Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant reacts as he stands behind New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul during Game 1 of their NBA Western Conference first round playoff basketball game in Los Angeles

NBA Playoffs: Game 2 is probably the game when the Lakers wake up

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I feel like we’ve all seen this movie before.

The Lakers are going to come out, get the ball inside to Pau Gasol early and often, defend the pick-and-roll better and just flat out execute their game plan in a way they did not in Game 1. It seems like for the last three years we’ve seen the same thing — the Lakers play a bad game or two in the playoffs, then follow it up with enough games of quality play to win the series. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

For the Lakers it’s not so much about adjustments so much as executing the game plan they were given in the first place.

There are a lot of reasons the Lakers were supposed to run away with this series — the Hornets should struggle to slow Kobe Bryant, Gasol, Bynum and even Lamar Odom. But also we can expect the Hornets to push back. Chris Paul is a perfect problem for the Lakers, who struggle to defend point guards (hello Derek Fisher) and Paul can both score and set up teammates as well as anyone in the league. In Game 1 he was brilliant at coming off the high pick and when Laker big men Bynum and Gasol showed out, he kept is dribble going and moved away from the pick, dragging the big man with him and forcing a switch. Then he’d pull back, isolate on the big man and pick the Lakers’ defense apart.

Thing is, it wasn’t just Paul. Whichever Hornet ran the pick-and-roll dissected the Lakers defense seemingly at will. How the Lakers defend that play will be the biggest key to Game 2.

Look for the Lakers to give Paul different looks, laying back on the pick and asking Fisher to fight through (the strategy they used more during their winning streak). That allows others to stay home on shooters and with cutters. Basically, make Paul score but don’t let him get his teammates going. The Steve Nash treatment.

There are lot of things that maybe hard for New Orleans to duplicate from Game 1. The Hornets had just three turnovers and shot 59 percent last game, numbers that just seem unlikely to be sustained. Same with the guys on the bench shooting 73 percent on their way to 39 points.

But it all comes back to CP3 and the pick-and-roll. That will decide this series. And this game.

You kind of expect the Lakers to come out and take charge of this one. But if the Hornets get another win, they will be in place for one of the great upsets in NBA history. And Chris Paul is just the kind of guy who could pull that off.

Newspaper editor on Michael Jordan article: ‘What other photo could be more suitable than the infamous Crying Jordan meme’

SPRINGFIELD, MA - SEPTEMBER 11: Michael Jordan to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame speaks during an induction ceremony on September 11, 2009 in Springfield, Massachusetts. 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 the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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A Malawian newspaper, writing about Michael Jordan’s statement on race, used the Crying Jordan photo accompany the article.

How did that happen?

A page designer who didn’t understand the meme? A joke never fixed before printing? A staff-wide ignorance of the photo’s cultural relevance?

Justin Block of The Huffington Post:

As it turns out, the newspaper is called The Nation, or The Malawi Nation. When reached for comment on Thursday afternoon, The Nation Senior News Analyst Joy Ndovi stated that using the Michael Jordan Crying meme was intentional, and said Sports Editor Garry Chirwa picked the photo.

Chirwa told us that when he read the story, he felt that the emotions packed within Jordan’s quote, “I could no longer keep silent,” were represented in the Michael Jordan Crying meme.

“I just imagined him crying,” Chirwa wrote via WhatsApp.

Ndovi echoed Chirwa’s sentiments:

The article on Jordan reacting to the violence in U.S. was just the perfect one for the meme to be used. It depicts the emotional state of the former NBA star. Though it might seem unconventional, what other photo could be more suitable than the infamous Crying Jordan meme?

I can think of a few.

Amar’e Stoudemire: ‘My heart was in two places – Phoenix and New York. I just went where I was wanted’

New York Knicks v Phoenix Suns
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Before signing with the Knicks to retire, Amar’e Stoudemire reportedly wanted to sign with the Suns this year and last.

He essentially confirmed both accounts.

Stoudemire, via Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:

“The last two years, we made phone calls to Phoenix but I wasn’t getting any positive response,” Stoudemire told azcentral sports on Thursday. “That would’ve been the perfect way to go out. I didn’t want to beg Phoenix. My heart was in two places – Phoenix and New York. I just went where I was wanted.”

According to the report, Stoudemire wanted to play for Phoenix next season — not just retire as a Sun. If that’s the case, I see why the team passed. The Suns have 15 players (the regular-season roster limit), are rebuilding and already have Tyson Chandler as a veteran big.

But if Stoudemire wanted sign an unguaranteed deal with the Suns then retire as a ceremonial move, it’s a little harder to explain Phoenix’s reluctance. Perhaps, the Suns were caught off guard by such a request. Nobody in memory had done something like that in the NBA. The gesture is far more common in football and baseball.

Either way, Stoudemire retiring as a Knick wasn’t designed to show a long-standing bitterness toward the Suns.

A recent bitterness toward the Suns? Maybe.

Karl-Anthony Towns dunks on poor kid (video)

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates after hitting the game-winning shot in an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Saturday, April 9, 2016. The Timberwolves won 106-105. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
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Karl-Anthony Towns has replaced Anthony Davis as the consensus MVP-in-waiting.

Are you ready, NBA?

Here’s a sneak preview of the Timberwolves center’s future:

Craig Sager to skip Rio Olympics to fight leukemia

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Legendary TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager talks with Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Sager is on a one game assignment for ESPN. 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 the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Craig Sager’s fight with leukemia will prevent the basketball sideline reporter form covering the Rio Olympics for NBC.

NBC said Thursday in a statement that the 65-year-old Sager is preparing for a third bone marrow transplant at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Sager was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2014 and announced in March that he was no longer in remission.

The Rio Games would have been Sager’s fifth Olympics.

Sager has worked for Turner Sports for 34 years. At the ESPY Awards this month, Vice President Joe Biden presented Sager with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.