Monthly Archive for June, 2010

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Video Preview: Finals Game 7

Lakers, Celtics, Game 7.

Could there be anything better in basketball?


For a game that really needs no preview, we still sat down alongside assistant coach Frank Hamblen to break things down for you.

In the final coach scouting report of the season, Hamblen detailed the importance of again controlling the glass as L.A. did so successfully in Game 6, what to anticipate from Boston with starting center Kendrick Perkins out with a knee injury, the all-important matchup between Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol, the expected impact of Kobe Bryant and more.

To watch, just click play above.

Gasol vs. KG Still A Big Key

60765264Before the NBA Finals began two weeks ago, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson identified the matchup between Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett as the one most intriguing to him.

And without question, the power forward showdown has had critical implications on each of the six played games heading into Thursday’s monumental Game 7.

The Lakers put together a dominant Game 6 performance thanks in part to Gasol’s brilliant near triple-double – 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists – after he’d played less than his Spanish best in Beantown.

60766756Earlier this week, we took a look at how much better the two players had played on their respective home courts.

But Game 7 is in L.A., where Garnett’s production has dipped considerably from the 18.7 points, 7.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks he averaged in Boston.

The stats for the three games at STAPLES:

Gasol: 21.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.0 blocks.
Garnett: 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 0.33 blocks.

Clearly, Boston’s going to need those numbers to be considerably closer to give the Celtics a good chance at winning Game 7, particularly in the absence of starting center Kendrick Perkins, out with a knee injury.

Game 7 Injury Update: Bynum & Perkins

101007645SB_LAKERS_CELTICSClearly there is no shortage of interesting topics about which to opine heading into a Finals Game 7 between L.A. and Boston, but we should start with the nuts and bolts: the injury front.

L.A.’s injury situation remains the same as it’s been since Game 6 of Round 1 when Andrew Bynum hyperextended his right knee. The seven-footer has battled swelling and pain since, but managed to contribute in various ways regardless.

He took himself out of L.A.’s Game 6 victory just two minutes into the second half because the knee wasn’t responding very well to movement, but was able to rest it without checking back in since the Lakers held a commanding 20-odd point lead throughout.

Bynum said both after Tuesday’s game and at Wednesday’s practice that he will play in Game 7, confident that he can get one more effort out of his leg.

“It’s pretty remarkable, I think, what he’s been able to do for us,” said Pau Gasol. “He is a factor every time he’s out there, even though he might be limited.”

The injury news for Boston is more bleak, however.

Just six minutes into Game 6, center Kendrick Perkins injured his right knee, putting him out not just for the rest of the game but also Game 7, as we learned (officially) on Wednesday.

“He’s not going to go,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Once they did the tests that they did and they realized he couldn’t play tomorrow, there was no reason to send him to an MRI, too.”

In other words, Perkins may have suffered more than the currently reported knee sprain, but either way he’s not going to play in Game 7.

Rivers declined to say whether he will start Rasheed Wallace – who probably matches up better defensively with Andrew Bynum – or Glen Davis – who’s been a more effective offensive player throughout the playoffs, but both backup bigs give Boston a variety of different looks.

“Somebody has a great opportunity,” said Rivers. “That’s the way we have to look at it.”

Finals Game 7 Playoff Podcast: Kevin Ding

blog_100521_kevindingWith so many story lines, so much to discuss heading into Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics, we had to spend nearly 24 minutes breaking things down in podcast form with the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding.

Ding, in his third playoff podcast appearance and sixth time covering L.A. in the Finals, went back and forth with us to discuss how the absence of Boston’s Kendrick Perkins (knee) affects the matchups, what to expect from Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett, how Kobe Bryant will approach the contest, what Phil Jackson may want to do from a tactical standpoint, why the Celtics can’t be counted out, how respective bench players could impact things … and, well, everything else.

To listen, click play below.

Lakers Reign Supreme in Game 6

60765840From Inglewood, Venice and the Valley, from Philadelphia, Spain and Queens, came the Lakers.

The Purple and Gold were omnipresent throughout a championship-like performance that produced Tuesday’s 89-67 Game 6 blowout victory over Boston to force a Finals Game 7 that will decide which of the previous two Larry O’Brien trophy winners will become the 2010 champs.

L.A.’s stars were brilliant, led by Kobe Bryant’s 26-point, 11-rebound, 4-steal effort and Pau Gasol’s 17-point, 13-rebound, 9-assist near triple-double.

The bench was outstanding, dominating Boston’s by scoring 24 points before the C’s pine unit had registered a single point, and the team defense was suffocating all night.

The Lakers simply had it all firing from start to finish.

“I’m really happy about the way we played as a team tonight,” said Gasol, a key part of L.A.’s critical 52-39 control of the glass. “Defensively, the activity and the intensity. Everything was very, very positive and together.”

60766649While the Lakers followed their usual road format of staying close in the first three quarters before attempting to steal victories in the fourth in Games 3-5 in Boston, Game 6 saw the pedal pushed to the floor from the get-go.

“They were absolutely terrific tonight,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “I thought (they) played harder, better … They executed, they trusted more.”

L.A. built a 10-point lead after the first that became 20 at halftime and 25 after three quarters, holding Boston to just 18, 13 and 20 points while amassing 76 themselves, before allowing the visitors to chip only three points off the lead in the fourth.

The trenches favored the Lakers throughout, with the home team winning the paint battle 40-32, shooting 41.8 percent to Boston’s 33.3 percent, blocking eight shots to Boston’s four and adding 15 second-chance points to Boston’s six.

“Our defense was good, our rebounding was better,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “We got some loose balls, some tipped balls. Those kinds of things change the course of the game.”

Though Doc Rivers said it “wouldn’t have mattered the way things were going,” Boston suffered an early blow when center Kendrick Perkins went down with an apparent knee injury six minutes into the first quarter, leaving his availability for Game 7 in question.

“I don’t know,” offered Rivers about his center’s playing prospects. “It doesn’t look great, but I don’t know.”

60766293Yet and still, it was Bryant who set the tone for his team early, scoring 11 first quarter points by making five of his first six shots, flying around on defense, going hard to the glass and involving those around him.

“I think most people – not us – assumed that Kobe would come out and take 1,000 shots, and I thought he did the exact opposite, I thought he trusted his teammates,” said Rivers.

Led by Gasol, those teammates came through.

The Spaniard’s near triple-double came after he’d failed to match terrific production in Games 1 and 2 in Boston; Lamar Odom offered eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks; Ron Artest hit three triples en route to 15 points along with six boards while limiting Paul Pierce to 6-of-14 FG’s and 13 points; Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown amassed a motley crew of high-energy plays while combining for 17 points, highlighted by Brown’s violation of LAX air space with two massive one-handed dunks.

In short, it was a team effort that came at the most crucial of times … at least until Thursday’s Game 7.

Bryant also set the tone for L.A. after the game.

When asked if he were excited, or happy, to have the opportunity to play a Game 7 in the Finals particularly against the Celtics, Bryant simply said “No.” That’s now what makes him happy.

“Winning is what makes me happy,” he concluded.

He and the Lakers will have their chance in 48 hours. Until then, your numbers:

9 L.A.’s collective advantage in the steals and blocks categories, blocking eight shots to Boston’s four (led by Pau Gasol’s three) and stealing 13 balls to the C’s eight (led by Kobe Bryant’s four).

15 Minutes played by Andrew Bynum, who sat out for all but two minutes of the second half to rest his ailing right knee. Bynum suffered no additional damage, but was having trouble moving normally and thought it better to rest considering L.A.’s 20+ point lead. His counterpart Kendrick Perkins, however, suffered a knee injury after just six minutes, and C’s coach Doc Rivers said it “doesn’t look good” for Perk to play in Game 7.

17 More rebounds corralled by the Lakers than the Celtics in the first half (30-13), which dwindled slightly to 13 (52-39) for the game. The team that won the board battle has won all five games.

24 Bench points scored by the Lakers before Boston had mustered even a single point off their bench, composed of Sasha Vujacic’s nine, Lamar Odom’s eight and four each from Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar. Bryant led all scorers with 26 points, while Gasol had 17 and Ron Artest 15.

67 Points scored by Boston, the fewest the Lakers had allowed throughout the postseason. The previous low was 79, from Oklahoma City in Game 1 of Round 1.

Lakers 89, Celtics 67: Finals Game 6 Twitter Diary

60764355Lakers – Celtics Gameday Page
After consecutive losses in Boston, the Lakers returned to STAPLES Center down 3-2 to the Celtics, looking to force a Game 7 with Tuesday’s Game 6. Mike Trudell was typing all the way through on Twitter via the @LakersReporter account to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Lakers: Adam Morrison
Celtics: Tony Gaffney

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Game 6 Video Preview
Among the way-too-many statistics you might read heading into Game 6 of the NBA Finals between L.A. and Boston: the Celtics are just 1-7 in close-out road games over the last three playoff campaigns. Frank Hamblen joined us on video to discuss how L.A. can make that C’s mark go to 1-8 on Tuesday night at STAPLES.

- If you hadn’t heard, Christina Aguilera’s singing the National Anthem tonight. We’re a few minutes away.
- You could tell that it wasn’t Christina’s first time singing in a pressure situation … T-5 min. to tip off of Game 6 now.
- “Let’s Go Lakers” chant breaking out as fans fill remaining seats. Crowd’s starting to heat up here.

60765300First Quarter
- Kobe hasn’t been to the rim in a while … but got there on L.A.’s 2nd possession to answer KG’s transition layup.
- Massive key here is how low L.A.’s bigs can establish post position. So far, it’s been good, including a Bynum turnaround.
- Standing ovation early here at STAPLES after Artest nailed a corner 3, following a 24-sec violation on Boston. Fisher’s steal and subsequent layup then made it 9-6 for L.A.
- Fun to watch, fast pace in first 3+ minutes here. Only 1 foul called, physical play encouraged with L.A. up 9-6.
- LA has gotten dribble penetration from Kobe & Fish in the early minutes, creating plenty of open looks. Only 4-of-8 FG’s though.
- So, Ray Allen likes to play in L.A., apparently. He didn’t hit 1 three in Boston, but just nailed his first attempt here.
- First sign of foul trouble comes as Fisher picks up No. 2 after getting switched onto Rondo. Shannon Brown’s in, 6:30 to go.
- Kobe has been clinical so far, making 4-of-5 shots with a steal & set up for 2 Pau FT’s and later a Pau fastbreak layup as L.A. opens an 18-12 lead.
- Ouch … Kendrick Perkins landed awkwardly on his right knee, and remains on the floor here as Boston’s trainers attend.
- Perkins’ absence means a whole lot of Rasheed Wallace, whose conditioning has been questioned by Doc Rivers.
- Wallace came into this game averaging 18 minutes a game, with a high of 22.
- Kobe’s hit 5 straight shots, including a tough 3 that has him to 11 points, & L.A. up 7 before KG’s layup.
- Gasol hasn’t had many offensive opportunities (2 FGA’s), but he’s been terrific on the glass, with 4 boards already, plus a block.
- Ron Artest is now 2-for-2 from the corner 3 spot, giving L.A. its biggest lead at 26-16. Big lift, 8 points for Artest.
- L.A. opens w/65% FG’s to go up 26-18. LA’s been great when has had to be for last 2 years, & have for 1st 10 min. tonight.
- Here’s Lamar Odom’s first appearance tonight… remember that he barely played in Games 1 & 2 due to early foul trouble.
- Another great defensive possession from L.A. caused Boston’s 3rd TO; Gasol follows w/put-back layup. 28-18 LA.
- A standing ovation for L.A. after a 1st Q that produced a 28-18 lead. Kobe was terrific on both ends, led w/11 pts.
Key stat: the Lakers outrebounded Boston 12-5 in the quarter … in fact, Gasol outrebounded them himself, 6-5.

60765104Second Quarter
- Sasha Vujacic’s first contributions felt early with a made jumper from just inside 3-point line, though Allen answered.
- Lakers are playing volleyball around the rim … though Bynum/Odom didn’t convert, we didn’t see that in Boston.
- ‘Sheed just picked up his 3rd PF, which hurts worse in Perkins’s absense. KG back in for Boston, Odom 2-for-2 FT’s, 13-pt. lead.
- Sorry, make that a 14-point lead at 34-20, before Allen’s layup gave him 12 of Boston’s 22 points.
- STAPLES on its feet again this time courtesy of a diving effort play from Farmar, which earned 2 FT’s for Kobe.
- A few notes: Kobe’s yet to rest, has 13 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl; Lakers crushing rebounds 19-7; Lakers lead by 13.
- Great energy: Another nice play from Farmar, bursting baseline 4 a layup, preceded a put-back layup from Gasol (7 rebounds). Gasol’s 7 are literally the same total as Boston’s, L.A. with 22 overall.
- We’ve mentioned Gasol’s 7 rebs 3 times already, but he also has a team-high 4 assists, & 7 pts on 3-of-4 FG’s, with his team up 17 points.
- Phil Jackson’s taking this opportunity to give Kobe some rest … & Vujacic’s 3, then Farmar’s big slam dunk made that easier.
- L.A.’s bench is crushing Boston’s. Farmar, Vujacic & Odom have 13 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast; C’s bench has 0 pts, 4 reb, 1 ast.
- Fans encouraged Artest to take a corner 3 after he’d hit a J on the previous trip … but he missed that one. Still w/10 pts.
- Phil Jackson rewarded Josh Powell for his constant work in practice with a few minutes in the 2nd here b4 Odom returned.
- Fisher was hit with his 3rd PF trying to strip C’s sub Shelden Williams, putting him on bench for final 1:18. Lead still at 20.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 89, Celtics 67: Finals Game 6 Twitter Diary’

Playoff Podcast:’s Steve Aschburner

Heading into Tuesday evening’s Game 6, we enlisted’s Steve Aschburner to chat about perhaps the most important matchup of the series: Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett.

Aschburner is the guy to do so, since he nearly covered Garnett’s entire career in Minnesota while writing for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, allowing for some perspective on KG.

We had detailed the discrepancy in numbers between the Spaniard and Garnett earlier on Tuesday, and Aschburner gave his opinion as to why, in addition to his expectations for Game 6 and a potential Game 7.

To listen, click play below:

Video Preview: Finals Game 6

Among the way-too-many statistics you might read heading into Game 6 of the NBA Finals between L.A. and Boston: the Celtics are just 1-7 in close-out road games over the last three playoff campaigns.

Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen joined us on video to discuss how L.A. can make that C’s mark go to 1-8 on Tuesday night at STAPLES Center.

The discussion began with the paint, which the Lakers controlled in Los Angeles but ceded in Boston, and went over to rebounding, general effort and ball movement.

To watch, click play above, or head over to our Lakers Gameday page.

Ray Allen’s Shocking Shooting Turnaround

60745856Nine days ago, Ray Allen caught fire from three-point range like no player ever had in NBA Finals history.

In Game 2 of the 2010 Finals at STAPLES Center, Allen buried his first seven triples, all in the first half, to tie an all-time record before breaking it in the third quarter.

His scoring, in addition to Rajon Rondo’s triple-double, carried Boston’s offense to a 103-94 victory that tied the series at one.

Then, improbably, came one of the worst shooting performances in Finals history, when Allen (literally) missed all 14 of his field goal attempts in Game 3, including eight three-pointers, in L.A.’s 91-84 win.

That was enough of a surprise after he’d buried 8-of-11 threes the game before, but nearly just as surprising is that Allen also missed all four of his threes in respective Game 4 and Game 5 Boston wins.

Overall, he’s missed 16 straight long-distance attempts.

Deserving some credit for Allen’s struggles is Derek Fisher, who has refused to cede an inch of space throughout the last three games in a fun-to-watch battle.

Yet Fisher and the Lakers are expecting that Allen, a career 40 percent shooter from three who is certainly among the sport’s best ever bombers, will find his range.

They just plan to prevent the wide-open looks he had in Game 2, particularly in transition, which hurt L.A. so considerably.

Home vs. Road in the Paint

60745222Perhaps the biggest discrepancy between L.A.’s play at STAPLES Center and at the TD Garden was how effectively the Lakers were able to execute in the paint.

As it turned out, the Lakers averaged 37 points in the lane in L.A. thanks largely to a powerful 48-point performance in Game 1′s 102-89 win, while Boston came in at 33 paint points on the other end. L.A.’s average might have been considerably higher had Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum not combined to take 25 free throws in Game 2, making 20, while Boston’s bigs attempted only nine foul shots.

But in Beantown, it was an entirely different story, the Celtics averaging 50 points in the paint through three games, and L.A. only 34.7.

The specifics:

Game 1: L.A. 48, Boston 30
Game 2: Boston 36, L.A. 26*
*Not including the 25 FT attempts by Bynum/Gasol.
Game 3: Boston 50, L.A. 38
Game 4: Boston 54, L.A. 34
Game 5: Boston 46, L.A. 32

In short, the Lakers were +4 at home, and -15.3 on the road.

101007645SB_LAKERS_CELTICSThe difference in home/away outputs could be ascribed generally to the more physical play in Boston, or specifically to the differences in output from key players Gasol and Kevin Garnett.

While Bynum’s inability to play more than 12 minutes in Game 4, and his limited field goal attempts (six) in Game 5 certainly affected his team’s paint production, the power forward matchup was deliberately marked by one another’s home court edge.

The Spaniard was fantastic at home, averaging 24.0 points on 62.5 percent shooting along with 11.0 rebounds, 4.5 blocks and three assists, but in Boston he produced only 15.3 points on 44.4 percent shooting, plus 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 2.3 assists.

For Garnett, it was just the opposite. On the road, KG averaged 11.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks. But in Boston, he contributed an average of 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks.

Gasol’s worst, and Garnett’s best all-around game came on Sunday, Gasol offering just 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting without an assist (though he did have 12 rebounds), and KG notching 18 points, 10 boards, five steals, three assists and two blocks.

“(Gasol’s) been consistent for us for a while now,” said Kobe Bryant. “So he can afford to have a bad game every once in a while.”

The good news for L.A., who heads back to STAPLES for Game 6 at least, is that Gasol has yet to have even one poor game at STAPLES Center in the playoffs, scoring at least 20 points in 9-of-10 games, and reaching 19 points with 13 rebounds in the one game he didn’t hit 20 (Game 1 vs. Oklahoma City).

Bynum, limited by his knee injury but expected to start on Tuesday after a six-point, one-rebound Game 5, remains a question mark but received a vote of confidence from Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

D073880035.jpg“You know, more than anything else, Andrew was out of rhythm in the game,” explained Jackson. “I think he’ll feel much more comfortable getting back (home) and playing. He’s really only played limited minutes since Tuesday night, so we anticipate that he’ll have some opportunity to kind of get himself out there, shoot the ball a little bit and give us more than just a big body in the sixth game.”

While the easy buckets Bynum frequently gets around the rim are nice, it’s his defensive presence that perhaps plays a bigger role in the paint points discrepancy (look no further than his seven blocks in Game 2).

Then, of course, there’s the matter of Lamar Odom, who was quiet both at home – particularly due to foul trouble – and on the road. For the series, Odom is averaging just 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 fouls per game on 27.8 percent shooting after posting 14.0 points and 11.8 boards against Phoenix in the Western Finals, including a 19-point, 19-rebound performance in Game 1 against the Suns.

What can L.A. expect out of Odom in Game 6? We’ll see.

One thing’s for sure, however, come Tuesday: to understand the game’s outcome, the paint is a good place to start.