Game Three — When Kobe and Gasol Stepped Up

Kurt —  May 24, 2009

Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles
Big players where win big, close games. That is how this series is going to be — close games. Saturday the Lakers got big plays when it mattered from both Kobe and Gasol.

We all saw what Kobe did, playing great even at the point in the fourth where he said he couldn’t feel his legs and was still making plays. With all the words written, I’ll let Dex use words and poetry to describe the performance (because he write pretty, and stuff).

Tonight Kobe played with the impossible serpentine perfection of one of Tarantino’s romanticized assassins from the Kill Bill movies. I always believe that he will do the impossible, a la Beatrix Kiddo defeating the Crazy 88 single-handed, but once he starts dropping those shots I feel as wondrous as if witnessing it for the first time.

Let these grey jackals
Snap and snarl and swarm, let them
Leap at the tiger.
Let them leap at flames; he is
Already gone; he
Ate up their hearts and vanished.

• As for Gasol, here is the best stat of the night — the guy he was guarding was 0-6 in the fourth quarter.

He, when he was decisive and attacked, was fantastic on the offensive end. He’s such a cerebral player and sometimes he waits to analyze before he attacks. When he made up his mind and went he was almost impossible stop. Hope to see more of that Gasol.

• I really think the Lakers did a pretty good job on Anthony all night — yes, he had 18 first half points, but the field goals he was getting were basically all jumpers. He had two points in the paint al night (plus he was fouled a few times inside). In the first half his jumpers were falling, but in the second half they didn’t. I can live with that.

• Laker fans have had our frustrations with Derek Fisher — and he did not have a good game again, 2 of 6 from the floor (0-4 after the first quarter) and committing a key late charging penalty — but to his credit he is still being aggressive. He came out trying to make plays and had some good mixed with the bad (remember the steal on Billups that led to the Ariza layup).

The other half of that is, as we have also discussed, who is stepping up do demand the minutes? Certainly not a shaky Brown or Farmar last night. If I were coach, I’d try to give each guy some burn in the first half and see who has the hot hand then ride it. But that has never been Phil Jackson’s style — it never has been and we can’t expect him to change now. What we can hope is he recognizes the nights Fisher is just killing the team and cuts his minutes. But that will only happen on nights when someone else steps up.

• I love watching Trevor Ariza play.

Kurt

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119 responses to Game Three — When Kobe and Gasol Stepped Up

  1. Kobe, Pau, and Trevor, were simply outstanding. On Monday you simply can not ask Kobe to carry this team on his back. We need Lamar, Fish, Drew and gthe bench to win one game. One game. Everyone is sore and hurt its the conference finals. Everyone is tired. All season long we talked about wanting Kobe the facillitator, well Monday we need the rest of the Lakers to look inside themselves and win one game so kobe can rest. But for a night Kobe, Pau, Trevor, Thank you Thank you Thank you.

  2. I love having Kobe Bryant on my team. Gasol played great in the fourth, offensively and defensively, and Ariza made some big threes and a big steal, but this game ultimately came down to Kobe Bryant simply deciding that we weren’t going to lose last night. Seriously, how many guys in the league today can take the ball with a minute and a half or so left, down two, dribble around awhile and then pop a three while being guarded simply because he decided he was going to win the game? Jeff Van Gundy said it best, he’s a bad man.

  3. Read me! About last night’s game, Kobe, and how he is building his legend right before our very eyes:

    http://antwonomous.blogspot.com/2009/05/kobe-bryant-burnishing-his-legend-in.html

    Mammoth win last night, guys.

  4. “But that will only happen on nights when someone else steps up.”

    yes, but how can either Farmar or Brown step up when they get very little burn and get pulled immediately on any mistake?

    I agree that Phil will not make a move to replace Fish in the starting lineup, and that may be our undoing this season unless he miraculously discovers his shot (and quickness)…

    how many times are we going to see Fish on the break, either making a bad decision on a pass (too late, behind his man, etc.) or taking it to the rim for the inevitable block? at least with WOW on the court you know someone is going to end up with a flush…

  5. In my opinion, the PG spot is a tossup. You can make non-crunch-time arguments each way:

    Fish doesn’t have a good stroke today, is the slowest, and could never finish well at the rim, but he’s the team calm leader (Lamar is the team joy leader). Farmar is most prone to boneheaded plays but can electrify with energy and speed. WOW has been surprisingly reliable as a spot-up shooter and can sometimes drive, and is the best defender, but still is learning the O.

    So I believe Phil goes with the tiebreakers:

    – crunch time is real and Fish has vastly more crunch time success,
    – familiarity is real and Fish is the one with the most experience playing with Pau/Kobe/Lamar,
    – leadership is real and Fish has it
    – you know the effort and cool you get with Fisher (if not the shot)
    – Kobe trusts him

    As for trying them all out and going with the hot hand, I don’t see that happening in a close series. You need a fair amount of time to see who’s got it together and in a tight series those possessions in the 2nd quarter are (almost) as important as at the end of the game.

    My guess is that one of Farmar or Brown will have to play EXTREMELY well to get any crunchtime minutes. The best case is that the Lakers get off to a large lead, Farmar/WOW comes in an has a good showing and earns more time in a medium-close game (3+ possession). Otherwise, I think it will be Fish, the devil you know.

  6. Is it too weird to entertain the notion of having Brown play in Sasha’s spot? Yeah, Brown’s shot is shaky, but is it any worse than Sasha’s right now? Furthermore, Brown’s D is much better than Sasha. Brown also seems to make better fundamental decisions.

    Rewatching the game, notice when Brown finally gets in there, how many “right” plays he makes that don’t show up. He’s flashing right in front of Melo when he misses the FT that bounces straight back and instead of Melo recovering, Brown is there for the rebound. And that’s just one example, Brown just seems to have the instincts. He reminds me of Ariza last year. Still raw on the offensive sets, but his athleticism and bball IQ is helping him make plays and contribute to the team.

    The two PG lineup seemed to be somewhat effective in G2, I’d love to see how Brown would do running next to Farmar or even Fish with that second unit instead of Sasha.

    I love Sasha’s hustle and team attitude. But with his ice cold shot, his energy doesn’t mean much since I think he commits many fundamental defensive mistakes. Such is pressing someone hard after the inbounds when there is no call for that and he doesn’t have the athleticism to recover and ends up getting a cheap foul. He commits that kind of play regularly.

    I have to bring up Kobe again. Just get chills watching him. A friend pointed out that Kobe’s three to get that 96-95 lead is a lot more clutch and cold blooded than any of last second three’s to win games like Bron’s.

    Bron had no pressure there, he just flings it up and if he misses no one says anything, tough shot. Yes it took skill but he’s just trying to get it up there.

    Kobe completely owned that shot. Team is down two, they’ve gotten one point out of the last three possessions while JR has hit a couple of shots. Kobe wanted that ball and had it almost the entire 24 seconds, only giving it up to get it back. He sizes up and fires the shot.

    He misses, Den probably gets the board, comes down with momentum up two and 45+ seconds left. Lakers probably lose that game. Instead Kobe takes complete responsibility for that shot, miss it or make it. And he’s got the entire possession to think about that with the weight of the consequences. There’s no pressure release valve of the Bron’s type shot where a miss is half expected due to the circumstances.

    Kobe’s shot there is immensely more clutch than a fling in the end.

  7. J, I couldn’t agree with you more, I’ve been saying the same thing, I like what Shannon brings, in so many ways that don’t show up in the box score. and the converse is true about Sasha, so many things he does that hurt the team that also don’t show up in the box score.
    I think it’s time to try that experiment, sit Sasha, let Shannon have his spot in the rotation. as you say, he’s a better shooter now that Sasha’s got it all in his head, and he’s overthinking everything, he has had ample opportunity to ‘shoot himself out of this slump’, and it’s not going to happen now, the doubt is too far seated in his psyche, he’s toast for this season.
    Shannon brings hustle, that’s a guarantee, he’s a pretty good spot up shooter, we’ve seen that, he’s does the little things on D that help team defense. and when he gets a chance, he can jump through the roof, whether on D as in that sick block, or on the O with an awesome slam dunk, and as we all know, that energizes the team to no end!
    I would really love to see that happen, giving Sasha’s minutes to Shannon, I think that would bring great results.

  8. What a win.

    One of the many things I admired about Kobe’s game was his refusal to get caught up in any extracurricular woofing with the officials or the opposition. The refs were calling a lot of T’s, and you have to wonder if, were this a game earlier in the playoffs and Kobe wasn’t playing with 5 aggregate technical fouls and an avowed refusal to get any more, he might have lashed out at the referees – he certainly was the recipient of many hard fouls and tough calls.

    Instead, he just set his jaw and played harder, and didn’t waste any energy carping after calls that went against him. I loved seeing that from Kobe and I think it sent a message to the whole team.

  9. While it was a relief to see Pau attack the post without delay, I noticed on many of his shots that his counter move was not necessary. Especially when facing the defender, his first step got him an advantage. Instead of leveraging that advantage, he would spin or cross back into the space he just created. He made those tough shots, but I thought they could have been easier if he just continued his first explosive move.

  10. 8, Absolutely. I don’t know how anyone, let alone Kobe, could’ve kept their cool after that flagrant by DJones and emotions were running high. I have to hand it to him to be poised in that situation, knowing the consequences of too many technicals.

    Also agreed about the shotmaking of Kobe’s. He had a lot more pressure on him than LeBron.

  11. When Sasha was shooting well, no matter how
    quick his release was, he had both feet planted
    and jumped straight up. For a long time now he
    has shot off the dribble moving to his left. His
    body is moving left, not straight up. I do not
    recall him ever making one of those shots and
    at least half of his shots are that way. Can anyone
    explain his thinking? Does he ever make that shot
    in practice? My theory is that he is an idiot.

  12. On Brown for Sasha. We’ve definitely seen Brown on the court at the same time as Farmar (in blowout time in the Houston series?)… I don’t have the videos with me, but someone can track that down. I think it has potential, but my recollection is that they aren’t used to playing with each other so they were a little bit awkward.

    The problem with experimenting with lineups is that (1) with the Tri, there is a lot of rhythm and trust that’s required, more than other offenses, and (2) our D really relies on some offensive efficiency. Our straight-up D is between adequate to great depending on our enthusiasm, but our transition D seems to be pretty poor except for those times Fisher(!) manages to break up a 3 on 1.

  13. This series isn’t about one player (well maybe Kobe, but that wasn’t my point). It is about how the team on the floor plays together to present a complete fabric.

    It is this complete fabric that Phil is trying to assemble – IMO.

    My issue with Phil, this entire post season, is that his fabric only includes five players. Fisher is 34 and Kobe and Pau have been playing continuously for two years. If we want to win the big enchilada, we will have to have a fabric that includes 7-8 players.

    While Drew may not have entirely earned Phil’s trust, he does affect the game when he clogs the middle and he can give Pau much needed rest.

    ShanWOW can not only relieve Fish, but he can give Kobe some rest and he seems to be fairly steady when in the game – not erratic like Sasha and Farmar. He also plays within himself and is a defensive presence; two things that argue against Denver going on big runs while he is in the game.

    Walton is needed to give Ariza some rest and he seems to be able to body Melo like nobody not named Kobe.

    Phil may choose not to use this part of our fabric, but I really can’t give him anything above a C for his coaching acumen this post season. While he has been steady, he has not been flexible against increasingly more competent teams and he has generally been out coached. Thank god he has Kobe.

  14. Fisher will be Phil’s guard for the rest of the year, and as was stated he is still the best option available. As far as Sasha, someone in a previous thread said he made like 10 shots in a row then 10 FT’s and then 10 FT’s with his eyes shut after a game before going into the locker room, I think that was. Wow, 10 FT’s with his eyes shut, I wonder what is wrong with him in game time situations. Unless that commenter was just pulling my (our) leg or something with what he said he saw at a game? But whatever, he does not bring it to the game at playing time and should have his minutes replaced by Shannon Brown. I am really looking forward to seeing Kobe in the next game do his thing on the court again, last night was just amazing.

  15. To think that Ariza is 23 and will keep getting better….scary.

    I think Gasol figured out he can score over the Denver bigs, that will be big the rest of this series.

    Kurt-I don’t think Farmar or Brown have earned the right to take all of Fisher’s minutes, but I do think Fish is really struggling and hurting the team more than helping. I’d try a big lineup with Luke in there instead of Fish, but like you said, Phil aint changing horses in the middle of the race.

  16. Also-patiently waiting Henry’s comments re: Dahntay Jones two-hand shove of an airborne and defensless Kobe Bryant. I can’t believe that was not a flagrant, and for some reason I feel the leauge won’t change things.

  17. I don’t feel good about last night’s win. If Denver doesn’t come out 0-9 to start the 4th quarter, we’d be talking about how game 4 is a must win. And while the Lakers played respectable D, it wasn’t that which caused Denver’s shooting woes. They just couldn’t hit water from a boat – layups, mid-range, 3-pointers. Nothing was falling.

    At the 6:33 mark, Denver hit their first field goal. At the 0:56 second mark, K-Mart missed a layup that would have put Denver up 1. In between that, it was a draw, with Denver outscoring LA 14-13. But it was that early 4th quarter stretch and KMart’s late missed layup that decided the game. If Denver started 1-9, it would have been a different game.

    So no, I don’t feel good about the win. I don’t feel good that our first plays of the game went through Fisher, Ariza, Kobe, Fisher, Kobe, Ariza, Bynum, and finally at the 7:47 mark, Gasol. How are Bynum and Gasol not our first options? How is Fish even an option? It’s first quarter play like this that led to Fisher getting more shot attempts than Gasol in game 2. It just makes no sense.

    And as we’re discovering this playoff run, alot of what Phil is doing makes no sense. So no, I don’t feel good about this win, and won’t feel good until we have a series lead in the Finals.

  18. Three games in a row over 100 for LA. Enver needs a center to contest shots, not just a bunch of PFs pretending to be bigs.

  19. j. d. hastings May 24, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Why coaches shouldn’t listen to message boards:

    After the first game George Karl was killed for having Enthony Carter inbound over Odom.

    Last night George Karl was getting killed for having Kenyon Martin trying to inbound the ball over Odom. With people saying “You have to have your best ball handler there!”

    The funny thing is that Billups was quoted during the reg season being amazed that Karl didn’t have any go to in-bound plays.

  20. Drunken5yearold May 24, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I just got back from Europe and this was the first game I’ve seen since the Utah series. It was absolutely incredible to see the changes in this team from that series, and from the regular season as well. It didn’t even seem like the same team. Anyway, here were my thoughts (hopefully with a different perspective because of the lay-off):

    1) The offense got very few easy buckets. There were a couple of times that the PG got free (via an off-ball pick) for a layup, and a couple of Kobe drives. But the crisp passing that results in easy dunks and open looks was noticeably absent. The Lakers shooters were very hesitant to pull the trigger and passed up many decent chances (probably not a bad thing considering how poorly they are shooting).

    2) Denver didn’t even bother playing tight defense on any outsider shooter except for Kobe. The lack of respect was astonishing for an NBA game, let alone a playoff game. The sagging of the Denver defense into the paint seems to be the key reason why the passing is so deficient. It also causes problems for the post players, as the entry pass is tougher and there is less space to operate. Interestingly, this seemed to be less of a problem in the fourth quarter but I’m not sure what changed the situation.

    3) Denver is going to lose this series because they get absolutely no offense from their bigs, other than dunks and put-backs. Nene, Martin, and Anderson are all known more for their defense; none of them having any semblance of a post-up game. The Denver offense is completely reliant on it’s guards and wings to breakdown the defense of its opponent. They cannot work inside-out at all, which results in the characteristic dry spells and scoring bunches of a guard-based offense.

    4) I thought Walton did a surprisingly good job on Melo. If Walton is ever going to get large minutes again, he’s going to have to work to become a mini-Battier: good passing, three-point shooting, and wing defense. He’s got the high basketball IQ and the passing down. During his one year as a starter, 06-07, he showed that he could be a good three pointer shooter (0.387%). But he’s never done nearly as well as that in any other year and I wouldn’t hold out hope that he could return to that level on a consistent basis. I think he lacks the lateral quickness to be a really good defender but if he worked on it in the off-season it would certainly help him a lot in keeping in front of his man.

    5) Last year, many people thought that the Lakers were at their best when they went small and inserted Sasha with Kobe at SF (interesting that the Celtics were similar in that they’d bring in Posey for Perkins). I have a feeling that Sasha’s success last year is the only reason why PJ is still giving him any minutes. Sasha has been awful all year and he’s not doing any better in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Jackson, Farmar decided to stink this year and now Fisher has lost it as well. If Denver could lose this series because of it’s bigs, then LA could lose because of their awful guard play.

  21. If anything short of a clothesline can be a flagrant, that had to be one. Directly behind a player, no angle to the ball, no movement towards the ball, just two hands on the back and shove while Kobe’s in the air with nobody between him and the hoop. The refs screwed that up big time, and I think they knew it, b/c after that they started calling it tighter for a few minutes. I hate how Kobe gets effectively penalized for trying to continue the play and make the shot – if he had just flailed and let himself fall he would have been much more likely to get the flagrant call. And that’s just the wrong incentive for the officiating to be setting.

  22. No question Brown should be getting Sasha’s minutes.

    Brown brings a ton of good things every time he comes out – even if he’s not making shots. Did you see his block in transition on Billup’s layup? (KMart followed with a dunk, but that was Lamar’s fault for not boxing out). I understand why Phil goes with Fish, but Brown has a lot better understanding of his role on the team than Fish, to be honest.

    Bynum should be ashamed of himself. I know he’s only 21, but he’s cashing a grown-up’s check.

    Settling for 10 foot turn-around jumpers when he’s being guarded by a guy 5 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter is inexcusable. Pau Gasol weighs 100 pounds soaking wet, and he’s still takes it to the rack.

    Defensively, Bynum had some good moments, but the rebounding is just putrid. You can’t complain in the press about PT, then go out and have a weak performance like that. If you’re going to complain about PT, you gotta back it up when you’re out on the floor.

    Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA. Sorry, Bron-Bron.

  23. moe’s unearned swag May 24, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I’ve followed the lakers since kobe came into the league when I was 10. I’ve loved them, lived and died with them, and excused kobe his faults for the sheer joy of getting to see his brilliance. I feel so lucky I’ve gotten to experience the ride with him and the lakers.
    This year and especially postseason though I have to say it’s just been transcendent. I can’t remember the last time he took a shot where I said no and cringed. It seems like Kobe’s just found this wonderful balance and it’s been great watching him. It makes being a Laker’s fan a great thing.
    Bill Simmons’ said something about Kobe moving into the top 8 all time if the Lakers win it all this year… all I have to say is that the meaninglessness of those lists is made clear when you get to experience a game like last night with your favorite player.

  24. I didn’t get a chance to watch the whole game, but was on the edge of my seat when I picked it up in the third. Come the 4th quarter, I remember yelling at Kobe as he threw up that 3-pointer over J.R. Smith, but couldn’t help but laugh at myself after it went in, as if to have one of those “Why yell at Kobe? You know it’s gonna drop” moments in my head. Pau played brilliantly in the fourth, minus the one posession Anderson pulled the chair from under him. Trevor is truly stepping up as the weakside stopper. I love the fact that the past 2 series we’ve watched the Lakers claw tooth and nail. Very eerily similar to last year and that “other” team.

  25. Sasha needs to sit. Whenever he’s holding the ball on offense or guarding on defense, my immediate reaction is to hold my breath until the play goes somewhere else because the possibility that something bad will happen is astonishingly high. Fouling on an inbound, not bothering to contest Smith’s shots, and still persisting with his fadeaway jumper are just aggravating.

    Brown certainly doesn’t know our sets better, but he sure as hell doesn’t play over his head and has sound fundamentals (aside from when he tries to go one-on-one). Also, he’s basically been our most reliable three-point shooter besides Ariza, and he has the wingspan to cover two guards. The effort is also there. He’s been absolutely brutalized on screens set by the Denver bigs and still gets up and runs as hard as he can to get back on defense. That’s heart.

  26. 12,
    Fisher is the best option available? Lol. Statistically Brown and Farmar are far better options. Check out Jon Hollinger’s article http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2009/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=PERDiem-090515
    and check out Eric Neel’s article
    http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2009/insider/news/story?id=4166112

  27. Great game- what are the possibilities that every conference championship game is close this year?

    As an aside, I don’t see the point of saying things like ‘Kobe had more pressure on his 3 than Lebron,-Kobe’s shot there is immensely more clutch than a fling in the end.’

    This is ridiculous and you all know it. If Cav’s fans were arguing that a 3 by Lebron with 45 seconds left was more clutch than a KB 1 second game winning three (that was hardly a fling btw- saved the team from going down 0-2 at home) you’d all be screaming bloody hell about how ridiculous that is. That is undeniable.

    If LBJ missed 2 free throws in the last 3 1/2 of a close game how many of you would be all over him for it?

    These kinds of comments scream insecurity to me from fans of both sides- just let it be what it is. This is the easily one of the most educated, sober B-ball site on the web- it surprises how much I still see of this kind of stuff here.

  28. Peanut Butter Spread May 24, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Since the dawn of time
    man has asked the question:

    “What makes Kobe Bryant
    AKA the Black Mamba
    So unstoppable?”

    “What makes his Dunk so unstoppable?”

    “What makes his 3-Pointer so unstoppable?”

    “What makes his overall unstoppableness unstoppable?”

    “Is it possible to stop something that is unstoppableness?”

    “Has he answered the question? Yet another question?
    We may never know.

    Yet never knowing the unknowable is unstoppable.”

    This was presented by Kobe Bryant AKA the Black Mamba for Lebron.

    Good luck.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH16SWQNh8o

    Because kobe deserves this repost after his great game last night. Get lots of rest Kobe and mamba your bad self on!re

  29. Joe A,
    The point you are missing about LeBron’s shot is that there was no pressure on it, because he had no other options. He couldn’t pass, he couldn’t fake, he couldn’t drive, he couldn’t set himself. It was an expected miss; if you make it, it’s gravy. If you don’t; it was expected that you would miss.

  30. What a thrilling, gutty win last night. But I can’t help but think that this does not feel or look like a championship team. To their credit, Kobe and Pau are playing at a high level but their Olympics-drained bodies are running on fumes. Trevor is rising to the occasion but is the walking wounded. Our starting PG is a disaster, but our coach clearly is unwilling to shuffle the line-up at that position. We can complain (rightfully) all we want, but it’s not happening.

    We are now 95 games into the season, so it would be foolish to think that Sasha is somehow going to magically rediscover his shot and his decision-making. Bynum? We’re better with him than without, but 4 rebounds in 20 minutes isn’t good enough.

    I applaud the Lakers for their fight and heart in last night’s win, two qualities that people (myself included) have questioned before. But I’m just not seeing enough to think that we have the energy and level of consistent execution to cross the finish line with six more wins.

  31. 6

    Brown should have taken Sasha’s spot in the rotation a long time ago. Apart from everything else, SG is his natural position – he only started playing PG when he was traded to the Lakers. He’s shooting over 50% from 3, as opposed to ‘pure shooter’ Sasha who has been throwing up bricks all season. He knows how to play defense without fouling people 90 feet from the basket. He has a a better handle, makes better decisions, and finishes better at the basket. Basically, he does everything better than Sasha.

    Instead of juggling minutes between Fisher, Farmar, and Brown, why not just remove the Machine from the rotation and free up another spot?

  32. Can the league retroactively add a technical foul? Martin deserved one as much as Fish did.

    Joel, 29 – I completely agree. Not just more talented, but he really plays within his role and makes better decisions. I think Phil still likes Sasha’s ability to get under players’ skins, but freeing up minutes for Brown would be a great thing.

    @ chris from the last thread – Apologies if I ticked you off. The Kobe comment I made was a joke, I didn’t mean that seriously at all. The part of your post that I disagreed with was the rest of it. But I apologize, I should have made it clearer that Kobe thing was just an offhand comment and not serious.

    And I’ve said multiple times, just as I said about Farmar, that I expect Fish will turn it around. I really do, unless he has some sort of injury he’s keeping quiet. It could be as soon as this series, or it could be in the Finals (knock on wood). At some point Fish will get his stroke back, and not just hit threes, but likely clutch threes. If a young dude like Farmar could break out of it, Fisher definitely will. That doesn’t diminish in any way the damage his offensive decision making has done on the floor. My only beef (really with Phil, not Fish, who at least tries) has been that our best PG should be on the floor. When Fish inevitably returns to form, I’ll be right here cheering him on and more happy for him than I would any other Laker besides Lamar. I love the dude, I’ve prayed for him and his family, and I hope he plays a big role in getting his 4th ring. Simply asking Phil to cut down Fish’s PT when he’s not playing well isn’t turning on a player, it’s being reasonable. Fish is still one of the most popular players for a reason, I can’t imagine too many people on here who aren’t rooting for him to turn this around.

  33. Is “which three was better?” really something worth debating? Two of the best players ever to lace them up made epic plays on a very big stage. Enjoy that for what it is.

    The entire Kobe/LeBron thing is manufactured hype. It’s about selling vitamin water.

  34. 33 – I hate that a company is using this hype to sell products. If it was the NBA hyping it up, I’d actually mind less, because they’re hyping up their own product, and a great rivalry.

    For anyone who watched and loved basketball in the 90s:
    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=roundball+rock&aq=f

    I’m rewatching Kobe’s amazing performance right now. Wow. I’ve never seen him this tired in a postgame interview, ever. Like many of us in our 20s who really started watching in the 90s, Kobe is the first legendary player I’ve watched since the beginning of his career. For me, it’s even harder to imagine a Kobe-less league. I haven’t had to say good-bye to Magic or Bird, and didn’t watch the first half of Jordan’s career. Kobe’s kind of the first in that regard. It’s a real privilege, to have witnessed a player that (as Reed touched on yesterday) future generations will have dreamed of seeing.

    Kobe Bean, whatever happens the rest of this season, I salute your passion and greatness.

  35. Wow I need to proofread. The link should have been:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_h7Lm7C9Nk

  36. Nuggets give best shot.
    Still, at buzzer, Karl weeps?
    Kobe. Bean. Bryant.

  37. I was down on Gasol after Game 2 saying he needed to step up and play like the second best player on the team instead of whining and crying to the refs and I’m glad to see that he stepped up and played great last night. Couldn’t have won without him.

  38. Lamar and Pau had great passing and defense chemistry when Lamar was starting, and that was the main reason (other than Kobe, of course) the Lakers looked so good despite all the guard struggles. This was specially true when Pau and Lamar were playing with Kobe and stopping Lamar’s cuts was not a priority for other teams. With all the line-up changes, Lamar’s injury, Lamar being Lamar, and Lamar playing with Bynum/without Kobe/with struggling guards, this chemistry is gone. So I for one am glad that Phil is keeping Bynum’s minutes limited and continuing to give Lamar and Pau some burn together.

    We can win this year if Bynum has limited effectiveness but not if Odom is limited.

  39. This is for all the B.S. haters! Yes, it’s petty of me, but he really annoyed me by bringing up the “rape”- that should be strictly the domain of internet trolls.

    Hey Simmons- I enjoyed your podcast, especially the part about how The Rapist is past his prime. Although, you might want to file it away for a few years until it’s relevant.

    Also, I agree with you about Melo. Subsequent events vindicated you: last night he really scored those 21 points with ease, whereas Kobe had to expend so much effort for his 41. Score one for Melo! I guess that’s what being the game’s best pure scorer is all about.

    Although to be fair, you might be underestimating Kobe slightly. Yes, Pierce wore down to the point where he could not produce in a game 7, but a living legend and a guy who needed a wheelchair for a minor bruise might not be the most apt comparison. Just a suggestion!

    Cheers

  40. Any word on Ariza’s hip? Sometimes those things get worse after a night off.

  41. @Exhel-

    My argument is that it is a stupid thing to even comment on in the first place- similar to Kurt’s comment but a little more pointed.

    People see things how they want to see them. Change the emotional investment, and the way people see things completely changes. It’s not until you can divorce your judgement from your emotions that you can see how things really are.

  42. I wonder if there is another professional sports team anywhere that could be up two games to one in the conference championship (or equivalent), with homecourt advantage, and with one of the sport’s all-time greats on its roster, whose fanbase would nonetheless be so prone to teeth-gnashing and doomsday prophecies as ours.

    Yeah, I sat through game two yelling at the tv, cringing, swearing, and holding my head in my hands. And yeah, game three made my heart stop over and over again. And yes, too, some of the substitution patterns baffle me. But the Lakers won yesterday. They reached down deep into their reserve (which we are repeatedly told they don’t even have) and won a tough game on the road. And, to top it off, we got to witness yet another transcendent performance by Kobe. As much as I tend to take him for granted sometimes, performances like that remind me of how lucky we have been in Los Angeles. Rejoice!

    Finally, I feel like it warrants noting/repeating: don’t lose sight of who it is we are up against in this series. The Nuggets are the second seed, and they have played even better ball in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. I mean, they destroyed both Dallas and New Orleans. Flawed teams each, but still, they both were embarrassed by Denver. We should expect a tough series, and that’s what we’ve got.

    Hang in there, all. It’s been, and promises to be, a wild ride.

  43. #39: wow, just wow.

  44. 1.

    I agree with just about everything you said. We need a big performance from Somebody besides Kobe, Pau, or Ariza. Fisher, Brown, Bynum, Sasha, LAMAR!, Powell, Walton… Seriously we need two of these guys to put 35-40 combined and help us steal a game where our best guys don’t have to expend a bunch of energy. The Nugget’s D is focusing a lot of attention on Kobe and Pau and the other guys need to step up big time. We may be able to get past Denver without the other guy picking it up, but we will be too spent to get past CLE/ORL at that point. Please role players, our big time guys need some help. And yes i’m including Ariza as a big time guy. He has made big plays for us not only in the play offs, but all season long. He is big time.

  45. Magic, Bird, Kareem, Jordan, Dr J. these are all guys that left me wondering if I’d keep watching after they’d left the sport. Thank you Jerry West for seeing in this Kobe kid what makes me come back to watch, and being a Laker fan just makes it that much better. Again I’ve reached the point that makes me question if I’ll watch after Kobe goes. I feel he is even better than all those mentioned above in pure scoring ability, and have never in my life sat on the couch shaking my head in disbelief as much as I do with Kobe. I’ve watched the 12 3’s in one game, the 81…. and I still am amazed that he can make the pressure shot in crunch time. Jordan was Jordan… Kobe is Kobe and Lebron will be… Lebron. But for me… Kobe is the best and until proven differently in my mind that’s how it will remain, with me …. shaking my head on the couch.

  46. #39

    You are totally right about that. I mean, when Jordan just collapsed into Pippin after the flu game, what a faker. Don’t forget, Pierce getting wheeled off the court and then running back in after faking his injury. OMG, what about that Willis Reed, the Big Faker, right, like he had a broken leg. How about when Magic faked having HIV just so he wouldn’t have to lose to Jordan again.

  47. Don’t take the bait from g1791. Just ignore that person while Kurt will delete his comment when he gets a chance.

  48. Can you believe Ariza’s last steal was not even counted as a steal in the box score

  49. “Forget about guaranteeing a win tomorrow night, J.R. Smith took his Joe Willie act one step further today. He guaranteed the Nuggets would be in The Finals during an appearance on ESPN News. ”

    http://my.nba.com/thread.jspa?threadID=5800025763

  50. I love J.R. Smith. He misses wild 3’s more than he hits them. He’s an asset for us. I also love how Chauncey’s play encourages stupid play with shots just as dumb.

    This team is not much smarter than they were before. They are definitely better with Chauncey, a healthy Nene, a “clear” Birdman, and a motivated “Melo. But smarter? No.

    Missed long 3 after long 3. Once we decided to play smart basketball, we took over. I only wish that we played smarter in game 2.

  51. After seeing the winded Kobe (wow, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone that winded on the league in a long, long, long time) during the interview, I’m not so confident about game 4.

    But then again, just because I’ve seen the tired Kobe, I have this hope that he may be ultra efficient and direct stuff, save legs and be clutch again.

  52. Smith’s quotes are the classic symptom of the emotion that Denver plays with. They play hard, but as wondahbap said, they still don’t always play smart. I am sure Smith believes exactly what he said, but he (as well as Martin) need to play smarter in those moments that require the most energy AND focus. If they don’t, all their best efforts can be tossed away as their overwhelming want betrays them and their passion turns into panic and their fire turns into folly.

    I’d also like to give a little more love to Gasol. Kurt’s post is a tribute to both Kobe and Pau, but many of us have focused Kobe as he continues to amaze us after all these years with one transcendent effort after another. But Pau has been performing well this series and without his key buckets over Nene, we likely are behind in this series right now. In this series, one in which his detractors have once again been vocal, he’s shooting 59% from the field, averaging almost 17pts a game, and is grabbing 14 rebounds per game. I know we expect a lot from our lanky Spaniard, but he’s pulling his weight (and then some), even without us finding ways to get him the ball as much as he needs it. So, I just wanted to give this guy a bit more love as we all know what we were like as a team before his arrival. BTW, I think we’re in for a vintage Pau performance in game 4 (like one of those 18, 15, 5, 3 lines that he graced us with during the regular season).

  53. 34, 51

    He’s been that bad before. I remember in 2004 he had 5 games where he had hearings on gameday. He dominated in each one. Most times he went directly from the hearing to Staples. 3 of the games were in the playoffs vs Houston, SA, and Minnesota. In one of them, I distinctly remember him being near death. He was so dehydrated he needed the IV afterward.

    After a significant waste of time, I couldn’t find an article that adequately detailed how great he was. I guess it’s just another tale of his greatness that gets lost in the legend. In any event, I’m not worried about him. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again if he has to.

  54. Darius,
    You’re so funny. You want to give Pau more love? You couldn’t give possibly give him more love on FB&G. I mean that sincerely. I grinned when I read that.

    To your point, you’ve been talking about more shots for Pau since game 1. I can’t get behind that, because I think he’s getting enough. Last night he got 12, game 2 he got 8. He also went to line 8 & 10 times, respectively, so he’s getting touches in the offense, which is what’s important. And if Pau really wants 15-18 shots per, he can make himself available and DEMAND the ball anytime he’s ready. Actually, I would pay cash money if he would grab Fish or Farmer by the collar and tell them to give him the ball the next 3 plays, no matter what. That would be awesome.

    I feel like Pau often gets credit for great games when he only played well for a stretch(es). I think game 1 is a good example. I say that not to start an argument, but to make the point that’s he’s REALLY impressed me in games 2 & 3 by being a factor the entire game on both sides. Despite those 2 CLUTCH shots (that if he doesn’t take and make we lose), I was even more impressed with game 2. Considering my offline comments, nobody here knows how much of compliment that is.

    I really hope he can continue these performances, since PJ seems to have decided that Drew won’t be playing in any 4th qtrs.

  55. As I recall last year, LO was a crucial player against our playoff foes and we got alot of production from him that resulted in confident wins. This year it is definitely Gasol doing that same kind of work and producing the needed rebounds and critical points for us when needed and not making any mistakes in doing so.

    As far as Fisher being our best option, I never said statistic wise was the reason for that, he was like 1-9 the other night wasn’t he. But anyway, PJ is not going to change our starting and crunch time PG on the fly this year, no matter what stats are thrown his way or what he even sees on the court for that matter. Besides, Fisher is a friend of Kobe’s, right? I am just going to stop worrying the about the PG situation for the rest of 09, hmmm, 24 hours to go and 6 more games.

  56. clutch, I remember Dave Chappell had a bit during the time Kobe was showing up at games direct from hearings, that went something like: “Have you guys seen Kobe lately? It’s like the judge rolled a ball to him and said, ‘Here. Play for your freedom.'”

  57. W0w! I’m sorry, but reading all of you talking about how this doesn’t look like a championship team, realy makes me wonder? Have we all forgoten what happened last year? Let’s try and remember…At this time last year, we were rolling through the confrence finals. No one could beat us, not even the 4 time champion Spurs, who many picked to win that series. We were playing flawless championship ball, we were clicking on all cylinders. And then what happened…We were basicaly picked by every so called expert to win the whole thing. We broght our championship play and swagger, and all we ended up with is everyone talking about how we embarrased ourselves. Do any of you recall how awful you felt last June!
    Now let’s be honest with ourselves. Do you realy care how we get to the top of the mountain, or just that we get there.As easy as it looked through 3 rounds last year, it got us nowhere.
    Do any of you care now that in 2000, Sacramento took us to 5 games, or how nervous you were during that Portland series. Let’s be honest, we didn’t alwys look like a championship team then.
    My point is, that every team goes on a different path to reach the top. So long as you get there, who cares how you did it. I’m a little relieved we are not winning as easy now as we were last year. Maybe this time the season will end with a different result.

  58. Clutch,
    I hear you. Ha, I know that I usually am the public defender around here, so I know you’re not trying to start an argument. As for more shots for Pau, I’d like for him to be at about 15 per game. I was fine with his 12, but would still like a couple more than that. And while I agree that we’re not likely to see Pau go all Shaq on us (it’s just not his personality), I do think as a team (coaches and players) we need to figure out ways to get Pau touches where he’s not only in position to score but in position to pass to players who are cutting because they’re running our sets. We’ve all seen that our offense can raise a level of efficiency when we go to the post for our initiation, and that is reflective of Pau as a player. I should also note that even though Pau is getting FT attempts, a lot of those are coming off him crashing the offensive glass or for fighting fr post position and the Nuggs are in the penalty. Ultimately, I think the more we try to get him the ball the more we have good things happen. I don’t think we’re on opposite sides here though. We both know that Pau is important, we just disagree on how much we need to force feed him. I think your points are valid.

  59. j. d. hastings May 24, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    On the last Magic FTA the Cavs put Pavlovic in the slot to rebound with Lebron outside the 3 point line. Why would they do that instead of having 3 big men there to grab a potential miss? So he could leak out for a break?

  60. How much do you guys think Gortat will get paid in the offseason? $4-5 range per year sounds reasonable, given the current economy.

    Turkoglu’s decision making recently has impressed me. I love the guy, but he’s always been prone to brain farts. Lately his decisions on the break have been perfect, that last pass to Rashard Lewis was beautiful.

    Skip came to play tonight.

  61. Here’s a link to the Chappelle act, if anyone’s interested. Kobe stuff starts around 3:40. (This isn’t for the young-ins.)

  62. Wow clearly I haven’t been watching this game closely enough, after seeing that replay. I take it back. In my defense, it’s hard to grill and watch every play at the same time.

  63. Maybe this is all Phil’s psychology in play.

    He wants to give Drew, Farmar and Brown minutes without hurting the ego of Pau and Fisher, so he overplays them so they are tired and feel ‘glad’ when the other guys are playing.

    … yeah, I’m stretching things.

    If they win Game 4 for us and return to LA 3-1, that would end the series.

  64. phineas – lol I remember that part clearly. Chappelle’s stand-up rocks.

  65. Yep, since Denver seems on how and when to double Pau, multiple cuts off him in the post would be lovely. And I love how he’s hitting that offensive glass. Keep it up, big man!

    phineas, you brought back a memory. I laughed hysterically when he did that bit. I’m a big Chappelle fan, too bad he’s out the game.

    Man, where would Orlando be without Courtney Lee?

  66. So far in the Orlando Cleveland game, Lebron has yet to make a jumpshot. He can’t do that and yet they’re ready to anoint him better than Kobe ?

  67. 63. Yes. Except replace “they’re ready to” with “they have already” and “better than Kobe” with “best evah”.

  68. j. d. hastings May 24, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    When did the game end the Lebron James v. Dwight Howard FT contest start?

  69. Not a pretty game in the East today with all those FTs.

  70. the last foul on Howard was CRAZY. lol

  71. LOL @ the refs trying to keep Cleveland in it.

  72. And they call Lebron the best player.
    He can’t even make two straight free throws.
    Now, let’s all calm down.
    See now Jerry West?
    That’s what makes Kobe a mile away from other “superstars”

  73. Howard 5 techs so far, good.

  74. The Magic have really turned it up. Kind of like the Celtics last year, struggling in the first round but improving their play as they continue through the playoffs.

    PIetrus is having himself a great playoffs. I didn’t think the Magic had anyone built to play Lebron, but I forgot about MP. He’s doing a solid job.

  75. Lebron made 2 jumpshots tonight.

    Better stats to not equal a better player.
    More assists do not mean hes a better passer.
    More rebounds does not mean he has more hustle.
    Better stats do not mean hes a better all around player.

    and just because his PER is higher DOES NOT mean he is even close to having a better season than Michael Jordan.

    To say that Lebron has already passed Kobe is a ridiculous statement. Make him a jump shooter and you take him out of the basketball game

  76. 33, Kurt – I just found out that ESPN documentary was, if not funded, propelled by Nike. It really is these companies that are trying to hype it up more than anyone else. I guess companies are designed to make profits, but something about it just doesn’t sit right.

  77. OK…..so how much trouble would we be in if we were to meet a red hot Magic team in the Finals?

    Not only did we lose both games to them during the regular season, they are bringing it to the Cavs. Not to mention the fact that they were one shot away from being up 3-0.

    Nothing is ever as it seems…

  78. Gone are the days were players just played to play.

    Now they’re paid to play and play to get paid, with the hype machine kicking in even at the high school level.

    It’s all good in one way, in that we really get anyone remotely talented to at least try since it’s so ‘worthy’ but on the other hand, we get everything dependent on dollars and marketing which is related to image.

    So image is something everyone is trying to protect (and sometimes damage) in order to sell, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the negative articles coincide with the end of the players’ shoe contracts, while positive articles coincide with the beginning of such contracts.

  79. We may be in trouble with whoever we meet in the Finals – if we get there. The Laker guards – with the obvious exception of Kobe – need to locate their mojo, and fast.

  80. RJ – Likely big trouble. The Magic match up unusually well with both the Cavs and the Lakers. I really think if we play them, we need to let Howard get his. Their shooters are too dangerous. They have their flaws, though.

    Not to get ahead of ourselves, the Nuggets are every bit our equal. Is every game in the conference finals with 1 day of rest? I’d love to have a 2-day break, our players looked like they need it badly. Ariza, Kobe, and Odom are banged up, and Pau’s looked spent. Some rest would be great right about now.

  81. RJ,

    It’s not as bad as you think.
    Looking back to the first 2 rounds you’ve have.
    You played the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, 2 of the best 3-pt shooting teams over the season.

    It doesn’t really show much in their stats (Utah being 34%, and Houston being 37%), but they’ve got the most efficient 3-pt shooters in the league (Okur, Williams, Korver, Kirilenko, Miles, Battier, Brooks, Lowry, Wafter, McGrady, and Alston[pre-Magic])

    And in the playoffs, the Jazz were 34% against them, and the Rockets were 32% as well.

    So, the problem is not closing out on shooters really, or so I think.
    But the main problem I think with the Lakers is their inability to clog the lane and force out shooters to take it behind the 3-pt line.

    The problem is again seen in the Den-LA series.
    They can’t control the paint (see Birdman, Martin, and Melo).

    In the first round, Boozer, Williams, and Millsap kept pushing the ball in the paint, they kept penetrating, they kept getting uncontested, high-percentage shots in the paint, because the Lakers are focusing too much in the perimeter.

    In the second round, Yao, Aaron Brooks, and Scola were enjoying every bit of their stay in the colored floor.

    So, I really don’t think the issue, if ever it will be LA-ORL, will be about the Magic’s shooters, it will be about controlling the paint and clogging it, and defending the passing lanes well.

  82. am as drained as kobe after reading these and watching the long and winding orl-cle game.

    for one, kobe IS the best player in known basketball world. that is not simply giving him props as a laker fan. i can’t base it on feeling but heck, that’s the way to go. stats are not enough. the feel, the air of dominance is one thing lebron has yet to have night in and out. and the character not to get his 6th T is another.

    i agree, trevor is a gem. he should be signed next year. lamar should also be signed for the sf position is one which can tilt the balance in our favor. the pg position is NOT. i’d like to make shanWOW a project though. he has athleticism and has impressed contrary to earlier criticism. i’m beginning to think he was the main man in the trade for vlad now. other than that, we SHOULD get busy this offseason. am not buying the “this team should stand pat as it is and let’s give it a shot” argument. any attempt to get better personnel for fair price is as important as sasha miraculously getting his shot back.

    bynum is not getting us his money’s worth. but he has like 3-4 years more on that contract (i don’t know the terms) to eclipse this performance. on this, i think we can give him another shot.

    and oh yeah, despite what every other analyst assume about cleveland and dismiss about us, we’re making the finals and i feel good about us taking the trophy. mainly because this year has to be it. i don’t want to see houston get stronger witha tmac trade or portland or whoever. it’s on us this year. next year, sure we’re odds on favorites ON PAPER again. but unless we show we can dominate night in and out…we’re not getting as much respect.

    but hey, am not bashing foolishly. i’m willing to concede this is how a laker championship team might look like, minus the hair am losing watching them play.

    also, the orlando perimeter guys are in their groove. bad sign for cleveland esp. now orl plays deliberately at them.

  83. I am happy about our win last night -but honestly I think it is ignorant to think we played really well last night. Kobe and Ariza played well and Gasol played well for the last 7 min of the game. That was it. I am happy Gasol finally hit some big shots but why can’t he be aggressive like that the whole game. Until halfway through the fourth quarter he was terrible. We are completely lucky kobe won game 3 for us, and denver blew it. Do you really think denver will shoot that poorly in game 4 again at home – no way. They missed a ton of shots – many of which we not defended well – we still left them wide open. We really need to play well for 48 minutes. I really can’t understand why our offense is so disjointed and out of rhythm. I think this may be a 7 game series.

  84. What has always kept me confident with these Lakers is the versatility. Like
    any great team – they match up well against anybody in the league. I believe that, we all I think believe that. Our only real question has come down to effort, focus, heart, toughness, whatever.

    I think we are in terrific shape to advance to the finals. And although Orlando may make some weary, as we went 0-2 against them – we did not play particularly well in those games. And if I remember correctly, Jameer Nelson torched us. Well he’s gone, and our length would match up well with them. Looking to the future for sure, but the games are so exciting that you can’t help but build on each one. The league is –scratch that– would be at a brilliant place, maybe the best sports product in the world, if the refereeing was competent. But after tonight, I thought I’d be a better referee than anyone out there.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow, I am really hoping to see us take away their hope with another clutch victory. Sorry such the long post.

  85. We have to win the next 2 games. We look beat out there and its not going to get any easier. We have to put a steak in their heart tomm and win game 5. The rockets really took 2 games we should have won. If it goes 7 we will just simply run out of gas.

    “Lebron have you seen my three rings, did I mention it was three of them right” lol

  86. Is it just me or the moderation is tight?

  87. OT & perhaps way too early, but ORL sure scares me more than James & co if LA does go to the finals. ORL IS a mismatch to any team. And behind my back, a trophy at the expense of ORL this season is an indulgence. A trophy next season at CLE/BOS’ expense is pure ecstacy!

  88. Also, wanted to include a nice comment on an ESPN discussion board. Yes, I found a solid snippet within the trolls..I know we get sick of the kobe/lebron BS but this, I thought, was well-written:

    “Kobe Bryant doesn’t have a single dominant skill that far outweighs all others, like LeBron does. Instead, he has the most complete, versatile, and polished skill set in the NBA. Pull-up jumper, leaner, runner, floater, fadeaway, fallaway, midrange, long-range, close-range, pump fake, jab step, up-and-under, dunk, layup, left hand, right hand, face-up, post-up, driving, elevating, strength, savvy, power, finesse, balance, body control, footwork. Bryant can do it all. His footwork, in particular, is unparalleled, and because of it, he is extremely effective in the post, making easy work of smaller players and even taking advantage of larger players without the fundamental skill set to compete with his own.

    Simply put, the difference between the two boils down to unprecedented raw athleticism versus unequaled, finely honed skill.”

    Long live the….Mamba!!!

  89. Adam T – From the looks of it, that was the comment made by Josh Tucker (of SSnR) during the Lebron-Kobe debate on ESPN. Some ESPN commenter probably lifted it. You’re right, it must have been extremely well-written, because I only read that page once and that quote stuck with me.

    According to Truehoop, Pietrus does a better job on Lebron defensively than almost any player in the league. Stats people – do the numbers back this up? I’d be curious to see what the stats say about Pietrus guarding Lebron.

  90. Each time he stepped to the line, [Dwight] Howard sang a song in his head he heard at halftime.

    Any word if it was Hasselhoff?

  91. I must say that I disagree with much of what’s been posted thus far. If – and I mean IF in a big way – we make it past Den, I think Orl is a much worse matchup for us than Cleveland. What have we struggled with the most this year?

    1. fast, penetrating PGs who go all the way to the rim
    2. perimeter/3 point shooting (anyone remember the Phila. game?)
    3. a dominating presence in the post

    Which of those teams does this sound like to you? the Lakers have played the Cavs brilliantly this year, taking Lebron out of the game with a combination of looks and forcing him into help. So much is written about ‘the better team’ winning, when, to my way of thinking, it’s all about matchups. It may very well be true that Cleveland is ‘better’ than Orl, or Boston with Garnett for that matter, but I’d prefer the Cavs over either of those two choices.

    That said, I’m more worried about tom’w night. Wake up, Lamar!!!! It’s May 25th!!

    P.S. Any Trevor injury update?

  92. I thought Pietrus had the look and feel of a pro back when he was w/ GS. When Orlando got him on the mid level, I thought he’d be a good component to a good team. So, I’m not surprised by how he’s played. He’s got that swagger, you see it on every 3.

    But his D on Lebron – has been in one word – containing. He has given James the jumpshot, but not without at least a hand in the face. On drives, Pietrus is cutting off angles, and his strength is a testament to that. He and Courtney Lee – along with newly beloved Rashard Lewis make Otis Smith probably the most underrated GM in the last few years. He’s just got to keep Hedo in town for a couple more years and they’ll continue to contend. They’ve got a good nucleus, while Lewis did not deserve a max deal – like they say, sometimes you have to overpay.

    But back to Pietrus and his defense – It is very good on Lebron. But if we see a Magic/Lakers final, Kobe will still be, believe it or not, licking his chops to see Pietrus. He still is not nearly the defender of Battier nor Artest, and the fact that Pietrus “would have stopped Lebron” would only give Kobe that extra incentive. That is, if you’re in to the hype.

  93. A quick note about Game 4 – Many people say that Game 5 is the most important game in a series (if it gets that far) because it’s either an elimination game or because it unties a series and gives the winning team the inside track to advancing. However, I’ve always thought that Game 4 is the most important game because 3-1 is a much different landscape than 2-2. So, with that thought in mind, a couple of thoughts on Game 5:

    *Breakout for Bynum? We’ve all seen the ups and downs of our young Big, so I think it’s futile in predicting when he might play well. However, I’m going to do it anyway. I’ve seen some good things from him in every game this series – they just have not been sustained. Game 4 is the game where I think he shows his value to this team. I anticipate better rebounding, 2-3 blocks, and double digit points from our guy. This prediction may sound like I’m telling you guys I have the winning lottery numbers, but I’ve just got a feeling on this one.

    *Better execution in the half court? I have a feeling that we’re going to be seeing some of the same things that worked in the first half of game 2 and the 4th quarter of game 3 in this upcoming game 4. We’ve been doing a decent job of finding ways to isolate our post players (Kobe, Bynum, Pau) since struggling to do this in game one. Our bigs have been moving better from weak to strong side and our wings have been making crisper entry passes in the last two games. I think we’ll see more of this in game four with Luke also getting some good touches on the block. In game 3 he had a nice play where he hit a streaking Gasol for a dunk after fighting with his defender off the dribble and establishing the post. This is the type of detail that gets noticed in film sessions and Luke is one of the only other players (besides Pau) that is a real playmaker from the block. I can also see us going to LO more on the block, especially if he’s matched up against Birdman. Andersen is light in the pants and can get moved by any one of our post players on back downs. In game three, LO showed great patience on a post up against Andersen when he backed him down, pump faked, and then finished at the shot clock buzzer. If we want to neutralize Andersen’s shot blocking, it must be because we attack him in one on one situations and not let him roam on the weakside. I think we should pick on him the same way we wanted to pick on Scola in the Rockets series.

    *On defense, I hope that we trap more on the wing. Denver has been killing our SSZ because it’s been lacking in any real aggression. Odom/Gasol/Bynum are just *showing* on the strong side and the player guarding the ball is giving too much space and allowing the ball handler to pick out cutters flashing into the gaps. What made our scheme so effective throughout the season was the defender on the ball really pressuring the ballhandler and the SSZ Big extending into a trap position. I hope to see more of what has made this defense effective rather than the more passive version that we’ve seen so far this series. We thrive off turnovers but have seen Denver’s TO’s drop from 15 in game one to just 11 in game three. If we can push that number up into the high teens by forcing some errant passes and getting into the passing lanes on ball reversals we’ll go a long way in winning this game.

    *Who on our bench will step up? Odom? Sasha? Farmar? Brown? Walton? All of these guys get minutes and not one has had a breakout game yet. I know predicting anything with this group is like my earlier prediction with Bynum, so I won’t go there as I don’t want to (potenially) look dumb twice. But at least one of these guys has to play well tomorrow in support of our heavy hitters. Kobe is human (contrary to what recent performances would have us believe) and he’s going to need some rest this game. If Sasha/Brown/Walton can play well, he may very well get it. If LO can play well, we should have a fully effective front court (considering my belief in Bynum and my up the thread comments about Pau) for the first time in months. This is what makes us the most dangerous team left in the playoffs and what we built the success of a deep post season run on. It’s time for Bynum/LO/Pau to get us 45points, 25rebounds, and 6 blocks. Let’s have it.

  94. Lil Pau – we may match up worse against Orlando, but that is not to say we don’t have advantages over them as well. The thing is, we outmatch Cleveland at 3 of 5 positions with a much better bench. But when you combine Lebron, tenacity, tough defense and rebounding, we see the Cavs as a formidable opponent.

    On the other hand, if we see Orlando we have:

    1. Home court advantage
    2. Long arms on the perimeter to contest 3s
    3. 2 7 footers to defend and help against Howard. Which should be possible considering he still isn’t a go-to guy in the post.
    4. We still also have Kobe – which would make him the glaringly most amazing player left playing
    5. Phil Jackson aka I don’t get nervous, in fact, my fans would probably get nervous if I bit a bit a fingernail or wiped my forehead Versus Ron Jeremy aka SVG aka “Mr. Panic”….I’m a fan of Stan, and I am just being facetious, but still a vast advantage.

    LA – Title – 2009….call me a troller for it

  95. I’m a little disappointed one of our role players didn’t retaliate against Dahntay Jones for that blatant shove. Byron Scott called him out for dirty play in the New Orleans series; he did the same thing to Brandon Bass in the Dallas series; and someone is going to have to put him on his back before someone gets hurt.

  96. The Dude Abides May 24, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    OT-2009 Draft:

    Let’s hope this one makes it through the spam filter. Nick Calathes just signed with a Greek pro team. He was slotted to be a late 1st round pick in this year’s draft. I wonder if the Lakers will package both of their 2nd round picks (42, 59) and try for an earlier 2nd rounder to take Calathes. David Thorpe thinks Calathes has the best court vision of any PG that declared for the draft. The Lakers could pick him with a high 2nd round pick and sign him for something similar to Marc Gasol’s Memphis contract (3yrs/$10m).

    89. This blog has an unusually strong spam filter that snags posts at random. I periodically stop posting here for days at a time because it’s so frustrating, especially when I see my comments held up for an hour or two while I see vicious, trolling comments get posted until they’re eventually deleted.

  97. The Dude Abides May 25, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Still OT, re Calathes:

    Obviously, if we could get him, we’d stash him in Europe for a season or two and let him get some pro experience in a very tough league. He signed with Panathinaikos (also known as PAO), which has won five Euroleague titles. He’s 20, and is 6-5 185 lbs.

  98. Dude Abides –

    Calathes is a prototype for our Triangle Offense…if what you say comes to fruition or anything of the like, down the road it will be another pick pocket move by Kupchak.

  99. I was thinking, if the Lakers do end up winning the title getting virtually nothing from 2 out of 5 positions (PG and the Bynum/Odom tandem) – then it’s really good for Kobe’s legacy.

    Throughout his career it’s always been “Oh he played with Shaq” or “Oh now with Gasol he has the best team in the NBA”. They couldn’t see that in 2006 he single-handedly dragged a 20 win-team to the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.

    It’s a catch-22: if the Lakers lose, he wasn’t good enough; if they win, it’s because “his teammates are so good.”

    Now that it’s painfully obvious that the Lakers are basically a 2-man team – if they go on to win the title – Kobe definitely goes up to top 5 non-centers of all time. Without a doubt.

  100. The Dude Abides,

    I’ve been pushing for us to draft Calathes ever since Chad Ford covered him and David Thorpe practically drooled over his ability (he compared him to Nash!). He’s the ideal point guard in Phil’s system — he’s long (6′ 5”), a terrific passer, and has a consistent outside shot. Plus, if he can play for Panathinaikos for a year, it will be really valuable experience on one of the best teams in Europe. That said, NBA Fanhouse said that he might have incorporated an opt-out condition into his contract that would allow him to simply go with the team that drafted him if he likes the circumstances. Given our need at PG, there’s a good chance he’d stay, but either way has its advantages.

    Our need at PG needs to be addressed in some fashion this summer though. Whether it’s through free agency (Miller, Kidd), trade (Hinrich, Barbosa), or the draft, we need someone to fill the gap there.

    At our position in the draft (#29 and #42), the point guards likely to be available are:

    — Nick Calathes
    — Greivis Vasquez
    — A.J. Price
    — Patrick Beverley
    — Sergio Llull

    Vasquez is likely available at #42, and has been fairly effective although his defense is lacking and his attitude could use some work. Beverley has one year of playing the point in Ukraine under his belt after being an undersized two guard in college. Price was so downright awful against Michigan State that I don’t want him. Llull is a Spanish prospect that we could stash away for a few years.

  101. I heard we are going to out right trade our draft pick in a trade or for cash

  102. In a series, you ultimately have 4 types of games.

    1. Elimination games
    2. Tie-breaking games
    3. Games that can tie or increase the gap
    4. Games that can only change the gap

    You could break it down further by playing HCA/team leading/behind combinations, but that gets a bit complicated ;)

    Anyway, if you see where each game falls:
    Game 1 = category 4(technically 2).
    Game 2 = category 3
    Game 3 = category 2, 4
    Game 4 = category 1(4), 3
    Game 5 = category 1(4), 2
    Game 6 = category 1(4), 3
    Game 7 = category 1, 2

    I personally value the categories in the order I wrote them, so in terms of importance, it would be:
    Game 7 > Game 5 > Game 6 > Game 4 > Game 3 > Game 2 > Game 1

    BUT as a fan of THIS Lakers team, Game 4 is very important in that I’d be able to be much more comfortable watching games 5 and 6 if we win.

    So yeah, in a way, Game 4 can give me two games of peace and that may be the most important part about Game 4 for an invested fan.

  103. Darius, you got me in the mood for game 4, let’s see who shows up besides Kobe and Pau.

    “Experience teaches only the teachable.” – Aldous Huxley

    Go Lakers…

  104. I have enough faith in our team to pull another one through. Two things that are concerning me are the energy of Kobe Bryant (he has never looked this exhausted), and our perimeter defense. They missed a lot of 3 pointers last time. I think first quarter will be key.

  105. I got a feeling Lakers will going to put on a show tonight.
    Just a feeling.

    But I’m sticking for Denver to win tonight.

    Billups, oh, Billups, please.

  106. Anyone else want Kobe to get in Bynums Grill and call him out again. Maybe help settle this little Phil & Bynum situattion and get him motivated. Bynum looks like hes going through the motions, there’s no fire and no passion to his game right now. If we get one more person contributing wether it be fisher, sasha, farmer or bynum we could put this series away. Haven’t really seen Kobe talk to Bynum at all or try to get him going. I dont know it worked once maybe it’ll work again.

  107. The Dude Abides May 25, 2009 at 2:32 am

    I’m thinking that this could be as close to a “nothing to lose” game for the Lakers as possible. Kobe and Pau are both tired, and they’re on the road against a tough and talented team, so the Lakers will have a tough time winning anyway. Perhaps Phil is thinking along these same lines, and will give Drew more playing time at Pau’s expense, and experiment with more minutes for Farmar/Brown at the expense of Fish/Sasha. One can only hope…

  108. 104. The Lakers cannot trade their first round draft pick this year. League rules do not allow you to trade your first round pick two years in a row, and the Lakers traded last year’s as part of the Gasol deal. Besides, nobody is going to give you crap for the 29th pick.

  109. If I were the Lakers, I would draft Jermaine Taylor, Alade Aminu, and Curtis Jerrells, respectively.

  110. I would have liked the Lakers to pick Nick Calthes. I think he would have been a decent pick. A big guard, a good shooter and passer. Would need to work on his D. But unfortunately I think he will be playing for Greece. He reportedly will be a playing for Greece (3 yr 2.1M euro deal). This could make him move up in the draft to a team that does not want to have a nother guaranteed contract. Said team could pick hhim then just leave him in Europe for a few years then bring him over if he improves.

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/orl-bk-calathes-turning-pro-greece-052309,0,5121197.story

  111. General comment, as there are a number of new people finding this blog during the playoffs:

    We do not allow trade speculation comments. Doesn’t matter how rational it is, or if it is a seven-team deal where the Lakers give up DJ Mbenga and get back LeBron. Those comments (and responses) are cut. There are places to have that conversation, but this is not one of them.

  112. My three wishes for tonight:

    1. Lamar!
    2. cross-screening/weakside cutting to get Drew the ball in good position. Much, much more offensive movement away from the ball!
    3. a good game from either Fish or Sasha, or even Brown/Farmar if they get minutes

    I think these three things would be enough, even with a dropoff from last game’s big three.

  113. Kurt, et al, regarding the Kobe three pointer and clutchness. I mentioned that originally and I apologize if that came off as fan boy-ism and detracted from the basketball side of things. I do enjoy the absence of histrionic rantings on this site.

    But in my defense I do want to point out that I’m usually one of the first ones to dissuade the Bron vs Kobe talk and even at the end of the Game 3 thread was telling some posters its not worth it to debate. That both were fantastic players and it was splitting hairs, both are 1 and 1A, take your choice.

    I’m an unabashed Kobe homer but even I have no problems saying that Bron has been playing on a much higher plane this year.

    My inability to articulate my friend’s point clearly and my feelings about it obscured what I was trying to convey.

    It was not meant to denigrate Bron nor start a comparison of their abilities.

    But a lot of what I admire in Kobe is the ability to embrace the challenge, understand the consequences and still complete the task.

    For many mere mortals, performance drops when hindered by fear, thoughts of failure and confronted by consequences of actions.

    My point on that was just the sheer excellence of that achievement. Kobe embraced the whole moment and situation. The weight of that shot was immense but he somehow willed it in.

    That type of shot in that type of situation gives me more chills and appreciation for his abilities and the overall enjoyment of the game that a last second fling. To stay away from a Bron comparison, let’s use Fish’s .4 shot.

    I thought it was a lucky shot and even though I thoroughly enjoyed that win with Fish’s shot and celebrated like crazy, it wasn’t on the same level as Kobe’s shot. Re-watching Kobe’s three gives me goosebumps that Fish’s shot doesn’t. And even though there was celebrating and because it was still in the flow of the game, there wasn’t a lot of the emotion and celebration of a game ending shot. But for me, that shot was better than a flinging shot.

    My clumsy short hand point of using the term clutchness obscured the actual point I was trying to make and therefore making it sound like a fanboy Kobe rulzs and Bron is a loser type post. For that I apologize.

    Kurt, you run a great site here and I appreciate the high level of basketball discourse. I meant no disrespect.

  114. I feel like our guys have been underperforming (Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Fish) while their guys have been overperforming (Carmelo, KMart, Andersen).

    Hopefully Pau will get it going as he showed signs of his stroke last game. I think PJ realized he was playing tired and rested him earlier than he normally does, which helped him down the stretch.

    Don’t really know what to expect out of Bynum. He has definitely lost some explosiveness.

    Odom we know is capable of more than he is doing right now. He hasn’t had a breakout game yet. He hasn’t been hitting his open shots. Has not been a significant factor on the boards. I expect this to change soon.

    Carmelo is shooting really well for the number of jumpshots he is taking, and that should change, as the last game demonstrated.

    Billups could always get hot from three. We’re able to do a good job contesting him because he is not very effective going to the basket. He seems to have lost a step and when he drives he throws up a wild layup or pass. He can get bailed out by our needless fouling, which we should avoid.

    KMart finally came down to earth with his floaters and jumpers. Andersen’s points came off layups and O rebounds. We cut off passing lanes and put a body on him. If we take away easy shots by playing good, fundamental defense, the Thuggets don’t have enough skilled shooters to beat us.

  115. PJ needs to utilize Mbenga, and Powell’s physicality in this game. They do not need big minutes 2-3 (get in and lay their bodies on the bigs) just enough to wear down Denver’s big men, none whom have played deep into the playoffs, save for KMart and that was years ago.
    This is a must win game, certainly do not need Nuggets gaining any confidence.
    I expect Fish to start knocking down shots which will in turn revitalize Farmar and Brown.
    Need Walton to get 6pts, 5 reb and 4 assts. We need to go to the hole early, often and look to hammer everything.
    Lakers please play this game like it is game 7!!!