Game 7 Watching, Plus The East

Kurt —  May 19, 2008

I guess I should start this out with some thoughts on Andrew Bynum (this is a Lakers blog and all). I think all we can do now is hope this surgery goes well, solves the lingering problems and wish him godspeed on his recovery. Having him back next year healthy and confident is what we need.

Tonight we find out who the Lakers face off against starting Wednesday at Staples (games then follow every other day after that until we have a winner). Sure, I’ll be watching this game and the matchups with a WWPJD eye (What Would Phil Jackson Do?) but I hope as a fan we are not treated to another 20-point blowout in NO.

Just a few thoughts about the Spurs/Hornets matchup. I think the most safe prediction after watching the rest of this series — the third quarter will be key.

For the Hornets, they need to keep Tim Duncan quiet, which means taking the risk that Fabricio Oberto might have a huge night. San Antonio has been willing at times to run the offense through Oberto in the post, and he has set up others and Duncan with smart interior passing — the Hornets need to cut that off, make Oberto the shooter. Bottom line, if Oberto beats you it wasn’t meant to be, but you can’t let Duncan beat you.

The other problem the Hornets face is Ginobili — they don’t have a good answer for him man-on-man (the same way they don’t have a good one for Kobe). He could just go off, and if he does the rotations and adjustments would open up room for Duncan and Parker.

On offense, the Hornets need a good night from David West — CP3 is a stud, but it takes more than one man to win a game 7 (well, outside of Boston). He needs to get some early buckets inside, he needs to force the double team, which opens things up for both Paul and Peja.

One other thing to watch — which bench has the better night. Neither of these teams has a great bench, but if one team’s role guys can step up it will be a huge advantage. I think this one is going to be close. At least I hope so.

After yesterday’s entertaining game 7 back East, I’ve seen a few people suggest that whoever comes out of the West should easily handle whoever comes out of the East. That wasn’t pretty, up-tempo basketball we saw yesterday, not like NO or LA play. But I’ll give you one reason the Pistons or Celtics will be no pushover:

Defense.

They both play it and play it well, which is why any team out of the East has a shot in the Finals (against whomever comes out of the West). Do you remember the two Laker games against Boston this season? That flowing Lakers offense came to a grinding halt, the Celtics clogged passing lanes and kept Laker players from their preferred positions on the floor. Yes, the Lakers are playing much better now than they were then, but don’t for a moment think the Finals will be a cake walk.

And, I think it will be Detroit in the Finals. Yes, they played the lesser opponent in the second round, but don’t they look like they have all the aspects of their game together in a way Boston only shows in spurts?

Kurt

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78 responses to Game 7 Watching, Plus The East

  1. I must say that I’m mildly surprised with how bullish lots of folks are on the Spurs. Yes, they’re the defending champs. But they’ve been the defending champs for nearly a year now. How come they haven’t played like it in New Orleans in three tries? Is it “fourth time the charm”? People have doubted the Hornets quite a few times now, and they’re still here.

    I’m not saying I would be totally surprised if the Spurs won tonight, but I still think it would be an upset. Apparently, I’m in the minority on that score.

    By the way, it’s Ginobili (or Ginóbili, for those of you who are accent-enabled). Two i’s. I know it’s a total nit, but it’s kind of a pet peeve, I guess.

  2. I am picking Detroit to beat Boston as well. Boston just hasn’t looked all that great in the playoffs yet. They still haven’t won a single game on the road, and I think Det is good enough to win on in Boston. At least it won’t be the Cavs in the finals again. God I hate watching them play. They need to hire someone that can coach offense.

  3. Kurt,

    Given that each team won three at home handily, we should expect a Hornet victory with an appreciable margin.

    What could bring the game close would be the adverse health condition of West.

    We could surprise and scare the winner on Wednesday if we imported 5000 “stand and scream” Utah fans to be on hand supporting the Lakers at Staples.

  4. I hear commentators continually ask why teams are not winning on the road this year. One of their own expounded on a very good reason (Mike Tirico), yet all the others didn’t even try to address his explanation, but went on with their questioning. This is my biggest problem with ‘talking heads’ – they spout off their ideas, but 1) don’t investigate the facts or 2) listen to answers others give them.

    Mike’s comment was that the quality of the league has increased, teams are much more equal, and there are lots of younger players in teams 2nd units. Home court is more valuable if teams are relatively equal and if the bench is not as experienced (usually play better at home). While there are other contributing factors, I thought his explanation at least passes the ‘smell test’ for answering questions.

  5. …2) Don’t listen answers others give them.

  6. 1. Change made on Ginobili, thanks. I’d like to blame that on trying to cut caffeine out of my life, but it may just be I was too lazy to double check it.

    4. I think that is a valid argument, and I thought I saw Hollinger or someone make it the other day in print. Basically, they said if the margin of difference between teams is really small, home court matters more. It’s as good a theory as any for the disparity.

  7. By the way, selfishly I’m rooting for the Hornets because then I can do more stuff with Ron and the guys at Hornets 24/7, which is an amazing blog.

  8. I think Kurt’s dead on in his post. I was shocked to hear some people saying the East wasn’t as strong, especially Laker fans. Does the phrase “2004 finals” mean nothing?

    I have the utmost respect for the teams in the Eastern Conference. Their defense is absolutely stifling. Let’s be very honest here – neither the Nuggets nor the Jazz are defensive teams on the level of the Hornets/Spurs, and this year I think the Pistons and Celtics are even better than the Hornets and Spurs.

    It will only get harder from here on out. Personally, I fear Detroit more than Boston. Getting revenge for the 04 Finals would be so sweet, but Detroit is so strong 1-5 and always seems to give us problems.

    Not trying to get ahead of myself, but I consider Detroit/Boston on the same level (if not higher, because of their stringent D) of NO/SA. They should not in any circumstance be underestimated.

  9. Before the series I figures that the Spurs/Hornets series would boil down to 2 factors , 3 point shooting and rebounding.

    Checking the numbers it looks like this:

    In EVERY game the winning team had the rebounding edge.
    In the Hornets 3 wins they out rebounded the Spurs by on average 8.7 boards per game. In their three losses, the Spurs out rebounded them by 5.3.

    In the three hornets wins, they shot 52.4% from 3 and the Spurs shot 38.3%. In the 3 Spurs wins, the Spurs shot 41.7% and the Hornets, 25.7%.

    We know that the Spurs rely on 3 point shooting (they’ve taken 25.5 per game) but the difference between their losses and their wins are relatively small. Statistically more relevant is the NOH 3 point %, a whopping percentage difference of about 17% between their wins and losses.

    So the game boils down to these factors.

    1. Chandler and the young NOH bigs will be active on the boards. Can the old Spurs bigs muster enough energy to box out and control the boards? Lose this battle and the Spurs probably lose the game.

    2. The hornets shoot better at home, especially from 3 point range. But will Mo Pete, Peja, and Pargo be able to relax and hit their 3’s in the face of game 7 pressure. We all remember Peja’s performance in the last game 7 he was in – not pretty.

    Should be fascinating. I for one would rather face the Spurs as Pau has outplayed Duncan ever since the 2004 Olympics where he completely dominated him and took him out of the game.

  10. This is a little off track, but this article from a San Antonio news website includes Robert Horry’s side of the back pick on David West (summary: more “wrong place, wrong time” than dirty play):
    http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/basketball/nba/spurs/stories/MYSA051808.Spurs.en.37bc346.html

    (My favorite line in the article is in the description of the play: “Spurs guard Manu Ginobili drove from the left corner, directly toward West. Horry, as he is instructed to do, wandered over to set a screen.” “Wandered over” – that’s our Rob.)

    I have a slight preference for facing NO in the next round, mainly because I think it would be more interesting. I’d rather see CP3 operating than Ginobili running wild, and I’d rather see how a young team (and coach) face pressure than the same SA we’ve seen so much in the past.

  11. This Little Pinky May 19, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I going to risk sounding like a huge homer, but the Lakers would have beaten Detroit in 2004 if Karl Malone had not injured his knee.

    I think there’s a strong possibility that the Jazz will be the toughest team that the Lakers will have faced in these playoffs.

    And even if the Lakers don’t advance, count me in the “West will beat East” camp for the finals. Barring any injuries, of course.

  12. Just reading this
    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2008/news/story?page=Roundtable-SpursHornets-080519

    Where do people get the idea that Bowen bothers kobe? Or “gets into Kobe’s head?” The only effect I can remember that matchup having is when Bowen torches the Lakers on offense because Kobe refuses to guard him. Defensively I don’t think he’s ever been much of a factor. In the past playoff matchups against the Spurs, Kobe was generally the top scorer for the team, back when Bowen had much younger legs. Now Kobe is smarter and sees the game better. The Spurs’ total defense might affect his percentages, but generally speaking Bowen’s defense on Kobe has never worried me.

    Tayshaun Prince, on the other hand…

  13. Following the lines of Bill Bridges’ note about perimeter shooting tonight, check out this post:

    http://hardwoodparoxysm.blogspot.com/2008/05/game-7-thoughts-spurs-hornets.html

  14. Good news in the closing lines of a piece Bresnahan wrote:

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakers20-2008may20,0,6392782.story?track=rss

    “Lakers forward Trevor Ariza, who hasn’t played since Jan. 20, finished practice today with a reverse dunk. He is expected to return to game action in the upcoming series.”

    We’re going to need his D and athleticism in the next round. It’s good to know he’s feeling well and expected to play.

  15. From a spectator’s standpoint I would love either the Spurs or Hornets because each team has a player that has the ability to carry their team to victory.

    Obviously the runner-up Chris Paul can dominate the game and can get whatever he wants. The play that dictates what the defense is going to do is the screen and roll with Paul and Chandler. Stop Chandler and you get a running layup or pullup jumper. Stop Paul and he sets up fat one for Chandler to ring home.

    On the otherside of the shoe we have Ginobili who is an absolute killer and is top 5 when he is healthy and playing at his highest level. His go to move is the jab step back away three pointer. When he gets a couple of those going watch out b/c he does the same curvy and queer movement that Steve Nash does to get to the basket. This is the opposite of most players b/c they usually go in straight cuts. This enables Ginobili to get to the hoop at will and is just a nightmare to guard.

    Bottom line I don’t fear NO as much because their defense isn’t superb like the Spurs whom I would be afraid of. I am afraid of the Eastern Conference because their defense operates at such a high level. Think 2004 Finals or even more recently the UCLA Bruins in the Final Four. The opposition was able to take away everything the offense used to get during the regular season. If we can still run our offense and score I won’t be worried, so that’s what I’m going to be watching for.

  16. Re: 11 , 12. Lakers win in 2004 and would still be smiling now had Kupchak drafted Prince, whom they worked out versus Rush, whom they didn’t. That one still gets me.

  17. This Little Pinky May 19, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Re:15. Bill, I didn’t know that the Lakers had a chance at Prince. That is something else. It would have been a double swing, because not only would the Lakers have Prince, but also because the Pistons would be “non-Prince.”

  18. Interesting how that Detroit team is almost identical to the one we played in 04 and the Lakers are almost completely different save Luke and Kobe…

    I think Udoka gave Kobe more fits than Bowen has lately. I also think I want the Hornets for that very reason.

    Hoping tonights game goes 4 OT’s…

  19. This Little Pinky May 19, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Re:16,17. Actually, Bill, I just looked it up and Rush was drafted by Toronto, and his rights were immediately traded to the Lakers. So I’m not sure that they really had a shot at Prince, unless you mean that the Lakers asked Toronto to draft Rush, in which case, yeah, the GM messed up.

  20. Bill, I will never understand Mitch’s seeming infatuation with skinny shooting guards who can do little else. At the end of the second round this year, I almost expect another. Just because.

  21. Pinky,

    Actually a triple whammy. Lakers traded their 27th pick + Lindsey Hunter for the Raptors 20th + Tracy Murray.

    Prince went at 23.

    Triple whammy as we also lost our best on-ball defensive guard in Hunter as well. Hunter signed with Detroit in time to help Prince defend the Lakers on the perimeter in the finals.

  22. I think when Mitch sees a skinny shooting guard he sees Pomeranians.

  23. speculative history is fun, so here’s my take: Orlando makes it out of that first round series, who knows what else happens in the East, and Detroit takes Melo, with the ensuing butterfly effect

  24. #11 is totally correct.

    The 2004 Lakers could have easily beaten the Pistons if Karl Malone, Horace Grant (don’t tell me 10 minutes of serviceable minutes from Horace is not better than the 30 minutes of useless Slava), and a healthy D. Fish (I believe he pulled a hammy).

  25. Re #17, I read somewhere that, had Pistons not drafted Prince, they would draft Melo next year, instead of Darko. With their veteran guidance, and piston system, I would guess that Melo might be a better player that he is now.

  26. I think that the game between SA and NO will be decided on the PG play. I have no doubt that CP3 will score at least 30 and dish out 12-15 Assists. That’s has pretty much become given for him. Question is what will TP do? If he scores 25+ then NO is cooked b/c I can not imagine Duncan and Manu going for less than 40-45 pts combined.

    I am sure Spurs will use every known and work-in-progress dirty trick to get into NO heads. They will try to slow the game down and perhaps even make Chandler shoot FTs and stop NO game flow with numerous fouls. That’s what they did to Shaq and Nash admitted he never found his comfort zone b/c the ball was stopping every 30-40 seconds.

    Another thing to look at will be how the game develops in terms of scoring. If it is a low scoring game then I would have to go with SA because I do not think NO can outperform them defensively. If it is 200+ points for both teams then I am going with NO because I can not imagine SA outdoing NO offensively. I think the key factors will not be D-West, Paul, TD or Manu. It will come down to who plays better from the shooters (Peja, Mo-Pete, Pargo vs. Finley, Barry, Bowen)

    Either way, PG play should be the Lakers biggest concern (even bigger than containing Tim Duncan). I do not see Fish staying in front of Paul/Parker. D-Will is an amazing player but his style is different from havoc-wrecking penetrations of Tony or Chris. I expect Sasha and perhaps Ariza (god willing) to play a lot on defense while Kobe will be pushing up the ball when the real PG is out of the game for us.

  27. I’m impressed with the way the guys closed out Utah. Nice, timely road win. I like San Antonio tonight because I think they have the grit to do what the Lakers did out in Salt Lake. The athleticism of the Hornets scares me, so I hope my prediction for tonight is true. LA/SA is a Laker win in 5 or 6 games, I believe. The Hornets would take 7 to conquer and it would be a tighter series. I just think they’re energy is sometimes tough to deal with. The Spurs are mostly out of gas, which is why I hope they can muscle up one more time tonight and get it done. It’s going to be interesting.

    In the ECF, I’m all over Detroit in that one. I don’t think Boston and Doc Rivers have the chops to see it through. I would love to see the Pistons in the Finals, the main reason being that I know Kobe hasn’t forgot that ’04 series and Mamba would be looking to exact some justice.

    Oh, and I’ll be picking up the tab tonight at the team dinner/viewing. Kobe’s done enough.

    Delusions aside, Detroit isn’t the team they were when they did us in back then. I think Flip Saunders is a bad fit for them. But, they’re still good enough to edge out the playoff mediocre Celts. The Celtics and Lakers can meet next year when they both have 72 win seasons going for them and it will be epic. This year, the title goes through Motown and ends with the parade in LA. Go Lakers!

  28. Will Hutchinson May 19, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Regarding #12: Bowen is the most famous “Kobe-stopper” in the league just because on numerous occasions at least in interviews when asked “Who guards you the best?”, Kobe says it’s Bowen. I don’t know if that shows up in the results anywhere. The only person I’ve really seen shutdown Kobe multiple games in a row was Prince in the 2004 finals. And like Bowen, Prince also benefits from being part of one of the two toughest team defenses of the last decade.

    That said, I think the defense in the East this year is a little bit overrated. I watched enough of the Boston/Cavs series – there we’re plenty of open shots that were just bricked. Yes, both teams work on defense, both teams were playing physical, making offensive players uncomfortable, mixing it up. But that alone doesn’t shut down a good, poised, well-executing offense, certainly not holding those kinds of offenses to 80 points per game or less.

    It comes down to the Cavs don’t really have an offense. And the Celtics had a fantastic offense during the regular season, but a few guys have had rough post-seasons so far and whatever the main causes of the disarray, they just don’t have a reliable plan right now on the offensive end that they can go to when they need it, and in trying to figure it out they’re playing pretty sloppy.

    At this point I think it’s the Lakers’ championship to lose, as long as they can keep executing on both ends of the floor. Everyone knows their place, and no remaining team can defend all of their options, nor present the Lakers’ D with an offense of their own that is unstoppable for 7 games. (The Celtics have the offensive potential, but haven’t proven they have the right plan to use it, and the Spurs used to have that range of unstoppable offensive options but they are past their prime. Still good, but not insurmountably so. And anyway, it’s an even numbered year!)

  29. If multiplication were non-commutative, the Lakers would have beaten the Yankees in the 2004 Stanley Bowl. Don’t you guys have anything better to do with your time?

    J.D. Hastings (12): Bowen still does a reasonably good job on Kobe. And you’re always worried about the tweaked ankle when Bowen steps forth (and I do mean forth). He’s certainly more of a nuisance to Kobe than is Ruben “Kobe Igniter” Patterson. None of us really enjoyed the end to the 2004 playoffs, but before that was the end of the 2004 regular season. Didn’t Kobe hit at least one of those ridiculous treys in the Gasoline Can’s face?

    Funny thing about Tayshaun is that I don’t actually think he’s that strong of a defender in general (definitely above average, just not top of the league or anything). But he definitely seems to give Kobe fits. If it comes to that, though, I expect Twenty-Four to have something ready for him.

    Craig W. (4), Kurt (6): Definitely concur with Tirico’s explanation. Didn’t think he had it in him.

  30. I think Celtics and Pistons managed to hold even Western Conference opponents to below 90 pts per game, so I would not go so far as saying that their defenses are overrated and they appear to be good because guys in the East can not really make shots (which is mostly true). Lakers, Jazz, Spurs, Mavs all found it hard to score big against DET and BOS. So we have to give them credit for it. The question is who is going to prevail defense or offense? It has become like an urban legend that defense wins championships. But I also think that lack of strong offense hurts chances for winning championships. The way I see it if we take Chauncey out of his game (put Ariza or Kobe on him) or totally shut down Garnet’s passing lanes (both require good defensive efforts but it is not like Lakers can not play defense despite what Kobe-FAN Hollinger claims) then we should be OK. and I do not think think either of those teams can totally shut down Lakers offense. After all it is not LeBron’s one man show we are talking about here :)

  31. 29) That same season, Kobe obliterated Bowen in the second round of the playoffs.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=zjr2kNQVbXg

  32. Prince is just looong. And that alone i think makes you an above average defender if you put your mind into it. If all else is equal, length bothers players most (pippen comes to mind). Besides, I really don’t see too many defenders who bother others with footwork, quick hands and brute strength.

    I hope NO wins out. I used to respect the Spurs and their system, but it seems they’re more and more built on dirty tricks than they are on excellence. It’s like they have the big-three and a dirty pair to make a full house.

    Speaking of Poker hands, what would best describe the Lakers? Hornets? Celtics? Detroit?

    Detroit, four of a kind comes to mind (not that the players are alike, but how they function as a team), Hornets are like a back-straight (low cards otherwise, enhanced mightily with one ace)…

  33. Anyone know anything raptorsnation?

  34. 32. 2 and 7 suited before the flop, straight draw on the flop, nothing doing on the turn, flush on the river.

  35. Man… Worst case scenario about to unfold. I really don’t want the Spurs….

  36. looks like we are going to face the spurs…

  37. Chris Paul was my 2nd favorite player in the league behind Kobe, but I’ve lost some respect for him watching this series (not for his game, but him). The best way to describe his personality on the court is “whiny.” He flops as bad as anyone, but he’s not European so he doesn’t get slammed for it. He constantly complains, which isn’t uncommon, but I think the best line of the playoffs was when he told Bruce Bowen “I’m going to tell on you.” Phenomenal talent, and IMO is on track to be one of the all-time greats, but his attitude is kind of irritating.

    (In today’s game 7 he’s been much better, I haven’t seen any whining from him, but I’m talking in general).

  38. One reason and one reason only that I do not want to see the Spurs, too many bigs Duncan, Thomas, Oberto for the Lakers.

    But you always get what you do not want. So it will be the Spurs!! Looking forward to the coaching battles, that will be the deciding factor.

  39. I think I’m finally confident enough to say:

    I’d rather face the Hornets.

  40. what the hell is J. Pargo doing with these jumpers???

  41. Pargo, making it interesting…

  42. One thing you really have to be impressed with about the Spurs is their versatility, their ability to modify their game to expose the weaknesses of the other team. They play a very smart game and adjust very well.

    Of course, that also frightens me.

  43. After seeing everybody else on the team have a chance at hitting a shot and failing, I now understand why Pargo is dominating the ball.

  44. everybody else getting the chance on a single possession I mean.

  45. Ugly, ugly fourth quarter.

  46. I’m glad it was a little close towards the end.

  47. There are no short-cuts to winning a title, so It’s fitting to have to go through the Spurs. I always figured we’d have to beat the Spurs at some point–it’s better this way. We may not beat them, but they’re the right measuring stick. Anyway, I’d feel much better about our chances of beating Detroit or Boston is we can withstand the Spurs’ D.

  48. The Lakers will be in the NBA finals, period!

    Lakers in 5!!!!!! It is Kobe’s Time!

  49. Kurt, the Spurs are just so methodical. They grind you with offensive execution and then play tough defense. You sprinkle in the unpredictable nature of Ginobili, and they can be a devastating team. But along those same lines they run hot and cold. They go on offensive droughts, especially when Parker is not hitting his jumper and/or Manu is having an off night. Plus, their experience is not backed up with athleticism for all their players not named Ginobili, Parker, and Duncan. And even though it doesn’t really limit the effectiveness of his game, Duncan has lost that explosiveness in his first step and on his elevation for his jump hook. They are obviously a great team. But yesterday I was saying that I’d rather face them because they *are* older with aging legs and we are probably the the longest, most athletic team left in the playoffs while also being skilled. And even though we may not have a natural coaching advantage (like we do in almost every other series) we at least have the past history with this team/coaching staff to the point where there won’t be too many secrets and execution will be king. I’m anxious to see if we can execute at that elite level. I actually think we can do it.

  50. Those who wanted the Spurs have ex-Laker Jannero Pargo to thank a little bit. Kudos to him for hitting some shots and scoring double-figures in the fourth, but jeez, how many possessions did he use? A couple of times, I had to check to make sure that Chris Paul — MVP-candidate Chris Paul — was even on the floor! In Game 7! I’m sure those clever Spurs baited Pargo into it, but still. I hope Sasha doesn’t get baited into something like this next series …

  51. That’s right Kurt. They can play the way the teams they are against tend to do (i. e. they run against the Suns) or they do exactly the opposite (today they handle the time and slow it).
    And, I don’t know why nobody gives credit to the Spurs bench, I think it’s very very deep (they have 13 players in the roster who played several minutes in the Regular Season).
    So Lakers-Spurs. A group of Lakers fans against all argentinian basketball lovers, that’ll be interesting for me.

  52. I think Odom will be the key to the series. Who is going to match up with Odom? And I hope we can use Ariza in spurts against Ginobli and Parker. I loved what he did against Iverson earlier in the year.

  53. just for the record,
    Jannero Pargo attempted 13 shots in the 4th quarter alone.
    Simply amazing when you consider Paul and West combined to shoot less than 10 shots in the 4th quarter.
    What was Pargo thinking??

  54. Maybe Pargo was thinking… “West is playing horrible, Paul has a lot of trouble to find the rim, Stojakovic -as usual- it is only shooting air balls and nobody wants the ball… What shoul I do?”

  55. No, Chris Paul is the point guard and the MVP runner-up, what was he thinking?

    He hollers, whines and screams about everything else, why would he not demand and take shots…. ONE reason, he froze up and did not want the responsibility.

    That’s why you do not anoint a player as the next, best until they have proven that they are worthy. We got angry with Kobe for his consecutive airballs against the Jazz when he was young, but at least he was and has always been willing to take the big shots!

  56. Warren Wee Lim May 19, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Its San Antonio for us and I sure jinxed your dream dates with NOOCH.

    Seriously, the Spurs had as much chance to lose that game than how they won it. New Orleans showed youth and inexperience, San Antone showed poise. In the end, the tougher (not better) team won.

    For all of us that want the Lakers to “win-it-all”, remember, this is the toughest 4-team rotation it will ever be. Detroit, Boston, San Antonio are all known for stiffling D and for that reason, while many are optimistic, its funny how we are mentioning meeting the Pistons in the Finals.

    There are but 4 permutations left:
    LA – DET
    LA – BOS
    SA – DET
    SA – BOS

    IMO, I could not place a particular weight into one team “favored” to come out of the other. Aside from the usual signs (which favor LA and DET), this is one heckuva season for the NBA where the fan in us could most proudly say, “where the best teams happens”.

    And then there were four…

  57. This is going to be a tough series for the Lakers. You could say that the Spurs’ offense is kind of a liability; but their offensive rebounding prowess can compensate for their inconsistent shooting. Poor rebounding hurt us against Utah, and it may be too late for the Lakers to improve in this aspect of the game.
    Good rebounding will limit the Spurs to 1 shot and allow the Lakers to get out and run. This versatile Laker team will be able to run or grind it out with the Spurs, but they’ll be crippled if they don’t clean up on the glass.

  58. laughing hard May 19, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    I’m sure the possibility of another San Antonio-Detroit NBA finals is haunting David Stern’s nightmares =)

  59. Now it’s clear why I wanted the Hornets… because we weren’t gonna get them. Too bad this wasn’t a 5 game series where the underdog may advance.

    Anyway, unless we revert to being Lakobes, I think we’ll get them in 6. I don’t think the Jazz were any less talented or less determined, and I honestly don’t think we can be outrebounded as badly as we were.

    As reasonable I think 6 is, for some odd reason, I’m thinking 5. Of course all of this will go out the window if we lose Game 1. But still, i see a 5 game series for some reason :)

  60. Lakers – Detroit

    Spurs – Detroit

    Lakers – Celtics

    Celtics – Spurs

    I sincerely hope #3 is the outcome. The others just won’t interest me…except for the Celtics/Spurs matchup…and the Lakers/Det for obvious reasons…

  61. Bring on San Antonio, I say, but let’s spare everyone the “Lakers will win because they beat Boston in ’87” or “The Spurs are great and will win because Bowen shut down Kobe in that series in 2003″ crap.

    None of that stuff matters anymore. The past is past, and it’s different players, different dynamics. It’s 2008, so spare us the talk about, “If Karl Malone hadn’t been hurt…”

    Boston is not playing at a championship level right now, so Detroit seems logical to represent the East. As good as the Spurs can be, I see them wearing down against L.A. The Lakers have younger legs, a deeper bench and they’ll be better rested. Anyone who’s played basketball knows how hard it is when your legs have no lift, and at this time in the year, 82 games, plus preseason, plus playoffs, it all adds up.

    I look forward to seeing Farmar, Sasha and the Bench Mob playing a key role in taking L.A. back to the Finals. Lakers in five.

  62. 56 –

    Actually, the series favors LA vs. Boston. Boston has yet to lose at their crib this season. I think I will wisely take Boston in 7.

    I actually hoped to get the Spurs, but here’s why. There is no athleticism in their bigs. Duncan is the Big Fundamental (not athlete), Oberto, and Thomas. Two guys who will foul our bigs.

    If I were PJ I’d purposely play Gasol in the high post, 15 feet from the elbow. Let him pass to a streaking Odom, Vlad, or Kobe and let their bigs amass fouls. If Duncan helps, Gasol can role to the bucket.

    I’d also get into the MVPs head and tell him to keep an eye on Bowen. As soon as he drifts near the 3, you need to be out there. He swatted the Hornets tonight.

    I would also force Ginobili and Parker to take jumpshots.

    I think if the Lakers successfully operate like this, they win in 5. San Antonio will have a good shooting night in Game 3 or 4 that the Lakers will gladly give them.

  63. The “parity” explanation for the home team always winning is totally ridiculous. The celts and pistons were significantly better than the other 6 teams during the reg season.

    Why is blaming the refs/nba so taboo?

  64. Warren Wee Lim May 19, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    I guess its just optimism that we say “Lakers in 5″ but the Spurs came out and destroyed (the weakened and slowed) Suns, and came to conquer (the surprising but definitely good) Hornets. This will be a classic and I can see the Jazz performance being replicated here.

    If San Antone gets away with a split in Staples, my hate and respect for that team tells me so, we obviously can take a game from their building too. So its not that I’m worried, but the Spurs are tougher than some of us here make them out to be.

    Game 1 will clearly be an indicator of “who” we are. If he Kobe-rize them, then SA will have a shot. If we play them as we played the Jazz, with emphasis on Odom and Pau on the early going and Kobe in the 4th, we shall emerge victorious.

    I can’t wait for Reed, Darius and Bill Bridges’ statline talk, and of course, nomuskles Live Blog. Bro, the girlfriend takes a backseat ok? Live Blog = more important. :)

  65. I am looking forward to the chess match between Phil and Pop. Pau has to step up big against Duncan in this series.

  66. Barkley had a good point about the Lakers bigs making life miserable for Parker (who ate up the Hornets at times). Yes, Farmar will have his troubles defending Parker on the perimeter, but Fisher did a fine job on WIlliams, who is arguably the tougher draw (and a bigger guard). Once Parker penetrates, the Lakers’ interior length will cut down his options and he’s going to be forced into a lot more kickouts. This is where L.A. will need to be at its best: rotating to cover open shooters. Unfortunately, this not the Lakers strongest suit. Which is why I’m really hoping that Ariza is able to play effectively in limited minutes. If PJ has the option of bringing him in to cool down their shooters in a few key stretches, it will really help the starters focus on doing what they do best: driving the score up. Pace will be hugely important, because if the Lakers can get up to 105-110 on a regular basis, the Spurs will not be able to match that output.

  67. I think a key to playing SA is not letting them get any sizable lead throughout the game. They tend to get a lot of little runs, where they get 4pts up on you for a while, then 8pts up for a while, then 10pts up. That’s how they wore down NO in this game. No long streaks, just grind ‘em out 4 at a time. We need to respond to their streaks of 4 with a streak of 6 of our own and I think their legs will then show their age because they will be playing from behind all night. That’s when the 4th qtr – and Kobe time – can keep them in their place. They just kept adding just a smigen more pressure each quarter until NO panicked in the 4th.

    This series is really going to be where Kobe and Fish really earn their money – not by scoring, necessarily – but by using just the right antidote to their slowly increasing pressure.

  68. All respect due to the Spurs, I think the Lakers can pull it off in 5-6. I’m open to a sweep and I think, with a dominating Lakers, it is actually possible. Actually, I’m more concerned with who emerges from the East. Detroit, when in an offensive groove, can be dangerous. They can be the spoiler here again. Boston played us without Pau. I remember how frustrated Andrew was the second time around. But things are different now. The Lakers are riding high and Boston is playing exposed and vulnerable. Look for Pierce to pump more chests out of necessity. I’ve always wanted to see the Lakers dominate the postseason the way they did San Antonio in 2002. There are so many factors to be considered here. Most crucial is how Phil and the Lakers decide to win. If Kobe sets a trend by making a trail of destruction by himself, that’s good but not desirable in the long-run. We better play good team ball, hurting the Spurs in spurts and mounting double-digit leads that Kobe and the stars can maintain. Kobe will be Kobe no matter who, not even Prince, guards him. A determined Kobe that is. I think this issue is settled, he’s so near the top with so much drama completing the plot of his rise to power anew. I agree that Pau should play the high post as Duncan can surely make him miss or force shots down low. I prefer he roll free and have a dunk fest as before. Let’s not forget that Pau has an axe to grind against these Spurs from the past. I’d like to see a fire in him. I argued it once, I argue again that Lamar Odom can be San Antonio or L.A.’s undoing? If he torches like he did Phoenix a couple of years ago or becomes super consistent, then we’d be sailing. San Antonio will play to deny or strip him the ball down low. He should attack all the more and get the Horrys and Thomases in foul trouble. I am concerned at how Derek can keep pace with Tony Parker. I think limiting both Ginobili and Parker to jumpshots is much to be desired. I hope the Laker bigs don’t get into early foul trouble. Then there’s the bench. San Antonio looks thin and old. You have Oberto to represent that face. Their bench needs the spark the Lakers bench has. Walton, Vujacic and Radmanovich have to drain 3s consistently. Walton should break defenses down with crisp passes and do more than just smile around when he makes errors. Sasha should do better than 1-8. He should aim for 10-12 solid points and that can kill a low-scoring team like San Antonio. I also hope he harasses Manu to the point of making him a streak misser. Trevor can also be there. It’d be interesting if Phil plays 3 guards with Kobe at SF to harass the opposing guards and not giving offense at the same time. Vladimir, we plead he becomes more sure-footed and dead-eyed with his shooting. I hope Ronny does well with Tim for longer stretches and continually hit mid-range shots to keep Tim off the paint for long.

    But the Lakers better be ready to execute. Stretches of turnovers and relaxed defense will be our undoing and will not give as an excuse to win as in Utah. It’s the time of the LakeShow. I pray the Lakers realize the urgency of the moment. There’s no next year. The time to rise and dominate is now! =)

  69. As much a Chris Paul was an MVP candidate this year; can anyone imagine Kobe remaining in the background in the 4th qtr as much a Chris did tonight?

    It was mentioned earlier that the media (and us) anoint great ones too early, because (in my opinion) we want a new ‘star’ to replace the known one(s) we have become bored with. Besides, once people make it to the pinnacle we want to tear them down.

    This ‘lifting up’ players before they are truly ready is really wrong and we should fight it. While the MVP is elected for the regular season’s work, we really downgrade people if they don’t continue their MVP performances in the post season (see Dirk Nowitzki) and this follows them through the rest of their career. If Chris Paul had received the MVP, his game 7 performance could have cost him his reputation when all he needed was the experience. If he repeats this performance under pressure in the future we may begin referring to him as another Kevin Garnett – all talent and heart, but failing at key moments of the season.

  70. @warren wee lim. lol man. we’ll see. Wednesday i’m scheduled to tutor until 30 minutes after tip off. which means i’ll miss some. also the laptop is still in the shop. the next time i do a live blog, maybe i’ll try and get kurt’s permission to do an actual live game blog on the website and see how that goes. it might not be as funny, sometimes i pause the dvr to punch up a joke or finish off a thought. what do u think kurt? should we try it?

  71. live game blog! all for it, really. would be nice to have half dozen competent commentators instead of one or two.

  72. 69 – Nice point about CP3. He had a dazzling regular season and a good playoff run, but he is still a very young player with much to learn. Kobe would not have been able to handle himself any better at Paul’s age, but the Kobe of today would have found a way to close out the Spurs in that same situation (or at least he would have made a valiant effort in defeat). The MVP award was given to the right player this year. Paul will earn it when his time arrives… and make no mistake, that time is coming quickly.

  73. laughing hard May 20, 2008 at 12:02 am

    I’m not a huge John Hollinger fan, but he picked the Lakers to win in 5… I’m a pretty devout Laker homer, and I have a hard time convincing myself of that being the final tally!

    The ESPN crew’s picks can be found here:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2008/series?series=saslal

  74. I also think the Lakers can take it in 5. As good as the Spurs are defensively they just can’t score and I really don’t see them holding us under 100 anymore than 1 game in the series. That being said, it is a dangerous prediction because the Spurs are so good at finding ways to win. Still, I just can’t see them slowing us down too much.

  75. New post up, starting to break down the next series

  76. This will be fun. 7 of the last 9 NBA championships. It just seems poetically fitting we have to go through SA.

    One note: stopping Tony Parker is easier said than done. Our “length” will not deter him; nearly every team in the league has 7-footers. Chandler is simply a beast and very underrated as a help defender, and made life tough on Parker. To be honest, we can’t expect the same in the next series. We don’t have a single big who can bother Parker, and that’s the simple truth. We’ll have to make life as tough as possible for him, but our margin of error will be small. We have to control the other players. I think we can actually let 2 of their big 3 have productive games as long as we keep one of them and the role players stifled.

    I’m worried about Bowen targeting Kobe’s injuries. I used to respect him but I’ve realized over the years how he uses dirty tricks to make up for a lack of talent.

    Do we even have an enforcer on this team? The fiercest guy I can think of is Kobe. We need someone to hip check Bowen into the stands if he tries something dirty. Maybe we should send one of us to do it, even if it’ll mean a lifetime ban from Staples. Take one for the team!

  77. Jaaason,
    Detroit won a couple of games on the road. The Lakers have won 3 on the road,the Spurs have won a couple on the road,including a Game 7. It’s Boston that hasn’t won on the road-and that implies that Boston isn’t as good as their record indicates.
    Playoffs are about pressure revealing a team’s weaknesses as well as strengths.
    I think the long debate over who’s better,KG or Duncan has been definitively answered in this run. Duncan will take the big shot and KG won’t.(and I’m a guy who’d argued in past KG was best player in the NBA.)

  78. 77 – Still don’t buy the parity argument. Even if Boston isn’t as good as their regular season record would indicate, they’re still significantly better than the Cavs, (who wouldn’t have played postseason ball if they were in the West).