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NBA Playoffs, Page 2

Lakers Game 5 Recap: The Best Team Won

It just didn’t feel right. In trying to distill down my swirling thoughts into a simple reductionist theory that would hopefully quell my aching fanhood, that sentiment kept on rolling around and around in my head. It just didn’t feel right.

I’ve seen champions before and lived in the cities while they happened. I’ve seen five Lakers title teams, and two in the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox. I’ve watched intently as teams have broken decades-long curses, and other teams who arose seemingly out of nowhere to take a championship no one thought could be theirs, but in the end was rightfully earned. I know that feeling you get, a sensation similar to a great idea hitting you slowly but deeply. In every championship season I’ve witnessed, there’s a moment when you realize that the team you’re watching could take it all. Or maybe more accurately, should take it all.

You see it in their eyes and in their effort. It’s present in the teammates on the bench, whether they’re in the throes of competition or in the malaise of a practice. It’s that undeniable feeling you get that no matter how bad the loss was, or how emphatic the score, that your team can go all the way. The 2012 Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t give me that.


Where to start with Game 5? There’s so many angles to take: Andrew Bynum’s passive stat line of 10/4 with three quick fouls, zero offensive rebounds and a -6,000 on how engaged he seemed to be in the game. Ramon Sessions making just one bucket all whilst watching Russ Westbrook drop 25 points, each hoop more dynamic than the last. Pau Gasol, in what might have been his last game in purple and gold, aggressively going for a 14/16 night, but ultimately not giving enough for a W. Metta World Peace, despite the worst flagrant foul call I’ve seen since Tyson Chandler put a flaming sledge-hammer coated in uranium to LeBron’s back hit LeBron in the first round, played his ass off in a OKC gym that booed him every time he touched the ball. And then there was Kobe, who dropped 42 points on over 50% shooting, solemnly reminding us how much we’ll miss his greatness when he’s gone. It’s not even worth going over the statistics. The Lakers scratched and clawed for 3 quarters, while the Thunder looked like they were just getting warmed up, like Skynyrd playing a bunch of new middling songs before getting into Freebird. When OKC turned it on, it was too much for the Lakers to handle, and the game ended in a blowout. Of course Andrew’s lack of production and the incredible performances by Westbrook and Durant are primary culprits for the loss, but really, this contest was just a microcosm for the entire series.

The bottom line is, the Lakers got beat by the better team. Even in a 5-game series that felt like it went 9, the Thunder didn’t just outwork the Lakers; they were flat-out more talented, explosive and hungry. No matter how badly you thought the Lakers played at the end of the fourth quarters, or the mistakes they made to give Games 2 and 4 away, the Thunder had to win them. Down seven with two minutes left? Down 13 with seven minutes left? Both in games where the Lakers largely dictated the pace and rhythm? Maybe this more than anything demonstrates the greatness of the OKC attack – their 9 minutes of play were better than 87 from the Lakers. It only took them 540 seconds to outdo what LA had struggled over 5,200 to achieve. Chew on that thought for a minute and tell me that this was the Lakers series to lose. The Lakers couldn’t c… Read more...

NBA’s Flopping Superstars: Double Standard or No Standard At All?

The MAMBINO crew (and the general NBA writing populace) has been afire with rage at the egregious and seemingly unending flopping going on in these playoffs. LeBron, Wade, Chris Paul, James Harden and the like have been throwing their bodies around the court as if they got hit by a Rhinoceros rather than a hard screen or an errant forearm from a shooter. Commissioner David Stern has taken notice and there are whispers that a “flopping” committee will be instituted to stop our favorite NBA-ers from being thespians rather than the hard-nosed ballers of yesteryear. 

But the controversy got us thinking, do the NBA superstars get away with flopping because the refs let them operate under a completely different set of rules? Or perhaps everyone does this, but maybe we’re just a little too sensitive to our best and brightest flailing about the court? The CDP and I discuss.

The CDP: There’s no doubt that the NBA disciplinary committee has had a pretty tough time keeping order in the L this year, with a rash of hard fouls on a mid-air Blake Griffin and lots of tough fouls to officiate. As a Lakers fan, my season was bookended with big Lakers suspensions by stupid fouls from our frontcourt: Bynum’s assassination attempt on JJ Barea and Metta World Peace’s elbow to the skull of James Harden. At the moment, though, the controversy is all about the Heat. On one hand, you have to admire a team like the Heat’s ability to get to the line with their explosive athleticism and deft maneuvering into the paint. Sometimes it’s hard to do anything else with LeBron and Wade but foul them. Through obscenely bad flops, constant yammering at the refs, and some Academy Award-caliber acting, it seems like this advantage has been contorted into something else entirely. There’s a growing sentiment that the Heat are playing by a whole other set of rules. In one short sequence against the Knicks, LeBron flopped against JR Smith before treating us to one of the worst flops I’ve ever seen. It swung the momentum of the game and was initially called a Flagrant 2 foul before being downgraded to a Flagrant 1. Poor Tyson Chandler is rightfully incredulous, as is the announcing team, prompting Van Gundy to wonder what kind of league the NBA is becoming where this is a flagrant foul.

What do you think? KOBEsh, do you feel like Kobe gets treated the same way?

KOBEsh: I figured that shit out at an early age. I’ve seen Michael Jordan not take one fucking charge and he’s healthy his whole career. I don’t take charges” – Kobe Bean Bryant

Interesting question. The bottom line here is yes, Kobe’s been able to play by a different set of rules from the other mortal guards that occupy our beloved L. In my mind, there’s no doubt that Kobe gets extra calls that other players won’t get. But there are two conflicting ideas here though – does Kobe get extra calls because he attempts to get them, or does he get extra calls because the referees are keeping an even more judicious eye on Kobe and his defender because, well, he’s Kobe?
It’s both. Kobe knows that the stripes pay more attention to him, so in turn, he’ll accentuate contact when goign up for a shot, or scream loudly in the lane when trying to get to the rack. The Mamba, no different than any other player in the league, wants to get calls and uses it to his advantage that he is a superstar you can’t ignore.
The difference betwen Kobe and LeBron, Wade and the ilk here, is that Bry
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State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: Implosion in the Clutch

           With a loss like this, I’m not sure it’s the details that really need discussing as much as the emotional and psychological impact. The last two minutes are still burned in my brain. As KOBEsh wrote about Game 1, sometimes it’s a lot easier to swallow a big loss than one like this, which was also an amazing opportunity to steal a game on the road. As a result, I have a world class sports hangover this morning, the kind of pain you can’t believe you’re in over sports. I can’t believe how emotionally draining last night’s loss was as a fan and can only begin to imagine what it was like on the plane flight home. Did Kobe let anyone talk or did he mandate a team sulk on the way home?
As painful as this loss was, it wasn’t all bad. I have to give Coach Potato Head credit for making adjustments and having his team ready to play last night. And they were great, for a gritty first 46 minutes, where they had a 7 point lead. They won the rebounding battle and played stifling defense, forcing 14 turnovers. Russell Westbrook came back down to earth and James Harden had 5 TOs. Offensively, the Lakers took care of the ball and got to the line. The bigs even showed up and controlled the paint. Bynum had a huge hook shot to extend the lead to 7 with 2:09 to play. Then it all went off the rails and the Lakers imploded in a terrifying fashion. After holding the Thunder to less than 70 points through those 46 minutes, the Lakers coughed up their 7 point lead and let the Thunder voodoo shamans rip our collective heart out. A couple of quick Harden layups, a turnover, and a clutch Durant jumper. All of a sudden we were down and unable to respond. Game over.
Oh Mamba…
This game provided plenty of fuel for the Kobe Haters. He was 9-25 from the field, only got to the free throw line twice, and went 0-6 from 3 for the game. I’d bet the farm that my Kobe-nemesis Henry Abbott is already planning a huge post to talk about the limits of hero ball using this as Exhibit A, but the fact is that Kobe helped build that 7 point lead by taking, and making, some really really tough jump shots. We don’t have the lead to blow without him. However, there’s no doubt that Kobe was the central figure in the Lakers devastating collapse. Over and over, he had the ball in his hands with a chance to ice the game, an opportunity he relishes. He just didn’t have it last night.
Around Mambino, we constantly discuss how there’s value in having a player on your team who can create shots for themselves under intense duress and make them at an above average clip. There’s a reason that Kobe has 5 rings with the Lakers. But the problem with having these guys is that sometimes the same overconfidence that allows them to drill these shots and take over a game will lead them to shoot their team out of games. I think Abbott is dreaming when they say you don’t need to use hero ball ever, but you can certainly overuse it. Last night, we did. The Lakers offense choked up and Kobe tried to take over. Mamba missed his five final shots and had an inexcusable turnover on an inbounds play that led to an easy Durantula lay-in. I’d be lying if I denied screaming, “COME ON KOBE!” about 10 times in the last two minutes.
As our best player and the guy with the ball in his hands when the ship sank, this game is squarely on Kobe’s shoulders.  His late game execution was terrible, there’s no defending that. But there was a lot more going on and he didn’t exactly get the help he needed. Our defense imploded — it should have been able to hold the Thunder to less than 9 points in the last 2:09. It’s fair to ask if Ramon Session
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State of Laker Nation Recap: A Pathetic Lakers Apologist Searching For Logic

If someone were to say, “Hey buddy, “you owe me one million dollars”, you’d look at him and laugh, brush it off and move on to more serious conversation. He insists “no, really, you owe me one million dollars. I need it by Tuesday”. What do you even do in that situation? You don’t have that type of capital and even if you did, would you be able to hand it over like that? It’s such a ridiculous situation regarding a unfathomable amount of money that I don’t even know that you’d panic. You’d just sit there for a while, not knowing how you even go about wrapping your mind around the matter at hand.

Now, what if you’re in that same situation, but you owe someone $900?  You have that money, and now you have to hand that over, maybe in 100 dollar bills. You’re freaking out. You’re so nervous that you can’t tell if you have to pee or vomit. That’s a palpable amount you can comprehend, and unfortunately, deal with. Oddly enough, $900 is a much scarier prospect than some abstract concept of owing a million dollars that you surely don’t have.

I’m holding on to this very shoddy analogy like a small Asian boy holds on to his teddy bear at night as a 27 year-old living in New York City as I think about last night Lakers/Thunder game, in which YOUR…Oklahoma City Thunder laid a 119-90 shellacking on LA. The Lakers got jumped last night, but in many ways, a 29-point, out of control loss might be slightly easier to digest than a close, 10-point loss with 48 minutes of hustle. To examine, let’s go over some numbers for Oklahoma:

  • OKC shot 53% for the game, 41% from three and 81% from the line.
  • After leading the league in the regular season in turnovers, OKC produced just 4 last night…and one was from Royal Ivey in garbage time
  • James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 69 points on 22 for 42 shooting
  • Westbrook neared a triple-double with a 27/7/9 line
  • Despite taking (and making) mostly jumpers during the game, the Thunder still scored 44 points in the point
  • OKC scored 22 points off the Laker 15 turnovers and got to the free throw line nearly double the time 
  • The Thunder had 13 steals…to the Lakers 1

And now for LA:

  • LA shot a respectable 43%, but produced 15 turnovers
  • The Lakers had zero (yes, ZERO) fast break points
  • Even in losing by such a large margin, the Lakers still won the rebounding battle 43-41
  • Andrew Bynum was active, throwing down a 20/14
  • Taking out garbage time, the Lakers shot 5 for 12 from three-point range
  • The Lakers got hung up for 39 points in the third quarter. They gave up less than that in the second half of Game 7 against the Nuggets

It’s hard to analyze those statistics; after all, how do you analyze a video game? These numbers are quite honestly cartoonish. The Thunder dismantled the Lakers last night, yes, but how? As the title of this post suggest, I’ll try to find some logic in this loss. Because I am a pathetic Lakers apologist.

Looking at the box score, it’s obvious that OKC was the much more aggressive team, on both ends of the floor. Offensively, they attacked the basket (well, Harden, Durant and Westbrook did – they shot 24 of the Thunder’s 29 free throws) and kept the pressure on a creaky Lakers zone all game long. Defensively, they forced turnovers with pressure defense and quick hands. If you’re looking here for more analysis, I don’t really have it. The Thunder were just much faster and more aggressive and shot the hell out of the ball last night (Only 5 buckets in … Read more...

State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: We Can Finally Exhale

Before the game started, I had goosebumps. You hate being in a Game 7, particularly when you’ve had a chance to avoid it, but it’s a truly special moment in sports. I just wanted to get off to a good start and help the Lakers settle into their game. Being successful in a Game 7 requires managing emotions and playing in rhythm. This is where legacies are created and the palpable weight of history can sometimes suffocate a team.
After it was all over, Lakers 96, Nuggets 87, I could finally exhale. Denver put up a hell of a fight and will be dangerous next year, but there would be no more waking up in the middle of the night thinking, “What if…” Ty Lawson’s Speedy Bunch is gone and hopefully lit a fire for Round 2. Special props to Afflalo, Lawson, and Al Harrington for bringing their A-Game tonight and all series long. Overall, the Lakers exhibited a great team effort tonight, a game to be proud of. Denver never buckled and the Lakers earned every inch. They ground it out as a team, even when the shots weren’t falling.
Here are the highlights:
Your face says it all Pau.
  • The much maligned Lakers bigs. Pau and Andrew were the first teammates in history to combine for 30 points, 30 rebounds, 20 offensive rebounds, and 10 blocks. Dominant. Paufollowed through on the good omen of swishing his first jumper and both were much more aggressive at getting their own shot, even if that meant playing volleyball on the offensive glass. On one possession, Pau had 7 tips to himself in a row (authors note: I counted, it’s at 3:05) and ended up with a bucket. Defensively, they were much better at containing Denver’s explosiveness on the boards and contested everything in the paint. I love how the crowd gave Gasol props for his gritty performance after harassing him last game. He deserved it both times.
  • Metta World Peace’s triumphant return. Although he had 4 threes/steals, Tenacious MWP changed the game with his vicious defense and his physicality caused matchup problems all over the place. He’s a nightmare for Denver’s shorter bigs because they can’t punish him down low or rebound over him like they can Kobe/Barnes at the three.  MWP completely shut down Gallinari and Miller, holding them to a combined 2-19 with 9 turnovers.
  • Steve Blake was just a monster last night. His five threes, some of which were unbelievably tough shots, were absolutely pivotal and we don’t win without him. He also picked up his defense for Game 7. Happy for Blake – he’s an easy guy to cheer for.
  • Team execution. The Lakers executed well right out of the gate, keeping them from an early hole. By taking care of the ball and shooting less midrange jumpers, there was less fuel for Denver’s transition, which slowed the tempo and forced them to execute in the half-court. Although outrebounded, the Lakers protected the ball, blocked shots, and forced turnovers. Offensively, the Lakers seemed much more comfortable in their sets and moved the ball around unselfishly.
  • Kobe Bean Bryant.While the undeniable MVP of the series, Black Mamba was content to pick his spots and facilitate last night. He passed effectively out of double teams (8 assists) and let his teammates do the damage until late. Of course, Kobe still got to relish putting the nail in the coffin with a deep three. I was amused to see him high-five Justin Timberlake on his way back up the court. Only in LA.
  • Phenomenal postgame performance. A visibly psyched Gasol cursed on live TV, “I had to get my ass back in the paint.” Artest’s usual genius ended with a shoutout, “The only thing that’s important is basketba
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State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: What?

(Seeking solace from one pathetic Lakers apologist to another, The CDP and I exchanged a series of e-mails regarding Denver’s laugher over a listless Lakers squad last night. Here’s our e-mail exchange, in the form of a game recap)

This kid’s Xmas ornament was as useful as Payton in purple and gold.

KOBEsh: There were so many parts of last night’s Game 6 that made want to hurl myself out a window and alternately throw my Gary Payton #20 Christmas ornament at the television. What do you think was the most egregious offense made by the Lakers last night?

The CDP: I’m gonna go with Mike Brown and his rotations, which have been a problem all year. Kobe may have been the only guy who showed up, but he was also sick and Brown played him 37 of a possible 42 minutes before sitting the last 6 minutes when the game was out of hand. More than that though, if your team doesn’t show up, you have to spice it up. In the third quarter, Pau was absolutely killing us as the Nuggets built a big lead.

Despite Jordan Hill being our most effective big for the series, Brown waited nearly 9 minutes before throwing the Spaniard on the bench. Even the bottomless reserve of energy and hustle that is Josh McRoberts could have mixed things up. To me, it’s unclear that Mike Brown has been able to hold his bigs accountable, either through rotation choices or off-court film sessions. I was angry that Pau was bricking jump shots, but the problem with our bigs last night was the story of the series: lackluster or non-existent help defense and marginal effort on the boards.  Considering the context, it’s a fair question. Was this 3 point, 3 rebound “performance” Pau’s worst game as a Laker?

Not to pile it on Coach Brown here, but I just looked at the NBA leaders in minutes played to see where Pau and Kobe ended up. Pau was number 2 (behind only Durantula) and Kobe number was 11 for the season despite missing 7 games to injury. When I look at the top 20 in minutes played, I see one thing in common: youth. Kobe and Pau are the only players north of 30 to make the list. I understand why Brown felt he had to ride his workhorses to a respectable regular season record, but this kind of minutes management is unbelievable. I have a word for it: anti-Popovichian. A 33 year old Kobe’s average jumped nearly 5 minutes a game this year, the exact opposite of where he should be trending.

KOBEsh: Going back to an earlier point you made, doing a quick scan of Pau’s Lakers career game logs, only two of his games come even remotely close to last night’s meltdown:

3/26/10 vs. the Thunder (75-91 Loss):  9 points, 5 rebounds, no assists, 1 block on 3-10 shooting in 27 minutes
4/20/11 vs. the Hornets (87-78 Win in Game 2 of the Western Conference opening round): 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks on 2 for 10 shooting in 36 minutes.


Since it was a loss and the overall stat line was worse, Pau’s game against the Thunder over two years ago was remarkably atrocious. However, seeing as the game against the Hornets last year was in the playoffs, even with a slightly better night, could you count that as his 2nd-worst game as a Laker seeing as it was a playoff game? Regardless of which was worse, we can all agree that Gasol’s essential no-show against the Nuggets last night was far and away the most terrible contest he’s had in purple and gold.

I agree with your assessment of Brown’s rotations; Pau and Andrew just weren’t bringing the energy last night, but I think it was mostly on defense. Denver has found a way to effec… Read more...

State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: Luckier than you think

The next morning after Game 3, I estimated that while the Nuggets have to be near perfect to beat the Lakers, LA merely only has to play hard to beat Denver. Looking at the Game 4 box score, a truer statement couldn’t have been written.

The formula for Game 3 in the Nuggets/Lakers playoff series was the same as in Games 1 and 2; slow the game down, feed the ball to the inside, pound the boards and limit turnovers. Every part of the Lakers offensive and defensive attack is meant to slow the Nuggets’ run and gun attack down to turn the highest scoring team in the league into a mere over matched and undersized squadron of role players. With a 3-1 series advantage, the Lakers seemingly did that.

Last night the narrative was pretty simple: Steve Blakers and Ramon Sessions hit some gigantic shots in the fourth quarter to put down a surging Nuggets squad. Everyone has been pretty focused on this:

But that’s why MAMBINO is here; to expose some unseen corners of the contest you just watched.

The truth is that even though LA controlled the 2nd half, limiting the Nuggets to just 37 points after a 51 point first half, the Lakers were lucky to win this game. Here’s why:

  • Danilo Gallinari finally stepped to the plate in Game 4, and sliced up the Lakers D to the tune of 20/6 on 9 for 16 shooting. Defensively, he was able to contribute as well, checking Kobe and the Lakers cadre of small forwards as best he could, including this titanic flop on a screen from Pau Gasol:
    • For all of their 4th quarter heroics (by the way, it was a tie game with less than a minute on the clock), Steve Blakers and Ramon Sessions got simply overpowered by Andre Miller, who outmuscled them to the tune of 15/7/3. 
    • The Lakers, who scored more than 100 points in their other two series victories, only threw down 92 on a bad shooting night from Kobe and zero points from starter Devin Ebanks. 
    • The Nuggets, who found a bit of their shooting stroke in Game 3, went back to Awfultown from behind the 3 point line, shooting just 3 for 19. 
    • After compiling double-doubles his last two games, the Lakers were able to contain Kenneth Faried with a relatively marginal 6/7 performance.
    • LA found an answer for Ty Lawson. They limited his run-outs, clogged the lane, and thus, limited his effectiveness. He finished the game with a very mortal 11 points and 6 assists.

    Are all those things lucky?  No, not at all. The reason why Faried played below the precedent he set in the previous two games was because Jordan Hill, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol boxed him out harder than before. Ty Lawson’s production was basically cut in half because the Lakers’ guards funneled him into defensive traps with their big men. The Lakers were able to control their turnovers and keep down their fouls, allowing Denver to shoot only 12 free throws, down from the 23 in Game 3.

    However, Denver only shot 3 for 19 on threes, missing tons of open looks that could have decided what was ultimately a 4-point game. Also, for a team that generally shoots 73% from the line, the Nuggets outdid themselves yesterday with just a 58% stroke from the charity stripe. It’s not like Denver had small changes from their usual production; they had pretty radical departures from their norm. Did the Lakers convincingly defeat the Nuggets yesterday? Yes. In the words of Steve Kerr mid-way through the fourth, you just felt like the game was the Lakers to lose, no matter what the score was at the time. The Lakers completely controlled the pace in the 2nd half and made the Nuggets play the game THEY wanted to play. However, as much as I felt like LA couldn&#… Read more...

    State of Laker Nation Playoff Recap: The Nuggets Hustle Shuffle

    A few days ago, The CDP described 4 in-game deficiencies that YOUR…Los Angeles Lakers flashed during Game 2 in this 7 game series against the Denver Nuggets. To paraphrase, they included:

    Battle of the Boards: The Lakers should never be outrebounded by this team… Denver has a lot of athletes and their team was hitting the boards hard, but the Lakers have got to do a better job of utilizing their length and boxing out on rebounds.

    Defend the 3: Although Ty Lawson was shredding our interior at will, Denver’s offense only operated in spurts because they weren’t hitting the three. As KOBEshigawa pointed out at halftime, if they were hitting their jump shots, this would have been a much tougher team to defend and the Lakers might have been in trouble. The Lakers rotated to the perimeter much more quickly in the second half, but will need to be more consistent here on the road.  

    Mental Focus: Their stars played like stars, but they also whined like them. Kobe/Andrew both failed to get back in time on several plays because they were complaining about non-calls.


    If you watched Game 3 from the Rocky Mountains last night, you’d think that the Lakers collectively read The CDP’s post last week and decided to see if they could still win while doing all of those things on the road. To absolutely no one’s surprise, it came back to bite the Lakers on the backside, harder and faster than Marv Albert could fathom.

    Battle of the Boards: If this was a battle, then Denver was the white man with the firesticks and the Lakers had arrowheads and tomahawks. Though the rebounding disparity was only +10 for the Nuggets (and +6 on the offensive boards), the Nuggets bludgeoned the Lakers inside, getting every one of those +10 boards in key situations that could have swung the momentum LA’s way. I can’t sum it up any better than JaVale McGee’s stat line for the night: 16 points, 15 boards (6 offensive), 4 blocks in 28 minutes on 8 for 12 shooting. Just brutal.

    Defend the 3: Just as I discussed on my preview for Game 3 on Silver Screen and Roll, the Lakers were lucky to escape LA with two victories, considering the Nuggets were putrid shooting from distance, with a 24% clip from 3. Not the case last night – the Nuggets shot 36% from behind the arc, capitalizing on the open looks the Lakers had given them in the 2 games prior. Still, 36% isn’t a blistering percentage, but when Denver is outrebounding the Lakers and hoisting up a staggering 15 more shots (unreal!), it’s going to catch up eventually.

    Mental Focus: The Lakers just didn’t have it. Defensively, the Lakers couldn’t control the perimeter nor the Nuggets scoring inside. As much potential as JaVale, Faried, Lawson and Gallo have, there’s no way Denver should be outscoring Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum in the paint by 20 points. I hate to point to JaVale McGee’s stat line again, mostly because I feel like I’m picking on a 12 year-old, but my God: 16/15 with 4 blocks on 75% shooting. Combined with Faried’s 12/15, the Lakers simply got toasted inside.

    Offensively, the Lakers really lacked rhythm and surprisingly for a Mike Brown-coached team, hustle. The offense was quite stagnant and slower than usual, with possessions ticking by without much ball movement or interior play. Timofey Mozgov started the game in lieu of the much less effective Kosta Koufous, and with such a big body in front of him, Bynum was ripe for the double team (woo!). However, when the cover came, the Lakers offense seemed to just s… Read more...

    MAMBINO NBA Playoffs Roundtable

    Look, we know you guys get sick of just me and BockerKnocker dominating the page. We get it. Handsome doesn’t translate on the internet, otherwise you’d probably want more of us. But technology being the way it is, we’re going to share the MAMBINO wealth and open up a NBA Playoffs roundtable to our stable of fine friends and writers – AO, El Miz, Thunderstolt, The King and of course, us two idiots. We’re going to ask a few key questions in any series, and give our aficionados room to answer. Let’s go!

    1) CHICAGO BULLS vs. 8) PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

    Q: Can the Sixers win this series now? Seriously?

    BockerKnocker: This is unfortunate. The Philadelphia Lucky Charms didn’t just “steal” Game 2 from the Chicago Bulls. They looked them dead in the eye, smelled the blood left in the water by Derrick Rose’s torn ACL, told Chicago they would win, and then did just that. So it can’t be called “stealing” if Chicago essentially gave their apartment keys to Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams and watched while they ransacked the place. And it must have been tough to see Chicago native Evan Turner take one game back to Philly after Turner told the world that he preferred to play Chicago over Miami. Oh, and I almost forgot that Scottie Pippen sent a pre-game letter to the team trying to rally the troops. So if one of the game’s best players of all-time can’t get you psyched up to beat a freaking 8-seed at home, then YES, the Sixers can definitely win this series.

    Q: What do the Bulls have to do to turn this around? Who has to step up just to beat Philly?
    BockerKnocker: The obvious answer is first-time All-Star Luol Deng, who must shoulder most of the scoring load that Rose would have gladly taken. Luol, I get that you’re hurting, but if you’re gonna suit up, this team won’t win if you score 8 points.

    But I think the real answer is Carlos Boozer. It’s one thing to make superstar-level money and not back up your contract with superstar-level play, but it’s another to put up the same numbers when a key player goes down for the count. If he can’t contribute more than 9 points and 5 rebounds in a game that the team so desperately needed to shake off the stink of Rose’s injury, then Boozer has fully earned the nickname “Beach Muscles.” And that would be extra fitting, because the way things are going, he’ll have an early start to the summer.

    I just read that part over again. 9 points and 5 rebounds in Game 2!? The guy is owed approximately 47 million dollars (!!!) through 2015. He needs to be Amnestied. And not after the playoffs. NOW.

    2) MIAMI HEAT vs. 7) NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS

    Q:  Other than the obvious injuries to STAT & Shump, what has gone wrong?

    If this wasn’t digital, you’d see BockerKnocker’s tears on the page

    El Miz:  Everything. Newly minted DPOY by the NBA and the Great Mambino, Tyson Chandler got the freakin’ flu in April.  I’ve never heard of this happening before — I thought there was global warming or something. Should anybody get the flu after winter?  Coming into this series (and coming into this season), the front court was clearly the strength.  Chandler has been huge all year; he’s been awesome on the defensive end, has come up with a number of huge rebounds and defensive plays, is so efficient offensively, and is really the one guy the Knicks have that the Heat don’t really have an answer for.  Without him at 100%, the Knicks had to play essentially perfe… Read more...

    Running Diary – Celtics/Hawks Playoffs Game 2

    One of the more intense sports debates I’ve had was three years ago about who was better now and who would have the better career: Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner. While three of us, including one Yankees fan, could agree that Ellsbury was superior, another Yankees fan was convinced that Gardner was the superior player. Fast forward to this offseason, I asked that same guy if he still thought Gardner was the better player to which he responded, “I said he was a better fit for the Yankees team at that time, not that he was a better player.” That situation right there exemplifies one of the annoying habits of many sports fans – revisionist history.

    I’ve always wondered if I am guilty of this particularly in circumstances when I’m watching a game. For that reason, I decided to do a Bill Simmons-style running diary of the Celtics and Hawks game. Let’s hit it:

    Pregame – Keys to the game for Boston are: i) big minutes and big games out of both Pierce and Garnett; ii) energy from tipoff to buzzer, particularly on defense; and iii) Bradley or Bass need to step up and because Bass feeds off of Rondo, it probably has to be Bradley.

    Keys to the game for Atlanta: i) they need to generate more turnovers than game one which will lead to more easy buckets; ii) don’t settle for jump shots; and iii) pressure and tire out Pierce and Bradley.

    7:30 – Pierce looks badass during warmups. This is our game.

    7:37 – NBATV breaks news that Mickael Pietrus is starting and then Tayshaun Prince spends a few minutes discussing if Pietrus found out in time to maximize his success. This is why I skip the pregame analysis so much. Who the hell else was going to start with Allen and Rondo out? Keyon Dooling or Sasha Pavlovic? Is it a surprise that they would use the same lineup that beat Orlando (with Dwight Howard) and Indiana in the game Allen and Rondo were both out and Pietrus was healthy? Do you think Pietrus was caught off guard that Allen wouldn’t play after missing the last billion games? Idiots.

    7:42 – Pierce grabs the opening tips, drives, spins and lays it in. BADASS.

    7:43 – Avery Bradley brings it up and the Hawks don’t pressure him. I was reminded that Atlanta’s depth isn’t too much better than Boston’s right now, so trying to wear our Bradley and Pierce with some added pressure might not be a successful strategy.

    7:43 – Pierce banks the and-1 shot. BADASS.

    7:45 – Pierce hits another jumper. I know Lakers fans hate him, but you can’t deny he’s a big-game player – just like Lebron.

    7:45 – Josh Smith takes his second consecutive long jump shot in a row. He could be such a better player if he realized his limitations.

    7:46 – Josh Smith misses reverse slam. He could be such a better player if he wasn’t an idiot.

    7:50 – Pietrus gets called for a very questionable offensive foul – his third one. With due cause, people complain about NBA referees more than any other sports officials. That foul call is a great reason why. You can’t make that call here considering the circumstances (Boston’s limited depth and a starter with two fouls) unless it’s an obvious foul.

    7:59 – STIEMSMA IN YOUR FACE! 17-16, Atlanta.

    7:59 – Avery Bradley with a terrific block on Teague’s layup attempt. You watch ESPN, Teague? You don’t challenge Avery Bradley.

    8:04 – Another block – by Sasha Pavlovic no less. Celts are playing with great energy right now.

    8:04 – Avery Bradley’s terrible decision leads to Josh Smith dunk in transition. The Celtics have to limit the easy points for the Hawks by making good decisions.

    8:07 – What a blo… Read more...