New Orleans had better come out desperate for Game 5, because if they go down 3-1 in this series it is over. The Lakers are not going to be beat three times in a row by the undersized Hornets. Not with Kobe around.
The Lakers… who knows how they are going to come out? You want to predict this team’s psyche?
There are two real questions for Sunday Night’s Game 5: 1) Will the Lakers go away from their advantage inside with their big men — as they often do when they get lazy — and; 2) Can they continue to control Chris Paul.
Andrew Bynum has been fantastic for the Lakers all series long and in Game 3 Pau Gasol joined him in the quality play category. The problem for New Orleans is that they are like pretty much every other team in the NBA — they have no answer for the Lakers length and skill up front. There are things you can scheme for, the Lakers front line isn’t one of them. It’s why they have shiny rings. The only thing that stops the Lakers front line is the Lakers, and the question is if they go to them.
The Hornets hope is a Game 1 like performance from Chris Paul. He is going to run the pick-and-roll roughly 850 times this game, trying to get the Lakers to defend it poorly as they did in that series opener. CP3 has been the best single player in the series but his good games (22 points and 8 assists in Game 3) are not enough to overcome the other talent gaps in this series. He has to be in the Game 1 CP3 (33 points and 14 assists). He can do that to Derek Fisher, but when the game gets serious the Lakers have switched the longer, more athletic and more tenacious Kobe Bryant on to him. And that has been enough.
Emeka Okafor and D.J. Mbenga have done all they could, but the Lakers simply have the matchup advantages in this series if they exploit them. Whether they bother to or not is another question. The Hornets need a big night from CP3 and their shooters to get hot (making the pass is only half the assist, somebody has to knock down the shot).
If they do, the Hornets can even this series at 2-2. Then it’s a best of three and anything can happen. Lose and it may be the end of the party in New Orleans.
Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”
It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:
It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.
This summer, three of this generation’s defining NBA players, and three of the greatest players of all time, called it a career: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The latter two in particular had a lot in common, as psychotic competitors and polarizing personalities. They had many memorable battles over the years, including the Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2008 and 2010 (they each won one) and the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, when Garnett was in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, a day after Garnett officially announced his retirement, Kobe paid tribute to him with a tweet.
The next time they’ll be together is 2021, when they go into the Hall of Fame together.
With the NBA season around the corner, there are a lot of eyes on how teams and players will handle the national anthem protests that have become prominent in the NFL. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers wholeheartedly supports the notion of his players participating, and hopes the whole team can figure out a statement to make together. Via Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:
“Listen, we need social change. If anyone wants to deny that, they just need to study the history of our country,” he told the Southern California News Group on Friday. “… I’ve said it 100 times. There’s no more American thing to do than to protest. It’s the most patriotic thing we can do. There are protests I like and protests I don’t like. It doesn’t matter. …Protests are meant to start conversation. The conversation, you hope, leads to acknowledgement, and the acknowledgement leads to action. We’re, right now, still in the conversation.”
“I hope we do it as a group. I know whenever you protest as one solid group, the protest has more teeth if you want to protest,” he said. “… I’m supporting our guys’ right to protest. I’m saying that up front. My hope is you believe it and do it for the right reasons and not just because it’s a hot topic on Instagram.
Rivers has a unique perspective — his father was a police officer, but he’s seen plenty of racism in his life. This won’t be his first time leading a team when it comes to social issues — he was able to unite the Clippers in the spring of 2014 when the Donald Sterling racism scandal broke. It’s encouraging to see NBA coaches trending towards fostering open dialogue on their teams about these issues.