Lakers identity crisis runs into confident Clippers, result is 0-3 Lakers

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LOS ANGELES — The Clippers know who they are. They are Chris Paul’s team, Lob City, a lot of pick-and-roll, Jamal Crawford breaking guys ankles, Blake Griffin attacking the rim

The Lakers are… still trying to figure it out.

Through three games the Lakers have tried on more personalities than an 13-year-old girl. And none of them have fit.

The result of all that is when the Lakers met the Clippers Friday night that the Clippers won convincingly 105-95.

Another game, another night where after a loss everybody in the Lakers locker room was preaching patience — something the fans in Los Angeles are displaying little of.

“(Being patient) is particularly hard for me because I’m not the most patient individual in the world, but you have to be,” Kobe said after the game. “You have to stay persistent, you have to stay committed to what you’re doing and just keep on trucking.”

Lakers fans are ready to back that truck right over coach Mike Brown and his Princeton offense, but the issues are more complex than that. And they are all interconnected.

With Steve Nash out for the night and Steve Blake at the point, the Lakers actually seemed to run a better spaced offense early on because they knew it was going to be Princeton every time down (no wondering if Nash wants to do pick and roll). Still, they seem to think and not react, and often the result is odd floor balance and it seems to bring big men away from rebounding positions a lot.

That spacing didn’t slow the turnovers or bad decisions that have plagued the Lakers since training camp. And as they did against Portland the Lakers started to abandon their offense as they tried to climb back in. With Dwight Howard in foul trouble most of the first half the Lakers tried some other things on offense — Metta World Peace decided to be a three-point shooter and went 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul knew exactly what he wanted to do — he continually came off the high pick then when Gasol showed out to stop him he pulled Gasol away and isolated himself against the Laker big man 23 feet from the rim. Then he carved up Gasol (who started to look worn out) and the Lakers as a whole. CP3 finished with 18 points and 15 assists — he had more assists than the entire Lakers team.

Paul and the Clippers were playing with confidence, like a team that believes it can be a contender.

A few minutes into the first quarter the Clippers went on a 16-6 run, the Clippers led and their depth allowed them to keep a comfortable lead most of the game. Jamal Crawford had 21 off the bench to lead the Clippers.

With the Lakers needing points Princeton was kicked to the curb and it became the Kobe Bryant show — he had 40 points on just 24 shots and continues to be very efficient this season. But he had to overcome 20 team turnovers and a defense that continued to not get a lot of consecutive stops.

The Clippers were smart with their double-teaming, doing a good job of taking Howard and Kobe and making them give up the ball, only to find guys were not in the right space to get the pass.

“It’s hard when only a couple of guys really know the offense,” Lakers backup forward Antawn Jamison said after the game, although he seemed to be one of the culprits as he seemed to float through the game not looking for his shot.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have a bench that has been huge for them — Crawford, Erick Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom all had quality nights. Odom may have had the shot of the night, a 30-foot three up against the shot clock.

“I think our bench, we had some timely shots,” Paul said. “We had some timely shots. L.O. hit a big one, Matt hit a big one off the glass. But once again, our bench stepped up for us.”

That bench is giving the Clippers confidence. Chris Paul is giving them confidence. The 2-0 start to the season is giving them confidence. The Clippers know they are good and are out to prove it.

The Lakers, they are still preaching patience while they try to figure out who they are.

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.

No surprise: It’s Cavs-Warriors in the NBA Finals, again

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OAKLAND (AP) — Here they go again.

For the third straight year, it’s Cleveland and Golden State in the NBA Finals. The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions . The first “threematch” – rematch of a rematch – in league history. It’s the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well.

Let the hype, and the waiting, begin: Game 1 isn’t until June 1.

“I’ve been very blessed the last few years to be a part of this league and play on the big stage,” said Cleveland star LeBron James, who has now reached the Finals for the eighth time – including each of the last seven years. “But we’re going to enjoy this for a couple more days before we have to lock in on that juggernaut out west.”

The Cavaliers and Warriors split their two meetings this season, both winning at home. Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on Jan. 16.

Golden State led the league with 67 wins this season and is a staggering 27-1 in its last 28 games – including a perfect 12-0 in the Western Conference playoffs, the first time a team has gone this deep into an NBA postseason without losing. Cleveland, which seemed sleepy at times in the regular season, went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs that ended with a win over Boston on Thursday night.

“Playing in this league, you can’t take anything for granted,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “Thirty teams suit up every year trying to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to appreciate it. … We need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in the Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship.”

Already, the back-and-forth is underway.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was quoted earlier this week saying he thought Boston’s offense was “harder to defend” than Golden State’s. Countered Golden State acting coach Mike Brown, when asked about it Thursday: “That’s his opinion. It’s cute.”

And there will be reminders of the Halloween party that James threw for the Cavaliers last fall, with “3-1 Lead” – a nod to what the Warriors lost in last year’s Finals – prominently displayed on the drum set.

Much more of that sort of that will likely follow over the next week, filling time before Golden State plays host to Game 1. But there’s also a clear respect level between the clubs as well.

“The best team in our league the last three years,” James said of the Warriors. “And they’ve added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year. So it makes it even more difficult. They’re going to challenge us a lot, offensively, defensively, mentally, physically. We have to be ready for the challenge.”

For James, the Finals are an annual rite.

For Durant, this trip ends a five-year wait.

Durant’s only other time in the Finals was 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City. The Thunder lost to Miami in five games, a series that made James a champion for the first time.

At the very moment where the clock ran out in that series, the person James was embracing was Durant – telling the then-Thunder star, his offseason workout partner at the time, how proud of him he was.

“Hopefully,” James said that night, “I don’t continue to have to run into him.”

They’ll collide again, starting next week.

Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder for Golden State as a free agent last summer meant the Warriors went from mere overwhelming favorites to win the West again to super-duper-overwhelming favorites to win the West again. They got a big scare in late February when Durant had a left knee injury, but he’s back and the Warriors have rolled since.

“It’s a little different, definitely. I can’t lie,” Durant said, when comparing the 2012 Finals trip to this one. “I went when I was 23 years old, and it felt like the Western Conference Finals was almost like the championship. Just getting to that point, you know how hard it is and how much work you put in to start the season. So it’s a little different now, obviously. We have a bigger goal in mind.”

The storylines are many. Can James win his fourth ring? Can Durant win his first? Will the Warriors be haunted by letting last season’s 3-1 lead slip away? Will they become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in a postseason? How will Golden State guard Kyrie Irving? How will Cleveland try to contain Curry?

There’s also the irony that Brown, the first coach who took James to an NBA Finals in 2007 – Cleveland was swept by San Antonio – will now coach against him, likely in the same leading role he’s had for Golden State since head coach Steve Kerr was forced to take a break because of continued problems with his surgically repaired back.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, to make it to the NBA Finals, to win your conference finals, it’s a big task,” Brown said.

The biggest task awaits.