Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Three

NBA Playoffs: Game 4, where we find out if the Lakers care

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We can talk about matchups — like how the Lakers need to get some kind of production out of the point guard spot — but that’s not really the biggest key in Game 4 in Dallas on Sunday.

It’s which Lakers team shows up.

More than anything, the Lakers have looked mentally fatigued in this series. Which is something that could come trying to make a fourth straight NBA finals. You see it when Lakers are not helping the helper on defense, when they fail to execute at the end of games. These are things the Lakers have done in the past, even this season, but have stopped now. The Mavericks are pushing them, playing great basketball, but the Lakers of previous years responded to those kind of challenges with a renewed fire and energy that this team just has not shown.

Do those Lakers fight in Game 4, or do they roll over?

I expect fight, but we’ve been expecting that for a while now and not seen it.

The Mavs will play hard — this series seems to bring them a sense or redemption. For the 2006 finals. For the 2007 collapse in the first round to Golden State. For all the playoff losses. It may not feel like redemption in the locker room, but they are sure playing like it does. And for the fans, this would be the sweetest of victories.

In terms of strategy, it’s nothing new. The Lakers need to get the ball inside to Andrew Bynum. He was the best Laker on the floor in Game 3 but he got no touches, no shots in the final 10 minutes. That’s not on Bynum, that’s on the Lakers guards for not getting him the ball. The Lakers more than any other team seem to go away from what works for them when the game gets tight.

For the rest of the Lakers, they need to get a good game from their point guards (good luck with that), they need a rested Ron Artest to take on some offensive load. And they need Pau Gasol. The one from last year. Credit Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas for playing good defense, but Gasol is capable of being one of those players (like Dirk) where the defense doesn’t matter when he’s going. He just has not been going this playoffs.

The Mavs just need to keep running their pick-and-roll action that the Lakers defense can’t solve. They need to be tough inside. They need Dirk to be Dirk. Basically, they just need to keep doing what they have been doing.

If they do that, it seems not to matter what Lakers team shows up.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).