Predictions for The Rest of The Lottery

Hello NBA fans, it's that time of year again. Every dog gets his day, and this is the day when both bad and good teams have something to look forward to. Whether its because you tanked the end of your season or you are one piece away from being a contender this draft this draft is shaping up to result some pretty interesting picks.

Now that no more pre-draft trades will be released, and we know where players have worked out so far here are my predictions for the 2008 NBA Draft.


O' Neal Confirms Moves to Raptors
-Reportedly TJ Ford and Rasho Nesterovic and number 17 pick for Jermaine O'Neal

Clippers and Sonics Trade pick if Minnesota choose OJ Mayo
-4th pick for 7th pick and future first round pick

New Jersey Trades Richard Jefferosn
- Richard Jefferson for Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian

Double L's Predictions:

1. Chicago Bulls- Derrick Rose
Can't pass up on a sure thing, especially if he's a point guard. Rose is already hoping to be League MVP as Rookie.

2. Miami Heat- Michael Beasley
Pat Riley and company may not be the biggest fans, but he is the best big man in the draft and would be a mistake to pass up on.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves- OJ Mayo
Kevin McHale is apparently torn between Love and Mayo, however what Mayo has already shown and his potential upside will make Minnesota draft the best player available rather then fufilling a need in the front court.

4. Seattle Supersonics- Eric Gordon
Since Mayo is gone, it looks like the pick will go to the Clippers. With Maggette likely opting out, and Mobley getting up there in age, Gordon would be extremely beneficial to the Clippers wing.

5. Memphis Grizzlies- Kevin Love
When you trade Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown and sign Darko Milicic you know your front court needs help. Grizzlies have a bunch of young point guards with a lot of potential, a great role player in Mike Miller and rising star Rudy Gay. Love would defeintely fill a big gaping whole for the Grizz.

6. New York Knicks- Russell Westbrook
The New York Knicks have a lot of things, bad contracts, unhappy players, and a lot of crap. Two things that the Knicks don't have is a level minded player, and a defesneive oriented player. Two things Westbrook provides.

7. Los Angeles Clippers- Jerryd Bayless
Seattle really scored it here. They traded up and were able to get the player they wanted. Brook Lopez was the in case Bayless gets picked, picked, however he should still be available and the pick Seattle would actually prefer. After picks such as Robert Swift, Mouhamed Sene, and Johan Petro Seattle can't draft another potential failed big man...unless it will help them speed up the moving process...

8. Milwaukee Bucks- De Andre Jordan
With Richard Jefferson on board and Yi out, the Bucks will look to boost up the PF position. Randolph has more upside, but Jordan is more ready to contribute now.

9. Charlotte Bobcats- Brook Lopez
Offensive Center next to defensive Emeka Okafor. Looks like a good fit, plus Richardson and Wallace fill the wings, while Jordan still has faith in Raymond Felton

10. New Jersey Nets- Joe Alexander
With Richard Jefferson out New Jersey is the one who now needs a small forward. Alexander is extremely skilled and athletic and will be a good young piece for New Jerseys rebuilding and moving to Brooklyn.

11. Indiana Pacers- Anthony Randolph
Man the trades seem to be following where teams want to fill their holes. And with Jermaine O'Neal likely to be shipped out, Pacers no longer are in need of a point guard with TJ Ford. Instead they will be looking for Randolph to step into the role for Jermaine O'Neal in a few years. He has the potential to, but will he?

12. Sacramento Kings- DJ Augustin
Somewhat of an undersized point guard, but one that will bring athleticism and a pass first mentality. Something Kings fans may not remember since before Jason Williams.

13.Portland Trailblazers- Danilo Gallinari
A point guard would be ideal here, but Small Forward is Portlands next weakest position. He is a very intellegient player with good shooting abilities, and doesn't seem to have a criminal record.

14. Golden State Warriors- Kosta Koufos
With Don Nelson returning, small ball/fast paced offensive will still dictate the Warriors. Because of Warriors lack of size up front a big man would be useful, and this one doesn't disrupt their style of play. While he is only average in the post, and not much of a banger/defender he will at least be able to hit the open shot and operate in the high post.


Guest writer Mark Hays writes about his experience with 3 of the lottery picks in the 08' NBA draft class while yawning

Working on the New York Stock Exchange this week, I’ve listened and participated in countless conversations about stocks, interest rates, and…sports. The majority of traders on the exchange seem to know and put just as much effort into knowing all about the stocks they trade as into sports. A quick walk through the floor reveals men huddled around their computers watching the EuroCup, while others bet on horse racing and argue about a variety of teams. This being said, on Tuesday morning, at approximately 9:20, three massive figures were ushered into the floor to ring the opening bell, as “three of the top NBA draft picks for 2008.” In a normal year, the place would buzz with excitement, with everyone recognizing some of the top stars they’ve seen in college. This year was different. This year’s stars ringing the opening bell were UCLA’s Kevin Love, LSU’s Anthony Randolph, and WVU’s Joe Alexander, all projected to be chosen in the top 15 of the draft. Instead of excited shouts of recognition, confusion filled the air. “Who are these tall guys?” muttered one, while another said, “That’s not Beasley is it?” When finally being told who the three were, no one had heard of anyone besides Love (By the way, Kevin Love looks like a completely different person. He has gone from the fat kid from SuperBad to Tom Hanks in Cast Away in a matter of months). With a collective shrug of disinterest, everyone turned back to their computers, and their discussions of other sports. These confused comments are likely the same ones heard around the country tonight, when the NBA Draft takes place. Take away Rose, Beasley, and O.J. Mayo, and what you have is bunch of no-names who most likely will not have a large impact on the league. In other years the top 15 or 20 players would be instantly recognized by at least their names, while this year, numbers 4-30 will inspire little to no reaction. Expect Thursday night to feature groans, few cheers, and a constant flow of “Who?”

Picture source: matildamajor.com


Top 3 Pick Analysis

1. Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose
Memphis- Point Guard

While the top two picks (Rose and Beasley) are both NBA ready and will likely be all star caliber players, it will probably end up being too tough for Chicago to pass up on Derrick Rose. Even though Beasley would fit perfectly into Chicago's weakest position at PF, Chicago knows the team will be much better upgrading Duhon, Gordon, and Hinrich (especially after his terrible season last year). Rose for one thing is a pass-first point guard, which now in the league is a dime for dozen. Even rarer Rose plays relentless defense with quick hands and length in addition to being 6'4". Rose's best asset is probably his athleticism, where his speed is going to beat players off the dribble and finish at the basket (even with the foul) or find the open man (with his excellent court vision). On top of all this Rose does not have the questionable attitude problems, and actually is a very intense player on the court, but calm and composed off of it.
If there's any doubt John Paxson will pass on Rose, Just talk to the Atlanta Hawks about how it feels to pass up on an all star point guard (Chris Paul, Deron Williams). Oh, and Rose is from Chicago. Done Deal.

2. Miami Heat

Michael Beasley
Kansas State- SF/PF

As much of a power player Beasley was in Kansas State he might find a more natural position as Small Forward in the NBA. In fact the more I think about it, the more I find him comparable to Carmelo Anthony in college. Carmelo: 22 points, 10 rebounds, 2.2 Assists, 1.3 steals and Beasley: 26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.3 steals are quite similar, also taking into consideration Anthony played in the Big East while Beasley played in the Big 12. In addition with Beasley actually being 6'8" and not the team labeled 6'10" the twos heights and weights are pretty similar. On top of that, the both can score the ball in a multitude of ways. Beasley has shown it on the outside, probably capable of shooting the NBA 3, from the inside with his hooks, put-backs, and spins, and is especially deadly from the mid-range. Beasley is tough and athletic, and will not have a problem in the triple threat position from the mid-range. From a defensive standpoint Beasley holds his own man to man but gets in trouble on team defense where he almost looks lost. Sometimes, it seems Beasley only carries a scoring only mentality, where he over dribbles, takes bad shots, and fails to pass (as seen by his 1.2 assists per game). Beasley has so much potential, and if he is able to put it together can have a long and successful career. But with the various questions about his attitude and team play, no wonder Miami might be looking to trade the pick. However, because Miami must pick before it is traded, Beasley will most definitely be wearing a Heats cap if only momentarily.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

OJ Mayo

For this third pick, the age old question of need versus best available comes up again. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, getting an offensively polished PF/C like Brook Lopez, or NBA ready Kevin Love would help the young T-pups in a lot of ways. Particularly paired with Al Jefferson who can shift down to his more natural Power Forward spot, two legitimate front court players would add a lot of help to this young team, who has already has a lot of young and improving backcourt players. Never the less, in this situation, OJ Mayo will probably be too good to pass up on. With players like vetran Greg Buckner, injured Randy Foye, troublesome Sebastian telfair and inconsistent Marko Jaric and Rashad McCants this pick would also still be a huge upgrade. Because Mayo has had his share of Point Guard experience, he will be able to add some ball handling and passing ability to the backcourt. Where Mayo is particularly dangerous is his amazing ability to score the ball. Despite being an undersized two guard Mayo quickness allows him to explode past his defender to the basket, where he has an amazing ability to finish. On top of that if you play off of him, you'll see he can defeintely hit the three even beyond the NBA three range. Mayo's shooting is extremely polished, and his basketball IQ is one of the best offensively. With this comes a little bit of attitude and swagger which has both its positives and negatives. Mayo's defense is managable, but it's his repotire of offensive skills and abilities that still make OJ Mayo a top three pick for sure.

Photo Source: ESPN.com


Europe vs. College and why the NBA does not care

This whole Brandon Jennings story hasn't surprised me at all. Everyone HAD to know that this was bound to happen. When NBA passed the rule that one must be 19 years old to enter the draft, everyone immediately knew the benefits, repercussions, and motives of the rule.

General history and overview:Professional sports lives off of young talent, with the majority, coming from drafts and farm systems. Each player is a huge investment to the team, so it makes sense when leagues like the NFL and the NBA make age-eligibility rules. The NFL has less of a problem with guys coming into the league unprepared because with a few exceptions, football players need those two years out of high school to develop physically and mentally for the rigors of the NFL. The NBA is a much different type of system. Players can make the jump into the league without college experience. The players who are capable of that are the ones who can thrive solely off of talent. Success stories of this method are players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudamire, Lebron James and Tracy McGrady, just to name a few. Those players are all household names. Those player's quick success in the league paved the way for many extremely talented high school stars to think they could make the jump to the NBA. Unfortunately, that dream for most players is fools gold. Players flop far more often than reach the status of the aforementioned superstars. Flops have included Sebastian Telfair, Kwame Brown, Gerald Green, Martell Webster, and you could even make the argument for Daryll Dawkins, the first player to be taken out of high school who is commonly cited as the player who will always be judged on his dunks and mediocre career than what he was supposed to be. All of those players were lottery picks, and Kwame Brown was the much heralded #1 pick. The latter named players have had character issues and seldom have the work ethic to live up to their potential and make it as a star in the league (Kwame Brown was said to have been more interested in his Xbox than working out and learning plays). None of those players panned out to what they were supposed to be. Yeah sure, some of them are still in the NBA, but they wont be for much longer, and if they are, it won't be in a role they were projected to be.

If you don't belive the character issues, here is Telfair getting into trouble two times that can be traced back to poor decision making.

And here is a video of Darius Miles getting busted with a friend for pot. In the background you can hear Darius Miles scream, when the officer tells them to get on the ground, "But I'm Darius Miles!"

The NBA team and league's perspective: Stern had been thinking about making an age requirement for years. He constantly spoke of his 'worry' that he saw so many young high school players foregoing college and putting their name in the draft. The nightmare scene that Stern painted of agents lurking middle-school campuses and promising players and their families a fantasy life and urging their clients to not attend college and hire them for their services was a motivation for the age rule. That was a noble move by the NBA. A possible "NBA Cares" campaign, however, that was not what the rule was intended to do at all. Stern's worry then changed to an admittance that the rule is for teams to have a year to evaluate a player before investing in his services. It is, basically, a 6 month workout farm system. NBA scouts are able to evaluate and collaborate about players and judge their performance under a plethora of different circumstances including the biggest pressure cooker, the NCAA tournament. The bottom line, it benefits the NBA from a basketball and financial standpoint. Under the new rule, players can go to Europe and NBA scouts have the same benefits as they would get if the player were to stay in the States and play. Bottom line is that the NBA and their teams are not impacted by whatever the player chooses.

The NCAA perspective: The NCAA feeds off of big name future NBA stars coming into top programs in the country. They use these stars to attract endorsements and fans into stadiums. We are enamored by the prospect of seeing players like O.J Mayo and Michael Beasley, future NBA player and potential superstar, live up to the hype and carry the Trojans and Kansas State, respectively, to victory at a generously priced ticket. Suddenly, fans don't care if they which team they are rooting for. They have come to see the big time player play for a big time school. It is the marketing of superstars that fans into stadiums which is contradictory to the team philosophy the NCAA tries to promote, but it brings in revenue. It is the same formula the NBA uses and the NCAA does not mind to have players that help foster this attitude. Fans want to catch a glimpse of the next best thing, and the NCAA couldn't be happier to display it. It is a piggy back system that both leagues benefit from. Of course, the NCAA is never consulted about decisions from professional leagues, but it rarely impacts or works against the NCAA, until now. The NCAA has gotten an eye opening case with Jennings. They could potentially lose one of the top players in the country to European basketball. This could be a slippery slope for the NCAA as more players follow Jennings. There are drawbacks and benefits on both sides of the debate, but it is almost certain that the NCAA likes the idea of marketing young future NBA stars. If Jennings starts a trend, and is not the exception, this could put the NCAA back to where it was before the rule started.

The college coach's perspective: Bob Knight was one of the most outspoken critics of the age rule. His argument is very valid. Players who come to college knowing they are good enough for the NBA do not embody what the NCAA preaches. That is, the student-athlete exceeding in the classroom while exceeding on the sporting field. It becomes a sort of athlete purgatory for these players, simply to wait it out until they are eligible to make a jump to the league. Knight argues that players need only average a 2.0 during the first semester and do not even need to go to class the next semester because their ineligibility will not be in effect until the following semester when they have already left. To further Knight's argument, the program of the school is undermined because players are not playing the team game that is so coveted in college, and as many fans cite, the reason they prefer college ball to pro ball, is lost. Players go into college and instead of playing for their team, play for their NBA contract and put their skills on display more often than making the right move. This may not always be true, but it is definitely a potential side effect from the rule.
It also keeps the coach and program in a constant state of limbo from year to year, and fans as well as administration do not know what to expect from year to year. Will the player who didn't live up to the hype stay? Does this mean we have more scholarships and roster spots? What about endorsements? And now, coaches can still lose players like they were before the rule was instated and players can make commitments and just go to Europe, just like they would break commitments and go to the NBA before the rule. The one benefit to coaches and college programs was that players would honor their commitments, or so they thought. Under the current rule, players like Telfair and Johnson can still snub Louisville (or whatever school) and go to Europe (ask Rick Pitino if you need more clarification). Stability is generally the best way to build a winning team. Putting your program on the shoulder of a one-year-and-out player with dreams of the NBA does not sound like a stable prospect.

The players perspective: A top ranked player faces a choice out of high school since the conception of the age rule. Do I go to college or Europe? The question that should be asked by the program that recruited the top player is, "What if that player does not meet NCAA requirements?" It is a very real hypothetical that Jennings could be the first player to possibly pioneer: the world of European basketball before the NBA. The rationale is simple. The players can make a good salary abroad while still showcasing their skills, and then return for the draft. For a young player with dreams of NBA riches, it is easy to settle for an $800,000 salary with a European team. The European teams don't have a shortage of players, and the couple hundred thousand dollar rental fee is minimal compared to what they make in return.

The end result is this. Jennings will not be the last player to be exploring the lure of European basketball before making the jump into the NBA. The NBA does not care what a player chooses because their underlying goal is to evaluate players and have a better look before investing in the player. The NBA front offices and the administration will ultimately get what they want no matter what the player chooses. The player gets what he wants and so does the team. If the player doesn't live up to his expectation maybe NBA teams will be more willing to forgive that and blame it more on the European style of play than the player himself. In the end, the real losers here are the NCAA, the programs, and fans. Of course, the NCAA can't make players stay for the duration of their eligibility, so I guess they have to continue living in a state of uncertainty and let the Brandon Jennings' of the world dictate the future of college basketball.


This is an excellent draft article that is informative as well as humorous.

Why Michael Beasley might drop in the draft like Amare Stoudamire did. If the Heat are smart, they will have learned from Stoudamire's case, and not screw this up.

You want to be in the draft? You want to be in the NBA and NFL? Well, here is why you can't be.

What is the reason no one in this year's draft has a shoe deal yet? Darren Rovell, has an answer for that.

NBA Draft Thursday, June 26th, 2008 at Madison Square Garden. Can be seen on ESPN at 7pm EST.

Picture Sources: brandonjennings.net (first), scout.com (second), arcadia.edu (third), weblogs.newsday.com (fourth)



Some links and thoughts

Things have been kind of slow lately because I am trying to finish up classes for the end of the summer session. We are also trying to decompress after the NBA season. The next big series we have coming up is our post-draft evaluations and recommendations for teams. After the draft, we will evaluate how each team drafted and talk about what they need to do to improve. This series will feature guest writers who are intimately familiar with their team(s). Of course, we will bring you sports stories as they appear.

For now, here are some interesting links:

The mother of one of T-mac's children wants him to pay up. Here is an article reporting the story and detailing some of T-mac's elaborate spending habits. At least one person can feed his family on an NBA salary.

1st round NBA draft prospect and University of Memphis star Chris Douglas-Roberts claims he has never lost a game of 1-on-1. Well, after he makes an NBA roster, that will probably change very quickly. He should ask Nick Young what the rookie treatment looks like.

Kobe once said that he would like to play soccer in Europe when his basketball days are over, but I didn't know Kobe took up another sport, horse carriage racing, in the offseason. Maybe the Triple Crown will be next?

Top high school NBA prospect Brandon Jennings from Oak Hill Academy is flirting with the idea of going abroad to play for a year before entering the draft due to him not meeting the SAT requirement for the NCAA. This raises a serious question to the NBA's one-year-out policy. If the rule is to encourage kids to go to college while they are being evaluated by NBA teams, what if they can't get to college?

This is one of the most absurd stories I have seen in a long time. I can't even imagine what would have happened in a major league somewhere. Well, I guess I could imagine what would happen if this happened to Donaghy.

I was watching one of those MSNBC murder documentaries and it was a story about NBA star Bison Dele, or formerly Brian Williams, who played for the championship teams in Chicago during the 90s and some other NBA teams. I don't know where I was when all this happened, but it was a really sad story about how his jealous brother supposedly killed him. His wikipedia article was pretty consistent with the story that MSNBC told.

As a Wake student, and ACC rival of Duke, I can't get enough of this.


Quick end of 07-08 NBA season thoughts

The season started out as dark as the NBA has ever lived through. The infamous 04' Detroit Palace Brawl was as low as the NBA could go and the absolute most the NBA could handle from a PR standpoint, or so we thought. The summer before the 07'-08' season started out worse than the Palace Brawl. The league's most highly criticized, coveted, and hidden employees took a collective hit due to a referee named Tim Donaghy allegedly betting and fixing NBA games. With those allegations, the integrity of an entire sport was question. There suddenly became validity to all of the conspiracy theories about the league. Surprisingly, the actual basketball overshadowed those allegations.

The league's superstar stayed on the Lakers and the most competitive playoff race in recent history was played. The Rockets went on a 22 game winning streak with their centerpiece Yao Ming going down. We also saw the most significant trade movement in recent memory sending Jason Kidd, Shaq, and Gasol all changed states and uniforms. 3 huge trades in the Western Conference as well as the off season moves of the Celtics to acquire the Big 3. We saw the emergence of the future of the league in Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The playoffs were lackluster for all the hype surrounding them, but the league got the dream matchup of the Lakers and Celtics in the finals.

Coming into the offseason and starting a new season, the same dark shadow of Tim Donaghy hangs over the NBA. The commissioner and the front office simply dismiss any accusations that Donaghy makes. It will be best for the NBA to tackle Donaghy's accusations head on and put this dark chapter of NBA history behind them as fast as possible. More on Donaghy later this summer because this story is not going away any time soon. Nonetheless, this season was a great time to be an NBA fan. It was filled with everything a sports fan could want. We look forward to the amazing talent in this year's draft and the USA olympic basketball team heading into a very controversial Olympic games. The NBA is never short of drama and excitement. We will look back on the 07-08 season and cite the historic events that happened this season. It was a truly memorable season. The future looks promising for the league despite the Donaghy scandal, and we can look forward to more of the same excitement that delivers us our unsatisfiable cravings for our need for endings to unfinished plot lines, and beginnings to new ones.

Some links:

The Freakonomics blog posted this article about what refs and MBA professors have in common. It argues that refs may not be consciously altering games, but may be doing is subconsciously through pressure they know comes from the league.

Doug Christie thinks he got black-balled from the league. Something tells me he doesn't have a job due to his lack of performance than his ball and chain. Some advice to the Christie's, stay off the court and keep writing books about your marriage, and if that fails, you can always get a reality show if you keep doing stuff like this:

Here is a great article by ESPN mag about possible #1 draft pick Michael Beasley.

Picture Source: hoopsvibe.com (top), sacbee.com (bottom)


There Can Only Be One: The Boston Celtics

Coming into this NBA season most of us were not REALLY expecting the Celtics to be as great as they were.

Come on, we know there was a huge bandwagon turnout when we all found out that the team turned Wally Szerbiak into Ray Allen, and Al Jefferson into Kevin Garnett. These were huge upgrades, and the dismal previous record of 24-58 (2nd worst of the season) would definitely be improved, but who was expecting Paul Pierce to be Finals MVP, KG to be Defensive Player of the year, Celtics to have the best record in the league, and to go out and set numerous finals record.

In all honesty the odds were against the team. The criticisms included...

-The all stars cannot remain healthy throughout the entire season
-Doc Rivers has never won a playoff series.
-Rondo can't be a championship starting point guard. He is an inexperienced second year player.
-There has never been such a huge turnaround for an NBA title, after such a horrible record.
- The bench is full of players who are inexperienced, or too old.

Quentin Richardson, "We ain't sacred of them, they ain't done nothing yet!"
Richard Jefferson, "They are playing their best ball now, we prefer to play our best ball at the end of the season"
Gilbert Arenas, "Hahahaha I'll be laughing all summer, we beat the Celtics I told you we would, they aren't all that."
Joe Johnson, "I don't know if they can do it this year, I don't think so."

However, the Boston Celtics proved naysayers wrong in the regular season. They came out this year and played one of the best team defenses I've ever seen in my life, disregarded all the hype and controversy surrounding them, and played together like a team to 62 wins this season. Most heart warming though was how each of the Big Three deferred and sacrificed their own for the betterment of the team.

It was in the regular season did people's opinions start to turnaround, and think that the Celtics might be able to win the championship, however most know the post season is a different beast.

The Celtics were supposed to easily finish Atlanta Hawks, but that series went to 7 games. And then when Boston could not win on the road in Cleavland either, most decided they were done. On the other side of the bracket the Lakers more then easily moved on to the NBA Finals and this historic rivalry match was predicted to be finished in 6 by the Lakers.

However, it was here in the NBA Finals the Boston Celtics proved something. They proved the Big Three could play together, they proved the bench would be productive, they proved Rondo and Perkins could be in the starting lineup of a championship team, and against the odds they beat the Lakers. However, they did not just simply beat the Lakers. Most surprisingly, and what we should be amazed by the Celtics is their largest NBA Finals defeciet turnaround of 24 points, Ray Allen's tying record of 7 three-pointers in a Finals game, first team to win an NBA Championship after losing first 6 road games of the playoffs, and record 39 point margin of victory versus the Lakers in Game 6.

The Boston Celtics did not just have a great season, they had a historic season. And in one mired by the Tim Donaghy scandal we should appreciate this NBA season and the Boston Celtics' accomplishments. Whether you are a Boston fan, Lakers fan or NBA fan, there is not much you can take away from the Celtics from what they've been able to accomplish. Looking at all the statistical odds the Celtics overcame, and the accomplishments they achieved, this is a historical season we should all appreciate.

Congratulations to the 2008 NBA Champions, The Boston Celtics.

Picture Source: NBA.com


Game 6 prediction

The Celtics had mechanical trouble apparently yesterday leaving LAX and left 12 hours later than they expected. Ray Allen was the only one who didn't have to go through that nightmare because he left Boston early to tend to one of his children who had an illness. His child is expected to be fine and Allen is expected to play in Game 6. The Lakers got into Boston yesterday before the Celtics did and are having their usual pregame shootarounds and media sessions.

Tonight's game will undoubtedly be decided by the production of KG and Gasol on both ends of the court. On the other end of the floor, it will be up to the Lakers to defend Paul Pierce and do their best to contain him to make sure he does not single handedly beat the Lakers like he almost did in Game 5. Pierce has given the Lakers a nightmare all season and if the Lakers don't at least limit his production, there will be a 17th banner in Boston at the end of the night.

As blasphemous as this might sound I think Kobe goes for a big game, but I don't think that the rest of the Lakers show up big for this game and I look for KG to bounce back from his Game 5 letdown and have a huge game. I'm looking for Boston to be raising the trophy and for Paul Pierce to be holding a MVP trophy.

Prediction: Boston -5 over Lakers
Prediction: Paul Pierce MVP


This Advertisment Amuses Me

Surely the marketing department could have done something better than just telling us Shane Battier and Lisa Leslie don't have Asthma.

It wasn't pretty, but it was good enough to force a Game 6

On a night where Kobe's first quarter performance looked like it was going to be a legendary performance hitting 4 out of 5 three-pointers showing a flash of invincibility and looking like the Lakers were going to roll to a blow out victory scoring 38 points in the 1st quarter. Sound familiar Laker fans? It should, it was exactly how Game 4 started, except this time, no one in Lakerland felt comfortable with this lead, and rightfully so. Of course, the Celtics chipped away at the lead and brought it to within 3 at the half for a score of 55-52. During the post-game press conference, Phil Jackson said that he told his team, "It's a good thing we dont have the lead because we don't know what to do with it anyway." It was another perfect forecast by the Zen Master as the Lakers watched their lead turn into the red zone and found themselves playing catchup.

The Lakers were able to sustain a 38 point 8 assist onslaught by Pierce and watched him almost single-handedly bring another banner to Boston. He did not have much help from KG who admittedly said himself that he had a bad game. For most of the game it didn't matter whether KG had a big night offensively until he missed two free throws late in the fourth that would have tied the game at 95. It should make Celtics fans cringe to see this kind of performance by the highest paid player in the league this year (around 23 million) choke in critical moments in the game. I've said it before, his poor offensive production for the large majority of this series has been overshadowed by the stellar play of the other 2/3's of the Big 3 for Boston, but the Celtics felt it more than ever last night.

The Lakers pulled out all the stops including bringing in Chris Mihm who has basically not played since he went down in garbage time in March 06', and the move even caused some uproar from Denzel Washington. The Laker bench did not have a stellar game except for Jordan Farmar. Phil Jackson was largely criticized for sitting Fisher for the last 8 minutes of game 4 and playing Farmar, but PJ did not waver from his attack. He stuck with Farmar for the entire 4th quarter and also inserted Fisher along with him. It was an effective attack and Farmar was playing well the entire game. Farmar hit big shots and kept the Lakers afloat during the Celtics' run in the second quarter. Sam Cassell only saw the flash of Farmar's number when he drove to the basket because Cassell's 38 year old legs can't stay in front of Jordan, and PJ is right to put the quicker Farmar on Cassell's inferior defense.

Another note about Cassel: if Cassell ceases to be productive offensively, Doc must immediately remove Cassell from the lineup because Cassell passes the ball less than any point guard I have ever seen. There is a point where it hurts the Celtics and Doc needs to be careful about Cassell and the amount of shots he takes. Someone needs to remind him this is not the 90's and he is not the focal point of the offense.

KG's performance against Gasol, defensively, was very poor. It may have been the only game this series that Gasol clearly came out on top in. He allowed Gasol to be aggressive throughout the game and let Gasol log in 19 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. Letting the notoriously soft Gasol get whatever he wants in the paint will be heavily addressed by Doc Rivers before the game. Rivers has said during the series, and this has been the general consensus by most teams planning defense against Kobe, that he will let Kobe score as much as he wants, but the other players need to be stopped. That was not the case last night when the two keys for the Lakers, Gasol and LO, came up big. Lamar finally showed up for an entire game and managed to find the basket for 20 points on 8 for 10 shooting as well as 11 rebounds. This was encouraging for Laker fans as this has pushed LOs average to a hair over 13 points over the series, which is two points above his average of 11 during the San Antonio series.

Paul Pierce had 38 points 8 assists and 6 rebounds and could have sealed the series had Kobe not come up with a questionable steal. This game has left a sour taste in the Celtics mouth and you can be sure that they will be going over every excruciating detail of this film and fixing the problems. Game 6 is undoubtedly their best shot at finishing this series off. The future of the Finals will decided by who made the trip back to Boston for both teams for Tuesday night's game.

Some good links that could not be incorporated to the post:

Michael Wilbon and J.A Adande were having some good down time between Game 4 and 5.

Chicago Bulls fans will appreciate this work ethic as described by one of the top trainer's for NBA players, David Thorpe.

As much of a Laker fan I am, Kobe's humor this series has been painfully awkward, especially if you hear it live.

This video has been out for a few days, and it is a humanizing and humbling video for Nick Young as well as evidence that NBA players are still human. I still would want Young on my team during a pickup game.

I was going to post this article yesterday, but I thought this story would be done with, but I guess Jemele Hill is catching more heat from people outside of Boston for this article making some very strong comparisons, to say the very least.

Vic "The Brick" Jacobs quote of the day: "The Lakers are bamboo, they will bend, but will not break."-AM 570 'Loose Cannons' on how the Lakers will win Game 6

Picture Source: LAtimes.com (top), GettyImages


Finals MVP

I'm not saying that the NBA Finals is going to end tonight, but with the possibility that the NBA champion will be decided tonight it might be useful to at least start the discussion about who should be the Finals MVP if Boston were to win the series.

Now, several Celtics have put together some big games this series, including Rondo's career-high tying 16 assists, and Leon Powe's 21 points in 15 minutes. However, it is clear that the only real candidates for Finals MVP are the members of the Boston Three-Party...

Ray Allen- Allen surprisingly has been the most consistent Celtic of this series. In the 4 gamesthat have been played, he is the only one of the Big 3 who has scored at least 15 points in each game, and also has been shooting the highest percentage (52%). In how Allen has been scoring, he's been doing it in all ways possible. He's hit 3's (12 in the series), free throws (18 in the series), as well as been getting to the rim, a la last minute wide open lay-up of Game 4. Additionally, while Ray Allen can't be completely attributed for Kobe's 43% shooting, he has been more often then not been in charge with keeping up with him. I think Doc Rivers likewise sees how well Allen is playing and he's been playing a team high 43.5 minutes in this series. If Allen wins the MVP it will be for his consistency in this series, solid defense, and improvement in rebounding (6.0 in the series).

Paul Pierce- Pierce like all of his 9 year career in Boston, has been the heart and soul of the franchise. When Pierce went down in Game 1, Boston fans thought their hopes for a title had just slipped away. Amazingly however, Pierce came back inspiring his team along with 22 big points in game 1 to help the Celtics win that game. Additionally, with the injury possibly serious and most likely still bothering Pierce, he's still been able to play heavy minutes including having two other games with 20+ points. While Pierce did struggle in game 3, Pierce has done much to make his team better. While instilling his team with fire and energy, he also is averaging 5 assists game, as has been taking advantage of the huge matchup issues when guarded by Rad-man or Walton. On the other end, Pierce has been a good defender, and even better in the limited minutes he's been put on Kobe. Pierce has hit big shots, including tough fadeaways, and deep 3's. The Celtics would not be where they are without Paul Pierce.

Kevin Garnett- Kevin Garnett has been struggling, and especially disappearing in the 4th quarters of this series. Misleadingly it seems like Garnett is putting up the numbers with his 17.5 points, however has been averaging 19 shots a game for 38%. This poor offensive performance however can be overlooked with how Garnett has played on the defensive end. Garnett is averaging a team high 12.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks in this series, while at the same time has played stellar defense on Lamar Odom, and helpful weak-side defender on Pau Gasol. Additionally, he's still been showing what a great passer he is by getting his teammates involved dishing out 3.5 assists, More recently, Garnett has become more efficient and hitting shots in the 4th quarter (maybe he was just nervous about being in the Finals the first time), so it is possible he's picked up his game. Garnett has provided a lot of the intangibles and the defense necessary for the Celtics to win, however how much he's been struggling he probably won't win it unless he has a big Game 5 (6 and 7 if necessary).

Prediction: Paul Pierce so far should be the Finals MVP because he's provided a little bit of everything for the Celtics. The offense, the defense, and the intangibles. The Lakers defense has been focused on Pierce and he's played well in all games except game 3. If Pierce struggles again however it will easily go to Allen for his consistency, or if Garnett has a huge offensive and defensive game the award will be his. However, looking at how tight this race is, is a great testimony to how well all three have played this year, and how willing each of the Big 3 has been to defer to each other to step up and play big.

Picture Source: The Big Lead, TrueHoop, derok.net (respectively)

Possibly the last game prediction of the 07'-08' NBA season

The Lakers fantasy season hangs in the balance tonight as the Lakers play their last game at Staples as they host Game 5, and possibly their last game of the season. Expect the Lakers to come out gunning from start to finish. The Lakers may lose this series, but they will not drop the series in front of their home crowd. All of the critics who say that the Staples Center is full of rich millionaire fans, more concerned about their business deals with their clients than the actual game, are, well, right. That does not mean that the Staples Center will be at its usual noise level the whole game. Expect the Laker crowd to give the Lakers energy from start to finish. What makes the Staples Center the hardest to play in has nothing to do with the noise level, it has more to do with who is there than anything, just ask the Jazz.

If the Lakers are going to have a chance in this series beyond this game, they have to get consistent meaningful performance from LO and Gasol. If Fisher puts together a solid game defensively and hits some big shots when the Lakers need it, this one should be sent back to Boston. If the Lakers bench also puts in 30-40 points, and everyone else is clicking, it should be just what the Lakers need to gain back confidence. The Lakers did not watch the second half of Game 4 because Jackson thought it would be too painful for them to watch.

Pau Gasol cannot continue to get the lesser end of the battle against KG. Gasol did not take advantage of KG during his slump from virtually the second half of Game 1 until the 4th quarter of Game 4. Gasol not capitalizing on that was a huge setback for the Lakers. What is puzzling about Gasol is that he comes out aggressive and Laker fans sit back and go, "Ok, this game will be different than the last one." Then the second half comes and Gasol stays in the locker room. Game 5 could very well be decided by the play of Gasol, but Kobe says that the Lakers have not panicked yet and he says that the series is far from over. LO as well as Fisher will spur the Lakers momentum and it seems that when one of the Laker shooters hit a big 3 the basket gets a lot bigger for the rest of the team.

The Celtics will be able to win this game if they continue to prevent Kobe from dominating the game. We can expect the Big 3 to have a big impact on the game, but if one of the Celtics pulls a Leon Powe, it could mean a great summer for the Celtics and a really long one for the Lakers. The Celtics basically need to continue to do what they have been doing because it has obviously worked for the last 3 of 4 games. The Celtics do have one huge advantage on their side: history. As everyone knows, no team in the shot-clock era has ever come back from 3-1 in the NBA Finals. Since the 1985 change to the 2-3-2 format, no road team has won both of the last 2 games. The Lakers have an extremely steep mountain to climb if they are going to be hoisting the trophy in Game 7.

Only a season like this could happen to the team from Hollywood, but we have yet to see whether or not the Lakers save the day, or end this seemingly perfect script in a tragedy.

Prediction: Lakers -7 over Celtics

Prediction note: Celtics have covered the spread in every game this series so either the Lakers are due to cover one, or I'm wrong, again.

Picture source: ESPN.com



The worst loss in LA sports history?

The title of this post is the question Steve Hartman asked when he opened up the "Loose Cannons" show on AM 570 KLAC radio.

I'm not going to go into excruciating detail of the game, or post any links, mainly due to how painful this loss is for me, and I don't want to go through my sports clippings for fear of reliving the game. It is also pretty obvious how the Lakers lost this lead.

No one in Laker land is waking up happy this morning. If you are like me, you probably lost a little sleep over the loss last night. I categorize this loss as one of the top 3 most painful losses I can remember. One that should have tied the series at 2-2, has swung the opposite way and now the Lakers have a close to impossible task of coming back from a 3-1 hole. On a night when LO stepped up and did exactly what he needed to do, the rest of the Lakers, including Kobe, couldn't come through. With the Lakers leading at 24 points at one point in the game and 18 at the half, everyone was getting ready to call this thing a best-of-3. Now, the series has shifted to a do-or-die for the Lakers every game. The Lakers were playing so well, Kobe had only scored 3 points off of free throws and didn't log his first field goal until midway through the third. The defensive switch to put Pierce on Kobe undoubtedly bothered him, but it was shaky Laker defense, and clutch Celtic offensive that put this one away late in the 4th.

When asked how one gets over a loss such as this, Kobe said that a lot of drinking and whining should be involved. I don't doubt that every Purple and Gold faithful felt a little need to take Kobe up on his suggestion. The Celtics will take Kobe up on his suggestion soon, but it will be after they seal the series with their fourth win.

Pierce and KG started out very slowly, but they eventually found their groove soon enough to save the game. The box score shows that both teams played an evenly matched game. I guess that is true if you count two lop-sided halves by each team. The box score does not reflect the jumpshot by Eddie House to put the Celtics up for the first time in the game with about 2 minutes left in the game. The box score does not reflect Ray Allen's cross-over and uncontested layup. The box score also does not reflect Posey's devastating 3pter from the corner to pretty much seal the game.

Here is what the Lakers need to do to try and salvage this huge hole. The numbers are heavily against them. 28 teams have fallen behind 3-1 in the Finals and exactly 0 have come back from such a situation. The Lakers need to play 3 flawless games in a row because anything less will mean a 17th banner in Boston. Kobe must put this "he's not MJ criticism" behind him and move on to Game 5 and have a huge game. All these criticisms of Kobe will go away if he leads the Lakers through the seemingly impossible. A flawless game for the Lakers starts at the defensive end for 48 minutes, the specification of 48 minutes is usually a given, but the Lakers don't seem to remember that this series. Pau Gasol and some of the Laker guards were slow or just missed roatations. The Lakers were straight up outplayed in the second half of that game, hands down. If they want to stay alive, they are going to have to put together an entire 48 minute game on both ends of the floor. If the Lakers can limit the role players from stepping up big, they can focus more energy on the offensive end. Game 4 was LO's time to finally step up, the Lakers are in need of Gasol and Odom to show up together in the same game.

The Lakers embarassed the city of Los Angeles last night. They can make up for it, at the very least, by forcing a Game 7, even better, winning the championship. We can only hope. No team has ever overcome a 21point lead in the first during the Finals, so you could make the argument that the Lakers are due to overcome their deficit. The Lakers are filling our lives with drama, we just don't know if we are on the brink of this fairytale season being shattered, or if they are going to write us the perfect ending.

"You must die completely in order to be reborn."-Vic 'The Brick' Jacobs quoting the Buddhist religion. Hopefully, the Lakers died completely in Game 4. That is all we can hope for.



Game 4 prediction

Tonight is going to be a struggle for both teams. If either team comes out playing anywhere close to how they played in game 3, they will lose. It will be clear from the beginning who will be in control of the game. The Lakers can seize control of the series with a win and an exclamation point behind it. The key for the Lakers is undoubtedly the Lakers' point-forward Lamar Odom. He HAS to come out gunning tonight. If he does not, it will be an uphill battle for the Lakers and the Lakers will not be able to weather anymore poor performances from him. Sasha willed the Lakers to a win last game and the Lakers could use help from their bench again tonight. A solid performance from the inside from Pau wouldn't hurt either. Expect Kobe to put together the usual 30+ pts game. Every game in the Finals is more important than the last, again, tonight will be many of the Lakers most important game of their career.

The Celtics are going to have a different game. I expect the kinks in their supposed jetlagged legs to be fixed in Game 4. I think people are making a bigger deal out of Rondo's ankle than it really is. Doc is talking about starting Tony Allen if Rondo isn't ready. Rondo's production offensively, with the exception of 16 assists in Game 2 has not been stellar. His role is easily replaceable if the Big 3 step up big. The Celtics have been awful on the road throughout the playoffs and Game 3 didn't do much to rid that notion.

Prediction: Lakers -7.5 over Boston

Celtics Game 3 Struggle

The Detroit News Reports: Celtics Cite Jet Lag For Struggles

"Many of the Celtic players are blaming jet lag after the six hour flight from Boston and Los Angeles for their struggles in Game 3, the Detroit News is reporting."

You know what, you play 82 games during the season and you know jet lags going to be a problem, especially flying coast to coast with only a one day break. But come on this is the NBA Finals, you should not be complaining about it. You need to be bringing it every single game of the Finals. And yes, you might lose, and jet lag may have been a huge factor but you just need to shut it and go play.

There can only be one.


Game 3 Rundown

Well last night's game didn't make Game 4 any more predictable. Laker fans came into last nights game expecting the Lakers to demolish the Celtics. That did not happen, well, not consistently at least. The game was low scoring and that was due more to defense than poor offense. The Lakers did an amazing job defensively and stepped up their transition game significantly from their abysmal transition defense in Boston. They also managed to limit Paul Pierce and KG to 6 and 13 points, respectively. Pierce and KG shot 8 for 35 from the field while Pierce spent most of the night in foul trouble and luckily managed to avoid the one that would have sent him to the pine for the night. The Celtics defense did not do much to stop the league MVP as he terrorized the Celtics all night going for 36 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 2 steals. Kobe had a rare free throw struggle and went 11 for 18 from the stripe and after the game he said, "At least I got there". That was very true, and the opposite of Game 2 in Boston as the Lakers found themselves shooting 22 freebies as opposed to Boston's 7. Don't be so quick to your conspiracy theories because the Lakers were hands down more aggressive and the Celtics were settling, like the Lakers in Games 1 and 2, for jump shots. The real story of the night was Sasha 'The Machine' Vujacic, who covered up for LO's continued struggles, and went 7 for 10 from the field which combined for 20 points.

The good for the Lakers: The Laker role players stepped up and played hard. Kobe was aggressive from start to finish and has come to terms with the fact that he do his patented first-half facilitator transformed into the 2nd-half, more like 4th quarter, dominator. He came out gunning from the beginning. Started off shooting a little rough going 2-5 in the opening minutes of the game, but finished with a game high 36 points.

The bad for the Lakers: Gasol and, need I say it?, Odom. Bill Plaschke put it best when he said, "Odom made two more baskets than you." Correct. He scored exactly two more baskets than me, you, and your family combined. He also furthered his embarassment by taking the ball unnecessarily to the hoop in the final meaningless seconds of the game and picking up an offensive foul. LO knows about his struggles and he is harder on himself than anyone. Jackson's criticisms after Game 2 did not seem to get him going. LO responded to the Jackson's post Game 2 criticisms by saying that he can accept it. We are just waiting for him to turn acceptance of criticism to motivation to production. Gasol also played rather poorly after his solid Game 2 performance. The Spanish national team scored more goals (4) in their game against Russia yesterday than Gasol made baskets. Gasol, like the rest of the Laker team, struggled big time from the foul line going only 3 for 8. Again, being outscored by Spain's soccer team point for point in that category. Fisher going 1 for 6 from the field and finishing with 6 points is not going to light up the box score, but his defense was still solid.

The good for the Celtics: They did not get blown out. They hung around and kept the game close for most of the series, even taking the lead a couple of times. Only losing by 6 when Paul Pierce and KG have terrible offensive games can be seen as a good thing. That means bad news for the Lakers because if a few more of those shots drop, they might be sitting on top of a 3-0 and putting the champagne on ice. Ray Allen showing that he is still around and able to perform at a level we think he can play at. He was the only bright spot for the Big 3 shooting 8 for 13 to net 25 points.

The bad for the Celtics: Doc Rivers' coaching. I have no idea how one can come to the conclusion that putting Rondo on Kobe for some of the game was a good decision. Kobe's eyes lit up when he saw Rondo guarding him. The Celtics should keep Allen on Kobe and just use the trapping from Game 1 to stop Kobe. As stated above, Pierce and Garnett's poor offensive performance can also be put in this category. The truly bad part of KG's performance is that after the first half of Game 1 he has made only 14 of his last 50 shots since then. #5 and #34 need to bounce back big if the Celtics are going to steal one in LA. Rondo's ankle has to be worrisome for Celtics fans. Rondo claims that he was only 50% when he went back into the game. Someone should tell Rondo that his re-emergence from the locker room only made the Celtic faithful yawn. Rondo and Cassell's inconsistency have made the very replaceable. Heck, even Eddie House made it into the game last night and drained a couple of big shots.

Rondo has to realize that, even beyond this series, his skills are not among the Celtics' most valuable assets, and neither is this supposed superstar's for his team. Rondo needs to play like he is still competing for the starting spot, and gaining the confidence of Doc Rivers. More importantly, he needs to gain the confidence of the Celtic fans because public opinion can sway a coach very quickly. Cassell is 16 years Rondo's senior with vast knowledge of the game and can shoot the ball, but those 38 year old legs are slowing down a bit. House made some big shots last night and kept them close down the stretch, and it had to put some confidence into House and Rivers. Rondo can't shoot, but he can dribble and pass. House can shoot, but he can't dribble or pass (I don't think House has dished out anything since he gave,his wife, Mike Bibby's sister, her wedding ring). Boston can pick their poison, but like many young players, Rondo has to find consistency when it matters most, in the playoffs, or he could find himself out of a Celtic uniform very soon.

Game 4 will be a much different game than Game 3. The series has been a very unpredictable one (except for the officiating), and both teams need to get into a rhythm and sustain it. Jon Barry said it last night, "The Lakers need to outscore the Celtics, because they aren't going to outdefend them." The defense for both teams looked solid, so Boston, it is your turn to try and outscore the Lakers because they have learned to defend just as well as you. Laker fans, don't get too excited yet, the Lakers just held point on their first serve, now it is time for an ace.

If you can't get enough of this reffing scandal. Here is a pro bettor's take on the situation if you haven't read it off of True Hoop yet.

Picture Source: Hoops Addict blog (top), The Basketball Jones blog (middle), The Big Lead (bottom)



Game 3 prediction

Look for a big game from Kobe and the rest of the Lakers. Tonight is a must win. A loss for the Purple and Gold means that the Celtics should find some polish and lather it up on the Larry O'Brian piece. #24 looked more like himself on Sunday night. For many of the Lakers, this will be the biggest game in their lives, they should play like it. I don't see the Lakers dropping this game, but don't expect the Celtics to give this one away. It is really hard to pick the Lakers to cover the spread, but a blowout would be huge for their confidence, and the series. Boston knows they only need to steal one in LA. A lax attitude for the Celtics is only human for a team up two coming into the first road game. I fully expect a big win for the Lakers tonight, but free throws at the end of this game might push the spread in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, this series is going into Game 4 2-1.

Keys for the Lakers: LO needs to step up, and step up big. Gasol needs to put up what he did on Sunday night or even more. Fisher needs to shut down Rondo, but still produce on the offensive end. The bench needs to play like they have all year. They are the better bench and they need to play like it so the starters can rest their engines to close the game out. The Lakers also need to be better on the boards and limit second chance opportunities.

Keys for the Celtics: Keep doing what they are doing. If PJ Brown continues to play like he has played in this series, it could mean a lot of work for the Lakers big men. The Big 3 are being about as consistent as can be and we can expect more of that this game, although I think Allen will take a small cut in points this game. The Celtics need to keep being aggressive on the offensive board and try to keep LO out of the game. They won't be able to limit Kobe, but they can limit Gasol and hope that he isn't the focal point of the offense like he was in the first half of Game 2. If the Celtics have someone step up like Powe in Game 2, it could be huge for the Celtics. They seem to have had a hero every series this playoffs, it is about consistency for the Celtics. The road game has not been kind to the Celtics this post season. Tonight will be a big test of that.

Expect the Lakers to come out tonight with a sense of desperation and urgency. This might be a lead from start to finish.

Picture Source: The Basketball Jones blog

Prediction: LAKERS -9 over Celtics



Game 2 Rundown

The series shifts back to LA with Boston up 2. Before Laker fans panic and yell about the officiating, take a deep breath, and just remember that the Celtics did what they were suppose to do. They held their serve. Ok, Lakers serve now. There are a plethora of questions surrounding Game 3. How do the Celtics come out in LA being a terrible road team throughout their playoffs? Leon Powe stepped up for the Celtics, who steps up next? Did the 24 point comeback give the Lakers some confidence? Did LO get back on the plane to LA? Wait, he never got off the plane to go to Boston. Can one or two more players for the Lakers, besides, Kobe step up and have a big game? All of these questions can be taken into Game 2.

Lets get the officiating out of the way. I hate complaining about the officiating because I know that the Lakers are on the better end of a lot of these bad officiating games, but I have to say something about it. Clearly, there was an enormous discrepancy of fouls called, +28 to be exact. At one point in the middle of the third, the disparity was 26-2. Leon Powe's amazing performance cashed in 13 free throws which was more than the entire Laker team at 10. The Celtics got 38 freebies. I can actually live with that to an extent. The Celtics were really aggressive and went to the rim a lot and dished out 31 assists (thanks to some generous Boston scorekeeping) which open up driving lanes to the basket. Naturally, fouls are going to happen. Please do call the fouls that happen. Please don't call fouls that don't happen. Kobe picked two extremely questionable fouls early in the game. The thing is, I didn't see that happening to Ray Allen, who is notorious for fighting very roughly through screens. Kobe's two fouls sort of ended the ball game at that point. It disrupted the whole flow of the offense and changed the entire game. I am fine with the refs calling ridiculous fouls, as long as they call them both ways. No, the offensive foul on Kendrick Perkins on the first possession of the game does not equal two ridiculous fouls on Kobe. No one can sit there and look at the foul disparity in the box score and no hesitate to make sure what they saw was correct. I'm not saying that the Lakers deserved 38 foul shots, but yes, 2 or even 3 more calls would have made a huge difference in the game. You can ask people close to me, I've been saying NBA games were fixed since summer 04'. I DO NOT think these games are fixed, nor were any games fixed this entire season. As much as I want to think that Bob Delaney is a culprit, Donaghy was the one bad apple, end of story. The game was not lost because of the officiating.

People seem to gloss over KGs awful shooting performance. He went 7 for 19 with only 17 points. Luckily, he did not need to put up any more than that because Leon Powe came to the rescue. In the first half, KG got beat by Gasol. By the second half, more of the same would have happened, if the Lakers would have gone through Gasol, luckily for KG, the Lakers did not. KG's performance becomes irrelevant at the point they lose, but they can't expect performances like Powe's, every night. Rondo has been getting the best of the point guard matchup against Fisher. Rondo has had 15 and 4 points in each of the two games, respectively. The most shocking numbers are Rondo's 16 assists and 2 turnovers in Game 2. The frustrating part of Fisher's defense on Rondo is that Fisher is not forcing Rondo to be a jump shooter often enough. Rondo is getting whatever he wants whenever he wants. Letting Rondo the shaky point guard get comfortable is the last thing the Lakers want to do.

The breaking point for the Lakers are LO and Vlad-Rad. At this point I have given up on Vlad-Rad. He kind of made up for the mistakes he made and his ridiculous contract with his late steal and dish to Sasha for a 3pter and another steal and a non-called travel that lead to a dunk to bring the Lakers within 4. That still does not take away from Vlad-Rad making 30 million dollars and being the biggest question mark on the Lakers team with the exception of what Phil Jackson is whistling about.

The Celtics seem to have everything firing on all cylinders. The game is physical and slowed down which favors the Celtics. There were only 88 posessions in the game which is the tempo the Celtics want to play at. The Celtics are a confident bunch of ball players that do not fear the Lakers. They have beaten the Lakers and know how to break down the Laker defense (or lackthereof, see Powe's 94 foot uncontested dunk). The Celtics seem to have someone new step up every game as well as hit big shots when they need to. Those are the marks that define a championship team.

The final possessions for the Lakers were awful. No one knows why Sasha didn't give the ball up to Kobe on the last play for the Lakers. I think that Laker fans can live with Kobe taking the last shot, but it is a harder pill to swallow when Sasha takes a contested three pointer that gets blocked. Nonetheless, the Lakers need to go through Gasol more, and the Celtics are going to focus in on Kobe, obviously, this leaves players like Vlad-Rad, Sasha, Walton, Ariza, and others open. These players need to step up and hit those shots. The Lakers need LO to step up, which we can expect he will do at home.

The Lakers find themselves in a position down 0-2. 3 other teams in the history of the Finals have been down 0-2. The Lakers in 69', the Blazers in 77' and the Heat in 04. It will be an uphill battle, but this series is far from over.

The ratings for last night's game was 8.3 compared to the 04' Finals with the Lakers versus the Pistons at 10.4. I guess people are not as enamored as predictions thought they would be.

Following the Lakers ensures that you are never short of drama in your life.

picture source: ESPN.com



Game 2 prediction

It may not be all smiles if Pierce's knee doesn't hold up. There has been a lot of speculation of whether or not Pierce played the rest of the classic Game 1 on adrenaline or if his knee was actually in game condition. He says there is a "great chance" he will play, and there is no structural damage to his knee, but he should make sure that his knee is actually good enough to go and not push himself to the point it could cost his team the game, or even worse, the series.

As the series goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick against the spread. Each game seems more equally matched than the one before. The string of bad games for Kobe means that he is due for a big one. That might be hard because coming into the series no one (including myself), thought that Ray Allen could guard Kobe. I'm still deciding myself whether or not his shot was not falling or it was good defense. He did have to settle for a lot of shots off of cuts and screens that were catch and shoot, but they didn't seem like they were falling. One thing I did notice was that the Celtics help defense was the best I have seen this season, and the trap on Kobe generally comes well above the three point line forcing him to dribble away from the basket and allow the defenders to get re-set while stagnating the Laker offense. Through the three games against the Celtics Kobe has shot only 24 for 72 combining for a lowly 33% which is lower than Lebron's 35% shooting performance against the Celtics in the Eastern semis. Kobe only shot 1 for 6 in the fourth and seemed to disappear along with KG who went miss for miss with Kobe in the fourth quarter. KG called his play in the 4th quarter terrible and Kobe isn't arguing about his play in the 4th quarter either. He has averaged 10 points in the 4th quarter this post-season and only put up 4 in Game 1. While the Lakers collectively went 5 for 20 in the 4th and got outscored 52-37 in the second half.

One bright spot for the Lakers is that the Celtics can't expect the Lakers to miss 15 shots in the fourth quarter because some of those were wide open looks. They also can't expect Kobe to go be as inefficient as he was. You also can expect that Phil will out-coach Doc and make the necessary adjustments for Game 2 to get the Lakers offense flowing again. The Lakers need to also be better on the boards and not get out-rebounded on the offensive boards 10-7 and losing the rebounding battle 33-46. The difference in Game 1 was undoubtedly Paul Pierce with his 7 for 10 shooting and those back-to-back 3 point daggers. Pierce was the difference in the game 1 and he will be the difference in Game 2. If Pierce is not hampered by his knee, the Lakers will be in for a tough night, but if he is feeling the injury, it will probably be a waltz to a 1-1 tie.

Scary picture, right?

Those two players have been an amazing one-two combination throughout the year and Gasol is probably the reason Kobe won the MVP and the Lakers won the West. He can't put up a measly 15 points consistently for the Lakers to win. LO also has to have a big game because he is the key to the Lakers success. When LO plays well the Lakers have been successful (see game 3 of West Conf. Finals). The Celtics are 11-1 at home, but the Lakers have been the most consistent road team at 4-4. This game will rely on coaching changes on the defensive end, Kobe's shooting, to a much lesser extent Gasol and LO's production, but most importantly, Pierce's knee.

Updated line change: Lakers +0 over Celtics
Prediction: +1 Lakers over Celtics (pick in bold)

Picture sources: ESPN.com (top), Yahoo!sports (bottom)

Fun Finals fact: Since 1998, there have been 5 MVPs (including Kobe) that have made it to the Finals, and his team has almost always won by default, the only exception, Allen Iverson who lost to the one post-season loss Lakers.

Baron Davis continues his career in the film industry and does an interview with Kobe.

This one is kind of old but if you haven't seen it, Ron Artest has a great interview with Kobe.

Top 50 dunks of the 07'-08' NBA season.


Keys to Game 2

3 Things Each Team Needs to Do to Win Game 2:


1. Rebounding...It's clear Boston is a good rebounding team, and it's strong defense actually leads to even more rebounds, however Lakers aren't that bad themselves. In fact, Lakers were 4th in the league with 44.14 rebounds during the regular season and Boston was 12th for 42.01. And while their faster pace probably leads to more rebounds their regular season differential was +1.35, while Boston was +3.12

2. Bench Points...."The second-string contingent of Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Ronny Turiaf and Jordan Farmar – affectionately known as the “Bench Mob” – has been all of those things for the Lakers all season long, but in Game 1, that ol’ bench magic just wasn’t there. The Lakers’ sixth man through 10th man fell seven points below its 22.2 post season scoring average and L.A. lost by 10."

3. Kobe Time...While Kobe was defended well and ended up shooting 9-26 from the field in Game 1, I really thought Kobe could have done more offensively. Honestly, I was surprised he took 26 shots in the end, since most of the game I felt like he was focused on facilitating points which in the end did not turn out to be the best thing to do. In fact, on the floor Kobe had a game low of -13. Jeff Van Gundy made a comment during the game, when Kobe passed open a wide open three for a wide open dunk by Gasol, that last year Kobe wasn't doing that because the pass would have been to Kwame Brown. However, at the same time while this definitely was the right decision for Kobe to make, in Game 2 if Kobe Bryant can be Kobe Bryant, the Lakers can win.


The Big 3: While I was tempted to list Ray Allen, as a key to the game, the truth is all three players need to be on par for the Celtics to succeed. Ray Allen struggled against the Cavs, however picked it up again averaging 17 points against the Pistons. It would seem he has found has game again, but can all three keep up this high production. Garnett, Allen, and Pierce had 24, 19, 22 respectively. In fact, Game 1 is only the 3rd game of the playoffs where all three Celtics had 19 or more points.

Bench: With the Lakers bench needing to pick it up, Bostons bench needs to sustain what its doing. In terms of scoring everyone outside of Sam Cassell shot 3-11 (Powe, Posey, and Brown). however Cassell was pretty effective with 8 points in 12 minutes. In the next game, someone needs to step it up and knock down shots. Whether it is Cassell again, Posey or Brown someone off the bench will have to pose as a scoring threat, while the rest have to keep up their relentless defense. Also, Sam I Am should stop thinking about his coaching career and where he is playing next year and worry about the finals.

Perkins and/or Rondo: Much like the bench needing their one scorer, either one of the Small Two need to step up big, or both need to have pretty decent games. In Game 1 it was all Rajon Rondo. Kendrick Perkins dealt with 4 fouls and only played 23 minutes (albeit he was also out in the locker room after spraining his ankle) he really needs to find a way to stay on the floor. He is a good defensive matchup against Pau Gasol, and should be able to negate Ronnie Turiaf when he isn't running around taking jumpshots. We've also seen Perkins dominate offensively like Game 5 versus Detroit with 18 points, 16 rebounds, and 2 blocks, so it will be necessary for him to step it up more, otherwise Rondo is going to have to bring another great game.

Things to Watch:

How will injuries to Perkins and Pierce affect the Celtics?

Will Kobe shoot better against the Celtics defense in Game 2?

Game 1 Recap:


Maybe he was hurt? But probably not.

It was pretty dramatic and all. When I saw the injury, I didn't think twice about it. Bill Simmons called the silence after the injury "The worst sound in sports". I was pretty surprised when I heard people talking about dramatizing the injury, but if you really think about it. The guy gets his leg twisted (which didn't look terrible on the replay), and he comes back in 5 minutes. I don't think he totally dramatized it, and he probably was hurt, but he probably didn't need to get carried off the court and then disobey doctors in the locker room just to come skipping out onto the court. A little much, no? He goes 6 for 6 in the second half, game 1 goes to Boston. Bill Plashcke had a great article on his column about it today calling it "the Fake-N-Shake". (for the record, Plaschke is NOT an LA fan by any sense of the word. He is very anti-Laker.)

Bottom line: no excuses for LA. It doesn't matter if Paul Pierce beat the Lakers from his wheelchair, the Lakers have to be able to weather the emotional inspiration and come out on top. Kobe can't go back to being the old Kobe he has been criticized for being in his previous years. He has to stick to the game. They were in the game virtually until KG's put-back dunk. They can't come out and shoot 1 for 13 in the last 7 or so minutes of the game and expect to leave the Garden with a win. It is best out of 7, and they only need one in Boston. A win Sunday could shift the wind of the series dramatically.

Best of the day:

I'm sure you all have seen this video by now, but it is still worth watching. Who knew he was this talented as a comedian?

Paul Shirley scores the NBA Finals 1-0 in favor of the Lakers. I guess that is what happens when you watch the Finals in a foreign country and spend the early morning hours of the day in search of it. He also talks about Kobe and KG's personality from personal experience.

The championship series tradition between the mayors of the two cities playing traditionally make a bet. The LA and Boston mayors are not different.

I thought KG was married with a kid...?

Game 2 predictions tomorrow.

Picture Source: The Sporting Blog

Complete Game 1 rundown by guest writer Greg J

On the first night of a series celebrated for its roots in NBA history, it seems only appropriate that it was decided by the kind of romantic storyline that elder Celtics fans have so often described to me. Injured or not, Pierce's panic-inducing exit on a wheelchair, followed by his triumphant emergence from the tunnel and subsequent pair of threes to bring the Celtics back was an amazing way to begin this much-anticipated series. The Celtics importantly preserved home-court advantage and set the stage for Game 2 on Sunday.

Some important points:

-Unbeknownst to everybody, Ray Allen looks like he really knows how to cover Kobe Bryant. For those familiar with Ray Ray's less than impeccable defensive reputation, this is seems flat-out unbelievable. However, his ability to tempt Kobe with the shot results in less possessions where Kobe's going towards the basket and creating for others, and a lot more with Kobe taking some sort of off-balanced mid-range jumper. Having defensive-savvy veterans like PJ Brown and Posey in help defense certainly doesn't hurt either. Kobe, claiming to have missed a lot of "bunnies", apparently now considers "bunnies" to be contested fade-aways. For a player heralded as unstoppable, you can't do a much better job than the Celtics did last night. We can chalk it up to a bad shooting night all we want, but anyone who's been watching the Lakers at all is well aware that Kobe simply wasn't getting the looks he was getting in the other series. We'll see how Kobe responds in Game Two.

-If the Lakers want to win, Pau Gasol needs to match-up better with KG. While his stat-line was decent, he looked hopeless in trying to guard Garnett and really failed to get anything going in the post. Had Garnett not forgotten how to shoot in the 4th quarter (0-9 over a stretch), this problem only would have been amplified. It became brutally apparent last night that Gasol isn't nearly physical enough to disrupt Garnett's mid-range game. When KG is that comfortable facing the basket, he's borderline unstoppable. Look for this to be a recurring theme throughout the series. If the Celtics come out on top, this is going to by a big reason why.

-Despite lurking in the shadows behind KG's monstrous game and Paul Pierce's dramatics, Rajon Rondo was absolutely huge in Game 1. Celtics fans know that throughout the playoffs, Rondo has been a man of two faces. On one side, the second year player has shown flashes of realized potential. An explosive, slashing point guard, he has demonstrated the ability to tear apart a defense more honed in on stopping the big 3. In doing so, he is able to find his shot and create shots for teammates. In a pivotal game 5 against the Cavs, Rondo threw up 20 and dished 13, and at times seemed to have complete control of the game. When the home crowd can generate enough momentum to keep his confidence in full swing, Rajon Rondo has shown that he is a very good basketball player. However, on the other side of things, the second year point guard has often played, well, like a second year point guard. Plagued by inconsistency, Rondo’s story has been as much about wavering confidence as it has been about defiant success. On the road specifically, Rondo has shown a tendency to crawl into his own shell rather than looking to create. As the point guard, falling into these mid-game comas has a distressingly stagnating, even halting effect on the Celtics' offensive flow, as his lack of play-making detracts from everyone's productivity.
Last night, we saw his better half. Simply put, when Rondo is firing, the Celtics are firing, and Game 1 testified loudly to this. In Game 1, Rajon dropped 15 and shelled out 7. More importantly, he was aggressive and maintained a solid offensive flow. Much like the team itself, Rondo's start to the series was promising, yet we should remain wary of the looming inconsistency that has plagued him throughout the playoffs.

-In the words of the ever-quotable Shaquille O'Neal, Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. He's been trapped in basketball purgatory for so long, and I am so happy that he's been given the opportunity to show how special of a player he is on the national stage. After being jobbed out of a four point play in the Detroit series in possibly the more inexplicable calls ever made, his karmic retribution in the 3rd quarter on a similar shot that banked in seemed fitting. He single-handedly swung the game in the Celtics favor on
back-to-back threes, and was the heart and soul of the team throughout the game. Three more like that and he'll have some Finals MVP hardware to add to his collection. His knee has quickly become the biggest wild card in the series. If he's not at full health, it will be pretty smooth sailing for the Lakers from here on out, despite their Game 1 loss. If he can play effectively, he’s the best answer to Kobe the Lakers have encountered.

(Side note: The entire "faking" accusation is a contrived, asinine attempt at the kind of shock journalism that keeps Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith employed. Plashke should have his head on a stake for that. Pierce thought he heard a pop, understandably panicked, realized he over-reacted, then went out and
played. Also, straining a tendon in the knee, regardless of how seriously, is going to be pretty painful when it first happens. Can't we leave it at that? Just drop it and move on.)

-The comically over-hyped Lakers bench showed that it was just that last night. In an area considered one of the Lakers' biggest advantages, the Battle of the Benches went to the Celtics. This was somewhat unsurprising, as the kind of solid veteran play seen in Cassell (eh..maybe not Sam), Posey, and Brown will
often overcome the youthful energy seen in Vujacic, Farmar, and Turiaf, especially in the Finals.

-Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. More than anything else, this is probably why the Celtics won. In the regular season, team rebounding for the two squads was essentially equal, with the Lakers ranked 10th in the league and the Celtics 11th. So for now, we'll assume this was just a brief apparition. However, should this problem persist for the Lakers, the disparity in rebounding alone could swing things in the Celtics favor.

Overall, the Celtics uncovered many of the Lakers' flaws that the media had done such an extensive job of ignoring going into the series. This is not going to be the Laker-dominated Kobefest it was originally touted as, which was a ridiculous idea anyways. That said, the Celtics played really well last
night and Kobe played really poorly, and it’s not going to be like that all series. This is going to be an absolute grind for both sides. While, after last night, we have a far better understanding of the dynamics that will shape this series, the series is still very much up in the air. I still see this going 7, but a Celtics win on Sunday could start to nudge my prediction forward.