NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 6: For Boston, it is win now or never


Pierce_celebrates.jpgThere’s the math, and then there is the reality.

The math says Boston needs to win just one of the two games in Los Angeles to win the title. They won Game 2, they’ve proven they can win on this floor. History says they can do it — the won a Game 7 in Los Angles back in 1969.

The reality is the Celtics want no part of a Game 7.

Right now, the Celtics have the Lakers frustrated and on the ropes. Their defensive intensity has left the Lakers dumbfounded on offense, forcing Kobe Bryant to try and do it all himself. The Celtics bench brings the energy the Lakers do not. Boston has all the momentum.

Lose Game 6 and that momentum swings. The Lakers become confident again. Plus, home teams win Game 7s more often than the Celtics want to think about.

Boston has done a fantastic job on defense, realizing that Andrew Bynum is not a real threat right now and no longer fearing to help off of him as they did in the first couple games. The Lakers don’t have an answer for that — Boston has worn down Pau Gasol with the tag team of Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett. Bynum can’t help. Lamar Odom is… Lamar Odom. Ron Artest is in the corner hesitating then shooting threes.

Boston needs to come out, set the tone defensively tonight, keep the Lakers on the perimeter. Own the paint. Boston has to continue to dominate on the glass, they need to board like madmen. Then they need to run, to get Rajon Rondo in the open court and Paul Pierce at the three-point line. The Celtics need to get back in transition defense — they are not going to shoot like they did in Game 5, and the Lakers will be looking to get some easy buckets. Boston needs to get them to slow down and face their half-court defense. Which is a wall.

Boston needs to do it tonight. A Game 7 can be fluky, can turn on little things and lucky bounces. The kind of things that go to the home team. The kind of things that go to a confident team. Right now, the Lakers are not that. Close them out in Game 6 and the get banner 18. Keep the momentum.

Because if the Lakers get confident, if they feel they have figured it out, if they force a Game 7, things will feel very different. They will look different. Plus Boston doesn’t really want to risk facing what Kobe Bryant could do in one game with it all on the line.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.