The Lakers present nearly every team they face with a matchup dilemma — do you put your biggest players out there and try to match their front line size, or do you go small and try to run them out of the building.
Denver is down 0-2 to the Los Angeles heading into a must-win Game 3 for the Nuggets, and you can bet they are going to try and run the Lakers ragged in the thin air. If they do they are back in the series and set up a monster Game 4. If they fail and go down 0-3 the series is all but over.
Tempo will be key — if the Lakers can turn this into a halfcourt slog their size and Kobe Bryant will win out. They are just more skilled. But if Denver gets out and runs it may be different. In Game 2 Denver got 23.9 percent of its offensive attempts in transition and shot a good-but-not-great 52.6 percent (stats via MySynergySports.com). They need more points in transition — and do better than shoot 0-3 from beyond the arc in transition — but if they can get them they can win this game.
Denver needs to knock down more threes in general — they were 4-19 overall and 3-12 on catch-and-shoot threes. Not good enough. You have to space out the Lakers from distance to break down their halfcourt defense.
One more thing for Denver — they need a big night from JaVale McGee. Less Kosta Koufos, who cannot handle Bynum. Not that you can count on McGee, but he and Mozgov are better options if you decide to match the Lakers size.
The Lakers need to keep running the offense — Kobe Bryant has gotten 30 points in each of the games in this series, but he has done it in the flow of the offense, not with a ton of isolations. Get the ball in the post, hit cutters, run some pick-and-roll with Ramon Sessions and don’t give Denver one simple thing to focus on.
Also, the Lakers have gotten quality play from their role players like Devin Ebanks, Jordan Hill and even Matt Barnes. It is role players who tend to disappear in road playoff games, the Lakers need them to show up.
For Denver, this is must win. Desperate teams are hard to beat, but it all comes down to what kind of game it ends up being — the Nuggets need to run the Lakers into the ground.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.