First Thoughts on Lakers/Rockets

Kurt —  May 1, 2009

I’ve fought off the urge to send taunting emails to all the cocky Blazers fans I know and thought instead it was time to start looking ahead to the Rockets and what we can expect from this series.

What follows are some broad strokes, and starting Sunday morning will come a more detailed breakdown of the series, (We don’t work on this Saturday because it is a holy day in our household — Kentucky Derby day.)

• While the Lakers won the season series 4-0 and did so handily, this matchup is really the first meeting of these teams with the current alignment. There was only one game after the Lowry trade, and the Rockets have become a better team as time as gone on with him. That said, the Lakers won that game without Bynum, Odom or ShanWOW.

• The Lakers need to push the pace. If there is one key to this series, it is for the Lakers not to get sucked into the grind-it-out, half-court game the Rockets want to play — the Lakers need to run. And not just for the handful of easy transition baskets.

Portland was very polite in the last series, waiting for Yao Ming to get down the court and for Houston to set its defense before they got into their sets, The Lakers simply can’t be that nice — get down fast and get deep position inside, create mismatches and guys are forced to pick up the closest man. Get Bynum and Pau so deep inside that not even Yao Ming can block their shots. Have Bynum set drag screens for Kobe. But don’t let Houston set up what it wants to do.

The other thing is you can still wear Yao down — he is in far better condition than he was just a couple years ago, and the crazy number of television timeouts in the playoffs help. But he is just never going to be doing triathlons. The Lakers did get to him this season, and with the every-other-night nature of this round the Lakers may be able to wear him down some. Gasol and Bynum can run the floor well, the Lakers need to push Yao and make him sprint.

• In case you didn’t see the schedule for this round: Game 1 at Lakers: Mon., May 4, 7:30; Game 2 at Lakers: Wed., May 6, 7:30; Game 3 at Rockets: Fri., May 8, 6:30; Game 4 at Rockets: Sun., May 10, 12:30; Game 5* at Lakers: Tues., May 12, TBD; Game 6* at Rockets: Thurs., May 14, TBD; Game 7* at Lakers: Sun., May 17, TBD.

• The Rockets get good guard play off the bench from Kyle Lowry and, when healthy, Von Wafer. Basically, the suddenly get guys on the floor who can run and create their own shots. Guys who attack the rim and get fouls. All that stuff Tracy McGrady was supposed to do but didn’t. This is going to be a challenge for Sasha, ShanWOW and Farmar (I do expect Farmar to get more run this series because of the tempo the Lakers want to go at). They need to slow the penetration and drive it to help.

• The Lakers need to close out on Rockets three point shooters or they will kill you.

• The Lakers cannot be intimidated into becoming a jump-shooting team. Take the ball to the hole.

• This final thing may be a little off topic, but it is too good to ignore. Courtesy Gatinho, a little trip down memory lane with Brad Miller getting under a certain Lakers’ skin.

Kurt

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90 responses to First Thoughts on Lakers/Rockets

  1. Looking forward for this series. Should be a good one. I think the Lakers match up well with the Rockets, they have the size to wear Yao down, and they play at a pace that should also do the same thing. Plus Kobe has been torching the Rockets ever since that ball don’t lie article. Now Artest said Roy was better than Kobe which just give Kobe even more reason to torch him. But my guess is that Battier guards Kobe most of the time.

    My prediction (assuming my crystal ball is working properly): Lakers in 6.

  2. I really hope Kobe doesn’t take the bait Artest set last night. Prior to last night, he said Brandon Roy was the best player he has ever guarded. The during an on-court interview after the game last night, the sideline reporter asked Artest if he wanted to retract that statement since the Lakers were the opponents. He reiterated that Roy was the best player he has ever guarded because no one else has ever dropped 40 pts on him before.

    Whether or not Artest really believes Roy is better than Kobe or Lebron is not known. It looks like he is trying to get Kobe to take the bait and go into a 1-on-1 mindset against Artest. We’ll find out if Kobe is indeed mature enough to recognize this and not let become a feud that gets in the way of the team ball concept.

  3. I’m looking forward to this series as well. Initially, I was hoping to play Portland just to see how the Lakers would look against them in the playoffs, but… assuming we make it to the finals, going against strong defensive teams (like Houston) will prepare us better than going against strong offensive teams (like Portland) in preparation for that final round. Houston will likely play Kobe straight up 80-90% of the time, so I expect a <30 pt avg from him in this series. Here’s hoping our centers can wear Yao down and minimize his impact on the series.

  4. *correction: meant to say that I expect a >30 pt avg from Kobe in this series

  5. PeanutButterSpread May 1, 2009 at 11:45 am

    The Boston-Chicago series needs to go to Best of 11.

    I don’t want it to end!

  6. Don’t you think the 2002 Lakers/Kings series was better than this 09 Bulls/Celtics series? both are damn good . . . . are we biased? =)

  7. All Houston does is grab and hold. The Lakers will get waaaaay more respect from the refs than the youngsters from Portland got. Expect Kobe to shoot at least 10 FTs a game.

  8. PeanutButterSpread May 1, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    @Lakersnation –

    The 2002 Lakers/Kings series was awesome but it’s only awesome in hindsight/retrospect because the Lakers won. I was having multiple heart attacks during that series.

    I can tell you right now, if I were a Celtics fan (which thankfully I am not) I’d be soo pissed that the Bulls/Celtics series has been in so many OTs and has now been extended to Game 7 (which wouldn’t be happening if the Celtics weren’t injury plagued). My life span would have been cut short by at least 10 years.

    But since I’m not a Celtics fan or a Bulls fan, watching the two teams go at it to multiple OTs and game 7 has been fun. It’s kinda like that Syracuse-UConn game this year that went to like 6 overtimes. Crazy.

  9. Somebody said this already on the last string, but this Bulls-Celtics series has been entertaining but not great basketball. Missed free throws, blown leads, poor coaching, guys fouling out, or fouling to maim… hardly the hallmarks of stellar play. (With the exception of Ray Allen)

    Still, I hope the Bulls pull it out (which is sort of like pulling for Iraq to beat Iran in a 1980s war — we don’t like either side, but we like one a little less than the other.)

  10. @ J-mac
    i was thinking the same exact thing when i saw that. kobe seems to really pay attention to things like that and he takes it personally. the only thing thats comforting is that it seems like kobe has been able to play really well against artest and even battier as of late.

  11. The thing about the Celtics/Bulls matchup is that they are both evenly matched. As 1st round opponents they both are making lots of mistakes – both on the court and with coaching – and this should exempt them from any comparison with ‘greatest series’ consideration.

    It is clearly lots of fun, but the best of all time – not even close.

  12. I’m not sure if Ron Artest was more insane for attacking fans, or saying Roy > Lebron or Kobe.

    I really think this will be an easier series for the Lakers (compared to the Jazz series). The reserve big men for Houston are going to absolutely kill them.

    As long as we stay close early I have no doubt we can easily take the 2nd half every night. Lakers in 5.

  13. Yeah, let’s call a spade a spade: This isn’t really a great 2nd round series; Houston doesn’t match up well with LA across the board. In fact, this Houston team I think would have lost to any other team except for Portland, so call it a gift seeding for them. Honestly, I can envision a sweep — yeah, you can try to dissect a few matchups to argue HOU can win a game or two, but this is a very average Rockets team. Hakeem isn’t walkin’ through that door — but we would probably help when Yao gets a breather.

  14. Coffee is For Closers May 1, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I’m trying to figure out how this series goes over 5, and I can’t. I’m not too worried about kobe falling for ron-ron’s bait, I think he’s much smarter than that, and knows this season is all about securing his legacy. I see Lamar and Pau really causing the rockets all kinds of problems on the offensive end. They’re either too quick or too long or both for houston’s front line.

    Bring on the conference finals.

    and ya, re: b miller, he’s always been a bit of a goon. still doesn’t change the flagrant call he should have gotten at the end of game 5. i’m surprised no one’s pulled anything on rondo yet. seeing the replay they showed last night of his game 5 trip on henrich looked much worse than when i originally viewed it – really looked like a blatant attempt to trip heinrich after he turned the corner on him. there’s chippy, and then there’s just dirty, and he’s definitely crossing the line in my mind.

  15. I personally believe this Bulls vs Celtics series has been one of the greatest series I’ve seen in my lifetime (I’m 27). I’m the biggest Lakers fan and at the time I thought that Lakers vs Kings series in 02 was one of the best, but in hindsight there were only really 3 good games in that series. This Bulls vs Celtics series has had 5 amazing games. As for the Lakers I think they’ll beat the Rockets in 5. I think this series will be similar to the Jazz series in that the Lakers will get up by a lot of points early and Houston will make their runs. The one thing that’s going to kill us is Aaron Brooks and Von Wafer in the pick-and-roll.

  16. 2

    Artest already tried baiting Kobe and got annihilated. If Adelman has any sense, he will keep Battier on Kobe most of the time.

  17. I expect our play (and subsequently players that step up) to change for this series from the first round. Kobe will certainly get his and he will be scoring big unless Rockets try to double/triple team him.

    I expect a quieter series from Pau. Most probably he is gonna score and rebound less but pass more. Also I think that he will play less minutes mainly due to fouls. Yao is not Boozer and Millsap that Pau had the height advantage over.

    Playing time will probably also decrease for D-Fish as ridiculous as it may sound. Brooks/Lowry are way too quick (much quicker than Deron Williams) and Fish can not possibly hang with them. If Ariza defends the PG position, Fish is not tall enough to guard Artest/Battier or whoever plays SG for Houston. Instead I suspect that Phil will apply a heavy dosage of Sasha and ShanWOW (Also Farmar for offensive purposes). Fish will probably get around 25-28 minutes per game opening and closing games.

    Bynum remains an enigma. He is our best shot at containing Yao. Drew’s success of guarding Duncan and Shaq 1-on-1 gives me a lot of hope but a lot depends on his conditioning of course. All we need is 10-12 rebs and 3-4 blocks from Drew in 20-25 minutes.

    Luke Walton (if healthy) will probably also see his minutes go up, because his passing is a perfect asset against breaking down the Houston’s defensive schemes. Ariza will get his minutes for his ability to run the floor and finish fast-breaks (another heavy dosage of what Phil will be supplying against Houston’s bigs)

    With all that said, I think Odom is the biggest X-factor particularly against Houston. Lamar’s unique skill-set is a constant headache for Houston (and most teams in the league) and the quality of his play will determine how many games this series will last. Houston will need to make a decision on Lamar. Scola can not possible stay with Lamar. Same goes for Hayes and Landry. While Lamar can effectively guard those guys on the defensive end. So, if Ron Ron plays PF that means Houston goes small and further exposes itself against the Laker’s height advantage. I expect LO’s scoring, rebounding (very solid against Utah) and passing numbers to go up (similar to what LO was doing against the Suns in the years past).

    My prediction: Lakers in 5

  18. my uncle is a huge celtics fan, and we’ve just confirmed medically that he’s aged 10 yrs over the past two weeks. although the lakers pretty much slept through the first round, they’ve at least allowed me to keep my aging process at its usual rate.

    i’m hoping the celts/bulls break the nba record and go for seven overtimes tomorrow (w/ kg and deng coming in in the 7th overtime for a no-holds-barred battle royale). that would be SWEET.

  19. 16, Sure, but if Adelman had any sense, he’d run the offense through Yao at the end of games instead of giving Artest the license to channel the second coming of Antoine Walker and Jason Williams. I see the Lakers winning in five max and at least a partial (and welcome!) return to form for Big Drew.

    Finally, does anyone want to hazard a guess as to whether Mbenga plays at least a couple (say, 3-5) minutes in every game? I’d like to see him throw a little muscle at Yao, as well as their weak backups.

  20. j.d. Hastings May 1, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2009/news/story?id=4124025

    Funny how the youtube video of this play was pulled by the league for copyright violation earlier today. Personally, I’d rather see 2 full strength teams and another possible classic, but it sure seems like Rondo has the league in his pocket a bit…

  21. The Celtic/Bulls series is very, very exciting and very, very close.

    My issue with it is that there are too many mistakes on both sides to call it really great. The mistake issue often happens with 1st round games.

  22. I agree with many of you who said that there have been too many mistakes and/or poor plays in the series. Clearly, Celtics would win going away with KG, but without him, Celtics look like childish thugs who can’t run with the Bulls. I mean when your superstar small forward can’t match the speed of the center from opposing team, you know your team is not very athletic. If the Bulls had a competent coach or was a bit more seasoned, this series would have been over in 5. Instead, Celtics are getting by on clutch shooting by Allen and Pierce, and gutty play by their untalented players.

    Celtics’ run for the championship is over after one year. Next year, not only will the Cavs be better than them, but the Bulls and Magic will catch up and pass them by.

    I just hope the Lakers will have longer run than the Celtics. We have about 2-3 years before LeBron really takes over…I hope.

  23. Celts – Bulls will go down as one of the most memorable. It’s hard to qualify things as “best,” but I for one will always remember this series. “Bulls-Celts ’09.”

    By the way, Lakers-Kings 02 was great, but I’m 32 and the best, er, most memorable, series for me was Lakers-Pistons ’88. 7 Game series. Pistons up 3-2 with 2 games in LA. Isaiah scores 25 in ONE quarter in game 6 and one ONE leg, and the Pistons are up about 5 with a minute to play. Then game 7, 3rd quarter, Lakers come out and hit their 1st 11 shots (starting with Byron Scott’s thunderous dunk) seizing control of the game. Worthy had a triple double that game, and still Detroit came back to almost steal it. That series was my all-time favorite.

    By the way, that year the Lakers had to win 3 7 game series — the other two I think versus Dallas and Utah. Cooper, who was struggling big time, hit a huge shot against Utah in like game 3-4.

    As for games, anyone old enough remember these Laker games, obscure as some may be?

    1. Sleepy Floyd scoring 29 in the 4th against us to rally his team.

    2. 22-0 and 40-4 after 1Q versus the Kings to start the game. — that would be the Reggie Theus Kings.

    3. Magic’s bank shot in 87 versus the Celts in the Boston Garden at the buzzer. (I lost my front tooth at halftime.) I remember watching Bird grab the ball when it went through the net as if to say, F—in bulls–t.”

    4. Kareem hitting his only — YES ONLY — career 3 against Denver from the corner as the shot clock winds down.

    5. Magic and Orlando Woolridge — he of the 20″ bis — run and gun and romp the Knicks in Madison Square. Up by like 25 at half.

    6. Van Excel, Vlad, Eddie Jones and Ceballos upsetting Sonics.

    ~ Adam (a Laker lifer uprooted to Boston)

  24. BTW, Kurt, what is the font used here? It’s great.

  25. I’ll take the Lakers in 5. At the most 6, but in 5 is my bet.

    It will be interesting to see Phil’s rotation for the series. I’ll be watching to see how Farmar and ShanWoW perform. I too would like to see some Mbenga for brief brief stretches too. With Motumbo gone, Yao is going to have a pretty hard series coming.

    The Bulls/Celtics series have been pretty entertaining and very frustrating at the same time. I agree with Chis, it’s been at times, very sloppy, mistake prone and just plain silly. A number of the OT’s could have been prevented if people just made some free throws. I do have to give Miller props for making his free throws last night and redeeming himself after the last game. As PBS stated above, I would hate the way the series has gone if I were a Celtics or even a Bulls fan. Thank gawd I’m a Lakers fan, so I can totally enjoy the series without having a heart attack.

  26. And Rondo will not be suspended. Again.

  27. You all are a little too confindent, reminds me of the Blazers fans before the series. It is actually to the Rockets advantage that you have Bynum back. Yao feasts on traditional centers (Ask Dwight Howard), and he does not have to guard Gasol outside. The Rockets are a different team than than when we played in the regular season, and in a seven game series their ruggedness will get to the Lakers. We may or may not win the series, but I promise that it will not be easy for the Lakers.

  28. Rockets are surely better built for the playoffs than the regular season, but I doubt that they’d pose much trouble against the Lakers. In the second season, sure, defense wins, but you need a guy who can just will baskets. Houston, as seen in the last series against portland, doesn’t have that guy; worse, they have somebody who thinks he’s one in Artest.

    As long as Kobe attacks whenever the defense lets him, as opposed to simply setting his mind to ‘set-up first’ or ‘attack all the time,’ we should be fine.

  29. “I like turtles” May 1, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    I predict Rockets in 7 games with Ralph Sampson hitting the buzzer beater.

  30. Lakers in 5. Houston half court execution on offense in last 5 minutes in bad. Usually Ron Ron tries to do to much, especially against Kobe and Lakers. Lakers have too many weapons on O. Plus, Houston have no big man to give Yao a blow now that Motumbo is out. Wafer is the Rockets wild card,.

  31. Adam,
    I agree Celts-Bulls is very entertaining and compelling but not the best played.

    I remember all those great Laker moments. Here’s one I don’t hear people talk about much. The 98 series vs. Seattle. Both teams won 60+ games that year. The Sonics won game 1 and Lakers took the next four. Shaq & Elden dominated inside and Nick, Eddie, Horry and Fox couldn’t miss from 3pt land, (I think Kobe was nursing some injury and didn’t play much in that series) . That team was clicking on all cyclinders that series. Unfortunately it all came to a screeching halt when Utah spanked LA in four. I still think that Laker team would have been the Bulls if they had made it to the finals.

  32. Meant to say that 98 team would have beaten the Bulls if they had made it to the finals.

  33. 27. Unlike the Blazers fans, we have reason to be confident. We went to the NBA Finals last year. We won the West going away. We beat the Rockets every time we saw them in the regular season.

    This may be a tougher series than some think, but you can’t actually think that the Lakers are not healthy favorites here.

  34. Obviously everyone knows that the Lakers are heavy favorites, but 4 or 5 games is not going to happen. And the games in the regular season mean nothing now, playoffs are a different ballgame. In the post season we have both won 4 games. There is a good chance that the Rockets grit wins this series. Lakers going to the finals last year has no bearing on this years playoffs. I believe that Kobe is the best player in the league now, but he has not brought you a championship since Shaq left.

    Shaq 1, Kobe 0

  35. Should be a great series – this Rockets team is FAR superior to the versions beaten by the Lakers this regular season. With Wafer and Lowry becoming significant contributors, the Rockets win in 6, just like against Portland. The Rockets can negate the Lakers’s frontcourt depth by throwing Scola, Landry and Hayes at Bynum, Pau and Odom.

  36. 35, you do know the actual heights of those six players right?

  37. Great Wall, you’re forgetting that people from Portland barely know that the rest of the world exists, they’re so Portland-centric. So claiming that FB&G posters are similar to Blazer fans is utterly improper, considering the people who post here are arguably the most objective and sensible Lakers fans on the net.

    I also disagree that Yao will not have to guard outside. Both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol can step out to 15 feet and hit jump shots; both of our centers pulling Yao away from the basket only spells more offensive rebounds for Odom or the other of Bynum/Gasol who is not being guarded by Yao. Yes, Yao may feast on traditional centers, but that is only when he is left to go one-on-one. That will not be the case against the Lakers, as our default defensive stance is to double-team the strong side. Overall, I see us getting too many easy scores for the Rockets to be able to keep up.

  38. Great Wall, you may be trying to bait us Laker fans but I’ll take a chance that you’re serious and respond. I agree that the Rockets will probably “grit wins this series.” We’ll find out soon enough. However, I don’t see how you can say that the Lakers’ playoff experience last year would have no bearing this year, unless you don’t believe in the value of playoff experience. What is definitely irrelevant this year is how many championships Kobe has won without Shaq. It’s a team game and the Lakers have their most talented team by far in the post-Shaq era.

  39. Zephid,
    I know that you are supposed to be the most objective Lakers fans and that is why I am here. Bynum is not near the overall offensive force as Gasol, and a better defensive assignment for Yao. The Rockets are a very good defensive rebounding team, even with most teams trying to pull Yao outside. There will not be many easy scores for the Lakers because the Rockets are a great defensive team. Again, I am not on here to boast that the Rockets will kill the Lakers but it is not automatic that the Lakers win the series.

  40. #6 that series was pretty good for US. I don’t know if the rest of the league agrees.

    No seriously, I think the Celtics-Bulls series takes the cake for incredible down the wire plays. Game after game. Granted, so far there’s been no heart stopping dagger like the Horry shot, but the strings of successive clutch shots are arguably more impressive.

    #2 I’ll take Kobe 1on1 for the win.

  41. Great Wall- I agree. Depending on how things shake out in the East, I think this could be the Lakers toughest matchup. Whether it is a 4 game sweep or a 7 game series, I feel the games will be physical, close and hard fought.

  42. I’m not going to give everything from the coming previews away, but Rockets fans I will say this: I love Scola. Love to have him on my team. But he is in matchup hell in this series. Gasol and LO are the kinds of players who can expose him and will.

    I agree with you that the regular season matchups have little bearing on this.

  43. Great comment guys. However, I will not say that Houston will be a tougher matchup for us out West until I see how Denver plays out. I think that it is not always a matter of physicality. Some teams can be tough because they outclass you. Boston had a combination of both last year to some extent.

    Great Wall, though I agree with some of your points I do not think that these factors are big enough to determine a Houston victory or the Lakers having a hard time winning at least. I’d rather we have this conversation after Game 3 or something.

  44. Peanut Butter Spread May 1, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Great Wall –

    All your credibility in whatever you were saying went out the door as soon as you mentioned Shaq.

    What’s the point in talking about the Rockets if you’re going to drag up Shaq?

    You might as well just be like the other trolls, save yourself the trouble and skip the “thoughtful analysis” and post: “zomg. Kobe sux. Shaq said Kobe should kiss his *ss” instead.

    It’s just not necessary and completely detracted whatever you were saying. You have valid points about the Rockets being a dangerous team and to say “Shaq 1, Kobe 0″ just made you sound juvenile.

  45. Monday, the Lakers and Rockets will be 0 to 0, each looking for 4 wins. The Rockets will be itching to steal game one to capture home court advantage.

    I hope the Lakers team and fans have a long memory.

    The Lakers used to have a big dominant center with limited stamina and no solid backup. He also could get into early foul trouble and sometimes fouled out. He almost never came out to challenge perimeter shooters. Despite all that, he lead the Lakers to several NBA championships.

    Don’t underestimate a healthy Yao Ming!

    Don’t underestimate the Rockets.

  46. Great Wall,

    Yao thrives on facing traditional, plodding post players, which is exactly what Przybilla and Oden are. The Lakers’ defense is built around helping on the strong side, which will always work to 1) deny Yao deep post position 2) get multiple defenders on him 3) cut off the passing lanes to prevent him from getting the ball. Bynum and Gasol both have far superior lateral movement to Przybilla and Oden and will be able to defend him better.

    Outside of Yao, you really are going to struggle on the offensive end. Your best weapon will be someone playing our defense by passing around the usually open man in the corner (probably Battier) when we load the strong side, but our rotations have become crisper, and you’re not going to get the same amount of looks some teams got in the regular season when we were lax on rotations. Foremost though, Houston’s problem is that they literally have no one to generate offense. Artest thinks he can, but fires up bad shots, especially when he thinks he has to match Kobe shot-for-shot and that’s definitely no game plan for victory. Scola is going to be bothered by Gasol’s or Bynum’s length and Odom’s quickness (on offense and defense). Brooks is going to struggle to drive against us and his outside shooting is flaky. Your best bet is for your bench to come up big against ours, but unless Wafer and Landry go nuts, it’s not going to be enough offensive production.

    In terms of defending us, Yao’s biggest liability is that he can’t guard the pick and roll. Lakers abused the Kobe-Gasol pick and roll in late-game situations during the regular season and Adelman had to pull Yao for Hayes because Yao simply can’t defend him. Expect a steady diet of those throughout the series. Also, Yao was able to be effective against Portland because he didn’t have to respect Przybilla’s and Oden’s post game (or lack thereof) and thus was able to help more and use his length as an obstacle. With both Gasol and Bynum capable of taking Gasol out about 15 feet, he’s not going to have that luxury in this series. Yao’s conditioning is also a problem because Portland was kind enough to walk up the floor and allow Yao to establish his defensive position. We won’t. Gasol and Bynum both run the floor very well in transition, so Yao’s going to be running a marathon up and down the court. Even with television timeouts in the playoffs, he’s going to wear down. The moment he leaves and you’re forced to put Hayes on Gasol or Bynum, you’re in serious trouble in terms of size.

    Also, Artest and Battier were able to be effective against Roy because 1) hardly any other Portland player besides Roy and Aldridge were an offensive threat 2) they could trap him hard without fear of role players stepping up. You won’t be able to do that against Kobe, who has shown for a while now that he’s going to find the open man. Odom also is going to have a field day on Houston. You really have no one to match up against him; Scola is too slow and Landry is too small. Adelman was forced to put Artest on Odom in one game in the regular season and that left Scola on Ariza, which is a huge speed difference, and if Scola is going to leave Ariza open at the three point line, he’s going to hurt Houston (as he’s shot very well in the Utah series).

    To boil this down, you aren’t good enough defensively to compensate for the fact you can’t score enough on us. The four is a major liability for Houston and the moment Yao leaves the floor, expect a run out of the Lakers. Losing Mutumbo really hurt Houston; they simply don’t have the size to bother the Lakers without Yao.

  47. chickenandwing May 2, 2009 at 1:55 am

    Haha, Brad MIller always get wack…

    Anyway this series is going to be tough, even if it Lakers won the season series 4-0. Not because of lowry or that the Rocket got motivation for getting pass the first round, instead it is because T-Mac isn’t there. Now i am not saying T-Mac isn’t a good players, it is just that he doesn’t fit into the Rocket system which focus on defense. So him being in the line up, and being with Ron-Ron, mean creating chemistry issues for the rocket. But i am going to admit, they will miss his shooting late in the fourth quarter, considering without T-Mac Ron-Ron always shoot random shoot……

  48. Great Wall & RocketsRoll,

    I’ll take the bait.

    How are the Rockets any different from the team we beat on April 3rd? They aren’t.

    Finally advancing to the 2nd Round (against a team who is making their 1st trip to the Playoffs) doesn’t make you a FAR superior team than you were then. The fact is your far superior is still nowhere near our very good. Never mind our best. Plus, Portland wasn’t as good as us.

    We get it. You’re feeling good about your team, but Landry, Scola, and Hayes cannot check Pau, Bynum, and Lamar. Bynum will get back on track against your small team, and Yao will get beat down the floor in transition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mbenga was inserted to (mbang) on Yao and tire him out. Then there’s still your biggest problem. If there’s a close game, your player work against you. Ron Ron or some role player will try to take over and fail you. Again.

    As Kurt said, we have every right to feel confident. We are better, and we dominated you in the regular season. Which does mean something, because there is no magical play all together different switch. You are who you are, and it’s not good enough.

  49. The Lakers have earned the right to feel confident, but so have the Rockets.

    Last year the Lakers were very impressive and were clearly favored in the finals. The series did go 6 games, but the Celtics won. We were confident then too.

    I don’t expect a repeat of last year’s finals in this next series, but it does pay to temper your team excitement. The Rockets are filled with professional NBA players too. The Rockets have the more dominating center. The Rockets have the best defensive presence against Kobe that we are likely to see in the playoffs. All those things don’t spell a team advantage for the Rockets, but they aren’t nothing, either.

  50. Craig W,

    The difference is that the Lakers being favored in the Finals was unwarranted. The Celtics were the best team all year last season, AND beat us twice in the regular season to boot.

    The “odds” were set simply because of the Lkaers walk through the West and the Celtics so-called troubles in the East, but as we all saw, the Celtics excelled where we were suspect. This situation is not the same.

    I expect that this series should be tougher than the Jazz, and I won’t underestimate the Rockets, but I still haven’t seen them to be the team that is much different from our last meeting with them.

  51. the other Stephen May 2, 2009 at 8:49 am

    also: remember that time when brad miller got cornrows (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHo1BInGGAw)? the horror, the horror!

  52. No comment on the upcoming Laker game yet (too focused on getting set for the 7th Celtics-Bulls game tonight), I just wanted to mention the eloquent and civilized posts from the Houston fans so far is a nice change of pace from the last series… hopefully that will last as we go on to crush your team. ;)

  53. @Magic I think it’s Georgia

    @Wondahbap, greatwall, etc.. I think Wondahbap’s point that the Lakers and Rockets are the same teams since the regular season is key. It is all about personnel and matchups. These were good for the Rockets in the first round, but not against us. By the 4th time we were going to beat the Rockets, you think they’d have any less grit than they’re capable of summoning in the playoffs? I don’t think so. At some point, that is just not enough.

    I will say that the Rockets are playing the best basketball I have ever seen them play, and it has been a joy to watch. Much more than the so called ‘classic’ on the east (but I already posted on this). The Rockets will not make many mistakes, and we will have to beat them, or end up beating ourselves.

    Greatwall, to say that we will win in 5-6 games is not saying that it’s going to be ‘automatic’ .. heck even 4 close fought games and a sweep would be a close series, not an easy one.

  54. Rockets fans, as you are finding out, you are welcome to post here. We welcome everyone.

    Like a few of you are finding out as well, if you want to bait a name calling fight, I will simply delete your comments. I welcome your civilized, good natured fun comments. This is going to be an entertaining series.

  55. Coffee is for Closers May 2, 2009 at 10:43 am

    What other teams’ agitators whom really annoy you, would you not secretly mind having on the Lakers (or at least admit they’d be an asset)? Here’s my partial list:

    1. James Posey
    2. Joakim Noah
    3. Matt Harpring
    4. Anderson Varejao (ok, just kidding, that guy just bugs me too much)

    I also don’t think its an accident, championship teams usually have at least one of these type guys on their teams.

  56. #53, Don,
    Except, of course, for the Portland announcers. There should be a rule that once the playoffs starts, no one gets to use their own home announcers, especially not Portland! Actually, maybe only Portland… those guys make my brain hurt, and I can’t even imagine what it was like as a Rockets fan to be forced to listen to that in throughout the first round of the playoffs.

  57. I think some Rockets fans are forgetting that Andrew Bynum doesn’t play during crunch time. When we go to Fisher-Bryant-Ariza-Odom-Gasol, who does Yao guard? I feel really bad for Rick Adelman, because tons of uninformed sports pundits will eviscerate him for not playing Yao in crunch time, but I have a feeling that Adelman will have to pull him out if he can’t defend the PNR with Gasol and Bryant in favor of Hayes or Landry. Then it’s just a matter of Gasol abusing the aforementioned undersized Rockets.

    No one here has said this series will be easy, but as was pointed out, just because a series isn’t easy doesn’t mean it won’t be a 4 game sweep. The 4 regular season games were all close except for the first one, our team just closed out when the Rockets couldn’t score in the 4th quarter. I don’t see that changing now that we’re in the playoffs.

  58. Peanut Butter Spread,

    My comment about Shaq was probably not thought out well, and I apologize for the ending of that post. The point that I was trying to make is that having the best player or team does not guarantee a championship.

    On paper, the Lakers win this series, but the games have yet to be played. The Rockets are a gritty, defensive team that is not going to roll over. The lakers have some matchup advantages. Bottom line is that I hope that you’re not able to take advantage of all of those and the Rockets will find enough offense to win the series.

    I don’t think that I have baited anyone, or made any derogatory comments about anyone. I hope, and it seems as though most of you are open to hearing another point of view, even if it conflicts with yours.

  59. Coffee – Vujacic is one of the most hated players in the league for his agitation.

    I think it was our favorite Rocket fan and loyal FBaG poster Stephen who mentioned (back when Bynum first game back) that Bynum’s return helped us against possibly every team in the league, matchup-wise, except the Rockets. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Stephen). It’s an interesting point, and worth consideration. Scola doesn’t have the height, but he has a high ball IQ, understands angles on the floor, and does the little things that you expect from a veteran (not surprising, considering how much he’s won on an international level). Pau will have success against him, but I do agree that Odom can physically exploit Scola better than perhaps any other big on our roster.

    Our defensive strategy should be egging Artest into going one on one. Best way to stop the Rockets offense.

    There’s been little talk of fronting Yao. I can’t remember how we played Yao in the regular season, but fronting seems to give Yao some problems from what I’ve seen. But we don’t usually resort to techniques like that, so I doubt we’ll see it unless Yao explodes.

  60. This is the perfect opportunity for the bench to reestablish themselves as the best second unit in the league. We need them to get the continuity and cohesiveness working in their favor again. I look to the Bench Mob, led by Lamar Odom, to really dominate in this series, providing the starters with ample time to rest and make sure that they are ready for any 4th quarter pushes to close out the gam

  61. I think all this gab about our bench being the best in the league is so much hooey at this time. They have fallen down so many times that we can’t really claim them to be a superior group.

    Ok, so Lamar is probably the best 6th man in the NBA, but the rest haven’t done it consistently enough to be rated the best.

  62. Great Wall–

    Although it’s not for me to say, your apology is probably not necessary, but accepted (at least by this reader). I’m sure you can understand that there’s a great deal of sensitivity about Shaq among Laker fans, and while I appreciate the point you were trying to make (especially as subsequently explicated), the final ‘scorecard’ line was getting close to crossing some kind of threshold in which the discussion is no longer about basketball. Personally, I don’t mind a little baiting, but it’s not what this site is about– to the contrary, standards here are quite rigorous but, as you’ve noticed, very much open to (thoughtful, basketball-centric) debate. Again, it didn’t bother me, but I appreciate your apology and re-extend a welcome to all Hou fans.

    In terms of the series, since you (so far) are the de facto voice of Rockets Nation, here’s what I personally would need to hear from Rockets supporters to shake my confidence that the Lakers will win this series pretty quickly (note: quickly does NOT mean easily– I do think the games will be close and hard-fought, I just don’t think there will be too many of them).

    1. A compelling argument that the Rockets’ clear advantage at the 5 (and arguably at the 1 as well, although I score it as a slight advantage for the Lakers if you include backups) is more significant than the Lakers’ clear advantage at the 2 and 4, as well as at the 3 if one counts Odom.

    2. This is the big one for me: a sense of a ‘script’ of how the Rockets win a close game. The Lakers have so many different ways to win down the stretch, esp. the Kobe/Gasol PNR which I don’t see Hou having the manpower to affect in the slightest. Add to that Lamar going nuts, Kobe being Kobe, and whichever of Bynum/Gasol is not guarded by Yao abusing his man on the blocks. Pointedly, I’m not going to add perimeter shooting by Fish or Trevor, because although that might happen (esp if Kobe is doubled), that’s not the gameplan and, if it comes to that more than once in the series, Hou prob. wins.

    From the Hou games I’ve seen, the 4th Q strategy seems to be to let Artest run wild. I see that as especially likely in this series as the Lakers can double or triple team Yao with some combination of Bynum-Gasol-Odom, or even Mbenga. Yao is one of my favorite non-Lakers, but if he’s not the go-to guy against other teams, it’s going to be doubly hard to establish him here. Don’t forget the last time we played you: Yao was on the bench down the stretch in the 4th Q, largely imo (you may disagree) because Adelman thought he wasn’t mobile enough to handle the high PNR.

    3. Some sense of how Hou is likely to slow down Odom who is having the playoffs of his life. Who guards him?

    For me, these 3 issues are the big ones. Just so you don’t think I’m the kind of guy who always picks the Lakers, I was really nervous about the Portland matchup (and, admittedly, Utah as well, for different reasons), largely because the Lakers defend the perimeter so poorly (also penetrating PGs kill them) relative to their ability to disrupt offensive *systems*. To these ends, the only chance I see for Hou is if, say Wafer or Brooks goes insane, but I don’t see that being part of the likely Rockets gameplan.

    I welcome responses from either side. Maybe the factors I isolated are wrong-minded or exaggerated, but until someone spells out to me where Hou has a clear advantage that they can exploit again and again down the stretch, I’m picking the Lakers in 4 or 5 hard-fought games.

  63. Jordan Farmar will be really important during this game. If he can push the pace against Houston’s defense, we can really get some easy scores for the fast pace second unit. If I were Phil Jackson, I’d be constantly telling Farmar to push the pace, but not with scoring in mind. A lot of “transition” buckets are not counted as such because they occur 10 seconds in to the possession, but a lot of easy scores for this Laker team will come off pushing the pace on rebounds and getting good inside position for our big guys.

  64. Zephid,

    I think Farmar’s role will be the same in this series as it was against Utah. Watching.

    Any transition buckets we get should be from our starters when Yao and Scola are on the floor. Other than that, I don’t think the Lakers should push the tempo, because the onus should be on Houston’s 2nd Unit to score consistently in the half court against our trapping defense. No free buckets.

  65. Ariza and Kobe have a tendency to jump the passing lanes and I expect the Lakers to do much better in flustering the Houston offense??? than did Portland. Knowing that, why in the world would anyone say the Lakers 1st unit shouldn’t push the pace?

  66. Craig,

    I’m not sure if your comment was an answer to mine or not. I think the 1st Unit should push the pace. Not the 2nd Unit.

  67. A lot of people seem to think that Fisher will get less minutes than he got against the Jazz, and this very well may be true. However, three of the things that Fish does really well may come in handy in this series, so I’m not sure how much his minutes will be cut.

    1. perimeter shooting – Trevor and Crown (JVG called him Chris Brown haha) and even luke have been shooting from downtown unexpectedly well, but if they cool off (and Sasha continues to his charity work with the bricklaying) the Lakers will need players on the perimeter to space the floor for Kobe, Gasol, and hopefully Bynum.

    2. taking a charge – few do it better in the game, and the double blow of an offensive foul combined with the turnover is quite the momentum changer.

    3. (And probably most important) doubling the big off of a cutter – because of the way that the Lakers set up their defense, if a Rockets player passes the ball into the post and then cuts baseline under the basket, Fish can stop trailing him and cut back to double the post player, without really disrupting the floor balance.

    What Fish is really good at, is waiting until he’s in the post player’s blind spot before committing to the double. I’ve seen him do it a few times over the last two seasons, and it’s worked more often than not.


    even with Fish being needed to do the things listed above I’d love to see a lot of Crown/Kobe/Ariza/two of Gasol, Bynum, and Odom on the floor this series. with Kobe, Ariza, and Crown defending the perimeter, and a more active Bynum to shore up the defense, we might end up winning a lot easier than expected

  68. Charley Rosen has a preview up for the Western Conference SemiFinals.

    http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/9525988/Lakers,-Nuggets-should-win-West-semifinals

  69. Regarding matchups, I think Brook’s speed advantage against Fisher is overrated. He doesn’t finish well nor does he pass well out of pressure. As long as Fisher plays solid position defense and our bigs use their length to seal off his looks, that should not be a problem. In fact, we have shown that we are willing to post him on the other end with some success and that shouldn’t be ruled out.

    At the 2, I hate to say it but if Kobe takes contested jumpers early in the shot clock against those elite Rocket defenders, than he will hurt us. If he fails to close out on the perimeter shooters, that will hurt us. The matchup will by no means be to their advantage, and I don’t expect Kobe to do these things since he’s shown great maturity this playoffs, but it may happen in short stretches.

    At the 3 it’s pretty even. But at the 4 is where we have the significant advantage. Scola will not have easy wide open looks like he did in the portland series since Odom is a very quick closeout defender. On the other hand, he has greater range than Aldridge and greater quickness. Odom has been going to his lefty layup, which, along with his newfound understanding of basic geometry, his proving deadly.

    At the 5 Yao will eat up whoever guards him if 1-1. He is automatic after he makes his first move into the lane. We have to force him to the other side or make sure he’s not comfortable w/ double teams off the first dribble. But the matchup will be even because of his inability to defend the PNR.

    In the Portland series Oden or Przybilla were not an outside threat, so Yao sagged off mightily into the paint, clogging the lane and causing problems for Roy. That will not be the case for Gasol.

  70. lil pau’,

    Thanks! My reasons for coming on here are not negative in the least. I don’t plan to gloat if the Rockets win, nor make excuses if we lose. Either way, I will keep my comments directly related to the games and strategy.

    I’m not sure that there is a way to shake your confidence until the games start to be played, but I will try to explain my thoughts for why the Rockets can (Not necessarily will) win. I’ll start with trying to answer your concerns

    1. I think that Yao will have a huge series if Phil doesn’t elect to front him. In the last game the Lakers surprised Houston by sending agressive help from the weak side to steal the ball. and frustrating Yao. He needs to be aggressive and make his move quick to counter the double. If they don’t front him he can easily shoot over Bynum or Gasol. He is also much more confident in the high post now and can hit 18 -20 footers with regularity. I agree with all the posters here who say the Lakers need to make him move to wear him down. His stamina is much better than before, but 320 is a lot of weight to move around for 40 plus minutes. I also think that the rockets have a clear speed/quickness advantage at the point. Both of our points have improved dramatically since we last played. Brooks is capable of having some big games in this series, I hope that he has these big games in the flow of the offense and not at its expense. If Scola is able to continue to hit the open shots given to him because of the attention to Yao, then he can negate much of the problems that he may have on the defensive end.

    2. I agree with you on point #2. Your team does have more sure options to close out tight games. The game plan needs to be “give the ball to Yao and move to open spaces. Yao is an excellent passing center, and can find the open man if he doesn’t have the shot. Battier, Wafer, Scola, Landry, Brooks, and Artest are all good outside shooters. Obviously Phil will try to take that away at the end of games, so the other guys are going to have to hit all of the open looks given because of Yao. Another option that has been working is driving to the basket, taking the defenders and then finding Yao near the top of the key. You are also correct about Artest attempting to hijack the ball in the 4th. He actually played much more within the system against Portland. I hope that Battier matches up with Kobe on defense, I think that is a better match up for us, plus it won’t allow Artest to try to make it a one-on-one contest with Kobe (We all saw how that worked out).

    3. I don’t see Odom as a deciding factor in this series. He is not always the most steady guy, so I’m hoping he will disappear for spurts of this series. From an athletic standpoint, Landry is is the best option against him. He gives up some size, but is quicker and can get some points back on the offensive end.

    Those are my thoughts on the three issues you listed. The rockets do have three guards who are good penetrators in Brooks, Lowry, and Wafer. I see a minimum of six games, and the longer the series goes, the Rockets confidence and chances of winning go up.

  71. 68 – That’s an interesting preview by Charley Rosen. I hope it doesn’t go to six games before the inevitable Laker victory.

    I dread the thought of all the nice Rockets fans getting their hopes up, then dashed.

  72. Snoopy2006,
    Thanks for nice words and you’re correct. Yao really plays best against real Centers who will go 1-on-1 w/him.

    Wondabap,
    The Rockets are significantly different from early April. They are still evolving as a team. In just the last 2 weeks Lowry and Landry have started to develope a nice pick-n-roll game and Yao has become willing to take open 15 footers that he passed out of earlier. There may be little things in the overall picture but they add up to make a much different team.

    For all the times Ron Artest has shot the Rockets out of games,he’s done just as many good things to win games.

    While the Rockets have a bad habit of going several minutes w/out scoring,the Lakers have shown an equally bad habit of blowing leads. The Rockets bench has the ability to go on runs that the Rockets will ride the rest of the game.

    The main difference is the Lakers have Kobe and the Rockets don’t. Take Kobe off the Lakers roster and I’d rather have the Rockets roster than the rest of the Lakers. Unfortunately for Rockets fans,we can’t force the Lakers not to play Kobe. Lakers in 6,maybe 7.

  73. celtics opening the door but bulls cant get it down to one possesion

  74. ray allen looks just like dick cheney, esp. that smirk.

    not that I need another reason to hate the celts :)

  75. Things areunderstandably a little emotional at blogabull, and man, do some of those people hate Del Negro.

    I can’t decide if I think it will be Orlando in 6 or Boston in 7.

    Lakers in 6
    Denver in 7
    Cleveland in 5 against Miami, which pulls out Gm 7 tomorrow behind Wade.

  76. alright…i’m not a homer or even a lifelong LA fan, but i am a huge NBA fan that just happens to really like both the Lakers and Rockets right now (if you’re rooting for the knicks you find you inevitably have to develop other interests in the postseason). and I do think LA in 5 is not giving the Rockets enough credit.

    and i think there’s a very simple reason for this: the Rocket defense is REALLY good. and it is especially good at destroying the flow of offenses and making games ugly affairs where haphazard shots by Ron Artest and offensive rebounds end up deciding the games, not beautifully flowing sets or fastbreaks. and the Lakers defense is really predicated on flow, automaticity and rhythm: if it gets disrupted with too much physicality, like Boston last year, the Lakers can get discombabulated. they go to Kobe to bail them out in those situations, and often he does, but he faces the best wing defenders in the league.

    also considering the supposed matchup advantage against Yao: not to pile on Bynum, at peak he is a fantastic player, but did you see him in round 1, exploited by post players he was both bigger and stronger than? a player doesn’t get back from rusty to completely in-rhythm just from practice between playoff rounds…Bynum’s going to need a few playoff games to warm up if he does at all. And if Bynum doesn’t come ready right away, that’s immediate points for Yao where you were expecting him to be contained.

    i realize the regular season matchups were 4-0 and that Yao’s been somewhat of a defensive liability against the Lakers (whereas normally he is a big defensive asset). but i do think the Rockets play better defense during the postseason (their rotations, closeouts, and lane-clogging against the Blazers were off the charts) and it’s going to have a big effect on the Lakers.

    obviously there’s still too much of a talent gap; Lakers are probably going to win. But I think it’s going to be in 6, and I don’t think this is a particularly good matchup for them, if for the simple fact that the Lakers offensive system is not well-geared towards physical, defensive disruption.

  77. sorry, the Lakers OFFENSE is predicated on flow and rhythm (i wrote defense).

  78. Whoever is in charge of moderation (Kurt?), would you please take a look at my post from 4 1/2 hours ago. There is nothing negative or even controversial in the post. After 2 weeks dealing with Portland fans, I am dying to have discussions with normal people!

  79. Laker fans:

    Just so that we all appreciate how far we’ve come, I found this old chestnut in the FB&G archives. I deleted the name of the author to protect the GUILTY:

    ….Smush is a great player, you guys need to open your eyes, it will show this season…..a regular smush stat line is 16-20ppg 4-6rpg 4-6 apg 2-3spg & 3-5 to’s…..he will become the lakers 2nd scoring option behind kobe….trust me…..yes I’m from ny, lil biased…..but an expert in basktball…

  80. (the 3-5 turnovers seems about right, but not sure that’s what the writer intended…)

  81. Dubya,
    Very good analysis. You have to balance the Lakers ability to simply destroy opponents for portions of the game with Houston’s inability to score at times. This is where the Lakers can get an insurmountable lead that could end the series early. Baring that situation, I would agree with your conclusion.

  82. I’m very objective when it comes to my Lakers and I have to say that Great Wall has reason to be confident in this series. Lets be honest here, The Lakers are suspect on defense. The don’t defend the three-point line well, they have always been a bad pick-in-roll team and they give up way too many layups (I don’t know how many times Deron Williams went coast to coast with no resistance in the Jazz series). The Lakers beat teams because they are just flat out more talented. Too many times they don’t play smart, they don’t play hard enough and don’t execute well enough on the defensive end (Aaron Brooks and Von Wafer will put up big numbers against us). That’s why no lead is ever safe with them. Just as I posted earlier they will probably overwhelm the Rockets with their weapons offensively but the Rockets will make runs to keep it close.

    Phil Jackson doesn’t like fronting the post so we will have to rely on Bynum not to get into foul trouble because he’s really the only player we have that can play Yao straight up.

    All that being said Lakers win the first 2 at home, split games 3 & 4, then come back and finish them off at home.

    Lakers in 5

  83. I’m sure we are going to see a lot of the “hand in the face” defensive tactic from Battier on Kobe.
    so, what do you think? will Kobe spend much of the prep for the series shooting with his eyes closed?
    I for one am not a fan of this technique. I could see it developing over time into something that the league will have to look at and possibly look for a way to stop it, ie; make it a foul.
    it could easily lead to scratching the eyeball, doing serious damage to a player, causing players to all have to wear protective eye gear, leading to helmets, eventually shoulder pads, and soon will start looking like “Rollerball” players, and the game will never be the same again.
    just my humble opinion…OK, maybe I went a little too far, but still, I do not like the “hand in the face” technique for defending a player’s shot.

  84. Great Wall–

    I appreciate your thoughtful response. I agree that if Yao functions as you describe – drawing the double-team and kicking it out with precision to an open jump-shooter (or, I guess, to a weak-side slasher as well which might be even more effective) the Rockets could cause the Lakers all kinds of problems. I’m a big Yao-admirer and agree that his game continues to evolve in all the right ways and you may absolutely prove to be right in your analysis.

    That said, in my experience, playoff basketball – at least in close games and I agree with you that the games will be close – becomes in the 4th Q about doing the same thing over and over again (the stockton/malone PNR, dumping it into Duncan or Shaq, isolation for Kobe or Lebron, etc. I must say it’s still hard for me to see a jumpshot off a Yao pass being as reliable as it would have to be for the Rockets to overcome the Lakers scoring juggernaut (could Scola hit 4 in a row under pressure? Maybe he could…), but you have indeed answered my call for a ‘script’ to the end of a game that results in a Rockets victory, and I appreciate that.

    Your comments re: Lamar are also well-taken– much has been written here about the Rockets lack of a player to match-up against Lamar; too little has been written about the fear every Laker fan has that the other shoe will drop and we’ll see the ‘other (invisible, disinterested) Lamar’ that has been known to appear from time to time. Otoh, he has been incredible for a decent stretch now, going back to the end of the regular season and was arguably the best player on the court in the Lakers/Utah series.

    So overall, I remain in gentlemanly disagreement with your conclusions (and far more importantly I really *hope* that you’re wrong), but I wish your team well and look forward to your comments here throughout the series. If the unthinkable should happen and Houston wins, I’ll be pulling hard for you guys against (presumably) the tattooed mountaineers.

    Re: a couple of other comments, I seem to have some memory of Phil occasionally and successfully fronting Yao in game four– am I out of my mind? I very well could be– I have a baby in the house which has obliterated my short term memory, plus I play out so many of these games in my head that this may be some kind of perverse wish-fulfillment. Can anyone help me out here?

  85. 83, I disagree. If Battier can pull it off without contact- and I must say he’s awfully good at it – I think it’s fair game. Furthermore, I’m not sure why you think it would lead to any additional gear other than the standardization of protective eye wear throughout the league, which might be a good thing (ask Amare).

  86. lilpau, read it with a sense of humour

  87. 86, oh jeez… skimmed your post and now look like a jackass. sorry, man, my bad…

    I’m like the meathead who reads A Modest Proposal and reacts with outrage.

    I do have a sense of humor, I swear I do, really…

  88. cheers lil pau…
    my take on the hand in the face assumes it could become more of a standard technique rather than isolated as it is now, used primarily by battier solely on Kobe.
    just imagine if Andrew couldn’t jump to stop Yao, so he just holds both hands in front of his face, (as close as possible without touching) to block his view of the rim. isn’t that going to start buggin’ you eventually?
    or imagine someone coming in from behind, (kind of like “guess who?”) with one or both hands, with the sole purpose of just blocking the vision.
    I think that would suck, in my humble opinion.

  89. lil pau’,

    I am really excited for this series to get started, so that we can all see the strategies employed by both teams. We have two good coaches, so it will be interesting to see the series evolve from game to game.

    There are 2 questions that are really going to determine the Rockets’ fate in this series.

    1. Can the Rocket defense keep the Lakers FG percentage down and keep them off the offensive glass, thus making it a low scoring series?

    2. Can the Rockets consistently hit the open shot that they will definitely get because of Yao?

    If they are able to do these two things, then they will have a chance of winning, if not then I will be on this site admitting defeat and wishing you all luck in the conference finals.

    And yes, Phil has fronted yao for short spurts, but he obviously prefers not to for his own reasons. I think that he will be forced to go that route in this series. Yao is the only truly consistent offensive player on the team, so it just makes sense to keep the ball out of his hands so that he can’t control the game with his shooting and and passing. If the other Rockets hit their shots then it’s going to be a long night , but if I was the Lakers I would much rather take that chance than let Yao get consistent touches.

  90. http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2009/05/04/truehoop-geek-smackdown-blogger-edition-update-round-1/

    Just saw this! Awesome! Don’t really know what it is but FB&G is winning!