Tag:Pau Gasol
Posted on: May 7, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 5:40 am
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NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: The Panic Button

The Lakers have never had a reason to panic, until now. 
Posted by Matt Moore




There's never a good time to panic. It does you no good to freak out, and the only way to solve a problem that would call for such behavior is to behave in the exact opposite manner; with poise and control.  And for a championship team like the Lakers, there's no such thing as a panic button. They've been victorious too often, overcome too many challenges, risen up and simply been better in too many series. They don't know what the panic button looks like. 

But maybe they should after Game 3's stunning loss to the Mavericks, to go down 0-3. Maybe then they'd have some level of urgency in their play, some level of commitment to closing games. The Lakers we're witnessing are in many ways the ultimate embodiment of the team we've seen for years in L.A. . They assume they'll be better simply by having the talent. Victory is assured once they step on the floor, even if Ron Artest doesn't step on said floor. Instead, they've found themselves on the brink, as Dallas has surged ahead in every fourth quarter of this series. And what does Kobe Bryant say after the game?

“I might be sick in the head … because I still think we’re going to win the series,” Bryant said. “I might be nuts.”

Bryant said he wasn't discouraged after the game. In the same calm, cool, collected manner, he exuded confidence bordering on arrogance, even after he started 5-5... and finished 3-11, with a key turnover late that may or may not have been Pau Gasol's fault. Bryant's not concerned because when he's had the manpower, he's never failed. 2005-2007? He could blame the roster. Not this one. This one is on the mindset, and that reflects its leader. So why is Bryant so calm, cool, and collected?
Because he can be. Because if any team can come back from an 0-3 deficit for the first time in league history, it's the Lakers, and if any team could cough it up, it's the Mavericks. It seems absurd that it has come to this, but it here we are. Bryant remains indignant to the idea that the Lakers should be concerned. After Game 2, Bryant told reporters that everyone was "trippin'" because they acted like no one had ever won two games before. In reality, they were talking about winning two games on the road after blowing your first two at home. Bryant never wavered from the script after Game 3, talking about mental mistakes like this was a game against Minnesota in February. There's maintaining your composure, and there's refusing to acknowledge your situation. 

There was discussion that the Lakers played "desperate" in Game 3, but we saw the same lazy rotations, the same deviation from effective strategy, the same failure to secure key plays. They are who they've been: a team with extremely talented players with superior physical attributes that doesn't respond when challenged. In years past, the Lakers would respond right when they had to in order to avoid hitting the panic button. 

Panicking won't help the Lakers win Game 4, or four straight, which is what they must do. But coming to terms with their situation may be the only way for the Lakers to really see where they've landed. There's a time for patience, confidence and even arrogance. 

That time has come and gone. If the Lakers can win this series, it will be the ultimate validator of their overconfidence. If they cannot, it will be the final verdict on a core that won two titles and yet infuriated its fans and too often played with the flame. 

Eventually you get burned. 
Posted on: May 5, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2011 10:13 am
 

The Lakers, the Celtics, and a question of change

Are we seeing a changing of the guard? We discuss whether the conference champs of a year ago have seen the present pass them by, and reach a strange conclusion. The body is willing. The hunger? That we're not sure about. 
Posted by Matt Moore



Few saw this coming. Sure, you could have said the Celtics didn't look like themselves after the Perkins trade, or that L.A.'s penchant for blasé, uninspired play would eventually bite them on the back end. But to think both conference champions from a year ago would face not just must-wins, but "No, for real, lose this game and you might as well forfeit Game 4 and start enjoying your lockout" games in the semifinals? That's just preposterous. How could that happen? The Celtics took three straight from the Heat this season. The Lakers are two-time defending champions. 

And yet, here we are. So the question we ask now, in advance, is whether we're witnessing a changing of the guard, a one-year slip for two teams formed in the iron of the industry, or the setting of the stage for the two most successful and blessed franchises in professional basketball to once again take the shovel from those would bury them and brain them with it.

More on the Lakers and Celtics
Analysis
Royce Young Royce Young
History isn't on the side of the Lakers right now. Read More >>
Ben Golliver Ben Golliver
The Dallas bench came up big in Game 2's Mavs win. Read More >>
Related links
Video: Wade crosses up Ray Allen
Message Boards: Mavericks | Lakers
There's ample evidence to support all three theories. But why waste time with it? Why not just wait to see how Games 3 and 4 go? We're not just providing filler or overreaction to add volume to headlines, I assure you. It's that if this is the end, we need to acknowledge it while it's happening so we're not left in stunned silence, shellshocked by the absence of the teams most lauded over the past three years. If it's a slip, we need to examine why, and if any changes need to be or can be made going forward. And if they're setting us up for the rope-a-dope, well, we should take note of that as well.  If we want to watch these playoffs, we should try and suss out what's happening. After all, the first round left us struggling for comprehension as the top seed fell in one conference and struggled with a playoff bottom feeder in the other. So let's begin with the defending champs. 

Lakers

Most concerning for L.A.? The fact that both losses were not the same. Their deviation from success and development of bad habits in the pattern of failure are indicative of a team that not only is struggling, but is failing to recognize that. 

Game 1: The "we let it slip through our fingers" game. This obviously was the less damaging of the two. A few plays here or there and the Lakers win. Make more than a couple and it's a comfortable win. Surrendering the game in the manner they did, however, was about as "un-Laker-like" as you're going to get. They didn't close out the game. They didn't finish with poise. They did collapse, and the Mavericks did take it from them. This game actually looks worse in the aftermath of Game 2. They not only gave the Mavericks confidence, but it was the kind of loss that allowed the Lakers to pass it off as nothing to worry about.  That laziness was fine in previous years. The Lakers were younger, the competition not as fierce, and the matchups were avoided. They needed to respond after Game 1 with a ferocity befitting of a team of their talent, their payroll, their legacy. Instead they simply came into the game with the same lack of urgency they went into so many regular season games and even playoff games in previous years (the Rockets, the Nuggets, the Suns). Only this time, it turns out the other team not only wanted it more... they were just better. 

Game 2: The "well, they just kicked our face in" game. That's a 12 point loss, kids. At home. And in reality, it could have been worlds worse.  The Mavericks only shot 42 percent from the field. You can argue that the Lakers defense was what kept that number low, except that same defense allowed a 106.9 defensive efficiency. That's not great. But it's not terrible, and had a few more shots fallen, you had a much more significant loss. The Mavericks played with urgency, with fire, with a killer instinct. You know, everything you associate with championship play. The Lakers on the other hand felt that they had no reason to execute with purpose. A few passes, a few dunks, and the Mavericks would fold. In many ways, it was a reflection of the crowd, which was first discontent, then frustrated, then downright glum. There's no shock, just petulance at the fact the Mavericks not only didn't roll over, but took it to the Laker's front door, then kicked in the frame. 

The post-game comments from Game 2 give us an insight into where the Lakers' heads are at. Andrew Bynum says there are trust issues. Phil Jackson is concerned. But Kobe Bryant? Kobe Bryant is calm as Hindu cows. It's an interesting reaction from the one player who most often calls out his teammates. Either this is the confidence that breeds his indomitable will, or it's an arrogance that is keeping him out of the reality. And the reality is that the Lakers face a challenge only three teams in history have ever overcome. 

So which is it? Are the Lakers done? Clearly not. Pau Gasol didn't age overnight to the point he's no longer useful. Kobe Bryant's largely the same guy he's been this season. Older, less explosive, occasionally brilliant, occasionally way too confident in his abilities. Derek Fisher's not any worse than he ever has been. Lamar Odom's reverting back to his space cadet persona, but you had to expect that at some point. The bench, though? The bench certainly seems to have wandered by a mirror and remembered, "Oh, yeah, I'm Steve Blake/Matt Barnes/Shannon Brown and not Robert Horry/Brian Shaw/Rick Fox." And those aren't great names to start with. But you can't look at this team the way we saw the Spurs fall because the Spurs tried to tell us all season they were not the defensive stalwarts they've been in the past. The Lakers have been the same team that won the title, just lazier than usual. 

So is Bryant right, and this is just a blip, nothing to worry about? No. The Lakers didn't lose these games because of fluke shots.  L.A. faced their own mortality and their response was to throw up 3-pointer after 3-pointer when they couldn't hit water from the sunken remains of the Titanic, instead of giving it to Andrew Bynum, who was actually playing well. The Lakers were lazy, that's certainly true. But the big key here is so much simpler, and so much more frightening. 

The Mavericks outplayed them. Just as we learned Memphis was simply a better team than San Antonio this year, the Mavericks have showed the same pattern in the first two games. That can just as easily be reversed with a flourish from the Lakers. But we can't simply walk past these two games, confident Los Angeles will right the ship. 

The good ship Mamba is not sunk. But it's taking on water, while the Lakers are arguing over silverware and Kobe Bryant is playing the violin. 

Celtics

If the Lakers' big problem is that their opponent is playing better, the Celtics are facing an uncomfortable reality: the Heat really are better. Don't misunderstand, this isn't to say that the Heat will win. But the facts that we thought would be present in preseason that escaped us the whole year through have returned in stunning clarity. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh play for one team. And that's just a ridiculous amount of talent. If the Celtics are going to win, they have to win with strategy, effort, and guile. Because the first two games have exposed a significant gap between the maximum gears both teams can operate on. Lakers fans can cling to a lack of effort and a series of bad games. But the Celtics don't seem to be playing badly or with poor effort. They're just getting beaten to the spot, beaten to the ball, and dunked over. Role players are wilting while James Jones hits from the outside, and Ray Allen's not getting the ball. 

There's age here. The Celtics knew this coming in. When the Big 3 were constructed, they knew the window was tight. The formation of the Heat, the formation of the Lakers' modern core, the rise of the Bulls all narrowed the window further, but the reality was always in the back of their minds. You can't compete into your late 30's in the face of the greatest rise of talent in the league, constantly teaming up with one another. You can, as long as you don't disrupt your chemistry. Which of course they did. 

The is not on the Perkins trade. But the advantages the Perkins team held in terms of chemistry, efficiency, comfort and continuity were questioned. And somewhere in the back of their minds, the players are aware: the front office decided to make a move in regards to a time when they were no longer in green. That has to shake your confidence, even if slightly. The Celtics still seem physically capable of making adjustments, playing at the level they need to, winning the games. But the overpowering swagger is gone, and the ferocity of play hasn't been there. They have given the vibe of exhaustion, of frustration, and of a restrained fear, which we've never seen before. 

The Celtics can respond. They haven't surrendered home floor. And the common theme in the NBA throughout the decade, throughout its history, has been that you can't count out the established teams until they're dead and buried. We could be looking at this column as one of premature exasperation or naivety in a week. But the signs are there. 

The Lakers and Celtics have been confident, and elite for the past three seasons. But now they both face a blood-draining possibility. The talent may be there. The experience may be strong. The execution may be possible. But the hunger? 

More and more it looks like the hunger lies in the ones across the floor.

Posted on: May 5, 2011 2:38 am
 

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: Lakers coming apart

Lakers begin tearing at each other, down 2-0 to Dallas. But can they respond?
Posted by Matt Moore




After the Lakers' 93-81 loss to the Mavericks, going down 2-0, Andrew Bynum said that the Lakers have "trust issues."  Magic Johnson, a member of the Lakers' front office, the biggest Lakers booster you'll find, is talking about chances being slim and the Lakers pointing fingers. Kobe Bryant was the voice of reason post-game, talking about how the trust issues are on defensive communication, and how everyone is "tripping" when they just need to go win a game. 

But there is trouble in the land of the champs. And the fact remains that the Lakers are no longer trying to avoid the edge of the cliffs. They're hearing the gravel bounce off the canyon walls below.  This is not something the Lakers are used to, even with a history of malaise and unimpressive performances relative to their capability. 

The Lakers have gone to seven with a Rockets team without Yao, six with a Thunder team with no experience, and had long series with the Nuggets and Suns. But 0-2, dropping both games in Staples, headed back to an amped up Dallas arena is a whole other hole to climb out of. 

The "trust issues' comment is interesting. Chemistry is a huge part of championship teams. But the Lakers have never seemed to have great chemistry. Kobe trusts Gasol only as far as Gasol's success takes him.  Lamar Odom is constantly in need of coddling and his reality show furthers the perception he's not plugged in. Andrew Bynum's injury issues for such a young player puts him aside. Against the Mavericks, the Lakers haven't shown any committment to strategy. They just rolled up on both ends and expected their talent and experience to come through. It didn't, and now the Lakers have to win four out of the next five games.  The Lakers notoriously coast through parts of the season, and now it's bitten themin a big way. 

But to say that these issues are all just the Lakers coming apart is to ignore how the Mavericks have attacked them.  The Mavericks beefed up their roster in the place the Lakers feel safest at, size down low. Brendan Haywood became a backup center. Tyson Chandler became the starter, and the combination meant Dirk Nowitzki could just focus on being the most versatile seven-foot power forward in the league. Against the Lakers, Nowitzki is hitting all of his usual ridiculous shots, attacking the rim, and doing a decent job defending Pau Gasol, who has shrunk from the moment like never before. The Mavericks' use of Shawn Marion was supposed to be an after thought, but Marion's length has allowed him to stick with Bryant as Kobe's athleticism and explosivness degrade with age. Jason Kidd is Derek Fisher's superior, and the Mavericks have shooters upon shooters on the perimeter. 

Now the Lakers are really a wounded animal, and have to figure out how to best a team that is playing with more confidence than any opponent they've faced. 

What have we seen from this Lakers core in the past as we look ahead to Games 3 and 4 in Dallas? The Lakers usually respond only when they absolutely have to. You could argue that they didn't have to yet, that they can even drop another game in Dallas before executing a backdoor sweep. But that would mean that Kobe Bryant's assertions are correct, that the Lakers don't have to adjust to Dallas, they just have to play better. The Lakers aren't struggling through like the Bulls, who seem like a better team playing down to their oppponent. The Lakers are losing to what looks like a better team in every phase of the game. And unless they come up with a considerable flip switch, they're going to ruin the storybook ending for Phil Jackson and the second Lakers' threepeat. It sounds impossible, but Dallas has set the level the Lakers have to respond to. 

So far, they've done nothing but burst under the pressure. 
Posted on: May 3, 2011 2:37 am
Edited on: May 3, 2011 2:54 am
 

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 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: April 28, 2011 11:28 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 1:26 am
 

Series in Review: Lakers-Hornets

Posted by Royce Young

Series MVP: Andrew Bynum


Yep, not Kobe. Bynum, often a critical figure in the Laker starting five, was big -- literally and figuratively -- for Los Angeles these six games. He averaged a double-double, capping it with an 18-point, 12-rebound, two-block performance in the deciding game. There was a big opportunity for Bynum because of the Hornets' lack of quality size inside, and Bynum exploited it all six games. Bynum has become the cornerstone to Laker success in the postseason and he's off to a pretty good start, I'd say.

Best Play: Kobe crams over Okafor



Just the statement this made was almost jarring. Kobe, coming into the game on a sprained ankle that had everyone talking about his availability and effectiveness, rose above one of the league's top shot blockers and stuffed it. The message was sent early in Game 5 -- this series was not coming back to Staples.

Best Play Runner-Up: Chris Paul twists Bynum up


CP3 is just a wizard with the ball in his hands. Like, seriously, I think he has powers in those hands that aren't natural to this world. The way he subtlety brought his off-hand up to mimic a shot was brilliant. Only CP3. 

Biggest Disappointment: Pau Gasol

Matched against an inferior front line, Gasol was entirely absent in Games 1 and 2. Really, there was no excuse. In Game 1, it actually looked as if Gasol didn't realize he was playing. He was going through motions, just timidly jogging up and down the floor. He fumbled a big pass from Kobe in crunch time out of bounds and actually had people comparing him to Kwame Brown for a minute. He straightened himself out with three solid games to close, but he can do better. And he'll have to if the Lakers want a third straight title.

Best Moment: "I'd hit my mama..."




Kobe and Chris Paul are widely known as good friends off the court. But CP3 sent a little message in Game 4 with a hard foul on Kobe. The two bumped a bit after the play and had words. After the game, Cheryl Miller asked Paul about it and he delivered an excellent line. "I'd hit my mama too if she was out on the court."

Worst Moment: The absence of David West

Hard not to think about what this series might've looked like with David West on the floor for these six games. Not just having a better body inside to take on the Lakers' frontline, but giving Paul his scoring buddy to rely on in the pick-and-roll would've been huge. I'm not going to say this series would've been different in terms of the final result, but at least the Hornets would've had a better chance.

Best Performance: CP3's Game 4


Goodness. 27-15-13. Or 23-7-6 in the second half. Paul was on another planet that night. He was fantastic in Game 1, good in Game 2, great in Games 3, 5 and 6. But that Game 4 was one for the ages. A tremendous, terrific, wonderful effort that illustrated just how amazing Chris Paul is.

Best Game: Game 1

There wasn't exactly a classic in this series, meaning any game that came down to a final possession or a big shot. But Game 1 in Los Angeles definitely had the biggest moments and swings. CP3 was great, Kobe was drilling big shots, and the Hornets were stunning everyone. It was one of the most enjoyable games of what was one of the most amazing opening weekends of the playoffs we've seen in a while.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:16 am
 

NBA Playoffs: The insatiable, unstoppable CP3

CP3 again. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Among the pack of top free agents in the NBA who love to hang with each other, who have shared toasts and fireworks and locker space, Chris Paul stands apart. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, the list goes on. Those players are friendly. They came into the league at the same time, have the same priorities, the same approach. But Paul, as friendly as he is with those players, is different in one simple regard. 

He wants to win more. 

This isn't to say that the others don't want to win. These are competitors on the highest level. But there is a gap. The only player that rivals Paul is Wade, the only player among them with a championship ring, a testament to that will. But even Wade has his businesses, the commercials, the distractions with the Heat, the culture of branding that he operates in. Again, this isn't an indictment. Wade has proven time and time again, just as James and the rest (no matter what popular sentiment has determined) that he will deliver in the key moments, spend the extra time, fight through the injuries, do what it takes to get a win. 

But Paul? 

Paul wants it just a little bit more. 

It's in his DNA. He's arguably the only player in the league with the competitiveness level of Kobe Bryant. So to see him slashing, dashing, and breaking Bryant's ankles has a certain level of appropriateness to it, even if the Lakers remain a significant favorite to win this series. Paul's history of intensity dates back to college, and the physical lengths he would go to in order to win a game. In the NBA, he's been, when healthy, the consensus best point guard in the league (bearing in mind that Derrick Rose is about as far from a pure point as it gets. Rose is his own thing, Bulls fans, let's not make everything about Rose, as awesome as he is.).  He's also struggled through years with subpar casts, but this year, with the team's future in New Orleans in doubt, he's maintained. 

There were questions this season, to be sure. Paul told Ken Berger that he was looking at longevity this season, that that was weighing on his mind. It led us to discuss the possibility Paul was holding back for the playoffs. 

Yeah, about that. 

On Sunday night, Paul dropped a triple-double, his second in four games of this series. Paul joins Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Mookie Blaylock, Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd, and Baron Davis in the list of players to drop multiple triple-doubles in one series. Paul's second half line? 23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists. Are you kidding me? You have to be kidding me. This cannot be real life. This is not reality. This is some mistifying fantasy where a player comes out and does that to the defending champs. It was brilliant. It was exceptional. 

It was a perfect example of the lengths Paul will go to in order to win. Trevor Ariza noted after the game that he had six rebounds. The Hornets' big man, Emeka Okafor had 6 rebounds. Chris Paul had 13 rebounds, against the tallest and longest frontcourt in the National Basketball Association in a pivotal playoff game where he was also scoring and running the offense. Oh, and he had two steals. There was nothing more you could ask for from Paul. How often do you really get to say that about a player? That you cand identify what he gave as absolutely everything. Put it another way, which isn't really fair, I'll admit off the bat. How often have you really, truly said that about what you felt LeBron James' maximum effort could be. 

The Lakers certainly played their part in this. But the effort from Kobe Bryant in Game 3 to slow Paul was unable to overcome CP3 in Game 4. To be fair, a seven nation army couldn't hold Paul back in Game 4. The range-game, the whip-pass, the drive and drop, the floater, it was the entire range. Chris Paul doesn't wind up with exceptional games in February, he saves his best for when his team needs it most. Down 2-1 in front of a desperate crowd on the verge of losing the Hornets as a part of their community, Paul answered.  We talk a lot about great players, about what makes a player the kind you remember five, ten, fifteen years after their days are over. CP3's performance Sunday night? It fit that description perfectly. 

The Hornets have tied the series with the champs, with Aaron Gray and Carl Landry as key contributors. Paul has shown once again why he is without question the best pure point in the league. The Lakers may very well advance in the playoffs from this series. But if they do so, they'll have to fight Chris Paul to the very last second to get that fourth win. And even then they'll know what we all know, what we've seen. 

Chris Paul just wants it a little bit more. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com