Tag Archives: kobe bryant

Rondo the key as the NBA Finals finally get underway Thursday

Rondo presents a host of matchup problems for the favored Lakers. (Pic via Zimbio.com)

The 2010 NBA Finals are finally here.  Let’s hope the Celtics and Lakers engage in a hard-fought, well-played series that produces compelling subplots.  Anything to overshadow the increasingly annoying NBA free agent speculation.

The Lakers are the prohibitive favorites thanks to a spry Kobe Bryant, an assertive Pau Gasol, and a cast of capable role players.  But the Celtics are peaking at the right time, thanks to a surprising bench and balanced scoring.

Make no mistake, the Celtics have a chance to win the NBA championship if Rajon Rondo is able to his thing.

Rondo’s unique game presents a host of problems for the Lakers.  Unlike Steve Nash, who is much more comfortable shooting jumpers off the pick and roll, Rondo seeks the paint and doesn’t stop until he gets near the basket.

Rondo struggles against bigger guards, but has his way against players his size.  Derek Fisher has physicality, but lacks the quickness to stay with Rondo.  Fisher’s efforts on the defensive end are admirable, but not overly effective, regardless of what the analysts say.

Ron Artest matches up perfectly with Paul Pierce, who isn’t quick enough or big enough to be able to work comfortably against the Lakers.  Ray Allen will most likely be shadowed by Kobe Bryant.  Kevin Garnett looked done by the end of the Orlando series and will face a huge challenge against Pau Gasol.

The pressure is on Rondo to control the game from start to finish.

Rondo tends to play at his best when the stakes are high.  He is capable of baffling opponents and quietly producing triple-double.  His big fingerprints needs to be all over the game for the Celtics to have a chance.

Much more NBA finals coverage coming throughout the night here on ToTheTin.

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Defenseless: Adjustments the Suns need to make in Game 3

Amar'e has been at the center of the Suns' defensive shortcomings against the Lakers. (Cal Sports Media/Pic via everyjoe.com)

Throughout the broadcast of Game 2 between the Lakers and Suns Thursday night, TNT analysts Charles Barkley kept hammering home a simple point: the Suns are simply too small to beat the Lakers. Citing Steve Nash’s comments, Barkley astutely pointed out that the Suns probably aren’t going to get taller during the series.

We hear you, Chuck.

Even though the Suns aren’t going to get any bigger, it’s very obvious that they could (and should) do a few things differently in Game 3 Sunday.

The Suns need to play with more effort and more intelligence on the defensive end.

Pau Gasol is absolutely abusing Amar’e Stoudemire, who hasn’t gotten in a defensive stance during his entire NBA career. Gasol is a tough cover for anyone; he has incredible footwork and a wide-array of post moves. But he had at least six layups/dunks during Game 2 thanks to bad rotations by the Suns and horrible pick and roll defense by Amar’e.

At some point, it has to become a matter of pride. Amar’e believes in himself and his ability to dominate on the offensive end. The Suns need to make a better effort to get him the ball and see what he can do. Even if Amar’e doesn’t hit shots, he needs to at least make Gasol and Lamar Odom work on the defensive end.

If Amar’e isn’t aggressive offensively, he might as well be on the bench. He brings no value to the Suns.

A little more effort from Amar’e could limit Gasol to around 20 points. That would be enough to give the Suns a pretty decent chance, especially at home.

Aside from Stoudemire’s struggles, Alvin Gentry’s strategy to double-team Kobe in Game 2 clearly backfired. Kobe looked comfortable from the opening tip, finishing with 21 points and a playoff career-high 13 assists.

When the Suns doubled, they left the wrong people open. Ron Artest is capable of hitting standstill corner 3’s. Derek Fisher has made a career out of it.

The Lakers are simply too good to double team Kobe. Just play him straight up with Grant Hill or Jared Dudley, make him work, and hope that he slowly starts to lose his burst as the series drags on.

How long with series last? The prevailing sentiment after Game 2 is that the Suns have no chance. But the Suns aren’t going to stop scoring–the Lakers probably won’t get 120 again in Game 3. Role players tend to play better at home–meaning Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar are unlikely to replicate their strong numbers in the first two games.

How often does a road team score 107 and 112 points on the road and lose? Frankly, it shouldn’t happen.

Time to man up, Phoenix.

Odom’s aggressiveness helps Lakers lead at the half

Odom has made his presence known with a 15 point outburst to help the Lakers to a 62-55 lead at the break. (Pic via atthebox.wordpress.com)

Lamar Odom has provided glimpses of greatness throughout his inconsistent NBA career.  Odom came to play against the Suns Monday, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds off the bench.  The Lakers outscored the Suns by 12 with him on the court and lead by seven at halftime of Game 1.

Kobe came out aggressive and looks quick after his extended layoff.  He scored 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting in the first half while being defended mostly by Grant Hill.  The Suns are making Kobe work, so it will be interesting to see if he tires late in the game.

Amare Stoudemire leads the Suns with 15 points.  Steve Nash has been quiet, posting six and six in the first half.

Here are some additional observations:

-Jason Richardson hit two 3-pointers early but was quiet for most of the half.  Leandro Barbosa played very well in Richardson’s place, scoring five points in 10 minutes of action.  He could get more run in the second half if J-Rich doesn’t contribute early.

-Kobe looks great.  He is wearing a sleeve over his troublesome right knee.  Having missed a week of practice, it will be interesting to see if he holds up

-Channing Frye had no impact in the first half, at least not positive one.  The Lakers did a good job of running him off the 3-point line and took advantage of his skinny frame by going inside.

-Ron Artest is shooting the ball well.  He isn’t quick and looked uncomfortable in the post against Jason Richardson, but he is very active defensively.  Nine points, four rebounds and three assists is a pretty impressive line.

-Why are Ron Ron’s shorts so damn short?  He prefers shorter shorts than most NBA players, but his Game 1 look is pretty astounding.  He is a big dude–a big, scary, clinically insane dude.

-The Lakers are playing the Suns pick and roll very effectively, so much so that Phoenix went away from it late in the first half.  If Nash and Richardson hit some shots early in the second half, things should open up.

-Bench play has been fairly even so far, thanks primarily to Lamar Odom.  Goran Dragic can really ball; he isn’t afraid of the moment and has a huge advantage against Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.

-Sasha Vujacic saw a few minutes and did nothing good, fouling Grant Hill on a 3-point attempt at the end of the first half.  Adam Morrison is not in uniform–sadly.

-Andrew Bynum had an impressive dunk early in the game but is clearly laboring.  Meanwhile, Robin Lopez scored eight points in the first half in his first game since late March.  His presence is huge for the Suns.

It should be a great second half.  We’ll have analysis, video, and sound after the game.

Stay tuned.

Durant’s defense helps Thunder top Lakers in Game 3

Kevin Durant became the youngest player to win an NBA scoring title this year.  Thursday, his all-around play propelled the Thunder to a 101-96 win over the Lakers in front of a frenzied crowd in Oklahoma City.

Durant put the clamps on Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter and hit a number of key baskets.  He finished with 29 points, 19 rebounds, as four assists.

Meanwhile, Kobe didn’t have much lift on his jumper.  That didn’t stop him for launching–he took 29 shots, including 11 3-pointers.  He failed to shoot a single free throw in the game, spending most of his time on the perimeter despite OKC’s soft interior defense.

The Thunder trailed early, but rallied slowly and finally took the lead for good in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers continued to struggle to contain Russell Westbrook, who scored 27 points, mostly coming on drives to the basket.  Derek Fisher has no chance of guarding Westbrook, and both Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmer have played him poorly as well.

It will be interesting to see how the Lakers adjust in Game 4.  Kobe doesn’t look like he is healthy, but Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom should be able to carry the load if L.A. pounds the ball inside.

Game 4 should be fun to watch.

This is Kobe beating the Grizzlies

Kobe Bryant is a certified soul crusher.  He did it again last night against the Grizz in his first game back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for two weeks.

O.J. Mayo missed two free throws with 18.8 seconds remaining that left the door open for Kobe to do his thing.  The Grizz have now lost seven of ten.

Durant keeps on shining while Oden rides the pine

The Blazers decision to pass on Durant and select Oden looks worse with every passing day. (Pic via everyjoe.com)

Kevin Durant dropped 33 and 11 last night in what is becoming a rather typical game for him these days. But last night’s performance was a little bit unique for several reasons.

Durant led the Thunder–the playoff bound Thunder–to an easy win over the wounded Blazers last night in Portland, reminding everyone just how good he has become while Greg Oden continues to recover from yet another injury.

He has now scored at least 25 points in 25 straight games, the third-longest streak of all-time, and the longest since Allen Iverson’s steak of 27 straight games for the Sixers in the 2000-2001 season.

Then this morning came the announcement that Durant was invited to the USA Basketball training camp this summer. An appearance on the USA squad in the World Championship and Olympic Games could lead to even more improvement from the 21 year-old.

This isn’t the first time the Blazers have watched a player they passed on rise to astounding heights. Everybody knows about Sam Bowie, but not everybody knows just how stupid drafting him really was.

Let’s flashback to 1984, when the Blazers decide to draft Sam Bowie after the Rockets nab Akeem Olajuwon with the first pick. Bowie suffered serious shin injuries in college and averaged–brace yourself–a whopping 10 ppg and 9 rpg during his final year at Kentucky after missing two seasons while recovering from injury.

The Blazers drafted Clyde Drexler in 1983, which has long been used as an excuse to pass on Michael Jordan. Drexler supposedly showed flashes during his rookie season, but ultimately finished with modest numbers to say the least: 7.7 ppg in 18 mpg while appearing in all 82 games.

Jordan’s talents had been kept under wraps somewhat by Dean Smith, but his raw ability was obvious–just watch some old UNC games on ESPN Classic and you can see it.

The similarities between the 1984 and 2007 are striking. The Blazers had a need at center in both years, but passed on supremely talented wing players.

If you watched much college hoops during the 2006-2007 season, you would have recognized the better player and prospect. Durant was handling the ball, crashing the glass, putting up ridiculous numbers like 38 and 19 while dominating what was a very competitive Big 12.

Meanwhile, Oden was owning the paint in the Big Ten despite playing left-handed for much of the season. But Oden had a deep, talented group around him and faced almost no competition from other big men in the league. The best inside player in the Big Ten not named Oden was Indiana’s D.J. White. Yikes.

So just sit back and imagine some scenarios:

Put Jordan alongside Drexler and Terry Porter, add a young Jerome Kersey, Cliff Robinson, and Kevin Duckworth and you give Showtime a run for its money and dominate the West by the early 90’s.

Put Durant in a good system with Brandon Roy, wait a couple years for Kobe and Duncan to age, and you have the Western Conference on lock for years to come. The void at center? Joel Pryzbilla is adequate to begin with, and defending against Andrew Bynum and Chris Kaman shouldn’t be a huge concern.

Durant’s potential is scary. He is two or three inches taller than LeBron, already one of the better shooters in the league, and still learning how to play. If he finds that killer instict Jordan and Bird had from the start and Kobe came to develop, he will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history.

Oden seems like a good kid and a relatively hard worker, but leg injuries to someone that size are likely to linger. Unless he pulls a Benjamin Button, it seems doubtful Oden will have much of an impact in the NBA.

The Blazers clearly screwed up–again.

Kobe says “You ain’t dunkin’ on me at my camp”

It sounds like we won’t have to worry about Nike hiding video of Kobe Bryant getting dunked on.  Kobe told the kids at his camp simply, “you ain’t dunkin on me at my camp.”

Silly Kobe.