NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 4: Should we expect more of L.A.'s 1-2 pick-and-roll?

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Thumbnail image for Fisher_Bryant.jpgOver the final six minutes of the fourth quarter in Game 3, the Lakers leaned rather heavily on an unconventional set: the 1-2 pick-and-roll, in which Kobe Bryant wold set a high screen for Derek Fisher (or sometimes vice-versa).

Some teams feature 1-2 pick-and-roll plays regularly in their offense, but it just isn’t a set that makes a ton of sense for the Lakers. For one thing, Fisher isn’t a point guard that can explode off of screens, mostly because at this stage in his career, he can’t really explode at all. Fish’s forays to the basket are typically thinly-veiled attempts to draw a foul and get to the line, and while there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, it’s not a go-to offensive sequence late in a close game.

The 1-2 is also a bit odd to see considering that Fisher’s shooting is typically only effective in spot-up situations. Derek just isn’t particularly good at creating his own shot off the dribble, even if he can knock down an open three with the best of them.

Game 3 was apparently a bit of an exception, as Fish hit a number of tough shots on the move in the game’s final minutes. A runner on the right wing, a pull-up on the left with contact, and a few prayers answered along the way; all of which are compelling reasons for the Lakers to be wary of going back to the 1-2 pick-and-roll extensively in Game 4, even if it was pretty successful on Tuesday.

It’s extremely unlikely that Fisher would be able to make those tough looks he hit in Game 3 if given another opportunity tonight, and you can bet the Celtics will be better prepared than they were last time around. So much of its effectiveness is predicated on Ray Allen’s inexperience defending screeners and Rondo’s experience with shot-blocking big men as his screen partner. Factor in Boston’s defensive changes in Game 4 and Fisher coming back to earth, and the 1-2 pick-and-roll seems like a relic of games past.

That is, unless Fisher and Bryant can flip the script on the 1-2, and use it to manufacture scoring opportunities for Kobe and the other Lakers. If the Celtics overcompensate to defend against Fisher’s scoring — which is a bit of a long-shot admittedly, as Doc Rivers will no doubt instruct his team to surrender more of those contested shots to Derek if it means keeping the ball out of Kobe’s hands — through instinctive rather than cerebral defending (the compulsion to run toward an open opponent with the ball can be overwhelming for some players), L.A. could again capitalize on the 1-2 pick-and-roll as an effective late-game strategy.

Kevin Garnett: Thon Maker “is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down.”

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Not to get to inside baseball on NBA journalism, but one fundamental truth is player trainers pump up their guys. There usually is some truth in what they say, but it is in their interest to spin the player the best way possible. On and off the record it happens. It’s like asking a political campaign manager about his candidate, you will only get the positive.

Kevin Garnett worked out and helped the Bucks’ Thon Maker this summer.

In just his second season, Thon Maker has been in and out of the starting lineup for the Bucks at center, and he’s struggled this season with a true shooting percentage of 48 getting him 4.5 points a game, and PER of 9.3. (Bucks fans are understandably disappointed, but this is a second-year player, some patience is required).

Garnett had Makers’ back in a Q&A with Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams.

Thon Maker reminds me a lot of myself. He loves the game. He’s a young, exuberant athlete who has a lot of tools—he has touch; he has agility; he has really, good feet. He has a really good shot from three-point all the way up to 19 to 21 feet. He has very good bones, as we say.

Thon is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down. He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that.”

Garnett may have the wrong young-stud Buck with an MVP in his future.

Maker has gotten KG comparisons for years, he’s a very mobile and athletic but thin big who can shoot from the wing… but the physical similarities are not enough. Maker is no KG. Not yet. Maker showed promise against the Raptors last playoffs but has not taken a step forward off that progress this season, looking far more prone to fouling than defending. The effort is there, but the maturity of game has a long way to go to catch up.

Garnett is right that Maker has the tools, and he is just in his second NBA season so patience is required, but there were concerns around the league before the draft if he had the makeup to put it all together and become a quality NBA player. That question is still out there, let’s get past it before we heap on accolades.

LeBron James all good with Reggie Jackson’s free throw gamesmanship, “I’ve done it before”

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Let’s set the stage: Sunday night, the fast-rising Pistons led the fast-rising Timberwolves by three with  6.2 seconds left when Jimmy Butler drew a foul on a 3-pointer. Butler drained the first two free throws. Before the third, Reggie Jackson interrupted to talk to Stanley Johnson, who was in rebounding position. Butler missed the free throw, and Detroit held on to win 100-97. Here’s the play in question.

It was a bit of gamesmanship by Jackson.

LeBron James was asked about the move at Cavaliers shootaround and endorsed it with a smile on his face.

“I’ve done it before. I won a playoff series before doing that actually. So, I’m all for it.”

That series was in 2007, overtime of game 6 of a first-round playoff series against Washington, and the victim was the Hibachi, Gilbert Arenas. The Cavaliers were down 1, Arenas had two free throws, missed the first, then LeBron stepped in. Arenas missed the second, and the Cavs went on to get the win.

Is interrupting free throws about to become an NBA thing? If it works, players will do it.

Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt

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Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.

When both join forces…

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.

It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.

A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)

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Lonzo Ball draws outsized attention because his father, LaVar Ball, lures onlookers and because the rookie plays for the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.

So, when Lonzo gets a triple-double – like his 11-points, 16-rebound, 11-assists game against the Nuggets yesterday – it draws scrutiny.

Mo Dakhil of The Jump Ball:

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.

But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice

So, criticize/laugh at the Lakers. But your favorite team probably manipulates assists in its favor, too.