NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 5: Lakers problems all stem from their defense, or whatever you call that

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Pierce_leaning.jpgPhil Jackson was wrong after the game. He was doing what he had to do — he needed to build up his team’s confidence, not tear them down — but that doesn’t mean he was accurate. When questioned about the Lakers defense he did not seem all that disappointed.

“They scored 92 points,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after the game. “We’ll live with that and we’ll come back and play that game again, regardless of what they shot.”

But Boston scored those points on just 84 possessions. The Celtics had an offensive rating of 109.5 (points per 100 possessions), which is three points a game higher than what they did in the regular season, and six points higher than the Lakers gave up during the season. The Lakers did not play good defense just because the score was low. The Celtics were efficient on offense, which is why they won.

Boston shot 65 percent in the first half. They came out in the third quarter and scored on 12 of their first 13 possessions.

The Celtics were hot, but the Lakers defense let them get that way.

“They were shooting a high percentage but it gets that way when you are shooting layups,” Jackson said.

“Tonight we were not very good on defense at all,” Kobe Bryant said.

Los Angeles let Boston get the shots it wanted from the places on the floor it wanted. Like losing Ray Allen so he is wide open under the basket to catch the pass and lay it in. Boston made those shots, then things snowballed and pretty soon the Celtics could not seem to miss.

The hottest Celtic was Paul Pierce, who had 27 points shooting 57 percent from the floor. But the Celtics got him free by bringing him off pick-and-rolls, which the Lakers switch, then he is able to drive by the other guy and get to the elbow jumper he likes. He hit a couple of those (he had 8 first quarter points), then he got confident, he got isolated on Ron Artest and hit step back shots. Once he gets comfortable, Pierce hits just about everything.

The Lakers help defense was spotty all night. There was the play where Nate Robinson drove off a pick, only to have Lamar Odom take a stab at the ball as the help rather than ride him all the way to the basket and take away the smaller man’s shot. All night long the Lakers did not help the helper.

Los Angeles also was not doing a consistent job getting back in transition —  Boston had 14 points to the Lakers 3.

Los Angeles needs transition points themselves — it is hard to score against the Boston half-court offense, the Lakers need some easy buckets. But you can’t run when you are taking the ball out of the basket.

If the Lakers want to play a Game 7, they will need to get stops in Game 6. They will need to contest shots, push the Celtics off the spots on the floor they like, generally make then uncomfortable. There are other things, too — Boston won seemingly every 50/50 loose ball — but if it doesn’t start with better defense not much else matters.

Report: NBA sets dates for draft (Oct. 15), free agency (Oct. 18), next season (Dec. 1)

NBA key dates
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NBA owners have decided to finish the season by holding games between July 31 and Oct. 12.

Now, the surrounding key dates are filling in.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA’s reported tentative plan to open next season on Christmas? It was apparently pretty tentative.

A Dec. 1 start to next season would mean an incredibly short break for teams that advance deep in the playoffs. But the NBA is already spending a lot of time not playing games and making money. There’s an urgency to getting revenue flowing.

There will also be a massive disparity in time off between the eight done teams and continuing teams. Who knows how that will affect next season? This is an unprecedented situation.

Which is a good reminder: Coronavirus can disrupt the best-laid plans.

NBA owners approve 22-team format for resuming season with only Trail Blazers opposing

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen
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We already knew many key details of the NBA’s plan for resuming the season:

  • Only the top 22 teams will continue.
  • Games will be held at Disney World in Orlando.
  • Each team will play eight more games (maybe with this schedule).
  • If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team after those eight games, there will be a play-in series between the eighth- and ninth-place teams. To advance, the ninth-place team must win two games before the eighth-place team wins one.

Now, that plan is one step closer to becoming reality.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

It’s shocking the Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the protest vote. Portland – currently outside playoff position – will resume with a real chance to make the playoffs. What more did the Trail Blazers want?

Players must still approve the plan. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said they wouldn’t necessarily vote on it. Union leadership has worked closely with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, certainly agreeing on the system before having owners vote on it.

However, given the NBPA’s haphazard methods for polling the larger membership, I’m not sure how widespread support is. There is room for significant disagreement on how players – continuing vs. non-continuing – will have their salaries affected.

Still, I expect players approve the plan, maybe tomorrow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Everything is just too far down the road to turn back now. The financial incentives are too high not to keep trying to play. Silver has successfully rallied nearly everyone toward uniting.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Most of the remaining issues are minor details… like codifying a plan for health and safety.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Report: Knicks to interview former Knicks coach Mike Woodson

Former Knicks coach Mike Woodson
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The Knicks appear set on both hiring Tom Thibodeau and conducting a coaching search.

Mike Woodson, who coached New York from 2012-2014, will be part of the process.

Ian Begley of SNY:

New York also interviewed Woodson in 2018 before hiring David Fizdale. I understand why the Knicks can’t make up their mind on whether they want him as their coach.

Woodson won 58% of his games with New York, the third-best mark in franchise history (behind Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy). In 2012-13, Woodson did some really creative things with Carmelo Anthony at power forward and two-point guard lineups.

But by the end of that season, Woodson went away from what worked. His views became increasingly suspect the next season. When the Knicks fired him, it appeared to be time to move one.

Will New York return to Woodson? Probably not. The expectation remains Thibodeau will get this job. But Woodson will at least have an opportunity to make his case for a very-strange return.

When Charles Barkley tried to recruit Dirk Nowitzki to Auburn

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Dirk Nowitzki was not headed to an American college before the NBA. Like most of the best European players — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, even going back to Tony Kukoc and others — he was taking a straight trip from his European team to the NBA.

That didn’t stop Charles Barkley from trying to get him to go to Auburn.

It wasn’t meant to be, but Saad Yousuf at the Athletic tells the story of Barkley trying.

The Auburn alum reflected on his first meeting with Nowitzki, in 1997 at a Nike exhibition game in Germany, in which the Big German put on an offensive clinic against a team featuring Barkley, Pippen, Michael Jordan and other NBA talents…

Barkley called Nike and made a strong push to get to Nowitzki through any channel, legal or not. “Just tell him, anything he wants, we’ll get it done,” Barkley recalled in 2012. “Just give him anything he wants; he’s got to go to Auburn.”

Barkley didn’t stop there, though. Nowitzki left such an impression on Auburn’s greatest hoops export that Barkley even talked to Cliff Ellis, Auburn’s coach at the time, to encourage the program to make a run at this relatively unknown teenager in Europe.

Ellis notes that in 1997 he couldn’t just jump on YouTube and find clips of a player, there wasn’t much film of European players. Still, the coach was willing to go on Barkley’s word and reached out.

Turns out Kentucky, Stanford and other colleges did as well, but to no avail. Nowitzki went straight into the 1988 NBA Draft, where the Bucks took him ninth overall then executed a draft-night trade sending the big German to Dallas for Robert “Tractor” Traylor. The rest is Hall of Fame history.

For Barkley, Ellis, and Auburn fans, it’s quite the “what if.” That was a 29-4 Auburn team in 1997-98 that was an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed led by a couple of future NBA players (Mamadou N’Diaye and Chris Porter). Add Nowitzki into that mix and… we will never know. But it could have been glorius.