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Friday, April 29, 2011

Los Angeles Versus Dallas Preview

Western Conference Second Round

#2 L.A. Lakers (57-25) vs. #3 Dallas (57-25)

Season series: L.A. Lakers, 2-1

Dallas can win if…the Mavericks are able to contain Kobe Bryant without devoting so much defensive attention to him that Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and the other Lakers get high percentage scoring opportunities. The Mavericks also need strong scoring performances from Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.

L.A. will win because…Kobe Bryant has a history of torching the Mavericks and because the Mavericks will have trouble dealing with the Lakers' frontcourt. Paradoxically, this matchup against a third seeded, 57 win Dallas team may actually be easier for the Lakers than the first round battle versus the seventh seeded, 46 win Hornets turned out to be; the Hornets have some undersized but feisty frontcourt players who knocked Gasol around but Gasol should be able to find a comfort zone in a skill versus skill matchup with Nowitzki because neither of those players is very physical. The Lakers will probably rotate various defenders on Nowitzki to wear him down, starting with Gasol but also using Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and probably Matt Barnes as well.

While the Lakers can throw a lot of different looks at Nowitzki, the Mavericks are more limited regarding their defensive options versus Gasol; they cannot afford to put Tyson Chandler on Gasol because then Bynum would have a serious advantage in the post versus Nowitzki--unless the Mavericks play Chandler and Brendan Haywood at the same time, but that makes the Mavericks slower and less athletic by removing a wing player (either Shawn Marion or DeShawn Stevenson) from the lineup.

The Lakers' biggest weakness defensively is trying to contain quick guards in screen/roll situations, so Jason Kidd will be an easier matchup (at this advanced stage of his Hall of Fame career) for Derek Fisher than Chris Paul was last round; the Lakers may also put Bryant on Kidd while having Fisher chase around three point shooter Stevenson. J.J. Barea could give the Lakers' second unit some problems with his combination of quickness driving to the hoop and the ability to hit long jumpers.

Other things to consider: Bryant led the way with a game-high 24 points in the Lakers' series clinching 98-80 game six win over the New Orleans Hornets; Bryant only played 30 minutes in that contest after logging just 29 minutes in game five--the latter being his lowest minutes total in a playoff game in more than a decade--but Bryant took over in key stretches during both games: his thunderous dunk over New Orleans center Emeka Okafor helped to turn the tide and boost the Lakers to victory in game five, while Bryant's 13 third quarter points in game six snuffed the final signs of life out of the Hornets.

In the Lakers' previous road closeout game, Bryant poured in 37 points as the Lakers beat the Suns 110-103 to advance to the 2010 NBA Finals; that was the eighth straight time that Bryant scored at least 30 points in a potential closeout game on the road, an NBA record (Elgin Baylor ranks second with six such games). Some pundits are obsessively focused on trying to quantify "clutch shooting" but it makes no sense to arbitrarily define "clutch" with certain time/score parameters; the sample sizes involved in such research are inherently small and volatile (taking such numbers seriously means equating shots taken after a team runs an out of bounds play with half court, desperation heaves and acting as if a handful of plays defines whether or not a player is "clutch"). A better definition of "clutch" is rising to the occasion when the competition is the toughest and the stakes are the highest; it is difficult to think of an NBA situation that better fits that bill than road closeout games: Bryant's performances in such games are a much more meaningful measurement of his abilities to come through in the clutch than looking at his shooting percentage on a handful of desperation shots.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:32 PM

38 comments

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38 Comments:

At Friday, April 29, 2011 6:35:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

Should be an interesting series. Seems like the lakers need to do get a wake up call once in awhile early in the playoffs, similar to the top seeds in a grand slam event for tennis. If you don't get them early, then watch out.

I'm glad you actually look at clutchness logically. I don't quite understand this phenomenon going around the internet these days to try to disprove and discredit Kobe's clutchness. His teams are 12-1 in the past 13 road closeout games, while he has an nba playoff record snapped last night at 8 consecutive such games with 30+ppg. He would've gotten there last night as well, but might as well rest up if you can.

The thing that most bothers me is that a lot of pundits claim that facts are facts about certain stats that look kind of bad for Kobe, but they then just disregard other facts that make Kobe seem very clutch.


I'm interested to know what you think about Butler coming back, and how much of a factor he will be.

 
At Friday, April 29, 2011 11:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

It'll be interesting to see how the Lakers defend Nowitzki. I've had discussions with people who think Artest won't be able to guard him. Honestly, I recall the Warriors using Stephen Jackson against Dirk for long stretches during the 2007 playoffs, and they had great success with that matchup. Dirk has always had a tendency to settle for too many jumpers, as great as he is. I think a smaller defender can do an excellent job on him as long as they play physical, smart, and tenacious defense.

I think the Lakers can beat them in as little as 5 games, but will probably go 6. Dallas is one of the few teams that can actually compete with the Lakers' front court size, but Los Angeles just has better players at the end of the day. I will say that a 100 percent healthy Caron Butler would make this a much more competitive series, though.

Really, it all comes down to the fact that having Kobe Bryant is always a big advantage for a team. He's clearly saved all of his effort for the playoffs this year. He was a mid range shooter during the regular season, but has transformed back into the slasher he was during his physical prime since the beginning of the playoffs. Obviously we all saw him do unspeakable things to Emeka Okafor in game 5, but he had four spectacular dunks during the Hornets series that I honestly did not think he could still pull off at age 32, with a bum knee, a sprained ankle and a damaged right hand. What can you do besides shake your head and acknowledge that the man is a basketball genius?

 
At Saturday, April 30, 2011 1:10:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

Rick Carlisle just told a local radio station that Butler will not play in this series. Clearly, a healthy Butler would have been a major asset for the Mavs but at this point even if Butler had been cleared medically to come back he would have not been in top form due to the long layoff.

"Clutch" stats can be interesting to look at but they have to be taken with a liberal grain of salt due to the small sample sizes and high variance involved; we are talking about a handful of plays out of literally thousands of plays from a season and those handful of plays consist of everything from desperation heaves to well designed out of bounds plays with several seconds on the clock. If Ray Allen hits a corner three pointer after running off of two screens during an out of bounds play and Kobe Bryant misses a desperation, fadeaway three pointer with .7 seconds remaining does that really prove that Allen is more "clutch"? Sadly, there are many mainstream media idiots--most prominently Henry Abbott--who like to cherry pick numbers to craft distorted narratives about various players/teams. I have never said that Kobe is (or is not) the most clutch player in the NBA but if I were trying to prove or disprove such a notion I would not rely on the stats that Abbott uses.

 
At Saturday, April 30, 2011 1:15:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sharp:

It is difficult to completely stop a great player but, as I mentioned in the article, the Lakers can throw a lot of different looks at Nowitzki.

I would not necessarily say that Nowitzki "settles" for jumpers; the jump shot is his best weapon and he shoots a good percentage from the field. Nowitzki is also good at driving to the hoop, drawing contact and then making the free throws. When Nowitzki posts up he usually does so around the free throw line extended (instead of the low post) and that is why it is possible to use an aggressive, physical small forward to guard him at times, particularly if the opposing team sends help when Nowitzki catches the ball.

I agree with both of your statements: the Lakers could win in five but probably will win in six.

Kobe could not make it through an entire season at this point if he regularly drove to the hoop but for a 20-25 game playoff run he can pick and choose his spots to attack the rim and we saw him do that against New Orleans.

 
At Saturday, April 30, 2011 6:23:00 PM, Blogger The Dude Abides said...

@Sharp - Actually, Dallas can compete with LA's size when Bynum is 50% or less. A 75-80% Bynum has owned Tyson Chandler his entire career. The other factor to consider is who Dallas will put on Kobe. If it's Marion, then Jason Kidd will likely be the one who has to keep Ron Artest off the offensive boards. Not an easy task. If Dallas decides to start Stevenson, then they sacrifice a lot on the offensive end. I see this series only going four or five games. Dallas without Butler has virtually no chance.

 
At Saturday, April 30, 2011 8:25:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Series odds:
LA Lakers 0.739
Dallas 0.261

Conference odds:
LA Lakers 0.556
Dallas 0.218

Championship odds:
LA Lakers 0.325
Dallas 0.063

LA Lakers is obviously the better and more experienced team, and figures to advance. But does Dallas at least have a reasonable chance of making this series competitive?

I think so. And it has nothing to do with Dallas, a talented squad in their own right - but with the Lakers themselves. Lakers have shown a maddening inconsistency throughout the season and the playoffs, choosing to "play when they feel like it". They are capable of playing up or down to their opponents' level, as we have seen too often in the last few postseasons. And it was on full display in the first round, allowing Chris Paul to completely dominate for long stretches and showing lackadaisical play at times, particularly on defense.

If the Lakers show up to play every night and display a killer instinct when they get the lead, this will be a short series. But if their attention span continues to waver, Dallas are good enough to take advantage of the lapses.

Whether the Lakers win or lose, they will control their own destiny in this series.

 
At Sunday, May 01, 2011 4:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

It is easy to criticize the Lakers for seeming to be lackadaisical at times but maybe the truth is that it is not so easy to storm through the West playoffs year after year; I'd prefer the Lakers' supposedly lackadaisical body of work to the recent playoff resumes of the Mavs (or the Spurs, for that matter). Kobe Bryant has more mileage on his body and more injury problems than any of the Spurs' "Big Three" and Kobe's best big man got "punked" (Phil Jackson's word) by New Orleans' frontcourt but you don't see Bryant losing in the first round after his team wins 55-plus regular season games. When the Lakers-Thunder series was tied 2-2 last season, some media members asked Kobe about the Lakers' backs being against the wall and Kobe looked at them like they were crazy and said (this is not a direct quote but a paraphrase of the gist of his response), "What the heck are you talking about? Our backs are not against the wall." Then the Lakers won the next two games to close out the series.

 
At Sunday, May 01, 2011 11:08:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

You wrote in a comment to DanielSong39:

"Kobe Bryant has more mileage on his body and more injury problems than any of the Spurs' "Big Three" and Kobe's best big man got "punked" (Phil Jackson's word) by New Orleans' frontcourt but you don't see Bryant losing in the first round after his team wins 55-plus regular season games."

Kobe Bryant is my favorite active player and I don't think he gets enough credit for playing through his injuries. But I don't think we have to denigrate Tim Duncan to give him his credit. Regardless of games played or injury counts, I think it's clear that Duncan is more broken down and further removed from the physical abilities he had in his prime than Kobe is. Players age differently and and some players' bodies hold up better through the injuries they experience. Let's say Kobe is X percent of what he was at his peak. If Duncan was that same X percent of his peak self, I doubt the Spurs would have been eliminated in the first round.

 
At Monday, May 02, 2011 5:03:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

"Stat guru" Owen (who occasionally comments here) recently insisted that Manu Ginobili is the best shooting guard in the West but Owen has yet to offer an explanation for how a player who is better than Kobe just led a 61 win team to a first round loss.

Of course, your understanding of what actually happened is a lot more nuanced than Owen's but I think that you misinterpreted my statement comparing Kobe to the Spurs' "Big Three"; I certainly did not mean to denigrate Duncan (or Ginobili or Parker) but it is a demonstrable fact that Kobe has accumulated more mileage than Duncan: Kobe has played 40,145 minutes in 1103 regular season games plus 8017 minutes in 204 playoff games, while Duncan's corresponding numbers are 37,733/1053 and 6952/176.

Comparing Kobe's physical condition to Duncan's is more subjective. Obviously, I don't have access to either player's personal medical records but based on what is publicly known and/or can be reasonably assumed, Kobe has an arthritic right knee, multiple fingers that have suffered arthritic changes due to repeated fractures that he never let fully heal and a left ankle that is injured to an extent that will not be fully known until the Lakers' current playoff run ends and Bryant consents to have it properly examined. In contrast, to the best of my knowledge, Duncan is not suffering from anything more than "normal" age-related wear and tear.

As I have repeatedly indicated, I am not calling for the Spurs or their players to be bashed for losing in the first round but this clearly was an upset and the Spurs' stars clearly did not perform even up to their 2010-11 regular season levels, let alone the standard that they set earlier in their careers. My larger critique relates more to how the media selectively chooses to bash certain players and teams for various reasons (Kobe, Dirk, the Mavs to cite just three examples) while making excuses for other players and teams (if Kobe went four years without winning a playoff series and got swept in the first round as a defending champion like Dwyane Wade then Kobe would have been killed in the media but the media treats Wade like he is the 21st century version of Mr. Clutch).

 
At Monday, May 02, 2011 6:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

Kobe Bryant's athletic decline seems more pronounced than Duncan's because he was one of the NBA's most physically gifted players prior to age/injury taking their toll. Duncan, in comparison, was never someone who could blow you away with physical talent even at his peak. Bryant's explosive playing style also put him at much greater risk for physical wear and tear.

Either way, Tim became arguably the greatest power forward to ever play without being particularly athletic. That speaks volumes about how smart of a basketball player he is. The only players with comparable individual accomplishments in the post Jordan/Bulls era are Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

 
At Tuesday, May 03, 2011 5:27:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

I've come to the conclusion that the Lakers are a mentally weak team that is no longer willing or able to play 48 minutes of basketball.

They're playing with fire and at some point one would think they will get burned.

 
At Tuesday, May 03, 2011 6:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

This is nothing new for the Lakers: Gasol is soft, Bynum and Odom are inconsistent and the bench is weak; the difference is that in previous years Bryant would play 40-45 minutes in key playoff games and he would score as many points as he had to for the Lakers to win. In game one versus Dallas, Coach Jackson sat Kobe for nearly half of the fourth quarter as the Mavs whittled away the Lakers' lead. Henry Abbott will do 10 posts gloating about Kobe missing the final shot but the Lakers lost the game in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter when their bench players sputtered. Furthermore, the two most damaging late game plays were not Kobe's missed shot--a desperation three point shot is a low percentage shot for anyone, which is one reason that so-called "clutch stats" are overrated--but rather Gasol's senseless foul and Gasol's turnover on the dribble handoff: those plays gifted two free points to the Mavs and took away a potential high percentage scoring opportunity--Kobe has a better chance to score on the move with plenty of time on the clock than he does catching the ball, turning in midair and shooting a three pointer as time expires; that was the best shot the Lakers could get with such a small amount of time remaining but it is still a low percentage shot.

 
At Tuesday, May 03, 2011 6:28:00 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

David:

In your comment above to Daniel you mentioned the Gasol turnover and the foul, but there was also the shot late in the game he had blocked by Chandler. Kerr called that out as a bad shot because if anything that was a disadvantage for the Lakers; especially since Kobe was scoring so efficiently.

Bynum pulled an Odom in this game and didn't really do much. I'll be interested to see how the Lakers bigs respond the rest of the series, especially on the glass.

I'm very surprised at the lack of calls on Kidd's defense on Kobe. Heck, even that last shot Kidd caught Kobe's legs about as bad as Kobe did on Chris Paul last round. Clearly, that was a no call. But that dribble handoff play Kidd had his hands on Kobe's waist like he was trying to slow dance with him.

 
At Wednesday, May 04, 2011 6:25:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Stephen:

I did not intend for that comment to be an exhaustive account of the myriad ways that Gasol was soft and/or ineffective in game one versus Dallas but you are right about the shot that Gasol attempted over Chandler; even though some people foolishly call Gasol the "best, most skilled big man in the NBA" Nowitzki is just one of several big men who are better and/or more skilled than Gasol (isn't Howard a big man?). Kerr is quite correct that Gasol does not have a matchup advantage over Chandler; if Gasol had made the right play and passed to Kobe--who has a matchup advantage every night regardless of who the Lakers are playing--then Kobe may have scored or gotten fouled and the outcome of the game would not have depended on an inherently low percentage play (last second, contested three point shot). I still don't understand why some people are so fixated on defining "clutch" based on a small sample size of low percentage shots. Kobe has strung together more consecutive 30-plus point game ones than anyone since MJ and Kobe has set the NBA record for consecutive 30-plus point games in road closeout situations; he sets the tone early in series and he delivers the final blow on the road at the end of series. Scoring 30 points in a playoff game is not easy and only MJ has done it more often than Kobe in NBA history; that kind of scoring dominance against elite competition is the epitome of "clutch."

The contact by Kidd could have been called a foul but NBA officials generally try not to make such calls late in games (the notable--and wrong--exception being Hue Hollins' infamous blown call against Scottie Pippen at the end of game five of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals). Regardless of what Kidd or the officials did, though, this is yet another play that Gasol bungled; Gasol simply cannot allow the ball to be dislodged from his hands--he either has to hold it at all costs or he has to fall to the ground after the contact and force the officials to make a call: Gasol has been terribly soft with the ball throughout the 2011 playoffs, repeatedly permitting guards to swipe it right out of his hands. As Charles Barkley would say, that is why you have elbows: to prevent little guys from knocking the ball out of your hands. Watch Bynum when he gets a rebound or catches a pass; he usually has his elbows up high and pointed away from his body, strongly discouraging anyone from trying to reach in and poke the ball away. Gasol rarely puts his elbows up and out but the best way to discourage people from slapping the ball out of your hands is to raise your elbows and either hit the would-be thief in the head or at the very least make him think that you will hit him in the head.

 
At Thursday, May 05, 2011 10:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

two reasons the lakers got a chance in this series kobe bryant. and the dallas mavericks.

kobe is one of the most clutch players all time. if not behind mike up there i would not bet aginst. kobe bryant he has earned the right for that respect without a doubt.

and dallas was up 2-0 in 06 and dallas lost to a eight seed in 07. plus dallas lost twenty three point lead this year. they have been tougher this year but there is cause for concern. i dont trust them mentally all the way.

where are the killer b's barnes blAKE Brown. pau gasol 13 7 last year 19 and 11 in playoffs been extra choclate pudding soft lol. bynum should of kept the trust issues in locker room. he is rite to a certainm degree. where is the artest from hornets series. odom been avg. how they score 36 points in second half. WOW lakers are playin bad.

hard for me to see dallas sweep lakers so if lakers win game 3 they have to win 5-7 if they was to win. or 3-5 lose 6 win 7 to win this series. daunting task they got a shot i believe.

 
At Friday, May 06, 2011 5:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

The Lakers have a better chance than most teams would in this situation but it still is not a very good chance; teams down 2-0 lose the series more than 90% of the time. Kobe is not the problem--Gasol, the nonexistent bench production and the horrible defense are the three main problems--but the question is whether he is physically capable of rescuing the Lakers by playing 40-plus minutes and scoring 40-plus points; the Lakers clearly cannot consistently do well against good teams in the postseason if Kobe plays less than 40 minutes and/or if Kobe does not have a huge night offensively. In years past, Kobe could have switched on to Barea and/or scored enough points to keep the Mavs at bay but it just does not seem like Kobe can singlehandedly carry this flawed Lakers team the way that he has in years past. I am not sure if the problem is his ankle or just general aging/wear and tear; before Kobe's most recent injury I thought that he could carry the Lakers to one more title before the franchise would have to rebuild.

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2011 12:18:00 AM, Anonymous bball said...

now they have no chance. good bye lakers

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2011 1:17:00 AM, Anonymous Charliegone said...

David,
Pau Gasol yet again was a no show again, though he tried to play decent d in stretches, his overall commitment to it, he failed to cover Dirk in some plays specifically at the 3pt line. Again the Lakers forgot about getting the ball in the post, specifically to Bynum with Lamar and Shannon playing hero ball and then to make matters worse, they all clear out when Kobe got the ball instead of trying to get open, set screens, etc. It's pretty apparent Kobe can't cover for his teammates blunders anymore. Kobe has tried everything and they have failed to respond, heck even Phil got very animated in game 3. Pau and Lamar specifically have to play better, but I think it is too late now with them being down 0-3. Looks like the Lakers are going fishing early this year. If that is the case, do you think the Lakers will change anything in the offseason (other than getting a new coach)?

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2011 2:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kobe must be hurt, he was a bystander in the 4th quarter. Give Dallas a lot of credit for making a final run and hitting their open 3s when it counted.

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2011 3:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

Kind of disappointing to say it happen, but there's really no other option but to write the Lakers off after this loss. Makes me sad to possibly see Phil go out this way.

I've heard from more than one source that Pau Gasol's fiance apparently left him prior to the playoffs, and that this was due to issues with another teammate and said teammate's wife. Watching him has been frustrating, but if that does turn out to be true, his lackluster performance is excusable. Hard to imagine even a player with the singular focus of Jordan or Bryant just shrugging off their fiance leaving them and playing through.

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2011 9:56:00 AM, Anonymous LakerFan in Jamaica said...

I hate these rumours that Pau's girlfrind dumped him! Especillay since they're completely untrue. According to Kevin Ding's twitter (OC Register writer) his girlfriend was at Staples Center for Game 2 on Tuesday, with his mom, cheering Pau on, so I doubt that's the cause of his crappy play.

And honestly, Pau has been inconsistent all season. How many Black Swan/White Swan articles have been written about his play prior to the playoffs? Dude has just looked "off" for long stretches this year.

It's sad to see LA go out like this, and I'm just bracing myself for the inevitable "Kobe is washed up" or the "This tarnishes Kobe's legacy" arguments, but really imo, the Lakers are just exhausted from four long seasons. It was bound to catch up with them sooner or later, and once they met up with a Dallas teanm which was constructed specifically to beat LA) and who is hungrier, less mentally exhausted and has a much deeper squad, the writing was on the wall.

I just hope LA's front office makes some shrewd moves this offseason. We're obviously at a point where just Kobe, or just Kobe and Andrew, can no longer be expected to cover all the mistakes and missteps the other guys make. The Lakers have played without good reserves for a while now, and we're losing now because of it.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2011 1:44:00 AM, Anonymous DRR7 said...

I think if Kobe Bryant were legitimately healthy, this would at least be a series, but he isn't. The HoopData stats seem to bear this out. Even a 32 year old Kobe should be shredding the Mavs equally old and undersized guards but instead his shots at the rim and within 10 feet are WAY below his season averages, and this is the playoffs! Kobe's ankle is bothering him and he needs to be at 110% to carry these Lakers.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2011 3:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Charliegone:

I think that the Lakers have to make significant changes and I will discuss those changes in greater detail in an article that I will write after this series is over.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2011 3:30:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sharp/Laker Fan in Jamaica:

I don't put any stock into random rumors--and even if the rumors are true, Gasol is a very highly paid professional who has an obligation to perform well. Joe Dumars won the Finals MVP after his father died and many other players have overcome personal tragedies or injuries to author great playoff performances.

Gasol has been soft for his whole career, so what we are seeing is not really new; the only differences are that he has never played quite this badly and that Kobe is not able to put on the Superman cape to rescue the Lakers from Gasol and the non-existent bench.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2011 3:33:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

DRR7:

It is pretty clear that Kobe is limited physically. Some people made a big deal about his two dunks versus the Hornets but if you looked closely you could see that he took off on his right (non-injured) foot, an unusual maneuver for a right handed player. Kobe is not getting many rebounds, he is not drawing many fouls and he is not taking the assignment to guard Barea on a regular basis. The amazing thing is that even in his hobbled condition Kobe has still been the team's leading playoff scorer and most consistent player; his field goal percentage is right around his career norm even though he is almost exclusively shooting jumpers.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2011 2:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

i think wen the lakers lose this series. the will probably go after. dwight howard by danglin gasol/bynum or odom. two of the three for howard if they are avialable. it enavbles them to compete rite now and the future be it howard a pup at 25. third best player in league. it look bleak he will stay in orlando looks like he will go somewhere lakers need to look into this to get rite back on top.

 
At Monday, May 09, 2011 4:46:00 AM, Anonymous nimble said...

David,

What can we make about Lakers' premature exit this year?I mean there has been certainly something wrong with Pau since couple of months now.
Kobe was consistent but did not exert anything extra.Your insightful approach is much appreciated amongst all these ESPN like Kobe bashing around the web.

 
At Monday, May 09, 2011 8:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nimble:

My newest post addresses your questions:

Lakers Face Crossroads After Being Swept by Mavericks

 
At Monday, May 09, 2011 8:28:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

I see what you mean about Kobe having played more minutes than Duncan, and I definitely think Kobe's durability is remarkable. I'm not an expert in determining who has suffered more from injuries between Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan (it should be noted that Duncan has had some serious injuries in his career and, to my knowledge, currently suffers from tendinosis). Anyway, all I was trying to say was that even if Kobe has suffered more from injuries, his body has apparently been able to deal with it better than Tim Duncan's. The 2010-11 version of Kobe Bryant is closer in terms of physical ability to the "peak" Kobe than the 2010-11 version of Tim Duncan is to the "peak" Duncan.

 
At Monday, May 09, 2011 8:34:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

Anyway, the only comment of yours that I took issue with was "you don't see Bryant losing in the first round after his team wins 55-plus regular season games". I thought that was an unfair comparison because I think Tim Duncan is clearly further removed from his prime than Kobe. If Duncan was as removed from his peak physical abilities as I feel Kobe Bryant was removed from his, I don't think the Spurs would have lost to Memphis.

Also, I agree with you that Ginobili isn't and never has been nearly as good a player as Kobe (note that in my initial comment I brought up Duncan, not Ginobili or Parker, who are obviously not franchise players).

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 5:27:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

Kobe is still an elite player while Duncan is not but Kobe is not anywhere near his peak anymore; during his peak years Kobe could score 40 points anytime he wanted to and he produced several truly stunning performances, including an 81 point game, 62 points in three quarters (ironically, that was against the Mavs) and 56 points in three quarters. I think that it is fair to say that Kobe is pretty far removed from being able to do any of those things (he can score 40 points in a game but I am not sure that he can do so at will or that he can string together several 40 point games in a row).

Of course, Duncan is nowhere near his peak either and I am not sure how to prove who has fallen further but I understand the point that you are making. My point is that the media has all kinds of double standards regarding player comparisons and team comparisons and if the Lakers had lost in the first round as a number one seed then they would have received far more criticism than the Spurs have; I am not saying that the Spurs deserve to get more criticism but I am merely making an observation about the nature of mainstream NBA coverage.

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 1:45:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

You wrote: "I am not sure how to prove who has fallen further", but I think you provided the necessary evidence when you wrote "Kobe is still an elite player while Duncan is not." During their primes, both Bryant and Duncan were fixtures on the All-NBA first team. Bryant might make the All-NBA first team this year, and if not, he'll certainly make the All-NBA second team. On the other hand, Duncan certainly will not make any of the All-NBA teams. That's why I'd say Duncan has slipped more.
But I understand and the point you are making. And you're right that Kobe has slipped a lot. I'm a bit surprised, as I thought he had enough left to carry the Lakers to the title one last time.

For many years I heard a lot of people say that Manu Ginobili was the Spurs' MVP, but it became clear just how much more important Duncan was to the team's success once Duncan began slipping and San Antonio was no longer able to contend. Similarly, we've heard a lot of stupid people claim that Pau Gasol (or even Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom) is the Lakers' MVP, but we saw in the LA-Dallas series how much the Lakers depended on Kobe. Kobe was unable to play up to his usual level and none of the Lakers' "MVP"s was able to pick up the slack and keep the team competitive.

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 3:37:00 PM, Anonymous bball said...

atleast the spurs competed and lost respectably against a grizzlies team that matched up well against them, and as can be seen in the current series, is pushing thunder to the edge. the grizzlies' record after january was 33-18, which is the same as the spurs' record, so even though the spurs started off the season remarkably well (29-4), as popovich always says, it's about how you finish off the season, and the spurs had many injuries to end the season, and didn't play particularly well. i'm not justifying their loss, but i'm just providing the context.

On the other hand, the lakers did not compete for the full 48 minutes in any of the games. they were lethargic, were not aggressive, and all of their defensive rotations were late, which can only be attributed to a lack of effort or communication. something which you might expect from the raptors, but not from the defending champions. You noted that kobe's supporting cast is not as talented as everyone says they are, which i agree with, but the fact of the matter is that they got SWEPT by dallas. if i'm not mistaken, this is just the second time in nba history that a two-time defending champion has been swept. so in this case, i wouldn't be surprised if the media reacts more to this loss than the spurs loss.

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 4:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

I also thought that Kobe could carry the Lakers to one more title and that then the roof would cave in next season if the Lakers did not upgrade the roster; maybe if Kobe only had a bad knee and some bad fingers (but not a bad ankle) he would have been able to do so but, with the benefit of hindsight, that scenario does not seem nearly as plausible now as it did before the playoffs began. The young, athletic teams are taking over.

When I covered the 2007 NBA Finals I spoke with a lot of media members about who might win the Finals MVP; I insisted that Duncan should win it because everything the Spurs did at both ends of the court revolved around him even though some of his stats were down but Tony Parker ultimately won the award.

For some reason, the "stat gurus" love Ginobili, Bynum and Gasol. Ginobili is a solid All-Star when he is healthy but he has never been a franchise player; the same is true of Gasol. Bynum's career is characterized so far by injuries and flashes of potential but I would not even call him an All-Star caliber player at this point because he has never strung together even half a season at that level without an injury and/or a slump. Bynum had some good moments during this year's playoffs but he also disappeared for long stretches and he completely melted down in game four, culminating in yet another dirty play (at least his third in the past three years).

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 4:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bball:

No matter how you look at it, the Spurs had the best record in the NBA for most of the season, they finished with the best record in the West and they lost in the first round to an eighth seed. That is very rare.

If you actually compare the Lakers to the Mavs from top to bottom the Mavs have the more talented and deeper roster; I picked the Lakers because I thought that Kobe could somehow pull off the Superman role one more time but his team is too fractured and disinterested (and he seems to still be limited physically). Think back to how many tough situations Kobe bailed the Lakers out of in the past three years, including round one last season when--even with a knee that needed surgical repair--he was the only Laker who could stay in front of Russell Westbrook.

There have been more than two champions who were swept the next year; off the top of my head, the 1983 and 1989 Lakers were swept in the Finals, the 1996 Rockets were swept by the Sonics and the 2007 Heat were swept by the Bulls.

The Lakers were swept by a 57 win team that has an elite player (Nowitzki), a former elite player who is a future HoFer (Kidd) and two former All-Stars who are still productive in reduced roles (Marion, Stojakovic). The Spurs have three All-Star caliber players and they lost to an eighth seeded team that does not have a current All-Star on its roster.

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 6:17:00 PM, Anonymous bball said...

once again, if i'm not mistaken, the teams that you mentioned (i.e heat, sonics, lakers, etc) were the defending champions the previous year, but not two-time defending champions like the lakers.

secondly, how the teams head into the postseason does matter. it is even more significant when you consider how tight the western conference is. still, with that being said, i'm not justifying the spurs loss, but i'm sure if you were to ask any knowledgeable fan or any coach/gm in the NBA, they would be more shocked about the lakers getting SWEPT by dallas, than the spurs losing 4-2 to the grizzlies.

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 6:28:00 PM, Anonymous bball said...

also, it is not just the scoreline, being swept in itself definitely does suggest that the lakers were outplayed, but it is the manner in which they got swept. that is my point. losing 4 close games, is one thing, but they were thoroughly beaten in game 2, and just embarrassed in game 4. look at the celtics for example, they are banged up, and have many players that are not at full strength (lakers only have kobe that is not at full strength), but they still showed character in winning game 3, and pushed the heat to overtime in game 4. lakers' play throughout the entire series against dallas was devoid of any traits that are usually associated with a defending champion.

again, i'm not trying to promote the spurs, or demean the lakers in any way, just stating that I would not be surprised if the media in this case were to focus more on the lakers' deficiencies as a team, than the spurs.

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 4:09:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bball:

Paraphrasing Kobe, losing is losing--it does not really make that much difference if a team gets swept or loses in seven games. You keep emphasizing that the two-time defending champs got swept but I think that it is more relevant to consider that the Lakers were trying to do something (reach the Finals for four straight years) that has only been accomplished by teams that had multiple Top 50 players in their primes (Russell's Celtics, Magic's Lakers, Bird's Celtics). Kobe led the Lakers to three straight Finals and two championships with an All-Star who had never won a playoff game prior to joining the Lakers plus a cast of good, but not great, role players (and not a very deep cast at that--key reserve Shannon Brown hardly got any playing time when he was with the supposedly talent bereft Cavs).

In the regular season the Spurs, Lakers and Mavs were the class of the West, while the Grizzlies were the eighth seed. With the benefit of hindsight we now realize that the Mavs and Grizzlies were peaking while the Spurs and Lakers were not. In another six weeks or so we will know how the Mavs and Grizzlies finished out their playoff runs but based on what we know now it is still more shocking for a number one seed to lose to a number eight seed than for a number two seed to lose to a number three seed.

I am not big on looking at what could have/might have happened but if you want to play that game then the truth is that the Lakers outplayed the Mavs for the majority of both games one and three, so the series could easily have been 2-2. Just about everyone other than Kobe quit in game four but it would not be fair or accurate to say that the Lakers quit prior to that (the Lakers did not execute well down the stretch in games one and three but that is a different story).

The real story here--the one that the mainstream media will never address--is that despite the incredible mileage that Kobe has already put on his body and despite an ankle injury that clearly hobbled him he got the Lakers to within eight wins of doing something that has only been accomplished by three squads that were led by multiple HoFers. As I noted in my series recap, by the time Jordan, Erving, Robertson and other all-time greats had played as many minutes as Kobe they were no longer elite level players; Kobe just made the All-Defensive First Team (as selected by the league's head coaches) and he almost certainly will make the All-NBA First Team (as selected by the media).

 

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