd quarter of this game but upon regaining the lead never trailed again. In fact, wether or not the Sixers would ever see the lead again was never in doubt as the Celtics rolled on to a 107-91 victory. There are two main differences between this game 3 and game 2.

The first difference is, that Paul Pierce was more aggressive and more productive. In game 2 Pierce scored 7 points while shooting an anemic 2 of 9 in that game. In game 3 Pierce started the game with two dunks. He would go on to score 24 points on 6 of 17 shooting. That’s the Paul Pierce the Celtics are going to need if they plan on winning this series or any future ones.

The second difference, is defense. Boston murdered Philadelphia on the defensive glass gathering 37 defensive boards. Also none of the Sixers starters scored over 20 points. In fact, none of them scored greater than 15 points. Philadelphia shooting guard Evan Turner was held in check as he scored just 4 points and made 1 of his 10 shot attempts.

The Sixers are not out of this series but will need to make some offensive adjustments to match the re-emergence of the Celtics defense.

 The Oklahoma City Thunder Erase A 7 Point Deficit In the Final Two Minutes to “Steal” A Game At Home.

In the first quarter of game 1 of this series it became apparent that the Lakers had a distinct size advantage inside over the Thunder. When the Lakers wandered away from what many perceive to be their game plan, pounding the ball down low, they spiraled out of control allowing the Thunder to run and hit shoot  often uncontested jump shots. In game 2 the Lakers stick to the game plan and control much of the game thanks to the dominating play of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. So L.A. wins right?

Not so fast amigo. A series of gaffes nearing the end of the game caused Los Angeles to surrender a 7 point lead in the final two minutes of the game. First Kevin Durant stole an inbound pass from Kobe Bryant and slammed home an easy 2 points. Then James Harden was allowed to go coast to coast for an easy lay up that brought the Thunder within 1 point. Kevin Durant hit the floater on the baseline that would give the Thunder a 1 point lead. The Lakers last possession was a flare for Kobe Bryant but Metta World Peace caught Russell Westbrook sleeping on the inbound pass and hit a wide open Steve Blake. Blake however would not hit the wide open 3 point shot and the Lakers lose by 1 point.

Steve Blake had a few options. He could have made the shot, he could have used the fact that Westbrook had to jump to recover to defend him and pump faked and then drove to the basket for a better look, or he could have passed it to Bynum who had emerged on the low block. He had 5 seconds. That’s more than enough time. Despite all of this to blame the loss on Steve Blake would be asinine.  The Lakers attempted 77 shots before that last one and if they had made more than 30 of those this game may not even have been close. If anyone is to blame it should be Kobe. He shot a an inefficient 9 of 25 from the field and hit none of the 6 3-pointers he attempted. None. Steve Blake played a hand in the loss but Kobe’s impact was certainly bigger.

New Jersey Devils Even The Series Against the New York Rangers

When the Devils took the ice in game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals they got run over. Plain and simple. They didn’t look ready and the Rangers looked very ready. New Jersey did a great job of bouncing back in game 2. They were able to do something few teams this season have. Fool Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the league’s best at his position. This did so with a number of redirected shots including David Clarkson’s go ahead shot in the 3rd period. Clarkson has proved once again in the playoffs that he can be relied upon for clutch plays.

Speaking of clutch plays, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made an amazing save. As Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik attacked the goal he tried to flip a shot over Brodeur who had fallen over. Brodeur raised his right leg up, as he was on his stomach, and kicked the puck away saving a goal. I gush about Henrik Lundqvist being the best in the league but it’s plays like those that remind us why the 40 year old Brodeur is a legend and one of the best to play the game. Ever.

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Daily Rain 5-11-12: Lakers fall flat, Bulls & Hawks Eliminated

The Lakers Came Out Flat and Get Steamrolled By the Nuggets: The Understatement of the Year

The moment the Lakers stepped out onto  the floor last night they were entirely unprepared for the Denver Nuggets. They were beaten in literally every facet of the game. Offensively they had no fight in them, with the exception of Kobe Bryant who scored 31 points in 37 minutes of play. The Lakers struggled to make shots and lacked aggression of any kind settling for silly shots attempts early in the shot clock. Pau Gasol looked more lost than ever. I can only wonder if he even knew he was in the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Defensively they were overwhelmed Ty Lawson made them look foolish. Lawson had a shot from anywhere he wanted on the floor on his way to a career high 32 point game in which he knocked down 5 three pointers.

Denver played truly inspired basketball. They played like a team with a its back against the wall. They dominated the equally uninspired Lakers by moving the ball early and using Laker turnovers to score quick points in transition. Corey Brewer who isn’t exactly known for his proficient scoring got hot in fourth quarter where scored majority of his 18 points.

The Lakers have left the door open on a Nuggets team that feels extremely confident that it can beat them and that has a blueprint on how to beat them. That may prove to be the biggest mistake of all.

The Hawks Get The Boot From The Celtics

We all so this from a mile out. The only reason it is worth mentioning is that the Hawks made this a closer game than anyone thought it would be. The Hawks started off slow because . . . they’re the Hawks but soon found their rhythm. They lost because down the stretch they took too many jumpers.

When I say they, who I mean is Joe Johnson, Joe gets paid the big bucks on that team and yet he settles for jumpers time after time. The playoffs have not been kind to Johnson’s jump shots in the clutch. Particularly the contested ones. On one play with less than two minutes in regulation and the Hawks up two Johnson backed his man down to the top of the key and took a truly horrid and unnecessary turn around jumper. Since Joe Johnson is not Kobe that shot struck the back of the rim and was rebounded by the Celtics.

Watching the Hawks lose on an annual basis is infuriating to a certain extent because they’re a really athletic team with smart  players (sometimes).

The Bulls Tried To Beat the Sixers. It Almost Worked.

You have to hand it to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. He got all the heart and fight out of his team that a coach possibly could. Even as he lost player, after player, he got his team to dig deep and stand up to a more athletic and, some would argue, equally as well coached Sixers team.

It was not meant to be however, thanks to a combination of a CJ Watson mistake and Omer Asik’s laughably poor free throw shooting.

This was one of the better series in the first round surprisingly. It’s kind of sad to see this series not go the distance.

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NBA Playoff Recap: Round 2, 5-4-11

Bulls rebound against the Hawks 86-73. Series Tied 1-1.

Derrick Rose and his Bulls defend their home floor on MVP night for Rose. Derrick Rose is still playing tentatively on his recently re-aggravated ankle injury. That being said Rose played pretty well. He did volume shoot a bit though shooting 27 shots to score his 25 points. Rose also had 10 assists, 2 blocks and 6 defensive rebounds as well. The Bulls were able to beef up their defense and slow down Joe Johnson. Joakim Noah was able to double team Johnson and force him to take bad  shots. Joe who was making tough shots in game 1 came back down to earth a little bit. Zaza Pachulia had some 5 timely rebounds and 6 timely points in game 1 only had 1 rebound and scored no points in game 2. Al Horford also had a disappointing night. He scored 6 points and was just 3 of 12 from the field and didn’t get to the three point line.

Apart from some down performances by Hawks players other things the Bulls had going for them was Joakim Noah. Noah who is not thought of as an offensive player because, well he’s not, scored 19 points on 6 of 8 shooting and was 7 of 8 from the free throw line. Noah also contributed 14 rebounds to the effort. I’m pretty impressed with Chicago winning this game considering how poorly they shot the ball. This goes to show that this team plays much better defense than they do offense. Derrick Rose was 1 of 8 from beyond the arc and the Bulls were 39% from the field as a collective. If the Bulls continue to play defense at this level I don’t see them losing this series.

The Mavericks punch the defending champion Lakers. Dallas leads 2-0.

So many things went wrong for the Lakers in this game. Their bench failed them, their three point shooting failed them, Steve Blake failed them, and Ron Artest failed them (very likely getting himself suspended for the next game.) The Lakers had some matchup problems beside the obvious, nobody can stop that Dirk fadeaway problem, they also didn’t seem to know what to do with J.J. Barea in the pick and roll. With a shooting big man like Dirk you can’t leave him when the guard penetrates because all the guard has to do is give it back and Dirk would be left to shoot an open jumper.

The Lakers also had problems from beyond the arc. Like I always yelled at my TV to tell the Spurs, if you take threes you better make them. I did the same for the Lakers. I really need to stop doing that its just starting to look ridiculous. Not as ridiculous though as the fact that the Lakers attempted 20 three pointers and made 10% of them. That’s just 2 made threes for those of you who can’t count. When do you stop taking that shot? After 5 missed threes in a row? 10? 15? There were better shots available but the Lakers were content to shoot threes all day. They didn’t impose their will and they didn’t play their game and Dallas had control of this thing from almost the very beginning.

Jason Kidd didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but he did a good job guarding Kobe Bryant. He also controlled the tempo of the game on offense. The Mavs did a good job of making the extra pass to the open man and almost all of those passes passed through Jason Kidd at one time or the other. Sometimes Jason got multiple touches on a possession that resulted in points.

The thing that the Lakers did that annoyed me the most and cost them the game was miss free throws. I hate watching a team, any team really, but specifically a team as good as the Lakers leave points on the free throw line. The Lakers were 11 of 20 from the charity stripe. Dallas didn’t play great but they played good and the Lakers played bad in key aspects of the game. I don’t want to say the series is over because I did pick LA to win it but I have to believe that the Mavericks will win at least one game at home. American Airlines will be noisy when these teams tip off in Dallas. Which Lakers team will show up?

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NBA Playoff Recap: Round 2, 5-2-11

The NBA playoffs has been a match for this NBA season. This has been the best NBA season in a while and the only way to top that apparently is the most unpredictable NBA playoffs in quite some time. So let’s break down the ‘upsets’ of last night. Shall we?

The Hawks take down the Bulls 103-95 (and Derrick Rose re-tweaks his ankle at the buzzer.)

Joe Johnson scores 34 points on 12 of 18 shooting from the field, with 5 of 5 from behind the arc. Joe was the difference maker in this game. Anytime Chicago made a run or tried to come back Joe made some off balance shot or long distance three to keep the lead and hold on for the victory. I though Johnson was agressive and made smart decisions particularly when he was doubled teamed, he moved the ball well.

I also thought that the Hawks just flat out had a hot night shooting the basketball. Maybe too good to be true. I highly doubt that Joe Johnson can go for 34 points and shoot 5 three pointers and all of them. While Jamal Crawford scored 22 points he’s an inconsistent player and he might not give you anything in the next game. Also Chicago didn’t defend great. They weren’t bad and Atlanta did make a number of tough and contested shots but, they didn’t rebound well to keep the ball away from Atlanta. Zaza Pachulia had a number of timely rebounds and Chicago should have taken that second chance opportunity from the Hawks.

Derrick Rose had 24 points shooting 11 of 27 from the field and he had 10 assists. Derrick didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half at all. He had a bit of trouble scoring on Jeff Teague which is not wholly surprising when you consider that Teague is a pretty good defender. Luol Deng added 21 points in the loss. Chicago was able to outscore the Hawks in fast break points 18-8. If the continue to score points off of defense and hope against all hopes that Joe Johnson doesn’t have a repeat performance then they should be okay.

I picked the Bulls to win this series in 6 games and while I still think it can happen I’m giving Atlanta credit. Nobody gave Atlanta any run, myself included. I think this team is legit and if they win this series I wouldn’t be shocked at all.

The Mavericks hang on to beat the Lakers 96-94.

Kobe missed it by that much. The would-be game winning shot, had he made it, of course. The Lakers had a lead as big as 16 points and they lost it. I thought that when Dallas unraveled at the end of the first half that they were going to lose to the Lakers once again but they regrouped and it was L.A. at the end of the game with all the questions. The game came down to a back and forth between the two best closers in the game. Dirk Nowitzki would nail one shot and Kobe Bryant would answer. Kobe had a hell of a game. He scored 36 points on 14 of 29 shooting.

I thought that a big difference in this game was the presence of Tyson Chandler. He was able to rebound against the Laker bigs because he himself is a very big guy. Tyson had 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Chandler also affected a Kobe Bryant drive to the basket that resulted in a bad pass and a subsequent basket.

The fact of the matter is that coming down the stretch the Lakers failed to execute. Dallas is going to be a tougher out than the Hornets. New Orleans was too small to play with the Lakers however Dallas is not. The Mavs are not going to get killed on the glass like the Hornets were. They can hold their own in rebounding. At the end of the day Kobe had a chance to win it and missed but that’s not why the Lakers lost. Games are not won or lost in single moments but during consistent play over the course of the game. The Lakers had Dallas down 16 points to them in the third quarter. A championship team like the Lakers needed to close out this team and keep them from coming back. Instead they blow the lead and the game.

I’ve still got the Lakers in 6 games but I’m becoming less certain of that by the minute. I never can tell with the Lakers. They never play their best until they have to and they can’t do it forever. They’re going for ring number three but they are making the same mistakes as when they wer going for one.

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NBA Playoffs 4-26-11: Game 5’s

Click there to listen! ————>NBA Playoffs 5-26-11

Magic crush the Hawks 101-76 to escape elimination

I.Offense

A.Orlando played their most well-rounded game of the season.

1.Dwight Howard was 1-4 w/ 8 points

2.Top players in the game: Jason Richardson 6 of 14 w/ 17 points, Ryan Anderson 3 of 9 w/ 11 points, and

J.J. Reddick 6 of 8 w/ 14 points

3.As a team they shot 41% and 42% from the three point land.

4.Outscored Atlanta’s bench 49-34

5.Jameer Nelson injured his knee.

B.Atlanta didn’t get points from the bench

1.Josh Smith was the only one who showed up. 7 of 18 w/ 22 points and 11 rebounds

2.Starting center Jason Collins. Scored no points, had one rebound and one assist.

3.Shot 36% from the field. 4 of 16 as a team from 3

II.Defense

A.The Magic forced turnovers and held the Hawks to 76 points

1.As a team had 7 steals and 4 blocks

2.Allowed just 22 points in the paint for Atlanta.

B.The Hawks just got rolled.

1.They controlled nothing the whole game and basically got dominated in every facet of the game.

Bulls stomp Pacers 116-89

I.Offense

A. Chicago had their most production all series.

1. Derrick Rose scored 25 points on 8 of 17 shooting.

2. Taj Gibson and Kyle Korver provided 23 points from the bench.

3. Role players stepping up nullified the double-team on Derrick Rose

4 Luol Deng 7 of 14 w/ 24 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and a block filled out the statsheet.

B. The Pacers never found a rythym

1. The Pacers shot terribly as a team. Just 39%

2. They had 20 turnovers. 4 each from big men Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert.

II.Defense

A. The Bulls did a good job blocking shots and stealing passes

1. Joakim Noah 4 of his teams 9 blocked shots.

2. I thought he played a very physical game Noah did. Josh McRoberts got ejected for this reason.

B. Did not do well in transition

1. Chicago scored 17 fast break points.

Lakers handle Hornets 106-90

I. Offense

A. Lakers took advantage of their size for seemingly the first time this series.

1. Kobe Bryant 8 of 13 w/  19 points. So much for the ankle injury.

2.The Lakers had 6 players in double figures

3.Pau Gasol finally showed his face in this series. 16 shooting 6 of 12.

4.Bynum and Gasol had 18 rebounds between the two of them. LA won the paint battle 42-30.

B. The Hornets shot the ball just as good as the Lakers did . . .

1. New Orleans shot the ball 49% from the field. Just like the Lakers did. They just shot it less.

2. They took away their own offensive opportunities with turnovers and low percentage shots. The Hornets had 17 TO’s

3. Chris Paul should have shot more.

4. Ariza, Paul, and Belinelli all scored in the 20’s but nobody else got into the double digits

5. No production from the bench. The Lakers outscored the Hornets 29-14 from the bench.

II. Defense

A. The Lakers destroyed the Hornets on the boards

1. A good sign of playing good defense is when you force the opponent to shoot a bad shot. New Orleans had nothing to show for          their stops because they could not out rebound the Lakers. LA won that battle 42-25.

2. The Lakers forced turnovers and really bad shots.

B. Played pretty good defense throughout the game but lost it at the end.

1. The Hornets do deserve some credit defensively. They forced 12 turnovers.

2. They matched the Lakers on the defensive glass. However they late the Lakers get way too many offensive rebounds and second chance points.

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NBA Playoffs 4-20-2011: Game 2, Day 3

Another day, another trio of game two’s. Actually the last three game two’s left to be played.

The Thunder pound the Nuggets 106-89. Oklahoma City leads series 2-0.

I was somewhat disappointed in this game. My expectations were based on the first game which was hard fought scrap that was entertaining all the way to the finish. This game however was a woodshed beating that was essentially over in the first quarter. OKC outscored Denver 31-15 in the first and then the two teams had pretty much ever scoring after that. Which of course didn’t do the Nuggets any good. Denver never led in this game. While Denver went with their balanced attack, moving the ball around to find the open man and not settling for stupid jumpers, J.R. Smith started the game in a funk. There were a few possessions early before the game got out of hand where J.R. pulled up for long two point shots early in the shot clock. Wilson Chandler for Denver was also ice cold. He made no shots out of the six that he took and scored four points shooting free throws.

The Thunder who won in game one because Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook went for a combined 72 points had a little surprise for Denver. They have a balanced attack as well. Durant and Westbrook once again scored more points than everyone else on their team. This time though the Thunder got help from their bench and role players. James Harden was especially going to need to step up to at least give the Thunder a third scorer that they could rely on. Harden had 18 points on 5 of 9 shooting and was a perfect 6 of 6 from the free throw line. Durant and Westbrook combined for 45 points. I still think this series can go seven games, unless the Thunder are able to split in Denver, in which case it’s going six.

The Spurs pull the Grizzlies back down to earth with a 93-87 victory. Series is tied 1-1.


After losing to Memphis last game San Antonio needed to make some adjustments. There was no bigger adjustment that they could have made than the return of all star guard  Manu Ginobili’s return from his elbow injury. Ginobili still had to wear his elbow brace but that didn’t appear to be a factor at all. Manu played fast and furious from beginning to end. It didn’t seem that Memphis knew what to do with him exactly. He made a number of plays that  wowed the crowd and kept the Spurs afloat. It is also important to notice that when the Spurs got the lead late in the game they could rely on Manu not to blow the lead. Manu lead all Spurs with 17 points on 5 of 13 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. The leading Grizzly was small forward Sam Young who ended with 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting. An unlikely source to be sure but, we all knew Marc Gasol wasn’t going to go for 25 two games in a row. He hasn’t developed his game there yet.

This series is turning out to be pretty intriguing.

The Lakers hush their doubters and the Hornets winning 87-78. Series is tied 1-1.


The  Los Angeles Lakers may finally be in playoff mode. Better late than never I suppose. Chris Paul who torched them for 33 points in game one still scored. Paul had 20 points shooting 5 of 11 and 9 assists on a night where his team shot just 39 percent from the field. But he worked for everything he had. Steve Blake made things tough on him as did Kobe and occasionally Ron Artest who guarded him a few times. I won’t say Chris was a non-factor but wasn’t able to do anywhere near the damage he did to L.A in game one. Kobe had a bad shooting night with just 11 points shooting 3 of 10 from the field. The refs were letting both sides play last night and as such Kobe wasn’t getting any foul calls. Not really.

Another key factor in game was that Lamar Odom who was the sixth man of the year proved he deserved his award by coming off of the bench and pouring in 16 points shooting 8 of 12, 7 rebounds, and a block into the winning effort. The Lakers also used their size and took the main advantage that they should have had back from New Orleans, points in the paint. After being outscored in the paint by the Hornets 52-34 in game one, the main game two adjustment they made  was aggression in the paint. They outscored the Hornets 50-32 in the paint. Andrew Bynum protected that area with an intensity he hasn’t played with all season and he has been pretty intense all season so that’s saying a lot.

TL;DR

The Lakers and the Spurs got back on track. The Thunder gave themselves an advantage in what is sure to be a tough series.

Tonight’s Games:

  • Pacers v. Bulls 7PM ET
  • 76ers v. Heat  8PM ET
  • Trailblazers v. Mavericks 10PM ET
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NBA Playoffs 2011: Game 1, Day 2

The action and surprises continued into Sunday. There were a couple of losses even the “experts” didn’t see coming.

Grizzlies beat the Spurs 101-98

This was a game in which San Antonio went with out Manu Ginobili, one of the three members in their version of the big three. The Spurs and Grizzlies were close for much of the game trading runs back and forth. San Antonio had the lead going into the fourth quarter and lost it. Coming down the stretch it seemed like the Grizzlies were attempting to give the game away, missing four straight free throws. San Antonio cashed in on those missed free throws and got to quick threes from Matt Bonner. However Memphis took the lead on the last possession with a clutch Shane Battier three and would hold on to win it.

Tim Duncan was used by Spurs to carry the load early on but it seemed that in the fourth quarter San Antonio didn’t look to him as much, which is a shame because Tim had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. For the Grizzlies Zach Randolph was key. He ended with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Randolph was the game’s most consistent scorer. He worked skillfully around the basket and was not really stopped by either Duncan or Dejuan Blair. This looks like it’s going to be another fun series.

The Hornets upset the Lakers 109-100

Chris Paul and his New Orleans Hornets played a good game up until the fourth quarter. Then they played a great game. With the injury to David West in the regular season it was a forgone conclusion that the Lakers would simply be to big to be beaten. Their size would make it near impossible to score in the paint and therefore the Hornets would simply not be able to score enough points to win the game. The Hornets had other plans. With precision and efficiency New Orleans was able to outscore the Lakers in the paint 52-34 to win the game.

The key stat of this game; just a mere three turnovers for the Hornet in the entire game. The Lakers had 13 turnovers. The difference was just taking care of the basketball. Chris Paul led his team with confidence and when they needed him to step up in the fourth quarter, boy did he ever. Paul had a personal 14 assist to 2 turnover ratio in the game and scored 15 of his 33 points in the game in the fourth quarter leading his team on an 8-0 run against LA for the win.

The Celtics hold off the Knicks 87-85

This game was interesting for a number of reasons. The game was close throughout most of the contest, the refs had some . . . interesting calls, and Ray Allen broke his shooting slump and went back to his late game heroics. This game was up and down and it was hard to get a read on who was better. Both teams did well in the paint. Both teams turned the ball over about the same amount of times. The difference was the top scorers in the game. Ray Allen was the top scorer for Boston he ended the game with 24 points. Amar’e Stoudemire ended with 28 points. Coming down the stretch the Celtics trusted Ray Allen to come through for them yet, with time ticking off the clock the Knicks went with Carmelo Anthony even though Amar’e had the hot hand. It’s things like this and of course the injury to Chauncey Billups that have me believing that there is no way the Knicks can win this series. The Knicks may have been hurt on a sketchy offensive foul call on them and an offensive foul no-call on the Celtics but they still had an opportunity to win the game. They chose to go with Anthony who shot 5 of 18 for 15 points in the entire game and you can’t blame the officials for that.

The Thunder survive the Nuggets 107-103

Which would you rather have? The stars that can get you points or the balanced attack?

This is another series that may very well answer our questions on that matter. The Thunder started the game slow but got their act together. It was a good thing too because it looked like Denver was going to run away with the game from the outset. Oklahoma City, with the crowd behind them, got themselves together and came roaring back. From the second quarter onward this was a back and forth game. Denver had 5 players in double figures and two players (J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler) who scored 9 points each. The Thunder on the other hand relied heavily on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Durant had 41 points a career playoff high for him, and Westbrook had 31 points. This means of course that Durant and Westbrook combined for 72 of their team’s 107 points. Even with these performances the Thunder barely won this game and this was with a controversial basket interference call going their way.

There is no doubt in my mind that this series going seven games. These teams when they play are just so close. This is one of the more compelling match ups  in one of the more memorable playoffs in recent history.

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NBA Western Conference Predictions

Playoff match ups were all locked up yesterday and I waited a whole day to give some of these some thought. I’m no professional but I think I can stand as an unbiased source (my team is the Wizards and they’re no longer with us). So let’s just hop right in.

#1 Spurs vs #8 Grizzlies

The San Antonio Spurs finished their season with 61 wins and the best record in the western conference. Part of building that record is that the Spurs were able to beat bad teams on a consistent basis. So the fact that they split the series in the season 2-2 tells me that the Grizzlies are good. The Grizzlies thanks to their head coach Lionel Hollins instilling his defensive system have been far more successful than many expected them to be. They do have some building blocks to work with when it comes to beating San Antonio. While San Antonio is extremely efficient with the basketball with their 109.4 points per 100 possessions they do have off nights. San Antonio attempts more three pointers than any other NBA team except the Orlando Magic. If their shooters get cold San Antonio could be in some trouble. This will be a defensive series though I’m not sure because of the Spurs change in style to a more offensive oriented game.

My Pick: San Antonio in six games. The Spurs superior players and playoff experience should allow them to win this series though I doubt it will be anything but easy them. My only concern for San Antonio is Manu Ginobili if his elbow is bothering him then SA town could be in some trouble.

#2 Lakers v. #7 New Orleans Hornets

The Lakers were able to wrap up the #2 seed with their victory of the Kings on Wednesday. The Lakers had a scare when center, Andrew Bynum hyperextended his knee against the Spurs in the previous game. Andrew’s MRI came back positive and he’ll be able to play in LA’s first playoff game of this post season. The Lakers despite being the second seed are considered the de facto team to beat. When the Lakers are completely healthy they are near impossible to stop. New Orleans has been playing extremely well, especially Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor but without David West’s presence in the paint the Lakers will be too big and strong for the Hornets.

My Pick: Lakers with brooms out sweeping the Hornets away. Move along folks. Nothing to see here.

#3 Mavericks v. #6 Trailblazers

Dallas has had a disappointing recent playoff history. With early exits essentially being the norm for them this could be their chance to shake the habit. Or it would have been if they weren’t running into Portland. The Trailblazers  can ball. They’re a very deep team and all of their guys are getting hot at the right times. Gerald Wallace is coming into his own, Rudy Fernandez is shaking out of that slump, and Brandon Roy is finally getting back to form. Dallas still has a very solid defense and one of the leagues most potent offenses. Dirk can score at will  but Gerald is going to be a tough guard for him. Tyson Chandler is looking to bring a post presence and size to Dallas that they didn’t have in previous years. Tyson is a shot blocker and a great defender and he may very well make a statement.

MY Pick: I’m going to roll with the upset and pick the Trailblazers in six games. They’re playing incredible basketball right now. They move  very well in  transition and generally pass the ball to the open man. I think Nate McMillan is going to have his guys ready to play. If Portland wins game one of this series I think Dallas may very well be heading home shortly there after. Dallas cannot afford to lose game one.

#4 Thunder v. #5 Nuggets (This is going to be the best series of them all.)

The Thunder pushed the Lakers to six games in their first playoff appearance. Their youth, both players and coach alike, is what surprised everyone. Now the Thunder are the “overcats” (overcat = opposite of underdog, use your brain)  if you will. They take on the upstart Denver Nuggets. Denver had to overcome  the drama of trying to move Carmelo Anthony and then the readjusting of adding new guys to their team after the trade. I give George Carl a lot of credit. He has coached these guys and assimilated them into his system. According to ESPN’s Hollinger team statistics the Nuggets are the most offensively efficient team in the league with scoring 109.5 per 100 possessions.  The Thunder have one of the highest scoring duos in the league with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The addition of Kendrick Perkins at the trade deadline gives the Thunder size and attitude (and an unparalleled hatred for the Lakers).

My Pick: I’ll pick the Thunder in seven games. The Nuggets are good but I think the Thunder have all the right pieces to come out on top.

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