NBA Finals: Game 3’s Most Important Top 10

June 10, 2010

by Jack Maidment

1. The Rim

In a career that lasts 10 years, 15 if you are super lucky/talented/lazy, all NBA players make plans for taking care of themselves after retirement. Game 3 of the NBA Finals was proof of where Kobe has invested a small portion of his considerable wealth.

Take a look at the under side of the rim on both ends of the floor in Boston and there, clear as day, a stamp: Kobe Inc.

Some of the bounces that 24 got in Game 3 can only be explained by favours; favours that the CEO of any company can expect.

2. Garnett match-up against Gasol and Bynum

Garnett dominated Gasol all night, having his way wherever he wanted, evidence that his first step and canny face up game are still potent. The same can not be said for his time against Andrew Bynum who gave the Big Ticket fits. His length allowed him to contest every shot Garnett made, forcing at least one air ball and many a hopeful rainbow. Lesson? Keep Garnett the hell away from Bynum.

3. Gasol touches

Pau Gasol is basketball’s best big man. No doubt. Every time he got the ball in Game 3 he was causing Boston no end of problems: drawing the double team and utilising his unsurpassed passing ability, shooting the angled fifteen footer (unbelievable reliable) or driving to the hole. So when Kobe was doing his best impression of a greedy child the Lakers struggled; balance gone and Gasol frustrated. Just give the man the ball. More.

4. Kobe being selfish

Kobe is the best player in the game but that shouldn’t give him the license he currently has to shoot the ball at the expense of his team. He needs to take over the game in his spots for sure, but stepping in front of a pass meant for Shannon Brown and hoisting a 3 doesnt seem like the way Los Angeles will repeat.

5. Big Baby Davis

The man is untrue. If he is 6’8 then Nate Robinson is at least 6’1. But it doesn’t matter. In Game 3 he was fearless, relentlessly attacking the rim and challenging the huge Laket frontline. He was backing down Bynum with some success but it is example that is worth the most going forward. The Lakers are the school yard bully with their length and Baby is showing his team mates that their lunch money is not pre-destined to end up in the Lakers’ collective pocket.

6. Fisher

Easily the most likeable member of the Laker team, especially after his emotional ‘my team’ post game interview, Derrick Fisher won Game 3 for the Lakers. When the offense was stuttering in the third and fourth he came up big time after time.

One play stands out: after a Laker defensive rebound and outlet pass Fisher took the ball to the basket over three Celtics getting obliterated but converting the lay up and hitting the foul shot.

7. Odom 5 for 5

Odom turned up. Lakers win. Simple as.

8. Artest and Kobe defense

Aside from a hint of selfishness, Kobe was an animal on defence, as was Artest. Pierce is having a hard time against Ron Ron and his ‘in your shirt’ D is a major reason for The Truth’s lack of production so far this Finals.

9. Replay Rule

Three times in the last 2 minutes of the game the officials went to the monitor after making out of bounds calls. All three times they got it wrong and all three times they reversed their original decision. Just so important. Technology is good.

10. Vujacic free throws

Possibly the most hated man in American sports (discuss…) came into the game in the last minute having played 20 seconds at the end of the first half. He entered, was fouled, hit both shots. The Lakers were up 6 at the time. If he misses both (conceivable given the pressurised situation) the game is on. He was money and he closed the game out, much to Kobe’s delight: how much Sasha will cherish that little head pat.


NBA Finals Game 2: Celtics have 4 Do Its

June 7, 2010

by Jack Maidment

I scare myself. I really do. I said it, I said it, I said it.

Then again it was hardly like I disclosed how the Timberwolves could make The Finals next year. It was a case in stating the obvious, but I will take a small amount of credit for drawing up the blueprint for a Boston come back even if it was common knowledge.

Some people might be saying that I actually said the Celtics didn’t have a chance. And, well, I did. But. That’s not the point.

Everything they didn’t do in Game 1 they did in Game 2 and that is why the Lakers are heading to Boston on the back of a beat down.

Not a classic 20-point-demolition-job-beat-down but a we-sucked-in-Game-1-lets-play-like-we-can-beat-down.

Ray Allen, quite simply, was imperious. His eight threes were enough to draw one of the Laker Bigs out of the domain of darkness that Los Angeles patrols down low in the second half, allowing the rest of the Celts to get involved, especially Glenn Davis and Rajon Rondo.

He was so hot that you knew that every shot he took was going in. Not in a ‘he’s my favourite player and he’s great’ kind of way, but in a ‘I feel something weird going on, there is no way this guy is missing tonight’ way.

They gave him the ball, normally with Kobe or Fisher draped over him and his snatch release did the rest. He was unguardable.

(Which leads me to the question: A ridiculously hot three point shooter can win you really really important basketball games. Not only do you get three points but the other team is utterly demoralised as the same guy comes down the floor, continuously, making shot after shot. How do you play that? And why did teams not grab the opportunity to trade for Ray Allen when the Celtics were dangling him for all to see in February?)

The Best Point Guard in the Game When Paul, Williams and Nash Aren’t Around was pure sweet triple double goodness. Time after time he came up with the ball in situations where he really had no business too and even when he wasn’t scoring or assisting he was making plays as he has done all post season.

One of the back breakers in Game 2 was Rondo’s block from behind of Fisher’s 3 point ahead. It sparked a fast break and two easy points exactly when the Lakers could not afford them.

The fact that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were relatively ineffective highlights the importance and luxury of having four Do It players. Rondo, Garnett, Pierce and Allen. All the Celtics need is two of them a game to show up and play anywhere near there best and they have a great chance to win.

How many Do It guys have the Lakers got? For my money, just two. Pau Gasol and Kobe. Which means that neither of them can have a night off if LA wants to win The Finals.

The officiating also played its part as it did in Game 1 but the shoe was on the other foot, with Kobe being forced to play the entire fourth with 5 fouls (many of which were more than questionable just like Ray Allen’s in Game 1) limiting his drives and turning him into a jump shooter only.

It was a massive wake up call for the Lakers that’s for sure. The Celtics looked dead and buried after Game 1 but like Sayeed in season 6 of Lost they came back inexplicably in Game 2.

And Rasheed Wallace ran the floor in Game 2. Madness. If that sets the tone for this series then I’m not ruling anything out. Maybe even Michael Finley will have his moment a la Robert Horry against Detroit. Or not.

No more brash (and stupid) reactionary predictions from me that’s for sure. Lakers in 5 was a bad shout. But I may as well go down fighting so that’s how it must be.

It should be one hell of a series.


Anything can happen in the next half hour: The NBA, Like Thunderbirds, But Better.

August 31, 2009

pauby Jack Maidment

Form is something that any gambler swears upon. When betting upon sports, whether it be horse racing, football, baseball or basketball, knowledge of what has gone before and previously is ultimately the only way of making an informed decision on how best to spend/lose/win money.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for the ‘I have a feeling’ notions that make up such a large percentage of bets: there are countless people who have won the lottery after picking numbers which came to them when they were in the shower or eating ice cream.

But for anyone who takes their betting even a little bit seriously, putting money on a team because you’ve supported them all your life is not going to cut it and it is because of this that sports are so intriguing when taken in the same breath as gambling. To plan a bet is to try to take into account any number of things that could happen or go wrong; a complete impossibility.

You could watch a team like the Lakers play for the whole season. You could be confident that their roster is the greatest the NBA has to offer. You believe that Kobe is the best player in the L and that he is the edge that allows LA to beat teams when it gets a little tight. You see the front court rotation of Artest, Bynum, Gasol and Odom as one of the most versatile and dominating in both conferences. You see them win all their homes and you start thinking: that’s some easy money right there. Even with short odds on a Laker win, a large bet will see a large return. And what could be safer than the League’s undefeated team?

And so the Milwaukee Bucks or the Memphis Grizzlies roll into the Staples Centre and you are forced to watch as the Lakers are undone by a team that form suggests should have a shot in a thousand of winning.

Gambler or not, it is the unpredictability of most sports that keeps us coming back for more. The knowledge that anything could happen and that nothing can be or should be banked upon.

For example, the Celtics were many people’s favourites heading into last season but an injury to their anchor Kevin Garnett reduced them to commendable also-rans. An injury here, a suspension there. A cheeky trade.

Imagine that Pau Gasol bitch slaps Kobe and is swiftly shipped out of Lakerland or failing that is confined to the bench for the season. Or how about the entire Orlando Magic roster complains about Dwight Howard to the extent that they refuse to play with the All Star?

Fantastical? Yes. But the point is that weird stuff happens in sports and that is about the only thing that you can take to the bank.


NBA Playoffs 2009 Eastern Conference Semi Finals Game 5: Welcome Back Stephon Marbury

May 13, 2009

stephon

by Jack Maidment

It is game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals and the Celtics are down big. Paul Pierce is the only player that Boston has been able to count on for points.

Ray Allen is suffering. Nothing is falling for Mr Shuttlesworth, every miss taking the crowd further and further out of the game.

Big Baby Davis is doing his best, but 3rd option on a Championship he is not.

Kevin Garnett is quiet on the sideline, looking at the ground rather than talking smack.

The Celtic’s struggles offensively are underlined by their crumbling defense that previously would have kept them in the game during a scoring drought.

The 4th quarter begins and Doc Rivers is flat out of answers for the Orlando Magic’s charge. And so, he gambles.

Welcome back Starbury. The one time Knick and All Star heads onto the floor surely appreciating the magnitude of a game that must have seemed a distant dream at the start of this season as he sat and rotted in street clothes on the New York Bench.

The crowd is quiet, knowing that Stephon Marbury has hardly been stellar coming of the bench since he signed. But I guess beggars can not be choosers and so he goes to work.

The inevitable rust of a player who is over 30 and played little is clear. He misses a couple of jumpers. And then, the man with the tattoo on his head, starts to play. As he once did.

He hits a 3. And a jumper. He starts to demand the ball and is visibly annoyed when the Celts differ to Big Baby for a Kobe-esque fadeaway. Which, surprise, misses.

The next time down the floor Marbury gets the ball, drives, resets, asks for a screen at the three point line, drives right, finds space. 3. Nothing but net.

One. Man. Offense.

A once double digit lead begins to dwindle and the Magic are stuck stiff. The free flowing, gunning offense, has died and they settle for tough 3s with hands in their face.

The dreaded ‘choke’ is descending on the Magic and it is all because of Marbury. He scores 11 points in a row and nails a free throw to take it to 12. In 5 minutes.

Pierce hits a pull up J and the Cs are up 1. Time out Orlando and the lid is getting blown off the building. Starbury returns to the bench, bumps and slaps are dished and Magic stew at the other end.

With no hyperbole, Stephon Marbury has just saved the Celtics. They are energised, especially Ray Allen, who proceeds to forget that he couldn’t hit a barn door in the first 3 quarters with huge three pointers. And Garnett is shouting.

He has got his war face on.

The game closes with the teams exchanging free throws. But the result is never in doubt as the Cs take the win and go into game 6 at Disney Land with a firm grip on the series and crucially, the momentum.

Stephon Marbury is back.


NBA Playoffs Conference Semi Finals, Boston meet Orlando: 7 Games Never Looked So Good

May 3, 2009

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7 games never felt so good. Boston may have closed out the Chicago Bulls last night, but the only real winners were the audience.

Chicago are off home for exit interviews and the Boston Celtics have no time at all to prepare for what should be an even sterner test against an Orlando Magic team whose All-Star center has discovered a nasty streak.

The absence of Kevin Garnett effectively guaranteed that this first rounder would be much closer  than each franchise’s seeding would have suggested.

The Bulls team, with John Salmons and Brad Miller in the squad, would have been good for the 5th seed out East if they had played the whole season as they had since their trade with Sacramento.

In contrast, if Boston had missed Garnett the whole season they would have been closer to the 4th seed rather than the 2nd spot.

The seedings lied and what followed could well have been the finest first round playoff series in the history of the NBA.

Regardless of the exit, the Bulls know that in Derrick Rose they have a truly mercurial talent that should develop (more) into one of the finest in the game. Depending on Ben Gordon’s contract situation, the Bulls will return, a year wiser and more experienced.

Along with Gordon, Rose was the Bulls leader. Dude is a Rookie.

Perspective is a fine thing.

Boston have little time to be relieved as the Magic come calling in just a few days, fresh off of a confidence boosting win in Philadelphia, something they achieved without their suspended big man.

Can Orlando dethrone the Champions? They have to fancy their chances. Without Garnett the Celtics look lost defensively and will struggle almightily to contain Dwight Howard. Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Mikki Moore will have their hands full.   

The possibility of 20/20 games for Howard is very real given the calibre of player he will be up against, none of who are the greatest of athletes, at least when compared to Howard.

The Cs will be even more reliant on their new Big 3: Rondo, Pierce and Allen. All of whom will have to be at their best to see off a surging Magic.

It is certainly worth considering the extent to which fatigue might play a part in this series with Allen especially having played many, many minutes in the numerous overtimes with Chicago.

The Celtic big men just have to try and contain Howard as best they can and make the magic hit their shots from deep. If Howard dominates (likely) Boston will be going fishing. If they keep his numbers respectable, then the likes of Allen and Pierce will have a chance to play clutch and sink the upstarts from Florida.

Such is the importance of Garnett and the presence of Howard that the Magic will progress in 6. Although if their first rounder has taught us anything it is that there will be countless twists and turns before we know who will advance to the Conference Finals.