JumpBall

June 9, 2009

The Magic Can Still Win

Filed under: NBA Finals — siddhant2001us @ 8:05 PM

Los Angeles can sense it. The city’s basketball community knows their Lakers are two wins away from the team’s 15th champiopnship and nothing, not even a sloppy game two win, can stop their excitement. Hell, I am guessing Mickey Mouse and the mayor of LA already have every part of the victory parade planned out.

As for Orlando, their eulogy is being written while you read this. Dwight Howard’s hype train has broken down as the Lakers have double teamed him into near irrelevance on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Stan Van Gundy is catching a lot of heat for giving Jameer Nelson (the team captain and the heart of the squad) a chance to play in the NBA Finals when doing so has disrupted the hot streak and team chemistry the Magic developed without him. Things have gotten so bad that Shaq has probably already learned how to tap so he can eventually dance on the grave of Orlando’s season while probably rapping insults at both Howard and SVG.

Still it isn’t as if too many people actually care about the fate of the Magic. They care more about the future ascension of the Lakers. People seem to want to hear about how a focused and super driven Kobe cements his legacy as an all time great winner or how Phil Jackson finally passes Red Auerbach with his tenth ring. They want to learn about Odom’s winning sugar diet (let’s call it the Milk Dud Diet) and if Jordan Farmar has received a role sans make up in the new The Hobbit movie.

The thing is, the dirty little secret most people have chosen to ignore, the series is far, far from over, and in fact can still go a full seven games which would of course completely change the spin that the major market medias have put on the game.

First of all, the Magic are a young team whose players have little if any finals experience. Thus, their game one disaster should be recognized as a case of the jitters rather than as a preview for the rest of the games. If anything, game one probably helps the Magic more than hurts them going forward because it probably feeds into the Lakers and their history of over confidence.

In fact during game 2, the Lakers responded to their game 1 win by starting the game both sloppy and lazy. They didn’t tighten up their play until the very end of the 4th and overtime. The fact that they got away with it with a win will probably will result in the Lakers getting more over confident and playing with the same lack of intensity for game 3 and possibly the rest of the finals. Thus, if the Magic can continue to play hard, they definitely have a puncher’s chance the rest of the series.

The second factor is that both games took place in LA which in other words means that the Lakers had homecourt advantage. This is huge because it helped cover up any drops in energy that the Laker roles players might have had as the crowd did their best to pump them right back up.

Not only will that not happen in Orlando for game 3, the opposite is true: this time around the Magic role players are the ones who will feed off the crowd’s energy and finally play in familiar surroundings during the finals. This should result in the Magic hitting more open shots and being more focused on defense.

Speaking of homecourt advantage, as long as Orlando takes care of business at home–just as the Lakers did in games one and two–they only have to win one game in Los Angeles. Besides it isn’t as if their isn’t recent precedence for the Magic to take comfort in. In 2006 the Miami Heat came back from an even worse hole (considering how they played the first three quarters of game 3) to win it all–albeit with a little help from the refs (but its not like the refs have improved enough for that to no longer be possible.) So, nervous Orlando fans can feel better by knowing they aren’t for sure goners this year.

Plus, it isn’t as if this Laker team is that rock solid either. Indeed, for all the celebration over Kobe’s hunger and drive to get that fourth ring, this didn’t stop these very same Lakers from collapsing last year to the initially underdog Boston Celtics. It didn’t stop them from squandering a 3-1 lead to the Phoenix Suns in 2006 either. In fact, the presence of the great, clutch Kobe Bryant didn’t stop the Lakers from getting blown out during the final game of either series.

So clearly the Magic are still in it despite the 2-0 lead for the Lakers. However, game 3 is a must win for Orlando. So, what can the Magic do to ensure a win?

    • Return Rafer Alston to his normal rotation minutes from the Cleveland series. If you insist on giving team captain Jameer Nelson minutes, then let him take Anthony Johnson’s minutes alone. Alston is too sensitive to have his minutes tinkered with and play effectively. However, if you keep his well defined role that was established in the Cleveland series, you will see a return of a point guard who at the very least is capable of dominating his match up against Derek Fisher.
    • If Kobe insists of relying almost completely on his jumper than keep Hedo on him during the end game if Pietrus is out of the game. Lee is too small to guard Kobe or affect his shot so limiting his minutes is not a bad thing even if Pietrus is in foul trouble. Kobe is too fast for Hedo but if he simply settles for his jumper over and over, then Hedo has the length and strength to not be posted up and bother Kobe’s vision.
    • Howard must choose if he will pass or shoot quicker once he gets the ball. His habit of dribbling a bit in the post before he chooses an action allows the Lakers to establish their delayed double teams and harass him into turnovers. Elite players, which Howard apparently is based on his 1st team All-NBA status, can handle a double team much better than Howard has so far. For one thing, a double team should not be enough of a reason to constantly pass out of it. If Shaq passed out of every double team given to him, then he wouldn’t have scored once in the NBA. Its time Howard earned his max paycheck this NBA finals.
    • Involve Andrew Bynum in pick and rolls because he over helps and gets exposed once the Magic swing the ball and then hit Bynum’s original assignment.
    • Just do the little things by giving Howard help by rebounding better, chasing down the loose balls, and hitting open shots as Magic players other than Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu shot less than 35 percent in the game.
    • Call more plays for Pietrus and Courtney Lee because the first step to a more open offense is diversification.

If the Magic do enough of that, they will come away with a game 3 win and complete the first step to winning this series.The

June 3, 2009

2009 NBA Finals Preview

Filed under: NBA Finals, NBA Previews — siddhant2001us @ 6:43 PM

Can you feel it? This is the NBA finals match up that we’ve been unknowingly waiting for all our lives. It is the match up that will pit two completely different organizations against each other in a battle for our souls. This is the zen Phil Jackson vs the energetic Stan Van Gundy. Its the clash between a dominant offensive swing player (Kobe) vs a dominant defensive big man (Howard.) This is the series of one foreign sidekick named Gasol going up against another foreign sidekick named Turkoglu. Its the battle where Odom tries to prove that candy is good for you while Marcin Gortat tries to prove he isn’t the evil European guy that chased Bruce Willis around in that one movie. Even more epic, its Disneyland vs Disney World. This is the NBA FINALS! Let’s break it down:
Big Man Breakdown:
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol vs Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis:
I can’t help myself. I refuse to be as impressed by Howard as I am apparently supposed to be based on what ESPN tells me. Listen, Howard is an amazing help defender and I will not argue that. He is also this generation’s greatest rebounder. At everything else, he is just a work in progress.
Still, even I can admit that his progress has definitely been sped up by the Magic making it to the finals. He is slowly getting more comfortable around the basket in terms of establishing position and passing out of double teams. It is this last point that is going to force the Lakers’ hand and most likely they will  single team Howard with Bynum to start the game.
If Bynum wants to make life easier for himself when he is going to desperately try to prevent Howard from getting great position when the Magic are on offense, he has to go right at him on the other end. Howard hasn’t been challenged once by the opposing team’s starting center, and that has made it easier for him to play help defense and still have energy to play offense. Bynum is actually further along offensively than Howard, and should make him sweat a little….you know, before he picks up 2 fouls on the other end 4 minutes in and goes to the bench.
One of the the other reasons you can’t double Howard is because it potentially leaves Rashard Lewis open. This entire playoffs have basically been a showcase for Lewis’s skills on a bigger stage. However despite the fact that he is tall enough to play power forward for the Magic, the basic reason why Lewis has been so dynamic on offense is because he is really just a big small forward. Thus, he has been too quick and too good of an outside shooter to be bothered by anyone trying to guard him.
Still, he is going to have his hands full with Gasol. Gasol can get out and harass his jumper (Gasol tends to be an inconsistent post defender, but he is great against the perimeter orientated power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki or in this case Lewis.) and stay with Lewis when he drives to the hole.
On the other end, Gasol will take Lewis to the post and force Howard to provide help. That should allow room for cutters and spot shooters and really open up the Lakers offense.
Really unless Kobe goes nuts in the 4th quarter (very possible) or the voters just give it to Kobe because he is Kobe (even more possible) there is a good chance that the MVP of this series should be either Howard or Gasol depending on which team wins.
Advantage: Magic because Howard and Lewis are infinitely more consistent than Bynum (who strings together good basketball games as well as Nic Cage strings together good movies) and Gasol (whose own consistency doesn’t deserve to be questioned as often as it does, but what is inconsistent is how often the Laker guards notice him on the block.)
Swingman Breakdown:
Kobe Bryant and Trevor Ariza vs Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee:
While I am consistently underwhelmed by Howard, I am just as consistently wowed by Hedo Turkoglu. If you ask me, he has to be this team’s MVP on offense. He generally initiates the offense and take the teams big shots when they need one. Listen, about half of Howard’s points every game are created by Hedo. His shot has been very iffy so far this season, but when its on, he is unstoppable. He is also one of the least impressive unstoppable players ever, because every time you watch him you have absolutely no idea how anyone is falling for all of his fakes, and yet, that is exactly what happens every time this guy so much as budges his head.
Trying to stop him anyway will be Trevor Ariza who has become a defensive ace for the Lakers. Ariza has the speed to take away Turkoglu’s drive and ball deny all day long. He doesn’t quite have the length to bother his shot, but luckily Turkoglu hasn’t shot well lately anyway. If Ariza is on his game and shuts down Turkoglu, then the Magic are in for a really short series. They have to provide screens and give him room to operate.
On the other end, Turkoglu is probably best suited allowing Ariza to shoot all day. Ariza has actually vastly improved his jump shot and is also comfortable driving to the hoop, but at the end of the day every shot that Ariza takes is one that Kobe, Gasol, Odom, or any of the Lakers other shooters is not getting.
Of course the best player in this series is Kobe Bryant and he is hungry. There is no way that he wants to lose a third finals in a row and the Magic are going to have to provide a lot of help in the 4th quarter against him if they want to win. Kobe will make life hell for Courtney Lee who just got over having to guard Lebron. Kobe can’t drive anymore the way Lebron can, but Kobe can shoot the lights out with the ball and force Lee to play up on him. Expect half of Howard’s fouls to be a result of Kobe getting past Lee and compromising the Magic defense.
Courtney Lee is basically the shooting guard version of Andrew Bynum in the sense that if he wants to make life easier for himself, he is going to have to make Kobe work on the other end by hitting his jump shots and stopping Kobe from cheating on him and hawking the passing lanes.
Advantage: Lakers because if Ariza can stop Hedo on one end and Kobe is as unstoppable as he can be on the other end, this is going to be a very short series.
Point Guard Breakdown:
Derek Fisher vs Rafer Alston:
If I am Stan Van Gundy, I am shutting Alston in a room and just making him watch clips of Aaron Brooks of the Rockets absolutely manhandle Derek Fisher. Alston isn’t quite as fast as Brooks, but as far as Fisher is concerned its like downgrading from a car to a motorcycle in a race against a bicycle. Sure, the motorcycle that is Alston isn’t as fast as the car that is Brooks, but as long as you’re racing against the cheap, broken down bicycle that is Derek Fisher, you won’t know the difference.
Listen, I grew up watching Fisher on the Lakers, and he is a great role player, team leader, and all of that, but he is in the twilight of his career. If he wants to extend his career, he should be playing off the bench, playing around 15 minutes a game, and then serving as basically an assistant coach for the rest of the game. To trot him out for 25 minutes when he’s too slow to guard any point guard at all is just cruel.
In fact I would go so far as to say that the Lakers are better off putting Fisher on Lee and have Kobe play a step off of Alston. Fisher is strong enough to not get backed down by Lee, and Kobe is smart enough with his length to harass Alston.
If Fisher does stay on Alston, then there is one thing that Fisher needs to do. Listen, Alston will drive past him all day, but when he does and Gasol, Bynum, or Odom has to rotate, Fisher has to also rotate and try to box out the open Magic big man for as long as he can to give Gasol, Bynum, or Odom time to rotate. Against the Magic, there are going to be rebounds landing all over the place because both teams like to shoot three pointers a lot. Thus, the team that wins is probably the one that grabs the most of these stray rebounds.
Advantage: Magic win this won easily.
The Bench Breakdown:
Both teams are going to utilize their benches quite a bit, so they will be vital to the outcome of the series. The Magic will bring Pietrus first off the bench in order to throw someone else at Kobe while also giving minutes to Gortat (whenever Howard is in foul trouble) and Anthony Johnson (because its always nice to have a player that makes Derek Fisher look somewhat fast.) Meanwhile the Lakers are going to throw all kinds of looks at the Magic because they’ll be bringing off their bench Lamar Odom (who will play more minutes than Bynum and can guard Lewis probably better than Gasol,) Luke Walton (because he spreads the offense and runs it better than Ariza,) Sasha Vujacic (the token energy guy who currently can’t hit a three pointer to save his life) and either Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar (depending on who does a better job against Alston.)
The best guy off the Lakers bench is of course Odom. Odom is that rare big man who can get the rebound, run the break, and then make the perfect pass to get his teammate an open shot. He is also the rare big man who can ignore the taunts and physical nature of the opposing team and remain practically invisible through 30 minutes. During the last two games, Odom played like the former, but I’m sure Phil Jackson is well aware that the latter is always just around the corner.
Luckily for Laker fans, Odom has a solid track record when being matched up against small forwards masquerading as power forwards. Any physical advantage that Lewis enjoyed in the earlier three rounds is lost against Odom who by the way has also played small forward successfully in his career.
For the Magic, their x factor has to be Pietrus who is coming off a great conference finals when he consistently made Lebron work for his points. In the end that is all that matters because there is no way that you actually shut down a Lebron or Kobe. Still, if you can get them to score 30 points on like 25+ shots, then your team can take that at least as a moral victory if not just a key factor in a Magic victory.
Advantage: Lakers simply because Odom would be a starter for most teams.
Coaching Breakdown:
Phil Jackson vs Stan Van Gundy:
Stan Van Gundy is a very interesting coach because aesthetically he has created a system built around (at least on offense) simply finding the open man and trusting him. That’s basketball at its purest, which is great except that he does this to a fault. For example, he often ignores certain match up problems for other teams that he should take advantage of such as when he didn’t force the ball to Rashard Lewis when he was guarded by Glen Davis of the Celtics who had no chance of guarding him.
Phil Jackson on the other hand has been to the mountaintop and has won 9 rings in 11 tries. He trusts in his triangle offense for the first three quarters, but is flexible enough to understand Kobe is going to take over in the 4th. He attacks match up problems and generally does a much better job tinkering with his game plan on the fly during the game where as Van Gundy is generally a bit more set in his ways.
In any case, both are very good and this should lead to an evenly matched series
Advantage: Lakers because Jackson just has a wealth of experience over Van Gundy.
Final Verdict: Lakers in 6. The Magic will put up a good fight, but as long as the Lakers play up to their capabilities (never a sure thing, but you have to believe they do it in the finals) this should end with Phil Jackson finally passing Red Auerbach for his 10th ring and Kobe cementing himself as one of the greatest players of all time. Better luck next year Dwight Howard.
Can you feel it? This is the NBA finals match up that we’ve been unknowingly waiting for all our lives. It is the match up that will pit two completely different organizations against each other in a battle for our souls. This is the zen Phil Jackson vs the energetic Stan Van Gundy. Its the clash between a dominant offensive swing player (Kobe) vs a dominant defensive big man (Howard.) This is the series of one foreign sidekick named Gasol going up against another foreign sidekick named Turkoglu. Its the battle where Odom tries to prove that candy is good for you while Marcin Gortat tries to prove he isn’t the evil European guy that chased Bruce Willis around in that one movie. Even more epic, its Disneyland vs Disney World. This is the NBA FINALS! Let’s break it down:
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Big Man Breakdown:

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol vs Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis:
I can’t help myself. I refuse to be as impressed by Howard as I am apparently supposed to be based on what ESPN tells me. Listen, Howard is an amazing help defender and I will not argue that. He is also this generation’s greatest rebounder. At everything else, he is just a work in progress.
Still, even I can admit that his progress has definitely been sped up by the Magic making it to the finals. He is slowly getting more comfortable around the basket in terms of establishing position and passing out of double teams. It is this last point that is going to force the Lakers’ hand and most likely they will  single team Howard with Bynum to start the game.
If Bynum wants to make life easier for himself when he is going to desperately try to prevent Howard from getting great position when the Magic are on offense, he has to go right at him on the other end. Howard hasn’t been challenged once by the opposing team’s starting center, and that has made it easier for him to play help defense and still have energy to play offense. Bynum is actually further along offensively than Howard, and should make him sweat a little….you know, before he picks up 2 fouls on the other end 4 minutes in and goes to the bench.
One of the the other reasons you can’t double Howard is because it potentially leaves Rashard Lewis open. This entire playoffs have basically been a showcase for Lewis’s skills on a bigger stage. However despite the fact that he is tall enough to play power forward for the Magic, the basic reason why Lewis has been so dynamic on offense is because he is really just a big small forward. Thus, he has been too quick and too good of an outside shooter to be bothered by anyone trying to guard him.
Still, he is going to have his hands full with Gasol. Gasol can get out and harass his jumper (Gasol tends to be an inconsistent post defender, but he is great against the perimeter orientated power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki or in this case Lewis.) and stay with Lewis when he drives to the hole.
On the other end, Gasol will take Lewis to the post and force Howard to provide help. That should allow room for cutters and spot shooters and really open up the Lakers offense.
Really unless Kobe goes nuts in the 4th quarter (very possible) or the voters just give it to Kobe because he is Kobe (even more possible) there is a good chance that the MVP of this series should be either Howard or Gasol depending on which team wins.
Advantage: Magic because Howard and Lewis are infinitely more consistent than Bynum (who currently strings together good basketball games as well as Nic Cage strings together good movies) and Gasol (whose own consistency doesn’t deserve to be questioned as often as it does, but what is inconsistent is how often the Laker guards notice him on the block.)

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Swingman Breakdown:

Kobe Bryant and Trevor Ariza vs Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee:
While I am consistently underwhelmed by Howard, I am just as consistently wowed by Hedo Turkoglu. If you ask me, he has to be this team’s MVP on offense. He generally initiates the offense and take the teams big shots when they need one. Listen, about half of Howard’s points every game are created by Hedo. His shot has been very iffy so far this season, but when its on, he is unstoppable. He is also one of the least impressive unstoppable players ever, because every time you watch him you have absolutely no idea how anyone is falling for all of his fakes, and yet, that is exactly what happens every time this guy so much as budges his head.
Trying to stop him anyway will be Trevor Ariza who has become a defensive ace for the Lakers. Ariza has the speed to take away Turkoglu’s drive and ball deny all day long. He doesn’t quite have the length to bother his shot, but luckily Turkoglu hasn’t shot well lately anyway. If Ariza is on his game and shuts down Turkoglu, then the Magic are in for a really short series. They have to provide screens and give him room to operate.
On the other end, Turkoglu is probably best suited allowing Ariza to shoot all day. Ariza has actually vastly improved his jump shot and is also comfortable driving to the hoop, but at the end of the day every shot that Ariza takes is one that Kobe, Gasol, Odom, or any of the Lakers other shooters is not getting.
Of course the best player in this series is Kobe Bryant and he is hungry. There is no way that he wants to lose a third finals in a row and the Magic are going to have to provide a lot of help in the 4th quarter against him if they want to win. Kobe will make life hell for Courtney Lee who just got over having to guard Lebron. Kobe can’t drive anymore the way Lebron can, but Kobe can shoot the lights out with the ball and force Lee to play up on him. Expect half of Howard’s fouls to be a result of Kobe getting past Lee and compromising the Magic defense.
Courtney Lee is basically the shooting guard version of Andrew Bynum in the sense that if he wants to make life easier for himself, he is going to have to make Kobe work on the other end by hitting his jump shots and stopping Kobe from cheating on him and hawking the passing lanes.
Advantage: Lakers because if Ariza can stop Hedo on one end and Kobe is as unstoppable as he can be on the other end, this is going to be a very short series.

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Point Guard Breakdown:

Derek Fisher vs Rafer Alston:
If I am Stan Van Gundy, I am shutting Alston in a room and just making him watch clips of Aaron Brooks of the Rockets absolutely manhandle Derek Fisher. Alston isn’t quite as fast as Brooks, but as far as Fisher is concerned its like downgrading from a car to a motorcycle in a race against a bicycle. Sure, the motorcycle that is Alston isn’t as fast as the car that is Brooks, but as long as you’re racing against the cheap, broken down bicycle that is Derek Fisher, you won’t know the difference.
Listen, I grew up watching Fisher on the Lakers, and he is a great role player, team leader, and all of that, but he is in the twilight of his career. If he wants to extend his career, he should be playing off the bench, playing around 15 minutes a game, and then serving as basically an assistant coach for the rest of the game. To trot him out for 25 minutes when he’s too slow to guard any point guard at all is just cruel.
In fact I would go so far as to say that the Lakers are better off putting Fisher on Lee and have Kobe play a step off of Alston. Fisher is strong enough to not get backed down by Lee, and Kobe is smart enough with his length to harass Alston.
If Fisher does stay on Alston, then there is one thing that Fisher needs to do. Listen, Alston will drive past him all day, but when he does and Gasol, Bynum, or Odom has to rotate, Fisher has to also rotate and try to box out the open Magic big man for as long as he can to give Gasol, Bynum, or Odom time to rotate. Against the Magic, there are going to be rebounds landing all over the place because both teams like to shoot three pointers a lot. Thus, the team that wins is probably the one that grabs the most of these stray rebounds.
Advantage: Magic win this won easily.

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The Bench Breakdown:

Both teams are going to utilize their benches quite a bit, so they will be vital to the outcome of the series. The Magic will bring Pietrus first off the bench in order to throw someone else at Kobe while also giving minutes to Gortat (whenever Howard is in foul trouble) and Anthony Johnson (because its always nice to have a player that makes Derek Fisher look somewhat fast.) Meanwhile the Lakers are going to throw all kinds of looks at the Magic because they’ll be bringing off their bench Lamar Odom (who will play more minutes than Bynum and can guard Lewis probably better than Gasol,) Luke Walton (because he spreads the offense and runs it better than Ariza,) Sasha Vujacic (the token energy guy who currently can’t hit a three pointer to save his life) and either Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar (depending on who does a better job against Alston.)
The best guy off the Lakers bench is of course Odom. Odom is that rare big man who can get the rebound, run the break, and then make the perfect pass to get his teammate an open shot. He is also the rare big man who can ignore the taunts and physical nature of the opposing team and remain practically invisible through 30 minutes. During the last two games, Odom played like the former, but I’m sure Phil Jackson is well aware that the latter is always just around the corner.
Luckily for Laker fans, Odom has a solid track record when being matched up against small forwards masquerading as power forwards. Any physical advantage that Lewis enjoyed in the earlier three rounds is lost against Odom who by the way has also played small forward successfully in his career.
For the Magic, their x factor has to be Pietrus who is coming off a great conference finals when he consistently made Lebron work for his points. In the end that is all that matters because there is no way that you actually shut down a Lebron or Kobe. Still, if you can get them to score 30 points on like 25+ shots, then your team can take that at least as a moral victory if not just a key factor in a Magic victory.
Advantage: Lakers simply because Odom would be a starter for most teams.

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Coaching Breakdown:

Phil Jackson vs Stan Van Gundy:
Stan Van Gundy is a very interesting coach because aesthetically he has created a system built around (at least on offense) simply finding the open man and trusting him. That’s basketball at its purest, which is great except that he does this to a fault. For example, he often ignores certain match up problems for other teams that he should take advantage of such as when he didn’t force the ball to Rashard Lewis when he was guarded by Glen Davis of the Celtics who had no chance of guarding him.
Phil Jackson on the other hand has been to the mountaintop and has won 9 rings in 11 tries. He trusts in his triangle offense for the first three quarters, but is flexible enough to understand Kobe is going to take over in the 4th. He attacks match up problems and generally does a much better job tinkering with his game plan on the fly during the game where as Van Gundy is generally a bit more set in his ways.
In any case, both are very good and this should lead to an evenly matched series
Advantage: Lakers because Jackson just has a wealth of experience over Van Gundy.

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Final Verdict:

Lakers in 6. The Magic will put up a good fight, but as long as the Lakers play up to their capabilities (never a sure thing, but you have to believe they do it in the finals) this should end with Phil Jackson finally passing Red Auerbach for his 10th ring and Kobe cementing himself as one of the greatest players of all time. Better luck next year Dwight Howard.

June 18, 2008

Game 6 Musings

Filed under: NBA Finals — siddhant2001us @ 1:26 PM

There are times when you just have no idea what the future can hold. Before the NBA finals started, I had a friend ask me if I was nervous at all for the Lakers to be facing the Boston Celtics. I was a little bit nervous as I had seen the Lakers get dismantled by the Celtics in the regular season. I had seen the way Tom Thibbedeau had figured out ways to get his players to consistently disrupt the triangle offense. With his defense, he turned the perfect offense from one of crisp passes and smart shots to the ugly stationary basketball that got the Lakers blown out in both games. Yet I was suddenly confident in the ability of the young Los Angeles Lakers. I told myself that they were a different team. They had added Pau Gasol, earned the number one berth in the tough western conference, and beaten the San Antonio Spurs to get here. They stifled the Spurs with their defense, and finished them off with their amazing offense. So when my friend asked me if I was nervous, I told him that the Lakers would have to seriously screw things up to lose four out of seven games.

Then last night happened, and seemingly every good thing the Lakers had done this season to get them to this point was meaningless. The Celtics stomped all over them for a 131-92 battle. The Laker offense was once again pushed away from the basket and forced into stationary basketball while the defense was repeatedly abused by the veteran Celtics who already had to beat much better defenses in Cleveland and Detroit to get to the finals. In the end, Celtics just wanted it more as they played through the contact to achieve their goals while the Lakers let the contact disrupt them from whatever they wanted to do. The Celtics dived after every loose ball, made smart gambles on defense (leading to a ridiculous 18 steals,) and fought for every rebound available.

The Lakers never threatened in this game, so there is no point to doing the usual who played well and who played poorly. If you can get blown out by 39 points, no one played well. It is that simple. Conversely, if you can blow a finals caliber team out by 39 points, then everyone played well.

Indeed, this years Celtics is a championship team to forever remember, and this game highlighted all of their strengths. Ray Allen used screen after screen to hit shot after shot. Paul Pierce chipped in point wise only when he needed to and added 10 assists while the real point of the Celtics Rajon Rondo added eight of his own to go along with his 21 points and pesky, 6 steal, defense. Even Kevin Garnett bounced back from a lousy game five to get 14 rebounds. Speaking of which, in this game, the Lakers shot just 42 percent and yet got just two offensive rebounds (both when the game was out of reach.) The Celtics managed to win the battle of the boards 48-29.

More surprising was the way the Celtics coaching staff was able to hold their own. Before the series started, everyone was under the impression that Phil Jackson and his nine NBA titles would destroy Doc Rivers in everyway, shape, or form during these finals. Instead, the opposite may have happened. Rivers and his coaching staff always seemed to be at least one or two steps ahead of Jackson who was forced to play catch up. In the end, Jackson never figured out how to beat the Celtic defense, and could never get his team to play consistent defense where as Rivers shredded the Laker defense with simple screen and rolls and motivated his players every step of the way.

So what’s next? For the Celtics, they can relax for a little bit and enjoy some time in the sun. They have done what every team wanted to do at the start of the season: win it all. For doing that, they can justify some time off. When they are done, they can start looking for a backup point guard who can dribble better than Eddie House or Sam Cassell. Maybe they should add another swingman as well as insurance if Ray Allen’s legs can’t hold up or just general depth. Other than that, I expect to see this team back in the eastern conference finals at least next year.

As for the Lakers, this loss will be tough to swallow. They must become more mentally tough if they do want to someday win it all. Moreover, when Bynum comes back what happens to Odom? His jumper (unless continuously worked on over the summer) isn’t good enough to space the floor were he to start alongside Bynum and Gasol. Then the best bet would be to have him come off the bench and be a valuable sixth man. Can he handle that? Vladimir Radmanovic must be traded. His defense was completely gone this series, and his shot is too inconsistent. Getting rid of him even if only for a second round draft pick is worth it. Hell, at this point getting rid of him by way of buy out is also acceptable. In the end, this team has a lot of soul searching to do. Hopefully, Phil Jackson can further emphasize defense in training camp, because until then its going to be a long five months.

June 13, 2008

Game 4 Notes

Filed under: NBA Finals — siddhant2001us @ 12:17 AM

Wow, there are few words to describe the shock and disappointment that I feel, but one of them has to be wow. The Los Angeles Lakers, who at one point were ahead by as much as 24, completely squandered their lead in the second half. They abandoned their aggressive style of play from the first half in favor of playing into the defense and missed jump shot after jump shot. The theme of this whole series has been that whoever is more aggressive wins the game. Well, the Celtics were that team in the second half and that made all the difference. They played harder and simply wanted it more. The Celtics can now win just one of the next three games and still earn the right to be called the NBA champions. The Lakers on the other hand now firmly have their backs against the walls. Wow…just wow…

Celtics:

Who Played Well:

Ray Allen: The steadiest of the big three showed up once again when it mattered most. His lay up in the 4th quarter to put away the Lakers will be played over and over again on the highlights and forever be shown in ESPN Classic. Before this series started, Allen seemed to be the most fragile of the big three, and yet here he showed his toughness by playing all 48 minutes of the game.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett: Team leaders withstood the early lead by the Lakers to comeback in the second half to finish with 20 points and 7 assists and 16 points and 11 rebounds respectively. Pierce was big in the second half by agreeing to guard Kobe. Here, he did exactly what you are supposed to do when you guard the game’s best player. He was patient, never bit on most of Kobe’s fakes, and allowed his teammates to help as well.

James Posey and Eddie House: these guys came off the bench and hit big shots to help bring the Celtics back. They did all the little things that the team needed. In the end, they played like champions and as a result are just one win away from forever being immortalized as such.

Who Played Poorly:

Rajon Rondo: he was clearly hindered by his injury, which further allowed the Lakers to exploit his lack of a consistent jumper. If Eddie House hadn’t come in to hit shot after shot, Rondo’s flaws would have once again been highlighted.

Kendrick Perkins and PJ Brown: The big men were unable to rebound in this game or not foul drivers and cutters. The Celtics did their best and made their comeback when both of these guys were on the bench.

Lakers:

Who Played Well:

Lamar Odom: The entire first half lead can be attributed to his play. He played point forward and destroyed the Celtics defense by getting inside and either dishing it to the open man or getting the basket. He didn’t get the ball enough in the second half and never took advantage of being guarded by James Posey. Still, compared to the first three games, Odom had a solid game by his new standards.

Pau Gasol: He got 17 points and 10 rebounds to help lead the Lakers in winning the rebounding battle for the first time this series.

Who Played Poorly:

Sasha Vujacic: after his superb play in game three, he couldn’t buy a shot by going 1-9. What is worse is that he couldn’t really hinder Ray Allen at all. He was the one who was beaten so badly on that lay up by Allen that put the game away. Hopefully, this game doesn’t affect his confidence and change his career, because the Lakers will need him if they still want to win this series.

Random Thoughts:

  • Every member of the Big Three for the Celtics came to play (at least in the second half.) When was the last time that happened?
  • Kobe Bryant didn’t get put in either the played well section or played poorly section because his game was entirely so up and down. During the first half, he didn’t force any shots, but helped out his team with six or so assists. In the second half, he never drove in for the first 20 minutes and settled for jumper after jumper. Then in the end game Kobe came thru by driving in and getting key baskets. Too little too late, but at least he did something. A lot has been made about his being a poor teammate, but in all honesty, what will cost the Lakers the series is not Kobe, but the inability of the majority of the Lakers to come through for him when it mattered most.
  • Trevor Ariza did a solid job in the first quarter before being a non-factor for the rest of the game. If he continues to improve his jumper, he will be a great asset off the bench next year.
  • As depressing as the outcome of this game is, Laker fans should take solace in the fact that this team will be even better next year. A healthy Bynum along with a full year of a healthy Ariza will make the Lakers that much better for next year. No matter how this series turns out, the Lakers did gain valuable experience and hopefully won’t be so inconsistent next year.
  • If the first half showed anything, Rajon Rondo should lock himself in the gym to work on his jumper during the off-season.
  • Sasha Vujacic has gone full circle during this series. He went from being the guy with the hair band who wasn’t hitting shots to the clutch reserve in game three, which he then followed up by dressing like a European gangster for post game comments. Then tonight he went back to being the bench player who couldn’t buy a shot. Hopefully, this means he explodes in game five.
  • Speaking of Vujacic, how did someone not point out to him that dressing up like you are in the mob the same day the Donaghy allegations came out was a bad idea? He was just tempting karma there.
  • The Lakers lost despite having eight more assists.
  • Kevin Garnett finally played in the post and played well. It is about time.
  • Each time one of these teams makes a huge comeback, they do so by playing small ball. How did it take this long to go to those lineups?
  • Is Doc Rivers actually out coaching Phil Jackson? Jackson seems to keep expecting his players to figure it out and play through it, but at some point, he needs to step in and show everyone why he has nine championships.
  • Speaking of coaching, how is Tom Thibodeau not going to get a head coaching job after his superb job with his team’s defense? If I’m Seattle, New Jersey, Minnesota, or even Denver and Cleveland, how am I not firing my current head coach to give Thibodeau a chance? Not to speak ill of their current head coaches (except for PJ Calisemo of whom I am not a fan at all,) but none of them will help win their respective teams a championship so why not roll the dice with the hottest name in assistant coaching? Especially the New Jersey Nets who have stopped listening to the otherwise superb Lawrence Frank. With their entire goal seeming to be the acquisition of Lebron James in 2010, why not bring in a guy that Lebron has had trouble getting past and thus respects?
  • This series is still not over. Unless the comeback by the Celtics has broken the spirit of the Lakers, they should win in LA. If the Lakers can will themselves to be the more aggressive team in each of the next three games, they will win them all.
  • As for the Celtics, they cannot get complacent. Everyone brings up the fact that Paul Pierce was part of one of the greatest comebacks when he was going against the New Jersey Nets, but in the end the Celtics lost that series.

June 10, 2008

Game 3 Comments

Filed under: NBA Finals, Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 11:32 PM

When the final horn sounded, I wasn’t thrilled by the Lakers finally winning. I was just relieved. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce shot a combined 8-35 from the field and the game still needed Kobe to hit big shots to ice it at the end. With Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant combining for 14 missed free throws, the Lakers were never able to shake off the Celtics and actually trailed heading into the fourth quarter. Still, the difference in this game was the ability by the Lakers to get to the hoop, stay aggressive and draw fouls. In addition, the Lakers were able to stay close in terms of rebounding edge, as the Celtics ended up with just one more rebound.

Lakers:

Who Played Well:

Kobe Bryant: despite missing too many free throws and whining a tad too much after any bad, Kobe set the tone early and often for the Lakers by frequently driving to the hoop and getting the Celtics defense out of sync and opening up the court for the rest of the Lakers.

Pau Gasol: While he had to wait until the third quarter before getting his first field goal, his offensive rebounding in the fourth quarter kept giving the Lakers second chance opportunities and helped demoralize the Celtics when they needed them the most. He also played a big hand in hold KG to just 6-21 shooting.

Sasha Vujacic: 7-10 from the field, and 20 points off the bench. Vujacic made the Celtics pay for doubling and had no hesitation taking and making big shots. The Celtics would be wise not to leave him open in game four.

Who Played Poorly:

Lamar Odom: Another game marred by inconsistency. One good play where he drives towards the basket and opens up the weaknesses of the Celtics defense is sandwiched between two stupid play where he tries to do just that and ends up with turnovers either by getting his pocket picked or by committing a careless offensive foul.

Vladimir Radmanovic: made a quick three near the start of the game, and then managed to commit three fouls in the first nine or so minutes before playing just three minutes the rest of the way. A poor game three after he was so key during the Lakers near comeback in game two, but at the same time anyone who has followed Radmanovic over his career should have come to expect it.

Celtics:

Who Played Well:

Ray Allen: used screens, curls, and a quick release en route towards 25 points on 8-13 shooting. Allen was the only one of the big three to show up ready to play in game three. His play was especially big in the third quarter when the Celtics were able to make a run and take the lead away from the Lakers. With Rondo hobbled by an ankle injury, the Celtics may want to take Jeff Van Gundy’s advice and have Allen play a little point guard alongside James Posey and Pierce.

Who Played Poorly:

Paul Pierce: These playoffs have shown Pierce to be especially streaky. Leading up to this game Pierce was averaging five less points on the road. Well, this game he took it to a whole other level by settling for jumpers, playing soft defense, and ending up with just six points on 2-14 shooting.

Kevin Garnett: Despite the fact that many players shoot worse on the road than when they are at home, KG was shooting only 39 percent after two games in the series. So, it would be hard for him to do worse. Yet, KG did indeed manage to shoot worse than that by going 6-21. In that total you have him going 4-7 in the paint, but just 2-14 everywhere else. Stop settling for jumpers and get inside more KG! In addition, despite his 12 rebounds, KG also managed to be out hustled for many key rebounds in the fourth quarter by Pau Gasol and the rest of the Laker big men.

Random Thoughts:

  • Take out Kobe, Sasha, and Ray Allen and the rest of the players on the two teams combined to shoot a paltry 32-109. That’s just 29.4 percent! While defense had to play some part of that, there is no way either team can be happy with their offensive execution. Look for a lot of small adjustments for both teams before game four aimed to fix just that.
  • The Lakers shot 14 more free throws than the Celtics, but the Celtics still managed to get to the line 22 times. Most of the close calls did go to the Lakers, but because the Celtics did manage to get to the line that many times the disparity was not quite as great as it was in game two.
  • The Celtics giving up with about 30 seconds or so to go was surprising. It is almost as if they wanted to lose, as if the league wanted it to happen, as if the whole thing was a clear set up. Just kidding! Tim Donaghy is just a desperate individual trying to avoid as much jail time as he can. The Celtics lost because the coaching staff went for the steal, couldn’t get it, and then just gave up. There are no conspiracy theories to be found here.
  • I agree with Jeff Van Gundy. The man is bald. He shouldn’t have to pay the same amount as someone with more hair after his “haircuts.”
  • So much for Odom being inconsistent. In three games, he has consistently disappointed. It got the point where Phil Jackson stated after game two that Odom looked ‘confused.’
  • Rondo getting injured in the game when he suffered an ankle sprain should be a huge concern for the Celtics. Rondo isn’t going to help win the game with his shooting so if the injury prevents him from blowing by his defender look for the Celtics to keep him on the bench more and get Eddie House more minutes.
  • Speaking of Celtic back-up point guards, the Celtics’ point guards other than Rondo went 3-12 in about 25 minutes of play. Mind you, these guys are in the game primarily for their shooting. More reason to try out Ray Allen as a back up point guard.
  • What was up with both teams also missing a combined 20 free throws? It seems the legends of Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal (career free throw percentages of 42 and 52 percent) live on in LA.
  • If the Lakers aren’t going to play Chris Mihm, they need to focus their efforts on getting a fifth big man for the roster for next season. Once Odom and Radmanovic got into foul trouble the Lakers were forced into playing Gasol and Ronny Turiaf more minutes. Turiaf isn’t a bad big man to have coming off the bench, but the more minutes he plays the less he is able to keep up his reputation as a high-energy player. Sure, Bynum will be back next season, but if another injury hits to him or the other big men, it again becomes a problem.
  • By the way, David Stern, regarding that last column, despite our conclusions, we here at jumpball.wordpress.com are firmly against any and all forms of tanking by any team. So if you could call off whoever has been following us or listening in to our phone conversations since the column was posted that would be nice.

June 8, 2008

Game 2 Thoughts

Filed under: NBA Finals — siddhant2001us @ 10:19 PM

Before the game, my friend Ankur suggested we live blog this game for this site. After the game, I am just thrilled that I said no. By the second quarter, I would have snapped and started swearing like a sailor (no word on how the stupid Microsoft Word paper clip would have handled that.) Yes, as a Laker fan I did think that the calls were one sided, but as a more objective fan I also realize that much of the discrepancy had to do with the Celtics continuously getting to the hoop and playing aggressive for most of the game and being rewarded for doing so by the refs while the Lakers after 5 or 6 minutes in the first quarter started playing very passively and settling for jumpers. As a result, the Lakers were largely ignored. That’s the way it works in the NBA. I don’t believe there was any other bias or league wide conspiracy or anything of that sort. The Lakers lost because until their comeback in the 4th quarter, they played timid and scared. Their defense was inconsistent at best, which was highlighted by Leon Powe going end to end for an uncontested dunk. If they play defense like that in LA, the series is over in four. Anyway, lets take a look at who played well and who didn’t for both teams

Celtics:

Who Played Well:

Leon Powe: The ultimate hero for the Celtics. He kept getting good inside position, and continuously disrupted whatever the Lakers tried to do defensively. He got 21 points in 14 minutes. Interestingly enough, and something alerted to me by one of our readers, this is not the first time Powe has come up big in an important game. He came up with a combined 19 points off the bench in the two game sevens that Boston has played. Props to loyal reader Pat Monk for the heads up.

Paul Pierce: Do I believe Pierce is badly injured? No, I do not. That’s not to say he faked anything. Its just that in game one he fell to the ground, heard a pop, and freaked out. Then he put his foot down, and discovered it really wasn’t that bad. Can we stop bringing it up now? Anyway, Pierce was the steadiest of the big three in game two. He went right at Kobe’s defense in the end game and well the Celtics did win didn’t they?

Rajon Rondo: Didn’t shoot particularly well, but his 16 assists more than made up for it. Credit Rondo for knowing that his shot isn’t great and passing up those shot chances to get his teammates better looks.

Who Played Poorly:

Kendrick Perkins: Second straight mediocre game for this starting center. Didn’t do a great job protecting the rim, and didn’t make the Lakers pay for not guarding him like Leon Powe or PJ Brown did. Should play even less minutes in game 3.

Kevin Garnett: didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (7-19,) and the Lakers have had no problems attacking him at the hoop. Gasol especially took him to the bucket whenever he wanted.

Lakers:

Who Played Well:

Pau Gasol: Played even better than he did in game one by rebounding better and playing aggressive the whole game (something you can’t say for the rest of the Lakers.) Why the hell didn’t the Lakers try harder to get him the ball in the second half? The offense should run through this guy for game three.

Who Played Poorly:

Kobe Bryant: He still did not attack the rim, and continued to settle for jumpers. One play was telling. In the third quarter he attacks the rim gets fouled, but no call. Instead of getting angry and continuing to drive to the hoop, he got a technical foul and didn’t go inside again until late in the 4th. He is the leader of the team, and it is on him to lead by example and get to the rim early and often in game 3.

Lamar Odom: Started off playing so aggressive for the first 6 minutes, and ended the game watching on the bench. A talent like Odom should be dominating Leon Powe or PJ Brown, instead he has played ineffective in the first two games.

Luke Walton: Not enough of an athlete to play as much as he did this game. Pierce curiously didn’t attack him as much as he should have in the second quarter. With the Lakers needing to play stronger defense in game 3, Walton’s minutes should be cut in favor of Sasha Vujacic and Trevor Ariza

Random Thoughts:

  • Down 24 with under 8 minutes to go, the Lakers started one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history only to fall short. I’ll be honest, I thought it was over before that. Despite falling short, I’m glad the Lakers proved me wrong. I hope that they take that aggressive play full of dribble penetrations and assists over to game 3. Sorry for counting you out.
  • Ultimately, all the Celtics did was hold serve by winning the first two games. Now it is on the Lakers to do the same and bring it back to Boston up 3-2. There is no way they win both games in Boston if they don’t.
  • The biggest thing about the Celtics winning on the boards is that it doesn’t allow the Lakers to fast break as much as they would like to, but since the Celtics don’t fast break, the Lakers might as well just send 4 guys to the rim on every shot. They might not get to run the break as much, but they will cut down on second chance opportunities for the Celtics.
  • Too many turnovers for both teams. Teams combined for 28.
  • Who the hell are Boston Pop and why were they playing the national anthem for the NBA finals and not some high school baseball game?
  • Here is hoping Phil Jackson mispronouncing Leon Powe’s name in post game comments leads to the complete and utter unraveling of the Celtics.
  • For Celtics fans, you have to be thrilled right now. Other than the 4th quarter rally by the Lakers, the Celtics have come out this series and done all the little things while being the aggressor in the series. If they can win even one in LA, the series is as good as over (providing they don’t completely collapse at home.) As it is, the team that wins the first two games has gone on to win the series 90 percent of the time.
  • Speaking of which, would I mind if the NBA gives Kobe the Wade treatment for the rest of the series…I’m still thinking about that one…

June 6, 2008

Game 1 Comments

Filed under: NBA Finals — siddhant2001us @ 6:10 AM

This was a frustrating loss because the Lakers were able to work their offense into a lot of open shots, but they just couldn’t knock them down. On the other end, the defensive rotations were late giving the Celtics whatever they wanted on too many of their possessions. Still its only the first game, and the series is still young. Let us see who played well and who played poorly.

Lakers:

Who Played Well:

Derek Fisher: Fisher showed up to play in this game. He shot the ball ok, got to the rim, drew fouls on the Celtics players (4 trips to the line,) and hustled his way into a few steals. He played strong defense and got to a lot of loose balls

Pau Gasol: He didn’t rebound very well, but no one on the Lakers really did so you can’t completely hold that against him. He had good movement on offense, which led to him running into a lot of points via nice passes by the rest of the Lakers and his long arms forced KG into a lot of misses whenever he got him to take fall away jumpers.

Who Played Poorly:

Kobe Bryant: He had a lot of decent looks from the perimeter (at least for his standards) but most of those shots rattled in and out. I think he went something like 4-18 from 15 feet out. The problem is, when his shots weren’t falling he just kept taking more rather than attacking the rim. His defense was lazy during early offense opportunities, and he is the one who should have tagged Pierce during those three point shots in the third that turned the tide.

Lamar Odom: He played so passive that the Celtics started moving off of him to help on others; played nearly 40 minutes but grabbed just six rebounds. The Lakers can’t have him become a smaller, more passive version of Eddy Curry if they want to win.

Sasha Vujacic: He comes into the game for Vladimir Radmanovic, and Ray Allen immediately scores 5 points. Then in the second half, he missed pretty much every open shot he got (and he got a lot.)

The Rest of Bench: This was a very hyped unit coming into the game, but no one seemed to do anything. Walton let Pierce dominate him, Farmar made no mark in the game, and Turiaf somehow took five shots in 12 minutes while only getting two rebounds. This unit needs to play smarter if the Lakers are going to have any shot at winning.

Celtics:

Who Played Well:

Paul Pierce: The difference between Paul Pierce and Willis Reed is that while both were inspiring, Reed didn’t do much after scoring on Chamberlain to start the game. Pierce on the other hand not only inspired his teammates, but he also went five for five in the 3rd quarter to help turn the momentum for good in the game.

PJ Brown: when Kendrick Perkins goes down, Brown comes in and actually plays much better defense, especially on screen, and rolls. Brown along with Leon Powe was able to grab 10 rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench including three that were offensive.

Kevin Garnett: didn’t shoot particularly well. He took too many shots from outside the paint especially in the 4th quarter when he took five shots from outside the paint and missed them all. Still, KG came through by dominating on the boards including four offensive rebounds that help give the team numerous second chances.

Who Played Poorly:

Ray Allen: he knocked down his open shots, but also missed too many close shots near the rim. His strong play in the first quarter was neutralized by him not doing too much the rest of the game. He was especially missing in the clutch. The fact that he played better than he did in the previous rounds of the playoffs doesn’t excuse the fact that he still played below his all-star caliber.

Random Thoughts:

  • The Lakers couldn’t buy a rebound too often in this game. If they want to win, they have to fix that. Some people have brought up that Utah also dominated them on the boards, but the difference was that the Jazz weren’t able to convert on their second chances opportunities. The Celtics will.
  • The Lakers missed almost all of their open shots. Those shots will fall at home, but they need them first to fall in game two.
  • Conversely, the Celtics defense is overrated. Periodically, they would play very well, but the Lakers still were able to get the shots they normally take and make. Kobe Bryant isn’t going to play like this every game
  • Sam Cassell took something like three shots for every pass. He played ok this game, especially in the first half when he kept the team in the game by sinking three straight shots. The Lakers didn’t pressure him as strong as Lindsey Hunter did in the last round. If they don’t adjust, he gives the Celtics that back up point guard they need to give Rondo a rest as well as a shooter in the 4th quarter to affect spacing.
  • Ronny Turiaf trying to grow dreadlocks basically means anyone who wanted to know what Lil’ Wayne looks like on steroids finally gets their chance.
  • At the same time, Sasha Vujacic and Pau Gasol keep trying to pull off the long hair look. I’m a big fan of the Lakers, but they keep testing that fandom with the hair bands and scrunchies. It is almost as if David Stern sent out a mandate for subliminal WNBA advertising. (Speaking of which, yes, Candice Parker, I would say all of those things.)
  • Doc Rivers keeps bringing up the South African whenever they interview him except that he never actually says his name, just calling him the South African or the man from South Africa. What are the odds that Doc Rivers just doesn’t know his name? What are the odds his name is Ubuntu?
  • Ultimately, this game was just the two teams feeling each other out. The Lakers started to get used to the Celtics’ physical play while the Celtics got to see the Lakers’ motion offense (which they were able to adjust to in the second half and force more isolation plays.) From here on out the series starts with both teams making adjustments.
  • Speaking of adjustments, one way for the Lakers to fix their rebounding issues and stagnant offense is to get Lamar Odom more involved in the offense. That should motivate him in other parts of the game such as boxing out, and make the Celtics pay for leaving him at any time. The Celtics should just keep running the offense thru Paul Pierce and keep the floor spaced to make the Lakers pay for double-teaming him.

June 5, 2008

Finals Preview

Filed under: NBA Finals, NBA Previews — siddhant2001us @ 5:44 PM

This is going to be a great NBA Finals. Let’s get straight into the position-by-position breakdown, except with so much switching from offense to defense instead of the usual point guard through center breakdowns, we’ll be using ball handlers, swing men, and big men.

Big Men: This is going to be a fun match up with both teams throwing out some very talented big men on the floor. Starting for the Lakers will be Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol and they will use their quickness and speed to cause problems for the Celtics Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins whose forte is strength and power. When the Lakers are on offense, Lamar Odom will be dealing with Kevin Garnett. Odom has to force KG to stay on him at all times, not allowing him to cheat and help on Gasol, Kobe or any other Laker that tries to drive or cut. The best thing he can do is go right at KG every once and a while to keep him honest and then otherwise stay on the perimeter to keep him out of the paint. With KG being occupied with Odom, Pau Gasol must abuse Kendrick Perkins to give the Lakers an advantage. Perkins is much stronger with Gasol, but if Gasol gets any chance to face him up or start off from the high post, he should win that battle every time. Gasol (and Odom if the Celtics switch KG onto Gasol) must get the ball and force the Celtics to double him and open up whenever Perkins is on him to open the ball up for everyone else. When the Celtics have the ball, KG is going to be guarded by Gasol. Gasol will try to use his length to bother KG, but if KG goes right at him, Gasol will quickly find himself on the bench with foul trouble. Luckily, for the Lakers, KG is much more likely to settle for jumpers. Perkins being guarded by Odom is interesting, because there is no way that Odom should be able to guard him in the low post. Perkins isn’t a great offensive talent, though, and won’t get the ball too much. He should still be able to score by getting a lot of offensive rebounds and put backs. Ronny Turiaf (Lakers) and PJ Brown (Celtics) are the primary backups, and both are really only going to play to give the starters a rest and for their rebounding. Speaking of rebounds, the Celtics should get plenty of them as they are stronger than the Lakers and can get better position.

Advantage: Celtics

Swing Men: The Celtics will start Ray Allen and Paul Pierce against the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Vladimir Radmanovic. Allen should start off on Kobe and make him work on defense by going through numerous screens. Meanwhile, Radmanovic will be trying to use his length to bother Paul Pierce, who’ll go right at him, so Radmanovic should only play 15-20 minutes a game this series. Luke Walton will also be mostly ineffective against Pierce, which is why Trevor Ariza might see decent minutes this series. Ariza has the length, speed, and strength to battle Pierce and make him work for his points. The Celtics main back up here is James Posey who won’t contribute much on this end other than the odd three pointer every once and a while. In crunch time, the Lakers will play Sasha Vujacic along side Kobe, so Kobe should also take a turn guarding Pierce during the end game. When the Lakers have the ball, the Celtics have some interesting choices to make. Neither Pierce nor Allen can stay with Kobe, with Allen being much worse than Pierce in that regard now that his legs are shot. The best match up they have here is to have Posey on Kobe because Posey is a good defender who has been to the finals before and thus knows what it takes to win. Another choice they can have is to have Allen on Kobe. Allen is a terrible defender, which is something Kobe knows all about. So why put Allen on the best player in the NBA? Since Kobe understands he can drop 60 on Allen if he tries hard enough, he may be inclined to take a lot of shots and ignore the offense. This throws the Lakers offense off by having the other players mostly just stand around and do nothing. This in turn lowers their defensive intensity, as players tend to slack off their defense and rebounding when not involved in the offense. Therefore, Kobe must keep his ego in check and allow the offense to flow for most of the game before taking over only when truly needed. The rest of the Lakers swingmen must keep their spacing up and be ready to knock down open jumpers or hit the cutters with passes.

Advantage: Lakers, although it’s slight

Ball Handlers: This is a match up between the Celtic’s young Rajon Rondo and the Lakers’ experienced Derek Fisher. In time, Rondo should be an all star. He is quick and supremely talented and should be able to stay with Fisher as long as he stays focused. Luckily, for the Lakers, he won’t stay focused and he can’t consistently knock down his midrange and out jumpers. Fisher, being a savvy veteran, will take full advantage of that. He can back down the smaller Rondo and make him pay for trying to double anyone else by knocking down the three (he’s shooting around 56 percent for the postseason!). Jordan Farmar will come in to give Fisher a rest, and his athleticism should match up well against Rondo. The problem for the Celtics is that they don’t really have a back up for their young point guard. Sam Cassell and Eddie House will give it a shot, but whenever they are on the floor, the Lakers will attack their dribble and force turnovers. Rondo will have to play big minutes and play well to neutralize the Lakers advantage here.

Advantage: Lakers

Coaches: Phil Jackson understands how to use his lineups and make his adjustments. Doc Rivers can’t really do either that well. Both are good at getting their teams to play hard, but there really isn’t much to say here. Phil Jackson is a much better coach than Doc Rivers and has the experience to run rings around him.

Advantage: Lakers

That’s pretty much it. This is a match up between the Lakers’ league best offense against the Celtics’ league best defense. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch but in the end, the Lakers have Kobe and Phil Jackson. That should be enough to win the series.

Prediction: Lakers in 6

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