Archive for the 'Finals' Category

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Gasol Says He’s Ready For Garnett

D062203028.JPGPhil Jackson revealed after Thursday morning’s pre-Game 1 shootaround that Kobe Bryant would indeed start defensively on Rajon Rondo, which had been suggested but not confirmed earlier in the week.

Then there’s the Ron Artest – Paul Pierce matchup, just as fun to anticipate.

But the matchup that most interests Phil Jackson? Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett.

“I’m intrigued,” said Jackson. “I think that’s a really good one. Kevin is like the force of the defense, he’s really the glue that kind of holds their defense together out there a lot of times with his activity level, his ability to help and recover on guys.

“Pau is like the guy that we have to have to be part of the scoring combo that we’ve had with Kobe and Pau. So he has to provide some of that for us in this series against probably one of the top defenders in the game.”

Gasol has no doubt played the best basketball of his career in the postseason, while Garnett was excellent particularly in Round 2 against Cleveland before slowing in the Eastern Conference Finals. But physical contribution aside, Gasol is extremely motivated from a mental standpoint after a tough 2008 Finals. He wants to show how far he’s come.

After Wednesday’s practice, Gasol was asked if Garnett, a personal nemesis two years ago, still tries to get into his head.

“Not lately,” said the Spaniard. “I don’t feel like he talks that much to me. I think it was at an earlier stage he did because that’s kind of his game to certain guys, that he likes to intimidate you like that verbally or physically. But I haven’t felt that.”

Gasol went on to explain further:

But like I said, we’ll be ready for whatever. To be honest I don’t pay really a lot of attention to that. I’m just trying to play my game and don’t let any of that if anything, I try for that to motivate me and actually get me pissed, pissed off and really attack him. I guess I’m not that kind of player. I don’t talk trash. I don’t need to talk to you to do anything. But that’s just me. I guess that’s my personality and my game, how I grew up and I developed. But anyways, it doesn’t matter. Rasheed (Wallace) does that a lot, and he does that all the time against anybody. You know, a lot of guys do. Like I said, you’ve just got to forget about all that and just play your game, and make sure you still focus on what you need to do out there in order to be effective and help your team.

Only a few more hours now until Gasol gets to show exactly how he’s feeling towards Boston on the floor.

Doc Rivers Practice Quotes

100602docriversWe posted Phil Jackson’s practice quotes from Wednesday afternoon earlier today, but here’s a look at the opponent’s perspective from Celtics head man Doc Rivers:

Q. Doc, can you go back two years ago to how these guys played Rajon, and compare it to how he would respond to the same situation now?
DOC RIVERS: You know, he’s going to have to respond to it because it’s going to be the same in a lot of ways. I just think Rondo is better equipped to handle it. Two years ago he was still trying to find his own way. As a player he probably wasn’t sure who he was going to be as a player yet, and I think now he has much better obviously. I don’t think he takes it personal anymore. I think he looks at as, it doesn’t matter who’s guarding me. At the end of the day I’ve got to run the team. And I think he does that now, and in the past I thought whenever teams did that, Orlando did it, and he felt like he had to prove to them that he could score, and he doesn’t do that anymore.

Q. (Off microphone.)
DOC RIVERS: He takes a shot when he has a shot, but he doesn’t turn it into a one on one warfare anymore; he just runs guards the team. We don’t care really who guards Rondo, we’re still going to run the same sets. I thought in the past it happened we got out of our offense because he was trying to prove to them you can’t get away with doing this. Now he couldn’t care less.

Q. Two years ago the teams hadn’t played in The Finals in 21 years and other players maybe didn’t know as much about the Lakers and Celtics rivalry. Some of the guys were barely born when they last played. Playing twice now in three years, how much more awareness is there of that rivalry?

DOC RIVERS: Well, I think all the players who participated obviously have that feeling. I think the guys on both teams who didn’t participate in 2008 probably have heard the talk and are probably more aware of it than the guys in 2008 were who hadn’t been a part of it. So I think in that way it definitely adds a lot to the pre series. But once the games start, then its own story will be written, and that’s what we have to focus on.

Q. Does Andrew Bynum’s injury situation come into account at all as you’re considering a game plan, considering rotations? Do you try to capitalize on that, or is it a complete non factor in what you would do anyway?
DOC RIVERS: Non factor for us; factor for them probably. We’re not going to worry about whether he’s healthy or not. Players tend to be healthy once The Finals start no matter what their injury status is, and you know that. We’re viewing him as 100 percent and a factor in the series.

Q. How different was Rajon two years ago compared to now? And also, how do you think he’s dealing with all this Sports Illustrated attention, “the best point guard in the league,” all the things that have been said and written?
DOC RIVERS: Well, you know, how he’s dealing with it is he’s still playing well. So in my opinion, he’s dealing with it pretty well. He has done a terrific job of running the team with all the glamour, and that tells me he’s handling it very well. He still understands for us to be effective that he has to run the team better, get everybody involved, let it come to him. As far as two years ago, he’s just more mature. He’s a better basketball player than he was two years ago. Our players trust him now. Two years ago he was on the bench in a lot of the big situations. The 24, whatever, the number comeback that we had against the Lakers, Rondo wasn’t on the floor the entire time. We took him out in the middle of the third and he never played against in that game. That would never happen now. So he’s just a better player. He makes us a better team than he did two years ago.

Q. What was it about him when the three guys got together that you and Danny (Ainge) didn’t push to go get a veteran guy as a point guard? You guys were confident?
DOC RIVERS: Well, we were out of money. (Laughter). So that’s probably the first thing.
The scond thing was that we just liked him. Two years ago there was a lot of talk that there was no way you were going to win it with Rondo and a young guy at point guard, and obviously that wasn’t the case. I think it was a great learning year for him going through that stretch. But the thing I love about Rondo is he didn’t relax at winning a title. He wanted to be a driving force on the team that won the title, as well. And so the credit all goes to him. He’s done the work. He spent the summer working with Mark Price, and he put in the hours himself because he wanted to prove that he could lead his team himself to a championship, and he’s doing that.
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Phil Jackson’s Wednesday Practice Quotes

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Here’s the Q&A from Phil Jackson’s Wednesday afternoon press conference following L.A.’s practice:

Q. Andrew is sitting off to the side with his knee wrapped up in ice and everything. Did he practice today?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes.

Q. How did he look?
PHIL JACKSON: Fine.

Q. Do you think he’s ready to go for the series?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes, he is.

Q. So the knee drain worked apparently?
PHIL JACKSON: Whether that worked or not, it was a procedure that was, you know, tried, attempted. Whether it was successful in keeping his knee not swollen over this period of time, you know, that may not happen.

Q. Do you try to get into goading Perkins or some of the other guys into more emotional play, hoping that they’ll get a technical?
PHIL JACKSON: No.

Q. Do you want to save your match ups for Doc Rivers or do you want to disclose them today?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, you know, some match ups obviously we’ve had some success with. We had a couple of games in The Finals a couple years ago where Kobe played Rondo. I don’t think that’s any secret that he’ll be out there occasionally on him. Obviously it didn’t work in the final game; he had a big game. Our match ups on the bigs will be interchanged according to how we go. Ron is an obvious match up with Pierce, and so it goes.

Q. Kobe used to guard him basically so he could drop off him and help guard everybody else. The nature of that has changed, right?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes.

Q. The fact that you’re 47 0 in games in which teams you’ve coached had won the first game of the series, do you think there’s anything to that stat? And do you think it’s such that your players know that stat and other teams see that stat after you win the first game? How do you account for that?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, it’s obvious, first games are really important. I don’t know whether any other coaches or any other series go to as far as first games, but it’s pretty obvious the first game to win is a very important element in any kind of series. It also shows a little bit of dominance and preparedness. I will tell you the last time we played Boston in Boston, I felt we weren’t prepared for all the things they were capable of running and they showed it. They came out second half and had a great third quarter and really made it difficult for us.

Q. The word that so many people use to describe Pau Gasol is “skilled.” You keep hearing that, “skilled big man.” How would you describe him?
PHIL JACKSON: I don’t claim to have any ability or any influence in how Pau’s broadened his game. I think the way we play our game might give him a little bit more latitude to play high and low, outside and in as a center and in many different types of spots. His skill is that he is a good passer and a good ballplayer, ball handler and shooter with both hands. And that gives him the capabilities of going either directions, stepping out away from the basket, and getting shots depending upon how the defense plays him to either side.
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Lakers – Celtics NBA Finals Schedule

D071577012.jpgFor the 12th time in franchise history the Los Angeles Lakers will meet the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. This will be the Lakers 31st overall appearance in the Finals. The two teams combined 32 championships have accounted for more than half of the titles awarded by the NBA.

All games will be broadcast on ABC and can be heard on 710ESPN. (All Times Pacific)

Game 1 – Thu June 3 Celtics at Lakers 6:00PM ABC
Game 2 – Sun June 6 Celtics at Lakers 5:00PM ABC
Game 3 – Tue June 8 Lakers at Celtics 6:00PM ABC
Game 4 – Thu June 10 Lakers at Celtics 6:00PM ABC
Game 5 – Sun June 13 Lakers at Celtics* 5:00PM ABC
Game 6 – Tue June 15 Celtics at Lakers* 6:00PM ABC
Game 7 – Thu June 17 Celtics at Lakers* 6:00PM ABC
* if necessary

In the (Championship) Locker Room: Brown

Shannon BrownUp next in our run of post-championship locker room series is Shannon Brown, who came to the Lakers midseason from Charlotte before realizing his childhood dream.

I’m really numb, to be honest. My teammates were holding me back telling me not to cry. It’s just something you work so hard for. This is why you play the game, to be a champion on the highest level of basketball, to be considered one of the greatest teams ever to do it … I can’t explain it. I’m numb man. I’m numb.

Sure enough, Brown was particularly emotional while trying to sum up his feelings, leading in part to our calling up his father Chris to really understand Shannon’s journey.

Alas, to watch the locker room interview, CLICK HERE.

In the (Championship) Locker Room: Farmar

Jordan FarmarIt’s already been 15 days since the Lakers used a 99-86 drubbing of the Orlando Magic to win the franchise’s 15th NBA Championship.

A lot’s happened since then, including the NBA Draft, exit interviews, the comical premiere of “Real World Cancun” (year 22?!) and even the melancholy passing away of the King of Pop.

Thus, in case you need a memory refresher, we’ll be posting periodic videos from the immediate postgame locker room, starting with a conversation with Jordan Farmar just minutes after the final buzzer when he said this:

Growing up in L.A. watching the Lakers do this for years before I got here was special, I felt part of it as a fan,” said Farmar. “To go through so much this season, have an injury, fluctuating playing time and all types of adversity makes it all worth it. This is what we all sacrificed for from day one. I can’t even put it into words right now.

To watch the full video, CLICK HERE.

California Senators Congratulate The Lakers

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein passed a resolution on Wednesday congratulating the Los Angeles Lakers for winning the 2009 NBA Championship.

“This championship brings great pride to Los Angeles,” said Senator Boxer. “I congratulate the players, coaches, owner and general manager – and, of course – the fans. I am honored to commend the Los Angeles Lakers on winning another NBA Championship and the Lakers’ Head Coach Phil Jackson on making history by winning his 10th championship.”

Senator Feinstein added the following: “The Lakers are, in fact, the dream team of basketball. All I can say is ‘right on,’ and congratulations for a season well won.”

Kobe Bryant: 2009 Finals MVP

Kobe BryantWho but Kobe Bryant could have been the first recipient of the newly-named Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after the Lakers handily defeated the Orlando Magic 99-86 to cap a 4-1 series victory?

While his numbers told the story just fine – Bryant averaged team-high 32.4 points and 7.4 assists, plus 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks on 45.7 percent shooting in five games – it was No. 24′s ability to lead his team both physically and mentally that stood out most impressively.

The title was the fourth of Bryant’s career, but he had yet to earn Finals MVP accolades, which went to Shaquille O’Neal in L.A.’s 2000-2002 three-peat. That Bryant was the clear lead dog in the 2009 race, and that his teammates so heartily bought into his mission put the accomplishment at the “top of the list,” in his words.

After the game, a joyous Bryant addressed a slew of reporters; Here’s the quote transcription:

LAKERS GUARD KOBE BRYANT:
Q. As you well know, Phil Jackson now, 10 championships, most in history. What is it that makes him such a great coach in your opinion?
KOBE BRYANT: I think it’s his ability to bring people together. That’s the biggest thing that he does so well is he continues to coach the group, continues to coach unity and chemistry and togetherness, and that’s the biggest thing, because when you’re together, you can with stand adversity. If you’re not, you can easily break apart and become a team of individuals. That’s his biggest characteristic of what he does well.

Q. Can you talk about the impact that Pau has had on this team in the 17 months he’s been with you guys?
KOBE BRYANT: Pau is I think the thing that helped us get to this level was the improvements that he made defensively. He did a terrific job defensively for us all year, and particularly in this series. Offensively his capabilities are limitless. He’s a dominant post up player, extremely versatile, makes great decisions, and obviously when we got him last year, that really took us to that next step.

Q. How is this different from your previous three rings?
KOBE BRYANT: Well, I just don’t have to hear that criticism, that idiotic criticism anymore. That’s the biggest thing. I don’t have to hear that stuff anymore. For us with the collection of guys that are so young and having gone through what we went through last year and having the goal in mind of trying to get back to this point, and to have the attitude of we’re going to become a better defensive team, better rebounding team, and then to actually do it and to see it all happen, it feels like I’m dreaming right now. I can’t believe this moment is here.

Q. You hit that three, put you up 83 67, they called time out, you went to the bench and paused. Was that the moment it hit you it was within your grasp?
KOBE BRYANT: Yeah, that was the shot that I was measuring the whole time. I knew I had to knock it down because they were starting to surge. I could feel it. It was a 13 point game and I could feel a surge coming. That shot, I knew if I was able to knock it down it would deflate them a little bit and buy us another minute, and that’s why I did that.

Q. What did it feel like when you finally realized the moment was at hand?
KOBE BRYANT: It felt like a big old monkey was off my back. It felt so good to be able to have this moment. We tried not to envision it too much, you know what I mean, because you just get too excited. You try not to think about it, just think about playing the game, and for this moment to be here and to reflect back on the season and everything that you’ve been through, it’s top of the list, man.
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Lakers 99, Magic 86: Championship Postgame

blog_post_finals09
For a full calender year, the Los Angeles Lakers possessed a single, pervasive thought that permeated through the team’s collective brain…

Championship or bust.

After catching the title scent early in the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals with a 16-0 run, the Lakers sprinted away with the franchise’s 15th championship with an all-encompassing display of basketball.

Each and every player that stepped foot onto the Amway Arena floor wearing purple and gold offered something productive: Kobe Bryant nailed shots near and far from the basket; Pau Gasol swatted shots and defended Dwight Howard impressively; Lamar Odom sank corner threes and attacked the glass; Trevor Ariza swiped the ball and like Odom, buried triples; Derek Fisher made savvy plays and controlled the tempo; Andrew Bynum stood tall in the lane … And so on, and so forth.

No stat line was more impressive than that of Bryant, who put up 30 points, five assists, six boards and four blocks. But the net result of the total team effort was effectively what L.A. showed all year: They were too long, too strong, too deep and too skilled.

“It felt so good to be able to have this moment,” said Bryant, who fittingly won the Finals MVP award. “We tried not to envision it too much, you know what I mean, because you just get too excited. You try not to think about it, just think about playing the game, and for this moment to be here and to reflect back on the season and everything that you’ve been through, it’s top of the list, man.”

They won 65 regular season games, and got better as the playoffs rolled on, eliminating a tough Denver Nuggets squad with six straight dominant quarters and rolling the Magic in five games, winning their final two of 16 playoff contests on the road.

Their coach, Phil Jackson, who won an almost unbelievable 10th NBA Championship to pass the late Red Auerbach, talked not about himself but about his players after the dust settled.

I’d like to say that it’s really about the players; it’s about Kobe Bryant, about Derek Fisher’s leadership of the team. “I tried to take them through some of the build up things that we had to do last year as a basketball club. They came together this year and were self motivated, and for a coach that’s always a positive sign. When a team is ready, they’re aggressive, their learning curve is high, and they wanted to win. I’ve always felt as a coach you have to push your team, and I told them they had to push themselves. I wasn’t at the stage of my life where I could get out and do the things that I had done 10 years ago or 15 years ago to push a team. And they pushed themselves, and I really feel strongly that this is about them.

In their final contest, the Lakers first survived the inevitable first quarter back-against-the-wall charge that saw Orlando take a 15-6 lead with force, cutting the lead to just two as the quarter ended, and going off on a 23-10 run to close the first half up 56-46.

It was academic from there, the Lakers refusing to allow anything on defense in tacking five points onto the lead after the third quarter, up 76-61 heading into the final quarter en route to a championship.

If a dagger were even needed at that point, Bryant pulled up from three as if a defender (JJ Redick) weren’t right in his face, countering a Jameer Nelson three that had provided Amway Arena’s last grasp at survival. The Magic tried to mount a last gasp effort by hitting six threes in the fourth quarter, but never got closer than 11 points.

A championship had been won.

Check back later this week for an extensive season-ended “By The Numbers” column, but until then, only one matters:

1
NBA Title earned by the L.A. Lakers on Sunday, June 14 at Amway Arena in Orlando.

Lakers – Magic Running Diary 5

57688836Read about the Lakers vs. Magic Game 5 as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Game 1
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 4, 2009
Lakers 100, Magic 75: Postgame 1

Game 2
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 7, 2009
Lakers 101, Magic 96: Postgame 2

Game 3
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 9, 2009
Lakers 104, Magic 108: Postgame 3

Game 4
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 11, 2009
Lakers 99, Magic 91: Postgame 4

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Magic: Tyronn Lue, Jeremy Richardson

Starters
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum
Magic: Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard

Phil Jackson Pregame
- Jackson opened his presser by talking about Tex Winter, who he said is able to watch and enjoy the Finals from home but isn’t able to speak on the phone: “When I became the head coach of the Bulls, I asked Johnny Bach to be the defensive coordinator and Tex to be the offensive coordinator. Tex is obviously the innovator of the triangle offense … His dedication to it made him the drill sergeant to the team. He always encouraged team play and system play, so if it became too individual, he would always bring that to bear. But more than anything else, he kept a running score on the sideline, which is now done by Brian Shaw.”
- He also talked about how difficult it is to maintain a singular focus with all the outside distractions with just one more game to win. Ultimately, he said, it’s not about him and his 10th title: “It’s really about these young men and what they’re doing.”
- Finally, Jackson compared Jameer Nelson’s return to Orlando’s lineup to Andrew Bynum’s prior to the playoffs and explained that the team skipped the morning shootaround due to the time that would have been wasted getting to and from the arena. Instead, the team watched film at the hotel.

Stan Van Gundy Pregame
- “They’re prepared, they’re in a good frame of mind, it’ll come down to how well we play. I thought practice yesterday was very good, I thought the walk through this morning was good.”
- Van Gundy said he doesn’t worry about missed free throws, because they aren’t a lack of effort or execution. It just happens. He added that Dwight Howard’s improved considerably throughout the season … But just missed some shots.
- He doesn’t think Orlando is getting “badly outplayed,” but didn’t take the bait to say that the Magic should or could be up or even in the series, as an Orlando reporter suggested. “What it could be is basically anything, the reality is it’s 3-1,” he said. In other words, he said that the Magic had a chance to win two of the last three, and the Lakers had a chance to win Game 3, meaning the series “could” have been 4-0, 3-1 or 2-2. But it’s “not.”

Jim Cleamons Pregame Video
Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons joined us to preview the final game, and take a deeper look at the pick and roll, which has been critical for both teams in the series. CLICK HERE and scroll down to “Coach Speak” to watch.

Follow Us On Twitter
In case there aren’t enough observations for you in the diary, feel free to follow us on twitter on @Lakers or @miketrudell.

57688869First Quarter
12:00 The energy in the building for Game 5 is noticeably less than that of Game 4 … Will that seep into the Magic (or Lakers) players? One thing to keep in mind in the early goings: Bynum, Gasol and Odom all had two fouls after quarter one of Game 1, which in large part caused L.A.’s 12-point deficit at halftime.

11:25 Lee scored the game’s first points on a deep pull-up jumper after Bynum turned the ball over trying to find Gasol down low, but quickly made up for it by grabbing an offensive board and keeping it alive for Pau’s tip in.

8:17 Orlando was extremely active on defense as the Lakers struggled to get good looks, resulting in two deep jump shots from Bynum. At the other end, Turkoglu and Lee scored on consecutive drives to put Orlando up 11-6.

7:00 Phil Jackson called timeout after Bryant was stripped and Alston converted a layup at the other end, with Kobe coming up lame surely due to pain on his troublesome finger. However, Bynum grabbed a Fisher miss and stuck it back in, his first make in seven attempts after he was forced into some tough shots.

4:15 After Bryant stuck his second consecutive jumper, Bynum converted his second straight field goal in the paint, a dunk over Howard, to bring L.A. within four at 21-17. In essence, L.A. had survived Orlando’s initial burst.

2:21 At an extended TV timeout that only the Finals can provide, Orlando’s “Dancin’ Dads” performed a bizarre dance to “Ridin’ Dirty” and “Pretty Fly For A White Guy” that you’re glad you missed, though to be fair, they sort of redeemed themselves when my top-three rap song “Big Pimpin’” came on.

0:53.4 Bryant’s two free throws cut Orlando’s lead to just one at 27-26, getting him to 11 points to lead all scorers. On the next possession, Howard got to the free throw line and missed badly on the first in an interesting situation since the last freebies he shot allowed L.A. to tie Game 4. He made the second, however.

0:00 After a Luke Walton miss, Mickael Pietrus (who moments earlier had converted a driving layup after taking six steps) couldn’t convert a quarter-ending three, making it a 28-26 margin after one. In Game 4, L.A. had trailed 24-20.

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