Lakers take Game 2 behind Kobe’s 38, but Denver shows some signs of life

11 Comments

The Lakers took Game 2 from the Nuggets 104-100 on Tuesday, and took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series in the process. Kobe Bryant was spectacular for the majority of the night, and finished with 38 points. Andrew Bynum had a career playoff high of 27 points, to go along with nine rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. Pau Gasol was once again more than solid, and he and Jordan Hill once again helped control the glass with 10 rebounds apiece.

Despite all of that, however, this game was nowhere near as easy as Sunday’s win to open the series. The Lakers had leads of as many as nine points in each of the first two quarters, and went on a monster 14-0 run that lasted more than six minutes near the start of the third quarter that pushed the lead to 19.

Given the way the series started, it would have been a perfect time for the Nuggets to fold — only they didn’t. Denver began to get the tempo they wanted, led by Ty Lawson attacking the paint and getting to the rim for easy buckets. Lawson had 17 of his 25 points in the second half, and Denver had the lead all the way back down to five near the beginning of the fourth.

As the Lakers pushed it back to 13, Denver once again fought back, this time with a quick 8-0 run that had the game once again within reach. It was a four-point game with under three minutes to play, and Lawson missed a three that would have cut it to one.

It honestly never felt like the Lakers would lose; the four-point lead seemed like one that was much larger. But the point is, the Nuggets got going a little bit in this one. They were able to get the tempo they wanted at times, and held the Lakers to just over 37 percent shooting in the second half, while clawing back into the game multiple times. L.A. was able to hold on thanks to the team’s size advantage down low, and the fact that 13 second-half offensive rebounds led to 15 second-chance points.

It is more than possible that some of the positive things that Denver was able to do in Game 2 will carry over, and that they’ll shoot much better at home and be able to force the Lakers into playing at a faster pace than they’d like, and for more than just the spurts that we saw in Game 2.

It’s more likely, though, that the combination of the Lakers’ bigs and the way that Bryant has been able to perform will be too much for the Nuggets in this series, and they might not even be able to do what they need to for 48 minutes in order to win a single game — even as the series shifts to Denver for the next two.

Dikembe Mutombo to receive Sager Strong Award

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo will receive the Sager Strong Award at this year’s NBA Awards show.

The award is named for longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager and presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.

Mutombo’s honor was announced Tuesday by the NBA and Turner.

The four-time Defensive Player of the Year created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve conditions for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital has treated nearly a quarter of a million people since opening in 2007.

He will receive a colorful suit jacket, the kind Sager fashioned during his years on air before dying of leukemia. The award will be presented on June 25 in Santa Monica, California.

Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.

Kyle Kuzma says Lonzo Ball hitting weight room hard this offseason

Associated Press
4 Comments

It wasn’t just Lonzo Ball‘s awkward jumper that was a problem for him, so was his finishing around the rim — Ball shot less than 50 percent in the restricted area and 43.6 percent inside eight feet. In today’s NBA, he has to become more of a consistent scoring threat to open up his passing lanes.

Part of that is Ball getting physically stronger, something that also would help him avoid injuries and play in more than 52 games (what he did as a rookie). That part he is working on already, Kyle Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Consistency in the weight room, that is the biggest thing,” Kuzma said on Tuesday of what he has seen out of Ball this offseason so far. “He has been in there pretty much every day I have been in here around this time. You can tell he is taking the weight room a lot more serious and that is going to help him by allowing him to recover faster and hopefully next year be on the court more because of that weight room.”

The Lakers are counting on the development of their young core — Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — as well as free agents they can attract this summer to lift them into the playoffs next season.

Magic Johnson told Ball this is going to be the most important summer of his life, that now he has to put in the work to take his body and game to the next level. To play like a No. 2 pick.

So far, so good.

Re-watch highlights from the final minutes of Houston’s series-tying win

1 Comment

After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team ran out of gas, which is what led to their 3-of-18 fourth-quarter shooting and just 12 points. There’s some truth to that, particularly with Andre Iguodala out forcing other guys into the rotation and a heavier load on the stars.

But give the Rockets credit here.

Part of what wore down the Warriors was fantastic pressure defense from Houston that made Golden State really work on offense. As Golden State got tired, players settled for midrange jumpers, not getting to the rim much (three times in the quarter) and not having the legs under their threes (0-of-6 in the quarter).

Meanwhile, it wasn’t pretty, but James Harden and Chris Paul were making plays.

Check out those plays again in the video above — we finally got a good game in a series, we should savor that.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”

Getty
7 Comments

The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.