All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘rafer alston’

We Have A Series

Posted by hiphopmama on June 9, 2009

Damn

Damn

LA Lakers 104, Orlando 108
     Lakers lead series 2-1

That was some shooting performance. The Magic just set an NBA Finals record for field goal percentage at 62.5%. And they won by four points. AND they were a Kobe Bryant brain fart away from facing another overtime and having to relive game 2 all over again. They earned this win, hands down, but I’m just saying. Good luck replicating that performance in game 4.

If there was one game the Magic were going to win, it was this one, and they made good. All those shots they were missing in the first two games were falling tonight, and then some. They were shooting 75% at halftime – good lord – yet they trailed most of the half until a late run put them up by a handful. Kobe put on a clinic in the first quarter and got the guys going enough to keep us close despite the lights out job the Magic put on us, but he cooled the fuck off after that and had trouble finding the basket in the second half. And then our precious closer did something we haven’t seen in over a decade – he failed to deliver in the clutch. After his amazing start, he seemed to force things a bit looking to continue his hot streak, but for once this season he didn’t have the recognition of what the defense was giving him (or not) to find the open man. Whereas in those last two games against the Nuggets he read the defense and conducted the game like a maestro, pulling all the right strings, tonight he was so determined to do it all on his own that the game got away from him and he worked himself out of his great rhythm. Add to that the fact that he started looking tired out there (at least according to Phil) and you have somewhat of an explanation for his five missed free throws and late game turnover when he had the chance to tie the game. You can take absolutely nothing from it – it was the one time out of a hundred when he didn’t come through – but his own stubbornness definitely played a role.

It was a tough loss, to be sure, but I’m happy for the Magic as an organization that they finally got a Finals victory. I remember pulling like hell for Orlando in that series against the Rockets so many years ago. I was in love with Penny Hardaway and Shaq could actually move in those days, and they were a fun team to watch. They were definitely my team during those two off years for MJ (with the Lakers doing nothing), and I was so hyped when they looked like they were going to take game one. And then Nick Anderson missed those four free throws. It hurt my soul, even more so when they went on to get swept. So I’m glad that the Orlando fans finally got to witness a win on this biggest of stages. I just hope they don’t get another one, at least not this year.

Tonight was frustrating for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest was the fact that we didn’t really play poorly. We shot over 50%, only turned it over 13 times, and had five guys in double figures. Heck, our defense wasn’t even half bad. It wasn’t more than half good, but it was at least an effort, which we haven’t always seen from this team. The Magic were just hitting everything in sight, and out of it for that matter. They had FIVE GUYS over 18 points, including Rafer Alston with 20. Yuck. The good news was that we still had a chance to take this one at the end, and since you figure another 62% night is not forthcoming, we still look to be on track in this one. I don’t want anyone to get the impression I’m taking anything away from the Magic win tonight. This is one of the most resilient teams I have ever seen and I admire their heart at sticking with it and never giving up. And you can tell they really believe this series is still theirs to win, which comes down to great coaching. Stan Van Gundy always has his team ready and gunning at their opponents, which is more than you can always say from our sometimes underachieving bunch. Despite all of that, I have a hard time imagining them getting another performance like that this series, and there are many reasons why. For one, Kobe will not have another game where he reads things so poorly. If history has taught us anything it’s that he learns from his mistakes, and I fully expect him to get it this time as well. Speaking of adjustments, the all-time great we have calling plays on the bench is not likely to get out-coached or out-maneuvered, even by one as great at SVG. He will figure out the right adjustments and make them. And finaly, 62.5%?? That is a once in a lifetime shooting night, and with just two more of those shots clanking, we have a tie game and possibly a different outcome. I like our odds when you take all that into account.

Recap:

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Is It Thursday Yet?

Posted by hiphopmama on June 2, 2009

pau howard
How am I supposed to survive a week with no Lakers basketball? I guess I’ll find out soon because, win or lose, the season will be over shortly and I’ll be forced to find another form of subsistence with both the NBA and European soccer leagues entering their off-seasons. For now, luckily, we have at least four more games to look forward to, and the most important of the season at that. 

We now know that the Finals match-up will be between the Lakers and Magic, who moved on at the expense of the Chosen One’s Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Poor Nike won’t get quite the bang for their buck with those cute puppet commercials without the vaunted Kobe-LeBron match-up, but the Magic weren’t having it and sent them packing. ‘Bron Bron, in all his wondrous glory, saw fit to ditch his opponents and teammates after losing game 6, skipping out on all the postgame festivities, including the shaking of hands with the Magic as well as all press conferences. But, you know, he’s a “competitor” so he doesn’t need to engage in all of that. As he said days later with his Yankees cap firmly planted on his bulbous head. Don’t get me wrong, my favorite player is quite the asshole himself and probably gets more ill will from various corners than any other NBA superstar. But he never bailed on his teammates that way, no matter how fierce the competition or heartbreaking the loss. I guess James is just bigger than the team, which is a pretty good indication that he both could and should consider making his exit after next season. Sucks for the city of Cleveland, but bon voyage to the King. Go live it up in New York with Nate Robinson and Quentin Richardson and whatever coach they have brought in on that carousel. Maybe the spotlight will suit him better than the W’s.

On to the actual Finals, I have to say I’m more worried about the Magic than I would have been about the Cavs. Yes, any team with LeBron James is always a threat, but there was very little around him to threaten us. The Magic, on the other hand, have a stacked line-up of perimeter threats, all surrounding an incredible anchor in Dwight Howard. As they showed against the Cavs, they are formidable around that three-point line all the way down that roster. Even recent addition Rafer Alston can knock them down on occasion, but the biggest dangers are Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and sixth man Mickael Pietrus, all of whom use their size and speed advantage on the perimeter to free themselves up for the trey. Needless to say, the ability to pound the ball down low with Howard helps open things up exponentially as the game goes on, which, as Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw noted, accounts for their incredible late-game surges to make up early deficits. As their opponent’s interior defense wears down and perimeter defenders have to sag, it leaves their long-distance shooters the extra room they need to fire one up. 

The bad news for us? We don’t defend the three-point line particularly well and have been burned by it on numerous occasions. The good news? It’s almost the entirety of their game, as they both live and die by it, and you all know what they say about teams who depend on the jump shot. 

The best, admittedly pro-Lakers, tactical breakdown you will find is over at Forum Blue & Gold, where they assert that the mismatches all line up in our favor. The one match-up that I think is neglected in this analysis is Pau Gasol on Rashard Lewis, which presents some interesting issues to say the least. While Pau is certainly long enough to contend with Lewis, the question remains as to whether he is quick enough to keep up with him on the outside. I expect Orlando to work that match-up to the fullest to look for any chinks in our defensive armor. Bynum will be expected to mark Howard, which I believe he can do with some level of success for as long as he can stay on the floor and out of foul trouble. Since I don’t expect him to be able to do either of those things for very long, I figure we’ll see Pau at the five quite a bit and Odom on Lewis. That’s a much better match-up for us, although Pau gives up a lot in terms of bulk on Howard. That said, I don’t think anyone will be able to do much of anything about Howard on the block, so I’d rather lock up their shooters and let Superman go for 40 than worry too much about the front-court match-up.

On the offensive side of the ball, I like what I see. Who in that starting line-up guards Kobe? Courtney Lee? I don’t think so. Rashard Lewis? Not nearly quick enough. Mickael Pietrus is the one player who can do a serviceable job – did you see him on LeBron against Cleveland? – but he doesn’t even start and no one really stops Kobe anyway. Neither Turkoglu nor Lewis have the length to deter Gasol, though Howard will be a more formidable opponent. Still, Pau’s speed in running the floor may help him in terms of both fast break points and post positioning. 

What it comes down to, as always, is our ability and desire to play our game. If we play to our full potential, at anything close to the level we showed in game 6 against the Nuggets, the series is ours to win. Much as I have campaigned for Stan Van Gundy as an elite coach in the league, we still are the better coached team with superior talent and versatility through our whole line-up. We have home court advantage, and now that we are at the final stage, you would think motivation wouldn’t be a problem. If we can just put all the pieces together, we will have our fates in our own hands. If, however, we play the kind of lackluster defense and tepid offense that saw us need seven games to beat Houston, this will be a very long series indeed. I don’t think it will be a short series in any case, but I see it going our way with Pau proving his worth and finally shedding that “soft” tag for good. Official prediction: Lakers in 6.

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