Game of the Night: Lakers get 2011 started on the right foot, then shoot it

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Grizzlies 104 Lakers 85: So many places to go with this one. The Lakers turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions. The Grizzlies outscored them in transition 28-5. The Grizzlies dominated on the offensive glass 28% to 16% of all available offensive rebounds grabbed. What I’m trying to tell you is that the Grizzlies kicked the crap out of the Lakers from baseline to baseline.  It should be noted, though, that Kobe Bryant’s third quarter explosion was what he thought was the only way to keep the Lakers in it, and also the reason the wheels came off the team. When Bryant opts to dominate the ball in an attempt to produce, the rest of the Lakers just watch him. It’s one thing to say the other Lakers are just standing around, not working for shots, but Bryant also shot early in the shot clock and in ISO situations, sometimes while facing three defenders. Someone was open. What’s worse, once the shots stopped falling, they lead to immediate transition opportunities, often unguarded. So Bryant took the wheel, drove through some battalions, then crashed the vehicle into a ditch filled with petrol and the ensuing debris set fire to the neighboring village. Whoops.

But to pick on Bryant is to ignore the complete and utter failure that was the Lakers’ offense and defense. The Lakers couldn’t be bothered tonight, and gave the corresponding performance.

For the Grizzlies, it was another display of how far they’ve grown, nestled in-between massive rollbacks of mediocrity. This team lost to the Nets and Kings in the past two weeks and have toppled the Lakers twice this season. If they could just play to their potential on consecutive nights, maybe they’d go somewhere.

Rudy Gay was particularly brilliant, nailing the baseline runner, the mid-range J, and an emphatic standing alley-oop that truly necessitates an “OH MY GOD.” In-between those he grabbed five rebounds and garnered three steals, his third three-plus-steals game in the past seven days. O.J. Mayo dropped 15 points, 5 assists and 2 steals to go alongside, and Mike Conley had the perfect Mike Conley game. 12 points on 7 shots, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. He played within himself and kickstarted the offense. Throw in the fact that he managed two pick and roll assists that led to Marc Gasol and Darrel Arthur dunks, and it was a pretty fine night all around.

Hasheem Thabeet was the only Memphis player with a negative plus/minus, yet he guarded Pau Gasol for long stretches, and stranger still, the Lakers didn’t relentlessly go to Gasol in such situations, despite Gasol’s success in that situation.

Ron Artest played close to 25 minutes and finished with no points and 3 turnovers.

The Lakers will be fine, because that is what they do: “be fine.” But it won’t make this period any more fun for Lakers fans.

 

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.

PBT Extra: LeBron, Cavaliers even series but Celtics far from dead

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If you want to make the case that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the driver’s seat of the Eastern Conference Finals after sweeping two games at home, you’re in a good space. It’s a best-of-three and Cleveland has the best player on the planet on their side.

However, I still like the Celtics to hold on and win in seven.

I get into it in this PBT Extra, but the Celtics looked like a team that figured things out in the final three quarters of Game 4 (they just couldn’t make up for a disastrous first quarter), and they still have two games at home.

Either way, this feels like a series going the distance.

Did the Warriors deal Rockets a knockout blow in Western Conference finals?

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The Warriors beat the Rockets by 41 (!) in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday.

Biggest playoff win in Golden State franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss in Houston franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss ever handed to any team as good as the 65-17 Rockets.

“At the end of the day, it’s one win,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “It doesn’t matter if you win by 40 or if you win by one.”

Maybe it matters more than Green is letting on.

Golden State was the 17th team to -win a playoff game by more than 40 points. Of the previous 16, 15 – including the last 14 – won the series:

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The only exception came in my favorite playoff series of all-time, the best-of-three 1956 Western Division semifinals:

  • Game 1: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115
  • Game 2: Minneapolis Lakers 133, St. Louis Hawks 75
  • Game 3: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115

So, teams to win a playoff game by more than 40 are 15-0 in best-of-seven or best-of-five series. Will the Rockets buck the trend?

They can make adjustments. Maybe Houston’s strong regular season – better than any above blown-out team’s – indicates a rare capability to recover from this. Andre Iguodala‘s injury hurts Golden State. Teams sometimes make historic comebacks from blowouts, including against the Warriors.

But that Golden State ran toppled the Rockets so decisively in Game 3 suggests the Warriors are hitting a gear Houston won’t keep up with.

Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell receive, Jayson Tatum one vote shy of, unanimous All-Rookie first-team selections

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The 76ers’ Ben Simmons, Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma were locks for the All-Rookie first team.

The final seemingly up-for-grabs spot? It went to the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen, and it wasn’t close.

Here’s the full voting for All-Rookie teams (first-team votes, second-team votes, total voting points):

First team

  • Donovan Mitchell, UTA (100-0-200)
  • Ben Simmons, PHI (100-0-200)
  • Jayson Tatum, BOS (99-1-199)
  • Kyle Kuzma, LAL (93-7-193)
  • Lauri Markkanen, CHI (76-21-173)

Second team

Others receiving votes:

The first team matches our choices.

Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Jackson are the only selections I’d quibble with. Those two were just so destructive with shooting efficiency and defense. To be fair, they were pressed into larger roles than they were ready for on bad teams. But if the goal is picking the rookies who had the best seasons (what I aim to do), Smith and Jackson didn’t cut it.

However, some voters give more credence to long-term potential, and Smith and Jackson both have plenty of that. Other voters are drawn by bigger per-game numbers, which Smith and Jackson produced in their larger roles. So, it’s minimally surprising they made it.

That one first-team vote for Jackson, though? That’s odd – and it was enough to get him on the second team by one voting point over Heat center Bam Adebayo.