Archives For May 2008

Lakers/Celtics First Thoughts

Kurt —  May 31, 2008

I can’t tell you how excited this matchup makes me, I feel like a kid five days before Christmas. This is going to be a fun series — the two best teams of today, two teams with a long history, two teams with great fan bases.

Between now and Thursday we will of course talk matchups and strategy, but also there will be discussions of the history and insights from the other side. I’m falling back on bullet points to get this all started, just to try to organize my thoughts a little.

• Kevin Garnett remains the main lynchpin in the Celtics attack — so far in the playoffs the Celtics are +22.4 points (per 48 minutes) when he is on the floor, no other Celtic is even in double digits. (For some comparison, Fisher leads the Lakers at +31.5 and all the Lakers starters except for VladRad are in double digits.)

• The Celtics are a jump shooting team, in the playoffs 67% of their shots have been jumpers (compare that to 60% fot the Lakers). The Celtics are shooting a pedestrian 44.8% (eFG%) on those jumpers, but the good news for Lakers fans is that they have held opponents to 37.9% on jumpers. If the Lakers can play that kind of defense on the perimeter in this series they will get the wins.

• Boston’s defense has been very good in the playoffs, giving up 101 points per 100 possessions. Compare that to the 109 of the Lakers or the 107 of the Spurs.

• The Lakers have been playing about 10 possessions faster per game than the Celtics in the playoffs. Part of that is skewed by the speed of the Denver series, but the Lakers would do well to push the pace. Perkins cannot run with Gasol, for example, and the Lakers bench should be faster.

• There are a wealth of Celtics blogs, befitting the large and passionate fan base they have. We’ll be poking around them looking for information to bring back, but the dean of those bloggers is still Jeff at Celtics Blog. A good blog, great community of fans (and Jeff is just a good person, even if I have to despise everything he stands for during the next few weeks).

• By the way, apparently after his last piece Celtics fans have disowned the “sports guy” Bill Simmons. I’m not sure we want to claim him as our own, however.

• Rebounding will be key for the Lakers, the Celtics are beasts on the boards. In the second half of the San Antonio series the Lakers started to really crash the boards hard, that needs to continue.

• Darius had a few early thoughts about the matchups worth passing along:

* I honestly think the Celtics will have to put KG on Odom and put Perkins on Gasol. Earlier during the year this is how Boston played us (except it was Bynum instead of Gasol) and I expect to see the same matchups. I think this works in our favor as Gasol is much more skilled than Bynum (and just has a much more diverse offensive repertoire) and Perkins is going to have his hands full with this matchup. I know that Gasol has had his offensive struggles lately, but I do not think Perkins has the savvy or quickness to disrupt Pau the way that Duncan did. So I expect us to run the offense through Pau (similar to the Utah series) and for us to turn up the execution on offense to make Boston work on D. This will also open up our high P&R offense with Kobe/Gasol as Perkins is solid there but KG is beastly. If we can avoid KG defending the screen and roll it will be much more successful. I also think that Odom is going to keep KG occupied and try to drag him away from the basket with our spacing. If we can occupy KG and draw him away from the basket, it will open up Gasol for more singled up looks against Perkins and also open up driving lanes for Kobe.

*I think Phil is going to give Rondo the Kenyon Martin treatment circa 2002. In that championship series, Phil made Kenyon a jumpshooter and funneled the offense to him. I expect Fisher to be our defensive roamer and for all rotations to come off Rondo. Now, Rondo has greatly improved his jumpshot (he hit a huge one tonight) and has gained a ton of confidence in his own offense. But he still prefers to drive and create for others, so I think if we make him the scorer it will do a lot to slow their attack and disrupt their flow on offense.

Pure

Kurt —  May 30, 2008

That is the word Reed used in the comments to describe this season and it’s the one I think best describes it. Pure. This was not the Shaq/Kobe era with its expectations — nine months ago we thought this was a seven seed team if things broke right. Maybe the first title of the Magic era had this feeling, one of unexpected joy (I’m too young to say) but this is the first time I’ve felt it.

Pure. That’s the way the Lakers run the triangle — much closer to how Tex envisioned it than any team has run it in while.

Pure. That’s Kobe’s game.

Pure. That’s the joy I feel today. That joy is everywhere. Tonight we’ll watch Game 6 in the East and start focusing more on matchups and strategy (and we can start that now in the comments, as we already have). But today. I’m just going to bask in this rare feeling.

Lakers/Spurs Game 5 Chat

Kurt —  May 29, 2008

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

They are not the best team in the Western Conference Finals, but you have to say this about the Spurs: They carry themselves like champions. They fight for what they have. And if there is one thing we can count on with the Spurs, it is that they will not go quietly — expect their best game tonight. If the Lakers can get up by 20 on them the tenor may change, but even then don’t count on this veteran and driven team to just roll over.

From one poet to another, there’s a fun interview with Ice Cube (It Was A Good Day) over at ESPN the magazine. No doubt he knows his Lakers.

Mag: First off, the Lakers look good, but is this team capable of winning the title??
Ice Cube: I think so. You know, now we gotta concentrate on having better situational possessions. Our clock management is not where it should be, and I think some of our rotations are a little stale. ??
But they got one on the road.?
Yeah, but I almost pulled my hair out when our first team was sitting down late with a seven-point lead, I’m like, ‘This isn’t the regular season!’

Take the Lakers starting five, and give me the equivalent rapper.?
I would have to give myself Kobe. For (Derek) Fisher, I’ll go with Nelly—he’s small with a tight, smooth kind of game. For Lamar Odom, I’d say DMX…??
Why, because he’s well-rounded like you? Sort of a Swiss Army knife player
Yeah, for sure.??
(Vlad) Radmonovic??
He’s somebody who’s kind of sporadic, kind of unpredictable. Maybe Old Dirty Bastard. Yeah. That’s him.??
Gasol? I don’t know any rappers from Spain.?
Yeah, me either. I’ll just let him rap.

By this point in the series there aren’t any secrets left (especially between these two teams). The Lakers know they need to force Manu right, make Parker a jump-shooter (forcing him right as well of possible) and crash the boards hard. They need the defensive intensity from game 4 that pushed the Spurs players out of the positions they like. Ball movement and increased pace will get LA good looks and likely enough points. Kobe has to trust the offense and not get into isolation mode. The Spurs role players have been less impressive outside of Texas, but if one gets hot (um, say Barry) the Lakers need to give him a little extra attention.

If you are looking for some good reading/talking points while waiting for the game to start (or waiting for TNT to avoid leaving the Ronny Turiaf cam on), check out this great post from Ziller at Ballhype about the value of combo guards. Or, read up on the various statistical player measurement stats and how they stack up. Or we can discuss Doug Collins to Chicago (last time Collins was a coach and had the #1 pick it was Kwame Brown, how did that work out?). Maybe the most fun would be to set an under/over on how much money Sasha is fined next year for flopping.

For more game day reading check out the witty and smart Brothers K at Lakers Blog or SportshubLA. Of course, there is Spurs Dynasty and Pounding The Rock.

Coming into this series I thought the Lakers in five was horribly optimistic, but part of the fun of this Lakers squad is how they constantly exceed expectations. I have a good feeling about tonight, and not just because Shoals is on board (and he is one of the bloggers I most admire). This team just knows how to rise to the occasion, and this is one of those moments.

Game 4 Thoughts

Kurt —  May 28, 2008

I told you we’d have an exciting game. This is a great day to be a Lakers fan.

I think Gatinho captured a key part of what is fun about this post season for Lakers fans:

I’d like to reiterate how much more fun it is to root for this team as an “underdog” and “new kid on the block” trying to beat the Champions and favorites. It may sound ridiculous, but when your team is supposed to win it is more of a relief when they do than a feeling of elation, and last night I was elated…

Credit to the Lakers for coming out with an intense focus and smart play from the tip-off. Sure, they gave it back, but that 14 point lead in the first quarter, the team’s early play, set a different tone in this game from any of the first three. The crashed the boards hard and grabbed 31% of their missed shots. It mattered.

Lots of other things, so I’m falling back on bullet points.

• Let’s talk about the obvious, the no-call on Brent Barry in the final seconds of the game. I’ll say again (this time to Spurs fans) what I have said many times before on this site (and made some Lakers fans mad at me) — if you leave the game up to the refs in the final few seconds, you get what you get. The Spurs had 47:58 to do the things that take the game out of the hands of the referees — hitting more than 7 of their 24 three pointers, keeping the Lakers off the offensive boards, and much more. I thought Fisher should have been called for a before-the-shot foul (two shots), but if you depend on the refs in that situation you take chances.

• Barry, Popovich and Duncan handled that call and the situation after the game with a lot of class. They deserve a lot of credit for that.

• I think we can safely say that was a poorly officiated game. I think all you can hope for is some consistency, a steady line of what is and is not a foul in one game. I didn’t see that Tuesday night.

• That was the most passion, the most intensity I have seen out of Pau Gasol since he became a Laker. Starting in the first quarter he was aggressive on both ends of the floor, and that was a big key in this game.

• Was it just me, or did the Spurs go away from the motion offense and run more pick-and-roll? Why would they do that?

• What I said some time ago about the Spurs I think holds true — they just don’t have the talent around the big three to make you pay anymore, and that is what hurts them. Those role guys got old and slow. Yes, Barry stepped up Tuesday, but outside the Big Three and Barry the Spurs were 3 of 10 from the floor, 1 of 6 from three and they were passing up shots (Horry, I’m looking at you). There used to be a day those guys made you pay, but that is not the case any more.

• Force Tony Parker to his right — he was 0-6 shooting from the right side of the floor. They key, of course, is to do that and not let him get to the rim (which is easier said than done).

• Nomuskles, thanks for the great in-game live blog. (Next time if I’m not stuck at the office I’ll try to pitch in some.)

I’ll be doing an actual live blog tonight. I’ll refresh the post as often as possible so that we can continue to have a good back and forth. We’ll consider this our little joint experiment. I’ll try and pay attention to comments as we go too.

Pregame – Sasha is interviewed by Sager and says he knows Manu from Europe and that gives him confidence. Someone mentioned this might be a possibility in the comments from game 1 or 2, so kudos to whoever posited that possibility. Lakers will obviously making adjustments tonight (I hope) and the Spurs will try and replicate the success they had in Game 3 with solid defense and efficient offense. I can’t wait.

Lakers starting lineup is the usual. Finley will continue starting tonight, which means we’ll see the Ginobili off the bench.

1st Quarter

11:41 – Lamar starts it off with a 20 foot jumper that was too far left (elbow out?) but Gasol does well to grab the rebound and finish the play.

11:17 – Radman gets a nice transition dunk off a SA turnover.

9:49 – Lamar wills himself to the long offensive rebound. Great play. The Space Cadet converts the extra possession into a nice jumper.

9:20 – Spurs are shooting too early in the clock.

9:11 – Kobe hits a nice looking jumper from the left wing. Nothing but drainage. Greg Popovich decides he needs a timeout. Lakers out to an early lead, 10-4. I guess Kobe won out, the TNT overtime cam is following Kobe and Tony Parker

8:49 – The Lakers defense is stifling right now. Great steal leading to a Kobe fast break layup. More of this please. thanks.

8:30 – Ginobili checks in a little early. Radman is tasked with sticking him on defense.

8:19 – Ticky tack foul called on LO7. He stood right in front of Duncan’s turnaround baby hook in the post and got called for a foul. Weak sauce. Duncan makes both. 12-6 Lakers still up. Lamar with a little point forward action.

8:04 – lamar is very active tonight going after loose balls. He retains possession by going after a loose rebound and draws a foul inside. Make one miss one? I could be wrong, but I think his feet used to be much further apart earlier in the year and he was having more success (think back to that analysis of Paul Pierce’s free throw form). Hmm… he makes the first one and the second!

7:43 – TimmyDtheReal MVP makes the long jumper.

7:06 – Duncan hangs his big head running back down the court after being called for a foul going after the offensive rebound.

6:50 – Pau has come with some great aggressiveness. He gets a great look inside and makes the tough layup. Popovich is quite upset. Lakers up 18-8. I got to say, having the audio from TNT overtime is confusing. The whistles on the internet come about 5 seconds before the TV feed.

6:27 – following a timeout, the spurs are forced into a 24 second clock violation. Tony parker didn’t know the clock. He’s needing to get into this game.

5:53 – Kobe is doing a great job feeling his way through the offense. Lakers run a dribble handoff in the post and Kobe gets a wide open baseline jumper that didn’t involve fading away. Money.

5:25 – Spurs look to be in a position to capitalize but Tim duncan runs into the long arms of pau and Horry fouls Pau on the rebound.

4:46 – Fisher still doesn’t seem to have the basket locked in. he misses a jumper from just above the circle. He needs to keep shooting, he’ll find the range.

4:18 – Luke walton checks into the game and gets called for a traveling violation. TNT shows the play from underneath the scoreboard and you can see how much Robert Horry doesn’t respect Luke’s three point shooting ability.

3:50 – Parker comes up with the steal and in transition converts the layup. 22-15 Lakers. Spurs making a mini run here without Lamar in the game.

3:25 – Fisher hits a prayer shot from the corner. Extra high arc on that one, even for him. He was asking the man upstairs for lots of help on that one. 25-15 Lakers.

3:19 – With Tony Parker at the free throw line, it’s a battle of the bald men as Fisher and Joey Crawford discuss the proper use of the forearm on defense. I wonder who’s going to win that discussion. Whatever luck we were drawing from Kurt’s stay at the office is running out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Spurs close the lead to under five by the end of the quarter, especially since Kobe will probably sit here soon.

Craig Sager’s suit is pretty loud. It’s a briht yellow color rivaling the Hornets’ alternate uniforms. Parker makes both free throws. 25-17 Lakers. farmar and Vujacic are in the game.

2:49 – PAU! PAU! PAU-WER! Pau gets the lakers another possession by doing an E Honda slap at the rebound back to a teammate and then he gets another rebound off of a Luke Walton miss from the right corner three. Pau makes both (kind of. he actually missed the second but Horry was called for a lane violation.)

2:29 – ginobili throws up a tear drop that drops about one foot from the rim. He’d like to RMA that one.

1:58 – Duncan to Pau: you can’t guard me. Duncan takes the ball strong into Pau’s grill and gets the nice layup. Shades of Amare on that one (but less fierce). walton turns it over on the other end.

1:37 – Lame touch foul called on Farmar against barry 38 feet from the bucket. Barry should make both. and does. 27-21Lakers.

1:13 – Pau is not Bynum/Dwight Howard. He can’t finish the difficult alley-oop off the pick and roll. That was a tough pass to handle and Pau doesn’t have boosties like his Airness.

0:49 – PHEW. barry missed the wide open three.

0:20 – Duncan travels his way to the basket and gets a dunc in transition. Doesn’t even matter, Lakers played no defense.

0:00 – Kobe gets away with his own travel but doesn’t convert. The quarter ends 28-23 Lakers. More LO please. And major props to gasol for his effort tonight. If he can continue at this high level, I like our chances.

On replay, the Duncan travel was very very very obvious. He took for steps by my count. Still can’t complain. even if he did dribble, the lakers weren’t even trying to stop him.

2nd Quarter

Phil blames the refs for the closing of the lead citing the ticky tack fouls.

11:38 – Ugh. Bruce Bowen does his Tony Parker impression. He’s forced off the three but shows off a little bank tear drop. 28-25 Lakers.

11:12 – Turiaf hits a nice jumper over Obert from the right elbow. We don’t need TNT overtime to see that one.

10:40 – Doug Collins says that Phil has taken Lamar away from working at the top of the circle and more along the baseline. I’m sure everyone will appreciate this change.

10:17 – ginobili is forced into a tough shot late in the clock. Great defense on the sequence by the good guys. Unlike Game 3, Ginobili misses it.

10:07 – Luke creates a great opportity for Ronny inside with a pretty spin move and dump off. ronny is fuoled and makes both free throws. Gotta be the shoes, Money. 32-25 Lakers.

9:41 – Great play by Lamar. He’s triple teamed (mismatched on parker in the post causing both Finley and Obert to help) and Luke cuts towards the basket weak-side. Lamar just throws it over the top and the Son of Bill finishes it off. timeout Spurs. 34-25. let’s hope the easy buckets keep coming.

If you watch the TNT overtime feed, you can see Eva Longoria looking on. Turiaf is the featured player this quarter! Go watch since he’s on the floor now.

8:45 – Spurs involve Horry and TP in the pick and pop but Odom just sags back to guard against penetration because he’s not worried about Horry shooting it. Luke gets a great rebound underneath the bucket on the other end and gets the nice putback.

8:07 – Lamar picks up his third foul going for a rebound against Horry and has to go to the bench. I’m not going to complain about the refs too much. Horry hits both for his first two points of the series. I don’t know how he’s getting minutes while contributing only two points over four games.

7:33 – radman takes his time to lineup the right, short corner three and nails it. 39-31. Important shot to quiet down the crowd.

7:00 – Jordan and Ronny go after the offensive rebound. farmar ends up with it and has the easy layup. 41-31 Lakers.

6:36 – Barry hits a long three pointer.

5:55 – Ho Ho Ho. Kobe denies Tony parker in the lane. Terrific play! Ugh. what a floptastic (veteran move). Farmar gets called for a foul going the other way because Bowen sold some sort of push. Ridiculous. farmar did grab Bowen first though. frustrating. 8 Turnovers so far. Automatic TV timeout. Lakers up 41-34.

5:30 – Duncan is a whiny baby. He creates all the contact against pau and misses the babyhook. Arms go flailing. No call.

5:13 – Pau does his best impression of a tree against the Tony Parker screen roll. He provides kleenex resistence and Tony parker ends up getting the offensive rebound on a Barry miss from three point land. And the foul on derek who lowbridged him accidently.

4:37 – the Space cadet is tuned into this game. He grabs the offensive reobund and gets the putback. Lakers are living off the offensive glass. 43-36 Lakers.

4:18 – timmyD gets the MVP chant at the free throw line. Aww, fisher needs a hug. he’s looking forlorn on the bench after picking up his third foul.

4:03 – Okay, that needs to be called, i’m sorry. Kobe was whacked as he went up for the shot. No call.

3:41 – What is this? Sasha going after a loose ball gets called for his 3rd foul. What a terrible call. barry just flopped over like a mackerel on the end of a line. Weak sauce. You cannot reward non-hustle by calling that foul. 43-40 Spurs are closing.

3:17 – parker makes a great move in transition against farmar but farmar gets called for another weak sauce foul. What is this???? these refs are really  not paying attention. Absolutely absurd. I hate to complain about the refs but this is just insane.

3:05 – Pau gets a weenie shot over Duncan to go. ends a littel drought. 45-43 lakers still up.

2:29 – Luke walton works extremely hard to get the ball in the paint from Gasol. What a great play by Luke to work his butt off against Ginobili. He draws a foul on Ginobili and he’s tiring Ginobili out so he’ll be less effective on the offesnive end. timeout before the free throws.

I am absolutely excited about seeing Hancock this summer (along with the Dark Knight and Wall-E).

Pop talks about improved defense by the spurs but they need to work on protecting their defensive glass. He says the smalls need to box out as well. Look for the Spurs to improve because that is why the Lakers are winning.

2:25 – Brent Barry has cat-like reactions. he just takes the pass out of the air.

2:00 – There it is! Pau goes to his post spin move quick and draws the foul on duncan. He didn’t wait to read the defense he just went. Soemwhere Stu Lants is saying atta boy.

1:37 – Another bullet dodged. Ginobili misses his right corner three that would’ve given them a three point lead. Kobe hits a nice jumper on the other end under control. Lakers up 2.

0:56 – Farmar comes quick the other way after a TP force (trying to draw the foul on Pau) and Tim Duncan tells him to hit the weight room. It’ll be the Lakers ball underneath the basket after the Lakers’s timeout. 47-45. Ginobili has absolutely houdini’d tonight. Lakers set up with four people on the baseline. walton pikcs up the loose rebound and gets the tear drop to go. What a great play even with someone hanging on his back.

0:33 – TP scoops it in after a little hitch. Froze the defense.

0:23 – SON OF BILL! in the post against ginobili, gino tries to flop and walton converts the continuation play. can he make the free throw? Nope. But Radman makes a terrific play to save it!!!! Sing his praises ladies and gents. It’s mamba time! 1 second left and hits the jumper from the free throw line. Ariza is in the game. Spurs don’t get off the shot. Great finish to the half. 53-47 lakers.

I’m going to grab some dinner. Play nice. Be back during the third.

Best +/- is Lamar at +14 and the Space cadet at +7. Those are good indicators of the game they are having. Spurs have a lot of guys in the minus right now. brent Barry is a monster at +12, though. Is this by design? letting Barry get his but stopping everyone else? I doubt it. The Lakers have just had some brain farts against him and he’s been hitting some three balls.

3rd Quarter

Public Service Announcement: Bowling on Saturday could leave your arm still sore on tuesday. Or maybe that’s just me. Yikes!

11:08 – Derek hits a nice looking 20 foot jumper over parker. impressive, but not convincing unless he can do it a few more times. That’s what she said.

10:32 – “bryant, with a strong move.” Lakers up 7, 57-50.

10:18 – Tim Duncan reminds of a trebuchet when he shoots free throws. He slings it up there almost. He misses the second one but Oberto gets the offensive board. Turnover! LO goes the other way in a hurry and Kobe hits a little floater.

9:45 – Bowen finds his range and hits a three from the left side. 59-54 Lakers up.

9:26 – Pau is wearing the hyperdunks tonight too. Along with Radman. LO is back to his normal footwear.

8:35 – Lamar gets a good-looking jumper to go from the left side. We don’t want to rely on that one, but it looked good here.

8:10 – Parker hits a good looking jumper of his own, fed by hip hop ginobili.

7:25 – That’s not his forte. Parker short arms a three.

7:05 – Standstill elevation from Kobe on the right elbow over Bowen. That was a feat of strength. bowen will live with that shot, but still, as a defender, that has to be deflating. Kobe’s rocket boosters just have more thrust than Bowen’s. On a sidenote, my sister says 27 Dresses is “kind of awful.” Word to the wise. Just thought you should know.

6:43 – RadMan is really involved in this game. He sags off Bowen on the opposite side and ends up getting a hand on the rebound funneling it to Fisher. Without him there helping Lamar, the ball would’ve gone to Oberto. That kind of play won’t make it into the final report, but the little things make a lot of difference.

6:15 – Maybe I take that back. Duncan had it in the post and VladRad sagged down with a hard double from the same side. the man he left, barry, you know, the only person who can shoot tonight, drains a three. After a duncan dunc, the spurs are only down 2. 65-63.

4:37 – After a suspect non-call on the Lakers end, Parker ties it up. 65-65.

4:22 – bowen picks up a foul for holding Kobe away from the ball. Great pass to pau streaking to the basket on the screeen/roll. And pau makes the finishing lay-in.

3:50 – tonight just isn’t Fisher’s night. He’s got to be a little fatigued. He fouled Tim Duncan shooting a 21 footer as the shot clock was running out. He hits Duncan on the arm. he’ll bounce back next game. fisher can take solace in the fact that he’s ripped.

3:29 – LAMAR ODOM makes a great play to get to the defense rebound and Kobe is cherry picking for the reverse dunk! 69-67 Lakers still leading. timeout for the bad guys. The fans shower him with a smattering of boos. They’re going to wake him up if they’re not careful. he’s played a quiet game so far, so I’m not sure they want to do that.

You know, I would hate to play against Oberto. he just looks like the kind of guy who doesn’t shower for three days at a time just so his body odor will discourage you from bodying him up.

2:18 – Offensive REbound pau! great feed to Lamar by PAU! two points. 71-67.

1:52 – duncan is going to have to pay property taxes because he’s pretty much living at the free throw line tonight. odom fouled him? I think it was actually pau’s foul but the refs prove that they aren’t watching the game. Lamar will sit with the lakers up 3 after the free throws.

1:32 – Vujacic is going to complain on this one. Don’t draw a T. ginobili in semi transition takes it into sasha’s chest and uses his forearm to create space. Sasha gets called for the foul for not being set. I can see that one going either way.

1:12 – Kobe beats Udoka and Duncan baseline for the easy jam.

0:49 – The machine got recalibrated. he finally hits a shot and the foul! A four point play coming up? Yes. 77-70.

0:20 – TimmyD takes his own “weenie” shot against Pau’s freakishly long arms.

0:02 – Luke walton with a contested three as time expires isn’t exactly high percentage. I foolishly hoped for better. It’s okay. Lakers up 7 as the quarter ends.

There’s a website called, Will It Blend? The theme  of this quarter should be, Will It Hold? Lakers need to buckle down and find the strength to pull this one out because the Spurs are going to throw everything onto the court in the last quarter. the Spurs have so much to lose if they drop this game.

4th Quarter

We start with farmar, son of bill, the machine, the space cadet, and pau. Spurs start with duncan donuts, the frenchman, barry, horry, and ginobili.

11:09 – Lakers start cold, missing their first tow shots. Tim Duncan makes a tuogh layup inside.

10:49 – On this possession duncan misses two layups. The spaniard really bothers his shots.

10:28 – vujacic gets tied up in the corner. Not a good play. He’s going to go up against Horry.  Spurs gain possession. turn over lakers.

10:02 – brent barry sold his soul to the devil tonight. Barry hits a three ball to pull his team within 2.

Since halftime, the Lakers +/- stats have become a little more pedestrian and the Spurs stats have mostly recovered. Finley’s the worst still but he’s been sitting most of the game, with Barry taking his minutes and making up the difference with a +18 so far.

9:44 – The MVP checks back in and immediately drains a jumper. If I had to bet, I’d bet on Kobe willing the lakers to victory tonight. He’s got that calmness to him that is quietly confident. But he’s going to need some help. Lakers are turning the ball over twice as often as the spurs. 14-7.

8:45 – Barry hits a leaner in the lane. As much as it’s not derek’s night, it IS barry’s night.

7:53 – Kobe explodes through a double team at an unconventional angle to get a jumper off. it misses but turiaf hustles for the rebound and draws a looseball foul. The extra possession isn’t converted as Turiaf misses the jumper.

7:23 – Lamar is really after those rebounds. Kudos to him for understanding the lakers need to keep Oberto off the glass. He’s the garbage man and he’ll make them pay.

7:01 – both teams struggling to get a bucket. 81-77 Lakers up after a kobe miss.

6:44 – Tim Duncan gets mugged by turiaf in the lane and no call is made. Duncan is furious. Well, as furious as a teddy bear can be anyway.

6:08 – ginobili hits a step back from the top of the circle. The fans are excited to see if this breaks the seal fo rhim. I say, no. Lakers up 2. 81-79.

5:35 – Farmar = too much dribbling. Lakers have gone away from the beautiful ball movement that was serving them like Alfred to Bruce Wayne, that is to say, impeccably. Instead farmar forces a ridiculously tough shot and Turiaf gets called for a foul going after the rebound. sasha and farmar are both showing their inexperience tonight. Fisher needs to stop sulking and help calm those guys down. Run the offense, play with energy under control and the Lakers should prevail.

4:52 – The Space cadet was out of touch for a moment. He doubles down on Duncan but he wanted to take Duncan tango dancing. His arm was all the way around tim’s waist. He gets called for the easy foul. I’m not sure what he was thinking, or not, on that play. Gasol gets a great feed to Lamar in for a dunk.

4:00 – Spurs are still in a drought as the Lakers are grinding.

3:51 – Lamar drops in a layup with his left hand on the wrong side and draws the foul. He makes the free throw to make himself 5/5 from the line. He’s focused tonight. Like a LAZER.

3:30 – Kobe is really good at dunking in transition. hahaha, okay, everyone in the NBA is good at dunking without anyone guarding them. he gets a steal and the lakers are up 88-79. Lakers need to not let up, but this is certainly encouraging. they survived the Spurs mini run and will hope to work on their carpentry (nails in the coffin) to close out the game.

The Muffin-Man says the big three are tired for the Spurs. i’m not sure i agree, but they aren’t punishing the lakers the way they did in the third game.

2:44 – Lakers get two possessions with a pau offensive rebound and more time drains off the clock.

2:26 – Fisher hits another jumper and the Lakers go up 8.

2:07 – Duncan Donuts gets too easy a layup against the non-defense of pau.

1:51 – Lamar draws the foul on ginobili going to the hole. Ginobili says, “hey man, i thought we had a little bond among left-handers here.” Lamar makes one, misses one.

1:46 – trying to do too much, barry throws the ball away in transition. great job by the lakers to harass him on the break, forcing him into a mistake.

1:26 – sasha is just a little bit off. He can’t hit the wide open jumper.

1:09 – Lakers should win here. time is winding down and the lakers have a five point lead.

0:56 – Lamar works his butt off to get inside position on the Kobe miss (forced it) and draws a foul. He’ll shoot two. Drains the first like he’s been doing it his whole life. and the second. lamar, can i have your babies? Lamar at +15 and Kobe at +9. Barry continues to drag the hearst uphill with a +20 but Finley and oberto’s -18 and -15 are too much to overcome.

0:28 – Kobe rushes it and throws up a bad look. manu hit a three. Tony parker takes the bad miss and goes length of the floor for the layup (lamar goal tended supposedly). Lakers up two.

0:07 – Spurs get just what they wanted. fisher shooting a difficult level = 10 from the left corner. The shot misses so badly that Robert horry gets caught off guard and the ball goes off his leg. It’ll be Lakers out of bounds with 0:05.6 left. If the lakers inbound successfully, the Spurs foul, and the Lakers make both free throws, the game is for sure over. If they only make one, it’s still a nailbiter. and if don’t make any it’s no good. Oh. I’m a fool for listening to Doug Collins. the shot clock never reset so kobe is forced to shoot a fadeaway from the left side. He misses badly and the Spurs will have 2.1 seconds to get a bucket. Let’s hope the Lakers packed in the powerade so they don’t suffer brain lock and give up a cheesy foul or an easy two. Oh my goodness, my heart can’t take this stress. I’m going to have to go on hypertension meds.

0:02 – barry draws all kinds of contact from fisher (brain lock) but the officials don’t bail barry out. If they call that foul barry would be at the line for three throws with his team down two. I’ll gladly admit that that was a foul and Barry should have been shooting three free throws. But everyone knows you can’t count on the refs to blow any kind of whistle at the end of the game. they act like WWE-type contact is permissable at the end of games. But let me be the first to point out that the refs missed calls all night and this wasn’t the only call they missed. They missed that Duncan travel most noticeably and a bunch of other stuff. It’s sad a the game has to end like that. fisher needs to not foul from 30 feet away from the bucket. He’s got to get his head in the game when for Game 5.

Lakers fans, take a breath. that was a lucky escape. Spurs fans, I feel for you, but I gotta go with Kurt’s advice, handle your business during the game and it wouldn’t be up to the refs at the end of the game to make a split second decision that could go either way.

I like our chances to go to the finals now. Crossing my fingers, toes, and anything else I can. Lakers win 93-91.

Lakers/Spurs Game 4 Chat

Kurt —  May 27, 2008

Tonight could be one of the best and most entertaining games of the playoffs — I just have that feeling.

Coming back home, the Spurs opened up the motion in their offense — that got some role players like Brent Barry open looks. They also had a fantastic game from Manu Ginobili, one that must have Phil Jackson thinking of giving Kobe some key moments on him defensively if it happens again (I’d be worried about all game only because Manu could get Kobe in foul trouble).

To counter, the Lakers have to stick with their men and be smart and quick in their rotations. The Lakers did a reasonable job on the big three last game (Manu was just hot) but they did a less impressive job on the role guys. Those guys can score with open looks — even Oberto. Darius had thoughts on this:

Tonight, we’ll need better off ball defense on the Spurs role players in order to get them out of rhythm. We can’t let guys like Barry, Finley, Udoka, or even Oberto get the type of wide open looks they got in game 3. These guys will make these shots at home. I know that they didn’t kill us in game 3, but they did hit some daggers and really had some shots that shut down potential rallies. (Note, I’m not even going to mention Ginobili or Parker. Those guys played the way they were supposed to play. Sure we can limit them more….I actually think we should give Ginobili the AI treatment and deny him entry passes all over the court and out to the 3pt. line where if he back cuts it’s into the teeth of the defense, but besides that just don’t let him touch it if you can.)

But as we said the night of the game, the problem was not the Lakers defense but really that the offense. Here, friend of the site KD is right — the Lakers need to get into the offense early, get the motion going rather than becoming a more stagnant team.

Tonight, that particularly means getting Odom and Gasol the ball in places they can succeed and players can work off of them. Bill Bridges had some ideas about this:

1. After 10 plus years competing against Phil, Pop has devised an anti-triangle defense that worked well in the last game. Play Pau straight-up, let Lamar shoot and use his man to give support to Bowen. Every body else stays with his man to prevent an open 3. Basically, the triangle’s weakness is that once that balls goes into the post, there is not much off-the-ball picks to free up shooters. Against other teams, Pau was doubled, resulting in a collapsing defense for either easy 3’s or cuts by Lamar. Played straight-up, Pau was looking for teammates who for the most part were standing around. This is the reason no outside shooter could get his shot off except for Kobe.
Only one sequence had the Lakers execute the last sequences of the triangle which call for sharp cuts to the basket by wing players with the ball in the low post. Kobe cut, received a bounce pass from Pau and dunked easily. Look for more of this especially from Lamar and Kobe. The issue is that to beat this defense will require advanced triangle. Not simple triangle. I bet Pau picks it up quickly.
2. Make Lamar an outside shooter. One of the primary sequences of the triangle is a pass out from the post to the weakside wing for a 15 footer from the PF. Think Horace Grant. The Spurs are daring Lamar to shoot this. Instead of giving the ball up and flashing to the hole, Lamar is trying to take it in himself against congestion resulting in a missed shot or charge. The Lakers need to consider switching hi-lo with Pau and Lamar and make Lamar work from the right low block as the primary (instead of Pau on the left low block) and either swing in for his hook or pass out to Pau (who hopefully can hit the 15 footer).

I had said after the last game I wanted to see Pau be more aggressive going to the hoop, but the more I think about it the more I think it is a mix of what Drrayeye and Darius thought as well — driving into a crowd isn’t the answer. The Lakers need to get Odom the ball in a better position for him to exploit mismatches, but when Odom gets in that spot he needs to attack with more aggression. Same is true of Gasol. Part of that could be on plays in transition or early in the clock before the Spurs defense sets, when mismatches can occur. Push the pace.

Along those same lines, the Lakers bench needs to come in, push the pace and get some easy buckets in transition (or in mismatches early in the clock). The Spurs bench players were energized at home, they played far more comfortably, and that seemed to make our bench guys recoil a little. Tonight they need to attack.

One other thing to look for tonight — the Ronny Yellowbook Cam. For some opposing views, check out Spurs Dynasty and Pounding The Rock.

Manu Ginobili was hot. Even-when-you-were-in-his-face-the-three-would-fall hot. Combine that with a more aggressive Tony Parker (getting into the lane) and Tim Duncan, and the big three accounted for 70% of the Spurs scoring. With those three all going motion returned to the San Antonio offnese, and Brent Barry helped open up the floor. All of that sparked the Spurs to an offensive rating of 112 (points per 100 possessions).

And I’m not that concerned about that too much, it was bound to happen in this series. The Spurs have those rings for a reason. But they will cool off a little in future games. More concerning was that the Lakers offense went into hibernation.

KD says the problem was Kobe took charge early and as a result Odom and Fisher (and to a degree Pau) went passive. That’s an old (like last season) chicken-or-the-egg problem with the Lakers. I personally put that less on Kobe and more on his teammates, they should not fold up because he decided to keep the team in the game early.

Some credit is due to the Spurs. They were more physical in game three (and the refs let them be) and were back to their long-time defensive strategy: defend the paint, defend the three-point line and make you shoot the midrange. The Lakers fell into that trap and did not attack the rim — on the season the Lakers made about 25 free throws for every 100 field goals they attempted, last night it worked out to about 9.8. The bench mob came in and, like all the Lakers starters not named Kobe, were ice cold. Take Kobe out of the stats and the Lakers shot 39% (eFG%), which really hurts on a team that wants to make you pay for paying too much attention to Kobe. Bowen (with Duncan backing him up in the paint) do a respectable job on Kobe, but the other Lakers need to take advantage of that focus. In Game Four, Odom and Pau have to be the aggressors and attack the rim, even if it means a few blocks. It also will mean a few made baskets and a few fouls on San Antonio bigs.

There are nights like game three when there is nothing you can do about a hot player on the other team (how other teams feel against Kobe all the time) but you still have to not let it rattle you and take care of business on the other end. That is what the Lakers failed to do in game three. We’ll see what changes in game four — because if nothing does the problems become much bigger.

• On a completely different track, but a very good one, the guys at Upside and Motor have a great idea — rather than have one of those online TNT yellowbook cams following Kobe, vote to have the camera follow Ronny Turiaf for a whole game. How much more entertaining would that be?

Lakers/Spurs Game 3 Chat

Kurt —  May 25, 2008

Past results do not insure future success.

No, that’s not the fine print from some infomercial stock-picking system. That is the warning for what will come today in game three — you can be sure this will be the best effort, the best game the Spurs will have played in this series so far. If you think a blow-out win at home is a good barometer of what will happen on the road against the Spurs, well, why don’t you ask Chris Paul and Byron Scott about that.

What has been amazing is that despite all the hype around the Lakers offense, through two games it is the Lakers defense that has been key (although the offense has been better, particularly in the second half of the last game). The Lakers have done a great job containing Tony Parker’s penetration so far, if you ask coach Anthony L. Macri, Jr., who wrote over at Basketball Prospectus:

In the second quarter, San Antonio made a more concerted attempt to get Parker catch-and-attack opportunities. The plan worked well in the sense that it did give Parker more penetration chances. The Lakers’ combination of Fisher and Farmer elected to push Parker toward the baseline as much as possible. This tactic limited Parker’s attack angles and pass openings. By forcing Parker this way, Los Angeles eliminated the vast majority of his options and caused the Spurs to slow their offense. In response, Gregg Popovich turned back to his tried-and-true traditional option: Duncan in the post. Unfortunately for Parker, this strategy turns him into a corner jump shooter, and the San Antonio offense ground to a halt.

The Lakers came out focused and intense in the second half, both on the defensive and the offensive end. In the first few plays it was obvious San Antonio wanted to get more middle penetration for Parker. However, the length and athleticism of the Los Angeles Lakers stifled Parker. In fact, the effect on Parker was so pronounced that the Spurs elected to put the ball more in the hands of Ginobili, with varying levels of success. Throughout the second half, the Lakers made Parker’s penetration a non-factor, so much so that he did not even look for his own offense. This was a recipe for disaster for the Spurs, and once San Antonio packed it in with eight minutes remaining, the game was over.

Then there is what the Lakers are doing to Tim Duncan, which Darius described in the comments:

The thing I like about our double teams of Duncan is that they are not hard double teams. We are not going over and fully committing 2 defenders to Duncan where the traditional kick out pass and then 2nd pass leads to an open jumper. All we are really doing is showing him the 2nd defender that’s waiting for him (usually Odom) and then zoning the backside with the other 3 defenders. This enables our length and athleticism to come into play…Odom is able to take away Oberto under the basket by using his length to disrupt passing angles and then our other defenders (Kobe, Sasha, Fisher, Radman) are quick and/or long enough to get into their rotations and contest jumpers. Did we give up a few wide open looks? Sure. But most of the time we are able to not only discourage Duncan from just taking Pau into the lane for the finish, but also still able to get back to shooters. (And on a side note, I also think this soft double is smart because it plays to the decision making of the Spurs. Duncan is too smart and unselfish a player to force anything against this type of defense. The right thing to do and what his reads tell him to do is: make the pass out and make the defense rotate. But we are recovering well enough that there aren’t really any open looks at the end of their ball movement and their roll players are mostly coming up empty.)

The guy who could open things up for the Spurs, who could create real problems for the Lakers, is Manu Ginobili. He is not quite the same with his injury, and he has not played spectacularly against the Lakers this season, but I think the Spurs will try to do more with him this game. They really have no choice. They can’t have him as a spot-up shooter, but right now he can’t even drive around Radman. Expect some new sets to get him the ball in a position he can succeed.

For the Lakers, this can be the nail in the coffin — win this and it is all-but over. The Lakers bench needs to play like it is still at home and continue to dominate the Spur bench. More importantly, the Lakers need to keep up the pace of the game or improve it — in the first two games the pace was in the low 90s, faster than the Spurs played this season but slower than the pace the Lakers prefer. If they can keep it up, it bodes well for today.

Finally, we will finish with this interesting point from Stephen in the comments:

Most NBA fans thought that the Colangelo/Stern tinkering w/the rules was going to give fast break teams an advantage and that the Suns were the wave of the future. What if the real legacy is allowing motion teams to thrive again? Players can now cut w/out being held,grabbed,etc. Teams using the old formula of waiting for a star to draw the double team and kick it out to an open 3pt shooter are routinely losing in the Playoffs to teams that spread the floor by sending players in motion and getting open looks. It reaally looks like the biggest indicator of Playoff success thiis yr is not who’s the better defensive team,but who moves more on offense.