Tag:2011 WC Playoffs
Posted on: May 3, 2011 2:37 am
Edited on: May 3, 2011 2:54 am
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Ugly Lakers collapse unlikely to happen again

The Los Angeles Lakers collapsed in ugly fashion in Game 1 against the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

After Monday night's debacle, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson didn't mince words: "We felt like we gave the game away."

The Lakers lost to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, 96-94, and to say they collapsed would be an understatement. L.A. was in full command of the game shortly after halftime, leading by as many as 16 points in the third quarter. To get to that point, they hadn't played particularly well. Sure, it was clear from the opening tip that the Mavericks will struggle to check Kobe Bryant, and that Lamar Odom looked poised to be a two-way force in this series. But this wasn't Showtime success, by any means. 

Leading big while not playing spectacularly early is one of those "fork in the road" moments in the NBA. You can either step on the gas and blow the game open or you can let up and set yourself up for some unnecessary dramatics. In Game 1, the Lakers obviously took the latter route, but the manner in which they gave away their lead was stunningly bad.

At times, it was almost childish. 

The Lakers scored just four points in the game's final 5 minutes, as Bryant shot 2-6 during the closing stretch. To compound those shooting woes, the Lakers committed two unforgiveable turnovers in the game's final 20 seconds. 

First, Bryant drove to the basket and sloppily attempted a kick-out pass through traffic that was intercepted by Mavericks guard Jason Terry. The mistake had Bryant hopping mad, literally, but there was nothing he could do to take it back. He looked like he was living a nightmare. 

Then, with less than 10 seconds to play, Lakers forward Pau Gasol fumbled an exchange with Bryant near the three-point line, the ball slipping through his hands as Bryant fell to the floor, his feet getting tripped up with those of Mavericks guard Jason Kidd. A foul could have been called, but close-up replay shows Bryant mostly tripping over his own feet. After Gasol's thoughtless bumbling, Kidd emerged from the pack with the ball and the Lakers were forced to foul so that they would have one final crack at a game-winning or game-tying attempt. 



To add to the absurdity, that play wasn't even Gasol's biggest goof in the game's closing minute. On the previous possession he carelessly fouled Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki on an inbounds play, putting the German All-Star on the free-throw line. Nowitzki made both to put the Mavericks up for the first time since late in the second quarter.



Game 1 felt over before Bryant missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. The mistakes came so fast and furious they were difficult to process. The Basketball Gods rarely reward that type of recklessness.

Really, it's a given that the Lakers will play better than they did in Game 1 throughout the rest of the series. To play worse, they would have to wear clown outfits and show up riding mini-tricycles. That Dallas was only able to eek this out at the end by two points -- even when it was gifted to them -- speaks to the disparity in talent between these two teams. 
Posted on: May 3, 2011 2:08 am
 

Kobe gets a great look to win, somehow misses

Posted by Royce Young



According to most every casual NBA and Los Angeles Laker fan, the Lakers had the Mavericks right where they wanted them. Or at the least, in an advantageous spot. L.A. was down two with 3.1 seconds left.

Meaning it was Mamba Time.

We've all seen Kobe Bryant hit big shots time after time. He's done it my team, he's done it to your team. The image of him drilling a huge crunch-time shot is emblazoned into our brains. Ask most anyone that hasn't ever heard of 82games.com or has a Synergy Sports account and they'll tell you Kobe is the most clutch player since Michael Jordan.

And in some ways, he is. I mean, you let me pick one guy to take and make a shot with a few seconds left and I'm probably going to come back to Kobe. Still, a ton of research and a ton of great sportswriting has sort of debunked the Kobe in the clutch thing. A big reason for it is because the Lakers tend to go away from the offense that makes them so tough to defend and basically it turns into Kobeball. His ball-hogging bogs down the Lakers and in the clutch -- defined as the last five minutes of a game within five points -- the Lakers' offensive efficiency takes a massive hit.

Monday though, down two with a couple seconds left, the Lakers drew one up for you-know-who and it was a beauty. After Kobe caught the ball, I would assume every Dallas Maverick fan there is immediately sensed the worst coming. Kobe had a clean look and we all just knew we were about to watch the latest signature Kobe in the clutch moment.

Except a funny thing happened. He missed. Just barely, but he did.

A shame too, because what a great play it was. Andrew Bynum completely swallowed Jason Kidd whole, Derek Fisher delivered the ball on time and Kobe got a clean look. That, was a great play. That, was a great look. If Kobe nails it, we're all talking about The Black Mamba for a few days and bringing up names like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and every other big playoff shotmaker. But he missed it. It happens. Still, a great look for him.
Posted on: May 2, 2011 11:33 pm
 

Playoff Fix: Thunder must bounce back

Posted by Royce Young



MEMPHIS LEADS 1-0


One Big Thing: I hate calling games a "must-win" when in reality, they aren't must-win at all. I mean, the Thunder aren't eliminated if they lose Tuesday.

But really, they might as well be. Lose Tuesday at home again to the Grizzlies and winning this series is near impossible. It's not the end of the world to drop Game 1 and give away homecourt advantage. Teams survive that sort of thing. The Lakers did this season against the Hornets. Though with the way the Grizzlies seemed to dominate, Thunder fans have to be a bit anxious.

The pressure will be on in OKC Tuesday. It's not win or go home. It's just win at home.

The X-Factor:
Pack the paint. Memphis scored 52 in the painted area in Game 1 and really just chewed up the Thunder inside. The Grizzlies aren’t a proficient 3-point shooting team (just 3.8 3-point makes per game, last in the league). In the postseason, the Grizzlies rank dead last in both attempts and makes, by pretty wide margins. They don’t want to shoot from outside. They want to score in the paint. It’s just a matter of you stopping them.

The Adjustment: Dig down and maybe even double Zach Randolph . This is something the Thunder doesn’t like doing much of, especially since acquiring Kendrick Perkins. Even after his terrific game yesterday, I still think Serge Ibaka can defend Randolph to a degree, but having the guards dig down and show double-teams could maybe force him to give the ball up some.

Randolph isn’t a big guy that’s prone to turn the ball over (2.0 per game during the regular season) and passes well out of a double-team. It’s worth a shot to at least try and force him to give it up. When he’s got his lean-back jumper going, he’s impossible to defend. The only way you can stop him is if you keep the ball away from him.

The Sticking Point: The Grizzlies took care of the ball Sunday only turning it over eight times while forcing 18 against the Thunder. Russell Westbrook had seven on his own. OKC has to do a better job handling the Grizzlies' pressure. The Thunder offense was decent but it could've been a lot better had they not turned it over so much. Same thing with the defense. Memphis had an offensive rating of 123.48, but if the Thunder forces a handful of turnovers, that number drops. Kevin Durant did fine scoring the ball and Westbrook added a good secondary punch. Bad defense, too many turnovers and a lack thereof on the other end did OKC in. Fix some of that and the Thunder can get back in this.
Posted on: May 2, 2011 1:51 am
Edited on: May 2, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Mavericks-Lakers preview: The first time

A preview of the first round playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-kidd

I. Intro: No. 3 seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. No. 2 seed Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)

For the first time in the Dirk Nowitzki era, these two long-time Western Conference powers will face off in the playoffs. The Mavericks arrive in the Western Conference semifinals after knocking out the Blazers in six games. The Lakers are here by virtue of dispatching the New Orleans Hornets in six games.  Both teams are among the oldest in the league, sporting cores that have been through playoff fires together. (Obviously the Mavericks have been burned a bit worse than the Lakers). 

The Lakers and Mavericks were similarly effective during the regular season, winning 57 games and putting up very, very similar efficiency numbers. The Lakers were No. 7 on offense and No. 6 on defense while the Mavericks were No. 8 on offense and No. 7 on defense. The teams even played exactly the same pace during the regular season, slightly below league average.

The Lakers, however, were a marginally better rebounding team and a significantly better team when it comes to taking care of the ball. Dallas enjoyed one major advantage: they lead the league in assist rate, meaning that no one scores a greater percentage of their points directly from passes. That offensive balance is key as the Mavericks generally have four scoring options on the court at all times and do a nice job of maximizing those players' skills. 

The difference between these two even-on-paper teams could very well wind up being L.A.'s star talent. The combination of Kobe Bryant / Pau Gasol / Andrew Bynum / Lamar Odom is a vicious four-headed monster for Nowitzki to fight off with a supporting cast that is a fairly motley crew at this stage of their careers.  

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Lakers took the season series, 2-1, with all three games taking place since New Year's Day. Both Lakers victories came in March. The most recent one was a chippy 110-82 blowout victory at Staples Center that saw multiple ejections, including forward Matt Barnes for throwing Mavericks assistant coach Terry Stotts to the ground. 

The teams split in Texas, where Dallas took a high-scoring 109-100 affair in January while the Lakers won a March grinder, 96-91.

L.A.'s homecourt advantage is a factor here, but both teams are equally capable of stealing a game in this series. Not only did these teams have identical regular season records, they were also very similar in their home/road split. The Lakers were 30-11 at home and 27-14 on the road; The Mavericks were 29-12 at home and a league-best 28-13 on the road. Both teams won on the road at least once during their first round series, including dual Game 6 close-out victories on the road. 

III. Secret of the Series: Foul trouble

A critical determining factor in this series could be foul trouble, as the Lakers succeeded in pounding the paint over the course of their first round series against the Hornets. While Dallas has better bigs than New Orleans by a long shot, they aren't particularly deep in the front court. Center Tyson Chandler was regularly in foul trouble against Portland, a factor the Blazers weren't able to fully exploit because their own front court lacks depth and size. 

The Lakers, on the other hand, are perfectly suited to making Chandler pay if he gets two or three quick ones. Gasol, Bynum and Odom are all capable scorers and Bryant can get into the paint when necessary too. If Chandler is able to stay on the court, the Mavericks stand a chance. If not, they'll be hard-pressed to rebound on both ends and prevent second chance points, and it will put an even greater burden on Nowitzki. Expect the Lakers to attack this positional weakness much more aggressively and directly than they did in round one.  

IV. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: Jason Kidd's three-point shooting and overall offensive orchestry was a major difference-maker in Dallas' series victory over Portland. Derek Fisher will gladly serve as the underdog in this match-up as long as he doesn't have to guard Hornets point guard Chris Paul again. Advantage: Mavericks. 

SG: Despite all the talk about his ankle, Kobe Bryant surely looks healthy enough to enjoy great success here. The Mavericks are extremely weak at the two-guard spot, something they did well to overcome in their opening round series. DeShawn Stevenson and a ready-to-go Roddy Beaubois will set the table for sixth man Jason Terry, who came on strong late in the Portland series, but none are equipped to defend Bryant. Huge advantage: Lakers. 

SF: Shawn Marion was perhaps Dallas' most pleasant surprise in round one as he neutralized Portland's potential X-factor, Gerald Wallace, while also chipping in on the boards and with some scoring production. Ron Artest probably hasn't hit his stride yet but we're entering the part of the calendar when he is at his best, making everyone's life miserable and making heady hustle plays. Marion was good for 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in round one; Artest put up 11.8 and 5.0. Artest could very well end up winning out. For now, call this one a push. 

PF: Just as Dirk Nowitzki vs. LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the must-watch first round matchups, so too will be Nowitzki vs. Pau Gasol. There's no question about who played better in round one. Nowitzki carried the Mavericks by averaging 27.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while Gasol once again warded off criticism for his passive play. If there's a silver lining for Gasol, it's that he will have plenty of help from Artest, Lamar Odom and company in defending Nowitzki. Still, he will have his hands full. Advantage: Mavericks.

C: The Lakers should win the pivot. Andrew Bynum was dominant against the Hornets, putting up 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds while also blocking nearly two shots per game. Tyson Chandler isn't asked to score much, but he did rebound effectively against the Blazers, including a monster 20-rebound performance to help secure a Game 5 victory.  The key issue, as mentioned above, will be his ability to stay out of foul trouble. His back-up, Brendan Haywood, doesn't stand a chance in this series. Advantage: Lakers.

Bench: This match-up pits this year's Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, versus a perennial candidate for that award, in Terry. Both present defensive problems for their opponents but Odom is a particularly tough cover for the Mavericks. The burden will likely fall to Marion, who will have to wrestle with Artest and then track Odom all over the court. That's a lot for one man to bear. Dallas' reserves don't stand much of a chance of helping ease that load, either. The Lakers will continue to use Shannon Brown and Steve Blake to make life easier for Derek Fisher while the return of Beaubois could provide a much-needed athleticism and energy spark off of Dallas' bench, as J.J. Barea didn't get much done in round one. Terry aside, L.A.'s backcourt is a touch more proven and cohesive. Overall, slight advantage: Lakers.

Coach: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle did an excellent job of making the necessary adjustments in round one but he had the deeper and more talented team on both sides of the ball. He will be on the other side of that equation in round two and that will make his life, and the adjustments, significantly more difficult. Meanwhile, Lakers coach Phil Jackson still has more rings than anyone can count and was able to pull L.A. through some stretches of sporadic play to knock off a feisty Hornets team. He's still got it. Advantage: Lakers.

V. Conclusion

The Lakers aren't playing perfectly but, in sum, are simply a cut above the Mavericks from a talent perspective. They've got multiple options to throw at Nowitzki, no other clear match-up disadvantages, multiple stars in Bryant and Odom that should be able to operate with impunity and a third in Bynum who could swing the series if he continues to show the unstoppable size/skill combination that he flashed in round one. The Mavericks are confident, capable of getting hot and smartly get to the line late in games, especially at home. Ultimately, that probably won't be enough. Prediction: Lakers in 6.

Posted on: May 1, 2011 6:57 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 8:27 pm
 

Turnover differential bigger deal than Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was careless in Game 1, but don't overlook a different story about turnovers. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook commits a lot of turnovers. So many, in fact, that he led the league with 3.9 turnovers per game. But like many highly-skilled, high-usage players, looking only at Westbrook's turnover numbers doesn't tell a very clear story; his relentlessly attacking style means that he commits a high number of turnovers in both wins and losses alike. 

On Sunday, Westbrook committed seven turnovers in Game 1 of Oklahoma City's Western Conference Semifinals series, a 114-101 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. It was the second time in six games this post-season that he's committed seven turnovers, and Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is the only player in this year's playoffs to commit more in a game. 

Turnovers are bound to play a major part of this series, as Memphis led the league in forcing turnovers, watching the opponents cough up the ball 16.7 times per game. But pinning the Game 1 loss on Westbrook's lack of ball control doesn't tell the full story. 

Here come some numbers. The Thunder was 31-13 (70.4 percent winning percentage) when Westbrook committed four turnovers or less, and 28-16 (63.6 percent) when he committed more than four turnovers this season. The Thunder was also 11-7 (61.1 percent) when Westbrook committed six or more turnovers. Somewhat amazingly, the Thunder was 8-4 (66.7 percent) when Westbrook committed seven or more turnovers this season, including a win in Game 2 of Oklahoma City's first round series against the Denver Nuggets. To summarize: The Thunder played better when Westbrook took very good care of the ball, but they weren't sunk by any means if he was all over the place. Thanks to their tempo, offensive efficiency and ability to get to the free throw line, the Thunder was able to win more often than not regardless of how many miscues Westbrook committed.

Bigger than Westbrook's struggles with his ball-handling in Game 1 was the fact that the Grizzlies did an excellent job of taking care of the ball. As a team, Memphis turned the ball over just eight times, giving them a +10 differential against the Thunder in Game 1. That's an excellent recipe for success: Memphis was 10-1 during the regular season when they committed fewer than 10 turnovers. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City was 5-9 in games in which they didn't force at least 10 turnovers. 

Above, we noted that Westbrook's turnovers don't have a direct relationship with Oklahoma City's winning percentage. The team's turnover differential is another matter. The Thunder, who are now 59-29 including the postseason, have a winning percentage of 67 percent. 

Take a look at the chart below. If you break down those wins and losses by turnover differential, you can see that Oklahoma City fared very well when they won the turnover battle by a wide margin. They fared well when they won the turnover battle by a little, or kept it even. And, they played surprisingly well when they committed less than a handful more turnovers than their opponent.

That column on the far right, though, sticks out like a sore thumb and it shouldn't be surprising. In games in which the Thunder committed five or more turnovers than their opponent, their record was just 7-11 (38.9 winning percentage). Game 1 against the Grizzlies, obviously, falls in that category due to the -10.

okc-turnovers
What are the takeaways here? 

First, scapegoating Westbrook is too simple. He needs to do better (and he definitely needs to shoot better, going just 9-for-23 from the field), and his turnovers matter, but they don't directly impact OKC's chances of winning as you might assume. Simply put, if OKC's defense is creating turnovers, Westbrook's errors are a minor factor.  

Second, give credit where credit is due ... to the Grizzlies for protecting the rock. They're especially deadly when they wreak havoc defensively and protect the ball. It's not easy to play gambling, tough-minded defense on one end and under-control, efficient offense on the other. That's what Memphis has been doing in the playoffs, particularly in its last two games.

Third, if OKC can avoid getting clobbered in the turnover differential category -- as they did for a vast majority of the season -- they stand a very good chance of being able to bounce back from a loss that cost them homecourt advantage. The Thunder doesn't need to win the turnover game to win the series, they just need to keep it close, much closer than they did in Game 1.
Posted on: April 30, 2011 7:49 pm
 

Carlisle: Caron Butler won't play against Lakers

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says forward Caron Butler won't play against the Los Angeles Lakers. Posted by Ben Golliver. caron-butler

Back in January, Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler underwent surgery to repair a ruptered right patellar tendon. Soon after, he started making noise about attempting a possible playoff return.

According to ESPNDallas.com, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said on Friday that a return will not take place during Dallas' second round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, which is set to begin on Monday.
"He is not going to play in this series," Carlisle told 103.3 FM ESPN's Galloway and Company, adding that Butler has yet to be cleared by a doctor.
Butler's absence puts added pressure on Shawn Marion, who must deal with the likes of Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes. Marion averaged 10.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists in Dallas' first round series against the Portland Trail Blazers

The Mavericks will also turn to reserve forward Peja Stojakovic, who provided some timeline three-point shooting.

Butler would have been a major difference-maker, given the talent and physicality of L.A.'s perimeter players. Marion did an excellent job of holding Blazers forward Gerald Wallace in check but he also benefited from the fact that Portland's other wing players -- Nicolas Batum, Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez -- aren't particularly physical or adept at getting to the free throw line. 

Odom, in particular, could become a nightmare match-up for the Mavericks.  
Posted on: April 30, 2011 7:31 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2011 7:48 pm
 

Phil Jackson: Kobe Bryant's ankle still an issue

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson says All-Star guard Kobe Bryant is still suffering from a sprained ankle. Posted by Ben Golliver. 

Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant turned his ankle in Game 4 of Los Angeles' first round series with the New Orleans Hornets. Even though he was able to play in Games 5 and 6 -- scoring 19 points and 24 points in the back-to-back wins -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson told the Los Angeles Times that the ankle will still be an issue heading into the team's second round series with the Dallas Mavericks. Game 1 against Dallas is set for Monday.
"It still affects him a lot," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Bryant, who sat out of Saturday's practice. "This is not going to go away anytime soon so we're just going to have to be close to what he's doing and monitor it a lot. He'll have a limited amount of practice time and it's something he'll have to do."
""It's tender to the touch still," Jackson said of Bryant. "He's still limping when he walks. It's a limied amount of improvement."
Bryant, for his part, maintains that he is "fine".

The good news for Bryant and the Lakers is that the Mavericks do not have a dynamic, athletic presence in their starting backcourt. Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson just aren't the type of players who can regularly exploit Bryant in his limited capacity by beating him off the dribble or pushing the tempo hard. 

If there is a concern, it will likely be Mavericks reserve guard Jason Terry, who is significantly shorter than Bryant and quick off the dribble. Terry is an all-around offensive threat and will continue to serve as Dallas' closer. He will represent a tough cover for either Bryant or veteran point guard Derek Fisher

Here's video of Bryant's injury. 

Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:07 pm
 

Expert Picks: Western Conference Semifinals

Our CBSSports.com expert picks leaderboard and predictions for the second round in the West. 

Posted by EOB staff.  



The current standings after arguably the best first round in NBA playoffs history. 


Expert Scores
Expert Right Wrong Bonus Total
Matt Moore 6 2 2 14
Ben Golliver 6 2 1 13
Jamey Eisenberg 6 2 1 13
Ken Berger 6 2 0 12
Sergio Gonzalez 5 3 2 12
Royce Young 5 3 2 12



Here are our picks for the second round. 


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com