NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 4: Can the Celtics keep Kobe Bryant from beating them?

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kobe_garnett.jpgKobe Bryant has not had a great NBA finals. Sure, he put up 30 points in Game 1 and 29 in Game 3, but he is shooting just 39.4 percent. He is not efficient. He got 29 points last game, but it took him 29 shots to get that.

Boston’s defense is giving Kobe problems.

That shouldn’t be a surprise, the Celtics defensive strategy has long been to take Kobe out of the game offensively, to get the ball out of his hands. (Pau Gasol sometimes gets the same treatment, although Kevin Garnett has been less effective in that matchup). The Celtics efforts on Kobe have continued this series.

“They are really getting up underneath him on his shot, so he is not getting a clear lift on his shot,” Phil Jackson said after Game 3. “It keeps him from turning his body, he can’t get the right turn and they are doing a good job.”

Kobe’s a scorer. He doesn’t see it that way. But he also realizes that if two men stick to him, other guys are open.

“I wouldn’t say they are defending me any differently, I would say we are a better team,” Bryant said. “That enables me to continue to be aggressive, and put pressure on defenses. I made shots (in Game 3) in stretches, missed shots in stretches, a lot of them were tough shots with three seconds on the clock. But I think we’re just a better team.”

The Lakers have started to use Kobe as a decoy more — such as the 1-2 pick-and-roll he ran with Derek Fisher at the end of Game 3. Fisher got open looks — ones on the move that the Celtics will live with him shooting, but open looks — because when Kobe sets the screen nobody leaves him. There is no showing out by Kobe’s man, he stays put. That allowed Fisher to turn the corner and penetrate.

Look for the Lakers to keep using Kobe in that way. To use him to spread the defense out, or to create lanes for others. Because the Celtics are not going to stop bodying him, sticking with him. They are not going to give him a chance to do to them what he did to Phoenix in Game 6 of that series. They are going to make another Laker beat them.

Kobe is betting that, compared to two years ago, the Lakers are a better team.

Report: Bucks brought Jabari Parker off bench for discussing with media team’s meeting

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, center, looks for an open teammate as he is surrounded by Miami Heat players during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bucks 109-97. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Associated Press
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The Milwaukee Bucks had lost four in a row and had slid out of a playoff slot in the East. It’s not one end of the court — in their last five games, the Bucks had the second-worst defense and fourth-worst offense in the NBA. After that fourth loss, the team held a players’ only meeting, one where Jabari Parker reportedly ripped his teammates for a lack of togetherness.

In the postgame media sessions that followed, Parker told the press he confirmed there was a meeting and said he had been “thrashed” by his teammates for what he said.

It was that speaking to the media that got him benched for a game — as decided by his teammates — reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker did not start in Saturday’s road loss to the Miami Heat for violating a team rule that prohibits disclosing locker room discourse to the media, league sources told ESPN…

Parker’s teammates deliberated and decided the appropriate punishment for the violation was to bring him off the bench against the Heat, league sources told ESPN. It was the first time this season that he did not start.

The meeting and the benching didn’t help, the Bucks fell to the lowly Heat 109-97. (Team/players meetings are overrated in how often they help teams turn things around.)

The good news for the Bucks is that in a tight East they remain just a game out of the playoffs and three games out of the five seed. It’s going to be a tough week to turn that around with the Rockets, resurgent Sixers, Raptors, and Celtics on the schedule.

 

Denver’s Kenneth Faried gets up, blocks DeAndre Jordan dunk attempt (VIDEO)

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Without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the lineup, the Clippers don’t have much going for them offensively. However, there is one thing: DeAndre Jordan can still run to the rim and dunk with authority.

Denver’s Kenneth Faried took that away Saturday.

Faried hustled back in transition, showed he still had some hops and swatted away a Jordan dunk attempt.

The Nuggets went on to win the game comfortably, 123-98, behind 19 points and 10 boards from Nikola Jokic.

Suns’ Devin Booker sinks three that defeats Knicks (VIDEO)

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The Knicks last three losses have come by a total of six points. The team is not good, a little banged up, and doesn’t play any defense, but New York also has just had a run of bad luck.

The latest example: Phoenix’s Devin Booker draining a three to knock off New York, 107-105. It was a mistake by Derrick Rose, who sagged down to the free throw line watching Eric Bledsoe with the ball coming off the pick, which led to the open pass. Also, notice that Booker set up three feet back of the three-point line — this is a trend a lot of teams and good shooters are following (watch a Rockets’ game) because it makes the closeout harder. Rose would have contested a shot at the arc, but Booker gets a clean look from where he spotted up, and drills it.

Carmelo Anthony got a shot to win it for the Knicks, but his rimmed out.

Kawhi Leonard drops 41, Spurs best Cavaliers in OT in what may be game of the Year (VIDEO)

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The Spurs would like you to include them in your conversations about contenders.

Without Pau Gasol (hand) or Tony Parker (foot), San Antonio went into Cleveland and beat the defending NBA champions in OT 118-115 in what was one of the wildest, most entertaining games of the season. Check out the clutch-time action above, including LeBron James hitting a three Shaker Heights.

But the real star was Kawhi Leonard, who put up a career-best 41 on 30 shots. He’s the guy who has to create and make plays for this offense, and he did it on a big stage. LeBron added 29 points. Between them, they put on quite a show.