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 Finals: My Name Is Pau Gasol. Adios Orlando

June 8, 2009

pauby Jack Maidment

Against the very best you may only get one opportunity. One chance to turn the tide, to take advantage of the single time that your opponent slips just a little.

Sunday night the Orlando Magic did not get one opportunity to switch the momentum in the NBA Finals, they got two. As Game 2 built to its climax, the Los Angeles Lakers left the door slightly ajar for Dwight Howard and co on two occasions.

Despite excellent platy calling from Stan Van Gundy, the Magic failed to convert two golden looks, both falling to Courtney Lee. Instead of taking the Lakers back to Florida all tied up, they return home in a 2-0 hole.

Ominous? Yep. The Lakers are 37-1 in series where they have won the opening two games.

Before this Finals began the focus was placed firmly on the Lake Show. If Orlando ended up Champions it would be because the Lakers had gifted it to them.

Regardless of the fact that such a point of view entirely belittles the accomplishments of a very strong Orlando team, it forgets how dangerous the magic can be. Look up potent in the dictionary. There’s a picture of Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis right next to that of Hugh Hefner.

However, if you were one of those people who believed in the Magic, you understood that they had a legitimate chance at rings if they ticked the right boxes.

1. Big games from Lewis to fully justify the amount of money that Florida’s finest (sorry Mr Wade) has committed to his lucrative contract.

2. Continuing clutch play from Turkey’s finest export (?).

Check on both counts. In Game 2 Lewis and Turkoglu combine to go 9-18 from down town. 50% from beyond the arc? Yeah, that could help.

3. Dominance down low and on the glass from Dwight Howard.

He may not have had 40, but Game 2’s perfomance saw Howard grab 16 rebounds to go with his 17 points. That’s pretty good going considering he is rebounding against Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, 1 on 3.

4. Contain Kobe.

Easier said than done for sure, but 29 and 8 for KB24 is a vast improvement on the 40+ he took in the series opener.

The Magic did all these 4 things in Game 2 but still roll out of town on a downer. Why?

Pau Gasol. The Spaniard is absolutely the key to Los Angeles’ victory and Orlando’s defeat.

24 and 10. Gaudy numbers from a player who is making the people calling him ‘soft’ look pretty silly.

It was Gasol that powered the Lakers to Game 2, 3-3 from the field and 5 of 5 from the line in the 4th quarter and the overtime period.

The City of Angels climbed aboard and he carried them to 2 and 0.

The Lakers record in this situation might be scary, but the combination of Pau and Kobe is scarier. Spanish. English. Telepathy? Their communication is simply infallible.

Game 3 is the biggest in Orlando’s history and anything other than a win will spell the end of their season.

Perhaps it is time to say goodbye to Orlando?

Or as Pau would say:

 

‘Gracias por todo, hasta luego. Adios.’


NBA Playoffs 2009 Western Conference Finals: Denver Evens Series While Kobe And Carmelo Share Exhaustion

May 26, 2009

by Jack Maidment

Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony have more in common than successive stellar Westren Conference games (Kobe has set a record for combined points in successive Conference Finals games.)

Chauncey, reliable as ever.

Chauncey, reliable as ever.

The physicality of the series coupled with the extensive minutes which their team’s demand of them has reduced both players to I.V. drips.

Kobe’s came after the LA Lakers victory in Game 3 while Carmelo was hooked up at half time of Game 4, a game that the Nuggets would go on to win.

The fact that both players have been on the floor for more than 40 minutes a night has totally depleted what energy reserves they may have had left after the opening two series.

Their tired bodies tell us two things about this Conference Finals match up. Firstly, the teams are incredibly closely matched, with 3 of the 4 games coming down to the final minute. Secondly, both players can only count on one of their team mates for consistent help.

For Kobe, only Pau Gasol has produced any numbers that take some of the strain from Bryant’s shoulders. The fact is he could do more, and he agrees, ‘asking’ for more touches inside instead of watching his team hoist more than thirty 3 pointers in Game 4 despite his productivity.

The Robin to Carmelo’s Batman has been Chauncey Billups, Mr Big Shot and Mr Dependable. Even when he isn’t scoring he is assisting and providing much needed leadership to the Nuggets who still possess the ability to flip out at any moment.

In Game 4, Melo was 1 for 11 at the half. Fortunately the JR Smith who annoys so many people with his posturing and play turned up and led his team in scoring with 24 powering them to the win and an even series.

The rest of the Lakers went missing, especially Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odum, both of whom are as reliable as an ashtray on a motorbike.

I.V. drips in basketball? Proof of one thing.

It is a team game after all.