Archives For December 2008

Preview & Chat: The Boston Celtics

Kurt —  December 25, 2008


Records: Lakers 22-5 (1st in the West) Celtics 27-2 (1st in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.4 (3rd in league) Celtics 110.4 (5th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.5 (4th in league) Celtics 98.6 (1st in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Celtics Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

No big breakdown, this game has had nearly as much hype as Santa today.

Just sit back and enjoy this one. Remember that over at TrueHoop Kevin Arnovitz is live blogging all five games today, because he loves basketball or is a masochist (or some combination of those two).

I leave you with a few thoughts from Gatinho on the Lakers on Christmas day:

In ‘88, ‘02, and ‘03 the Lakers lost on Christmas and won the Championship

This will 35 times that the Lakers have played on Christmas dating back to 1949.

This will be the fourth time playing the Celtics.
(’51 L, ‘55 W, ‘70 W)

The Celtics will be playing in their 25th Christmas game, only one of those games has been played in Boston.

Among Laker opponents on Christmas are the Fort Wayne Pistons, Indianapolis Olympians, and the San Diego Rockets.

Talking With Celtics Blog

Kurt —  December 24, 2008
NBA Finals Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics

For a little Christmas Eve treat, I went to the font of all Celtics knowledge, Jeff, the force behind the brilliant Celtics Blog. I asked him a few questions (and I answered a few as well at his site).

Enjoy.

1. What is Rondo drinking and where can I get some? Is the improvement in his game due to some a new wrinkle in his game, or is it just confidence?

The Rondo Cocktail:
1 part experience – I’m a big believer in the concept that most point guards need a couple years to learn the pro game.
1 part familiarity – Everyone talks about the Big Three learning to play with each other. Few think about how well Rondo, Perk, and the bench had to learn their place in the flow of the offense.
1 part Championship swagger – Nobody puts this kid in awe, at least not anymore.
1 part coach’s confidence – He’s not looking over his shoulder anymore. He just runs the show.

Mix all these new ingredients with what he already had last year (speed, quickness, vision, savvy, creativity) and you have what he’s become. One of the best point guards in the league. It sounds odd calling him that without adding “the potential to be” before it. We’ve been waiting on young talent like Perk and Rondo for so long that it is almost surreal to see them realize their potential. There’s no other way to put it, we are all proud of him and we can’t wait to see just how good he can get.

2. Without Posey, how big a concern is depth? I see the starters are playing more minutes than they did last year, at their age how big an issue is that.

The bench has been up and down. Missing Posey definitely takes away a steadying veteran presence. So far during the regular season it hasn’t hurt us in terms of wins and losses (obviously). The true test will come in the postseason. We’ve counted on different players to step up from game to game and that is going to be even more important in the playoffs. There have been a number of games this year where nobody stepped up, so that does put more pressure on the starters. Doc has done a good job for the most part keeping the Big Three’s numbers reasonably down (the season numbers are actually not far off last year’s pace). But it would be nice if the bench could develop more of a rhythm and identity to take some pressure off the starters.

{ed. note, Jeff is right and I was off, the minutes for the big three are basically flat with last year’s season averages.}

3. The Cavs look good, just how concerned is Celtics Nation about them? Any one else that does or should concern you?

The Cavs were a PJ Brown jump shot away from knocking us out of the playoffs last year. This year they look a lot better. They have LeBron. I think most Celtics fans are very confident that we have the best team and we will win another title this year. However, nobody is looking past the Cavs. They are a very legitimate threat and if anyone is going to take us out, it would be them.

Nobody else really comes close. The Pistons are planning for the future. The Magic are good, but somehow they don’t quite click. The Hawks give us fits with their athleticism and matchups, but at the end of the day the Celtics are the better team and that matters in the playoffs.

Records: Lakers 22-5 (1st in the West) Hornets 16-7 (2nd in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.3 (3rd in league) Hornets
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.5 (4th in league) Hornets
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hornets Chris Paul, Rasual Butler, Peja Stojakovic (a game time decision), David West, Tyson Chandler.

Lakers notes: Just a couple quick thoughts out of last night:

It was another win that was not very pretty, but after the last couple of games I’ll take that W.

If you ever watch a baseball player who is in a hitting slump, it seems right before they break out of it they have a couple of games where they just hammer the ball but right at fielders for outs. Lamar Odom looked like that to me last night, it was the most aggressive he has been in a while, but all the benefits of that did not show up. (He was a team best +18, but 15 of that came in the run to end the game). I hope it continues.

More Sasha at the backup point, please.

Personally, I’m sort of done with the Luke as a starter experiment, but I’m not sure that Radmanovic is a great improvement (better shot, slightly better defense, worse ball movement). I’ve not loved the idea in the past, but maybe it is time to give Ariza the start, he is already closing games out. (Which is what matters most.)

Last meeting: Back on Nov, 12, the Lakers went into New Orleans and beat the Hornets 93-86. It was a vintage early-season Lakers performance, on the second night of a back-to-back they jumped out big on the Hornets early and crushed them. The Hornets end of the bench made a run on the Lakers end of the bench to make the score look good, but the game was never close.

Remember those days….

Thoughts from At the Hive:Rohan from At The Hive shared his thoughts on the team right now.

After a rough stretch to open the season, the Hornets are finally starting to hit their stride. Their offensive efficiency is almost on par with last year’s, but more impressively, the defensive efficiency has ticked up despite Tyson Chandler missing time. The primary reason seems to be more forced turnovers. Obviously, Chris Paul is getting a lot of the attention for his league leading steals rate. But the team is also forcing more shot clock violations per possession than last year. Also, the addition of James Posey has led to far more drawn charges as you might expect. As Tyson gets more consistent minutes, I think we’ll see the Hornets’ increased allowed FT/FG return to last year’s (very) low levels. For now, this is a top 10 defensive team. They’re certainly not at the Lakers’ level defensively yet, but I can see them surging into the top 7 or 6 as the season moves forward.

On offense, the Hornets have taken a step back mostly due to turnovers and offensive rebounding. Chris Paul has had an unexpected uptick in turnover rate. I’m considering it a statistical anomaly for now, considering his very low turnover rates for 3 straight years. But I won’t be surprised to see many of our next opponents, including the Lakers, opt for the hard trap on him. The offensive rebounding plunge has been mostly due to Tyson Chandler’s absence. He’s missed time this year for his ankle, for his kid, and for his neck- quite the medley of random ailments. Excluding Chandler, the Hornets are not a very good offensive rebounding team anyway, so Tyson’s absence has left a gaping hole. Recently, the team has been on the O-boards more frequently. Still, this team still has a ways to go before reaching last season’s offensive rebounding levels.

The Hornets Coming In: In case you didn’t see it above, Laker killer Peja is a game-time decision tonight. He has missed the last two Hornet games due to back spasms. Which really suck by the way, if you have ever had them. If he doesn’t start, look for James Posey to start instead. Not much of a relief for the Lakers.

The Hornets are 8-2 in their lat 10 (better than the Lakers 7-3). The reason is largely that NBA Player of the Week Chris Paul is hot as can be. In the last 10 games he is averaging 20 points shooting 53% eFG% and adding 11 assists. David West is feeding off that and averaging 19 and 8 over that same time.

(Off topic slightly, also 8-2 in their last 10 are Houston and San Antonio. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if the Lakers are playing well I don’t think the Spurs as constructed can beat them in a seven-game series. But Houston, if everything is clicking, could be another story.)

Keys To The Game: Last meeting, the Lakers got a little bit lucky: The Hornets got some open looks at threes that just didn’t fall. The Lakers can’t count on that again, and they have not closed out on shooters consistently at all in recent games.

Specifically, stay with Peja at the three-point line. I’m looking at you, Luke Walton, you were the king of sagging off your man last night in Memphis, tonight the results will be much worse.

The Lakers have to defend the pick and roll tonight to have a chance. The Hornets use Tyson Chandler to set the pick and roll to the hoop, or West to set and pop out for a jumper. What is most dangerous is they often do both on the same play, and allow Chris Paul to use one or both picks as he sees fit. As he probes and prods looking for his spot, the Lakers have to stay disciplined on their assignments and be quick in their rotations. The Hornets know how to play off CP3.

The Hornets do not run well, so the Lakers may be able to get some transition baskets tonight. Especially if the bigs run well.

Where you can watch: 5 p.m. start out west, with KCAL9 here in LA and NBA TV nationwide. Unless you want to use NBA broadband, in which case you get the Grinch tonight.

Preview & Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Kurt —  December 22, 2008

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball
Records: Lakers 21-5 (1st in the West) Grizzlies 9-17 (10th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112 (3rd in league) Grizzlies 103.5 (24th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.3 (4th in league) Grizzlies 108.8 (20th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Grizzlies Kyle Lowry, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur, Darko.

UPDATE: Jordan Farmar’s Knee: According to the Lakers team doctor and a second opinion, Jordan Farmar needs to have surgery on his knee, which likely would have him out a couple months. He is considering his options, which really are: 1) Get the surgery; 2) Let it heal naturally and piss off the Lakers near the end of his rookie deal; 3) give up basketball. So, I’m thinking he goes under the knife soon.

The Lakers may be looking around for a replacement in the short term, but the options are guys like Dee Brown and Troy Hudson (who only played great against the Lakers). Nothing thrilling. So we hope Jordan gets well soon.

The Grizzlies Coming In: I think everyone who watched O.J. Mayo the second half of the season at USC last year knew he had the game to play in the NBA, the question was did he have the head. So far, you bet he does. This is what David Thorpe had to say about him recently:

Composure is one of Mayo’s biggest strengths. And most of the time, composure in a player results from genuine confidence. Genuine confidence, as opposed to the type of confidence that is merely a shell covering insecurities, is born of hard work and successful practices and games.

Mayo and Gay make a good perimeter tandem and both are scoring 20 a game with True Shooting Percentages above 53%. Both can get to the hole then pass or finish.

One thing I’ve wondered in the little bits I’ve seen of Memphis — why is Darko starting over Gasol? Their shooting and rebounding numbers are similar (in terms of percentages) but Gasol just seems better able to fit in the flow of the offense. And, like his brother, he is used to the big stage.

One other question I’m curious about, why is Conley behind Kyle Lowry? Again the shooting and assist numbers are comparable, but Kyle turns it over more. There may be a good reason, we may see it tonight, but I’m curious.

Keys To The Game: Once again, the Lakers have an advantage inside. Arthur cannot stop Pau, and if Bynum shows up he should destroy Darko. But, will the Lakers get them the ball and will Bynum show up with some fire tonight? Good questions.

For a team that everyone says wants to get out and run, the Grizzlies don’t. They are 21st in the league in pace, the Lakers can and should control the tempo here. But watch out for those athletic wings in transition.

What they are is a team with wings who can penetrate, do it off the pick and roll, and that sets up their offense. Tonight would be as good a time as any for the Lakers to start defending that well.

Where you can watch: 5 p.m.,, KCAL 9 here in Los Angeles and League Pass and the usual spots nationally.

My Message To Lakers Fans

Kurt —  December 22, 2008

The Lakers are having a rough patch, have lost two games in a row while the Celtics are playing great basketball right now. So clearly, the NBA championship has been decided. The only hope the Lakers have is a major trade.

When things go wrong for the Lakers, and any team really, the first reaction of most fans is to pull up the ESPN trade machine and solve the problem as an armchair GM. Because, if the Lakers had a different point guard, who we could get by trading one of our three bigs who play significant minutes away, we could suddenly solve all our problems. Because there are all these lock-down point guards out there.

Do the last two paragraphs sound rational?

The problems with the Lakers right now are best solved internally, not externally. To put it simply, this is a championship roster, a deep roster loaded with talent at every position. The problem is not the makeup of the team. The problem with this team is mental — they are not playing hard every night, not playing smart for four quarters. It’s frustrating to watch because our coach likes to let his teams face adversity like this, likes to let them figure it out for themselves, to see that the roles he defined for them work if they just play them. That learning process can lead to painful lessons, but as you probably know from your own life those are the lessons that stick.

Two losses in a row and a stretch of mediocre play mean jack come May and June. People see the Celtics now and are amazed, and we should be because they are focused and playing great ball. They are also playing their old starters more minutes per game than they did last year. Will that come back to haunt them (remember those two impressive first rounds of the playoffs last year)? Who knows, But I don’t care how the Lakers match up with the Celtics in December, I care about June.

And right now, we know nothing about June. We don’t know how this team will weather the storm and come out on the other end. But if Phil Jackson’s history is any indication, maybe we should wait until he’s done cooking before we decide the meal is a failure.