In Game 2, we saw the series we hoped we would get. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics put in huge performances in a back and forth affair that featured tremendous individual efforts on both sides of the green and yellow divide. Unfortunately, this meant that one team was going to be left with a disappointing waste of a phenomenal game under the biggest of circumstances.
When the Lakers made a strong start to the second half, it looked like it would be Ray Allen’s phenomenal shooting performance that would be for naught. But after the buzzer sounded, Andrew Bynum finished as the player who unfortunately had to watch his best work go unrewarded.
Kobe Bryant? 21 points on 20 shots.Pau Gasol? Four field goal attempts in the second half, despite leading all Lakers with 25 points. No huge veteran play from Derek Fisher. No X-Factor play from Shannon Brown.
But Andrew Bynum showed up to play. Bynum had arguably his most important game as a Laker. He was dominant. The drop hook, working. Tenacious on the glass. Seven blocks to go with 21 points and six boards. And it wasn’t just the numbers. He was the answer for the Lakers on possession after possession, battling and battling and forcing the Celtics to recoil from the sheer force of his aggression. It was the kind of performance we’ve been waiting to see from Bynum as he constantly forced us to second guess him with his work ethic and injury history. That he accomplished all this on a torn ligament in his knee is simultaneously impressive and depressing. That he accomplished it in the loss is just depressing.
But there was of course a flip side to the bad news. The victors had their share of heroes, chief among them the cyborg Ray Allen (who we told you about earlier) and Rajon Rondo, returning to the triple double hall with 19-12-10 and 2 steals for good measure. It should be noted it took Rondo 18 points to score 19, but hey, a triple double is a triple double. (Unless it involves turnovers, in which case it’s a cruel joke.)
Rondo’s postseason was summed up perfectly on a possession late where repeated Glen Davis misses resulted in another loose ball. Rondo snatched it out of the air for another huge offensive rebound and immediately went up for a putback. It was exemplary of Rondo’s approach tonight, which was playing the numbers game. He gambled that going to the rim was better than not going to the rim and if he kept going, good things would happen. What’s odd is that his arguable biggest shot was a pull-up jumper late that seemed to dagger the Lakers’ hearts.
So now the series is tied, and the Lakers are faced with an interesting double edged sword. Frustrated because they gave up homecourt advantage and wasted a huge effort from Bynum. Comforted because it took two phenomenal efforts from Rondo and Allen to put it away in a tight one.
The battle rages on.
Your reminder that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the best together.
DeRozan was asked about Lowry’s long 3-pointers after the Raptors’ win over the Timberwolves last night.
- DeRozan: “”Them shots be lucky. … To me, it’s a bad shot.”
- Lowry (off camera): “Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise.”
That’s not quite what the analytics say, but I won’t let the facts get in the way of a superb diss.
The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:
Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?
Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:
I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.
Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.
But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.
His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.
Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.
So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.
The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.
Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.
After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).
But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?
The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.
He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.
But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.
I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.