Tag:2011 second-round playoffs
Posted on: May 8, 2011 1:14 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 1:38 am
 

Playoff Fix: Lakers play for pride first

The Los Angeles Lakers look to avoid the sweep, trailing the Dallas Mavericks 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals. Posted by Ben Golliver.
kobe-fish

DALLAS LEADS 3-0

One Big Thing: Getting swept out of the playoffs is the ultimate shot to the pride for an NBA team defending its title. For the Lakers, as cocky and proud as NBA champions get, losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday would amount to a crisis of character, and that's why the major protagonists, coach Phil Jackson and guard Kobe Bryant, are so adamant in their denials that it will happen. Getting swept would ruin a lot of storylines: Jackson riding off into the sunset and Bryant as Jordan redux, not to mention spoiling the three-peat. Game 4, then, is about pride first. While Bryant still believes the Lakers can take the series, first they must save some face.

The X-Factor: The return of Ron Artest from his one-game suspension for clotheslining could be a really good thing, or a really bad thing. On one hand, his presence should shore up L.A.'s perimeter defense, which was out of position and slow to close out to Dallas' shooters in Game 3. On the other, he's been inconsistent throughout the playoffs and forces Lamar Odom back to the bench following the one decent offensive game he's played in the series. The Lakers badly need "fully locked in and making plays" Artest, but have only had "distant look in his eyes, what's he going to do next?" Artest for the last week or two. He's as prideful as anyone on the roster, though, so perhaps he has a last stand left in him.

The Adjustment: Kobe Bryant's "Hero Mode" has its faults, but this is the rare occasion when he needs to do more offensively, a lot more. Bryant was overly deferential in Game 3, scoring just 17 points on 16 shots. He tallied six assists, the most he had put up since Game 4 against the Hornets, but he came up empty late in the game. L.A. simply looked lost and discombobulated down the stretch and while a ball-hogging Bryant doesn't necessarily correct that problem, it at least gives the team a direction. This is a legacy game for Bryant, in that a no-show becomes a fairly big stain on the resume while a big night, win or lose, would help him save some face.  

The Sticking Point:
 The biggest issue for Bryant has been his transformation, almost overnight, into a one-dimensional jumpshooter. A man who as recently as a few weeks ago was arguably the toughest cover in the league (at least top five) has seen vast swatches of his game evaporate. Consider this: Bryant is 31-for-65 from the field against the Mavericks in the first three games of this series. According to Hoopdata.com, Bryant is a combined 3-8 on shots from inside 10 feet. In other words, a full 88% of his attempts are mid-range jumpshots or further! By comparison, that number was a much more reasonable 60% during the regular season.

Bryant's free throw attempts are down too: He's averaging less than four attempts per game against the Mavericks after taking more than seven per game during the regular season. Given that L.A. has yet to top 94 points in the series, you'd like to see the opposite effect. If the team is struggling to score, Bryant should be driving more aggressively. 

The question for Game 4 is really quite simple: Is Bryant still capable of willing the Lakers to victory?
Posted on: May 8, 2011 12:30 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 12:49 am
 

Miami Heat fizzle in nightmare Game 3 at Boston

The Miami Heat crash-landed in Game 3 against the Boston Celtics. Posted by Ben Golliver.
dwyane-wade-fall


Game 3, in many ways, saw the Miami Heat's greatest fears realized ... and all of them on the same night. Chris Bosh didn't show up. The role players didn't play their roles. The questionable starting lineup was worse than usual. And neither LeBron James nor Dwyane Wade was capable of an explosive performance to carry all that dead weight.

With the 97-81 home win on Saturday, the Boston Celtics chipped into Miami's series lead, narrowing the gap to 2-1, and took a huge swipe at the Heat's building confidence.

The loss, apparently, is sending Heat coach Erik Spoelstra back to the drawing board. Asked by the Associated Press whether he would consider a starting lineup change, Spoelstra said, "I will evaluate everything, A to Z." Of course there's only two players to evaluate -- Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- and that process is sure to be an ugly one.  Bibby contributed just five missed shots, one assist and one turnover in 14 minutes, while Ilgauskas played just eight minutes on Saturday and is now just 2-9 on the series. 

Not much is expected from either player, but it doesn't help that their backups are playing solid basketball. Mario Chalmers had 17 points in Game 3 after being relatively ineffective in the first two. Joel Anthony, meanwhile, had a career night, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in 33 minutes. In deciding whether to move one or both to the starting lineup, Spoelstra is balancing whether that would overly frontload his rotation. With such a short bench, Spoelstra needs any punch he can get from his second unit, and with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh already starting, the point guard and center aren't asked to do much more than knock down open shots and finish at the rim, respectively. 

Nevertheless, Miami found itself in an 18-7 hole early, and Boston began the third quarter on a 14-4 run. Those are major deficits, and are very difficult to overcome, especially on the road. 

Anthony, in particular, probably deserves the nod, given that he's already playing starter-type minutes. Spoelstra could then save Ilgauskas to match up with whatever minutes Shaquille O'Neal plays, allowing the two hulking veteran centers to cancel each other out. When it comes to Bibby, there's no easy answer: He's shooting an abominable 26.3% in the playoffs. There's no hiding that type of performance, especially against Boston's defense.

Bigger than the lineup issues was the predictable disappearance of Chris Bosh. Bosh was eaten alive by Kevin Garnett, who had a season-high 28 points and 18 rebounds. In contrast, Bosh tallied a season-low six points while grabbing just five rebounds. For a player that's battled back against criticism that he comes up small in big moments and is overly passive, he came up microscopic in a huge moment and was as passive as it gets. Bosh's Game 3 was a transcontinental pipeline to help give fuel to his haters.

No play better encapsulated Bosh's night than Rajon Rondo's miracle steal and dunk. After leaving earlier with a dislocated elbow that was popped back into place by Boston's training staff, Rondo caught Bosh napping. As Bosh went to track down a loose ball near halfcourt at half-speed, Rondo jumped him, picking Bosh cleanly before heading in for an uncontested dunk. The play began when Jeff Green over-played the passing lane to tip Bosh's lazy pass, and Bosh's effort to recover from that mistake lacked urgency and awareness. He has to do better. There's no excuse.



The struggles from Miami's role players and Bosh's wilting performance are a reminder that Miami isn't yet a monolith, or even a Goliath. They're a two-headed monster capable of playing a more athletic game than any other team in the league, but also one that over-relies on James and Wade to a precarious degree.

If there's a silver lining to Saturday's loss for the Heat, it's Rondo's injury. Without question, he will be limited for the remainder of the series and his ability to shoot the ball, which was already in question, will be virtually eliminated. Miami should be able to make the necessary defensive adjustments to capitalize on that fact: overplaying the passing lanes, pressuring Rondo as he brings the ball up the court, overplaying his right hand mercilessly and daring him to shoot from the perimeter.

In addition to Rondo's status, Miami still has plenty to bank on: homecourt advantage, the fact that Boston played with a do-or-die urgency that will be difficult to replicate multiple times, and, of course, the James/Wade combination. In other words, Saturday wasn't a knockout blow for the Heat, but it is gut check time. It's going to be a long haul to close the door on the Celtics, and it's surely going to take more than two guys to get it done.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 11:37 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 12:18 am
 

NBA Playoffs Heat-Celtics: Rondo is tough

Rajon Rondo returns from a dislocated elbow to help lead the Celtics to a Game 3 win vs. the Heat. How does it stack up versus history? Are we getting ahead of ourselves?
Posted by Matt Moore

Listen, I'm supposed to exaggerate this for you. I'm supposed to throw you comparisons to the "Flu Game," Willis Reed's return, or Isiah Thomas' ankle.  But I'd be doing you a disservice if I did. If I simplified what happened when Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow (here's a lovely image, warning, graphic) to those other performances, I'd be ignoring some relevant facts that make this at the same time more, and less, impressive than those other historic performances. 

Consider the following which takes some of the glory out of Rondo's performance: 

  • Rondo finished with six points, three rebounds, 11 assists, and five turnovers. That's a great number of assists, especially considering the time he was gone, but not herculean. It wasn't Jordan's 38-7-5. 
  • It wasn't in a championship game, like Willis Reed's or Isiah Thomas'. The fact that it came in a semifinals game, no matter the opponent, puts it at a level beneath. 
  • We won't know how big his performance was until after this season is over. If Rondo's gutsy strength is what makes the difference in the Celtics' drive to the title, then it becomes much bigger. Memorable, sure, but only if the Celtics succeed not only in this series, but the next two. 
  • Rondo will be credited with creating the Celtics' comeback. In reality, the Celtics were already leading by 10 after storming out of the gate at halftime when Rondo went down. This isn't to say that Rondo's injury didn't cause the Celtics to rally around their emotional core, or that he didn't help them to hold onto the lead with his leadership. It's just that to say the Celtics were doomed before Rondo valiantly returned is a falsehood. 

That said, give these elements some thought as well:

Rajon Rondo is the youngest member of the Celtics' starting five. He has been buried at times in this series and late in the season for his mental and emotional disappearing act. He has been called out for acting childish, particularly in regards to his reaction to the trade of Kendrick Perkins, his close friend. And in a game which the Celtics absolutely could not afford to lose, Rondo not only returned from an injury which, as a player with a bright future ahead of him, and considering the severity of the injury (he dislocated his freaking arm), he had no obligation to return from. But he came back, and when he did, he played with intensity and dedication. He was essentially one-armed for the majority of his playing time and continued to command the Celtics to cut the series deficit to 2-1. 

Michael Jordan? The flu is terrible, it's tough, and Jordan's game was better. But IV fluids and the body's natural fight against disease can allow adrenaline to overcome it. Rondo's physical ability to function through the use of his arm was impaired. Willis Reed returned and made little impact to the game. He primarily serves as an iconic image, his jog from the locker room the first such image in league history to be recorded in such a big game. Isiah Thomas? Well, no one likes Isiah Thomas at this point, and ankle injuries? Who hasn't gotten an ankle injury and played through it? 

Rondo dunked. With one arm, essentially. And afterwards, instead of basking in his own toughness, or acknowledging how much pain he was in. Instead of using a humble brag to capitalize on his image, he said this:



Rajon Rondo is moody, acerbic, tough to figure out, and can infuriate Celtics fans with his inconsistency. But in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, with the Celtics desperate for a hero (and getting several), Rajon Rondo became that savior. That's not an exaggeration or cliche. Rondo fought through an incredibly tough injury (he dislocated his freaking arm, popped it back in, then played through it, for crying out loud) and may have saved the Celtics' season. 

Toughness is a core value of the Boston Celtics. And when they needed it most, the enigmatic point guard showed up and led by example, through toughness. 

Game 4 is Monday. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:59 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 10:34 pm
 

Russell Westbrook and the evolving blame-game

Posted by Royce Young



Russell Westbrook was playing a fantastic game. One that was bringing his critics back around. One that was reminding people was an incredible talent he is at just 22 years old and in his third year as a pro. He was creating, dishing, scoring and finishing.

He had the Thunder cooking the Grizzlies, taking them up to a 16-point lead as he racked up assists and played a solid, controlled game. Oklahoma City looked downright dominant and appeared to be cruising to a 2-1 series lead and regaining the homecourt advantage.

But things felt apart in a big way the final six minutes of the fourth quarter. Spanning to overtime, where OKC lost 101-93, the Thunder went eight minutes without a basket, missed 11 straight shots and scored just 17 points the final 17 minutes, including overtime.

Most everyone with a Twitter account, a blog or even a voice pinned it all directly on the shoulders of Westbrook. Most saw it being his fault for stopping the ball, for not getting it to Kevin Durant, for killing the Thunder's chances to win this game. And you haven't heard the last of it. It's just going to get worse the more people stew on this game.

From my eyes, though, I just didn't see it that way. I'm evidently very much in the minority, but I just refuse to place the blame on Westbrook for Game 3's incredible meltdown.

Does he deserve a big slice of blame? Definitely. Probably one right out of the middle of the pie. With lots of icing. He didn’t do the things those last six minutes that he had done up to that point. The first 42 minutes, he was fantastic. Setting up teammates, scoring in rhythm, making good decisions — it was beautiful. But with the Thunder trying to hang on a lead, a lot of that flew right out the door.

Not entirely because of Westbrook, though. Again, he’s absolutely got blood on his hands. He might even be holding the knife. He entered the fourth quarter with 12 assists and finished the game with that number. That’s all on him.

But I have to stop short of joining the bash party and piling on Westbrook's game.

What the Thunder looked like those last few minutes was a team up by a touchdown and content to just run the ball three times into an eight-man front and punt. They wound the clock down with a lot of dribbling, then brought Kevin Durant to the top of the key and tried to isolate him there. But, because of great ball-denial and the fact Durant didn’t position well enough to actually receive the ball, Westbrook was basically left with a ticking time bomb in his hands. The play was a dud and he was left standing there having to make a play with five on the shot clock.

Where Westbrook failed was that he then put his nose down and tried to just make a play on his own. It was all up to him after the initial, one-option play crumbled, but he still could have drawn the defense and dished. He could've gone all the way to the rim. He settled instead for jumpers — mostly good looks too, I’d say — that he didn’t make. The offense went entirely stale, the ball stopped and nobody moved. Is that Westbrook’s fault? Or is it a product of the play call coming from the sideline? That’s the question I’m asking right now.

Everyone is griping that Durant didn’t see the ball much in those moments, but again, he was in no position to score. The Thunder basically ran the same stuff that killed Denver in Game 5 where Durant took over and started etching his name into playoff lore. Difference here was Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler weren’t on Durant. Tony Allen is terrific in ball denial and can stop Durant’s dribble. Durant just doesn’t have the ability to put the ball on the floor more than twice and get a good shot over Allen. It’s not happening.

But at any point did you really see a time where Durant was open and Westbrook truly looked him off? What I saw was Durant hovering around the 3-point line with his hand up, not moving. I mean with four on the shot clock, what do you want Westbrook to do? Kick it out there and let his buddy fire from 30 feet? Why does KD deserve the ball if he’s 30 feet from the basket, not moving and covered? How is that Westbrook being a bad point guard?

I know I’ve seen Westbrook succeed in exactly what he tried to do Saturday at least 20 times during the regular season. I’ve seen him take over when the other options (or this case, option) was locked down. It’s the great luxury the Thunder have had all season long, and the reason this team won 55 games.

Because, let’s face it, it’s not like Durant was absolutely pouring it on the Grizzlies and Westbrook was waving him off. Durant finished the game just 2-11 from the floor and I’m not sure he got a clean look in the bunch. What people tell me about that though, is that’s somehow Westbrook’s fault. You’ve got to get him in a better position to score! You’ve got to set up teammates! You’ve got to create better looks! True, yes. But what do you want Westbrook to do — shoot and make Durant's shots for him too?

At some point, it’s about Durant getting himself open. If you’re open, Russ will find you. Those last five minutes, nobody was. I won't blame Westbrook for that. I blame horrific team offense and questionable play-calling from Brooks. Not just Westbrook playing hero and trying to start some alpha dog battle, as most would make you think.

Prepare for a comparison you’re going to hate, but I want to say it: If Dwyane Wade did exactly what Westbrook did in this game, would everyone freak out? I realize Westbrook isn’t Wade, but he is an All-Star and averaging better than 20 points a game this season. But if Wade tried to take over and LeBron was left standing with a hand up on the 3-point line, would we all yell, curse his name and place an incredible amount of blame on him? Or would we just say, "Hey, Wade's a great scorer and he's capable of taking over too." That's my point here. It's not like this was Royal Ivey trying to make something happen.

Why the Thunder quit running the offense late in the fourth is beyond me. Maybe it was indeed Westbrook, but it really appeared to be more a product of the Thunder trying to kill clock, get the ball to Durant and let him finish. It’s a good plan in principle, but it didn’t work. The cutting, moving, screening and slashing disappeared. And Westbrook is left to pick up the pieces and rescue each bad possession by making a play.

It's pretty unfair to single out Westbrook here simply because No. 35 is on the floor with him. Should the ball go there first? Yes. And if you re-watch, that was the design every time.

But once that option is shut down, you go to Plan B, which, in the Thunder's case, is a pretty good one. A lot of the criticism I see for Westbrook stems almost entirely from "Don't you see Kevin Durant over there!" and other sentences like that. I understand the idea there, but it's not really fair to me. Why does Derrick Rose get a free pass from dominating the ball and taking bad shots? Only because Durant isn’t on his team? That’s what people always tell me but it’s not like Rose is playing with two janitors, a ball boy and some hobo picked up from Navy Pier. Rose gets excused because he's a great offensive player. And so is Russell Westbrook.

It's the curse of being a scoring point guard. If someone were curling off a screen and doinking shots while Durant stood idly by, I don't think we'd say nearly as much about it.

Could he have done better? Obviously. The Thunder dropped a crucial Game 3 because the offense left early. Westbrook is the commander of that offense and he's got to do better. But blaming him only? Comparing him to Stephon Marbury? That's just, well, stupid.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:57 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 10:13 pm
 

Rajon Rondo suffers arm injury vs. Heat

Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a left arm injury against the Miami Heat in Game 3. Posted by EOB staff.

Update 10:11 p.m.: Rondo returned to the bench at the end of the third quarter, and appears to be trying to flex out his arm. Ken Berger of CBSsports.com reports that Rondo dislocated his elbow, but it was popped in. He wants to play. Which is a little insane and impressive.  

In the third quarter of the Celtics' Game 3 vs. Miami, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo were tangled up on a possession. Rondo was half wrapped around Wade, and when Wade tripped/fell his arm wrapped around Rondo and carried him to the floor underneath him. Rondo attempted to catch himself with his right arm, and landed with full weight on the arm, which popped out in a manner that very much suggested a break, or at the very least a hyper-extended elbow. It was ugly.

Rondo was helped off the floor by Celtics' staff. We'll update with any information as it comes available. 

Here's video of the incident.



Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:44 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 9:49 pm
 

Kobe Bryant predicts series win over Mavericks

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he thinks Los Angeles can come back from a 3-0 series deficit to the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-fail

The Los Angeles Lakers' season could end as soon as Sunday night. Down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks with Game 4 in American Airlines Center, the Lakers will look to keep hople alive their season after three straight games featuring fourth quarter meltdowns. There has been plenty of blame to go around, 

While no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, ESPNLA.com reports that Bryant not only still has hope, he's predicting a series victory.
"I don't know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we're going to win this series," Bryant said after totaling 17 points and six assists in Game 3. "I might be nuts. ... Let's win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A."
We shouldn't expect less from Bryant, one of the league's most confident and decorated players. He isn't going to fold in the face of adversity, at least not publicly. With Games 4 and 6 still to be played in Dallas, however, L.A. faces an extremely tall order. It's better to go down with your head up, I suppose.

What happens in the very likely event that the Lakers aren't able to make good on Bryant's prediction? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com explores that subject, saying that trades, possibly including some big names, are likely in L.A.'s future.

The New York Times notes that Lakers legend Magic Johnson agrees with that assessment.
“If the Lakers lose this game, you’re going to have to blow it up,” Magic Johnson, the former Lakers great, said on ESPN. “This team has been together too long. It’s time for major changes for the Lakers.”
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:41 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 10:02 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Grizzlies-Thunder: The collapsers



Posted by Matt Moore

If a team falls apart multiple times, they have a reputation as choke artists, collapsers, mentally weak. If a team creates those implosions on a regular basis, the onus is always put on the other team for failing to close. Welcome to the life of the Memphis Grizzlies after a drive past the Oklahoma City Thunder's 16-point lead into overtime, and on to a victory, gave them a 2-1 advantage in the series. Memphis won't get the credit for it. Sure, OKC will get the blame, but the reality is that there may be no better demolition team in the NBA right now than the Memphis Grizzlies. 

The Thunder were the better team for the vast majority of Game 3. That's not home cookin'. It was a product of smart, crisp basketball on offense from the Thunder. And it came through brilliant shooting and ball movement, and physical, bordering on brutal, defense, especially inside. Zach Randolph was scoring, but needing a shot for every point, racking up turnovers, and was extremely frustrated. Marc Gasol couldn't get any of his touch shots to fall. Russell Westbrook's mid-range was falling. It was doom for the Grizzlies, who looked outclassed. 

Then, after building a solid structure of basketball for 3.5 quarters, the Grizzlies swept the legs of the structure out from within, and the Thunder collapsed under their own weight. Those legs were based on the play of Russell Westbrook, and what took them out was most surprising of all, O.J. Mayo

Mayo didn't have a great game. He couldn't get the runner to fall, wasn't hot from the perimeter. He shot just 30 percent from the field. Mayo's known as a pure scorer. Yet when called on to stop Westbrook and provide a spark, he brought the effort. That effort is what carried Memphis into the playoffs and it sparked the Grizzlies on Saturday. But Mayo couldn't do it alone. No, in coming back from 16 down, Mayo and the Grizzlies got a great contribution from... Russell Westbrook. 

Westbrook has the speed to blow by Mayo. He has the strength to back him down. Mayo too often gambles on the perimeter pass and hedges too hard on the screen-and-roll. Westbrook elected to dribble right into Mayo, and force mid-range contested jumper after mid-range contested jumper. Kevin Durant, who had been totally en fuego, was ignored just long enough for the fire to die out. The result was Durant's miss on a last-possession pull-up jumper, and Durant being unable to rediscover his shot.

Durant's last made field goal came with 7:43 to go in the fourth. He had three shots in the remainder of regulation, including the last possession... another Scott Brooks' special. Durant was 10-18 at 7:43. He would finish on an 0-6 run, thanks to the best defense Tony Allen has played all series. He played the passing lane hard, snatched steals, and on the other end, got out in transition. Allen drew fouls, but didn't hit layups. He missed free throws, but got one of two each time. The same kind of grind that got Memphis here. 

The Thunder will look at their defense, at their offense, at their composure. Scott Brooks needs to examine why James Harden, who may honestly be the best distributor OKC has with Westbrook playing as he is, isn't getting time in key situations. He may also question why Westbrook isn't getting the off-ball movement from other Thunder players to get him away from his poor decisions on pull-ups. The Grizzlies played terribly for most of the game. Zach Randolph was inefficient and frustrated. They shot 38 percent from the field, and allowed Serge Ibaka to score 14 points. And they won. 

So OKC goes back to the drawing board, having given up a 16-point lead to go down 2-1 with a scary Game 4 up next. The Thunder were minutes away from cementing themselves as the team in control of the series, possibly on their way to the Western Conference Finals. Instead, the house that Presti built imploded in on itself, another victim of the same thing that left the Spurs Palace in ruins: the other team just wanted it more. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:33 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Gasol says he needs to 'snap out of it'

Posted by Royce Young



It was obvious to Phil Jackson early on. I've seen Phil get animated, but during a break in the first half last night against the Mavericks, Jackson went right after Pau Gasol, even giving him a little bump in the chest with his fist. Later, Jackson zeroed in on Gasol again, giving him what some would call, a "butt-chewing."

Gasol got the message. His play didn't necessarily reflect it, but he says he got the message, according to Yahoo! Sports:

He’s “out of it” mentally and hasn’t been able to be “effective or comfortable out there,” but couldn’t explain why and says he needs to “snap out of it.” Time is running out….

“It’s been tough,” Gasol simply said. “It’s been tough more than anything [because] of the losses.”

When asked if this poor playoff season ruins his previous Laker accomplishments, Gasol sternly responded: “You tell me? Should it? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

That's not good news for a team down 0-3. Also not good because Andrew Bynum was vocal after Game 2 about "trust issues." The Lakers are clearly having problems right now and most will point directly at Gasol. He's a player as responsible for their back-to-back titles as anyone, but within the triangle offense, it's almost as Pau goes, the Lakers go.

In this series, he's averaging just 13 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting. For the playoffs, the numbers are virtually the same. Against the Hornets, Gasol was a disappointment, but L.A. advanced because, well, they were playing Chris Paul and four dudes that stumbled in from Mardi Gras.

But against the Mavericks, it's another story. Not only is Gasol not contributing to the Laker offense, Dirk Nowitzki is torching him. According to ESPN State and Info, 27 of Dirk's 32 came with Gasol "on" him. (I put "on" in quotes because there were a few times where Gasol was decidedly not on him.) For the series, Nowitzki is shooting 19-25 from the floor for 42 points when Gasol checks him. That's ridiculous on Dirk's behalf and inexcusable on Gasol's.

Gasol's shimmering reputation as one of the most gifted big men in the league is taking a serious tarnishing right now. He's the focus of a lot of negativity. Andrew Bynum was visibly keyed in and aggressive all night. Gasol gave away an easy Jason Terry dunk at one point because he was barely holding on to the ball. Jackson claimed that was the play he first singled Gasol out on, but it's much more than that.

It speaks to the respect we all have for Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers that we haven't completely ruled them out from being the first team ever to come back from 0-3. (Or maybe that speaks to the Mavs. I don't know.) They aren't out of it until the buzzer sounds and Dallas has more points than them in a clinching fourth win. But if they have any dreams of getting there, any dreams of winning a third consecutive title, Gasol must absolutely snap out of it.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com