The Lakers wounds are self-inflicted.
Sure, injuries can strike any team, but that doesn’t impact the effort on defense. Or how you share the ball on offense. Or any host of things that plague the Lakers that have nothing to do with Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.
Paul Millsap put it this way after he scored 24 and his Jazz beat the Lakers Sunday night.
“They did it to themselves,” Millsap said of the 9-12 Lakers. “Our defense was pretty good, but they had no ball movement and that made it easier on us just to try to load up, keep them out of the paint and let them fire up some 3s.”
Except the Lakers hit those threes — they were 15-of-28, or 53.6 percent. The Lakers got 40.9 percent of their points from three pointers.
What killed the Lakers was their inconsistent defense. Which has really been their biggest issue all season. As the brilliant Tom Ziller noted over at SBN, the Lakers actually have outscored their opponents by 65 total points this season, an average of 3.1 per game. Use that to get an expected win-loss and you’d get 13-8. Not 9-12.
Which means stat-friendly Lakers fans can say “things are bound to turn around.” But the reason they are 9-12 is the inconsistent defense, the lapses for entire games (Utah Sunday) or just a quarter (losses to Orlando and Houston). That is their self-inflicted wound. That is the end of the floor they need to fix, and that is not new coach Mike D’Antoni’s forte.
The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.
Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.
Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.
Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.
With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).
Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.
The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.
However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.
And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.
Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.
Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.
“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”
If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.
Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.
We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.
McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.
However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.