Game 3 Thoughts: I’ll Have Another Just Like That One

Kurt —  May 9, 2009

NBA Playoffs Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets in Houston
First things first, RIP Chuck Daly. A fantastic coach who by all reports was a better person.

• One of the media mantras was “the Lakers can’t win unless Kobe stays hot on jumpers.” Well, he didn’t in game three. He started out hot, 5 of 6 and setting the tone, but after that he went 6 of 22 from the floor. And the Lakers still won comfortably.

• Of course, the Mantra around here is the Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them. One thing the Lakers did well, particularly in the second half (in part due to the play of Bynum), was protect the paint. The Rockets entire offense is predicated on knocking down jumpers as Yao or penetration allows kick-outs to open shooters. In the first half, the Rockets took just 9 shots outside the paint (hitting five). But in the second half it was jumper city — they were 4 of 20 outside the paint. They were 1 of 13 outside the paint in the third. Some of those were good, open looks, but it emphasizes the point that you want the Rockets shooting from the outside, ideally not threes. If they get points in the paint, they are harder to stop.

• Darius added this about Kobe’s defense in the game:

When the All Defensive First Team was announced, there was a lot of debate about Kobe being included on that unit. Many thought (and maybe still do think) that he is not deserving of that distinction. Well, tonight he showed why he’s held in such high regard as a defensive player. Many will remember his blocked shots (especially the lefty swat of Yao’s layup attempt), but in re-watching the DVR I again saw how smart he can be on D. He was cutting off angles in anticipation of passes to Battier on the wing where Houston was trying to move the ball to a position to make a post entry to Yao. He was sagging just enough off Battier (who was in the corner) when the ball was on the strong side to discourage the post entry from the guard who had the ball at the wing extended. He was working his way through screens and getting in the passing lanes. And in the 4th quarter, when Ariza picked up his fifth foul, Kobe switched on to Artest and battled him for every inch of hardwood and limited Ron’s catches when he was really starting to do damage against Trevor. Houston was trying to make a push in those final minutes and with Yao hobbling, Artest was the guy that was scoring. Kobe switched on to him and we got the stops we needed because Ron couldn’t get a good touch or get up a decent look. Kobe may have had a big scoring night, but he did some real damage on D as well.

• The Lakers forced turnovers on 19% of the Rockets possessions for the night, a very good number. It did not lead to the fast pace we had wanted to see (just 91 possessions, a very Rockets pace) but the number of empty possessions really added up for Houston. Especially when the Lakers turned the ball over on 7% of their possessions.

• When was the last time we saw that balanced a Lakers performance?

• As I think most of us have said, the league needs to reduce the Flagrant 2 on Artest for the foul on Gasol. That simply was not a flagrant in my book, make if a Flagrant 1 if they feel they must, but that is not a suspension-worthy foul.

• I also hope Yao can play Sunday. We’ll keep an eye out for reports on his foot. Zephid said it well:

I think any rational basketball fan (and they are few and far between) has to appreciate the heart of Yao Ming. Every fan, Houston or opposing, can tell that he’s giving his all on the court, and that he’ll do anything to win that won’t compromise the integrity of the game. People universally respect his determination, so it’s natural that rational people will want to play with/against Yao Ming, because he is simply a competitor. Watching him limping up and down the court in the 4th, you could see the pain in his eyes, not just physical, but the emotional pain of not being 100% to lead his team. Then, seeing him dunk on Gasol and Odom’s heads late in the 4th on his gimpy leg, you could tell that he has enough heart for two men. I don’t think enough can be said about Yao Ming. He has so much heart, so much fire, but he never crosses the line to arrogance a la KG.

• As Led and Harold noted in the comments, when you commit to fronting Yao, you can expect he is going to have a bit night on the offensive glass because you can’t box him out (without doubling, which you are trying not to do every second of every play). It’s something for the Lakers to be aware of, to know where he is and get a body on him, but this is a trade off.

• The Lakers.com people gave Shannon Brown a camera to tape some of the trip to Utah, check out the video. An observation: Pau Gasol pretty much always looks like he just woke up 30 seconds ago.

Kurt

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120 responses to Game 3 Thoughts: I’ll Have Another Just Like That One

  1. You can really see so much of Kobe’s defensive skill when he’s trying to lock down someone. There were close outs, well timed swipes, and smart sagging when he was guarding ron-ron. Heck I even saw him fronting ron in the high post once. He really has all those defensive maneuvers in his skill set. Of course, it also helped that Ron ron was already going to the “I’m taking over this game” mode

    Yao Ming. Hurting legs with a minute to go, and the other team up 9, most would have subbed themselves out. But yao wasn’t even looking at the bench when another houston player (scola?) came in for him. He really just wanted to stay in and play.

  2. Chuck Daly post up but continue discussing your game 3 thoughts here.

  3. About Farmar; I hate being right all the time.This is the Lakers next point guard.

  4. magiclover,

    Whoa. He helped this game, but I don’t think it’s going to change his status for the future.

  5. How about Luke?

    Who knew he was that feisty? The Lakers really seem to genuinely dislike Scola.

  6. Game 3 is being replayed on NBA tv.

  7. That game was so much fun to watch.. hopefully the Lakers can retain this kind of a competitive edge.

  8. Again. Im not here to say I was right… because it was only one game. And I don’t think Farmar is a great PG. In fact I think Brow should be our starter. Farmar is your traditional spark plug off the bench at the point. And I think he can do that very well for the next 8 years. What you saw last night was a below average starting PG (Farmar) playing with great talent around him… and he came through. Brown also had a great game. I do think Brown in the Lakers offense can be an average starting PG with his athleticism, size, large hands, and new found shooting ability. He can be a great defensive PG and already might be as well. Farmar though is better in pick and rolls. So if we can’t go out and get an above average starting PG in the offseason I would be happy having Brown starting for us next year with Farmar backing him up. Again…. I don’t hate Fisher… he just was a below average starting PG in his prime and his prime was a long time ago. Now that his legs are gone and he isn’t even a plus shooter… he gives you nothing that you can’t get from him sitting on the bench. It wasn’t a coincidence that the Rockets PG’s did absolutely nothing in Game 3. In fact…. when was the last time an opposing teams PG got dominated by our PG’s in a game? This had to be the first time all year. Its funny how before the game most people were jumping on me for saying that Fisher shouldn’t start anymore for us. Then right after the game most people were singing a different tune. Well… anyone can have hind-site bias… but before the fact I predicted we would play better without Fisher. And it must have made you guys cringe to hear with 48.7 seconds left in the game Van Gundy say that Fisher shouldn’t start anymore. After all… he was a good NBA coach for many years and not a guy (me) you never heard of before. Don’t worry… Ill be here anytime you want an NBA experts opinion on the Lakers or anything else around the league. And again… this was only one game. But you didn’t have to be a basketball god to realize Fisher had nothing left in the talk and his one strength (spot up shooting) had left with his legs. Phil Jackson is getting older… and maybe is less prone to change. He goes to his comfort zone as often as he can. And he always goes back to Fisher like some women go back to they’re abusive husbands. And we will all go back to Fisher for Game 4… and he will once again make Aaron Brooks look like Isiah Thomas. But he is OUR little Fisher.

  9. Fisher is like your kid… you want him to play even though he isn’t as good as the other kids.

  10. What a wonderful gift to the LakeShow getting Utah then Houston. Last year, like the Cavs this year, the Lakers weren’t battle tested and tempered. It showed in the finals against a Boston squad that had 3, 7 game physical series that prepared them. The Lakers are getting that this year. The finals will be half court grind it out mano a mano, and while some will look at the Cavs and think they are cruising, many of us though the same thing about the Lakers last year. The similarities are eerie. Can essentially a one man show LeBron, carry the Cavs, much like Kobe tried to last year. No he wont. Defense wins championships yes but being battle tested, being down in a series, and coming back will in the end be the reason the Lakers win the championship. The kind of defense and adversity they are facing, Fish being suspended, Farmar having to step up, the bench not playing well and still finding the defensive will to win, are the foundatation that championships are built upon. Thanks Utah and Houston, and the Nuggets. You got us ready for our rings

  11. I agree with all the points made, but we should also note that the Lakers were 11/20 on 3s, including 5/6 from Odom and Ariza. Now, for those that believe in %s, as I do, that balances out Game 1, but it’s something to watch in Game 4.

    Also, as Kurt noted, only 6 TOs. 55% on 3s and 6 TOs is how to win getting outrebounded 56-43. Does anyone have any #s on how many times the Lakers had games with turnovers on only ~7-8% of possessions?

    Don’t get me wrong–it was a great win and I am confident, but these are numbers to be aware of.

  12. Aaron you are right for a game. Yes against smaller quick guards like brooks and parker, Fish simply can not guard them. But for that matter neither can Shanwow. Did you see him trying to defend the PnR and getting “Cindi Laupered” lost “time after time”. Trust me when you face Chauncey in the next round or Jason Kidd both strong PG’s you want Fish out there. Then in the finals Mo Williams is not going to Blow by you. The fact is Fish is the smartest and most experienced PG and defender we have. Let’s not forget the Laker’s fortunes turned when he came back to the fold from Utah. PJ is the best in the business for a reason, believe me his doesn’t let his personal regard for a player get in the way of sound basketball reason. Fish starts for a reason and yes against Brooks he is over matched, but do you really want to see farmer in the low post defending J Kidd or Chauncey? i dont.

  13. Aaron,
    I don’t think it is so much that Jackson is adverse to change – look at how he moved around between Walton, Ariza, and Radmanovich at SF, how he brought in Brown over Fisher, how he has tried various combinations of how to use Bynum in the playoffs. The problem is that Farmar and Brown haven’t shown enough to make a clear-cut case over Fisher – I don’t think the last 5 quarters are enough for that. I think Fisher will start again, with Farmar getting more time, and I think that is the right move. (Although a decent argument can be made for starting Farmar.)

    But Jackson is not adverse to change.

  14. #9 Aaron – you’re absolutely right.

    I’ve been saying that with Fisher suspended, it actually benefited us. Fisher can’t do anything spectacular (not to say he hasn’t, ie. 0.4), but he’s been a part of the Lakers for so long I can’t see him going anywhere else.

    When Fisher can’t hit his shots, it really affects the Lakers, as he isn’t particularly good at attacking the basket. I don’t even know what will happen in a few years down, when Fisher actually becomes baggage. I love Fisher, that’s my man, but Farmar and Shannon are both capable of replacing Fisher.

  15. 10,
    Part of the reason Ariza and Lamar made those 3’s is because Farmar went to the basket and kicked it out to them for open looks… something Fisher can’t do.

    11,
    I disagree… Brown is a better defender to me against smaller quicker guards then Farmar is. Small guards can’t defend as well as bigger guards. The same reason the best defensive PG’s in the NBA are always long and/or big (Rondo, Billups etc). How often have you heard people complain that Farmar can’t defend quick guards either. That being said he can guard Brooks pretty well because Brooks isn’t very good. That is also why Fisher is so bad on D. He made a below average starting PG in Brooks look so good. Brown did great in pick and roll defense… one of the reasons the Rockets were entirely ineffective running their pick and roll when Brown was in the game.

  16. Aaron,
    I say this with all due respect, lines like “Don’t worry… Ill be here anytime you want an NBA experts opinion on the Lakers or anything else around the league.” are extremely arrogant and outlandish to actually read. No one here – not me or Kurt or Reed or Gatinho or Kwame A or Bill Bridges or any of the other extremely insightful people who come here to share our thoughts on the Lakers would ever pawn ourselves off as an “expert”. We all just love basketball and, thanks to Kurt, we have this forum to visit and discuss our favorite team. We’re all entitled to our opinion and I enjoy reading thoughts that don’t agree with mine and participating in debate. But I don’t think anyone likes discussing anything with people that come off as know it all’s and only use selected pieces of information to bolster their narrowed viewpoint. Criticism is fine and is sometimes needed. I for one, am happy that Farmar played well – he was integral in us winning game 3. He made several plays (many that don’t show up in the boxscore) that were big in determining the winner of last night’s contest. I’m also happy with Brown’s progress since he’s gotten into the rotation. But your need to dump on Fisher by comparing him to some coaches kid that doesn’t deserve to play, essentially saying that Phil is in some senile comfort zone to actually play him, or that Fish is some completely washed up player (all while insisting that you don’t hate him) is completely over the top. As I said in a previous post, I’ll be the first to admit that a player is not playing well. And Fisher could be playing better. But he’s still a leader on this team and a guy that, as recently as game 2, had a pretty good game. I’m all for praising Farmar for his solid game of 12/5/7/2. But Fish had a line of 12/2/2/1 in game 2 and made a very important play that many fans consider a turning point in that game and potentially the series. Like I’ve said all along, criticism is fine and is normally valid/has justification – we are fans after all. However, praise and recognition of what actually helps the team is also important. So, the more you basically say “anyone could do what Fisher does” the more I find your comments as the piling on of a player that does have value but you just refuse to acknowledge it because it doesn’t fit into your predetermined viewpoints.

  17. Darius,
    Im sorry man. My line of “Don’t worry… Ill be here anytime you want an NBA experts opinion on the Lakers or anything else around the league.” was meant to be funny. I wish you guys would lighten up around here.

  18. When I write I try to be entertaining as well an informative. But this I am very serious about…. Fisher’s foul on Scola was only beneficial to the Lakers success because the Lakers couldn’t put out Fisher on the floor in Game 3. I agree with Van Gundy…It was one of the dirtiest plays I have seen in basketball in many years. I also agree with Van Gundy when he said the Lakers are better off if Fisher didn’t start the rest of the series. If you disagree that is fine. And again I’m sorry that you guys don’t find me funny. Ill have to go back to improv class.

  19. @14

    Sure, but the Rockets will adjust and that % is not sustainable.

    It wasn’t luck–good teams shoot the lights out sometimes; that is one reason they are good teams. But game-to-game, I look at adjustments, stats and attitude–all work together and play into execution.

    OTOH, the Lakers winning by 14 on the road with Pau and Kobe going 15/39 is huge.

    WRT Farmar: as many of us said after Gm 1, this is a good matchup for him, and power to him, he stepped up. As a UCLA alum, having Farmar and Ariza on this team is a blast for me. But let’s not get carried away. Fisher is limited, but makes specific contributions–few TOs, floor spacing, knocking down open Js–that help the team.

  20. Aaron,
    It’s all good. Many of us who frequent this site and comment often have been around for a while and you get used to everyone’s tone and can better read into that kind of stuff. I would say though, that if in one sentence you’re saying that a player is washed up (which is a pretty serious thing to say) and then in another you’re calling yourself an expert in the next sentence, some may not be able to tell what’s serious and what’s not.

  21. My comment is “awaiting moderation.” Maybe Kurt will trust me at some point if I hang out here more. ;-)

  22. When the Lakers are playing reasonable D, the Rockets have a scoring ceiling of around 95 points. For the Rockets to win this series, they would need to limit the Lakers to under 100 points in 3 of the next 4 games. I am not a statistician, but I would be surprised if the Lakers scored under 100 in 3 of any 4 consecutive games this season. That’s the reality that Houston has to contend with. Their defense must be perfect from here on out.

    The key to this series has been its 1st quarters. In the 2 Laker wins they got out and scored early/often. In the loss, they were limited to 18 first quarter points. The Rockets can score 25-30 in one or 2 periods per game, but it comes at a major price. The Lakers can do it all night long. Last night the Rockets kept pace for 2 quarters and faded. I think we will see this same pattern in game 4, as the crowd rallies Houston to a 50 point 1st half, and then their physical limitations surface.

  23. Ill post something I was asked to write on the Lakers during the Jazz series for another internet basketball size so you guys can get a feel for my writing style and my humor… I think you will find it entertaining.

  24. Heading into the playoffs the Lakers knew two things… They have the best team in the nba if you only count their shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center, and their back up forward. And they have the worst starting point guard in the NBA. And their isn’t a close 2nd in either of those categories. As an nba head coach your job is to know your teams strengths and their weakness’. Phil Jackson is a great NBA front man when it comes to basketball philosophy, motivation, patience, and leadership. But every super hero has his kriptinite. For Shaq it was his free throw shooting, for Coach Jackson…. Its basic basketball match up logic. His in game coaching forever questioned by scouts and fellow basketball smart men aside, what I have seen the last several postseasons is an inability to even prepare effectively before a series or even a game. Forget about playing Luke Walton ahead of Ariza in last years finals… Even though the one game Jackson played Ariza extended minutes in one half the Lakers had a 20 plus point lead largely due to Trevor’s great all around play against the Celtics in the first half of Game 4. As you know Ariza didn’t get off the bench in the 2nd half as the Lakers blew the lead, the game, and the series. But that you can understand… After all, Luke Walton is the NBA’s version of Paris Hilton… As in “What are you good at again besides being born into a Famous family and being above average looking?”. If you watch this years playoffs you will really be left scratching your head.

    Point Guards in the NBA have always been bothered by taller longer players. Remember Pippen on Magic in the 91 finals. Or Bowen on every PG in the NBA for the past 7 years. The only problem in implementing such a strategy is who does that leave your PG defending? The Lakers have the classic long, athletic wing player inTrevor Ariza that traditionally gives PG’s fits. So before you just throw up your hands in disbelief as you watch Williams breeze by Fisher and shoot over Odom again let’s take jackson’s idiocy to the next appropriate and we’ll deserving level. Derek fisher should never and shouldn’t have to… ever… ever… ever guard Deron Williams. Not for one minute…. Not for one play…. And not for one acid flashback nano second in Phil Jackson’s hippie head. Not when the Jazz start offensive midget Corey Brewer at Shooting Guard. Ariza can guard Williams and Fisher can stop being picked on over and over again. He can sit on the perimeter and do what he does best…. Leave his man wide open as he needlessly sinks to the paint to double team on every possession. And when Ariza takes a rest on the bench the Lakers have fast, explosive, and physical Shannon Brown to attempt to guard Williams. Not only would that help slow down D Will…. But it would stop the Lakers from having to trap Williams on every possession helping let Carlos Boozer look like Karl Malone this whole series. Their is one more reason Boozer looks like the hulk in this 1st round match up.

    With all the attention the Lakers defense gets about not being “tough enough” there is not enough attention as to why that is. When the Lakers play Gasol at 5 and Odom at 4 they are small, weak, and frail. No wonder the only team (Celtics) they played in the playoffs last year with a big front line pounded them out of the finals. This is another giant Jackson goof. At the beginging of the season he finshed games with Andrew Bynum off the floor and the Lakers struggled to win close games because of a lack of defense and rebounding. As we watch Jackson do the same thing in the 2009 playoffs… We see the Lakers continue to get pounded and pushed around inside, struggling to close out close games. The last 5 min of playoff games slow to a crawl and an extra emphises is placed on rebounding, defense, and size down low. With Bynum and Gasol on the floor together the Lakers are a dominant defensive and rebounding team, with Bynum on the bench they simply are not.

    So please… Stop blaming Fisher for being old and slow. Please let Walton off the hook… Its not his fault the coaches play him even 2 minutes a game. And stop calling the Lakers soft. Let’s start holding the Coach accountable in the media like he holds his players accountable via tell all books, sound bites, and newspaper clippings. After all, sometimes a coach needs to know when to let his assistants do some work that an aging hipster just can’t fit into his pipe and smoke anymore.

  25. 16, Darius – Most of the rest of us do consider you guys experts, though. The stuff that you guys post is not everyday run-of-the-mill fan analysis.

  26. Aaron, You keep returning to Van Gundy’s opinion about Fisher like it’s the gold standard. I’d weigh in on my view of Van Gundy as a commentator, but Kurt would (rightfully) delete it …

  27. Ha… I actually think Van Gundy is a great commentator. So we disagree there too. Sorry man. Im not too surprised that most NBA folks outside of Los Angeles are confused as to why Fisher gets so many minutes on the floor and even starts. But I am surprised that so many Lakers fans can’t see what most non Lakers fans can see… that Fisher is no longer a serviceable NBA PG.

  28. Thanks snoopy. I say this all the time too, this site really does generate great insight (and I don’t mean from me). Like everyone else, I get so much from what all the regulars post including you and wondahbap, zephid, clutch, and many, many others.

  29. And I will say this… I think for the most part jackson is still a great NBA coach. I disagree with him on playing Powell and Walton whenever they are in the game. I disagree with him on playing Fisher at this point in his career. I don’t even disagree with him on Bynum’s lack of playing time… because if his knee is still weak than if he is playing too many minutes he can easily further injure than knee or by compensating he might injure something else. So limiting his minutes right now might save his career or at least give him a chance to strengthen the knee and be more productive in the later rounds.

  30. Aaron wrote on May 9, 2009 at 1:13 pm
    “Ha… I actually think Van Gundy is a great commentator. ”

    I see …

  31. JVG and Mark Jackson bore me now. Although, it seems they got the message yesterday. It sounded less like their schtick. Toned down some.

    I’ll take Hubie anyday of the week.

  32. Aaron,

    I have to disagree with you about Walton. If you’ve ever played the game you’d know Walton is one of those guys you want on your team. His lack of athleticism is his ONLY weakness. He knows the game (IQ), probably had a basketball in his hands since he was 1yr old, and he has quickness and is an excellent passer. He is a player that will NOT stand still and watch he is always moving or trying to make something happen… the ball never becomes stagnant when he is in the game.

  33. Is it a bad sign that Sasha Vujacic strikes sheer terror into my heart every time he catches the ball now?

    The other thing I loved from last night (besides Kobe finally driving) is that (if memory serves), Kobe did not sit out at the beginning of the fourth. I’ve been screaming at Phil to keep Kobe in the game to prevent the ridiculous bench habit of giving up leads, and Kobe came through in a big way. He didn’t seem fazed by the extra PT one bit – not only did he D up Artest, but he expended quite a bit of energy driving the ball on the offensive end. He’s well conditioned enough to do that, every Lakers fan knows it, and it was high time Kobe saw the entire fourth quarter from the floor.

    The thing about Phil is he’s always coaching for the long-term, and I know he’s trying to prod the bench back into their ways. But after losing Game 1, I think Phil knew that this was a grimmer situation and we couldn’t risk the bench giving up this hard-earned lead. If we lose Game 4, I expect Phil will probably use the same tactic and keep Kobe on the floor the entire 4th in Game 5.

  34. AP Report – Artest’s foul downgraded to F1, he’s going to play tomorrow.

    You may now return to your regularly-scheduled thread.

  35. Snoopy,

    Kobe played the whole 4th.

    I applauded this as well. Although PJ played the same amount of guys he usually does, he kept the rotations tighter. Keeping starters on the floor with subs.

    It prevented any letdowns in the 4th. I expect Phil will keep it like this as much as he can.

  36. PeanutButterSpread May 9, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    The Shannon Brown video was kinda fun to watch.

  37. I just found this site this year. I’ve been reading it all year and enjoying it, but just recently started posting. I posited after Fisher’s suspension that perhaps for this series, he may not be the best fit as our starter so perhaps his suspension wouldn’t hurt us too much because he seemed a bit too slow for Brooks and Lowry. Someone, I don’t remember whom, pointed out that Fisher still doubled down well on the post. There’s a reason Farmar played less than Fish and Brown against Utah. Nobody’s going to stop D-Will anyway, but I think the stronger two of our three point guards did an admirable job. I think Fish and Brown should play more against Chauncy Billups because he is strong. I think for this series Farmar should play more because he is quick. However, in the last two minutes of a close playoff game, I want Derek Fisher on the floor. That’s when he’ll make a smart defensive play that makes a difference, or hit the open shot that he may have missed the previous three times. Derek Fisher is a winner. I want him on the floor at the end. He may be a step slower now, but Fisher used to own Tony Parker by being physical with him. Don’t tell me he is or was never any good. While I’m on the subject, Luke Walton is underappreciated. He is a smart player who is our best passer in the triangle offense, when we actually run it, which seems to be seldom. Luke deserves some credit for telling Phil to start Ariza over him. Ariza doesn’t fit well with the second unit, Luke does, and Ariza gets a lot of turnovers so he should play more, but Luke Walton still contributes when he is out there.

  38. There are two differences between the Cavs and the Lakers.

    1) The Cavs sustain their competitive edge even when they don’t feel challenged by the team they play against. You get the feeling that they feel they are competing with an eye on what everyone says makes a champion.

    2) The Lakers raise their game to the level of their competition and only sustain their competitive excellence against excellent competition.

    Okay, there is nothing new to this observation but keep in mind that so much of how a champion is perceived is in retrospect. You rarely see teams vying for a championship compared against the perception of eventual champions while vying for their wins. You almost always read comparisons of a team vying against perceptions of teams after they have won. A team in the vying position is always at a disadvantage because the option of comparing to those who lost at the highest level is still viable. You can always say, look at this flaw and that flaw and look, these losers had those flaws. You could just as easily look at championship teams and say, look at this flaw and that flaw, but they were champions because they eventually overcame these flaws.

    My point is, these Lakers, this season, have shown a consistent pattern. The pattern is this. When they doubt themselves they push all out. Once they feel comfortable they ease off a bit. When they feel challenged again they really push back hard and that almost always gets them the win. The only times that pattern has not been followed (again, this is part of the pattern) is when they feel the team they are playing are worthy of an all out effort. The Cavs and the Celtics can attest to this. It is not just that their talent wins out. The Lakers get chippy, and mean against those teams. They have now deemed Houston worthy of getting mean against and you can see the defensive effort is there. Houston has shown they can cause the Lakers’ offense some problems and the Lakers are solving that on the defensive end. That wins championships.

    The ability to solve the myriad of challenges you will meet on the way to the championship is the quality of a champion. When you can’t solve these problems anymore, you lose. The Cavs have solved their problems but I have yet to see any of their opponents serve up the sort of challenges that a good Utah team (excellent coach, top 5 PG, bruising PFs, athletic wings) and an excellent Houston team (very good coach, top 2 center, 2 great perimeter defenders, solid PGs and lots of tough if undersized PFs) has provided the Lakers. I don’t see how any of the remaining teams in the east can provide the challenge that Denver will provide whomever makes it out out of our current matchup.

    I know this seems to be looking ahead to rounds the Lakers haven’t yet earned a berth to. Instead I mean to speak to the sustained effort idea. As much as we feel better when the Lakers sustain their effort and it makes the game more enjoyable, I don’t think that is what this Lakers team is. Hell, the Kobe-Shaq Lakers weren’t that either. The Lakers sustained effort throughout last year’s playoffs but fell short because they couldn’t meet the challenge of a team that pulled and hooked, and moved on picks, executed their offense, played active D and bellowed with all the abundance of KG’s insecurity. These Lakers meet that challenge and push back, pull back, hook back, go linebacker on moving picks, and let their overwhelming talent do the rest.

    There will be another letdown. I see Houston winning one more game. Maybe the next game in LA.

    I think the flagrant 1 on Artest was BS. It was just a hard foul. Get up, shoot the FTs and keep playing.

    It really sucks seeing Yao limping around. You all should understand that I lived in China and grew to despise Yao. They so overrated Yao and his face was everywhere, and some things in our heart will remain irrational. I hated him but this series has made me respect the guy and if they weren’t playing the Lakers I would probably be rooting for the Rox against anybody else. So, there is that to be said about this series.

  39. Wow, I must admit, this Fish-hate is astounding.. doesn’t floor leadership, toughness and all-out effort mean anything these days? Yes, he’s in a slump, but the guy provided us with solid play all year long. If/when his jump shot returns, there won’t be any questions about his loss of quickness. Besides, basketball is a five-man game and teammates should help each other on D. No one can guard a third of the league’s starting point guards because of their quickness.

  40. Guys, I am scared of Denver the most. I don’t even feel a great threat from Cleveland.

  41. P. Ami,

    I don’t think the Lakers will have another let down. I think Game 1 was the final wake up call.

    I don’t think they’ll lose another game to Houston, but if they do, I doubt it will be because of a “let down.” Just Houston playing great. But Houston playing great again is something else I do not see.

  42. Of no importance at all, does Shannon Brown remind anyone elso of this guy:

    http://94.100.113.179/58500001-58550000/58532301-58532400/58532365_5_nZaM.jpeg

    He’s all eyes!

  43. @ Aaron, look, it’s one thing to try to be funny, but it’s another to bash our beloved Lakers in the process. Calling Fish washed up, PJ an idiot/senile, Walton Paris Hilton, and Gasol frail cross the line. I personally find your sense of humor to be uncomfortable at best and offensive at worst.

    In addition to Darius’ point about respecting the commenters, I’d ask that you respect the players/coaching staff.

    As for your argument about Farmar starting over Fish, you’re right in that it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, because a lot of people have made that argument already. However, some of these people (including myself), are saying that Farmar plays better with the starting unit. We don’t take anything away from Fish and we are certainly not attacking his character. Even Van Gundy’s comment was in the context that Fish would stabilize the second unit and Farmar would matchup better with Brooks, which means it would be fallacious to use that to support your argument that Fisher is flat out a worse player and the worst starting PG period.

    The reason PJ trusts Fish over Brown is because he plays with poise and execution, whereas those two are prone to bad decisions. Offensively, even if we take your iffy argument that Farmar/Brown will shoot better into consideration, I’m unconvinced that will outweigh the charges, quickshooting, or turnovers that those two would commit. Defensively, I’d argue that, especially w/ today’s perimeter-favored rules, quick point guards need to be contained with team help defense, not the attribution to a single player. The difference between gm 1 and 2 in Brooks’ production shows that. Farmar and SB are prone to mental lapses on D as well, as evidenced by their overcommitting to Yao and leaving open lanes for layups.

    The main contributors to this site are in my eyes experts. I get a lot from your well-written and distinctive insights.

    @Tremble, I agree with you. The Nuggets are scary good right now. Their athleticism and three-point shooting matches up better with us, while the Cavs to me will find their lack of a post presence to be glaring against elite defenses.

  44. Igor, I hope my post wasn’t part of the Fish-hating. I love the guy for everything he’s done for this team. Getting him back was like getting A.C. Green back for the first of the threepeat. It made us winners again. It’s taken an extra year with Fisher for us to get that next championship, but it’s coming. I still say this isn’t the best matchup for him, but I want him on the floor at the end of the game and I can see why Jackson would still start him. I’d sub Farmar for him earlier for this series, but you’ve still got to start the guy. Jackson is definitely smart enough to see the same things I see and understand that you don’t disrespect the floor leader you are going to need in crunch time.

  45. TEXAS HOSPITALITY

    The Lakers showed great hospitality for game 1, allowing the Rox to feel right at home. They responded by stealing the game, taking home court advantage with them back to Texas. They wanted to steal game 2 as well, but hospitality has it’s limits, and Derek Fisher gave the Rox an unmistakeable sign that stealing has consequences–even in laid back LA.

    What would happen in cowboy country? Would the Rox be equally hospitable? Or. would they send a Texas message that finders are keepers, and they were unwilling to give that home court advantage back. Were the Lakers being invited to a barbeque, or a man to man
    shootout with Rox enforcer “Ron Ron”?

    Turned out that the Rox were willing to be hospitable to a point, but they were not willing to give the Lake Show home court advantage back without a fight.

    So the Lake show came to Texas as a group of LA Homies, determined to bring the home court advantage back with them–determined to win a shootout. From the earliest moments of the game, shots were fired and returned, but as the smoke cleared and the time ran down, Lakeshow clearly were about to get home court advantage back,

    So Ron Ron sent the Lakers an unmistakeable sign that hospitality was withdrawn for game 4.

    The Lakeshow must accept the reality that they face shootouts for the rest of the series with the Rox until only one team is left standing.

    We’ll see how those LA Homies respond to this new challenge tomorrow.

    (Note: this is a repost from the previous thread).

  46. Here’s a question I’ve got, and I look forward to hearing why it is a bad idea, but I need to know why. I know we’ve tried it before, and Bynum doesn’t really look confident in his knee yet, but should we consider playing Bynum and Gasol at the same time against this team? You’ve still got to limit Bynum’s minutes because his endurance isn’t at the same level as everyone else yet, but it just seemed like he got pushed around less by Yao than Gasol did last night. I mean that as no knock on Gasol, he played a great game, but Bynum is stronger. Honestly it seems like Houston did us a favor in the second half by forgetting to run their offense through the 7′ 6″ giant. In the first half, when he got the ball on the block or near against Gasol, he usually scored or dished out to a scorer. In the second half, most of his looks were caused by ball movement or rebounds. Hence the blocked shots against him, particularly on help defense after movement. He’s only at his best when he is a focal point. His lack of hops make him a target for blocked shots from help defenders despite his size. By the way, my hat’s off to the guy for gutting it out after he hurt his ankle. I’m talking about the second half before he hurt his ankle. I’m not knocking Odom. He played a great game. I just wonder if we wouldn’t be better off playing the Bynum, Gasol tandum when Houston remembers to feed the post, be it to Yao or Scola. I’m sure Jackson has thought of this and will decline for a reason, I just want to know why.

  47. @bap

    You know I hope you’re right. I suppose you’ve seen the pattern in this season that I was discussing and it would be a change in pattern were they to sustain the effort.

    Kurt’s link to the Amazing Next ad with Kobe crossing Pippin and passing off to Shaq had me going back to watch the 4th Q of that game. As much as the Blazers choked and Dunleavy sucked as a coach, the Lakers just clamped down the D and that reminds me of what the Lakers started doing in the second half of last night’s game. Now, there is nobody like Shaq in the middle to just warp the floor on this team (please Bynum, just keep gaining that confidence). You could see Horry staying with Sheed, sort of irritating him and hounding him, and hounding him, rarely going up on pump-fakes, and when Sheed saw a little light to get a shot off, an oh-oh enters his eyes realizing Shaq turned off the lights before he could get full extension on the shot. The controlled urgency of championship D is coming to life in these Lakers. It’s not about choking the life out of the opponent. It’s about executing the game plan until you need to choke the life out of the opponent. Anyway, I guess I can still get shocked by how good Shaq was.

  48. Wow. No flagrant on Dahntay Jones? Someone on the Mavs is going to have to lay him out. They need to wake up the refs and make sure this series doesn’t get out of control.

  49. I was amazed at Farmar’s play in this game…where has that guy been? Even if he wasn’t hitting his shots, he was making smart, timely passes, not turning the ball over, and playing hustling, active defense.

    THAT’S ALL WE WANTED ALL ALONG.

    The problem with the past 4 months, is that Farmar wasn’t shooting well, but he would just continue to jack up bad shots – then get disappointed, and play half-hearted defense…and when he did decide to pass, he’d be careless and turn the ball over.

    Let’s face it, last night, he still couldn’t shoot (he missed a lot of wide open looks), but HE DID OTHER THINGS! He was a huge positive, because he took care of the ball, passed it to the right people, and hustled his behind off on defense.

    If he’d been doing that all along, he wouldn’t be in the doghouse.

    Truth be told, Brown should be taking Sasha’s minutes at this point, and Farmar should be back in the rotation – the Farmar/Brown combo actually isn’t half-bad.

    Every time Sasha misses a wide open jumper (which is 90% of the time), it’s deflating for the team. And it’s not like he’s gang busters on defense – he’s fouling like crazy. I’d rather have Brown out there, who’s actually capable of creating (and making) his own shot and not fouling on defense…

  50. I hate Yao, but that’s because he keeps defeating our national basketball team (Korea). Seungjin Ha (once a bit player on the blazers) is coming along, so we’ll see what happens next time, but you have to give props where props are due – the guy is a workaholic, and nothing tells that more than FT%. Of course, there’s also the bit on him being genetically ‘planned’ by the chinese government (not sure if I read that in the US media or in the Korean media though ;) )

  51. They are saying Yao is a game-time decision with an ankle sprain. There is no way he lets them keep him out of the lineup. How much it will limit him is another story. I’m just thankful that it was an ankle sprain and nothing more serious.

  52. Wow, watching the Den/Dal game how do they not call the intentional foul there before the shot at the end of the game. He should have just grabbed him but still it was an obvious foul. I’d be pissed if I was Dallas.

  53. Wow. The refs missed that one.

  54. Yeah, Dallas got screwed, you could see in the replay the ref was looking at Melo’s feet. However, you have to HAVE to wrap the guy up. Very similar to Brent Barry last year. Playoff basketball…you gotta love it.

  55. I’m sure the Nuggets do look scary, but in the postseason I’ll take the Lakers over a team that wants to go out and run over a team that wants to make it all half court anytime. Granted, we have to beat the Rockets first, but no way no how, over a seven game series, Kobe doesn’t find a way to his showdown with Lebron. Along the way he’ll take some ill advised shots, like he did in quarters 2 through 4 yesterday, while still scoring 33 and making some nice plays along the way, but there is no way he’s going to let the Lakers miss his dream matchup. Kobe Bryant wants to beat Lebron James more than he wants to beat the Celtics. I really wanted a rematch, but it’s probably not going to happen with KG out. Kobe Bryant will find a way to will the team, even if they don’t need it, to his matchup with Lebron James. They probably won’t even guard each other very much, but it doesn’t even matter in Kobe’s book. Lebron James is the only man that might be better than him playing right now. That’s the perception, and it makes Kobe angry. Lebron, at 24, might be better, I know he’s hungry, but I don’t think he’s angry enough yet.

    Prediction for the inevitable finals: the stars mostly cancel themselves out. Kobe scores more, but Lebron has more rebounds and assists. I’ll take the rest of the Lakers over the rest of the Cavs anyday.

  56. Kobe is arrogant, aloof, and professional. Lebron, in contrast, is congenial, down-to-earth, and goofy. One may argue that these may solely be affronts, but this is how each is perceived, rightly or wrongly. I for one do believe that Kobe definitely keeps himself on a level above everyone else, while Lebron is everybody’s best friend. To make a Civil War analogy, if Lebron were Robert E. Lee, Kobe would be Ulysses S. Grant. Lee was absolutely beloved by his soldiers; Grant was detested by his soldiers almost to the point of sedition.

    Most people despise Kobe’s elitist appearance, in that he knows he’s better than you, lets you know he’s better than you, then proceeds to show you he’s better than you. In contrast, Lebron has yet to gain that assassin’s edge that so defines Kobe.

    Everyone knows the kid in high school who thought he was too cool to talk to you (maybe some of you were that kid), and that’s how people perceive Kobe, whereas Lebron is more the dumb jock who is everyone’s friend, even the dorks ostracized by the other jocks.

    And I’m telling you guys, Yao is actually two guys, one guy on the other’s shoulders. One just has massive legs and the other has a massive head. That’s why whenever Yao goes down, everyone freaks out: they don’t want the two guys to come apart and reveal his secret.

  57. Lewis – Kobe is still more skilled overall to me, but anyone saying Lebron is the best in the game won’t get a strong argument from me. The media’s (like Hollinger) claims have nothing to do with Colorado and very little to do with hating Kobe at all. Let’s not undermine Lebron with a conspiracy theory or anything. Hollinger’s infatuation comes from the ridiculous numbers Lebron puts up. Hollinger lives by numbers, so it’s natural for him to love Lebron.

    I’ve said many times that Lebron in the triangle would have much less impressive numbers (in the assist dept, at least). So much of it depends on system and teammates, and some people (possibly Hollinger) over look that. But Lebron is a physical freak who knows how to get the most out of his physical tools. He’s in the discussion, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to give him the edge over Kobe (who admittedly has a far greater range of diverse skills).

  58. Great Googly Moogly May 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    My Power Rankings (of teams still alive) as of today:

    1) Cleveland
    2) Denver
    3) Lakers
    4) Houston
    5) Orlando
    6) Boston
    7) Dallas
    8) Atlanta

  59. Really? The only player above average at their position that Lebron is playing with is Mo Williams. He won 68 games with a garbage team. He won the MVP and probably will win the defensive player of the year award at the age of 24. I LOVE Kobe. I think Kobe is the 3rd best player to have ever played the game… but he is still behind Lebron and Jordan. Im assuming of course Lebron doesn’t have a career ending injury. Watch Lebron and appreciate him… because its a blessing to watch him play basketball. Just like its an honor to have watched Kobe play for so many years.

  60. Great Googly Moogly,

    Unless you a Denver fan, ranking Denver ahead of the Lakers is absurd.

    Cleveland isn’t better than the Lakers either, but at least I can understand that.

  61. Until Denver and the Cavs play a good team you can’t even really rank them to be honest.

  62. I’d be pissed if I was allas too, but if you’re going to foul, the FOUL him. He gave him a chest bump. He definitely didn’t earn the call. You don’t leave intentional fouls up for interpretation. You make sure.

  63. We’re seeing a bit of it today from Atlanta, but it’s a mystery to me why teams don’t just concede jumpers to Lebron. He’s awful 3pt and mid-range shooter.

  64. Atlanta is just a player or two short to play with a team of the Cav’s caliber. They had enough talent to beat a team like Miami (that was multiple players short and couldn’t be saved by even a player of Wade’s ability) but when you run up against a *team* that is 4 deep in the front court and 5 deep on the wing, that’s gonna be a really steep climb. This is where the Hawks really miss Childress and also suffer from Acie Law’s lack of development. I know they have Flip and Evans, and while both those guys are solid they are also streaky. Anyways, even if the Cavs lose this game, they’ll cruise to the ECF.

  65. Wow. Yao has a hairline fracture.

  66. Yao out, so sad.

  67. Oh man, Yao out for the playoffs with a hairline fracture? I’m really sorry for that. To all the good Rockets fans that have been on this site during the series, I truly feel for you guys.

  68. Great Googly Moogly May 9, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Just b/c they haven’t played any “good” teams doesn’t mean you can’t rank them. That logic is absurd.

    Of course, the rankings are fluid. Once Lakers and Denver meet in the WCFs (hopefully) we might see that the Lakers are better than Denver and they would be ranked accordingly. But to this point, Denver has looked more impressive than the Lakers.

    And Cleveland hasn’t lost so I don’t know how you can argue that any team is better than them at this point.

  69. Well… Ming is out for the playoffs. That will give Bynum more time to strengthen his knee for the next round if we can wrap this thing up in 5.

  70. Shame about Yao.

    Lakers need to come out focused though, losing Yao totally sets us up for a letdown game if we aren’t careful.

  71. 62, Aaron, I could not disagree more. Check out the page in 82Games were they rank teams position by position. You’ll see that Cleveland has the 5th best SG, 4th best PF, and 8th best C in the game. Notice these are position by committee, so that 4th ranking is the work of both Varejao and Wallace most probably. To say Lebron’s supporting cast is lesser than Kobe’s is debatable at worst; claiming they are garbage is utterly wrong and indefensible.

  72. Google man,
    If my rec league team played a bunch of girl teams and went 82-0 would that make us better then the Clippers? Strength of schedule is very important. If the Lakers played the Hornets and the Mavs… they might not have lost a game yet this playoffs. If the Lakers played the Pistons and the Hawks… I can almost assure you that they would not have lost a game yet just like the Cavs. Im not saying the Cavs are not great… We just don’t know how good they really are until they play the Magic in the next round. As far as the Nuggets… If i had to make a power rankings list… I would put them 4th… behind the Lakers, Cavs, and Magic.

  73. No doubt this hurts the Rockets chances with Yao being out, but i would caution that in my opinion the Rockets have played better with their smaller lineups without Yao.

  74. It’s official, Yao is done.

    http://www.nba.com/2009/playoffs2009/05/09/yao.out.playoffs/index.html

    I for one am very sad at this development. He’s a great, humble competitor and you never want to see a competitor get hurt.

  75. 72,
    Oh man.. I can’t believe you guys don’t get this. I still love you though as a fellow Lakers fan. Those numbers are completely predicated on playing with Lebron. He gets everyone open look after open look. Check out those players numbers on “82Games” before they came to the Cavs or before they played with Lebron. Just like players like Fisher, Farmar, Brown, and Sasha will have their numbers jump by playing with Kobe… the same happens when you play with Lebron. Check out Mo Williams career numbers as appose to what he is doing this year next to Lebron james. This isn’t rocket science. Numbers are a good way to judge performance friends… but you have to know how to interpret those numbers.

  76. Aaron, until Lebron wins the rings, he isn’t in the same class as Jordan, or Kobe or Magic, Bird, etc. I agree, he is an amazing physical specimen with phenomenal abilities, and he definitely makes his team better with less of a supporting cast, but you’ve got to win the rings before you get crowned the best or near the best. That’s just the rules. Shoot, even The Logo isn’t held in the same regard as a player as he should be because he and Elgin kept losing Game 7’s to the Celtics. It’s not right, it’s just the way it is. If I’m wrong I’ll never post again in my life, but the Lakers are going to beat the Cavs in the finals for two reasons. One, the rest of the Lakers are better than the rest of the Cavs, and two, probably most importantly, at this point Kobe is angrier than Lebron. Kobe wants it more. Lebron thinks he wants it more, but he doesn’t yet. It may go seven games, but Kobe is going to win this year.

  77. Huzzah, triple post.

    WIth Yao done for the playoffs, this series is over. Unless the Lakers get absolutely worked on the offensive boards, they’re not losing any more games against the Rockets. The Rockets entire offense revolves around Yao; without him, their offense is left in the hands of one Ron Artest. I do not feel comfortable leaving anything in Ron Artest’s hands.

  78. 72,
    Go look at other players at their positions that start and see for yourself. Use the force Luke. Don’t trust these clumsy machines.

  79. 72,
    And Mo Williams is the only player besides Lebron on the Cavs that can put up good numbers without him.

  80. I hate the fact that Yao is Out.

    on the first post on this thread (mine) I said
    something about Yao not wanting to go out. Maybe internally he knew the extent of his injury (he knew he wasn’t going to make it to next game?) and wanted to leave everything out for his last game in this post season?

    Going back to the lakers, they would do well to exploit a Gasol mismatch down low now that yao is out.

    This playoffs are slowly being defined by players who are out.

  81. Zephid

    but then again how much of that is because Lebron is doing the heavy lifting…?

  82. That’s a shame for Yao, I did not want something serious like this to happen to a great player like him.

  83. Just found out Yao is out for the playoffs. That really stinks. I just started to really respect the guy, particularly for not asking out of Game 3 and looking the other way when they brought someone in for him. You’ve got to respect a guy who refuses to believe he is injured even when he knows he is.

  84. What a bummer! The worst part of Yao being done from my perspective is that when he was limping around last night I automatically thought worst case scenario, then breathed a big sigh when it was announced a sprained ankle. Now my gut is ripped out with this news. I’m not sure why the Rockets would have released that it was an ankle sprain if they hadn’t gotten the full results back. The funny thing is that Yao had pulled Artest aside and said he would play in game 4 with the sprain.

    Well this definitely changes the series. I am a realist and see no way for the Rockets to make a series out of it now. They just lost the one big advantage that they had in this series (Any series really. I will caution though that this is a very proud team that has faced obstacles all season. They will come together and lay it all out on the floor for however many games are left in this series. I would be so proud of this team if they were able to somehow band together and get one more win tomorrow night. I know Yao will be on the sidelines giving the only thing he has left to give to his team – his support.

  85. Obviously as a fan of the game, you don’t want to see this sort of thing happen.

    Let’s lighten the mood a bit though with the new Nike commercial featuring Kobe and Lebron… kinda.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtzQ0eXVoJo

  86. yeah someone just made the point that the Rockets made some very strong runs against us when Yao was on the bench.
    we have to be very careful not to just assume that now, with Yao out for the series, this is now a gimmie. it won’t be!
    they are still going to bring it, now they can play like they have nothing to loose.
    we gotta be prepared for a full on assault!

  87. We can agree to disagree Snoop but I see where you coming from this Anti-Kobe sentiment just bothers the hell out of me and once the Lakers beat the Cavs what will the Kobe naysayers be saying then?

  88. Cavs are scary good.

    I don’t care who the opposing teams are. You just don’t wreck the playoffs like that and look like you barely sweat.

    Did we demolish other teams in a similar pace last year? (of course the competition maybe stiffer but still..)

    How about our 16-1 playoff run? Were we that dominant then?

  89. 84, rofl that commercial is hilarious.

    79, how much of Lebron’s success is because his team is built to bring the best out of his skill set? It cuts both ways. I guarantee you, if Lebron were playing the triangle with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum clogging up the lane, his stats would easily get cut by 25-30%. Yes, Lebron is really, really, really, really good, but his team is truly built to bring out the best in his game. He’s surrounded by: 2 three-point shooters at all times, one of the best pure shooting big men in the league, a hustler who gets all the boards and always moves on offense, both of whom set massive screens for Lebron.

    Aaron, it’s obvious you don’t understand the statistic I was referring to if you’re telling me to compare the Cavs starters to other teams starters. It’s one thing to take statistics with a grain of salt; it’s another thing to disregard them altogether simply because you don’t understand their efficacy.

  90. That is so sad. I was enjoying this series so much. Chuck Daly news and now this? I am heartbroken. It just isn’t right.

    I think anyone trying to argue against LeBron in any way shape or form should do so when he’s not putting up 47-12-9 and singlehandedly destroying the Hawks with nothing less than Jordanesque plays. And it’s scary to think he still seems like he can improve.

    Zephid, I wouldn’t worry about Aaron’s comments too much. In his world players are either good or they’re garbage. No amount of rationality will change that.

  91. The Cavs beat bad teams consistently. Still, they have to answer for their 2-7 record against the top 3 (LA, ORL, BOS) that seems to never get mentioned. They have beaten the worst team in the 1st round-Det, and the worst team in the 2nd round-Atl. The Cavs could be in store for a big reality check next round.

  92. But look who they’ve played – a sub-.500 team that hasn’t played hard since Billups was traded, and a team full of youngsters thats plays little D and runs no discernible offense.

    I’ll be impressed if Cleveland handles Boston/Orlando as easily, but right now they haven’t done anything.

  93. I feel like I just got punched in the gut.

    I can’t remember an opposing team’s injury bothering me much. 1) Yao is a stud, and pure class, one of the most likeable players in the league, 2) I have so much respect for his quiet fire, playing thru that kind of pain, and 3) This could have been a truly special series.

    Lewis – No doubt, and we don’t completely disagree. I actually read an article on SI today (Aschburner) where I was disgusted by the double standard. The author made a huge deal of Kobe being a pompous jerk by hitting the big 3 last night and posing, saying that it made Kobe unlikeable. Of course, Lebron does the exact same thing with a very similar pose, and the author never mentions that. There’s definitely a double standard. I just meant in terms of MVP or skill, the argument for either of them is there, bias-free.

  94. It’s been mentioned several times that we have a habit of playing to the level of our competition. On the other hand, the Cavs tend to play to a certain standard, regardless of competition. I expect that we would have pulled out a 70 win season if we took that approach. Really, though, that’s where the comparison ends. In the playoffs, one should think, that problem will no longer exist as we play quality competition and thusly put forth a quality effort. Cleveland is playing to their standard against two teams who wouldn’t have even sniffed the playoffs in the west.

    I would counter by saying that anything less than two sweeps to start the playoffs could actually diminish the Cavs comparative standing. They’ve done nothing to address the record (as mentioned by kwame a.) against the other elite.

    The Lakers have dispatched a feisty Jazz squad and I posit that, even barring the Yao injury, we had a decent chance to advance in 5 as well. Houston was probably the 2nd title contender behind L.A. I’d say the Lakers have made a statement, whereas the Cavs won’t have an opportunity to do so until the ECF (even then though, whoever they meet there will be injury reduced from their regular season form).

  95. I have to say as an ousider, who watches a great deal of basketball – I think the Lakers will kill the Cavs if they meet in the finals. Lebron is a great player and will get his, but beyond that they have a much less talented team than Lakers, Denver, or even the Rockets. If you get by us (After tonight’s news it isn’t really in question) and Denver, you will be well prepared to play Cleveland, Orlando, or Boston.

    I honestly thought before the playoffs started that the only team the Rockets would lose to in a 7 game series was the Lakers. If we were to get to the finals I liked our chances against any of the big 3 from the East. If Garnett was not out, I would have picked the Celtics as well. But Cleveland and Orlando – Nope. We match up well with both of those teams. Artest is one of the only players in the league who is close to matching Lebron in strength and speed and Howard turns into a very average looking center when he plays against Yao.

    All this talk about Kobe and Lebron is really arbitrary and based on preference. I don’t think that there is much question that they are the two best players in the NBA. As an opposing team, Kobe is the one that I would not want to have the ball with the game on the line. He has so many weapons that he can hit you with, plus he relishes the opportunity so much. If Lebron can’t get penetration then he really isn’t that much of a threat. If he develops a deadly outside shot he will be absolutely amazing, but until he does I’ll take Kobe.

  96. Mico,
    For some perspective on what that dominant 2001 Lakers team was like, here’s a snapshot of their 15-1 playoff performance:

    1st Rd vs. Portland – Lakers sweep series against the team that they faced in the Conf. Finals the previous season. The Lakers won by 13, 18, and 13 points in the three wins.

    2nd Rd. vs. Sacto – Lakers sweep series against a major up and coming team and the same team we would face in the Conf. Finals the following season. The Lakers won by 3, 6, 22, and 6 points in the four wins.

    3rd Rd. vs. San Antonio – Lakers sweep the series against a team 2 seasons removed from winning the title. This team had Duncan, Robinson, Rose, Porter, Ferry, Kerr, Elliot, Derek Anderson, Samaki Walker, Antonio Daniels, Terry Porter, and Avery Johnson. A pretty good team with an in his prime Duncan as the anchor. The Lakers dominated this series behind epic performances from Kobe (including a 45pt, 10 reb performance in game 1). The Lakers won the 4 games by 14, 7, 39, and 29 points.

    Finals vs. Philly – Lakers win the series 4-1 against a very good, but overmatched Philly team. A team that surrounded Iverson with hustle role players like Snow, McKie, Lynch, Tyrone Hill, Mutombo, Raja Bell, Matt Geiger, and Jumaine Jones. Probably the least talented team that we faced the entire playoffs. The Lakers won the 4 games by 9, 5, 14, and 12 points.

    The key stats for those playoffs came from Kobe and Shaq. Kobe averaged 29.4 pts, 7.3 rebs, 6 asst, and 1.5 steals over the 16 games. Shaq averaged 30.4 pts, 15.4 rebs, 3.2 asst, and 2.4 blk. over those 16 games. I’d say we were pretty dominant against some really strong teams. Not to knock what Cleveland is doing – which is impressive – but I would take that Lakers team over every team that I’ve seen in the last 15 years except the ’97 Bulls, which won 72 games.

  97. According to Malcolm Gladwell, there’s a reliable way for an underdog basketball team to beat a better team: use the full court press.

    He explains it all at
    http://www.newyorker.com

    Look for the article “How David Beats Goliath”

  98. Typical Malcolm Gladwell, a kernel of truth, untranslatable across multiple events, well-written and skewed to seem interesting but really just inconclusive.

    Yes, pressing junior girls wins you games because nobody can handle the ball or know how to pass. That doesn’t mean anything at the NBA level.

  99. Don W (44)

    Thanks for your spirited and thoughtful comments about Derek Fisher. Let me elaborate with a bit more background. Maybe we all need to reminded about Derek’s relationship with the Lakers–and championships.

    Derek Fisher was a first round draft choice of the Lakers. He had to completely change his game to fit in. Derek was always considered too short–much like Jordan Farmar. He had no three point shot. But he stuck. In his modest shy unassuming way, Fish also played the role of listener and peacemaker offcourt.

    He was benched during the last Shaq/Kobe year in favor of The Glove (Gary Payton), a bigger star–maybe the best of his era. The Lakers lost to the Pistons, and the Laker team was broken up–Derek was allowed to sign a much more lucrative contract than the Lakers would offer–with the Warriors.

    For LA, it was chaos. The Lakers soon decided that “the glove” was a disruptive disaster, and turned to Chucky Atkins–still in the league–whose defense still fails to set the world on fire. Unable to sign a free agent, the Lakers “took a chance” on the Smusher for two years with catastrophic consequences.

    Meanwhile, the Warriors traded Fisher to the Jazz–who promptly made a playoff run (which has yet to be replicated). Derek would still be with them, at a better salary, except for his daughter’s unusual medical condition. He negotiated his own release from the Jazz, and accepted a lessor contract with the Lakers, whose team meanwhile had collapsed.

    In his first year back as a starter, Derek not only helped remold the Lakers into a winning team, but helped them advance all the way to the NBA championship–where the Lakers last played just before Derek left.

    Throughout his career, Derek has made his teams better–much better. He began a Laker, and he made himself into a true triangle PG. This year, when the Lakers expected to rest him more, he’s actually played more minutes due to Farmar’s (and Sasha’s earlier) injury.

    He may be tired right now, and his shot may not be falling, but his track record says that he will be ready when he needs to be ready to win the NBA championship.

    Given his actual track record in the playoffs, Derek has singlehandedly helped both the Lakers and the Jazz win playoff rounds they might have otherwise lost with incredible story book shots.

    Derek and Kobe are the only Lakers who’ve actually won NBA championships. Derek is the only Laker not intimidated by Kobe, with insight how the team defense should be played.

    Criticizing Derek for not staying in front of a speedy PG on defense is unfair. Stopping a quick guard without hand checks is impossible–it requires team coordination. Comparing his triangle PG stats with conventional PG stats is comparing apples to oranges.

    It’s certainly interesting that there are self described “experts” on this blog who think that Fish shouldn’t even be on the Laker’s team!

  100. PeanutButterSpread May 9, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Huge loss for the Rockets, I really wish Yao wasn’t injured, he’s such a hard worker, I hate seeing injuries like this.

    But the Lakers need to watch out. The Rockets are still a dangerous team even without Yao – that’s a team that went on a 22 win streak without Yao – and if they go to a smaller lineup, our guards + big men will have a tough time guarding their guards and preventing a lot of penetration an, because I can guarantee that’s what the Rockets will be doing.

    Cleveland won’t be looking so “dominant” once they face the winner of the Orlando/Celtics series.

    Same with the Nuggets if they face the Lakers.

    that Nike commercial is really funny. I only wish they had used the real players’ voices.

  101. Thanks Darius,

    I didn’t have cable access at that time and my internet was a lowly dial up so I didn’t really get the feel of the playoffs during that year.

    The only game I saw was game 1 of the finals… (great timing huh? the one loss was the only thing i Saw)

  102. PeanutButterSpread,

    I do think that there is a sliver of hope that the Rockets win tomorrow, but I will be surprised. I don’t have a doubt that they will leave everything on the floor, but winning is a hope considering the circumstances. Yao was involved in the1st 8 or so games of the win streak last year, and we also had Tracy to pick up the scoring slack. I love Ron Artest’s tenacity but he is no McGrady scoring-wise.

    I agree on the Cavs and Nuggets.

  103. drrayeye, that pretty much sums it up, great comment. Didn’t Houston go on like a 24 win streak last year without Yao? This series is far from over.

  104. Bummer, a limping Yao was the perfect thing for Bynum’s fragile ego. Seriously, his injury hurts us in many ways:

    1. We were just beginning to play real basketball as a team. Now that focus may be lost.

    2. Houston is a team that just gets fired up when its ‘stars’ aren’t playing. I still remember their winning streak, and I recall both T-Mac and Yao being out for a good chunk of it.

    3. Bynum is ineffective against not-so-traditional centers/lineups, especially with that knee. A hurting Yao was about the best we could wish for.

    Let’s hope that we can still maintain the intensity we were just achieving.

  105. drrayeye (103)

    My compliments on a balanced and persuasive post on Derek. I have said earlier on another site that he will undoubtably make his presence felt in this playoff run. I harbor no illusions about D-Fish’s shortcomings but he has been unfairly and I must say ridiculously excoriated on this site and others. Thanks for bringing the undeniably positive role and true value he brings to the Lakers squad in sharper relief.

  106. Count me as one more voice saddened by the loss of Yao. I, like so many others, belittled McGrady (remember when he was once a subject of serious debate as to his relative abilities vis-a-vis Kobe’s?) I always hated the guy, thought he was a primadonna, a ballhog, and and a one-trick pony and his constant injuries, I confess, gave me some measure of delight.

    Not so for Yao, who I admire on and off the court and is exactly what I like about the NBA. Houston fans, if you feel that this Lakers win deserves an asterisk, fair enough. Don’t get me wrong– I liked the Lakers chances even with a healthy Yao, but this is just not right.

    I hate that this series is going to be compromised by this injury… and urge some Laker faithfuls out there to bust out their Karl Malone #11 jerseys tom’w afternoon in support of both the purple and gold but also the great Yao Ming. Get well soon, Big Fella.

  107. lil’ pau,

    No asterisk. I thought this was going to be an extended series that could go either way. It more than likely won’t be now, but I am proud of the way the Rockets have played and I expect that what they put out for the remainder of the series will be solid. As a Rocket fan, it is tough to balance expectations with the crippling fact of losing your best player. I feel like I would be doing the remaining Rockets a disservice if I don’t leave open the chance that they can win tomorrow. These are the breaks, and we are not the first or the last team to deal with injuries.

  108. To Everyone,
    At one point in his career Derek Fisher was a guy that did all the little things that helped a championship level team win basketball games. He could take charges, and pick up offensive fouls on moving picks. On top of that he was a great spot up shooter and always seemed to deliver in clutch situations. He played an important supporting roll on three Laker championship teams as a reserve and a starter. As we all know he also seems to be a great guy. He is bright, well spoken, and carries himself like a true gentleman. And yes he also has a young child with a rare eye condition. Unfortunately for the Lakers his past performances do nothing for them here and now. The player we all remember is not the player we watch today. He picks up less charges and offensive fouls (on the other team) due to his recent lack of mobility. But up until 3 months ago he could still shoot with above average accuracy. The problem with being a 6 foot tall shooter is you need to use your legs more to convert long rage jump shots. With his legs now seemingly shot Im guessing that is why his shooting has so greatly suffered. I don’t “hate” Fisher… I just think the other two PG’s on our team (Brown, Farmar) would help this years Lakers team win more then Fisher at this point in Derek’s career. And like I said before… I don’t want to hear about his “leadership”, “toughness”, “smarts” or “championship experience.” Because if your looking for that I would suggest we bring in Obama (leadership), Dwane the Rock Johnson (toughness), Einstein (smarts), or Bob Cousey (championship experience). Its OK to love Fisher and still think he should be our 2nd or 3rd string PG. If I had to choose who I could hang out with on a saturday night from my brief and superficial experience with Farmar (cocky), Brown (ghetto), and Derek Fisher (awesome dude)… I would rather hang with D Fish. If I had to choose who I would want playing with me in a basketball game… I would pick Brown or Farmar. I love you all… may the basketball gods shine they’re sweet light upon your sneakers. Goodnight.

  109. Rudy (74),

    I believe you have a point. Yao being out takes away our advantage of pushing the tempo with him on the floor. Plus, Landry will get more minutes now, and he’s been giving us problems.

    Deep down no Rocket likes to pass to Yao, so they must be secretly “excited.”

    Still, I expect the Lakers to come out focused.

    Regarding the Cavs or Denver seeming better. Who cares how great the Cavs look, or who they play? Remember when the Celtics were “struggling” in the East, ad we walked through the West? None of that matters when you’re facing the team in the Finals. Unfortunately, we proved that last year.

    Denver is still the same Denver deep down, and we’ll be against us. They are better than the teams they have played. I’ll give them that. But we are a different beast.

  110. I’ve never been a huge Yao fan. Watching him against Portland and then watching him this series, especially the end of the last game where he was so obviously battling pain, my respect for him has increased a great deal. I am now officially a Yao fan. I wish him all the best and I hope people come to their senses and get the professionals out of the Olympics.

    On the LeBron discussion. I am a huge Kobe fan, but you can not take anything away from LeBron. The guy is amazing. He deserved MVP. He is such a force that he is no match for a mediocre team. Cleveland is killing people based purely on LeBron’s talent. The rest of the guys are good, but not great by any means. I think LeBron’s talent is somewhat neutralized by a good team, hence the less than stellar record against good teams (Boston w/out KG does not count as a good team). Sadly, I don’t feel there are many good teams in the playoffs this year. San Antonio, Boston and Orlando have had signficant personnel losses (Houston has joined their ranks). That leaves only the Lakers (maybe Orlando) as top flight teams (I’m not sold on the Nuggets yet.)

    In the ECF and Finals we will see how good the Cavs really are (I don’t think they can beat the Lakers though home court may be huge)- there is no question how good LeBron is.

  111. I completely agree, we cannot take anything away from Lebron’s supreme talent.

    That said, I think it’s a bit off to say they’re winning on his talent alone. I remember a specific stretch where the Cavs reserves (Wally, Gibson, etc.) outplayed the Hawks starters , and the Hawks starters (at the time, with Joe Johnson) are individually very talented. To me, that shows that right now the Cavs have a different mindset and chemistry than they ever did before. It’s not all Lebron, at least not directly. Lebron is the galvanizing force, and likely played the biggest role in creating that team mindset. But when Sczerbiak and Gibson and Pavlovic and Smith are outplaying All-Star level talents in Josh Smith and Johnson (albeit in a short stretche), I think it’s a little off to suggest Lebron is doing everything. That particular sequence may have been an extreme example, but overall that entire team is very focused, and even if not individually talented, those players are doing a great job of executing within their system.

    On top of that, that entire team is constructed to perfectly complement Lebron. We get so used to giving Lebron credit for everything, but why didn’t he make Hughes (a previous All-Star) or some other players better? This year, the front office brought in players that ease the burden on Lebron as much as he eases the burden on them. Our habit is to analyze how these players would fare on different teams (“Wally would be worthless on half the teams in this league!”) but it’s more accurate to look at how they function in their team system (and especially team defense), and on that account I think Lebron’s supporting cast is vastly underrated.

  112. have the nba playoffs ended in china?

    actually given his reception in beijing i doubt it will till the lakers win the championship..

  113. @ Ray Sharpe, 77

    “Kobe wants it more. Lebron thinks he wants it more, but he doesn’t yet.”

    Interesting comment. It almost feels like LBJ and the Cavs are saying too much of the right things to be a champion. It’s like they learned how to from a textbook but doesn’t really know what it really means. Is this what you gathered or something else?

  114. 114, mike

    everyone here is really upset about yao, but there are loads of chinese basketball fans drawn to the nba for reasons other than yao. they’ll keep watching, and the tv channels will keep playing the games (i heard the nba gives them the broadcasts for free in hopes of promoting the league to such a huge market).

    i’m loving the intensity seen from the lakers in response to the game 1 loss. the cavs and nuggets worry me, but what would the playoffs be without other great teams to fear?

  115. I think Yao Ming’s injury really raises some questions about his long-term health. Now, twice, he’s had to end his season early due to foot issues, a stress fracture last year, a hairline fracture this year, exceedingly similar injuries in the same foot (left). No one saw any extreme trauma that Yao incurred during the game, so I think we have to assume that this injury is due to attrition. This could really open a can of worms, but I think for his long-term effectiveness, Yao should take off back2back’s, simply to take some wear and tear off his feet. I don’t think it’s within the realm of reason (at least from the Chinese perspective) for Yao to quit his national team, so this is really the only way that Yao can take some time off and rest his feet. He rarely plays more than 35 minutes in a regular season game, so cutting back on his minutes really isn’t an option.

  116. Snoop,

    As I said, the ‘other’ Cavs players are good. They have the best record for a reason. They are dominating right now and playing with focus. However, I do think that they are overwhelming inferior teams and the reason for that is LeBron. I’m not taking anything away from the team. However, I do think they struggle against really good teams because those teams have a enough collective talent to neutralize LeBron’s amazing skill.

    I think the Cavs have a tough time getting past a healthy Celtics team or the Lakers. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see this latter scenario play out in a few weeks.

  117. Don W, yes that’s what I meant. Lebron can win games on his own, but I don’t think he’s a killer yet. Kobe has the needed killer instinct. I like the textbook analogy. That sums it up pretty well.