A collection of thoughts on Lakers-Celtics Game 4…
- If Glen Davis is a Drunken Seal, tonight was the big show at Sea World and everyone clapped for him. Davis was a beast, and his ability to create shots against the Lakers’ bigs was pretty much the difference in the game. Davis’ emotion seems like a caricature of itself at times, but tonight it also served as the ripcord to kickstart the Celtics’ motor. Offensive rebounds aren’t easy to come by against the Lakers, and Davis got four of them. It was his yelling and screaming that brought the crowd back into it and the Celtics fed off that. It’s the circle of life, really.
- Andrew Bynum is the difference. I don’t know how else to put it. I could talk about the rebounding, but that leaves out the defense. I could talk about the defense, but that leaves out the drop-off pass work. I could talk about the dump pass buckets, but then… you get the point. The weird thing has been that you can’t noticeably see the effect of the knee injury. He seems healthy on the floor, but is obviously telling the trainers something. You have to think Jackson yanked back on Bynum’s minutes tonight to give him time to rest up for a pivotal Game 5. It fits with Jackson’s M.O. They need him more than any other player outside of Pau and Bryant for Game 5.
- Paul Pierce’s ability to get space returned tonight, and not a moment too soon. Pierce’s step back elbow jumper is one of the most central parts of the Boston attack and it’s been silent in the Finals until tonight, when Pierce got it going at several points on his way to 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting. He had 5 turnovers, but you’ll gladly take that if it means he’s being aggressive with the ball. Artest got clipped on screens tonight and didn’t have the same tenacity to peel off them as he did in Game 3.
- Rajon Rondo is off. Don’t know if it’s the muscle spasms or the defensive switches and pull-outs to the free throw line, but something’s not right. He’s not dictating the tempo nor the offense the way he has throughout the playoffs. Just three assists for him tonight, and the layups. Ye Gods, the layups. Kid got enough iron to form Optimus Prime. Rondo had a .62 points created per possession used mark tonight, That’s a fairly terrible figure and one that the Celtics need to find a remedy for. As well as Derek Fisher has been playing, Rondo should still be getting his.
- Rasheed Wallace’s outburst after a questionable third quarter foul call while defending Kobe Bryant (after some terrific perimeter defense by Tony Allen to force him inside) was perhaps the longest single stream of obscenities in the history of network television.
- That said, Sheed did manage to have more good plays than bad, particularly the late arcing three he drained that helped fuel a massive Celtic run.
- The Lakers have to consider this somewhat of a letdown game, considering they had a nine point lead, Rondo didn’t go off, Allen didn’t go off, and Garnett was contained. More and more it feels like whichever bench contributes more decides who wins the game.
- Luke Walton, zero minutes. Huh? After a Game 3 where he came up huge with hustle and savvy, Walton gets a DNP-CD tonight, with no official explanation regarding an injury. You have to think his back injury must be worse than they let on, because the Lakers needed a jump and Walton would have been a perfect candidate. Even if he would have allowed more damage from Paul Pierce, he may have helped out the offense which the Lakers desperately needed.
- Pau Gasol had 44 minutes tonight, and still didn’t see the ball enough. 21 points on 13 shots and you still feel like they left a few bullets in the chamber with Gasol. He had one particularly terrific play where he went baseline, managed to worm space and create a bank shot that was straight out of the Tim Duncan playbook. Gasol’s brilliance continues to shine, even as the Laker offense underrates him.
- Anyone else think Andrew Bynum’s going to play a ton of Starcraft II when he’s recovering from knee surgery in five weeks?
- Nate Robinson is everything Stephon Marbury was supposed to be that wasn’t. The fiery former Knick who comes off the bench at point guard and produces points.
- Bryant is struggling in the fourth quarter in this series, putting in heavy minutes then finding even tighter defense in the closing minutes. He scored 12 in the 4th tonight through sheer will power. He’s probably due for an outright explosion, but it’s a trend worth noting as the series continues. That said, some of his shots were pure perfection tonight.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.
Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.
Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:
“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”
Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.
But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.
He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.
If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.
The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.
Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green
Get Up on ESPN:
I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.
I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.
Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.
And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.
Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.
If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.
So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.
His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?
"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.
He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.
Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.
Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.
LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.
A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:
Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.
Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.
The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.
Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.
Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.
Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.
This was the risk.
We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.
That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.