NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: Role Players turn game six into a blowout

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In games four and five, the main difference between the Lakers and the Celtics was that the Celtic role players played like they were ready to win an NBA Finals, and the Laker role players played like they were terrified to be playing in an NBA Finals. 
You can talk all you want about what type of role players survive in high-pressure situations and which ones don’t; shooters vs. slashers, veterans vs. young players, et cetera. You can talk about the coaching. You can talk about the culture of the team. In the end, it generally boils down to this: role players almost always play better at home, and they almost always play better when their team has a substantial lead than they do when their team is behind. When a team is ahead and the home crowd is behind them, everyone relaxes. Everyone is comfortable running the offense, nobody is afraid of making mistakes, and offensive balance and efficiency generally results. 
When a team gets behind, especially on the road, everyone gets tense, the ball slows down, jumpers get missed, and that’s when the best one or two players on a team have to go ISO or pick-and-roll to try and get their team back into the game. 
The Lakers are fairly comfortable playing from behind thanks to Kobe — the flip side of that coin is that they sometimes lean too heavily on Kobe, and can have trouble playing four quarters of efficient offense as a result. The (playoff incarnation) of the Celtics is a classic front-running team; their defense keeps the other team from making big comeback runs, and they have too much balance in their offense to allow it to go stagnant if a superstar goes cold. 
However, when forced to play from behind, there’s nobody who can jump-start the offense for the Celtics the way Kobe can for the Lakers. Because of that, things can sometimes get ugly when the Celtics fall behind early. In game six, that’s exactly what happened.
The first thing Los Angeles did to get their role players going was to take the pressure off of their role players early. They did that by more or less giving the ball to Kobe Bryant and getting out of his way. Since Kobe’s jumper was on, it was a prudent strategy. Kobe had 11 points and an assist in the first seven minutes of the game. Even better, the pick-and-rolls he ran with Pau Gasol forced the Celtic D to collapse and opened up Ron Artest in the corner for two early threes that got his confidence going. 
By the time Kobe and Ron’s mini-onslaught was over, the Lakers had a 26-16 lead with three minutes to play in the quarter. Kobe was on his game, the shots were falling, the crowd was going crazy. (Nothing gets the Los Angeles crowd going like a Ron Artest three — it’s the adrenaline dump.) It was all good news from there for the defending champions. The Lakers put the Celtics on the ropes early, and they didn’t give the Celtics one chance to recover in the final 42 minutes of play.
The final three quarters of game six were less a contest than an extended Laker victory march, and every Laker got in on the fun. Sasha Vujacic came off the bench to knock in some long jumpers. Shannon Brown got four points on two spectacular dunks. Jordan Farmar threw his body all over the court and finished with three steals. Pau Gasol came an assist shy of a triple-double. Josh Powell, Luke Walton, and D.J. Mbenga all actually got into the game. 
Meanwhile, the Celtics got a total of 13 points from players not named Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, or Ray Allen. Eight of those 13 points came in the final five minutes of play, and no non-“big four” player scored until the fourth quarter. The Celtic role players looked completely out of their element, and the Laker defense absolutely feasted on their lack of confidence and inability to run the offense. 
When they talk about this series 10 or 20 years from now, they probably won’t talk about Tony Allen or Ron Artest. (Well, Artest might get a mention.) They’ll talk about Paul Pierce, Garnett, Kobe, Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, Rajon Rondo, maybe Pau Gasol. All the same, it was the bit players on both sides who put the Lakers in a 3-2 hole, and it was those same bit players’ fortunes changing that allowed the Lakers to tie the series with a rout. There’s a very good chance that they’ll be the ones making the extra passes, the quick doubles, the timely steals, or the open shots that will end up deciding game seven and the NBA Finals. 

NBA may play 2019 preseason game in India

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The NBA has been working to make inroads in India — it’s nation far more fixated on Cricket, field hockey, and soccer, but it has a lot of youth playing basketball at schools, and it has the second largest population of any country in the world (nearly 1.4 billion people).

The NBA sees another big potential overseas market, one the league wants to cultivate. They have done that with an NBA Academy and Basketball Without Borders has been multiple times, including this past June.

But if the NBA really wants to grow the game in India, they need to bring the product there. That could happen during the 2019 preseason, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the Jr NBA World Championships, via the HindustanTimes.

“We are potentially looking to play a game in Mumbai, may be next year. It would be a pre-season game,” Silver told PTI on the sidelines of the Jr NBA World Championships.

“If we do a pre-season game, we can build time and our players and their families can spend time, learn about the country’s culture,” he said… We are very focused on the Indian market.”

The NBA has played preseason games all over the world, including this season in China (plus the league has regular-season games in London and Mexico City).

It’s easy to envision the league sending the Sacramento Kings — which is owned by Vivek Ranadive, who was born in Mumbai — and another team to India for an exhibition game. Don’t be surprised if that happens in the next couple of years.

Reports: Shabazz Muhammad to come to Bucks training camp, compete for final roster spot

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Shabazz Muhammad was buried on Tom Thibodeau’s bench last season in Minnesota and wanted out so he could get on the court — and he got his wish. Sort of. He was waived by the Timberwolves and a few days later signed with the Bucks. The problem was he only played 117 minutes the rest of the season in Milwaukee, mostly taking on the role of an unrepentant gunner in the chances he did get on the court.

It worked well enough that the Bucks are bringing Muhammad back for training camp, where he will try to grab the last roster spot.

The Bucks have 14 guaranteed contracts, plus the non-guaranteed deal of Tyler Zeller (and with Brook Lopez, John Henson, and Thon Maker on the roster it’s hard to imagine Zeller getting a lot of run). It is possible someone can beat Zeller out at a position of more need, such as on the wing (where Muhammad plays).

But is Muhammad the guy who can make this squad?

The Bucks hired Mike Budenholzer as coach this summer, and what does he want in players? Guys who can shoot the three, are unselfish, and can defend. Muhammad is a career 31 percent shooter from three who wants to attack off the dribble — last season 72 percent of his shot attempts came within 10 feet of the rim. He’s not a passer — a career 5.5 assist rate — and he’s not much of a defender.

That said, he’s got an invite to camp and is going to get his chance.

Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma trolling now in ad for Wish shopping app

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The Lakers asked Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to back off on their social media trolling battle.

However, they made an exception for this new Wish.com app ad (Wish is the Lakers’ jersey ad sponsor).

Well played guys.

Miami bringing Briante Weber into camp with chance to make roster

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For three seasons, Briante Weber has bounced around the fringes of the NBA. The defensive-minded point guard has played in short stints (often 10-day contracts) for the Grizzlies, Heat, Warriors, Hornets, and last season he got in 13 games for the Rockets (plus five in Memphis). He’s spent most of his career in the G-League, working for his chance to get in the door.

Miami is bringing him into training camp, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

This is apparently camp invite.

There is roster space in Miami if Webber blows them away. Miami has 12 fully guaranteed roster spots and, with Webber, two partially-guaranteed deals (Malik Newman, who was undrafted out of Kansas, is the other).

The problem for Webber is Miami is deep at the point guard spot: Goran Dragic will start, and if Tyler Johnson is healthy (as expected) he will get a lot of minutes behind him, and then there is Newman. The Heat also have in the guard rotation Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, and possibly Dwyane Wade if he returns (all of those guys are more two guards).

That’s a lot of guys for Webber to beat out and find a spot. On the other hand, his defensive style is something different from what the Heat have on the roster.

Webber is a longshot, but he’s at least going to camp.