Both teams are feeling the pressure. Combine that with some defensive ball pressure and you have one sloppy half of basketball. It’s not the Game 7 everyone dreamed of, although it has been pretty entertaining.
But Boston will take another half just like it. They lead 40-34 at the break.
The Lakers are shooting just 26 percent, With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol a combined 6 for 26. The Lakers are 6 of 12 from the free throw line. Boston is aggressively doubling Kobe to take the ball out of his hands, and the only Laker answering the bell is Ron Artest. Yes, seriously, Ron Artest. He is 4 of 9 for 12 points.
But the Lakers height and effort are keeping them in the game — 15 first half offensive rebounds. They have grabbed the offensive board on 41.7 percent of their missed shots.
Boston is shooting 44 percent as a team with far more balanced scoring. Paul Pierce leads the way with 11 points, but four other Celtics have 6 points.
Both teams have reason to be optimistic.
For the Lakers to only be down 6 after a terrible shooting first half is fortunate. They can play better.
Boston has to feel their defense is executing the game plan — don’t let Kobe or Gasol beat you and dare the other Lakers to.
Only one of those two will feel true in 24 minutes.
Tony Parker revealed a plan nearly two years ago to play until he’s 38.
Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, the Spurs point guard is sticking to that goal.
Parker, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:
“The Spurs know I want to play until I’m 38,” Parker told Yahoo Sports in a recent phone interview. “That will be 20 seasons for me. That’s my goal. This year is No. 15. And if I’m lucky enough and I’m healthy, hopefully I can play 20 seasons and then I’ll be ready to retire.”
That seems pretty ambitious, no matter how you handle the conflicting math. (Parker is 33. If he plays 20 seasons, he’ll spend most of his final season at age 39 and turn 40 during the playoffs.)
Parker is already showing signs of slippage. Many of his key numbers were down last season, including ESPN’s real-plus minus, where he quietly slipped from 12th to 67th among point guards.
But Gregg Popovich is very liberal with resting his players, and Parker won’t have to carry too much of the load. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will probably retire before Parker, but the Spurs will still have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s possible Parker lasts that long.
The Pelicans starting center, Omer Asik, is injured.
Their backup center, Alexis Ajinca, is injured.
Enter Greg Smith.
Scott Kushner of The Advocate:
Smith was part of the Rockets’ 2012-13 rotation, but otherwise, he has seen limited minutes in his four-year career with Houston and Dallas. In that small sample, he has looked alright. The 6-foot-10 24-year-old uses his big frame and massive hands to catch passes and finish efficiently near the rim. He has also become more disciplined defensively.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the regular-season roster behind the 13 Pelicans with guaranteed salaries.
But it’s also possible New Orleans signed him just an extra preseason body. That’d beat relying too heavily on the aging Kendrick Perkins and undersized Jeff Adrien at center. Anthony Davis is the Pelicans’ best option at center with Asik and Ajinca sidelined (and maybe even with them healthy), but the biggest drawback to playing him there is the injury risk. If Davis is going to deal with the banging at center, might as well save it for games that count.
Still, even New Orleans plans to keep Smith only through the preseason, this at least gives him a chance to impress.