Something about home cooking. Does the bench body good.
There’s been a high level of complexity to the results of the NBA finals thus far. Everything from the Lakers’ ball movement to the Celtics rebounding have influenced the outcome. But a consistent factor in deciding these games has been the output of the respective benches. And in Game 6, along with their starting counterparts, the Lakers’ bench finally showed up.
In the Lakers’ three losses in this series, their bench has scored just 37 points. In their three wins? 62. And 25 of those points came in Game 6. Lamar Odom is the real fifth starter for the Lakers, but tonight Sash Vujacic (Machine!)’s 9 points, to go with Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown’s understated 8 points combined were a huge difference.
LA outscored the Celtics 25-13 in bench points, and still held a 17-13 advantage without Odom. That Odom decided to actually make an impact (though only scoring 8 points) was just a bonus.
Farmar and Brown, when motivated as they often are by a home crowd, provide defensive intensity and transition buckets. Perhaps nothing so encapsulated the Lakers’ night than Farmar’s diving recovery of a loose ball, feeding Bryant for a transition drive that led to a foul. It was a perfect example of the kind of play that the bench failed to make in Boston and that the Lakers desperately needed in Game 6.
The Celtics’ bench is all primary bigs outside of Nate Robinson, but with the three headed monster of Farmar, Brown, and veteran’s veteran Derek Fisher, the Lakers overwhelmed Rajon Rondo, who had another absolutely horrific game.
Maybe it’s the roar of the celebrity crowd, maybe it’s the sunny weather, maybe it’s just the realization that they were needed tonight (along with an entire team effort that swarmed the Celtics). But whatever the reason, the Lakers’ bench stepped up tonight, and that’s part of the reason they get another game to make their final statement as to their importance on this top-loaded Lakers squad. If they play like they did tonight, they’ll have another ring as role players on a star studded team.
The Detroit Pistons’ playoff dreams hinged on them being able to hang around until point guard Reggie Jackson got back from this thumb and knee injuries. They have done just that — the Pistons are 11-10 and would be the eighth seed if the playoffs started today.
And now they get Jackson back. Stan Van Gundy made the announcement Sunday at shootaround, before the team takes on the Orlando Magic.
It will take a few games to get his conditioning back, but this is huge for Detroit. Jackson running the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond is at the heart of Detroit’s offense – the Pistons were 2.3 points per 100 possessions better with the ball in his hands. Ish Smith played well for the Pistons in his absence — 10.8 points per game, 6.4 assists, and he’s been solid. Move his playmaking to the second unit and suddenly the Pistons become a lot more dangerous.
The scouting report on Jakob Poeltl coming out of Utah said he could run the floor well and he was a good finisher around the rim.
But we didn’t expect this.
During the Raptors win Sunday against the stumbling Hawks, Poeltl filled the lane on the break, got the rock, and nobody was going to stop that finish. Least of all Tim Hardaway Jr., he just ends up in the poster.
Entering free agency last July, Hassan Whiteside said his first choice was to stay in Miami — then Pat Riley gave him 98 million reasons to stick around. While the Heat have been up and down this season, Whiteside has thrived as the franchise player in Miami.
Last July he also met with Dallas, but it turns out that was not his second choice. Here is what Whiteside told Erik Gunderson of the Miami Herald before his team fell to the Blazers on Saturday.
“Portland was my second option,” Whiteside said at the team’s Saturday shootaround in Portland. “I would have came here.”
Interesting. There were reports the Blazers chased Whiteside, but it didn’t seem that serious. Apparently, it was. If The Blazers got Whiteside, would they still have spent $70 million on Evan Turner? Probably not. And suddenly a lot of things look better in Portland.
For Blazers fans, watching their team try to outscore opponents while playing terrible defense this season — in part because of a lack of rim protection behind their undersized guards — it’s easy to imagine how much Whiteside would have changed the picture in the Northwest. But at this point, that’s just fan fiction.
JaVale McGree has become a solid contributor for the Warriors off the bench, giving them a needed shot blocking presence. He’s not getting a ton of run (seven minutes a night), but he’s efficient when he’s out there.
Still, there is his reputation as the guy most likely to end up on Shaqtin’ a Fool. He hasn’t done anything like that for a while… until Saturday night, when after a made free throw he tried to inbound the ball for the Suns for a second.
The Warriors bench was laughing under their shirts and towels.