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Friday, April 27, 2007

The Score, the Key Stat, the Bottom Line: Thursday's Three Game Threes

The Detroit Pistons are poised to sweep the overmatched Orlando Magic, while the Utah Jazz and L.A. Lakers each won at home to pull within 2-1 in their respective series against the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns.

The Score: Utah 81, Houston 67

The Key Stat: The Rockets set an NBA playoff record by only having four players score : Yao Ming (26 points), Tracy McGrady (24 points), Shane Battier (11 points) and Rafer Alston (6 points). They also set franchise playoff records for fewest points, fewest field goals made (21) and fewest points in a half (25)

The Bottom Line: This game was U-G-L-Y unless you are a Utah Jazz fan; in that case, it was a gritty, defensive struggle that gives the Jazz an opportunity to tie the series with one more home win.

The Score: Detroit 93, Orlando 77

The Key Stat: All five Pistons starters scored in double figures. Detroit won the rebounding battle (47-39) and committed fewer turnovers (13-8).

The Bottom Line: Detroit is simply better than Orlando and should certainly sweep the Magic. Still, the Pistons have hardly played with much sustained intensity or focus so far; they trailed 8-0 at the start of game three, not scoring until Chris Webber's putback at the 8:24 mark. The Pistons did not tie the score until the waning seconds of the first quarter and did not take the lead until the 11:45 mark of the second quarter. Perhaps the Pistons believe that they can simply "turn it on" in subsequent rounds, but championship level teams are not generally this careless or lackadaisical.

The Score: L.A. Lakers 95, Phoenix 89

The Key Stat: Kobe Bryant scored 45 points on 15-26 shooting from the field (.577) and 13-13 free throw shooting. He also had six rebounds and a team-high six assists. Kwame Brown had a playoff career-high 19 points, while Lamar Odom added 18 points and 16 rebounds.

The Bottom Line: Phoenix took an 11-0 lead before Kobe Bryant even attempted a shot. Bryant then made two straight shots to bring the Lakers to within 11-4. Still, the Suns built up a 31-14 lead near the end of the first quarter and seemed to be well on their way to a 3-0 series lead. Bryant had just six points at that time. He nailed a three pointer to cut the margin to 31-17--and proceeded to score 36 of the Lakers' 78 points in the final three quarters while shooting an extraordinary percentage from the field. He kept his teammates involved along the way--particularly Odom and Brown--and he was active defensively and on the boards but the main thing that Bryant did was what this team needs him to do: put the ball in the hoop repeatedly.

Game Four on Sunday should be very interesting. The Lakers have led at the end of three quarters in two of the three games in this series. They are clearly the vastly inferior team talent-wise, but if Kobe Bryant plays exceptionally well and the rest of the Lakers do their part then the Lakers have shown that they can be competitive with Phoenix. Whether or not fans, writers or others want to acknowledge it, what Kobe Bryant did in this game was remarkable. He carried a team that just two days ago seemed to be broken mentally and physically to a win against a team that has the two-time reigning MVP, two other All-Stars and this year's Sixth Man Award winner. The Lakers got nothing from the point guard position offensively but Jordan Farmar, Shammond Williams and even Smush Parker played good defense. Kwame Brown provided a presence in the paint, as did Lamar Odom. Really, that is all Bryant needs: decent offensive games from two other guys and a solid defensive effort from the team overall. He is more than capable of providing the balance of the points, while also doing his share of the defensive and rebounding work.

posted by David Friedman @ 5:08 AM

5 comments

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5 Comments:

At Friday, April 27, 2007 11:53:00 AM, Blogger marcel said...

kobe bryant finally led his team he did not give up on those guys when they were down 11 to 0 i thought he was just going to start firing but he still played team ball only takeing 10 shots in the first half and scoreing 20 points what a game kwame played great finally and odom had his ocassional big game when they were down 17 i thought it was over they had no chance and would be down 3 to 0 suns beat them selves even though lakers played great defense suns made unchateristic turnovers they played like 2 3 4 games last year kind of unsure and unconfident. question could kwame and odom do it again you know what kobe gonna bring and suns will play better so will see if they get game 4 i think it could go 7 the suns will still win but it will go to the max.

 
At Friday, April 27, 2007 3:18:00 PM, Anonymous temp 0x00 said...

Finally didn't give up? Kobe doesn't give up. I guess you didn't watch the first game.

I suppose you're going to accuse Nash of being a poor leader now, since he had a bad outing and he let his team down the stretch.

Nah, Kobe detractors are never consistent.

 
At Friday, April 27, 2007 4:42:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

im not a kobe hater im a fair anaylst steve nash didnt play great he's a great leader though your untitled to a bad game every now and then he's never gave up on his team probably because he has bettter teamates. but never the less he's never gave up, many times sometimes fairly kobe gives up on his teamates and starts jacking shots now he never gives up on himself or the game but he starts to take bad shots. i could of hated on kobe and said he took about 5 or 6 terrible shots in the fourth quarter but didnt even though he did take those terrible shots and stop passing till the end of the quarter but you kobe lovers never see that you just see him makeing great plays like he does and he never takes bad shots and if he takes bad shots he has nobody to pass too and it's his teamates fault they are no good. your just like kobe haters just opposite you say kobe does everything right and they say kobe does everything wrong youre wrong and there wrong and im in the middle

 
At Friday, April 27, 2007 6:12:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"even Smush Parker played good defense"

go to NBA.com ... Smush is 12th in NBA in steals per 48 minutes

last year, Smush's defense at end of game 4 vs phx forced the jump ball that allowed Kobe to win the game on a jumpshot (Kobe said so much in the post-game interview of that game, pointing out that Smush's defense deserved much of the credit)

not bad for a player who "experts" such as yourself say doesnt belong in the league (primarily b/c of judgments about his appearance and not his play)

 
At Saturday, April 28, 2007 3:41:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Go back and read what I wrote about Kobe in game one. I said that he forced shots.

As for the whole "giving up" versus "not giving up" thing, it makes more sense for Kobe to "give up" on his teammates because they have a track record of not producing. In the second half of this season the Lakers have only won when Kobe scores 40-50 points while shooting a good to excellent percentage.

Alternaviews:

To take your last point first, I defy you to find one reference in my writing to Smush's appearance. Everything that I have said about him relates specifically to his on court performance.

Steals are not the only measure of defense (just like shooting percentage is not the only measure of "efficiency," the fallacy that you apply when talking about Nash). You are right that Smush played good defense last season and in the early part of the Phx series--but in the latter part of that series and for the bulk of this season his defense has been terrible. The coaches, beat writers and anyone else who knows basketball and has watched the Lakers have all commented on this. That is why Smush's minutes have been steadily declining. His defense on Barbosa, admittedly a tough assignment, was terrible early in this series--like when he kept backpedaling as time ran out in the third quarter of game three, allowing Barbosa to nail a three at the buzzer. There was no time for Barbosa to go all the way to the hoop, so Smush should have cut him off and made him change direction, using the clock to his advantage.

Phil Jackson has publicly criticized Smush's defense and specifically cited that as the reason for taking him out of the starting lineup. Jackson, a non-conformist during his playing days who got along quite well with Dennis Rodman, is hardly someone who judges people by appearances.

Smush Parker is a D-League level player who was starting because the Lakers had no better options. What better proof of that is there then the fact that he has been replaced in the starting lineup by Farmar, who actually spent some time in the D-League this year?

Smush's attitude (feuding with Jackson, not playing good defense) has likely earned him a ticket out of L.A. after this season, so we will see how many NBA teams clamor to pick him up next season.

 

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