Tag:WC Playoffs
Posted on: May 6, 2011 1:24 pm
 

Lakers blow it up if they bomb out of playoffs?

Will the Los Angeles Lakers blow it up if they are bounced from the NBA playoffs early? Posted by Ben Golliver. kobe-shaw

The Los Angeles Lakers are down 2-0 to the Dallas Mavericks, and the stress level is going through the rooof. Kobe Bryant has said he's concerned. Phil Jackson has said he's concerned. Andrew Bynum has said there's trust issues. 

Now, the Los Angeles Times reports that veteran point guard Derek Fisher and assistant coach Brian Shaw are playing the "Play better or you might not be here next year" card in an effort to spur some urgency. 
About two weeks ago, Derek Fisher gathered together his teammates and told them to look around the room. 
"We discussed that buttons will be pushed," Fisher said after practice Thursday. "That's the reality, and it's business with this team. You have to understand it and appreciate it for what it is. I think guys understand it."
"If [players] like the palm trees, the sunny weather and the pretty women in L.A. and the other stuff that comes along with it, if you want to keep it, then you better come with it," Shaw said. "If you don't, there are a whole bunch of other guys that would love to be in this position. And this organization is not going to sit around and wait."
If the Lakers are serious about blowing things up, it's going to take a lot of work. The team's 10 highest-paid players -- the team's starting five plus Lamar Odom, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Luke Walton -- are all locked in through the 2012-2013 season. Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Blake all on the books through 2013-2014.

In other words, a reshaping of the roster wouldn't just be about declining a player's option, refusing to extend a qualifying offer or letting him walk in free agency. True change in the rotation is only going to happen via trade. That's the button Fisher is talking about.

One other expected change that is worth noting: Shaw could slide into the head coach's chair next season.
Posted on: May 6, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2011 2:30 pm
 

Brown may start for Artest and Kobe slide to SF

Posted by Royce Young

Down 0-2 heading to Dallas without your best defender? Not exactly ideal if you're the Lakers.

And Phil Jackson, knowing something needs to change, isn't looking at your expected replacement for Ron Artest who was suspended for Game 3. Common sense says to go with Matt Barnes who plays that position and backs up Artest anyway. Except Jackson is actually leaning towards a shuffle, bringing in Shannon Brown to start at shooting guard and moving Kobe Bryant to small forward. The OC Register explains:
Brown is also at least healthy, whereas Barnes is still regaining his feel after missing the end of the regular season with knee soreness.

Barnes has not been sharp — fouling ahead of defending and rushing shots near the basket. Brown has been inconsistent in his decision-making but shooting OK. If Brown starts, Bryant would likely defend Shawn Marion after defending Jason Kidd to start Game 2.

But Bryant would have an easier time attacking the basket from a wing position at small forward — and he has very rarely gotten inside in the first two games vs. Dallas.
It would be an interesting move and one that might create some matchup issues for the Mavericks. Having Kobe on the wing might free him a bit more and having Brown in the starting five might just be a major spark. The Lakers are struggling to find offense right now and Brown is a pretty good scoring option.

Some suggested going with Lamar Odom at the 3, playing very big with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum next to him. Except that trio has played less than 25 minutes on the floor together this year, suggesting Jackson doesn't like it. However, Odom said at Lakers shootaround that he expects to start at small forward.

Barnes will obviously see heavy minutes, but Jackson is looking for some kind of combination to spark his group. Shannon Brown though? Or Odom? I guess we'll see.
Posted on: May 6, 2011 1:10 am
Edited on: May 6, 2011 3:22 pm
 

Playoff Fix: Lakers on the brink

The Los Angeles Lakers face a do-or-die Game 3 as they trail the Dallas Mavericks 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-mavs

DALLAS LEADS 2-0

One Big Thing:  Despite being in an 0-2 hole heading into Dallas, the Lakers reportedly projected an air of confidence and control on Thursday. The Los Angeles Times even reported that Lakers coach Phil Jackson guaranteed his team wouldn't be swept by the Mavericks, saying that his team hasn't played its final game in Staples Center this year. Is this the air of a champion or false bravado? Never has the situation been in more doubt thanks to back-to-back ugly finishes from L.A.. In Game 1, it was an offensive meltdown with the Lakers making just two field goals in the last five minutes. In Game 2, a lack of emotional composure as Ron Artest foolishly got himself ejected and suspended for a cheap shot on J.J. Barea. Can the Lakers hold things together for 48 minutes in the biggest game of their season?

The X-Factor:  By virtue of his comments about L.A.'s "trust issues", Lakers center Andrew Bynum has cast himself as the X-Factor in Game 3. Will the Lakers go outside their usual offensive gameplan to forcefeed him? Probably not. But if he doesn't deliver with the touches he does get and on the defensive end, he's set himself up, fairly or not, to take some of the blame that's been heaped upon Pau Gasol. Critics hate it when players point fingers, especially if they haven't delivered often enough to have an established level of credibility. That's where Bynum sits, and anything short of a monster night will lead to plenty of fingers being pointed back at him. 

The Adjustment: Without Artest, the Lakers are expected to move Shannong Brown into a starting role, opting to keep Lamar Odom in his Sixth Man role so that the rotations stay as similar as possible. The Mavericks may look to get Shawn Marion going early because of Artest's absence, as well as the impact it will have on L.A.'s depth at the small forward position. The Lakers will likely lean more heavily on Odom, who hasn't been an impact scorer through the first two games of the series. He will likely draw extra defensive possessions on Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki as well. Update: Odom said on Friday morning that he expects to start but Jackson would not confirm the move. It's the third different starting lineup discussed in the last 24 hours. So who knows.

The Sticking Point:
 Deadspin.com broke down just how amazing Dirk Nowitzki has been shooting the ball. He's been a sight to behold, and essentially unstoppable to this point. The scariest problem for the Lakers? Nowitzki has yet to get to the free throw line in volume so far this series. Against Portland in round one, Nowitzki averaged 13.7 free throw attempts at home. Will there be a similar parade to the stripe in Game 3? If so, that would make it even more difficult for L.A. to keep up with Dallas's offensive efficiency juggernaut.

CBSSports.com Video Preview: Here's a video preview of Lakers-Mavericks Game 3 with Adam Aizer, Greg Urbano and yours truly.

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 >>
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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 3:58 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 4:07 pm
 

Ron Artest suspended for Game 3 against Dallas

Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest has been suspended for Game 3 against the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

On Wednesday night, we noted that Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest was ejected after he clotheslined Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea in the closing seconds of Game 2. His punishment won't stop there.

On Thursday, the NBA announced that Artest would be suspended for Game 3 in Dallas, set for Friday night. The NBA ruled that the play was a Flagrant Foul 2.
Ron Artest of the Los Angeles Lakers has been suspended one game without pay for swinging his arm and striking the face of the Dallas Mavericks’ J.J. Barea, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations. Artest’s contact has also been classified by the NBA as a Flagrant Foul Two. 
The incident occurred with 24.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Mavericks’ 93-81 victory over the Lakers at Staples Center on May 4. Artest will serve his suspension tomorrow when the Lakers visit the Mavericks at American Airlines Center for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals. 
Artest, L.A.'s starting small forward, is averaging 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists in eight playoff games.

In Artest's absence, look for Lakers' sixth man Lamar Odom to see his minutes increase, but Lakers.com reports that reserve small forward Matt Barnes is expected to start in place of Artest because Lakers coach Phil Jackson "does not like going away from his usual big man rotations."

L.A. trails Dallas in the series, 2-0.

Here's the video of his foul on Barea again. 

Posted on: May 5, 2011 2:43 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 2:56 am
 

Dallas Mavericks bench delivers big again

The Dallas Mavericks bench has been sensational in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Posted by Ben Golliver.

The Dallas Mavericks delivered a stunning Game 2 beatdown of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, flipping everything that we thought we knew about the Western Conference playoff chase on its head. The Mavericks put together a complete performance for four quarters, clocking the Lakers 93-81. They now head back to Texas with a commanding 2-0 series lead.

While much of the attention on this series has been on L.A.'s implosion, and rightfully so, we shouldn't overlook what has been a very, very impressive postseason from the Mavericks bench. So far, the numbers are, honestly, eye-popping. 

The Mavericks are 6-2 in their eight playoff games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers. They're winning, overall, by an average margin of 6.9 points per game. Dallas's reserves, though, are outscoring their counterparts by an average of 14.4 points per game! Yes, I used an exclamation point. 

Here's a look at how dominant the Dallas bench has been. Dallas' scoring totals for each of their eight playoff games are in blue. Their opponents' are in red. Keep in mind, these numbers include Blazers guard Brandon Roy's huge Game 4 explosion and the fact that Los Angeles has an All-Star caliber player and the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in Lamar Odom coming off its bench. 

dallas-bench

As for this Lakers series specifically? Dallas reserves have nearly doubled Los Angeles reserves, 70-37, in the first two games of their series. Really, there's no slowdown in sight. The production has been coming from all corners. Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic and J.J. Barea have helped Dallas win the bench scoring battle in six of their eight playoff games. 

Barea was so effective in Game 2, scoring eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter by darting in, around and through L.A.'s defense, that Lakers forward Ron Artest decided to clothesline him in garbage time in a desperate attempt to send a message.

Let's take one final look at how this all adds up. Dallas' bench has averaged 34.6 points per game in the playoffs, which is particularly impressive because the Mavericks have played a number of low-scoring games and are averaging just 94.9 points per game as a team. As for Portland and L.A.? Their benches have contributed just 20.3 out of their team's average of 88.0 points per game. 

Here's a side-by-side pie-chart to spell out that vast difference in relative production. Dallas's bench is scoring 36.5 percent of its points in the playoffs so far while their opponents' bench is scoring just 23 percent.

dallas-bench2

Entering the series, this match-up was all about Kobe Bryant vs. Dirk Nowitzki. Through two games, its clear that its the bit players who are making the difference.
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 5, 2011 1:26 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:39 am
 

Ron Artest ejected for clothesline on J.J. Barea

Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest was ejected for clotheslining Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea. Posted by Ben Golliver.

This right here is the definition of losing without dignity.

In the closing seconds of a 93-81 Game 2 loss, Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest clotheslined Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea for no apparent reason. 

The Lakers were in a soft full court press, down by 11 points with 24 seconds remaining, when Artest came over to double team Barea with Lamar Odom. Rather than play defense, Artest reached his right arm out, fully extended, and grabbed Barea in the face, causing his head to snap backwards.

Artest was whistled for a technical foul for the play, his second of the game, and promptly ejected. There's a good chance the NBA league office will review the play and a possibility that further action could be taken against Artest, including the possibility of a fine and/or suspension.

Here's a look at the video of Artest's technical foul and ejection.



After the game, Lakers.com reported: "Phil Jackson said there was a 'good chance' Artest could be suspended for his late T on Barea; obviously, he hopes not."

Although there's no rational explanation for Artest's action, one possible motivating factor: Barea had been cutting up the Lakers down the stretch, finishing with 12 points and four assists in 17 minutes off of Dallas' bench. Barea scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers are now down 0-2 in the series, having lost both games in front of their home crowd at Staples Center.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com