Tag Archives: Nate Robinson

Lakers’ physicality the key in Game 1 win over Celtics

Kobe and his teammates attacked the paint and pounded the Celtics on the boards in Game 1. (Pic via Getty Images/Christian Petersen)

There was a time when Pau Gasol wanted nothing better than to let his teammates do the dirty work. There was a time when he appeared to be genuinely afraid of Kevin Garnett.

Those times are only a distant memory now.

Gasol scored 23 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and even blocked three shots as the Lakers cruised to a 102-89 win over the Celtics in Game 1.

The game was won in the second and third quarters, when the Lakers turned up the intensity and began looking to run against the aging Celtics.

L.A. held a 42-31 edge on the boards and was able to get to the basket at will. The Lakers are the bigger team in the series, and also the more athletic team.

Boston needs to play harder and smarter to have a chance.

Rajon Rondo finished with 13 points and eight assists, and had a +/- of -17. Meanwhile, Nate Robinson was scoreless in 13 minutes but had a +/- of +10. Amazingly, the Celtics offense looked better when Rondo was on the bench.

Rondo was content to settle for jump shots against Kobe Byrant’s sagging defense.

Kobe finished with 30 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. He looked extremely fresh and active after another extended layoff.

Doc Rivers has some adjustments to make heading into Game 2. Kevin Garnett scored 16 points in 34 minutes but wasn’t very effective. He looked exhausted by the third quarter and struggled on both ends. Rivers needs to reduce his minutes a bit.

The same can be said for the wounded Kendrick Perkins, who was outplayed by the wounded Andrew Bynum. Perkins can barely get off the ground thanks to a balky knee.

Rasheed Wallace has played well when given a chance in the playoffs and should get starters minutes in the remainder of the NBA Finals. His shooting ability helps the Celtics space the floor for Rondo and Pierce to get to the basket.

The Celtics will look to bounce back Sunday in Game 2.

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Celtics-Magic preview: Howard the key in evenly-matched series

Howard will be fouled early and often by the Celtics.

The Celtics spoiled the much-anticipated Cavaliers-Magic rematch, setting up what could be an epic Eastern Conference semifinals featuring two teams playing at a very high level.

The fun begins Sunday at 3:30 EST on ABC.

After a long layoff, the Magic could be a bit rusty. Don’t be surprised if Boston rides the momentum gained in the Cleveland series to a Game 1 win. Both teams are very capable of winning on their opponents home court, making a six or seven game series a strong possibility.

Here is a closer look at matchups and subplots.

Guards

It’s all about Rajon Rondo. A fantastic series against the Cavs provided a showcase for his improved jump shot and ability to control a game. He has an edge against Jameer Nelson, who isn’t a strong defender. Nelson needs to be aggressive and make Rondo work on the defensive end. Unlike Mo Williams, Nelson isn’t afraid of the moment and will look to attack Rondo. Ray Allen and Matt Barnes will be a fun matchup to watch. Barnes enjoyed a strong finish to the season but is dealing with a back injury. The Magic have the advantage off the bench, with Mickael Pietrus, J.J. Redick, and Jason Williams. Tony Allen played well against LeBron James and should get some run against Vince Carter.

Advantage: Celtics

Forwards

The Old G matchup between Vince Carter and Paul Pierce will be important to watch as the series unfolds. Carter hasn’t shot the ball well in the postseason, but has still shown flashes of his amazing talent by getting to the rim. If he decides to take over the game, he can still do it. It’s not that simple for Pierce, who doesn’t look healthy. His jump shot has been off and he looks slower than ever. Don’t count him out, but he really played poorly against the Cavs. Kevin Garnett has an advantage in the post against Rashard Lewis, but don’t expect K.G. to enjoy chasing Lewis on the perimeter. The Celtics will most likely play a smaller lineup with Garnett at center for parts of the series. Glen Davis is the only bench player likely to have any impact at the forward position in the series, although Ryan Anderson could spark the magic with some 3’s here and there. The matchups suggest that good ole ‘Sheed won’t get a whole lot of run against the Magic.

Advantage: Magic–barely

Centers

Dwight Howard has a huge advantage against the Celtics. He is too quick for Kendrick Perkins, too big and too quick for Kevin Garnett, and much more athletic than Perkins, K.G., Big Baby, and ‘Sheed. He should dominate, but as always, he needs to stay out of foul trouble. Howard’s presence makes it difficult for Rajon Rondo to score around the basket, something he did at will against the Cavs. Marcin Gortat is a nice player and plays well if he gets minutes, which usually only happens if Superman is in foul trouble.

Advantage: Magic–big time

Coaching/Intangibles

It’s not too difficult to out-coach Mike Brown, but Doc Rivers did a great job against the Cavaliers. He managed his aging team, limiting minutes for Ray Allen and Garnett while getting the most out of Tony Allen and Davis. Stan Van Gundy is one of the better coaches in the NBA when it comes to exploiting matchups. The Celtics experience doesn’t really give them an edge against the savvy Magic. The choke-factor is pretty even–neither team is likely to cave under pressure.

Advantage: Draw

Subplots

-Injuries and age: Matt Barnes has a bad back. Kendrick Perkins has a bad knee. Paul Pierce is clearly not healthy, and Vince Carter is as soft as any NBA star. The Celtics are an old team and could have used some additional layoff. Fatigue won’t manifest itself until later in the series, but could be a factor, especially for Kevin Garnett’s ailing knee.

-Rajon Rondo: Superstar? Numbers are one thing, but utter dominance is another. Rondo dominated the Cavaliers, controlling the game and making numerous big shots. Another series like that and he will catapult up the ranks of NBA stars.

-Vince Carter: What’s my motivation? There is nothing more frustrating to NBA fans than players who don’t try. Enter Vince Carter, who has developed a beautiful stroke for the perimeter. Too bad the stroke doesn’t yield results. Carter is amazingly talented, and has the ability to post, get to the rim, and even run the offense at times. He also has the ability to score nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.

-Make it rain Ray Ray: The pressure is on Ray Allen to make 3-pointers, at least until Paul Pierce gets going. As of right now, Allen is the only reliable threat from downtown. Layups and dunks won’t come easily against the Magic, so the Celtics need to shoot well from the perimeter.

-The forgotten ones: Remember Nate Robinson? Sure you do. He could see some minutes in the series if Doc Rivers needs a spark and some shooting off the bench. Orlando’s Brandon Bass could get some time if Garnett abuses Rashard Lewis.

Prediction

So who wins? It tough to bet against the Celtics right now, but the Magic are have such a huge advantage with Dwight Howard inside. The scrappy C’s push the Magic to the brink, but lose in Game 7.

Previewing and Predicting Cavaliers-Celtics

Double-Duty: The C's need Pierce put up points and keep LeBron under control to have a chance against the Cavs. (Pic via vernoncroys.wordpress.com)

The Celtics and Cavs meet in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second time in three years with Game 1 tipping-off Saturday night in Cleveland. NBA fans should be excited for a long, physical series featuring plenty of intriguing subplots, most notably the health of one LeBron James.

LeBron practiced Friday, participating in non-contact drills and shooting mid-range jumpers and free throws–with his right hand. He is expected to continue wearing a padded shooter-sleeve on his right elbow after being diagnosed with a sprained elbow and bone bruise.

LeBron’s decision to shoot his final free throw in Game 5 against the Bulls left-handed brought needless attention to the injury. Don’t think the Celtics aren’t taking note.

Here’s a closer look at what to watch for in the series:

Key matchups

The King vs. The Truth: LeBron has been very successful against the Celtics in his career, but there is no question the C’s have made him work in the past. In previous years, Boston has used James Posey and Kevin Garnett, along with Pierce, to slow down LeBron. That won’t be the case this time around, with Posey gone and K.G. barely able to get up and down the court. It will be on Pierce and Tony Allen–a huge liability on the offensive end–to check LeBron. The Celtics defend pick and rolls better than most teams in the NBA, but LeBron should be able to dominant on the offensive end. It will be interesting to monitor how much Pierce plays LeBron–and if his offensive production suffers as a result.

The defenseless point guards: An interesting matchup between two players who don’t like to play defense. Rondo led the NBA in steals and can play d when he wants to, but tends to gamble and allow players to go around him. Williams is horrible defensively no matter how hard he tries. Both players could put up huge numbers in this series. Rondo has the ability to exploit Cleveland’s pick and roll defense, which was a huge problem against the Bulls in Game 1 and throughout the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals against the Magic. Rondo can’t shoot it like Derrick Rose, but the Celtics have good floor spacing and players able to hit perimeter shots. The Cavs will most likely play Anthony Parker on Rondo for much of the series. Williams and Parker will get open looks, and they need to connect early to keep their confidence up. Williams choked repeatedly during the playoffs last year and wasn’t great in the First Round this year either.

The men in the middle: Shaq is the headliner, but his true value (if there is any left) won’t be felt unless the Cavs advance to face Orlando. Kendrick Perkins won’t be intimidated by Shaq or Big Z and could have a big series–or he could get frustrated a be a non-factor. Kevin Garnett has very little left in the tank and needs all the help he can get. Rasheed Wallace hasn’t done anything all year, so don’t expect him to be much of a factor. Glen Davis showed signs late in the year and has been productive in the postseason before. He needs to play big against the Cavs, who need consistent production–and minutes–from Shaq, Big Z, Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson. If he gets minutes, Hickson could be key to Cleveland’s success. His athleticism and activity gave the Celtics problems during the regular season.

The second-tier stars: Ray Allen and Antawn Jamison are prone to inconsistency and don’t always get enough touches to make an impact. Jamison poses an interesting matchup for the Celtics, who will be forced to chase him on the perimeter with K.G., Big Baby, and ‘Sheed. Jamison would figure to have a big series, but it depends on how much Cleveland looks for him. The same goes for Ray-Ray, who sometimes becomes an afterthought for Boston, especially if Pierce is scoring. The player who has the bigger impact will most likely be on the winning team in this series.

Coaching: Doc Rivers and Mike Brown are extremely overrated as coaches, prone to questionable strategy, substitution patterns, and a puzzling failure to make adjustments. There is no advantage here on either side, although Brown has been woefully inept at times, most notably last year against Orlando.

The X-Factor: Most of the sexy candidates are on the Cavs roster, with J.J. Hickson, Big Z, and Delonte West poised to contribute if called on. But don’t count out Tony Allen or Nate Robinson either. Allen is a high-energy player who could bother LeBron at times, and Robinson is capable of exploding.

Predictions

If this year’s NCAA Tournament was any indication of my ability to pick winners correctly, I will probably end up picking the wrong team. With that disclaimer out of the way, I’m going to go ahead and pick the Cavs in six games. The Cavs are too deep and too good. Even with the tendency to blow leads and wilt under pressure, becoming stagnant late in games and relying on LeBron to go 1-on-5, the Cavs should be able to survive. Boston doesn’t have a clear advantage in any area in the series and no longer plays smothering defense on a consistent basis. Cleveland simply has too many weapons.

J.R. Smith: License to shoot

J.R. Smith keeps it real with a sucker in his mouth. (Pic via kilosandgrams.com)

As I watched the Nuggets-Lakers game Thursday night, I got a chance to witness history.  Nuggets designated shooter J.R. Smith was on the verge of setting a franchise record for 3-point makes.  This meant even more crazy shots than usual.  Smith built up the drama by launching nearly every time he got the ball in the first half.  His fourth 3-pointer of the half broke the Nuggets all-time mark held by Michael Adams, touching off a one-man celebration which featured a skipping Smith yelling at the sky.

Smith is well-known for taking any shot at any time.  He ruins possessions by launching long 3’s.  When he gets locked in, it’s magical to watch.  When he can’t find the range, it becomes comical–or infuriating if you happen to be his teammate.

The NBA has a handful of guys who don’t want to pass the ball–most of them have recent or current ties with the New York Knicks.  Larry Hughes, Nate Robinson, Al Harrington, Jamal Crawford (getting better), Nick Young, and Ben Gordon are the biggest culprits.

The difference between that list and Smith–pure talent.

Not many NBA players can match Smith’s combination of range and athleticism.  He has size, strength, handle, ability to play defense when he wants to (he rarely wants to) and the ability to make impossible shots.  That sounds like a superstar in the making.

Here’s the problem: J.R. has a bad case of basketball A.D.D.

In the 72 games he has played this season, Smith is averaging 13.7 field goal attempts in 27 minutes per game.  Nearly half of those attempts are from 3-point land; Smith takes a whopping six 3’s per game despite being only a 33 percent shooter from downtown.

He is shooting just a shade over 41 percent this season overall.

The main reason for his low percentage, besides the fact that he isn’t a great shooter, is his horrendous shot selection.  He takes some of the longest 3-pointers you will ever see–sometimes from two or three feet beyond the line.  When he decides to  put the ball on the deck, he rarely uses his jaw-dropping athleticism to get to the rim, preferring to settle for fade-away jumpers.

Almost every time I watch the man in the bright neon yellow Nike’s play, I see flashes.  He can concentrate and apply himself for short stretches, but he will inevitably revert to his bad habits.

George Karl has learned to tolerate it, occasionally bench Smith when he goes overboard.  Adrian Dantley seems to be in over his head.  Under his direction, the shots will fly and the ball-movement will stop.

So by the end of the first half Thursday, Smith had already attempted nine 3-pointers.  He was going to get the record–nothing was going to get in his way.

Keep shooting J.R.

March 2 Fantasy Trends: Hot or Not

EVD is working on updating his hotornot.com page, so I am running the show for awhile. In today’s Fantasy Trends, I’ll take a look at some hot and not hot fantasy hoopsters and leave you with some nuggets and tidbits…Enjoy!

Hot.

Bar Rafaeli is hot.

Sizzlin’

Rip Hamilton, Detroit Pistons SG/SF-Rip has started the last two games and led the Pistons to road wins in Orlando and Boston. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The balding, pube-teed Hamilton averaged 28 points and 7.5 assists in the two victories and will probably remain in the starting lineup for the rest of the season.

Ron Artest, Houston Rockets SG/SF-Artest has been making his jumper lately and has become a go-to scorer for the Rockets. Artest is happy because he will get plenty of shots with T-Mac shelved for the year, and a happy Ron is a productive Ron. He has scored 20+ in four of five. But his game (and personality) can be bipolar at times, so don’t expect this hot streak to last.

Shaq, Phoenix Suns C-The Big Cactus scored 45 against the Raptors on Friday and dropped 33 on Kobe and the Lakers yesterday. Without Steve Nash and Amar’e, Shaq will get plenty of touches. He will continue to be a force for awhile, but could wear down as the season continues.

Nate Robinson, New York Knicks PG/SG-Nate has managed to get a free-reign in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Larry Hughes has moved into the starting lineup, but Robinson will minutes at both point guard and shooting guard. He has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last month, scoring 30+ points five times. He has become a good all-around player, and could be an All-Star next season.

Tyson Chandler, New Orleans PF/C-After the trade that wasn’t, Chandler has returned to the lineup and recorded double-figure points and rebounds in three out of four games. He is playing with renewed intensity and energy, and should finish the season strong.

Janet Reno is not

Janet Reno is not.

Cooler than a polar bear’s toenails

Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks SF/PF-Although he struggled before the All-Star break, I though Smith would pick up his play. He hasn’t scored 20+ points in over a month and is blocked shot and rebound numbers are dwindling. He missed a game last week with a “personal matter,” so something is clearly wrong. Smith needs to play with intensity to be effective, and that just isn’t happening right now.

Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic SF/PF-An 8-12 performance on Friday ended a alarming stretch of cold shooting for the All-Star. But his numbers have been declining since January, and he is shooting under 40 percent over the last month. He needs to go inside more, but that probably won’t happen.

Vince Carter, New Jersey Nets SG/SF-A 26 point effort against the Hornets yesterday marked the first 20+ game for Vince in two weeks. I don’t expect much from him as the season winds down, and he will most likely be traded in the summer.

Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat PG/SG-Chalmers has hit the wall and may not recover. He has scored in double-figures only once in the last seven games and has lost minutes to Chris Quinn and De’Quan Cook. Cut him loose.

Boobie Gibson, Cleveland Cavaliers PG/SG-Boobie Gibson should worry less about his hair and more about his game. Aside from a 19 point performance last week, he has been awful lately. A scoreless outing last night in Hotlanta was a new low for Gibson, who will see less minutes now that Delonte West is healthy. If you have Boobie, drop him now.

Fantasy Nuggets and Tidbits

Don’t add Stephon Marbury just yet-Marbury has looked okay in the last two games but he still has little fantasy value. ESPN is making a big deal about the signing of Marbury and weird dude Mikki Moore, but don’t get too excited. They might help in deep leagues, but don’t have great value.

Danny Granger back this week-Expect Pacers All-Star Danny Granger to return this week, a bit earlier than expected. He will get plenty of shots, so expect big offensive numbers – and nothing else.

Keep an eye on Thabo Sefolosha-Thabo will get minutes with Kevin Durant out for around another week or so. His offensive production will vary, but will get some rebounds and steals. He generally plays better when he knows he will get minutes, but who doesn’t?

Spurs likely to sign Drew Gooden-The Kings released Gooden yesterday, and the Spurs have interest. He might be worth a look in deep leagues once he joins the Spurs, but he won’t get big minutes if Duncan and Manu Ginobili are healthy. Matt Bonner is actually kinda good.

As Nellie’s world turns-More about this tomorrow, but Don Nelson has officially lost his mind. He decided to play baseball manager and give Stephen Jackson a night off last night to “rest.” Apparently, he will rest Corey Maggette sometime this week. This nonsense means C.J. Watson and Kelenna Azubuike will get minutes and produce.

Anthony Randolph can play-Staying in the Bay Area, rookie Anthony Randolph has been playing well. He had 20 points and four blocks last night against Utah. Wildly inconsistent, but keep an eye on him. I still don’t know why he wasn’t in the dunk contest.

NBA All-Star Saturday Night: LeBron’s announcement overshadows Nate Robinson’s Sprite Slam-Dunk Contest win

The hype of NBA All-Star Saturday night had me excited to watch the Dunk Contest, 3-point shootout, and Skills Challenge. Unfortunately, the high-point of the Saturday All-Star viewing experience ended up being the afternoon’s H-O-R-S-E (G-E-I-C-O) match.

Nate Robinson won the dunk contest for the second time in three years by soaring over Dwight Howard while sporting a green jersey, green shoes, and using a green ball in the final round. Howard’s final attempt was impressive but not good enough, as he completed his dunk by jumping from just inside the free throw line.

Howard dunked easily on a 12-foot hoop with his final dunk prior to the final round. He made the amazing feat look easy, and probably should have used the high-hoop again during the final round.

Howard failed to match last year's performance in the Dunk Contest

Howard failed to match last year's performance in the Dunk Contest

Howard’s dunk prompted LeBron James to signal to TNT analyst Kenny Smith that he could dunk a 13 foot hoop and more importantly, that he, LeBron James, will be a “preliminary candidate” for the 2010 Slam Dunk Contest next year in Dallas.

Wow.

After watching tonight’s debacle, NBA Commissioner David Stern couldn’t be happier.

I have more admirations for the dunkers than most people I know. Nate Robinson is a freak and Dwight Howard has wonderful body-control and makes the spectacular look easy.

But they didn’t have much competition tonight. Rudy Fernandez was a disaster and J.R. Smith was unoriginal.

Derrick Rose had one of the best dunks of the night – in the Playstation Skills Challenge.

LeBron’s return to the contest would restore some of the shiny luster to the once-captivating event.

It isn’t exactly clear how dunkers are nominated and selected, but Al Thornton, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, and Golden State rookie Anthony Randolph would be better-suited to challenge LeBron than Fernandez and Smith.

Stern and the NBA need to pick the right players for the competition before All-Star weekend turns into the Pro Bowl.

Who knows if LeBron will actually participate next year, but his announcement tonight at least provides NBA fans with a glimmer of hope that the worst is finally over.

Durant wins H-O-R-S-E (G-E-I-C-O)-TNT and the NBA brought back this event from the dead, and I hope they do it again next year in Dallas. Kevin Durant made shots from all over the court, O.J. Mayo made a shot from the stands, and Joe Johnson didn’t do anything impressive. Durant ended up winning with Mayo finishing second.

There weren’t too many trick shots used, and the court lacked a great deal of props to allow the players to make things interesting. But it provided a change for fans to see the players up close (without playing 1,000 dollars) and proved more compelling that the Shooting Stars competition.

Shooting Stars Competition-Detroit won behind Bill Laimbeer, Aaron Afflolo, and a WNBA player named (I think) Katie Smith. This event is stupid and needs to go away, although it is always funny to see the aging Laimbeer in a ill-fitting jersey. Hopefully this stirring victory by Team Detroit spurs economic growth in Motown following a 600 percent increase in Laimbeer throw-back jersey sales.

Bill Laimbeer in the 2007 Shooting Stars competition; There is nothing better than old white flab. (Pic via Need4Sheed.com)

Bill Laimbeer in the 2007 Shooting Stars competition: There is nothing better than old, white, flab. (Pic via Need4Sheed.com)

Playstation Skills Challenge-Rookie Derrick Rose made EVD and I proud, coasting through the event to defeat Devin Harris. Mo Williams finished third and Tony Parker finished last while being booed loudly by the Phoenix fans.

3-point Shootout-De’Quan Cook of the Miami Heat defeated reigning two-time champ and giant meat-head Jason Kapono. I would have liked to have seen Eddie House, Anthony Morrow, or even Vlady Radmanovic in this event.

I always enjoy the 3-point contest, but Cook and Kapono were the only two pure shooters in tonight’s competition. I can’t figure out how Rashard Lewis shoots, or makes any shots. His form is weird and ugly, but he still leads the NBA in 3-point makes, so he was an obvious selection.

Do you want more? LeBron and the Cavs battle the Knicks tonight in NYC

Knicks fans could witness another spectacular performance by a visiting player tonight at Madison Square Garden courtesy of LeBron James.

One night after becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach the 12,000-point plateau, LeBron figures to go off against the defensively challenged Knicks.lebronnyyankeeshat

Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, and Wilson Chandler don’t figure to offer much resistance to LeBron. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t like to double-team, so a 50-point night isn’t out of the question.

LeBron is a showman. He loves being in the spotlight of the Big Apple, and is no doubt excited to jaw-jack with court side spectators Spike Lee and Jay-Z.

The Knicks have played well over the last month and could win even if LeBron goes crazy. The Cavs have Big Z back in the lineup but could be without G Sasha Pavlovic, who is battling the flu.

Mo Williams and David Lee provide an interesting subplot in tonight’s contest.

Both players have a great chance to be named to the All-Star team to replace the injured Jameer Nelson. Williams and Ray Allen are probably the leading candidates, but it is really hard to argue with Lee’s numbers.

A strong game tonight by Williams or Lee would certainly get David Stern’s attention.

Al Harrington and Nate Robinson have been playing well and should keep the Knicks in the game, but I look for the Cavs to win behind 40+ from King James.

After showering Kobe Bryant with chants of “M-V-P” during his amazing 61-point performance Monday night, there is no telling what Knicks fans will do tonight to show LeBron love.

Summer 2010 is just around the corner.