NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 6: For Lakers, it is back to the beginning

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for celticscelebrate.jpgWhat do you do when things aren’t working?

Because things are not working for the Lakers. In a series that was going to be decided inside, Boston is wining the war. The Lakers shot just 47 percent (8 of 17) at the rim last game. That is 47 percent on layups and tip ins. The Lakers had a lot of offensive rebounds (16) but they had a lot of chances. In Game 4 the Lakers had played better defense, but it was the Celtics who grabbed 16 offensive boards.

The result has been a lot of jump shots. Particularly by Kobe Bryant.

So what do the Lakers do?

They go back to the beginning. To the basics. They have to do what got them to three consecutive NBA finals. And that is not Kobe as the ball handler on the pick-and-roll.

First, run the triangle offense. There is a counter in the offense to everything, but it requires people moving off the ball and quick passes from the strong to the weak side. The Lakers have stopped doing that. They have become another pick-and-roll team, and if you do that against the Celtics they will eat you alive with their overload.

Part of that is Pau Gasol making plays. Rambis is right. He seems tired, worn down from the relentlessness and physicality of the Celtics. He has to be the guy who pushes back, gets into the paint, and starts that fast ball movement. He is the guy that makes the triangle go.

Then the Lakers have to defend. That starts on offense — the Lakers misses and turnovers fuel a Celtics running game. Both teams need to run, both teams need easy baskets to win these games, but only Boston has gotten them the last couple of games.

After that the Lakers need to pressure the ball and create more turnovers (then turn that into their own fast break points). Then they have to protect the rim. That is what Andrew Bynum did when he had two working knees, now it has to be a team effort.

Kobe going nova Kobe wouldn’t hurt, but if he doesn’t get some help it’s moot. He is going to draw defenders and hit ridiculous shots, but that has to open things up for Lamar Odom or Ron Artest or Derek Fisher or someone to step up or it is pointless.

One thing these Lakers have shown consistently in the past two years — they really only play their best when their backs are against the wall. It’s not just a December game in Memphis where they don’t put it all together, it’s playoff games as well. They have to be pressed to really focus.

We’ll find out tonight if the Lakers can focus on the basics again, if they can go back to the beginning. Or if they can start focusing on their golf games.

Nikola Vucevic hits fade-away game winner for Magic against Hawks

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The Hawks almost came back and won this — Atlanta went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes to tie the game at 94-94 with Orlando. The Magic had one last chance with 2.2 seconds left.

Nikola Vucevic nailed it.

Can’t blame Al Horford‘s defense on this one, he pushed Vucevic out and contested the shot. But in a make-or-miss league Vucevic nailed the game winner, Orlando wins 96-94.

If that looks familiar, Vucevic knocked down pretty much the same shot against the Lakers earlier this season.

LeBron James on Super Bowl: “Got to go with the Carolina Panthers”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, right, embraces Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James after the Cavaliers defeated the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. The Cavaliers won 95-90. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Associated Press
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We know Stephen Curry — who spent many of his formative years in Charlotte and still thinks of the city as his hometown — is all in on the Carolina Panthers today against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 30.

On this, he and LeBron James agree.

LeBron sounded like the politically cautious, image-conscious version of himself at the start of this quote from Uninterrupted on Facebook, but as he gets going, you can quickly see who he wants in this game (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“I don’t know if I quite got a prediction but I definitely want to see a great Super Bowl,” James said in the video. “But if it was a life and death situation and I had to choose one team and one player, I got to go with Killah Cam. Got to go with the Carolina Panthers, they’ve been playing the most consistent football all year round. Both offensively, defensively and special teams. Got to go with Cam and one of my boys plays for them too as well, Ted Ginn Jr., that’s been showing out all year as well.

“No disrespect to the Broncos. I love their team. They got the legend at quarterback, they got that defense that’s out of control. They got some receivers that be balling out as well. They’re really well coached as well and that’s the reason they are in the Super Bowl. But I’m rolling with the Carolina Panthers today.”

A lot of NBA players like the way Cam Newton plays — with exuberance, wearing his heart on his sleeve, dancing and celebrating. That’s how Curry and LeBron and other NBA players want to play their game, and they feel reined in by the league. They relate to Cam Newton and the ridiculous role model/celebration debate.

We’ll see how much celebrating the Denver defense lets Newton do.

Kevin Durant on Warriors, Spurs: “We’re not scared of neither one of those teams”

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 6: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder while facing the Golden State Warriors on February 6, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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We’d seen this movie before. Against the San Antonio Spurs. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Golden State Warriors offensive machine got cranked up, dropped 73 on Oklahoma City in the first half, led by 14 at the break, and it was about to turn into another rout, and another statement win for the Warriors.

Except the Thunder came back. OKC held Golden State to just 18 third quarter points and got the lead down to two points — the Thunder pushed the Warriors away from the things they like to do (Stephen Curry/Draymond Green pick-and-roll) and made life difficult for them. It was a fantastic performance for OKC, even if Golden State still prevailed with a 116-108 win.

After the game Durant would have none of any moral victory talk — even though it was — and he said the Thunder were not intimidated by the Warriors or anyone else, via Royce Young of Oklahoma City.

“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” Durant said of the comeback. “When we get down, we’re supposed to tie the game up. No moral victories in here…

“Man, we’re not scared of neither one of those teams,” Durant said, including the Spurs. “We’re going to play our game. Nobody in this locker room is scared. We gotta play ’em. If we want to get to where we want to get to, we gotta play ’em. We’re not ducking nobody.”

The NBA isn’t professional boxing; nobody gets to duck anybody.

But a Thunder team searching for respect gained a measure Saturday night. The Thunder picture themselves contenders and for much of the season listened to talking heads (myself included) say the Warriors and Spurs are in a different class. Saturday night was a step in showing that they belonged. There are still questions about how Golden State or San Antonio could exploit players such as Dion Waiters or Enes Kanter is a seven-game series, but the Thunder have two of the league’s top five players — they can beat and hang with anyone.

They have a shot at a title.

If Durant believes that, it would impact his decision this summer, but that is another discussion.

Watch Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant trade shots Saturday night

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Kevin Durant won the one-on-one battle — he dropped 40 points on the Golden State Warriors, while Stephen Curry had “just” 26 and needed 26 shots to get there (but did add 10 assists).

But the Warriors built up a lead thanks to their depth and were able to withstand a late Thunder run to get the win.

Enjoy watching Curry and Durant putting on a show Saturday night in the Bay Area.