Lakers will try to adjust the way they attack in the post for Game 2 against Spurs

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The Lakers did a lot of things right in Sunday’s loss to the Spurs in Game 1 of the playoffs, but most of that was on the defensive end of the floor. L.A. held the Spurs to just 91 points on 37.6 percent shooting, and essentially matched them in rebounds and blocked shots.

Where the Lakers struggled mightily was on the offensive end of the floor, managing just 79 points for the game and committing twice as many turnovers (18) as did the Spurs.

For L.A. to have a chance to bounce back in Game 2, the team will need to find a way to get Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard more touches in the post, without being so obvious about it and forcing passes into them when the spacing is missing. Gasol and Howard combined for six of the Lakers’ first half turnovers in Game 1, and 10 of the team’s total for the game.

A lot of that had to do with the timing of when the entry passes were coming, as well as the location of L.A.’s perimeter players — both of which allowed the Spurs to send two and three defenders into the post once the ball was received.

Not surprisingly, a big focus of the Lakers’ preparation for Game 2 involved putting in some sets that would hopefully allow them to get Gasol and Howard more consistent and less congested opportunities. Gasol explained how this might work after practice on Tuesday.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

“We’re just trying to move the ball and create a couple actions before we dump the ball in the post,” Gasol said. “We got to move their defense so the passes are not so forced and it’s not so predictable and everybody sees that we’re trying to keep that path right now and everybody’s looking at it.

“So, we change [the] ball side-to-side on the floor, and that’s it. It creates a couple actions where we can create some movement, the defense is not fighting from behind so much and then all of the sudden, boom. Post-up. Boom. Right there. So, that’s what we’re trying to do — create some flow and move their defense before we put the ball in the post.”

The Lakers will have an additional resource off the bench available, as Jordan Hill has been medically cleared to return to the Lakers lineup. Hill was out the last three months after undergoing hip surgery, and should be able to bring some additional activity inside if he’s healthy enough and if Mike D’Antoni chooses to use him. Hill averaged 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game in 29 appearances.

The Spurs played flawless defensively in Game 1, so they’ll look to repeat the effort on Wednesday, while also hoping that Tony Parker can find his shot. Parker led his team with 21 field goal attempts, but made just eight. San Antonio needed a huge game offensively off the bench from Manu Ginobili, whose incredible run of eight points in the final minute and a half of the third quarter locked up the Game 1 victory.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.