Monthly Archive for June, 2008

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Ariza on Board with Lakers

During his exit interview today, Trevor Ariza reflected on the mid-season trade that sent him from the Magic to the Lakers and so to, back to his hometown. According to the athletic forward, he’s planning on being in L.A. next fall, noting that the Lakers are a good place for him. “It’s a dream almost, playing here. I don’t want to wake up from it,” said Ariza.

Physically, Trevor said he feels rejuvenated after missing more than four months with a broken foot. “It was a breath of fresh air for sure,” said Ariza, after getting to play a few minutes in his first NBA Finals. Even in small doses, his taste of extended NBA post-season action has left him wanting more.

“I know its not easy getting there…It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” said Trevor, noting that the team must take what they learned during this playoff run and apply it to next season.

Overall, Trevor said he feels fine physically and is experiencing no pain in his foot. In the next few months, the forward said he plans on focusing primarily on his ball-handing skills and shooting while hopefully adding 10 pounds to his lanky frame.

The Finals: What Went Right/Wrong

What Went Right:
• The Lakers played extremely well in spurts against the Celtics, storming back from 24 points in Game 2 to nearly steal a win in Boston and jumping out by the same margin in Game 4. However, the Lakers’ youthful roster was unable to sustain the momentum as evidenced by the Celtics’ historic Game 4 comeback.

• Aside from his outstanding 36 point Game 3 effort, Kobe struggled throughout parts of the Finals with Boston throwing two and sometimes, three defenders at the regular season MVP. Still, Bryant averaged a team-high 26 points on 41% from the floor.

• Sasha Vujacic came through with the biggest game of his young career in a must-win Game 3 at STAPLES Center, scoring 20 points and proving himself an X-factor in the Lakers’ first victory of the series. For the Finals, the guard averaged eight points per game–fifth best on the team.

• Jordan Farmar also came through during stretches of the Finals, compiling seven points per game on an impressive 48% shooting from the field, including 53% from beyond the arc. Moreover, Coach Jackson trusted the sophomore guard down the stretch of the final games of the series, utilizing a smaller lineup that featured Fisher at shooting guard and Bryant at small forward in place of the ineffective Radmanovic.

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The Finals Game 6: Post-Game

The Celtics turned what was a 23 point lead at halftime to the largest Finals win in a series clinching game in NBA history, winning 131-92 to take home their seventeenth NBA Championship.

After the game, a disappointed Coach Jackson congratulated Boston on winning the series, noting how far both teams have come this season to get to this point.

“Well, there’s not much to say, actually, at the end of this except to recap kind of the season which we felt like was a remarkable one for us, remarkable for the Celtics,” said Jackson. “Congratulations to them, their staff, their players. They showed their strength tonight in winning a decisive game.”

Jackson praised Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (21 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) in particular for coming through with the biggest game of his life on the NBA’s most prominent stage.

“We’re disappointed, our fans are disappointed,” Jackson said. “I think everybody is disappointed that we didn’t get a game out of this, give ourselves a chance. You know, tonight Rondo was the star. He was the guy out there that made the plays, got the steals, pushed their offense into high drive and created havoc for us.”

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The Finals Game 6: In-Game

Referees for tonight: Joey Crawford, Ed Rush, Bennett Salvatore

Pre-Game

  • The arena is packed well before tip off and the crowd is fired up. The loudest “Beat LA” chant yet.
  • Mbenga, Karl and Bynum are in street clothes for the Lakers. Pollard, Pruitt and Scalabrine for the Celtics.

    1st Quarter

  • Perkins doesn’t even jump for the opening tip. Perk looked good shooting before the game, but the real test will be when he starts to bang inside with Gasol. Kendrick picks up his first foul early on a reach.
  • Kobe’s “in your face” totals for the first quarter of the past two games is up to like 18-points. On defense Kobe gathers Gasol and Radmanovic together to talk some strategy after picking up a defensive three seconds call. Those two need to decide who’s going to help when Lamar is getting backed down by Garnett. As for Bryant himself he continues to lay WAY off Rondo and roam the floor on help defense.
  • Heading into the first break with five minutes left in the quarter the Lakers carry a slim lead at 13-12. Kobe has 11 of them, not sure if that’s good of bad. The refs for for tonight are a much maligned group in the court of public opinion. Thus far they’ve let them play in some situations and called a couple things tight. Radmanovic and his two fouls are replaced by Luke Walton.
  • Good to see Luke Walton getting involved after being a non-factor for the majority of the series. He got a nice layup after keeping some serious spacing as Pierce went to double team Gasol and has hit both of his shots from the line. A contribution from Walton and some of the other bench mob players could go a long way for the Lakers after not getting much help from the bench in Game 5.

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  • The Finals Game 6: Pre-Game

    Phil Jackson’s pre-game media sessions have been getting shorter and shorter as the playoffs roll on, with less questions to be asked when a team plays each other over and over. Today’s session was a record though.

    Exactly one question was asked of Jackson. Something regarding the Celtics travel woes coming into tonight. Phil gave a short answer and was out of there in less than a minute.

    Thanks to the LA Times’ Mike Bresnahan for not letting the session be a complete shutout.

    The Finals Game 5: What Went Right/Wrong

    What Went Right:
    • For the first time all series, Odom and Gasol came through with big performances during the same game. Lamar finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Pau tallied 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. The pair’s clutch effort couldn’t have come at a better time with Kobe continuing to struggle from the field.

    • Another Finals first: the purple and gold won the third quarter battle 24-18 and the second half overall by a 48-46 margin. However, the Lakers were up by as many as 19 points in the second quarter so Boston deserves credit for making another comeback to cut the deficit to just three at halftime.

    • Once again, Boston’s bench outscored the Lakers’ reserves, 28-17, but unlike in Game 4, the Celtics were without a surprise breakout performer as was the case with James Posey in the previous game. This time around, it was the Lakers’ own Jordan Farmar who provided the game’s biggest bench spark, chipping in 11 timely points.

    • L.A. did a great job of stopping the other members of the Celtics Big Three outside of Pierce, holding Garnett to just 13 points and Allen to 16. KG did grab a game-high 14 rebounds though.

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    The Finals Game 5: Post-Game

    The Lakers survived to play another day, defeating the Celtics in a physical 103-98 victory in Game 5. For the second game in a row, L.A. jumped out to an early lead–this time by 19–only to lose all but three points of it heading into halftime.

    However, the Lakers’ balanced scoring attack and clutch defense proved too much for Boston down the stretch as Kobe’s breakaway dunk with 38 seconds remaining effectively sealed the game for the purple and gold, thereby preventing the Celtics from celebrating a championship win at STAPLES Center.

    After the game, Coach Jackson said that the team knows that tonight’s win extends the series to a sixth game, but that they need to come out on Tuesday night with the same level of aggression if they hope to push the Celtics to a seventh game.

    Jackson told the team that they need to “keep forcing the games and making plays, keep making one play at a time, one quarter at a time. Don’t think anything past this next opportunity on Tuesday to play this team again.”

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    The Finals Game 5: In-Game

    Inactives For Tonight’s Game:
    Celtics: Kendrick Perkins, Game Pruitt, Scot Pollard
    Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Coby Karl, DJ Mbenga

    1st Quarter:
    11:28 Gasol puts the Lakers on the board first, making an aggressive move toward the basket before throwing up a soft hook shot over Garnett that hits nothing but net. Although Pau finished with 17 points in Game 4, there’s been few instances where he’s looked as confident in his post-up game as he just did on that opening play.

    9:05 Fisher continues the hot start for the Lakers, nailing the team’s second three pointer of the game to give L.A. an 8-2 lead. So far, the purple and gold are shooting 4-7 from the field. It’s only been three minutes, but once again, the Lakers’ offense looks in sync the same way it did during the first quarter of Game 4.

    7:01 Without Kendrick Perkins’ bog body clogging up the lane for Boston, Gasol is having his way down low against the much smaller Powe. After missing his first attempt, the center just grabbed the offensive rebound and tipped in a shot right at the basket while also drawing a foul on Leon. Pau is tied for team high in scoring with five early points.

    6:36 Boston is forced to call timeout with a boisterous STAPLES Center crowd rising to their feet in appreciation of the Lakers’ 18-5 lead. Kobe just nailed his second trey of the game and is shooting 3-6 overall from the field. Halfway through the first quarter, Game 5 is almost a mirror image of L.A.’s fast start in Game 4.

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    The Finals Game 5: Pre-Game

    Before tonight’s pivotal Game 5 against the Celtics, Coach Jackson said that the team’s mood was good. The veteran coach said that he told his team that “The only way to approach this is to keep playing,” reiterating to them that they were “young enough and dumb enough” to pull off the impossible by becoming the first team in NBA Finals history to come back from a 3-1 deficit.

    According to Jackson, the veteran players on the team responded particularly well to the Lakers’ crushing 24 point collapse in Game 4, noting that the light was back in their eyes. Jackson said he isn’t worried about how the Kobe Bryant’s and Derek Fisher’s will play tonight, but more so the team’s youthful bench who particularly suffered in the second half on Thursday.

    “Our bench didn’t score in the second half of the game on Thursday night and I really wanted them to get the confidence back because they’ve supported us all year and that’s where I need to see the confidence come back in their faces, their eyes,” said Jackson.

    For the Lakers, tonight’s matchup is all about “focusing on what’s happening right now in this game,” said Jackson, instructing his team to remain in the present instead of looking at the potentially daunting task of having to win the final two games of the series in Boston.

    The Finals Game 4: What Went Right/Wrong

    What Went Right:
    • While the Lakers were on the wrong end of the largest NBA Finals comeback since at least the 1970-71 season, they still deserve credit for building a 24 point lead in the first place, with the team’s offense and defense working in tandem for the first time in the series’ four games.

    • Odom finally showed the tenacity the Lakers had been waiting for all series…for 24 minutes anyway. Lamar was a force to be reckoned with in the first half of the game, winding up with a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds.

    • Thanks to a dominating first half on the boards, the purple and gold came away with a rare 41-40 overall rebounding edge against Boston highlighted by 10 boards a piece for Odom and Gasol. L.A. also came away with the edge in assists, dishing out eight more than the Celtics, 23-15.

    • Derek Fisher finally emerged from his Finals slump, successfully making 4-5 shots for a total of 13 points. The veteran guard was one of five Lakers starters to reach double figures in a balanced scoring effort for L.A.

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