NBA finals Lakers Celtics Game 3: Blogbook had as many field goals as Ray Allen

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A collection of thoughts on Game 3 between the L.A. Lakers and Boston Celtics:

  • So here’s the trick. I need to somehow convey that the Celtics and Ray Allen didn’t fail tonight necessarily without sacrificing the respect the Lakers’ defense earned in defending Jesus Shuttlesworth. You see, to say the Lakers shut him down would simply not be accurate. The Celtics still repeatedly created opportunities for Allen, using those double screens to force baseline shots and creating spacing issues to open up the perimeter off the dribble. Allen got looks, ones that weren’t rightly contested by LA. They simply didn’t drop. They weren’t bad shots by Allen, they just didn’t fall. And even when you’re as good a shooter as Allen is, you’re going to have those nights, just as you’re going to have Game 2s where you can’t miss if you’re shooting underhanded. You need breaks as much as anything in this game, and sometimes you’re not going to get them.
  • But let’s also not make the mistake of saying the Lakers had nothing to do with it. The Lakers decided to go ahead and gamble giving up some inside passes by having their bigs extend out on Allen, to interrupt passing lanes and contest shots (see: Gasol’s massive block). The good news is that with the Lakers anticipating more and more of Allen’s location, he drifted further and further to the corner, which made opportunities for those entry passes that much rarer.
  • One monumental change in Andrew Bynum in this series has been how prepared he’s been at all times on offense. It’s one thing to be tall and beastly. It’s a whole other to always be ready for those little last-second dump offs, focused on where the ball is and what to do with it instead of looking for the rebound before the shot is up. Those little dunk shots Bynum are getting are just as much his work in being mentally prepared for them as they are the great passes he’s getting.
  • Glen Davis may want to try jumping from time to time in post defense. You can have as great a gravity base as you want, but when Gasol turns, you have to contest or he’s just going to plop it in .
  • Sometimes there IS a story in the boxscore. Rajon Rondo, 11 points on 10 shots, 8 assists, zero turnovers, 3 rebounds. The Celtics may need an efficient scoring night from Rondo at some point in this series and it remains to be seen if he’s got that kind of versatility in him. The calls aren’t coming when he drives, and that midrange isn’t as automatic as it was in Orlando.
  • Luke Walton continues to be both sides of the coin for this team. Great hustle plays, terrific defense, some fantastic, timely passes. Walton’s been in that offense long enough to know how it breathes and play with resiliency and focus. On the other hand, he’s limited so badly in some athletic possessions and when he dribbles I keep thinking we’re going to see a cop pull him over for driving under the influence.
  • Rondo’s defensive reputation was set on fire in a hobo’s trashcan tonight as Derek Fisher sliced him and diced him.
  • Davis, as unbelievable as it is when you see his form, was terrific at attacking the glass offensively. He’s just got an ability to hesitate on his release for the long arms to pass their apex before he shoots that Perkins doesn’t have. The fact that he wails around like a drunken seal on every play helps his FT/FG rate as well.
  • Zero turnovers for the Lakers in the fourth quarter, but really, some of those Kobe Bryant shots should have counted as such.
  • The Lakers managed to win this game with a medicore performance from Bryant (and yes, 29 points on 29 shots is a pretty mediocre performance considering his play down the stretch), especially down the stretch. That’s huge. Because on the flip side, the Celtics were unable to win when Garnett responded. The Celtics still need 2 of the big 3 to show up if they want to win. Game 2 was an aberration in many respects. They have to get points from 2 of the Big 3.
  • It cannot be overstated how brilliant the offensive rebounding was for the Lakers tonight, and vital. The Lakers’ offense stuck in the mud and then dug its head in the sand like the ostrich it sometimes is, but those offensive rebounds provided redemption. That’s a huge element in a lower possession game like this.
  • Odom’s performance (5-5 for 10 points, 5 rebounds) wasn’t dominant by any means, but it didn’t need to be. Simply being efficient and aware is enough for the Lakers to get the separation they need sometimes. 
  • Ron Artest with only 23 minutes tonight. Perkins with only 21. Adjustments.
  • Game 4 is officially a must-win for the Boston Celtics. 
  • And, oh, yeah, that Derek Fisher guy is old and good and makes good old plays.

Anthony Davis rattles rim with dunk on Juan Hernangomez (video)

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A sweet-shooting stretch four, Juan Hernangomez has a bright future in the NBA.

It’s not because of his rim protection.

Video Breakdown: How to ICE the pick-and-roll on defense

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NBA teams can defend the pick-and-roll game in many ways, but one of the most common is called ICE. This method sometimes goes by the name of Blue, Down, or Black, and it is ubiquitous as way to defend in the most popular offensive action in the modern NBA.

The basic idea is that the screener’s defender — usually a big man — stays parallel to the baseline and below the screen itself. The goal is to force the dribbler east to west, and to defend the paint while allowing for a lower percentage long range jumper.

The dribbler’s defender — usually a guard or a wing — fights over the top and pressures the shooter from above, ensuring that he cannot take a 3-pointer.

ICE pick-and-roll coverage has two main goals:

  1. Stop the ball handler and force the offense to move to another action.
  2. Stop a shot in the paint or at the 3-point line.

This varies from other kinds of pick-and-roll defense, including the hedge, the show, and the blitz. We’ll cover those in future videos, but you can get a little taste of them in a defensive glossary video I’ve done previously.

Meanwhile, get the full breakdown on ICE pick-and-roll coverage with the video breakdown above.

Rockets’ Patrick Beverley says players “disrespecting game” by resting when healthy

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Former Bulls guard turned agent and podcaster B.J. Armstrong said on our podcast last week that no, players didn’t have DNP-rest days back when he played — but he added that might well have been different if they had the information on injuries that today’s teams and players have. He said they got tired, they got banged up, and they played through it. You can call that tough, but it likely took time, maybe years, off their career.

Houston’s Patrick Beverley is from that old-school mentality and said players are disrespecting the game if they don’t get out there when healthy. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I think that’s bulls—,” Beverley said after the Rockets’ 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. “I think that’s a disgrace to this league. I think that fans deserve better.

“I could care less about coaches asking players to rest or not. It’s up to you to play or not, and if you don’t, you’re disrespecting the game. And I don’t believe in disrespecting the game, because there was a time where I wasn’t playing in the NBA and I was trying to get here. So me resting, I feel like, is disrespecting me, disrespecting the name on the front of the jersey and disrespecting the name on the back of the jersey.”

It’s the coaches and the organizations telling players to rest, it’s rarely the players themselves, and the teams are doing it because they want their guys at their peak come the playoffs. If the goal is winning a title in June (or at least going deep into May) then not wearing guys down matters.

Everyone has their opinions on it, Gregg Popovich did a good job trying to explain the nuances, but the simple fact is player rest games are not going away. They did it back in Armstrong’s day too, they just called a sore ankle or back rather than rest. What helps lessen games stars have off is building more rest and days off into the schedule, which the NBA is trying to do. But that’s a challenge that will continue to be discussed.

Three Things We Learned Sunday: Westbrook, Harden showdown leaves MVP race same as it ever was

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How many teams did you get right in your Final Four bracket? For the record, I have one (North Carolina). Which is why I was watching a lot more NBA on Sunday than NCAA (that and it’s my job). Here are the big takeaways from Sunday.

1) Russell Westbrook gets 36th triple-double. James Harden lifts Rockets victory. The MVP race is the same as it ever was. If you wanted to make a case for Russell Westbrook as MVP, he gave you reason on Sunday in a showdown with James Harden and the Rockets. Westbrook dropped his 36th triple-double of the season with 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists, and the Rockets could not stop him.

Harden put up numbers — 22 points on 15 shots, plus 12 assists — but his team got the win because he got help: 31 from Lou Williams, 24 from Trevor Ariza, and 24 from Eric Gordon. Williams had 18 points in the first half. As a team, the Rockets shot 63.3 percent overall and 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Harden has better teammates around him, but he is orchestrating them beautifully, he’s more efficient, and he’s lifting his team to higher heights. Westbrook is almost single-handedly carrying the Thunder offense by putting up historic numbers.

This game offered no clarity in the MVP race. In one of the closest, most interesting award races in years, your pick for MVP depends on how you want to define the award and its criteria. (And we’re not even getting into the legitimate case that can be made for Kawhi Leonard here. LeBron James is in the mix, too, although the recent stumbles of the Cavaliers may hurt his case.) We know where the Rockets organization stands.

Sunday’s Thunder/Rockets just an MVP showdown, it was a potential first round playoff matchup. On that front, the Rockets led by as many 25, and while the Rockets made a late push to get the lead down to single digits in the final couple minutes, but the Thunder couldn’t get stops, and the result was never really in doubt. It’s hard to see a playoff series going much differently, the Thunder just don’t defend well enough to slow Houston.

2) Celtics beat Heat, move into tie with Cavaliers for top record in the East. Boston just keeps on grinding, keeps on making enough plays, and keeps on winning. So much so that with a hard-fought win over the Heat on Sunday Boston finds itself tied with Cleveland for the top seed in the East (Boston has one more win, Cleveland has one fewer loss).

Boston may well finish on top, it has an easier schedule to close out the season. However, the big game — and what will determine who has the tiebreaker between the two — comes when the Celtics and Cavaliers play on April 5.

The Celtics got the win because they made crucial shots down the stretch, like this driving floater by Isaiah Thomas (who finished the night with 30 points).

Then Al Horford‘s block sealed the 112-108 victory.

For Miami, even with the loss they sit as the eight seed in the East, the final playoff spot, but Chicago is just half a game back, and the Pistons one game back. While the race could go any direction, the Bulls have the softest schedule the rest of the way of any of those three teams.

3) Blazers win, Nuggets lose, teams now tied for the eighth seed in the West. The race to be the team destroyed by the Golden State Warriors in the first round out West is heating up — Denver and Portland are now tied for the eight seed.

On Sunday, Denver had a sloppy loss at home as New Orleans came to town without DeMarcus Cousins, and yet Anthony Davis dropped 31 and the Pelicans won.

Portland got 22 from Damian Lillard and pulled away in the third quarter to beat the hapless Lakers, 97-81.

Denver and Portland play Tuesday night in what will be a huge game in that race.