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Game of the night II: Lakers take trip down memory lane, including sloppy win

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Laker fans filled Staples Center to relive the glory of last year, to see the rings handed out and banner number 16 unveiled.

They got that and more. They got the full Lakers treatment from last season (the regular season). They got the good and the bad. There was a half of sloppy defense, a half where the Lakers passed up good shots and took bad ones, the half of Kobe being inefficient, a half where they get outworked by the opponent.

And of course, they got a win. Not tacos, but a win. Lakers 112-110.

The Rockets did their part of not making anything easy — they work harder than maybe any team in the league. That’s why the Rockets were up 15 in the third quarter. That and fantastic play from Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin in what will be one of the best backcourts in the league — they combined for 50 points in this one.

Midway through the third quarter those Lakers fans got to see the team that earned those gaudy rings. The Lakers that hit big shots — Shannon Brown has developed a jumper and isn’t afraid to use it. The Lakers that feed off those big shots to up their defense intensity, in this case creating 11 second-half turnovers and slowing the Rockets transition game (Houston had five fewer possessions in the second half compared to the first).

The Rockets hustled and scrapped, like they did last season. This season Yao Ming is supposed to be the leader that can convert that hustle into more wins. Maybe he can in a month. But Tuesday he looked rusty, missing chip shots and generally looking out of synch, fouling out in his 24 minutes. He made some plays, he missed a lot more. He looked like a guy who just missed 15 months of competitive basketball.

“I’m not worried about that,” Yao said of his 4 of 11 shooting. “Those will take a little bit of time. I feel pretty good out there. I’m running up court, up and back, and I’m helping the team on defense.”

But these are the Lakers. They will get points from Kobe Bryant (27) and Pau Gasol (29 and 11 rebounds) but it is the other guys that kill you. And every night it’s a different guy. Or guys.

Tuesday it was Shannon Brown and Steve Blake’s turn.

Brown spent another summer working on his outside shot, and in the preseason he showed off not only it but also the confidence to use it. A guy who only wanted to get to the rim before no longer fears pulling up from 15. Or 23 feet, as he was 4-5 from three on the night.

The there was Blake, who was tentative in the first half, hesitating on good looks to pass to a man more covered in the post. Then late in the first half he got a wide-open look when his man got picked off on down screen, and Blake nailed the three.

Blake saved his best for last. With 20 seconds remaining Bryant drove the lane as Gasol cut with him, so four Rocket defenders crashed the paint. Bryant whipped a pass back right over the head of a confused-looking Gasol to a wide open Blake who buried the dagger three.

It’s like that with the Lakers. Almost never a blowout, but always somebody you can’t account for with the dagger. Just like last season.

Interesting video: Every LeBron James paint bucket in the 2017 playoffs

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Yes, the video is a little long, more than eight minutes. Have you watched LeBron James these playoffs?

LeBron has been the best player in the postseason and one of the reasons — along with his hitting threes and great passing — has been how often he got into the paint and scored buckets. He has taken advantages of mismatches (and there may be only one defender in the league who is not a mismatch) and attacked the rim, getting into the paint and finishing impressively.

JM Poulard, who has written for a number of good NBA blogs over the years, compiled this video and it’s interesting to watch. Both in terms of how LeBron is getting his buckets inside, and to just marvel at the greatest player of his generation.

Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob hopes team sees Cavaliers in Finals due to “unfinished business”

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It’s easy for him to say, Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob doesn’t have to set foot on the court in the next round and see LeBron James on the other side.

However, I bet a lot of Warriors’ players feel the same way.

Lacob spoke to some reporters after the Warriors swept their way into the playoffs. He suggested the Warriors would prefer a rubber match, a trilogy with the Cavaliers. Here are the comments, via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Honestly, I don’t really care who we play (shoots a sly grin). Ok, maybe a slight preference for Cleveland. Only because I feel we have some unfinished business from last season…

“I think (this team is better than last year’s). Honestly. I think we’re better. It’s hard not to be better when you have a guy as good as Kevin Durant on your team. We were awful good last year. The one difference is Steph was hurt, as we all know. How much we can debate. But he was not what you see out there now. Then of course we had some other issues in the Finals. With Kevin, this is a very, very good team. The opposition is going to be good in the Finals. So not taking anything for granted.”

These Warriors create new challenges for how the Cavaliers attacked them last postseason, particularly offensively because of Durant’s ability to score one-on-one. But we’ll get into a lot of that over the next eight days until the Finals begin.

Just don’t doubt the Warriors would like a little revenge.

Steve Kerr “uncertain” if he will coach in NBA Finals

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The Warriors have gone 12-0 through the playoffs, the first team to sweep the first three rounds of the playoffs since the NBA went to a best-of-7 in all three rounds (a couple Lakers teams did it when the first round was best-of-5).

That doesn’t mean they haven’t missed Steve Kerr as coach, but they haven’t needed him. Yet. Mike Brown has done the job quite well.

Will Kerr be back for the NBA Finals? He told Marc Spears of ESPN he doesn’t know.

Kerr had back surgeries two summers ago, and that caused him to miss the start of the 2015-16 season (Luke Walton ran the show). Kerr coached through pain caused by a slow leak of spinal fluid until nausea and pain became too much at the start of this postseason. Kerr has had a new procedure — one that is apparently promising, one that we hope works to end the leak — but he’s understandably cautious about jumping back in.

That said, the next round, against the Cavaliers (barring the most improbable comeback in NBA history), is when the Warriors will need Kerr’s creative mind and solutions to the challenges Cleveland presents.

He’s also got more than a week to decide since the Finals don’t start until June 1.

Manu Ginobili receives standing ovation upon exiting what may be his final game

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Manu Ginobili is a four-time NBA champion, a two-time All-NBA player,  two-time All-Star, and a Sixth Man of the Year.

He’s also the most popular Spur of his generation — walk around San Antonio, even at the peak of the Spurs runs, and you saw more Ginobili jerseys than Duncan or Parker or Robinson or anyone else. Ginobili is beloved.

When he was taken out near the end of Game 4, maybe his final game as a Spur, the fans erupted into a standing ovation (joined by Stephen Curry, who stepped away from the free throw line to let the moment happen).

Ginobili hinted during the season this would be his last, but has said repeatedly during the playoffs he didn’t know what he would do during the season. He said that again after the game, via ESPN.

“I do feel like I can still play,” Ginobili said. “But that’s not what is going to make me retire or not. It’s about how I feel — if I want to go through all that again. It felt like they wanted me to retire, like they were giving me sort of a celebration night. And of course, I’m getting closer and closer. There is no secret, for sure. It’s getting harder and harder. But I always said that I wanted to let it sink in for three weeks, four weeks, whatever, and then I will sit with my wife and see how it feels.

“Whatever I decide to do, I’ll be a happy camper. I have to choose between two wonderful, truly wonderful options. One is to keep playing in this league at this age, enjoying every day, playing the sport I still love. The other one is to stay at home, be a dad, travel more, enjoy my family. Whatever it is, it’s two unbelievable options. So there is no way I can be sad, because whatever I decide, it’s going to be great.”

 

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