Kobe Bryant missed shot

NBA Playoffs: Dallas hits, Kobe misses and Mavs make it a series

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Are these Dallas Mavericks different?

Different than the team that falls short, that so many pundits thought didn’t know how to close, that was too old or too soft. The one that keeps getting smoked in the playoffs.

Or was it just the Lakers having one of their patented lapses? Combined with Kobe missing a good look at a three to win it?

One game does not answer those questions.

But for that one game the Mavs were different enough to be able to capitalize on Lakers lapses, the Mavs were the team that held their composure down 16 (after it seemed they would melt down at the end of the first half) and kept doing what they do. They were the team that executed at the end. They got the Game 1 win 96-94 and lead the Lakers 1-0 in the best-of-seven second round matchup.

Game 2 Wednesday will be a more telling to what this series will look like going forward. Don’t expect another Lakers collapse (and just 15 points in the fourth quarter). But for a night, Dallas was good enough.

One play summed it up pretty well. With 23 seconds left and the Lakers up one, Kobe Bryant tried to drive. But waiting for him was one of the people who makes Dallas different — Tyson Chandler. Kobe tried to make a kick-out pass to Derek Fisher that Jason Terry stole.

“He drove right and Tyson (Chandler) did a good job of cutting him off, Jason Kidd put his hands up and he couldn’t really see, and I was in the right position where he usually gets those threes, those dagger threes, and thank God I was there to make a steal….

“In years prior Kobe probably would have made a dunk or layup (Terry said of Chandler’s play).”

It was the Lakers making the mistakes in the clutch — a foolish foul by Pau Gasol, a turnover when Kobe fell on a poorly executed set, a missed game winner by Kobe off a good look — while Dallas made their free throws and shots.

Phil Jackson was very much in “the Lakers blew it” camp.

“We went in the locker room and we gave it away,” he said post game. “I’m not sure Dallas didn’t outplay us, but I just felt like we gave it away. A couple misplays on the offensive end and the foul at the end (by Gasol) to put them on the line kind of makes it difficult to win those kind of games.”

The Lakers built their lead by getting the ball inside — as Hoopdata tells us the Lakers shot 17-for-26 at rim, 19-for-58 elsewhere else. In the second half once they went up by 16 on a Kobe three the Lakers rushed their offense and kept looking for more daggers. As if you can get those in the third quarter. They stopped throwing the ball inside (they had no points in the paint the final 9 minutes of the third quarter). The offense suffered.

Dallas settled for jumpers much of the game — they as a team are so willing to do that — but with good ball movement and some effort to get shots in transition (aided by all those missed Lakers jumpers) they got good looks. Dallas hit 9-of-20 from three (45 percent) and a combined 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) from 10-to-23 feet.

The Lakers to a man talked of missed rotations — they kept Dallas out of the paint by and large but did not contest those looks.

Dallas took advantage and hit their shots.

Is that because Dallas has evolved into the kind of team that could win this series? Or is it because the Lakers just had an off night and they can play better defense?

We know the Lakers will have these lapses. They are standard for them now. But this is one of the few times Dallas has been able to capitalize. Can they do that three more times?

The only thing we do know for sure — this is a series now. Dallas has won on the road and there will be no easy path out for either side.

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Rajon Rondo on signing with Knicks: ‘The triangle’s not really a good look for me’

Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo, left, saves the ball from going out of bound as New York Knicks center Robin Lopez, right, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Mike Conley threw the point-guard-needy Knicks a bone, saying he’d consider New York (and everyone else) in free agency.

They better hope that’s more than lip service.

This free-agent class doesn’t run deep, especially at point guard. And the second-best unrestricted point guard – a one-time target – doesn’t sound interested in the Knicks.

Kings guard Rajon Rondo, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN:

“The triangle’s not really a good look for me, I don’t think,” Rondo said.

“[The] coach. And style of play. The biggest thing for me is the style of play,” he replied before the Kings were destroyed by the Nets, surrendering 18 3-pointers and 55.8 percent shooting in a 128-119 loss. “I wouldn’t want to go to a system where I don’t really have the ball in my hands and they have you stand in the corner and shoot 3s. That’s not my style of play. … The style of play is the biggest thing, and then obviously personnel on the court and coaches.”

This is the drawback of Phil Jackson’s triangle attachment. The Knicks know what they want to do, but that also means they lack the flexibility to acquire players who don’t fit their scheme. To their credit, the Knicks have bent more this season – but not enough to change perception of their methods.

If they want to change Rondo’s mind, they weren’t going about it by flattery.

Just ask former Knicks coach Derek Fisher, who played for Jackson’s Lakers that beat Rondo’s Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals (and conveniently ignore Boston winning the same Finals matchup two years prior).

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

Rondo has earned a big raise with a bounce-back season. The Kings will likely pay him, but if not, he’ll have other suitors – likely including the Knicks’ crosstown rivals, the Nets. I doubt this tiff with the Knicks will affect him.

New York, on the other hand, faces grimmer prospects. Conley seems to legitimately enjoy playing for the Grizzlies. After Rondo, the Knicks could make a longshot offer to restricted free agent Jordan Clarkson, but the Lakers would likely match. Then what? Brandon Jennings? He’s alright, but he also might leave New York wishing its system accommodated choosing from a wider pool of players.

Hey, maybe firing Fisher will change Rondo’s perception of the Knicks. Then again, its essentially impossible to see Jackson hiring a coach who won’t run the triangle.

Tony Parker to play with France despite wife’s pregnancy

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PARIS (AP) San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker says he has found a deal with his wife that will allow him to take part in France’s Olympic qualifying tournament this summer.

Parker had raised the possibility of missing the tournament from July 4-10 and the Olympics – if France qualified – because of the expected birth of his second son in July.

But Parker told L’Equipe newspaper Monday that he will be available for both events, saying: “I will be at the Olympics if we qualify.”

Parker says his wife is making a “big sacrifice” by letting him go and has warned him he “should better bring a medal back home.”

The Olympic basketball tournament in Rio de Janeiro will be held from Aug. 6-21.

Rumor: Lakers would fire Byron Scott for Luke Walton

Golden State Warriors interim coach Luke Walton, left, walks off the court with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant after an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. The Warriors won 111-77. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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The Lakers reportedly view the rest of the season as a tryout for Byron Scott.

Unless Warriors assistant Luke Walton wants the job. Then, Scott is out.

So says a notable Lakers rumormonger.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN LA on Scott:

I’m hearing he’s gone if Luke Walton wants to come in and take the job next season, that if he wants to do that, that obviously they would move beyond the Byron Scott era and bring in Luke Walton, that Luke Walton, however, as much as he loves the Lakers and California, may not find that to be an attractive job unless they position themselves to acquire somebody like a Ben Simmons. That is what I have heard.

I have also heard that it’s very, very possible that Jeanie Buss is going to keep her word and fire her brother Jim Buss – thank the good lord – and that Mitch Kupchak may very well not be safe as well.

How definitive that is remains to be seen. But that is the chatter in NBA circles.

Walton played for the Lakers, and Kobe Bryant still respects him. Though Kobe will retire after the season, his endorsement could still carry weight – especially as it speaks to players’ perception of Walton.

The Golden State assistant impressed while filling in for Steve Kerr as acting head coach. He has already been linked to the Knicks and Suns, and he could get other offers.

If the Lakers keep their top-three-protected first-round pick, they’d have an intriguing job with D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, a promising rookie, matching rights for Arenas-provision-limited Jordan Clarkson and tons of cap space. If the Lakers lose their pick, the job would look a lot worse. Either way, staying in California and leading one of the NBA’s premier franchises could appeal to Walton.

It’s this interest that makes me believe Scott’s “tryout” is little more than a courtesy for a former player who helped the Lakers win championships. If they’d fire Scott for Walton, how many other replacements would warrant dumping Scott? My list would be long enough to ensure he gets canned.

As far as Jim Buss, his deadline for turning around the team or losing his job has been a source of contention. But even Jeannie, who gives him less time than he gives himself, said he had until the summer of 2017.

Lakers fans might have to settle for exercising one one of their demons.

Report: Luke Walton and Brian Shaw top Knicks’ candidates to replace Derek Fisher

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  (L-R) Assistant coach Brian Shaw, head coach Phil Jackson and assistant coach Frank Hamblen of the Los Angeles Lakers sit on the bench in the second half against the Boston Celtics Game Two of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Out: Derek Fisher.

In: Kurt Rambis.

That’s only the first step of the Knicks’ coaching change.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Of course, Luke Walton and Brian Shaw – like Fisher and the other top candidate in 2014, Steve Kerr – played for Phil Jackson. The Knicks president has a type, one that includes both good and bad candidates.

The good: Walton. He impressed with his handling of the Warriors in Steve Kerr’s absence. He’s one of the hottest coaches on the market. I have some doubts, given Kerr’s and Golden State’s players’ influence. But Walton has done plenty right to be in this position.

The bad: Shaw. Jackson reportedly preferred Shaw to Fisher two years ago, but Shaw was under contract with the Nuggets. Denver since fired him, because he did a stunningly awful job connecting with his players. Perhaps, he has grown in that area since, though.

It seems inevitable Tom Thibodeau’s name will come up. The former Bulls coach isn’t a Phil Jackson disciple, but he previously worked as a Knicks assistant. Maybe his New York connection will allow Thibodeau to overcome his lack of a Jackson tie.

A direct connection to Jackson clearly puts someone on the fast track for this job.