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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Score, the Key Stat, the Bottom Line: Tuesday's Action

The Toronto Raptors narrowly avoided an 0-2 hole versus New Jersey, while the Miami Heat and L.A. Lakers could not do likewise in their respective series. While you often hear that winning the first two games at home is just "taking care of business" and that the other team can get back in the series by winning the next two on their home court, the reality is that in NBA history teams that won the first two games of a seven game series eventually won that series 182 out of 193 times (.943).

The Score: Toronto 89, New Jersey 83

The Key Stat: Each team shot 31-76 (.408) from the field and the Nets actually made more three pointers than the Raptors did (10-6) but Toronto won the game at the free throw line, shooting 21-25 (.840) compared to 11-14 (.786) for the Nets.

The Bottom Line: Vince Carter finished with a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds but he had a second consecutive poor shooting game (8-24). Jason Kidd matched Carter's rebound total but also did not shoot well (5-14). Look for the Nets to come out blazing when the series shifts to New Jersey. They earned a split in Toronto and can take over the series simply by shooting more accurately at home, which teams tend to do.

The Score: Chicago 107, Miami 89

The Key Stat: Chicago outscored the defending champions 52-37 in the second half. The Bulls shot .551 from the field overall, while holding the Heat to .466 shooting. Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade each had seven turnovers.

The Bottom Line: The Heat are in trouble, pure and simple. Yes, the series shifts to Miami for two games now and, yes, Miami came back from a 2-0 deficit in last year's NBA Finals--but this Heat team is a year older and banged up, plus they do not match up well with the Bulls. Even if the Heat win the next two games--hardly a sure thing--they still will have to win at least one game in Chicago at some point. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the 15th time that the defending NBA champion has faced a 2-0 deficit; only three of the previous 14 teams came back to win that series: 1969 Celtics, 1993 Bulls, 1995 Rockets.

The Score: Phoenix 126, L.A. Lakers 98

The Key Stat: Phoenix shot 50-92 (.543), while L.A. shot 36-87 (.414). Most of the other stats were pretty even (other than assists, for obvious reasons).

The Bottom Line: The Lakers' defense was atrocious, as you might expect when a team yields 126 points on .543 shooting. All five Suns' starters scored in double figures, as did Sixth Man Award winner Leandro Barbosa, who poured in a game-high 26 points on 11-18 shooting. Kobe Bryant finished with a team-high 15 points on 5-13 shooting and he also led the Lakers with five assists. Bryant had been on the bench for quite some time when Coach Phil Jackson inexplicably put him back in with 8:52 left in the fourth quarter and the Suns ahead 107-76. Bryant almost immediately sprained his right ankle, but stayed in the game a few more minutes before Jackson took him out and Bryant went to the locker room to receive treatment. This game provided an interesting test of the theory that Bryant should pass more and shoot less. In game one, Bryant scored 28 first half points and the Lakers had a ten point lead before they crumbled in the second half. In game two, Bryant scored nine first quarter points (and had two assists) as the Lakers only trailed 31-25. In the second quarter, Bryant added two more assists as he accepted double teams and passed the ball to get his teammates involved--and the Suns rocketed to a 68-47 halftime lead. Bryant shot an efficient 4-8 from the field for his 13 first half points and had four assists--and the game was all but over. Bryant shot 1-5 from the field in the third quarter but by that point even if he had gone 5-5 the Lakers would have still been down by double digits (they trailed 90-65 when he attempted his last shot of the night). Bryant attempted 33 shots in game one, so what did the Lakers do with the extra 20 shot attempts in game two? They combined to shoot 31-76 (.408). Lamar Odom, the main player who Bryant is supposedly holding back, shot 4-12 from the field, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 0 assists. Assuming Bryant's ankle is reasonably healthy by game three, the Lakers' only chance--slight though it is--is for Bryant to be very aggressive offensively from the start of the game. Don't think for a second that the Suns don't realize this. Even with a big lead and even with Bryant clearly not shooting as much as in game one, the Suns still double-teamed Bryant throughout the game: they do not want him to get into any kind of scoring rhythm that could carry over to the next game and are perfectly happy to see him pass the ball so that one of the other four Lakers can fire a brick at the hoop.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:33 AM


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At Sunday, November 04, 2007 3:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Note: The original version of this post was accidentally deleted. I successfully restored the original text. Here are the six comments that were posted in response, exactly as they originally appeared:

At 9:53 AM, marcel said...

the heat will get beat no doubt about it chicago has too many matchup problems for them toront has to win in newjersey if not new jersey in 6. and the lakers will get swept i said they dont have the personnel to deal with the suns there too good nash is too good and the lakers play no defense suns had like 10 layups and barbosa killed them with that he's too quick for them nash throwing 50 foot passes down court stoudamire inside phoenix is good spurs dallas didnt look as good there first couple games better watch out. lakers got to get kevin garnett you went 3 years with odom he's not the guy too inconsistent for the lakers i still think kobe has to become a better leader see when he played with shaq it didnt matter because shaq was the guy he just had to perform and he did now they got too get some talent around him enough to win a championship in the west soon kobe a old 29 he aint got no 5 years left he's played 13 seasons including playoffs he's the best player in the league no doubt but he aint got forever his career going backwards it's up too the lakers to help him out

At 12:54 PM, David Friedman said...

Kobe definitely needs more help--I've been saying that all year--but I don't know if KG is the answer or not. Granted, any infusion of talent should help but the question is what would the Lakers have to spend to get him? If they spend so much that they can't keep Bynum and Farmar--who will develop into good players, in my opinion--then the Lakers still won't contend, because even Kobe plus KG is not enough to win if you don't have a point guard or a center.

The key for the Lakers is to really develop Bynum and Farmar, get rid of Smush, and add one more scorer so that Kobe can actually rest for two or three minutes without the whole team falling apart. The Lakers don't have a second legit scorer; Odom is very inconsistent and has never averaged 20 ppg in his career. The Lakers need a legit 20 ppg scorer to pair with Kobe.

At 5:46 PM, eniq 0x00 said...


His career isn't going backwards. In fact, he's broken records during this time. He's also skilled enough to be effective late into his career because of his offensive versatility; once he gets older he'll play more of a facilitator role, so he'll last longer. At least he isn't afflicted by the chronic back issues of Nash.

As for him becoming a better leader? He's already an excellent leader. He does all the things he needs to do for this team to win; he either scores a lot, or defers when necessary. You don't know jack about what goes in the locker room to claim that he needs to be better.

From what I hear, and from the quotes from coaches and players, he's far more vocal and instructive. If that isn't being a good leader then I don't know what is.

Nash couldn't hope to maintain his level of production with our team, so why should we ask more of Kobe when he's exceeding expections in his level of play and in maintaining this team afloat (with all the injures) and into the playoffs.

We need more talent, not better leadership. We need more than one guy who is a true triple threat. We need another guy who shows up every game. If we can get that guy we'll be a much better team.

Phoenix is just showing what pure well-coached raw talent can do in the playoffs, it can destroy weaker built teams even if they have a great player in Kobe Bryant. Even without Nash they're running up scores on us; Nash is just enjoying the block party when it's happening.

Now as for Phil Jackson:

What was he thinking in putting Kobe back in a blowout game? Is he so naive as to think that Kobe is immune to injuries? When you're blownout like that you pack it in and regroup for the next game. You don't risk the franchise in a meaningless game.

The guy's recent dubious subsitutions are beginning to annoy me. First with Parker being allowed to finish the 3rd and start the 4th in the last game, and now with Kobe being put back into a blowout game.

At 7:40 AM, David Friedman said...

I agree with the points that you made.

I, too, am puzzled by some of Jackson's recent substitution patterns. I think that the problem is that there just aren't any buttons he can push to make things better, so he is trying some desperate moves. Farmar and Shammond Williams are not mentally and/or physically ready to play 40 mpg right now, so I think that Jackson felt that Smush had to play some minutes, even though Smush has not really earned any court time. Smush's minutes have been moving steadily downward, though, and since he only played four minutes last game I would not be surprised to see Smush get some DNP-CDs (Did Not Play--Coach's Decision) the rest of the way.

Jackson said that he put Kobe back in because it wasn't that late in the game and he hoped that Kobe would get in a rhythm. When Kobe was asked why he was put back in the game he thought for a moment and then smiled and basically said that he didn't know but that he simply went back in when the coach asked him to do so. I thought that putting Kobe back in was a bad idea given the score and time.

At 5:02 PM, marcel said...

his career aint going forward unless he gets help thats for sure his first 6 years 3 rings last 5 0 hasnt won a playoff series in 3 years jordan first 6 no rings next 8 6 rings there careers are going in diffrent direction at the same age to where when kobe was younger he had sucess when jordan was older he had sucess.

At 1:13 AM, David Friedman said...

Kobe's career has gone forward in terms of his individual development and the records that he has set; the Lakers have gone backward since getting rid of Shaq--and they understood that they would go backward in the short term, but believed that they could build a championship team around Kobe. They still may be able to do that, but right now they need to surround Kobe with more talent. Odom is perhaps not quite the player that the Lakers hoped he would be and injuries have taken a toll on Odom and others. Bynum and Farmar must continue to develop and some more players must be brought in to complete the process. On the other hand, last year when everyone was healthy the Lakers won 45 games, were peaking at the end of the year (11-3 run to close the season) and gave the Suns a real scare. So, a little bit of health, a little bit of development of their current players and one or two additions could all go a long way to moving the Lakers back into the 50-55 win category.


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