NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics Game 2: When it's not Kobe time, it's ugly time for the Lakers

26 Comments

Jackson_Artest.jpgKobe Bryant entered back into the game with 6:16 left in the contest and proceeded to score five-quick points — an and-1 where Ray Allen fouled him near the elbow, followed by another bucket with a spin-to-the-left move on Allen.

Then Kobe — a little tentative with five fouls — couldn’t make a shot, as the Celtics threw every defender they could find at him. Other Lakers needed to step up.

And without Kobe taking over it got ugly. The Lakers showed no poise, they did not look like a team that had won the title.

Andrew Bynum picked up an offensive foul by moving pick. Ron Artest picked up a foul as he tried to do too much despite a cold shooting night. Kobe missed a 13-footer with 3:55 left. He would later miss a three pointer and an 8-footer. There was Artest’s horrible forced post entry pass to Pau Gasol that was stolen. There was Derek Fisher stepping back to take a three and giving Rajon Rondo time to recover and make a beautiful from-behind block.

Then there was the bizarre possession that best exemplified how the Lakers lost all sense of self at the end of the game — Artest dribbling the ball for a dozen seconds while the Lakers were down 8 and needing a quick shot. He called for a pick from Bynum then ran wide off of it. moved from the right side to the left, never giving up the ball until he launched a one-footed, double-pumped leaning jumper that had no chance. The only fitting thing to do — show that possession with the Benny Hill theme music behind it.

Kobe did drain a three after a Gasol offensive rebound on that Artest miss, but that was after the Lakers had blown six ugly possessions in a row and the game was getting out of reach in the final minutes.

Credit the Celtics defense, which put pressure on the Lakers, forcing them to make decisions. They made bad ones. Los Angles looked desperate and out of control.

It was a fitting end for the how the Lakers had played all night. For much of the game the Lakers tried to attack the Boston defense straight off the dribble, playing right into the hands of the Celtics who like to overload the strong side. In Game 1 the Lakers swung the ball to the weakside and quickly attacked off the dribble into a still-rotating defense, but in Game 2 the ball movement went the way of the dodo bird.

That was especially true in the final minutes. The Lakers became jump shooters when Andrew Bynum and Gasol had given them 46 points on 20 shots.

The Celtics pressured and the Lakers lost themselves. They lost their poise.

It’s going to be a lot harder to find it in Boston. But if the Lakers are going to repeat they must show some poise on the road that they did not in Game 2.

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

REUTERS
1 Comment

Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

Ezra O. Shaw /Allsport
4 Comments

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

Elsa/Getty Images
5 Comments

The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
8 Comments

After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.