NBA Playoffs: Game 4, where we find out if the Lakers care

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We can talk about matchups — like how the Lakers need to get some kind of production out of the point guard spot — but that’s not really the biggest key in Game 4 in Dallas on Sunday.

It’s which Lakers team shows up.

More than anything, the Lakers have looked mentally fatigued in this series. Which is something that could come trying to make a fourth straight NBA finals. You see it when Lakers are not helping the helper on defense, when they fail to execute at the end of games. These are things the Lakers have done in the past, even this season, but have stopped now. The Mavericks are pushing them, playing great basketball, but the Lakers of previous years responded to those kind of challenges with a renewed fire and energy that this team just has not shown.

Do those Lakers fight in Game 4, or do they roll over?

I expect fight, but we’ve been expecting that for a while now and not seen it.

The Mavs will play hard — this series seems to bring them a sense or redemption. For the 2006 finals. For the 2007 collapse in the first round to Golden State. For all the playoff losses. It may not feel like redemption in the locker room, but they are sure playing like it does. And for the fans, this would be the sweetest of victories.

In terms of strategy, it’s nothing new. The Lakers need to get the ball inside to Andrew Bynum. He was the best Laker on the floor in Game 3 but he got no touches, no shots in the final 10 minutes. That’s not on Bynum, that’s on the Lakers guards for not getting him the ball. The Lakers more than any other team seem to go away from what works for them when the game gets tight.

For the rest of the Lakers, they need to get a good game from their point guards (good luck with that), they need a rested Ron Artest to take on some offensive load. And they need Pau Gasol. The one from last year. Credit Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas for playing good defense, but Gasol is capable of being one of those players (like Dirk) where the defense doesn’t matter when he’s going. He just has not been going this playoffs.

The Mavs just need to keep running their pick-and-roll action that the Lakers defense can’t solve. They need to be tough inside. They need Dirk to be Dirk. Basically, they just need to keep doing what they have been doing.

If they do that, it seems not to matter what Lakers team shows up.

WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

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.