NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: How the Lakers can force a game 7

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The Lakers are 48 minutes away from losing their second NBA Finals in three years. They’re also 48 minutes away from forcing a game seven in their building. Their backs are against the wall at the current moment, but this is a 57-win team who has only lost one home game in these playoffs. And they have the best player on the floor. How can the Lakers shake off what’s been plaguing them over the course of the last two games and put themselves a game away from a championship? Here are a few possibilities:
Get Pau Gasol going:

Sometimes Pau Gasol looks like the best big man in basketball. Sometimes he looks invisible. When Gasol and Bynum have owned the paint in these playoffs, the Lakers have been invincible. The Lakers can’t count on Bynum and his bad knee giving them good minutes in game six, so the onus is on Pau to fight KG and Big Baby for low-post position and on the Lakers to get him the ball when he does. Pau has looked dominant at times in this series. He needs to get back to what he was doing earlier in the series if the Lakers don’t want Tuesday night’s game to be their last.
Defense:

The Celtics are not a great half-court offensive team, but you wouldn’t have known that if you watched game five. Ron Artest needs to get on the same page as everybody else and get back to locking down Paul Pierce. He should make Paul Pierce wear him. Gasol needs to get tough with Garnett. Fisher needs to keep giving the same kind of effort that he’s been giving on Ray Allen. The Lakers have to swarm, play with energy, and play with passion on the defensive end. Pack the paint, play physical, and make the Celtics earn everything they get. 

Get Kobe going early:

Traditionally, Phil Jackson likes Kobe to distribute early and try and take over late. In game six, he may be well served by flipping the script. Kobe doesn’t need to try and throw in bombs early; he can attack off the drive, post guys up, or get into the middle of the lane and drive-and-kick. It’ll get the crowd into it, it’ll give the role players the confidence they need, and it will keep the Boston defense from settling in and demoralizing the Lakers and their crowd. The Lakers are comfortable playing from behind and know they can make a run at any time; Boston has trouble responding when they get put on their heels early.

Confidence From The Role Players:

The Celtics are up 3-2 because they have more rotation players playing with extreme confidence on both ends of the floor. When the Laker role players have the ball, they alternate between looking scared to do anything and forcing something because they panicked. The Boston defense is hard enough to score on when five players are attacking it; if only one or two players are making an honest effort to get it done, there’s no way to score on them. 
Artest needs to play with confidence, move the ball quickly, and work for garbage baskets. Fisher needs to get the Lakers into their offense, knock down open shots, and keep the Celtics off balance by driving the lane when they don’t pay attention to him. Odom has to be aggressive, especially on the glass and in transition. 
If the Lakers want to win these next two games, everyone from Kobe to Sasha Vujacic has to believe they can make the right play if they have to. That doesn’t mean everyone should be looking to jack up shots or force passes, but they have to have the confidence to make quick, decisive moves on the fly with all the pressure on them. The Staples crowd will help with that, but ultimately it’s going to be up to the players to find that confidence within themselves and turn this series around. 

Joakim Noah talks of “bounce back” year for himself, Knicks

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In a season of disappointments in New York, none was bigger than Joakim Noah.

There was plenty of scoffing around the league in the summer of 2016 when Phil Jackson signed the oft-injured, already declining Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract that was seen as one of the worst of a summer (and it was an ugly summer for contracts). He only played in 46 games, averaging 5.5 points on 49 percent shooting, plus 8.8 rebounds a game in those (and basically being averaged on offense and a step slow defensively). He missed time with a rotator cuff surgery and got a 20-game suspension for testing positive for Androgen (he has 13 of those games left and can’t play until Nov. 13).

Noah realizes how poorly last season went he told the “Truth Barrel’’ podcast, doesn’t think Jackson deserves all the blame, and said his goal is to make it up this season (hat tip The New York Post for the transcription).

“It’s tough, man, because I got a lot of love and respect for Phil,’’ Noah said. “He gave me an opportunity to play back home. Somebody I read all his books as a kid. I was just a big fan and still am. I have a lot of respect for him. It didn’t work out. That sucks. It’s something I have to live with. He believed in me, and I kind of let him down. That’s frustrating. He got a lot of blame that it was his fault. But we didn’t lose all those games because of Phil Jackson…

“I went through a lot of adversity,’’ Noah said. “You go through injuries. I lost my confidence this year. It’s about bouncing back and showing who I am through these tough times. It can really show what you’re made of.”

This is the only attitude Noah should have — look forward, get healthy, and look to right his wrongs next season.

Once he finishes his suspension, Noah likely will come off the bench behind Willy Hernangomez. (The Knicks should spend more time with Kristaps Porzingis at the five, but that’s another discussion.) Noah is going to get his chances, but nothing he has shown the past few seasons should have Knicks’ fans expecting a return to form. Noah has been an average to below-average player for a couple of seasons, he’s not moving the same way, and he’s not getting younger.

Noah can still have a positive impact on this team, he has a role to play, but it has to start with him getting back on the court.

Add Milos Teodosic to long list of stars missing EuroBasket

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The last Olympics in Rio saw a long list of NBA players sitting it out, either due to injuries, concerns about Zika virus, a serious dislike of açaí berries or just choosing to do something else with their time.

Now it looks like EuroBasket is suffering the same fate.

The latest name to come up is Milos Teodosic, who signed this summer with the Clippers, could never get healthy, and is out for Serbia. He joins a long list — Sportando put together a list of NBA players and stars who are out.

More than just one someone is missing, guys such as Ivica Zubac, Mario Hezonja, Paul Zipster, and others are out as well.

Spain, led by Pau Gasol, remain the heavy favorites to win EuroBasket 2017, with Serbia, France, and Lithuania potential contenders. There may be a lot of players missing, but there is still a lot of talent, and when guys are playing for national pride there is plenty of emotion and fire as well.

Lakers owner on Lonzo Ball: “He’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic”

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA, but fans in Los Angeles sure are happy to have him on board as they get ready for a new era in team history.

An exciting run through the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017 certainly showed us that Ball is ready to meet the challenges of a rookie in the NBA.

Ball won the LVSL MVP award while posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per-game. Ball and teammate Kyle Kuzma also helped the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game to close the tournament.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is just as excited about Ball as fans in California are. Speaking on the Petros and Money Show in LA it recently, Buss compared the buzz around Ball to that of Kobe Bryant, saying, “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”

Buss also has high hopes for Ball’s style of play.

Via Lakers Nation:

“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

Whatever criticism of his father you want to muster aside, Ball does seem relatively at ease in Los Angeles and in the spotlight. While he will no doubt struggle as a rookie, as even the best do, but it is starting to look up for LA in the post-Kobe era now that Ball is in town.

They seem to have the right coach in Luke Walton to help develop him, and no doubt fans in LA will be hoping that Ball is a superstar sooner rather than later.

Blake Griffin on LeBron James: “I don’t see him coming to L.A.”

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Is LeBron James on his way out of Cleveland? Rumors have it swirled around The King’s exit from his kingdom as of late, which his camp has vehemently denied.

However, LeBron suffered yet another loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has appeared to sour. The history between the two is well-documented, and recently Gilbert failed to renew GM David Griffin’s contract, all without consulting James.

Meanwhile, the rumor has been that James prefers to land in Los Angeles, where he keeps a second home. James can play either with the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers, which would allow him to perhaps add some of his favorite players — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. The banana boat crew, as it were.

But one player already in Los Angeles doesn’t think that LeBron is on his way to California.

Speaking on a recent podcast with the Sklar Brothers, forward Blake Griffin said he did not think that James would come to L.A. Instead, he thought the best place for James to land would be in New York with the Knicks.

Via View from the Cheap Seats, h/t Complex. The LeBron conversation starts around the 50-minute mark:

“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try to make that work.”

“I could see him going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game … even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

To give more context to this quote in case you aren’t able to actually listen to the podcast, Griffin is simply speculating based off of what he thinks could happen. He prefaces it by saying it is just a feeling, and my reading of his intonation makes me think Griffin believes there are too many roadblocks to get LeBron to Los Angeles. Couple that with an increasingly difficult Western Conference, and Griffin doesn’t think that The King will give up being able to get to the Finals every year just to come to L.A.

Given all that has happened with the Knicks over the last few decades, it also seems like a fair stretch to think the next best option would be to see LeBron in New York. Remember, with Steve Mills as president a lot of the people who torpedoed the Carmelo situation are still in place even with Phil Jackson gone. If LeBron does indeed want us to pair with Carmelo, or even if he is simply an influence on him as a friend, New York seems like an unlikely destination.

Still, it is interesting to hear the insight of other professionals in this context. It just goes to show you that even NBA players don’t know where LeBron is going to end up.