NBA Playoffs: It’s not all about the Lakers… but it’s close

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I don’t want to write that Game 2 is really about the Lakers — how they adjust, what effort they bring, whether they stick with their game plan. Because that is dismissive of a very good Mavericks team. This version of Dallas is different — past Mavs teams would have lost Game 1, not taken advantage of the Lakers many miscues down the stretch. These Mavs are not soft (Tyson Chandler sees to that).

But really, it’s about the Lakers.

Because it was about those miscues. About being clutch. When these two teams play their best games, the Lakers will win. And while Dallas was not at its best, the Lakers were farther away from that ideal Monday. If Los Angeles acts like the veteran team, comes out and plays with some real desperation and passion, Dallas will not be able to stop the series from being tied 1-1.

But we don’t know what we will get from the Lakers. What’s more, this year’s Lakers have been so inconsistent that to expect a switch to be flipped would be the big mistake. The question is how many chances does Dallas get and can they capitalize on enough? If they capitalize on Game 2 they will be a long way to a huge upset.

There will be a few adjustments for Game 2. One is talk that the Lakers may give Ron Artest some time on Dirk Nowitzki, who put up 28 and looked like he could get what he wanted for much of Game 1. Pau Gasol struggled to slow Dirk, Lamar Odom was the better matchup. Artest is physical, maybe that bothers Nowitzki, but the fact is a 7-foot guy who can shoot rainbow fadeaways cannot be stopped on a hot night. Doesn’t matter who is on him. But the Lakers will try some different looks.

As for the Lakers, look for them to return to getting the ball inside. They did a reasonable job of that in the first half (Gasol had 9 points on 5 shots, plus 6 rebounds in the first 24 before his error filled ending) but after a Lakers run at the start of the third Los Angeles fell in love with the jumper and stopped feeding the beast in the paint. Look for Los Angeles to assert Andrew Bynum early and often, to go right at Tyson Chandler.

Also, look for Kobe Bryant to attack off the dribble and try to draw contact, not just shoot jumpers. Well, unless his ankle is worse than everyone lets on.

None of these adjustments are really a surprise. It’s a matter of execution and focus.

For the Lakers, they better have enough to get the win. If they go down 0-2, there should be real desperation in L.A.

Warriors complained of no water in showers in Cleveland

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
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The Cavaliers are clearly frustrated.

Did someone in Cleveland take out that frustration on the Warriors after they beat the Cavs last night?

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Players were complaining about there being no hot water in the visiting locker room showers. When they walked in, they could be heard screaming in discomfort. Most of the players emerged shivering from taking a quick wash-off.

“Man, they got to do something in ‘The Q.’ Somebody call Bron!” Kevin Durant yelled, referring to LeBron James.

No one seemed angry; the situation was more humorous.

That’s the right approach. Whenever the hot water is out in a visiting locker room, the finger is pointed at the home team for sabotage. Sometimes, heating systems just fail.

Giannis Antetokounmpo assists fastbreak dunk with football-style long snap (video)

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is scoring more in the post, the basketball analogue of football’s trenches.

Apparently, he’s taking the comparison to the next level.

In the Bucks’ win over the Wizards yesterday, Antetokounmpo played the part of a long-snapping center to set up Khris Middleton in transition.

NBC Sports Washington:

Report: James Harden, Chris Paul and Gerald Green were holding back Trevor Ariza in back hallway

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Rockets players James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green and Chris Paul reportedly went through a back hallway to confront Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin in the Clippers’ locker room after last night’s game.

That’s one version of the story, at least.

But it apparently isn’t the only one – at least when it comes to Harden’s, Green’s and Paul’s involvement.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

A hallway runs between the Clippers locker room and the visitors locker room, where players from opposing teams often see each other and catch up. According to a Rockets source, Ariza was waiting on Griffin, and when the game ended he charged from the hallway into the Clips locker room. When Rivers spotted Ariza near the entrance, according to the source, he said: “Let his b—– a– come in.” Ariza then turned his attention to Rivers.

ESPN reported that Ariza was flanked by three teammates—Harden, Paul and Gerald Green—but their purpose was unclear. “They were holding Trevor back,” the source said.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Harden was sitting out his seventh straight game with a strained hamstring on Monday night, and Rockets sources believe that he’ll be ready for a return to the lineup on Thursday night against Minnesota.

Austin Rivers challenging Ariza is juicy, but the type of thing people say during altercations. The rest of this sounds like the Rockets trying to position themselves ahead of the NBA handing down punishments.

If they were just trying to restrain Ariza, then Harden, Paul and Green shouldn’t be fined or suspended. But if Harden is suspended, he could serve his penalty Thursday – even if the Rockets are fibbing about him being ready to play (though they at least previously laid the groundwork for that one).

There’s a lot for the league to untangle.

Russell Westbrook ejected (video)

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Russell Westbrook jumped from fifth to second in the NBA in technical fouls in about two seconds.

The Thunder star received two technical fouls and an automatic ejection late in Oklahoma City’s win over the Kings last night, leaving his nine technical fouls behind only Draymond Green‘s 11.

Westbrook got hit in the face on a drive, but instead of a foul being called on Sacramento, Westbrook was whistled for travelling. That’s quite a turnaround from the expected call to the actual call, so I understand why Westbrook was so upset. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Westbrook said something that warranted ejection. Thunder coach Billy Donovan also got a technical foul in the sequence.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

The league used to crack down on that more with public fines, but the Thunder have skirted the rule this season.