Author Archive for Jeff Skibiski

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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 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: 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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The Finals Game 4: Post-Game

The Boston Celtics completed the largest Finals comeback in more than 35 years, eliminating what was once a 24 point Lakers lead for a 97-91 win that puts them one victory away from winning an NBA title.

The Lakers led by 21 points after the first quarter–the largest lead after one quarter in Finals history–and held an 18 point lead at halftime. However, Boston caught fire in the third quarter, outscoring the Lakers by a 31-15 margin to crawl within two of L.A. heading into the final quarter.

“Some turnaround in that ballgame,” said an obviously stunned Coach Jackson after the game. “The air went out of that building. You’ve got to give them credit. Their defense was up to the task in the third quarter and changed some momentum of the game.”

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points, but Boston received clutch secondary contributions from Ray Allen (19 points) and James Posey (18 points). That smaller lineup, coupled with Eddie House’s 11 points, were pivotal in overturning the Lakers’ lead in the decisive, game-changing third quarter.

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The Finals Game 4: Pre-Game

Before tonight’s pivotal Game 4 against the Celtics, Coach Jackson addressed the lack of physicality in Pau Gasol’s game after the center has been unable to sustain his performance from previous playoff series.

“I think that would be a reputation that Pay came to us with,” said Jackson. “I think that’s one of the reasons perhaps we were fortunate enough to get him in the draft situation is that perhaps that had been carried with him, that perhaps he was not a center, he was more of a forward type player.”

Jackson added, “The last game obviously wasn’t a great game for him, but we believe that he’s going to have another real good game for us. I won’t touch the soft, though (smiling).”

While Gasol has experienced his fair share of criticism throughout the first three games of the Finals, Lamar Odom’s sub par performance has also been placed under the national spotlight–something that has not fallen on deaf ears for Jackson.

“Well, Lamar is our best rebounder, and one of the things they’ve been doing is neutralizing him on the defensive boards by just–he’s guarding Perkins, and Perkins is just plowing him under the basket,” said Jackson. “He’s got to get back and get rebounds because from there springs out transition game where he’s so effective.”

According to the Lakers coach, Odom needs to find a way to maneuver around Garnett as well, who has been playing what Jackson labeled a “spy game,” going wherever he is most needed on defense, often in Lamar’s path.

The Finals Game 3: What Went Right/Wrong

What Went Right:
• Kobe had his best shooting night of the series so far, making 12-20 shots en route to a game-high 36 points. Moreover, the MVP came through when it mattered most, making critical buckets in the final three minutes of the game to seal the victory for the Lakers.

• While Bryant’s effort was important, Boston Coach Doc Rivers said that Sasha’s 20 point outburst was the key to the game. Vujacic was similarly clutch too, making the biggest three pointer of his life with just under two minutes to go to create some distance from the Celtics.

• The Lakers played stellar defense on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, holding the star duo to a combined 8-35 shooting and 19 points. After the game, Coach Jackson singled out Kobe for his defense on Pierce in particular, holding the forward to a series low six points.

• After dishing out 16 assists in Game 2, Rajon Rondo suffered an injured ankle that is threatening his status for tonight’s Game 4. In Game 3, the young Celtics guard only scored eight points to go along with four assists and wasn’t much of a factor on offense.

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Jackson Says Refs Have Impossible Job

Before last night’s game against the Celtics–the first of the series in which the Lakers shot more free throws than Boston–Coach Jackson said that he thinks teams would benefit if there were more separation between the league and its referees.

Jackson elaborated on his point after practice today, saying, “You know, I don’t think it’s developed far enough to talk about actually an entity that would operate separate ad apart or satellite apart from the NBA and run the referees from outside the league office and then have a certain sense of their training, their policing and their governing those people.”

“But, it seems to be more consistent with what we want to have happen to keep it from being influenced or being–somehow or other indiscretions happening inside the refereeing in the league office. It’s cast apprehensions in the quality of what we’re getting.”

With that said, Jackson said that he believes NBA referees have an impossible job, praising today’s officials for “doing as good a job as they possibly can.”

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Odom Ready to Look Past Struggles

Although Lamar Odom has struggled so far in his NBA Finals debut, averaging just nine points and eight rebounds, the forward remains optimistic that he’ll finally breakthrough in Game 4.

Lamar–along with the rest of the Lakers–finally saw signs that he was coming out of his Finals funk toward the end of Game 3 after he made a series of aggressive drives to the hoops resulting in clutch baskets for L.A.

According to the forward, he needs to continue to be active around the hoop with his rebound and defense, even if his shot isn’t falling.

Coach Jackson said before last night’s game that he offered support to Odom–something that came as little surprise to to Lamar.

“He knows what to expect of me and I know what to expect of myself,” said Odom.