Our first word of advice for this game — wear sunglasses. Yes, we know you are watching on television. But the Hornets are going with a “sea of yellow” look (all the fans getting yellow T-shirts) and it will the Hornets uniforms themselves (they got permission to wear the alternate yellow jerseys). It will be like looking into the sun. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
You want to save those retinas because this should be a game to watch.
Because this is a big game where the big stars may well be the key.
Often in big road games, Kobe Bryant comes out aggressive and tries to shut the crowd up himself with a fast start. Sometimes it works, but it also can take the Lakers out of their flow. Just to reiterate the point everyone knows — the Lakers strength is their length and skill on the front line and the triangle is much better working inside out. Not that there will not be a time for Kobe to do his thing, but he has to play well with others.
You can bet Chris Paul is going to come out with that same kind of fire. If the Lakers try to defend him as individuals as they did in Game 1, he will carve them up again. Paul has flat out been the best player in this series. The Lakers big men are key here, they cut off his angles of attack off the pick-and-roll well in Game 2. You can bet Paul will adjust. Or he could just get hot draining jumpers.
You’re also not going to see a full night of Kobe on CP3, fighting over the top of picks. But you can bet Kobe will be on him for key stretches.
The guy who may be the real key is the Lakers No. 2 option — Pau Gasol.
The Hornets have kept him in check through two games — he has averaged 8 points per game on 21.1 percent shooting. The Lakers are not going to win games in New Orleans without more from him. Expect the Lakers to run some screens along the baseline to get Gasol more room to catch the ball without having to fight Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry for space. Expect to see Gasol put the ball on the floor a little more and try to get to the line. If he gets going the Hornets will have a hard time containing the Lakers attack. If the Hornets can keep him uncomfortable they have a real chance.
One other thought — best bench may get its team enough of a lead that the starters will hold it.
LeBron James didn’t get his wish – Dwyane Wade and the Heat – for the Eastern Conference finals.
In advance of tonight’s Warriors-Thunder Game 7, his coach isn’t specifying a preferred NBA Finals opponent.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:
“We just want the winner,” Lue said. “Just whoever wins. We’re preparing for both and after tonight we will get a chance to see who we finally play.”
This seems like the wrong approach. I’d rather face the loser. That team is likely more beatable. Alas, it doesn’t work that way. Lue is accepting the inevitable.
The Warriors would probably be the tougher matchup. They’ve been the better team all season and would put Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love into a ton of pick-and-rolls. It’s a great offensive matchup for Stephen Curry. But beating Golden State – the defending champions with a 73-9 record – would bring greater glory and personal redemption to LeBron, who clearly views the Warriors as an outlier.
The Thunder would be no pushovers, but Cleveland would have a better chance of winning. Even with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City just hasn’t played as well as Golden State over a long stretch.
This is obviously a discussion only for fun. The Cavs have no say in their Finals opponent. The Warriors and Thunder will decide that tonight.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors, and Toronto wants him back.
But what about those Lakers rumors?
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, via Noah Coslov of Bleacher Report Radio:
I’m breaking up with you.
No, I’m breaking up with you first.
The Warriors went an NBA-record 73-9.
And the Thunder massively outplayed them in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals.
No, Golden State wasn’t at full strength. But Oklahoma City reached a level the Warriors hadn’t all season. Even if Golden State had hit peak performance, I’m not sure that would’ve been enough. The Thunder were that good.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were their superstar selves. Steven Adams defended inside and out. Serge Ibaka hit timely shots and moved well defensively. Andre Roberson made open 3-pointers and cut. Dion Waiters read the floor to make the right shot or pass. And everyone rotated correctly throughout entire defensive possessions.
Oklahoma City was awesome, handing the Warriors 28- and 24-point losses.
But Golden State rallied to force a Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win, they’ll become just the eighth team in NBA history to lose multiple games by more than 20 in a series and still win it. The seven to do it:
- Houston Rockets lost to Los Angeles Clippers by 25 and 33 in 2015 second round
- Atlanta Hawks lost to Miami Heat by 29 and 26 in 2009 first round
- Houston Rockets lost to Phoenix Suns by 22 and 24 in 1995 second round
- Philadelphia 76ers lost to Boston Celtics by 40 and 29 in 1982 Eastern Conference finals
- Denver Nuggets lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 31 and 28 in 1978 Western Conference semifinals
- Los Angeles Lakers lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 21 and 26 in 1972 Western Conference finals
- Minneapolis Lakers lost to St. Louis Hawks by 34 and 30 in 1959 Western Division finals
The Warriors never stopped believing in themselves, even when getting routed. That mentality has them one game from a comeback for the ages.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors.
But does Toronto want to give max money to someone who 39% from the field and 15% on 3-pointers in the playoffs?
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com:
This is probably the right course. I don’t know whom the Raptors could get if they lets DeRozan walk, but if he signs elsewhere, they would have just about $19 million in cap space – less than a max salary. I doubt they could land a better replacement.
I’m not sold on DeRozan as a playoff player, though he legitimately took the next step this regular season. But I’d rather keep him, hope he learns to handle the challenges of the postseason and possibly use him in a trade down the road. It’ll cost a max salary if DeRozan isn’t willing to take a discount, but that beats the alternative of losing him for nothing but cap space.