NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 2: Where did the Laker offense go wrong?

2 Comments

bryant_game2.pngAll things considered, the Lakers’ Game 2 offense was not a failure. Their free throw rate was off the charts, their offensive rebound rate was stellar, and the turnovers were completely manageable. It was L.A.’s drop-off combined with Boston’s improved offensive execution that tipped the balance, which makes assigning specific blame a bit tricky.

Sure, you can look at Ron Artest’s 1-for-10 night and say that he failed spectacularly or point out Derek Fisher’s weak defensive strategy against Ray Allen, but there was no singular force — not even the sweet-shooting Jesus Shuttlesworth — that earned Boston a Game 2 victory.

That leaves us all looking beyond the obvious, and in doing so likely attributing too much influence to minor factors. It’s not easy to diagnose a loss like this one for L.A. (at least in terms of their offense), but we can start small and work our way back up. However, maintaining an understanding that no individual element of the Lakers’ offense can be marked as the goat is crucial. As such, it was a combination of somewhat minor differences between Game 1 and 2 that gave the Celtics the opportunity to take a game at STAPLES.

For example, we can look to the Lakers’ execution on the pick-and-roll. The screen game is an essential element of any NBA offense (even the triangle), and L.A. was far more successful coming off screens in Game 1 than they were in Game 2. According to Synergy Sports, the Laker ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations scored 1.43 points per possession in Game 1 (scoring on 64.3% of such possessions), the model of efficiency.

In Game 2? Not only did the ball-handlers in pick-and-roll situations finish plays only about half as often, but L.A.’s ball-handlers only scored 0.75 points per possession. That’s a substantial difference, not only in the plays directly accounted for, but in the way those plays influenced the Celtics’ coverage of the pick-and-roll. Boston was able to negate the impact of L.A.’s ball-handlers coming off of screens with calculated pressure, rather than having to respond to the Laker guards’ success in those scenarios with a scrambling last line of defense.

Don’t underestimate the difference between the two, as when and how a defense elects to apply pressure matters a great deal. When the Celtics are dictating when they help on pick-and-rolls (or more importantly, who they help off of), they’re a defensive force. When Kobe Bryant, Jordan Farmar, and Shannon Brown are forcing Boston to adapt to their assertiveness, it’s a different game.

 

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

Leave a comment

Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Leave a comment

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
1 Comment

Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
8 Comments

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.