You’re probably right: it’s way too early to judge the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers for losing their first two assignments of the season.
But we’re not judging. We’re just saying… it’s too early for the Mavs and the Lakers to be losing this way.
Just when the Mavericks were fresh off the celebrations they had when they opened the season, the incurred their second straight loss in as many games. This time, the whipping got worse, as the Denver Nuggets beat them by 22, twice that of Miami’s win over them. Just when having Lamar Odom and Vince Carter was about to become the Mavs’ big jackpot, it is fast turning into a nightmarish decision of sorts for the defending champs.
As for the L.A. Lakers, the rumors about their decline are growing. And while Kobe Bryant’s swagger and skills have yet to be proven outdated, his shot at winning another championship ring is getting dimmer and dimmer, courtesy of guys like Derrick Rose, whose game-winning floater cost LA’s opening night win, or perhaps Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans, two of Sacramento’s young guns who helped propel the Kings over the Lakers with a 100-91 win. Not to mention the cannot-be-ignored aging of Derek Fisher, and the new-and-yet-to-prove-himself Mike Brown as the Lakers’new coach. How much tougher can you get?
But of course, as I said, it’s way too early.
What we’re just saying here is that this is no way to start your campaign for a return to the NBA’s mount Olympus. Maybe the losses of Dallas to Miami and LA to Chicago were bearable. But for the Lakers to lose to Sacramento? Dallas to Denver?
Has pigs started flying already?
But again, we’re not judging.
Eight games ago, the Los Angeles Lakers were humbled by the cellar-dwelling Cavaliers at Cleveland with 104-99 defeat, the third consecutive loss before All-Star Break. Three weeks ago, Kobe Bryant was awarded his fourth All-Star Game MVP Awards. Seven games ago, the Lakers began a seven-game winning streak, starting with Atlanta, 104-80.
Six hours ago, they clobbered the league-leading San Antonio Spurs, 99-83.
Talk about hot.
What ended as a 16-point endgame lead for LA actually blew up as big as 32 at one point. As early as the first quarter, the Lakers have already outscored the Spurs 34-13. The Spurs only outplayed LA in the fourth quarter with 31-18, but it wasn’t enough to trim the Lakers’ lead to a single digit. Among the Lakers, Kobe lead all scorers with 26, followed by Pau Gasol with 21. Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown scored a combined 27 points to lead LA’s bench.
As for San Antonio, only Tony Parker scored with double digits at 14. In fact, the starters’ performance were so poor, their combined points are only equivalent to the total points of Gasol (with 21) and Artest (with 8).
Just two nights after routing the East-contending Miami Heat with a 125-95 win, the Spurs were given a dose of their own medicine after the Lakers jumped to an early lead in the first quarter. They also outclassed San Antonio in the assist department, 26-14. The Spurs also fumbled the ball more times than LA, 10-6.
We can go on analyzing statistic after statistic. But the job of saying who’s the best in the West gets easier if you take it straight from the Spurs.
“…They (Lakers) are the best team until you take their title away. I think we always look at it that way. When we step on the court with the guys who have won two championships in a row, until you take that title away, they are the best team.” according to Antonio McDyess, in a blog post by Fran Blinebury. Coach Gregg Popovich also had this to say about LA, “… I think they deserve the respect for that and until proven otherwise. That will convince me, when somebody beats them four out of seven (in the playoffs). Then I’ll believe they’re not the best team in the West.”
With 18 games left in the season for the Lakers, they admit it might be hard to catch up with San Antonio in the standings. But like San Antonio, LA knows that championships are not won by having the best record at the end of the regular season. By the end of 82 games, someone will still have to defeat the Lakers in the playoffs. And if no one in the West gets to beat LA, someone from the East will still have to defeat them to take the title away from them.
Until then, the Lakers are still the best.
The defending champions Los Angeles Lakers are on the roll with an 8-0 start for this season. The last time they had this good a start was 13 seasons ago, when Kobe Bryant was still a sophomore, and Phil Jackson was coaching the then champion team Chicago Bulls.
Their last win against the Minnesota Timberwolves wasn’t as impressive as the first seven wins. Believe it or not, the Wolves outrebounded a bulkier set of Lakers on the floor, and was hitting inside the paint better than LA. At one time, ‘Sota even had a four-point lead. The stats would even reveal that Minnesota was better in 3-point field goals, better in steals, equally efficient in assists, and had more charities than LA. All night long the Lakers didn’t pull away from the Wolves, whose Achilles’ heel that night were their turnovers, which totaled to 25 compared to LA’s 18.
Aside from the Lakers, only the New Orleans Hornets remain unbeaten with a 7-0 card. Both LA and New Orleans belong to the same Western Conference.
The Lakers are set to face the Denver Nuggets, said to be the stiffest team to face them as yet. But Denver was just recently chased out of the building with a 144-113 punishing from the Indiana Pacers. Either LA smells blood and goes for the kill, or Denver pulls a miracle, and give the Lakers their first loss. LA is just 4 games away from beating the record 11-0 in 1997 for best start in franchise history. Kobe was a Laker already that season.
After all, they are the champs.
It was 26 years ago when the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers last squared off in a game seven in a Finals series. Boston won that series, as well as the three other game sevens that they met as rivals. LA has never won against Boston in a finals game seven.
For Phil Jackson, this is the first time that he will be playing a game seven in the finals. In all his championships with the Chicago Bulls, he always had the advantage of leading in the series before eventually clinching the championship. His first loss in a championship, to the Detroit Pistons in ’04, was the first championship series where he lost game one, and the first finals series that he and his team were the ones trailing. The second time, to Boston just two years ago, had a similar setting. While Jackson did win game one of the current series, he was never in a situation where his team was doing the catching up. Thus, Jackson is playing his first game seven in the finals.
The last time a game seven was played was five years ago, between the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons. It was also a series that featured the last two champions of the previous two seasons, much like the one we have now. San Antonio won that series, and Rasheed Wallace, who is now with Boston, was standing on the other side of history, losing and being dethroned. He, among anyone else in the roster of players, know what it feels to lose in a game seven. This time he wants to know the feeling of winning.
Kobe Bryant calls the game on Thursday as “just another game seven.” Truth is, THIS game seven is anything but “just” another game seven. If Boston wins this series, Kobe would still be winless in a Finals series against Boston. But if he wins, the sweet revenge also brings him a championship ring closer to the man his destiny has been chasing. While he probably has five more years or so in the league, he is not taking his chances of doing the amazing some other time. If it’s now, then he will have to seize it.
While age is not much of a problem for Kobe, it is a glaring one for four people—one is wearing the same jersey like him, and the other three on the other side of the fence. Derek Fisher has been a veteran to Lakers championships in the post-Jordan era. He has authored some of his team’s game winning shots, hustle plays, and impossible situations, especially during the playoffs. And sooner or later, all that will be just a memory. For him, a sterling performance this Thursday could top all that, and forever cement his legacy as one of the best players who wore the purple and gold.
Paul Pierce said that one of the reasons why they lost the closing game for them last Tuesday is because some of them never felt the urgency of winning game six. But for him, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, it’s all about urgency, especially that age is catching up with them. They are nearing that stage that all of Boston’s Big Threes have stood on—retirement. When Bird, McHale and Parish retired, they gave Boston their last championship before the franchise went on hiatus until 2008, with the re-emergence of a new triumvirate. Hopefully, Pierce, Garnett, and Allen, as they near their retirement, can do the same for the little green leprechaun. After all, the only way for them to join the elite club of the Best Ballers of Boston is for them to win a second ring.
Boston will be one less starter in game seven: Kendrick Perkins’ knee situation could be career-ending unless he sits out the final game of the series. Doc Rivers will not risk a Willis Reed with Perkins against the possibility of keeping him stronger for the upcoming seasons where he can still be useful. But if there is anything that hurts Kendrick more than his knee, it is the frustrating fact that he can’t join the fray for his brothers in the clincher game.
Not that LA has no problems with one of their big men. But compared to Perkins, Andrew Bynum can still afford to play a couple of minutes, provide defense on the post, get some good shots, and stave off Garnett or Wallace, before sitting down. For Perkins, there’s no way he will be on the floor when game seven tips off.
The Larry O’Brien Trophy. Another championship banner. Championship rings on each of their fingers. A victory over their rival. And of course, the bragging rights.
Just so we will be reminded, all the marbles are on the line on Thursday.
The Los Angeles Lakers pushed the NBA Finals series to the ultimate do-or-die situation by crushing the Boston Celtics at the Staples Center, 89-67.
From the get-go all the way to the final buzzer, LA did not relinquish their grip on the game, as they got all the open shots, second chance points, rebounds and hustle plays that sealed the deal for them to stage a Game Seven fray against their fiercest rivals.
The last time there was a game seven in the NBA Finals was in 2005, also between the two champions of the two previous seasons. The San Antonio Spurs, champions of the 2003 season, was pitted against the Detroit Pistons, the champs of the 2004 season. The Spurs went on to win the series.
Between the Celtics and Lakers, they have met in a game seven three out of the 11 times they’ve squared off in the Finals. All three were won by Boston. The last time they went to the ultimate game was in 1969. The Lakers had the home court advantage also in that year, and was led by their three greatest players, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. The Celtics team for that season was being branded as “aging and ready to retire,” pretty much the same criticism being thrown against the Celtics team of this present season. But the Celtics went on to win that series, the last one during the Bill Russell era.
Minutes after Game Four concluded with a win by Boston, NBA TV analyst Kenny Smith predicted that the series will go to a game seven. His fearless prediction came true.
The Lakers sort of reminded everyone what can happen if a defending champion team is being threatened with the prospect of being dethroned by their greatest rival. In this case they showed it by a winning margin of 22 over their foe.
Talk about which team feels more pressure is not as significant as it is if it were a game five or six. That there is a game seven means all odds have evened out. The ultimate test is to know who really gets to take it all home with them. Even history has to be silent for the moment in telling who will win. Phil Jackson has never lost a series where he took the first game, but the Celtics have never ever lost in a game seven against the Lakers.
Which means this series has become more exciting.
The previously downplayed Big Four has finally emerged from hiatus to power the Boston Celtics past the Los Angeles Lakers in their Game Five square-off last Sunday, 92-86. The Men in Green are just a game away from clinching their second title in three years.
Celtics veteran Paul Pierce gave the much needed boost with 27 points to lead his team to a crucial win that puts the Lakers to the brink of elimination. Kevin Garnett added 18 points and controlled the boards with 18 rebounds. Rajon Rondo had 18 points as well, while Ray Allen chipped in 12, though none came from beyond the arc.
While Kobe Bryant kept his team within striking distance against Boston, it was the lackadaisical showing of Pau Gasol that hurt the team’s efforts in catching up with Boston. Kobe was 38 points strong in game five, but Gasol was only 12. The other starters were not as much as significant in their contributions on the floor that night as well. And while their bench gave off 14 compared to Boston’s reserves with 13, it was the combined force of Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rondo that made it possible for Boston to close their final game of the season in Boston with a crucial victory.
Game Six will be played in LA, and so will Game Seven if Boston fails to close out in 6.
Here’s where conflicts in history come in. While Phil Jackson has never lost a series where he won Game One, Boston has never lost a Game Seven against LA in all of their 9 championship wins against them. Obviously, LA will come out strong and focused for Game Six. A win for them sends the series to the ultimate do-or-die situation–a Game Seven. As it turns out, Jackson’s history will have to face Boston’s.
LA’s chances of catching up Boston and pushing the series to the last game is big. They have the last two games happening in their floor. Winning Game Six, however, doesn’t mean more pressure is on Boston. LA will feel the pressure of a game seven as well, especially the prospect that Boston might spoil the fun for LA right in their own backyard. This was the very same thing that Bill Russell did against Wilt Chamberlain during their Finals Series way back, when Boston, the underrated, aging underdogs, snatched away from a Lakers team led by Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, the championship, on a game seven right in LA’s home court.
If Boston wins, they get one more banner, at the expense of taking away from LA the championship crown. But a win for LA gets them one banner closer to tying Boston for the franchise with the most championships.
And as for Kobe, a win will make him one championship away from Michael Jordan, and hopefully silence his critics about the comparison between him and the man everyone hails as the greatest in the game ever.
The “Shrek and Donkey” tandem of Glen Davis and Nate Robinson gave the much needed boost for the Boston Celtics as they won Game Four of the NBA Finals Series, 96-89.
For whatever reason that he did not elaborate on, it was Nate who branded his team-up with Davis as such. But far from being a hilarious duo on the court or the press con table, these two reserves contributed the much-needed fire power whenever the Big Three or any of the starters were being relieved of their tasks. Combined, they were an efficient 61% in field goals, compared to the 41% mediocre output of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett.
Relatively, however, mediocre for the Big Three meant they had 44 points of Boston’s 96, which was nearly half of the total. The difference was that usually, these three were the only offensive certainties for Boston at any given night. Rondo, if put into the equation, has 10 points, making the total to 54–more than half of the total already.
But they need to sit some minutes out, don’t they?
Enter Shrek and Donkey.
Davis, who played half the minutes of Ray Allen, was 7-10 in field goals, led the team in offensive rebounds, and gave Boston the second chance points they needed to establish a safe buffer for their lead.
Thirteen times the lead changed between the two rivals, and ten times they were tied. This was certainly tighter than when Boston lost to LA in game three. In fact, stats for this series would reveal that on nights when there were not much lead changes and tied scores, LA went on to win. In Game One of their series, there was only one time that the lead changed from Boston to LA, and only twice that the score was tied. In Game Three, there were only three lead changes and two knotted scores, and the Lakers also won that. When Boston beat LA in Game Two at Staples, there were 22 lead changes and 11 tied scores.
It would seem Boston emerges the winner in close matches.
Percentages might fool a layman to thinking that LA was a better team. But despite being better in field goal percentage and beyond-the-arc shooting, LA had fewer attempts than Boston. In field goals, Boston had five more connections than LA, but obviously had to attempt more. In three point shooting, Ray Allen’s hot hands went frozen again, as he was 0-4 from behind the line.
But as for Paul Pierce, he lead the way for Boston with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and gave Nate and Glen the chance to pick up from the game and seal the deal. He took over the rotating of the ball, and melted down LA’s defense, making key passes that allowed for more fluidity under the net and through the driving lanes.
There’s one more game at TD Bankworth on Sunday (Monday here in Manila). The series has finally gone to a six game duel, and if one or the either takes another win–either home or away–this classic match-up will go the distance.
The Boston Celtics came home to a loud and rowdy crowd.
But the Los Angeles Lakers played to silence them all.
Edging the Celtics by seven points, the Lakers are now up 2-1 in their Finals rivalry courtesy of a 91-84 win on the road at the TD Garden. Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 29 points, while Kevin Garnett, making for two dismal nights of playing on the road, notched 25 points for the Celtics.
Derek Fisher was the key to LA’s win on the road, putting up 11 of his 16 points in the second half, not to mention the terrific defense he covered against Ray Allen. Fish’s performance not only snuffed out the life from Ray Allen’s shooting, but also helped the Lakers keep their seven-point margin from Boston until the final buzzer.
If Garnett had made up for his uncharacteristic outing in games one and two, it was Allen who was on the other side of things. Just two nights earlier he was 8-of-11 from beyond the arc. All of a sudden, he was 0-of-13 in their very own home floor. If only three of those thirteen went in, Boston would have kept the home court edge.
It was Boston’s bench that kept their team within striking distance down the stretch against the Lakers. Glen Davis and Tony Allen dared to bang bodies with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol under the post, and they had more times successful in getting scores. But as the minutes ticked by, Fish flipped the switch on and gave LA enough cushion to steal one on the road. Add to that the many possessions they got as time was winding down, but their missed shots and infractions away from the ball cost them the game.
LA now has the home court edge back.
Boston will have to win both games at home and steal one on the road if they want to end the series in six. Otherwise, LA can win it all away from home and seal the deal in five. Phil Jackson, talking to his team at the dug-out minutes after they were trampled in Game Two, mentioned that he’d rather not go home to LA and win the championship there. After all, its sweeter to vanquish the foe right in their own ground.
As for Boston, this is far from over for them.