NBA finals, Laker Celtics Game 1: If the power forward matchup is key, Boston is in trouble

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gasol_2_game1.pngPau Gasol may not have the force or vast defensive impact of Dwight Howard, but his Game 1 performance provided a convincing case that Gasol is one of the best all-around bigs in the game.

Put him in the high post, and he set up plays for his teammates while pulling Kevin Garnett away from the basket. Put him in the low post, and he backed down KG and Rasheed Wallace while drop-stepping his way to glory. Flip to the other side of the court and Gasol was providing exquisite help on Boston’s perimeter players (note his end-of-shot-clock block of Ray Allen on a pick-and-roll switch) while also staying home on Garnett and helping around the rim.

Then, there’s the doozie: eight offensive rebounds, which matched the Celtics’ team total. Those extra possessions are back-breakers for a quality defensive team, and near the top of the list of explanations for Boston’s Game 1 loss.

Kevin Arnovitz captured Gasol’s Game 1 performance in exquisite video over at TrueHoop, in which he captured Pau’s balanced offensive and defensive impact. There was no facet of the game in which Gasol lacked in last night’s game, and his outing is well worth revisiting.

However, just as pertinent is a question posed by Arnovitz regarding his play in these playoffs juxtaposed with his 2008 run:

On Thursday night in Game 1, the Lakers dominated the Celtics in the
paint (48-30) and in second chance points (16-0). Kevin Garnett, often
regarded as the paragon of intensity, spent most of his evening
confined to the perimeter. Meanwhile Gasol set up shop at the elbow
and, when he wanted to, down on the low block. Should we ascribe
Gasol’s success to toughness, or is it the fluency that comes with
applying that varied skill set over and over and over again for more
than 28 months in a system that runs on trust and precision?

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.

Marc Gasol makes 3/4-court shot just after buzzer (video)

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When Marc Gasol‘s 3/4-court attempt went through the net, it seemed to barely matter the ball left his hands just after the first-quarter buzzer. After all, the Grizzlies led the Mavericks by 15, anyway.

Turns out, Memphis really needed that basket.

Watch Knicks string together 28-0 run against Raptors

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Toronto has been the second best team in the East this young season. Not that anyone is really convinced they will be called that by the time we get to the playoffs (or even the All-Star break, or even Christmas), but for the first 16-18 games of the season their new move-the-ball offense had them at 11-5 and looking solid.

Wednesday night the Knicks dismantled the Raptors.

Especially in the third quarter when the Knicks went on a 28-0 run to blow the doors off the Raptors (video above). The Knicks dominated the third 41-10, when Toronto shot just 1-of-16 from the floor.

New York is gaining confidence with each win this season, they are a fun team to watch that is starting to find an identity (now that a certain three-sided shaped one is not being forced upon them). Kristaps Porzingis is a monster, and while the Knicks overpaid the market for Tim Hardaway Jr. he has lived up to his contract this season. With rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina showing some nice defense and playmaking skills as a rookie (although he is undoubtedly still a work in progress), you can see a path to a strong future unfolding. There are real reasons for hope in New York. Someone just keep James Dolan distracted and away from the basketball operations side of the building.

Devin Booker forces OT with deep turnaround buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but Bucks beat Suns (video)

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I’m not sure who benefited from Devin Booker‘s buzzer-beating, overtime-forcing 3-pointer. The Suns still lost to the Bucks, 113-107. The extra five minutes featured more of the same relatively bad basketball we’d seen between Phoenix (bad) and Milwaukee (shorthanded) through 48 minutes.

But darn if this shot wasn’t really cool and clutch.