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    Jamie Sweet wrote a new post

    5 Things: Permanent Changes

    OK. Here we are. Again. The dreaded NBA Dog Days where all and every shred of potential information will be over-analyzed, over-debated and over-discussed. I will say these are my happiest dog days in nigh a decade. Since we won it all and such. Before we forget about everything we saw and heard in the Bubble I wanted to revisit a few of the things I really liked about Bubble play.

    1. The extra space on the base and side lines. I can imagine the owners not liking the idea of moving back the court side ($$$) seats, the camera guys being annoyed at having to get great action shots from an extra 15 feet away and folks up on the stanchion seats not getting to watch the under the basket battles rage. Frankly, it should be worth it. The first thing and best thing I feel about how the play in the Bubble was different was all the extra out of bounds space. It allowed for more athletic drives, more aggressive pass interception attempts and generally added to the excitement. While I don’t expect the space to remain it tops my list of favorite things about the in-game experience.
    2. Microphone on the lead official. Honestly, why hasn’t this already been done? We already mic up random players from each team, drop a mic into the coaches huddle, interview the coaches from the sideline and we added a pregame interview with X factor players that also was some danged boring TV. But you know what I really appreciated (when they remembered to turn them on) was hearing the rules explained from the official in real time. That was cool and I wish they would do it over the in-arena sound system like in the NFL, as well.
    3. Bigger bench area. It was cool for the players not playing to add to the fun with cheering, jeering and cavorting when they weren’t on the floor. Lighting the entry tunnels in team colors was really cool, too. While some of these things (especially the added room for the bench players) will likely disappear as the threat of COVID does (should that ever happen…) I sure hope they allow for the excitement the bench players being able to stand and cheer their teammates on introduced during the bubble.
    4. Virtual fans. You might be asking your self…how? How would this be accomplished in arenas where there are live fans and furthermore…why? I’ll admit that this one is a bit shaky. Assuming that, even in a world and an NBA season that exists within COVID-19 and that the NBA is somehow going to go ahead and bring some fans into arenas somewhere and there will be humans paying to watch other humans play basketball. Watching the World Series makes me think they should have just kept the cardboard cut outs…it’s like you turned on a minor league game that got moved to a too big stadium. If you want to have folks fill out the arena in a socially distant way…indoors…you’re going to have a very small amount of people. So why not have the virtual fans in places where people wouldn’t want, or be able to, be seated? Keep the intensity at a higher level. Keep fans into the game, and besides it’s cool to see who on planet Earth is tuning in.
    5. Saved the best for last: keep the BLACK LIVES MATTER on the court, every court in every arena. Keep the jersey messaging, keep all of the social justice line items, keep it all. The fans you lose aren’t worth the tears or energy it would take to make them understand why this is important. When they come around, if they come around, we can welcome them back with open arms. But the fact that a multi-billion corporate entity in America is lending it’s voice to a movement for social justice is a big deal. This is not a gimmick, this is a movement and every voice behind it makes it louder. The NBA is an amplifier, it is not the message. Keep the messaging.

    Those are the things I would love to see carry over, in some fashion or other. The only one of those I truly expect to make it is the social justice messaging, I think the players will demand it to the degree that they can. The space…probably won’t make the cut, those are high dollar inches and feet. Refs might stay mic’d up, not likely to be like the NFL. Anyhow, here’s hoping that some of the cooler things from the Bubble stick around.

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    • Good stuff as always, Jamie. I am also in favor of the extra breathing room court side. Makes no sense to have the fans so close, guys risk life and limb jumping over them chasing a loose ball. Also time to think about widening the court to accommodate the modern game. Seems they could find the money… And the BLM thing is obvious..

      • Didn’t mean to send…BLM is important to continue because exposure and education are keys to ending racism. Imagine a country where love and tolerance prevail because we are all equal until proven otherwise.

        • Agreed on all counts Michael. The extra space honestly seems like a no-brainer and I’m sure the players appreciated the extra room to maneuver. You could even add the little half walls and keep the robotic dolly cam.

    • Great suggestions, Jamie. Agree with all including the virtual fans. Be great to have a live strip of virtual fans surrounding the arena. Fill it with Lakers fans who can’t make live games. I’m also guessing we may see a transition period when the season starts with limited live fans.

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    5 Things: Lakers #1!!!

    “Lakers #1” is something a good buddy of mine say to one another whenever the Lakers do well. In recent years that phrase had fallen off quite a bit. We made it a point to got to STAPLES at some point every year, this year we were unable to make that journey as we had loose plans to catch a game near the end of the regular season. Obviously planetary events altered those plans. So, for my friend, for the Laker fans around the globe, and for all of us Lakerholics here I’d like to say it again: LAKERS #1!

    1. LeBron James is an incredible talent. You might not have cheered when he became a Laker, you may have had another player that you thought might fit better alongside the Lakers who were on the team at that point in time, but there is little doubt that The King is among the best to ever lace them up. If not the best. His 27th post season triple-double was a gem. 28 points (on 13-20 shooting), 14 boards, 10 assists, with a steal to only a solitary turnover. James trails only Magic Johnson (30) for post-season triple-doubles. Here’s hoping that happens sometime next year. One last thing on James: I have little to no doubt that he was the right man to bring this franchise back to prominence and have felt that way for some time. His everyday quest for greatness isn’t something you can quantify on a stat sheet or shot chart. His gravitas, style and personality both on and off the court allowed the Laker franchise to recede from it’s drama-filled decade of no banners and focus more on just being an NBA team. The drama that surrounded the Lakers this year was generated externally, not internally and I think that went a long way to fostering the winning environment we fans are enjoying today.
    2. Anthony Davis and his 100% correct right answer. “I have no idea” is his direct quote in terms of whether he was returning as a Laker or not. Man… I know it’s the job of a journalist and all but, in these times, after what these men and their families went through–what the world is going through still…can we let him have an evening of enjoyment and celebration? Davis was a monster on defense last night and was everything the Lakers could have hoped for when they traded burgeoning All Star Brandon Ingram and host of other complimentary players for him last summer. His cool, jazzy style meshed perfectly with James’ hard-driving power chord attack. The two together bought into coach Vogel’s defense and the rest is now history. He is a Laker Legend no matter what happens. I fully expect him to return and I expect it to be on a large contract. But even if, for whatever reason, he does not…it won’t matter to me as that will be a personal decision that Davis, his family and his agent will make. If you ask me I think it’s a done deal and he was being a young human enjoying something he’s worked extremely hard his entire life for.
    3. The Last of the Mohicans (aka Kyle Kuzma). Kyle was once a member of the heralded and well-regarded Laker Youth movement. Caruso wasn’t really a part of that, that’s a different bullet point. I’ll wager that few Laker faithful thought that Kyle would be the last one to be in purple and gold, holding the Larry O’ and soaking in the bubbly. It took a redefinition of his game and embracing a secondary role for him to get to this point but I think he would agree the journey has been worth it. His attention to the defensive end enabled him to overcome his streak shooting. While he has the tools to be a solid one-on-one player he subverted that skill set to a large degree in the playoffs and contented himself to be a decent spot-up shooter and above average defender. Kyle taking on that challenge, and succeeding, is a big reason whey we did as well as we did this year. He learned what it is to be a great teammate which is an entirely different skill set than becoming a great player. In the doing he’s now learned what it feels like to be a champion.
    4. Speaking of Alex Caruso… His last start of the 2019-20 season was his best. His ferocity and determination on defense helped hold that end together and allowed us to absorb the loss of Avery Bradley. KCP got more minutes in his role, Rondo got healthy and able to contribute, but the decision to go whole hog on small ball in game 6 and start Caruso over Morris (who could not contain Jimmy Butler and was getting hunted on offense in game 5) was a testament to the coaches faith in him and his hard work. I doubt he’ll ever match his defensive impact on the offensive end and that’s OK. It takes guys like Caruso to make an elite NBA defense work. He never gripes about his role, minutes or shots, he’s a solid teammate and a testament to the Lakers development system. What a journey from “who is that Ernie Johnson look-a-like?” on TNT a couple years back to having one more ring to show off at parties than Charles Barkley.
    5. Coach Frank Vogel. I saved the best point for last. We knew of the greatness of James, the impact of Davis and we’re familiar with the stories of the young Lakers. Frank Vogel was approximately zero people’s first choice to coach the Lakers, probably not even in his own mind. In the end, it’s been revealed yet again that what the people say is one thing but it’s what a person does that defines the times. During the game if you were listening to the audio Frank Vogel at one point was telling his team they were in the midst of a defensive masterpiece. That is truth. While the Heat did run the score up on us towards the end of the game to make it look like less of a blow out the fact that we held them to 36 half time points is astounding. Truly a remarkable accomplishment and it was done through hard work, great shot contests and adroit passing lane coverage in the middle of the floor. It almost felt like the Lakers had been laying a trap for Miami throughout the Finals and sprung it in game 6. The Heat had zero answer for the Laker defensive pressure which in turn fueled our transition game and helped us dominate in paint points. Coach Vogel deserves all the credit in the world for being a calm, steadying point amidst all the noise and drama his hiring was surrounded by, the events of the season, COVID and how the team navigated the Bubble. His evolution and ability to adapt to playoff realities and match ups stands in stark contract to coaches that have more name power, flashier styles of play or more experience. You’ve come a long way, Frank, and Laker Nation thanks you for bringing us along.

    Honestly, I could go on. Bonus point has to go to one Jeannie Buss who just became the first female owner to win a championship…in any sport. There aren’t many female owners (true owners, I’m not talking they have a tiny share, this is Jeannie’s team and she’s made sure everyone knows) and Jeannie has long been the best of the bunch. From taking the reigns after her father’s passing, to moving the team through the twilight of Kobe’s career into the Kobe-less years, ousting Jim and Mitch, not letting Magic’s departure derail anything at all, trusting Rob “could have gotten a thing point too” Pelinka to helping the NBA as an entity as much as she does her franchise Jeannie is an excellent example of what a modern owner should embrace to be successful on and off the court. I know the Lakers have ended huddles with 1-2-3 MAMBA!!! and that is apropos, but in a lot of ways this one was also for Jeannie Buss who, at long last, did her Dad proud to the fullest degree. Congratulations, Jeannie.

    Well, that’s it. That’s all I got for today. Couldn’t write this last night, had to watch the game again. It was that fun. I’m in a slight state of disbelief but it is indeed true. I checked ESPN, we’re the champions, again. It feels fitting, as well. To you Lakerholics, old, new, and even those who have moved on I say thank you. Thank you for your time, passion and fandom. The last few years haven’t been easy, nothing is guaranteed and to stay on board the Laker ship during it’s tumultuous voyage to this point hasn’t always been easy. But our faith has been rewarded. Banner #17 will one day hang at STAPLES, there will be some sort of parade at some point, and best of all we’ll begin our defense of this moment sometime next year, hopefully with some if getting to attend those games in STAPLES. So to all of you I say “enjoy this!” because these moments, like a ll good things, are fleeting. Don’t take rings for granted for they are earned not bestowed. Tip of the cap to Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat team and all the folks who are a part of the most excellent organization. If any team was destined to match up against the Lakers this season there are a lot of reasons the Miami Heat were the most apropos. James played there, Riles came from here, Vogel never beat them and so on and so forth. They say it takes a lot of heat to correctly forge steel. That statement has never rung truer.

    Go Lakers.

    PS: One last tidbit, after this week I’ll be doing a fiver on every current Laker to assess their performance over the course of the season, where they stand in terms of our future and how the team might look when next it’s assembled to defend the title so keep on popping by. Thanks to LakerTom for hosting us all on his awesome site, to magicman for all the fine mojo he brings and again to all you Lakerholics who help fuel the discussion and keep the passion burning. Have a good one and if we don’t see during the off-season, however long that will be, we’ll see you next time.

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    • Aloha Jamie!!!

      Great choices for your 5 things. There were so many great things to choose from. i like that you highlighted Alex. again he led the team in plus minus with a plus 20. he just does so many winning things that fly under the radar. little did we know when had to trade Ball to land AD that Alex would step into that void and perform at this level. while hes not the passer that Lonzo is, he’s a better defender and scrappier then Lonzo was here. oh and he finishes at the rim.

      i think if i were to add a 6th point, it’s how all 17 guys bought in and accepted their roles without complaint. this led to something we haven’t seen in Laker land for a long time. A drama free season! You may have to go back to the Magic years to find that. win or lose, champions or also rans, there always seemed to be some drama in each and every season.

      thanks for the fivers Jaime, much appreciatrd. go Lakers!!!

      • As always thank you Michael for your fandom, your support of the blog and being awesome in general. There were more like 25 things I could have dropped but time and brevity are valiant allies and so I listened to them. That was one of them, though, the incredible team spirit this squad has.

    • Great FIVER, Jamie. Hard not to make it a TENER or FIFTEENER. Agree with every single word you wrote. We’re finally in perfect sync after a season of butting water glasses.

      I two three personal 5 Things:

      One is the 5 keys to the Lakers championship and next dynasty: LeBron, AD, Vogel, Pelinka, and Jeanie.

      The other is to the players who drove the championship:
      LeBron, AD, KCP, Rondo, and Caruso.

      Thanks to you and Sean for all your great work as Blog Editors, writers and comment drivers, and podcasters. And thanks also to Gerald and Rafael for the great Lakers Fast Break podcasts.

      LOS ANGELES LAKERS, 2020 NBA CHAMPIONS!
      And more rings in the future for sure …

    • Thanks, Jamie. Excellent fiver and I will definitely miss them from now and at the start of next season. Great job and you deserve an award for keeping the fivers comming consistently after every game. You also correctly predicted the series in 6. Bingo!

      I am very emotional right now and still basking in this huge achievement by the team. Could not comment earlier due to unexpectedly long hours at work, but the victory made up for the stress.

      This has been one of the best Lakers teams I have ever been around, if not the best. On the one hand, you have LeBron defying father time, dazzling all over the court like a Lamborghini, hammering away at opponents and dropping bombs like a B1-B Lancer bomber. On the other hand, you have Anthony Davis on the defensive end imposing his will, providing quick-action support, blocking, deflecting shots and attacking any opponent who ventures into the paint area like an A-10 Warthog/Thunderbolt fighter-bomber. He is so menacing defensively his presence alone makes opponents think twice as if they are seeing a ghost. In between, you have role players who will fill their opponents’ plates with their swarming lengths and switches to suffocation. What a lethal combination.

      This is the beginning of a new dynasty. All we need is a few more tweaks to the roaster, especially adding dead eye sharp-shooters, and the rest is going to be history.

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    5 Things: Heat grit out win, Lakers hold 3-2 edge

    Well that certainly could have ended better. The biggest problem I had with that game was how very many chances to win we flitted, fumbled and bumbled away. The Lakers still have the edge but it feels like Miami got some mean to ’em and are gaining momentum. No box score stuff tonight, just vibes and notions.

    1. Jimmy “fucking” Butler. No need to mince words. The dude is a superstar and Spo’s quote about him slumping over near the end and ‘that’s what a champion looks like before they’re a champion’ or something to that effect, rings true. Butler was superb and when he’s playing one of his nova games, white hot and impossible to contain. The Lakers have to keep him off the foul line and force him to be a jump shooter and not a LeBron/Pippen hybrid like he was tonight. Just have to do a better job containing one aspect of his game and forcing him into shots he doesn’t like. Easier said than done. My hope is that the coaching staff that figured out the riddles of Lillard, Harden and Murray have one more solution in ’em to figure out Butler. But I must say, I have mad respect for Jimmy’s game.
    2. Hoping Davis is as healthy as possible for Sunday evening. That foot injury may not have kept him from playing but it certainly hindered his aggression. We need him to do more, especially on defense where he sagged off, stopped guarding Butler as much, and didn’t demand the ball down the stretch. We need him to be the next great Laker on Sunday.
    3. LeBron’s most excellent effort. James was a joy to watch tonight, in fact I wish he had taken that last shot and let everyone crash the boards. I don’t want to say James has to do more, too…but…he does. Especially if Davis is hobbled and less aggressive like he was tonight. I just don’t know how much there can be left to /eave out on that court. James and Butler had an epic Jedi Knight light-saber duel in the bowels of Cloud City. He needs Han, Leia, Chewie and the droids to show up and lend some aid.
    4. The Laker bench can’t be outplayed by Kendrick Nunn. 14 to 14 was the bench points scoring (I know, I know, I said no box score stuff) the problem was only two Miami players came off the bench and only one of them scored. Both benches had 10 rebounds, again 2 against 4 and Miami played us even. Assists? Lakers won that one, and should considering Rondo comes off the bench but the difference was only +3 (8-5). Our bench had 2 more steals (3-1) and they tied us in blocked shots ( 1 apiece). The Laker bench turned the ball over 7 times, the Heat 1. While we don’t need the bench to save us the 4 of them need to outplay the 2 Heat bench players, and they need to take care of the ball. The bench defense is clutch, the effort is solid, I’m a huge Caruso guy, a longtime Rondo fan and been pulling for Kuzma as the last of the old Laker future in the pre-King era. But here, in the NBA Finals, they need to do more, play harder and play better.
    5. Wipe the slate clean. It’s one game, it does not a season make. It only extends the series, gives Miami another shot and provides 36 hours of news fodder about “what the Lakers can blah blah blah”. It’s not rocket science what they need to do: the riddle is how they can accomplish those tasks. Keep Butler off the line by sagging off more, let him shoot 18-20 foot jumpers, that’s a win for the defense. When Nunn comes in, stick Caruso on him and shut him down. AC seemed able to keep Nunn under wraps, especially in the second half. Be aggressive to start not LeBron James teammates. We need to start with some fire, make the Heat fight up a hill for a few quarters, wear them down and finish them on Sunday. No need to hold back, don’t save anything else, lay it out there and play unchained.

    Might finally get a prediction right and be able to shave and get a hair cut, got quite the playoff look going. Rock in paradise, Edward, you were as LA as it gets and we could use some of that rocking on Sunday.

    Go Lakers.

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    • Good ‘Fiver,’ Jamie. Jimmy wins the war, knock on wood AD’s OK, great game by LeBron (including making the right play at the end), our bench sucked, and flush this game and get ready for Sunday night. Time for the Lakers to finish this from start to close. No more messing around.

      And Frank Vogel needs to wake up and start Morris over Howard. Say all you want about the first 10 minutes the game not mattering but Frank can’t allow the Lakers to play tomorrow nighyt’s game from behind.

      Nor can he call a play where the game winning shot is taken by Danny Green rather than KCP or Morris. Everybody knew the Heat were going to make somebody not named LeBron James beat them and picking Danny to set the screen for LeBron was a brain dead move by Vogel.

    • Thanks, Jamie. What a frustrating game.

      We lost this game because of turnovers and a defense that only showed up in spurts. On a night when LeBron could have won his fourth championship and a finals MVP, we were forced to play catch up all game. LeBron and KCP helped make the score look closer than it should. The effort was simply not there from the get go. Not sure if that’s due to complacency, but with Heat gaining momentum and injuries hitting us, we now have to grind it out in the next game.

      There’s no way the Heat reserves should be allowed to have a field day like in this game, and there should be priority in preventing Jimmy Butler from the freethrow line. I am getting frustrated in how the referees award him those freebies even when you breathe into him. He lives at the freethrow line, a la James Harden all over again but with less 3 point attempts.

      Miami has a small margin of error compared to the Lakers, so they have to play a perfect game and they did it twice. The Lakers are now being forced to play under pressure. I still think the Lakers will pull it out next game and we will be able to forget all the disappointments from last night.

      It still hurts to see every transcendent display of greatness by LeBron in this game go to waste. Here is hoping he can still defy logic in the next game.

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    5 Things: What the Lakers can do to close it out tonight

    Just a lil fiver for your day. I am personally super-pumped for tonight and am giddy to be done with work like I haven’t been since March. Let’s do this Lakerholics!!!

    1) Hot start. The entire game will be easier if we don’t spend the first quarter searching for rhythm or mojo. Come out with a purpose, hit your open looks and play hard. The rest will come in the flow of the game.

    2) Lock in on defense. As if this needed to be said, but it’s the biggest key to a close out. Make life hard, if Dwight plays then make sure you are felt in the paint when Miami drives. No easy, uncontested shots.

    3) But also defend without fouling. Especially Jimmy Butler. We need to keep him off the line, stymie Miami’s easy points they accumulate from the stripe. Contest, body up, no easy layups but no flagrant fouls and don’t get into the ref game. Just hoop.

    4) Take care of the little things. Make your free throws, cheer from the sidelines if you’re a G-Leaguer, be ready if you’re a rotation guy because you never know when that number you’re wearing will be called. Trends provide narrative and media fodder but the truth is anything can happen tonight. So no injuries, be ready to do your job and be a great teammate.

    5) Let LeBron and AD do their thing. One of my off-season topics will be ‘why did we not see more directly linked LBJ/AD action this season. The James/Davis pick and roll has been run maybe a dozen times and it usually results in a pass to a different player, it’s used as much for deception as for production. Nevertheless, both players have shown they can dominate the game when sharing the floor. They need to do that tonight for us to have any kind of shot. Subpar games need not show up today, bring that A game and let’s bring home banner 17 to hang on STAPLES!!!

    Go Lakers.

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    5 Things: Lakers turn up the D, turn away the Heat, and take a 3-1 lead

    That was a hard fought contest and maybe the best basketball game of the Bubble. A see-saw game that saw big plays from multiple players on both squads. The Heat got Bam back but it wasn’t enough to stymie and multi-pronged Laker attack. Do the Heat have another wrench to throw in the gears?

    1. LeBron and AD playing more to form. We’ve said it here on the blog all year (literally, this season has taken a whole dang year almost!) and it’s still true today: we’re only going as far as James and Davis take us. They were both solid and steady all game long making the plays the team needed down the stretch, being tough on the glass (21 rebounds combined) and hitting the big shots down the stretch. Miami has certainly found a way to make the game tougher for LeBron and Anthony. The great ones find a way to rise above and reach a higher plateau and while neither player had a “one for the record books” game they both did the job of leading the team to a win.
    2. Starting guards to the rescue! KCP was stellar last night, huge on both ends and the victim of The Mystery of the Missing Whistle in the first half. Danny Green was also solid (for once) and when these guys contribute like this it makes LeBron and Rondo’s job a lot easier. The starting duo combined for 26 points (10-20, 5-14 from three), 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. That’s what we need to have happen on Friday to end the series otherwise we could easily be looking at game 6 on Sunday if they can’t make shots and impact other areas of the game. Pope was instrumental in overcoming a very sluggish start from LeBron.
    3. Bench Squad: In COLOR! I’m calling ’em the Bench Squad, a nod to the old Leslie Nielsen TV show, Police Squad (later turned into a cinematic trilogy, The Naked Gun) comedies but there’s nothing funny about these guys. To a man Rondo, Caruso, Morris and Kuzma played really well. With much of Miami’s bench now in the starting line up due to injury (or racking up DNP-coaches decision’s) the pressure our bench creates by playing well is more important than ever. If they can keep pouring in about 20 ppg and doing the things they’re supposed to be doing, especially on defense, it’s going to be hard for Miami to salvage another win. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Dragic comes back on Friday. One would assume he at least gives it a go which would mean he either comes off the bench (unlikely since the injury might stiffen up after warming up) or pushes Tyler Herro back to a secondary role.
    4. Keeping Butler off the free throw line. One of the big keys in any game against the Heat is keeping them, and especially Jimmy Butler, off the free throw line. It looked like we were going to fail in that task early on as the Lakers watched Miami rack up double digit free throw attempts to our 5 in the first half. We cleaned that up in the second half and stayed aggressive, getting ourselves to the line in the process and swinging the game in our favor. LeBron was relentless in attacking the pressure and helped close the free throw gap and AD’s defense on Butler was stellar.
    5. The continuing evolution of Frank Vogel. What a ride this team has been on, from going on one heckuva role just before COVID to coming into the Bubble playing in an underwhelming fashion. Frank had a line up that was clicking in the regular season. But it’s been really interesting watching how Frank has embraced, in his own way, the more modern concepts of NBA basketball. Using Morris more at center, using Dwight or JaVale to get AD some time at the 4 and saving him for late game excellence on defense. Unlocking the defense of Kyle Kuzma which has been huge in the playoffs and elevating Caruso to defensive spark plug. There’s certainly more to like about his evolution and growth and we can more into that in the off season. I just wanted to take a second and express my admiration for a coach who came in with a mind set, adapted it to the players he has, and made it work out on the court. Reminds me a lot of Nick Nurse, in that regard. Many coaches would be wise to adopt a similar level of flexibility in their thinking. Sometimes it feels like the philosophy and personnel don’t exactly mesh and that solid talent is relegated to the bench or cast aside in favor of an ideal. Vogel is practical, I admire that a lot.

    One win people. One stinking win away from banner #17! It’s an incredible precipice we’re standing on and I am loving every second of these NBA Finals. Bam is back, it won’t be enough if we get solid contributions from the roster and good to great games from Davis and James. Jimmy B. needs to play at a historic, and frankly unsustainable, level in order to elevate Miami to ‘W’ potential. He might have one more of those in him on Friday but if I can go 0-fer on predictions and we get the cookie you can color me happy as a clam.

    Go Lakers.

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    • Good stuff as always, Jamie. Thanks.

      1) While it wasn’t the best games for either LeBron or AD, especially in the first half, they both came up big when it counted and that’s what makes champions.

      For me this game came down to the defending the superstars. The Lakers did exactly what I said they had to do, which is go under those screens and force Butler to shoot the threes, which he didn’t want to do and was 0-3 when he did.

      Meanwhile, the Heat and Jimmy did the same to LeBron but he responding by hitting two big threes to hold the Heat in check. Taking and making those threes opened up driving lanes that let the Lakers win this game.

      AD volunteering and shutting Jimmy down in the last three quarters was key as was his dagger three to ice the game.

      2) I agree with you on KCP and Green, although Danny was shakey offensively. Those 5 points down the stretch by Kenny were big. No more KFC jokes on his part. He’s a Lakers and should stay that way. As for Danny, $15M expiring contract is sure to be traded.

      3) I’ve been touting the Lakers are having a better bench than the Heat and that proved to be true for the second game in a row, although I will concede their bench was depleted by missing starters. Don’t forget the Lakers lost a starting guard in Bradley,

      4) I agree the job we did in keeping Jimmy off the line was superb but it was going under the screens and having AD on him to prevent those straight line drives. Also, Jimmy was beat after the first quarter by carrying the Heat and trying to guard the bigger LeBron.

      5) Frank Vogel is the unsung hero of this team and the Lakerholics.Com COY. His final evolution as a great coach was starting Markieff Morris in the second half and moving AD to center. Morris for McGee against the Heat. Howard for McGee against the Nuggets. And now back to Morris for Howard in the Finals. That’s the lineup we should hit the floor with to end the season on Friday.

      LAKERS OVER HEAT IN FIVE. JUST LIKE AGAINST THE BLAZERS, ROCKETS, AND NUGGETS. GO, LAKERS!

    • Great fiver, Jamie. Well said, man. What a hard fought battle. Tough plays by both teams until the final minutes and that’s what you want to see in a finals game. The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.

      I will take a hard fought win over a blowout. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Vogel empty the bench with 5 minutes left in a blowout?

      A blowout win, especially to win the championship, would take away from the thrill of winning the game. It would definitely make for a boring game without being properly challenged. And you know what else that will lead to? Our critics will come full circle with all sorts of narratives and storylines. They will say it was too easy, our opponent was not good and not worthy. Miami Heat are a legit team, and like I said before, there is a reason they are in the finals. But I will take a close game like the Lakers had in this game and then they turn into another gear in the 4th quarter to win. That’s championship basketball.

      Our starting guards were solid and stellar in this game. Danny green showed up. It was great to see KCP take the bull by the horn, hitting huge shots and attacking the rim in the biggest moment. KCP is fearless, resilient and durable. And please, no more KFC jokes on his part like LakerTom said. It was bravery on his part, and while I am forever grateful for LeBron and AD, I would love to see a role player with the guts to take over at the biggest moment over any superstar. That’s what brings thrill to a win. By the way, that’s the kind of player our rookie THT is going to become. He’s fearless at this young age.

      Again, the bench was great for the second straight game. A big shoutout to Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Markief Morris and Dwight Howard for fighting hard to the very end. Frank Vogel has been masterful throughout the playoffs. Great job!

      In the end, it was the Lakers’ identity as a defensive juggernaut and their ensuing defense is what carried the day. The Heat are now paralyzed waist down and there is no way of coming back from a 3-1 deficit against this Lakers team unless something goes terribly wrong.

      It was a nail-biter, but that’s what made the victory the more the merrier. One more to go.

      • Thanks buba, totally agree on the perception points and the corroded storyline that could (will?) come out of these Finals. I’ve always thought that the team that made it to the next round was the team that deserved to win. Some people like to over-weigh the effect match ups have, and they do have an impact. But match ups didn’t force the Clippers to blow big leads and lose the series. Match ups didn’t stop Boston from not treating these games with the importance they deserve or to lose focus for whole halves at a time. Match ups are what a coach can adjust (except Mike “One Dimension” D’Antoni…). So, for me, it’s a moot point.

        Really looking forward to Friday and hope the extra rest gives us a rea;;y exciting and entertaining game.

    • Awesome fiver, Jamie!!

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    Man does 2020 blow...

    This one hit me hard. Been a fan of Edward’s since I was 10, model my banjo sound after his late 70’s/early 80’s snarl and his music still inspires me to this day. Never stop innovating, never stop growing and for the love of humanity never stop practicing your craft, whatever it may be. Rock In Paradise, Ed. At least you can hang with Hendrix now.

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    Good news for IT

    Sounds like he finally went ahead and got that hip procedure he should have done years ago. Hope he can come back and be a force in the Association.



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    5 Things: Heat adjustments flummox Lakers

    It’s a series now. I thought there would be trouble when they interviewed Jimmy Butler prior to tip-off and he smiled and said everything that went wrong was something they could control. He was right. So if you weren’t entertained before tonight because you thought it was a cake walk or that this series would have an asterisk for some reason there’s an old axiom you should tread softly around: be careful what you wish for.

    1. Misleading stats. If you haven’t already go ahead and check the box score. You’ll see a game where we shot an even amount of free throws, we still had a potent transition offense (15-9 in fast break points), we dominated the offensive glass (11-3), we scored more points off turnovers (21-17), we made one more free throw and 2 more three pointers. But the Heat played harder, did not have to work as hard on the offensive end as we had been making them. We lost because of a lack of effort and cohesion on the defensive end. That was both a by product of Anthony Davis’s foul trouble and a lack of effort in general.
    2. Jimmy Butler. If you weren’t yet aware of how freaking good Butler can be you probably are now. The man can hoop it up with the best of them, Finals opponents included. His 40 point triple double put him in some pretty elite company, a room shared only by Jerry West and his current opponent Mr. LeBron James. He was a 7 bounce Kawhi Leonard shot from this being his second straight trip to the NBA Finals, became a superstar nobody ever thought he could be. Has shown at every stop that he has the kind of edge you need in a superstar, the kind of edge that plays through perception, stats and media hot wind. The kind of player that just beat the perceived Finals favorite. I make it a point never to dismiss a professionals talent, especially in sport. The hours these people spend on their bodies, their craft, their minds and then add that to team practices…it’s an absurd amount of time. It’s a testament to the power of the human mind and body. The Bubble presents yet another unique, yet-to-be-experienced wrinkle to all of this. So, tip of the cap to Jimmy B. Good game, man.
    3. The Laker bench. These guys are plucky as all get out and they showed up huge tonight. Had we gotten anything from the our starters not named LeBron and AD this game would have gone very differently. Kyle Kuzma had his best game of the NBA Finals by a country mile and I really hope it’s something he can build on. Caruso was steady on both ends. Markieff Morris got hot early and kept us in the game after getting down big and early…again (more on that down yonder) and Rondo was good, not great but good. The bench made this more of a game that it looked like and here’s hoping they got a couple more efforts like that in ’em.
    4. Don’t get down big early man… Two games in a row we got down by double digits early but tonight we didn’t have the mojo to overcome the slow start. It’s not like we never led (we did) and it’s not like we didn’t have a chance to win the game (we also did) but we never made the Heat feel uncomfortable, they always looked poised and in control. They definitely played harder over the course of the game. So, if the Lakers want to avoid a series altering 2-2 tie on Tuesday they need to start the game better. A lot better.
    5. The Heat’s defensive adjustment and how the Lakers can use it to their advantage. The Heat gave us a little bit of our medicine. They went away from the 2-3 zone with the wings on the edge and more into a lot more man-to-man, and a little 1-2 side zone with ball blitzing. A really nifty adjustment that stopped Lebron from getting into the paint at will because he always had a man in front of him and couple long, rangy dudes disrupting his favored passing lanes (big in the paint or corner three trigger man). That gummed up enough of the Laker offense but the Heat also didn’t just double LeBron, they baited him into making his move and then quickly swallowed up his drive. Add to that the constant double, sometimes triple teams Davis faced and you have a riddle for the coaching staff: how to shake Davis loose. I think we’ll see a little more Dwight Howard, actually. We’ll see screens set to free up backdoor cuts, we’ll see Dwight and AD screen for one another and most importantly I hope we see more of Anthony on the move, getting the ball and not over-thinking and letting the defense get set and swarm him. He needs to be quicker in his decision-making from here on out. LeBron needs to look to score and not assist when Davis sits, too. If our bench plays anything like they did tonight and we get anything from KCP and Green (combined -41 tonight) I like our chances in any game going forward.

    Don’t sweat it Lakerholics. There are at least 2 more games to go, maybe 4. This is the biggest, brightest stage an NBA team can ever hope to play on and we’ve not seen in for a decade. Enjoy it, savor it, like a tasty meal. We got beat tonight, the Heat are a great team. They have great players. This was never supposed to be easy. So don’t sweat it.

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    5 Things: Lakers rain Fire on the Heat, up 2-0

    The Laker blueprint for success was laid out early in training camp. The bedrock principle of this team would be defense that would fuel a devastating fast break attack led by LeBron James. AD and LBJ bought in to the defense early, used the transition game expertly and had guys on the team that created enough space for it all to work in the half court. That recipe led us all the way until game 2 of the NBA Finals when something…unexpected happened.

    1. “Take what the defense gives you.” This aged sport axiom is casually tossed around often. Last night the Los Angeles Lakers took that to record breaking heights by first establishing a new NBA record for three pointers in a half (27) and then continuing on and breaking the record for threes in an NBA Finals game (47). While we didn’t hit those threes at an absurd level (34.7%) we hit enough to maintain a comfortable lead, create offensive rebounds for easy second chance points and to stall out Miami’s zone defense. This record might last as long as it takes to get to 4 PM (PST) on Sunday when Miami is quite likely to trot that zone out again and the Lakers will take the open shots provided.
    2. Nifty post passing. It’s already a trend in the series and it was started in game 1 by Dwight Howard when he had more assist (2) then buckets made (0). Last night saw a plethora of Lakers get behind the zone, get the ball and drop a quick pass into the paint for a hoop. The problem with a zone is it doesn’t account for large areas of the court and there has always been truth that the pass is the quickest way to move the ball. Defense’s can track a pass but when they come in quick succession they can’t keep up. I don’t care how long or fast you are, it’s an impossible task. The Lakers broke the Miami zone by accepting and shooting the open threes and getting easy duck-ins behind the defense.
    3. The most dominant pair in the NBA. LeBron and Anthony are reaching Kobe/Shaq heights in terms of Laker lore and overall NBA dominance. Miami has no answer, none, for this version of Anthony Davis and James has long been as unstoppable a force as has existed in the Association. Last night they continued their romp and are putting up video game numbers on the Heat. James barely missed a triple double, Davis is either shooting over or blowing by any of the defenders Miami puts on him and James and Davis out-rebounded the Heat starters (23-22) on their own. It doesn’t feel like there is an adjustment Miami can make at this point. Even if Bam gets healthy and back on the court he alone isn’t enough to contain Davis and nobody has been able to single-handily stop LeBron since he came into the league. The Zone is (was…) Miami’s best chance at an equalizer. It’s not working.
    4. The Laker Bench putting in work. The bench of LA was monstrous last night. Everyone who played scored, except for JR Smith, and every one hit at least 2 threes. The Laker bench took the challenge thrown down by Miami (beat us from three) and ran with it. The Laker bench helped corral this win with their three point shot considering that Danny Green (1-8) and KCP (2-11) shot terribly from distance. While we took the three in volume we made our standard amount (34%) and that was due to the bench showing up.
    5. Don’t let the wounded animal bite you. Miami looks done, body language signals they’re done. I don’t believe it, while I now have serious doubts about my earlier prediction (6 games but also that was a non-jinx us prediction, I also have a Tom Hanks in Castaway beard and hair style going until we pull this thing out) I feel like Miami could win a game with a Bam boost. I’ll be surprised if Dragic plays again, Foot injuries are nothing to mess with especially being a couple short months away from a likely 2021 season. But a Bam boost could propel Miami to a win and avoid the sweep. There have been 8 total Finals sweeps since the ABA/NBA merger in 1949: 2006-07 (Spurs swept Cleveland), 2001-02 (Lakers swept Nets), 1994-95 (Rockets swept Magic), 1988-89 (Pistons sweep injury-riddled Lakers), 1982-83 (Philly swept LA), 1974-75 (warriors sweep Bullets of Washington), 1970-71 (Bucks sweep Bullets of Baltimore) and 1958-59 Boston sweeps the Lakers of Minneapolis). That’s it. So I still expect this Heat squad to do everything possible to avoid joining that ignominious list. We’ll see if they can.

    All in all that was a dominating performance on both ends of the court. Lakers seem to have figured out where the chinks in Miami’s armor are and are hammering away bath those spots without mercy. As they should.

    Go Lakers.

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    • Didn’t let the wounded animal get too close for comfort.

      Great fiver, dude. 2 wins away from a Championship fiver!

    • Great ‘Fiver,’ Jamie.

      1) Agree with everything. Undefeated when they shoot over 30% from deep. Still never allowed the Heat to threaten. Series is over. Odds for Lakers win are now 200 to 1.

      2) Nice adjustment by Vogel playing LeBron and AD under the Heat zone even out of bounds. Hard to keep your eye on the ball and the defender in that situation. Made it easy to step in and gret great position for lobs, offensive boards, etc.

      3) Not only best duo but best two players. #1 and #2 or 1A and 1B. Or Best present and future. Lakers have the building blocks for another dynasty. Magic and Kareem. Kobe and Shaq. LeBron and AD.

      4) More proof the Lakers bench is better than Heat bench. Underrated and dissed all season long. Some benches can outscore them but few can contribute in all of the ways they do.

      5) Wounded animals can bite but in the condition the Heat are not kill you. More like a wounded kitty or puppy than a wounded lion or tiger. Heat going down in 4. First prediction I missed this postseason.

    • Nice one, Jamie. Right now, I am just enjoying this team playing great basketball. Sean is right, this is the best Lakers team since 2001. Just can’t describe how I am feeling right now. I am overjoyed. Thanks for the fiver.

      • Aloha Jamie,
        Nice write up as always. this was a hard game for me. i celebrated the win but man, the Heat were 31 for 34 from the line! we dominated but won by only 10 because they had 21 more points from free throws then we did. now I’m okay if a guy fouls trying to take a charge or fouls crahing the boards or is going mano on mano fighting for position. but so many of our fouls were ticky tack, silly little fouls that i was getting totally frustrated. We really need to clean that up in game 3. Go lakers!

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    Doc is going to be the new coach for the 76ers. Good luck Doc, you’ll need it.

    https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/30018563/sources-doc-rivers-agrees-deal-coach-philadelphia-76ers

    That was fast...

    Doc is going to be the new coach for the 76ers. Good luck Doc, you’ll need it.

    https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/30018563/sources-doc-rivers-agrees-deal-coach-philadelphia-76ers

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    • Hmnnn. Another team with superstars who can’t seem to lead or make each other better. Wasn’t that his problem with the Clippers? Great guy but not sure he’s the right coach for that team, especially on a five-year deal. Elton Brand strikes again. When he gets fired next year, new GM’s going to want his own head coach.

    • They just told Philly fans we’re good with 2nd Round exits. Lol.

      Sam Hinkie rolling over in his grave.

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    5 Things: Lakers win game 1 against the Heat

    That was a lot of fun although I really hate it when guys get injured in the playoffs, leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. But it is what it is so we’ll have to hope Dragic, Butler and Bam are good to go tomorrow night while also expecting the Lakers to bring their A game. I would say we got a B/B+ game from the squad last night and, with the help of injuries to key players and some under-performing on the Heat’s part, brought the first NBA Finals win in a good long while home.

    1. Lakers have found their way, the way is defense, and they are putting in work to make it happen. There’s not much you can do when a team defense is as locked in as the Lakers are right now. It’s not like we’re doing anything new, we;re just executing the bedrock principles of Frank Vogel’s schemes with excellence, communicating well on the back line and doing a fantastic job of adjusting or switching schemes or coverage’s on the fly. It’s easier to make this look good when superstars buy in and even easier when those guys are AD and LBJ. Danny Green was also excellent on defense last night. This series will be won on this end, as all of our series have been won up to now.
    2. Welcome to the NBA Finals Anthony Davis! His NBA Finals debut in terms of points scored tied for 3rd in Laker Lore (He and Elgin both dropped 34, George Mikan and Shaq are ahead of them). He also blocked 3 shots, had 9 rebounds and 5 assists. AD is a riddle I don’t think Miami has an answer for. They can slot Bam on him but it won’t be enough and it’ll mean you’re playing Kelly Olynyk or another under-sized player is going to have to contain Dwight Howard. Speaking of Dwight, his return trip to the NBA Finals was highlighted by two awesome dishes to AD on drives to the hoop for easy buckets. The Heat basically have to hope for a bad game from Davis, they don’t have a player that can stop him and doubling opens up an evolving passing game.
    3. That other good player we have, what’s his name…oh yeah! LeBron James. The King missed another triple-double by one assist. You could tell he was fishing for it a bit at the end but then quickly shut that down by returning to a more aggressive posture and scoring at will. Miami, like the rest of the NBA, doesn’t have much of an answer for ‘Bron. Iggy is up for it but lacks the legs or conditioning to hang with him all game and after that it’s Crowder who is more of a foul risk and lacks the acumen and savvy AI brings. I expect to see Miami double LeBron and force other guys like AD to make plays, the problem being that they can and will. Also, Frank’s got an easy counter to that in subbing Rondo in for either KCP or Green. Then you have to account for off-ball LBJ and we’ve seen how that fares, thus far.
    4. Laker Bench did enough. Outside of Caruso and Morris the Laker bench didn’t bring a lot of offense. Miami, when healthy, has the better scoring bench with Tyler Herro, Iggy and the oft-overlooked Kendrick Nunn. If Dragic can’t go I actually expect to see Nunn return to the starting line up. The rookie was on the All NBA rookie team, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting (despite the late surge of Zion). Between Nunn and Herro the Heat have some decent options to replace G=Dragic. I would add at this moment that, before you go writing rookies off in the NBA Finals citing a lack of experience or what-have-you that you take a moment and recall one Earvin “Magic” Johnson who corralled an NBA Finals MVP of his own after a serious ankle injury forced Kareem to sit out against Philly while one Pat Riley sat in the broadcast booth that season calling color alongside Laker legend Chick Hearn. Lotta mystical mojo there. There’s a benefit to being young: you don’t know what you don’t know, coach just tells you to go ball and you’re loose. Not saying that’s what’s coming but cautioning against dissing NBA talent from the comfort of one’s chair.
    5. What to expect in game 2. I think we’ll see more of Kelly Olynyk matching up against Dwight and if Bam sits out a game (which I don’t expect but will likely end up being a game time call) we might even see Myers Leonard. While this shouldn’t strike fear into the heart of Laker Nation it does present a slightly different challenge. Kelly-O is a willing three point shooter and under-rated defender. Like everyone on the Heat he plays hard and has no quit in him. Myers and Kelly could bang with Howard and burn fouls on AD, making him work harder than he wants to. I expect Spo to gum up the works of the game. They can’t keep up with us so they need to slow the game down, muck it up, play more like Riles’ Knickerbockers back in the 90’s. Jimmy Butler would have to be killed vampire-style in order not to play, he’s playing. Goran Dragic is a whole other issue. If he’s got a torn plantar I don’t see how he can be effective. That means Miami will either start bigger (maybe have Iggy start) but I think they’ll call on Kendrick and turn him loose while keeping the rest of the playoff rotation that has worked as-is. There aren’t a ton of options. Mainly the Heat need to play more to type, they need to generate more free throws and be more aggressive driving to the rim. It was only one game and the Miami Heat can definitely play better than we saw last night. I still think there’s a series here, even if Dragic can’t go. But they need to play pretty perfect basketball and I don’t see them doing that for 4 of the next 6 games. They can make it competitive, I still don’t see them winning it all.

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    • lol, forgot that Riles was an assistant coach by that time… What an NBA journey.

    • Excellent ‘5 Things’ as usual, Jamie, although I think you were too harsh on the B/B+ grade. Man, glad I didn’t have you as a teacher when I was in school. I clearly gave the Lakers an A/A+ grade, point out that the injuries had nothing to do with the outcome of the game, and the Lakers still would have dominated even if the Heat did not suffer the injuries. Unfortunately, the injuries will douse any remote hope Miami has of coming back.

      1) I agree 100% that defense is what won Game 1 of the Finals as it won top seed in the regular season and enabled the Lakers to win their first three playoffs series in 5 games. Kudos to Frank Vogel and his coaching staff and LeBron James and Anthony Davis for their commitment to defense being the identy and calling card of this team. There should be a D in team because defense is why the Lakers are going to win their 17th championship

      2/3) Anthony Davis is going to win Finals MVP and LeBron James is going to be the big reason. James not only choreographed with Rich Paul the Lakers acquisition of Davis but has also mentored and helped him reach his lofty potential as a superstar. As I said in my comment to my article about LeBron and AD chasing Laker Legends, there is no player in the NBA today who is better than LeBron James or Anthony Davis. The Lakers have the best duo and best two superstars.

      4) As I argued on our podcast, the Lakers’ bench has been underappreciated and underestimated all season long. Give me Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, and Markieff Morris anyday over rookies Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Duncan Robinson in a Finals game. Lots of shriviling orifices on Miami during last night’s game.

      5) You don’t see them winning it all, I don’t see them winning even one game but if there is a game where they might have a chance, it’s likely Game 2 without their injured players and the Lakers thinking they’ve got the series locked. Unfortunately for the Heat, I doubt LeBron is going to allow that to happen. Not three games from his 4th championship. I agree with Mrs. LakerTom. This is going to be a sweep.

      • Lebron has lost more Finals than he’s won so overconfidence will not be a problem.

    • Thanks as always, Jamie. I am certainly not discounting the Heat at this point in the finals just because of their injuries. There is a reason why they got here this far, and I would rather see both teams healthy and competing for the title. The Lakers are definitely not going to take them for granted. The truth of the matter is the Lakers are simply going to be the superior team in these finals no matter who they face from the Eastern Conference.

      The Lakers have luxury in size and athleticism even when they play small-ball or traditional. That’s the reason they killed the Houston Rockets small-ball experiment. Against Miami Heat, they can deploy their small-ball or traditional big lineup and still destroy them.

      What we saw last night was the Lakers overwhelmed the Miami Heat like an avalanche of a wild mass of swirling length and athleticism. They did it by focusing on their lock-down defense, which is now symbolic of their defensive identity. They not only switch and swarm the Heat, they also deflected, altered and blocked shots that gave them an insurmountable lead throughout the game after a sluggish start.

      And speaking of sluggish start after being down 23-10, it was KCP who turbo charged the offense. From there, the offense started glowing like the afterburners of an F-16 fighter jet taking off, before eventually cooling off a little bit. But the message to the Heat was clear: The Lakers have arrived and there is no one stopping them.

      From what I observed in the game last night, even if the Heat were healthy, which I prefer, they simply don’t have any way to stop Anthony Davis, especially when he is paired with Dwight Howard. Add in LeBron’s brilliance and decent production from our bench and we are talking about complete dominance.

      Of course the Heat are going to present a new challenge, so I hope the Lakers don’t let their guards down.

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    5 Things: The Los Angeles Lakers return to the NBA Finals

    Buckle up buckaroos this here’s the wildest Bubble on Earth! If you told me you had called Heat/Lakers for the cookie at the beginning of this season which now dates back to this same time last year I’d call BS. And yet here we are. Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James vs. Pat Riley. Maybe not the NBA dream match up of Lakers/Celtics but pretty darn close, all things considered.

    1. The Battle of the Defenses. Both teams have a multitude of ways they like to deny the favored attack of their opposition. We just saw a Miami team with nobody much over 6’10” (Kelly Olynyk go ahead and raise your hand) in the rotation shut down the paint against the Boston Celtics who, up to that point, had thrived there. So what makes anyone think the Lakers will fare any better? Two words: LeBron James. The Heat defense did well containing the minuscule Kemba Walker who gamely still tried driving the ball to the rim. Tatum and Brown drive when there’s a lane but not as a matter of pure offensive shot creation via the score or pass. That’s LeBron’s game to a T. Conversely the Lakers just showed that they can defend like a hydra, each head specializing in a different kind of shut down. Zone? Sure, man-to-man? Yup. Switch everything? that’s a big “can do good buddy!” Miami will have more issues penetrating the Lakers defense than we will have theirs but I still expect it to be a fascinating chess match as the game within the game between Spo and Frank unfolds on national TV. Edge: Lakers.
    2. Starters vs. Starters. The Miami Heat revamped their starting five once the playoffs started and to devastating effect. Tyler Herro was replaced by former All Star Goran Dragic who promptly unlocked the best version of the Miami Heat offense. Dragic functions like the shrimp version of LeBron James in that his drives are twofold in their goal: score or hit the wide open man. Same goes Bam Adebayo. The Miami point-center likes to get the ball in a multitude of spots and then either can jumpers, break his man down off the dribble or assist a teammate. Much like our own AD. Biggest difference really is that our guys are bigger and shoot a little more efficiently (thanks mainly to our dedication to attacking the rim). Duncan Robinson will have to deal with Danny Green who has made defense his calling card since he entered the league in what will be the battle of three and D shooting guards. KCP will attempt to check Dragic but will have elite help lurking near the paint. The biggest question for the Lakers will be if Dwight Howard starts over JaVale McGee which I think likely. For the Heat the biggest question is what version of Jae Crowder they get. Will it be the light’s out shooter from three we saw at the Bubble’s beginning or the on/off shooter we’ve seen of late? His defense will be staunch but if he’s making his open shots from three it will be a big problem for our defense. Edge: Lakers if Dwight starts, even if JVMG.
    3. Battle of the Benches. I feel like this is where the series will be won or lost. The Miami Heat have some key pieces coming off the bench. Andre’ Iguodala will be no stranger to basketball fans and looks like he’s rounding into form just in time for the NBA Finals. That’s bad news for the Lakers if he can recapture any of the play-making, shooting or defense akin to when he won NBA Finals MVP over LBJ. AI is a five tool player who, when on, presents a match up nightmare for opposing defensive schemes. A willing passer, able shooter from anywhere, with above average size, quickness and strength that makes him a force on both ends. Add Tyler Herro to that mix off the bench and you quickly see how Rondo, Caruso, Morris and McGee will have issues matching . Makes me wonder if Frank has a trick or two in terms of Jared Dudley, Dion Waiters or even Talen Horton-Tucker getting some burn, especially in the second quarter when LeBron and Davis generally get the most rest. One thing is for certain: I expect both coaches to empty the tool box to find the advantage that wins them 4 games. Nothing is (or at least shouldn’t) be off the table. Edge: Miami.
    4. Spo vs. Vogel. I actually think the Laker offense is very similar to the offense that ousted Vogel when LeBron was on Miami and he was coaching Indy. They have a similar “we have some plays but let’s really just get out of LeBron’s way and let the best player do his thing” look to them. It’s on defense where both coaches leave a lot more of their mark on their respective teams. But in general I think the advantage here is pretty even. Neither coach is so invested in a specific style or scheme that they’re unwilling to adapt. Spo’s get’s the edge in playoff experience, Frank has the edge in player’s with playoff experience. Both are professionals, classy and savvy. Edge: even.
    5. So how’s this going to end dude? Glad you asked! This series will be hard fought and decided on defense. The Lakers have the size edge and the talent edge so it’ll take something evening that scale for Miami to have a real shot. Having said that the Heat have surprised everyone at every turn, done a great job at living at the line and imposing their will on defense. Bam is an up and coming star, Jimmy was one before he came to Miami and everyone forgets Dragic was an All Star a couple years back but has been hobbled in recent years. I’m calling Lakers in 6 and tonight might be one of those losses. I say that because we haven’t faced this version of Miami, yet. We faced the old “we’re starting a bunch of rookies an dhaving vets come off the bench and we also don’t have Iggy” version of Miami. It’s a different team and so it might take us a game to adapt. If we win game 1 my prediction might be off by one game. Lakers in 6 baby!!!!! (no GHE malarkey from LT, either, this is a real 6 gamer!)

    One way or another this is a moment to be enjoyed by Laker Nation. Been a helluva long time coming and it’s been a lot of fun watching this all play out in the playoffs. Whatever you do, savor the moment. These things aren’t guaranteed and we’ve just come through one of the darkest chapters in Lakers’ history. So let’s wipe the slate clean, tie Boston at 17 and bring home a cookie for Kobe. 1-2-3-MAMBA!!!!

    Go Lakers.

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    5 Things: Lakers advance to the NBA Finals!!!

    We’re back where we belong. Since our last NBA Finals ended With Kobe standing atop the scorer table joining the city of Los Angeles in celebration while the team celebrated around him on the court so many things have come and gone in Laker Nation. Luke Walton went from a key contributor on that tree am to the Laker head coach to Sacramento, Pau Gasol has played for 3 different teams, Phil Jackson took a shot at running the Knickerbockers, Lamar Odom almost died partying in Nevada, Kobe and Gigi tragically passed away this year. Through it all Laker Nation never wavered in its support for the team, critique and criticism is not a loss of fandom or submersion of support. All of this just goes to show that it’s a long way to the top of you want to rock and roll.

    1. LeBron James putting the nails in the coffin. James turned in a stellar performance to ensure there would be no game 6, to make sure that he and other key Laker vets got the extra rest that can give them an edge against whomever they faced, and most of all to make sure the NBA was put on notice. He joined James Worthy and the as the one if three NBA players to post 35+ points, 15+ rebounds and 10+ assists in a close out playoff game. Historical footnotes aside, LeBron was spectacular. He fed teammates for easy buckets, He had a personal best 16 points in the 4the quarter. The Nuggets has no answer.
    2. Anthony Davis and his long journey to the precipice of greatness. Playing in the NBA Finals makes you part of a small group of NBA players. Davis carries the Lakers for stretches in last night’s game and during the regular season. Last night he again didn’t rebound like we’re used to but that can perhaps be forgiven in light if two of his teammates grabbing 25 rebounds on their own (James 16, Howard 9). Where he shined was on defense and scoring the balm efficiently when it was needed to stop Denver runs. His 2 steals were great but his block of a Michael Porter Jr. dunk put a stamp on his defense and this series. He hit 2-4 from 3, 8-16 in general. Anthony looks poised, gritty and ready to beast in the NBA Finals. The extra rest might benefit him the most as it’ll allow him to get extra treatment on that ankle he’s tweaked a couple times in the last 2 games.
    3. Laker starters answering the bell. The other Lakers who start shot 7-12 (2-5 from three), grabbed 10 rebounds, had 2 dimes, 4 big blocks, 2 steals and none had a negative +/- (AD was the only starter with a -1, lol. Misleading stat) They all played 26+ minutes aren’t locked in on defense when they played helping contain the Denver attack.
    4. The Laker bench. As we entered the playoffs it was largely agreed upon that Kyle Kuzma was the most important player outside of James and Davis. It turns out that the Laker bench is one of our greatest strengths, as it should be for an NBA Finals-bound team. Rondo has returned to a youthful posture and leads the team when James sits or allows him to be an off ball wrecking crew when they share the floor. Markieff Morris has shown versatility, grit and his three point acumen. JaVight McHoward has shown they can start, cone off the bench, sit and cheer or whatever: they’re here to contribute however the team needs. Kyle Kuzma continues to grow, while still streaky with his scoring he’s found some identity on defense and team play. Alex Caruso has impressed with his defensive tenacity, basketball IQ and toughness. Last night Caruso shines brightest off the bench with surgical stroke cuts for buckets, great defense and some in the flow assists. Rondo only played 1: minutes, Kuzma looked a little ‘deer in the headlights’ at times but found ways to be a force. All of that will be needed in the NBA Finals.
    5. Hats off and high fives for the Denver Nuggets franchise. They’re going to be a problem for a long time. They have two up and coming superstars, a great coach and a bevy of solid role players. I have nothing but admiration for the Denver Nuggets and how they overcame the odds and pundits to get to the Western Conference Finals. They never folded, played with a ton of heart (Jamal Murray gutting it out on one leg should go down in Denver playoff lore) and Jerami Grant showed the NBA he’s more than a role-player and might be the third star Denver needs to sign. I’ve long admired Paul Milsap’s game and wish the plucky vet nothing but the best. Congrats to the Denver Nuggets for reminding us why it’s important that we ply the games and not just go with predictions or hype.

    At any rate, it’s on. I can’t deny my excitement and joy both at how we’re playing right now, especially on D, or how close we are to another banner going up in STAPLES. James and Anthony look like a nigh-unstoppable duo right now and we need to ride this wave to four more wins against whomever the East throws at us. Enjoy this, though, Lakerholics. Winning the west isn’t often celebrated by the purple and gold and their fans, it used to be seen as fait accompli. But it’s been so long and we’ve seen a road so dark for so long that this one feels different. So it’s cool to double-point and snap at that person wearing a Laker jersey walking by, smile under your mask, let this shine a little light on our lives during a tough time on Earth.

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    • Great ‘Fiver,’ Jamie.

      Can’t argue with LeBron and AD as points 1 and 2. Magic and Kareem, Kobe and Shaq, and now LeBron and AD. Wow!

      I think replacing McGee with Howard on the starting lineup was a major factor in the Lakers being able to defuse Jokic and turn what could have been a tough series into another easy one, just as they did in the first two rounds. That’s what championship coaching and team play does. Take challenges and dismantle them.

      Bench did come through. Danny Green’s late dagger three and two blocks were huge. AC’s cutting and timely steals were huge. Markieff’s timely threes and defense were huge. There’s definitely moves to be made this offseason to improve the 3-point shooting but guys are stepping up and deserve credit.

      My only criticism your credit to JaVight McHoward. The only one of the two who made an on court contribution last night was Dwight Howard, who played 35 minutes and dominated the Nuggets’ superstar center Nikola Jokic. Yes, JaVale was a good soldier on the bench but don’t share Dwight’s credit with JaVale, who once again played terrible for the few minutes Frank gave him. Dwight should start going forward and JaVale should get DNP’s.

      Yes, kudos to the Nuggets, who got here to a great extent because of the bubble but will struggle not to regress next year unless there’s another bubble. As great as Murray and Jokic are, they don’t play defense and they’re likely to lose Grant and Millsap. I do love Malone as a coach so we are in agreement there. Just going to be tough for Denver to replicate this season. But congrats for a great playoffs. No, they did not fold. They just got beat by a better team.

    • Thanks for keeping the solid fivers coming, Jamie. Great job, man.

      The Nuggets have finally reached the end of the road, and this time there was no miraculous comeback from a 3-1 deficit. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, the road ended right there at a subdivision where the mighty Lakers reside with a big sign that warns everyone that there is NO OUTLET in the neighborhood, just right in front of the entrance. So you just know exactly what you are about to face when you roam in that neighborhood.

      The only player you didn’t mention was Danny Green. I would like to give him a big shoutout simply because of how he played in this game. He worked hard defensively in this game, but what I was most impressed about was how he was rotating all over the floor on 2nd and 3rd efforts in single possessions. I am not even going to mention the 2 blocked shots and that huge 3 pointer in the 4th quarter. He was just tireless, relentless and the glue that kept the team intact. He was steady throughout the game. Everybody played their part well as a team and this was a great win.

      Before the game, I was debating with myself about what kind victory by the Lakers would be much sweeter. A blowout win with the possibility of feeling complacent heading into the finals or a grind out win with the feeling of being battle tested before the finals. I am glad the Lakers won the way they did because they are now battle tested, thanks to the great effort and resilience of the Nuggets, a team that didn’t quit. That made the win sweeter for me than a blowout which would have been great. But to win while being tested is even sweeter and everlasting.

      The Lakers finished the game with acrobatic flares and convictions all over the finish line and that could only harden their resolve heading into the finals. LeBron was supperhuman and Anthony Davis always find a way to hurt the Nuggets by eating them alive. Talk about double whammy.

      How else could it better. The Lakers have encountered all kinds of obstacles in this playoffs, there’s just about nothing left for them except to feel ready for the final battle. And while the win was great, the more the merrier. 4 more to go.

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    Boston roaring back in the 3rd. Brad must have given a decent half time speech.

    Wow

    Boston roaring back in the 3rd. Brad must have given a decent half time speech.

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    5 Things: Lakers take 3-1 series lead over Nuggets

    They have us right where they want us. Nuggets are in the driver’s seat now. So on and so forth. Joking aside, last night’s game featured a few changes Laker fans had been clamoring for, the activation of Kyle Kuzma and a thrilling finish that was framed as a debate about fouls. Let’s dig in.

    1. The foul disparity issue. It’s been a contentious point since game 1 when, in the 2nd quarter, we wen to the line 24 times. Then the Nuggets got a couple games where they were allowed to wail on LeBron seeing him shoot 10 free throws over 3 games. The Lakers informed the NBA of their displeasure at this anomaly and last night saw James shoot 14 freebies, making 11. This is the one part of the playoffs I never miss: coaches griping about free throws. I get it, coaches have to bring it up (especially when the media brings it up) but it’s one of those things I feel like kind of ruins the fun. It was a well-fought contest, Murray probably ought to have shot 2-4 more free throws.
    2. Starting Dwight Howard. This probably ought to have happened after game 2, maybe even after he started the second half of game 1. Regardless the All-Star, Defensive Player of the Year, future Hall of Fame’r made his presence felt instantly. Now I am a fan of JaVale McGee, maybe not his current hair-do, but there’s no question that Dwight has more talent, speed and athleticism. Starting him against Jokic was the right move, just sort of surprised it took Frank this long to commit to it. One assumes the line up will stay this way for the duration of the series but I do wonder what looms ahead should we advance. At any rate, kudos to JaVale for being the consummate teammate and pro.
    3. Laker bench was competitive, again. While they were out-scored 35-26, out-rebounded 13-11 they caused more turnovers (4 steals to 1) and Rondo had an upswing game. Rondo is making some great reads these days and his shot is falling enough to keep the defense honest. That’s a huge factor in the win last night. Both Rondo and Caruso committed some highway robbery on Jokic when he caught the ball and brought it too low a couple of times. Caruso had a fantastic steal where he literally ripped the ball from Nikola’s hands.
    4. Laker defense mixing up it’s looks. This is the key to the series. Denver has so many ways they can score. Off of passes from Jokic or Murray, iso plays for Nikola or Murray, the pick and roll, LeBron James rose to the challenge of defending Murray in the closing minutes of the game and he did an admirable job. The Lakers need to keep the two Denver stars guessing what the coverage is, where the help will come from and then change that up from game to game. Our defense has to be on point for the close out, this Denver team is too dangerous to give them any more games. They’re going to come out desperate and loose on Saturday and we need to bring our A defense, hold down that advantage on the glass and keep forcing turnovers.
    5. Denver’s counter. I think we’ll see them force Howard out to the three point line in the next game. Jokic played fairly passively, reminded me of LeBron’s game 2. That won’t happen in game 5. I don’t know how Denver will try to get him engaged but I’d force Howard out from the paint. I also would expect to see a small parade of Nuggets trotting to the free throw line in game 5, as well. Game 5 close out is going to be tough, we’re going to need a couple guys to stay aggressive and make even more shots. It would help if our bench showed up large. But we can end this series this weekend if we show up with great effort and focus, need to bring that A game because Denver has proven one thing: being down 3-1 doesn’t affect their confidence or desire so we need to match that and apply pressure for 48 hard minutes of basketball.

    All in all, I kind of expect us to lose the next game. I think Denver is going to go hard at Dwight, maybe force him onto Murray, get him in foul trouble and force us to either play McGee or go small, both of which are favorable match-ups for Nikola Jokic. AD and LBJ need to play effectively and efficiently, the team needs to keep on crashing the glass and we need to have a solid game from the 2 stripes: free throws and three pointers. We do all that and I like our chances.

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    • Excellent ‘Fiver,’ Jamie, although I see some things differently.

      1. Fouls? Ruins the fun? Tell that to LeBron. There is no equity when it comes to how the zebras treat him versus players like Luka, Harden, or even Murray. It reminds me of the inequity with which they treated Shaq, ignoring bumps and contact that are fouls with other players because of the physical stature.

      2. Starting Howard? Benching McGee? Better late than never is not acceptable. The big question is what happens next game? Or next series, when we play the Heat? Dwight should certainly start Game 5. Like to see AD at the five for the Finals.

      3. Rondo was terrific again, clearly the Lakers’ third best player but Caruso has been disappointing in this series. 3 points last night and 2 points Tuesday night won’t cut it despite the occasional good defense. Needs to play a lot better for the 22.5 minutes per game he’s getting.

      4. Defense was not great last night but agree on mixing the zone and LeBron shutting down Murray. The Nuggets outshot us from the field and three. Agree we need to be better Saturday.

      5. I think Denver might fold Saturday night. Murray was almost despondent during his interview. Looked really down. And they ran out of gas in the fourth, another goose egg for Joker and Murray got shut down by LeBron. The jokers (no pun intended) love to say they have us right where they want us at 1-3, but midnight has struck and the train has turned into a pumpkin. Lakers in five in a breeze.

      • Agreeing with you, but don’t think Nuggs will just fold the tent.

      • 1) What I mean by this point isn’t that I think the game was reffed better or worse rather that the post game “chess” game of getting into whomever is officiating on Saturday’s head about how the game will be called. It’s fairly tiresome to listen to at this point. LeBron ought to average around 8-10 FTA/game. I really just wish the NBA would add to the ref squad but that’s a topic for the off-season. Bad reffing diminishes a great product.

        2) This is one I know you like to harp on, doesn’t bother me as much. Really it’s the small ball minutes that I think we need to lose more than anything else. As splendidly as Morris played in the last series he’s getting eaten alive on defense and not producing offense enough to compensate. But starting Howard is the right choice, just based on an energy level and his superior post D. Next series I’m thinking we start the same as we do every series; McGee jumping center, Vogel said as much in his post-gamer. Now does that hold up for the series? That’s a big “we’ll see”

        3) Caruso isn’t in there to score points, his scoring is the gravy to his mashed tater defense. He’ll hit around 30% of his threes and get a drive or two in. Watch him on offense and you might just notice he’s one of our better screeners. But his calling card is defense.

        4) LeBron stepping on defense is a 2, maybe 3, minute drill. It’s not a game long affair. He carries too much of the overall team load for him to exert that much energy until the game needs to be closed out. I think we did a better job at containing the Denver perimeter game and playing defense without fouling. I expect that last sentence to change in game 5.

        5) Denver has no fold in them. I think Murray was pissed at the down-the-stretch officiating and he has a worthy beef there. His off-balance, left-handed fade-away was created off of LeBron bumping him in the air, a foul any Laker fan would have howled for on the other end and rightly so. In my mind a lot of the fouls being called really just ought not to be, this is the playoffs. But, since it’s such a hot topic now, I expect a parade of Nuggets on Saturday and a minimum of a +10 FTA for Denver. We’ll need to play a great game on both ends to win, as we’ve had to do in every game except game 1. Even that one ended up a lot closer than it ought to have. Denver won’t quit, though. If the Lakers think it’s over they’ll end up doing the one thing they don’t want: give that Nugget squad a little life.

        • 1. One thing I don’t want to see is more fouls, which I worry about with more refs. My irritant is the offensive player getting a foul for the contact he causes and intentional fouls to stop fast breaks. But, as you say, another day.

          2. Start McGee against the Heat? That would be a big mistake. Aside from the fact he has stunk since the bubble, he’s a bad matchup against the heat. Bam will eat him up in the paint and on the boards and Crowder would be a terrible matchup for AD pulling him out of the paint. Look at how Miami plays. They play small ball. Howard, sure. McGee, effing no.

          3. Alex is a good defender but he you can’t play him with Rondo and Howard as you kill your offense. And 3 points and 2 points the last two games in 22.5 minutes is not contributing.

          4. LeBron shut down Murray. That was why we won the game last night. It wasn’t a minor detail. Did you watch the end of the game?

          5. Yeah, Denver is a gutty team. Did you see Jamal’s interview? They’re whipped and the know it. At some point, they’ll quit and Malone will put in the DNP guys are.

          • H’ok. We’ll see…

            …yes, I saw the end of the game. As I said, had a Laker driven the lane, gotten bumped off his shot and made the basket but no ‘and-1’ Laker Nation (rightly) would have howled bloody murder. Had we lost the game on that kind of thing Laker fans would be up in arms calling for Vogel’s head, the officiating crew to be pilloried and so on.

            The grit you dismiss in Caruso is the same thing that informs me that Denver isn’t dead. Ask Utah and the Clippers who, I’m sure, were thinking the same thing. Grit doesn’t get a stat line, either. The points from Caruso are gravy. Would it be nice if he scored more? Sure, but I would ask that of Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma before I lambast Caruso who at least leaves it all on the court every night.

            Here’s the thing, I doubt there’s much disagreement that the Lakers are the more talented and veteran team. Because they are. That doesn’t mean they will show up with the proper energy and focus. It really only means that, if they don’t, they should know better. So if the Lakers don’t play at least as well as last night, if not better, there’s a decent chance they’ll be talking about not giving Denver any more life in their post gamers tomorrow night, sounding tired, etc.

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    5 Things: Energetic Nuggets take game 3 despite Laker rally

    This was never going to be as easy as we wanted it to be. A lot of Lakers’ fans (understandably) we’re angling for the sweep after Anthony Davis’ clutch dagger 3 delivered the team from LA a game 2 win. Jokic, Murray, Malone and the rest of the Denver squad had a little something to say about all of that. This looks like it could be a battle royale’ of a series.

    Let’s look at how Denver got back in this and what the Lakers can do to re-establish a dominant position.

    1. The Nuggets played with a focused energy the Lakers were unable to match in the first half. They may not have run the ball down our throats in terms of fast break points (we led that category 21-10 thanks in large part to our 4th quarter rally) but they played with a lot more speed, power and focus in their half court sets. This is a problem for the Laker defense. We’re excellent at containing the ball on a point of attack, few teams can keep up with excellent team passing. It can break the best defense. That team skill was on full display last night as both Murray and Jokic picked the Laker defense apart hitting cutters, working the high pick and roll and dumping the ball off in the paint. In short, we did an awful job containing the Nuggets half court offense until it was too late.
    2. Keeping Denver off the glass. The Nuggets killed us 53-34 in the rebounding battle. If you’re listening to the audio of the coaches during the TNT broadcast you’ll know that coach Malone has been imploring his team to win the battle of the boards every night, that dominating the glass gives them the best shot at winning. That’s exactly what happened last night. The biggest culprits in our rebounding last night were our bigs. Anthony Davis: 2 rebounds, Dwight: 1, Kuzma: 1, McGee: 1 (but only played 8 minutes). The Laker bigs need to do a better job boxing out, limiting the Nuggets to one and done on offense, and controlling the glass in general.
    3. Nuggets new stratagem. It seemed obvious to me after the game 2 miracle shot that the Nuggets had found a way to slow down our half court attack and it’s a very effective one: pack the paint and let the Lakers cast off from three. That’s what they did a lot of last night and it’s working. You won’t stop LeBron James every possession that way, he’s too good, too smart and too gifted. But you will blunt the Laker attack that way and erase a lot of our paint points. Every three point shot we take that isn’t the result of a kick out is by Nugget design and they will live with those shots. As a team we shot 6-26 (also know as 23.1%) and you could see it affect the team down the stretch when Kuzma second guessed himself into a tougher three point shot in a clutch moment when we were down 3 or 4. Only KCP hit a decent amount (2-5) but none when it mattered the most. AD, LeBron and especially the specialist 3 guys like Danny, Kyle and KCP need to get that aspect of their games going. It’s going to make dominating the paint a lot tougher if at least a couple threes don’t fall for us.
    4. The Joker’s wild and Jamal is pulling cards on the river. Nikola Jokic will not be contained by one player. You can point out all the advantages the Lakers have in being able to put McGee, Howard and Davis on him, make him face different coverage’s or putting KCP, Caruso or even Kuzma on Murray. These guys are good, super star good. While not yet in the class of LeBron this is the first conference Finals for Davis, Murray and Jokic. That’s an equalizer. Both Murray and Jokic showed up huge last night with Murray doing the game winning down the stretch and Nikola carrying his team for long stretches with both his passing and scoring. This duo is unlike anything the Lakers have faced in the playoffs thus far and will be a tough riddle for the coaches to solve.
    5. They liiiiiive. One thing is certain: this is now a series. I called Lakers in 6 and I have yet to see anything in any of the games to make me change that. Yes, we dominated long stretches of game 1 but the Nuggets came back and we went to the free throw line an absurd amount of times. Yes, we ripped game 2 away from them on AD’s shot but they were one made three or a few more made free throws from being up 2-1 right now. This isn’t Portland with great scorers but lacking in defense or Houston and it’s one-dimensional style of basketball. This is two teams with similar styles and superstars. Murray and Jokic can hang with LeBron and AD, especially when our role guys don’t play well, as was the case last night.

    Fear not! It’s a series for a reason and we got the lead. I almost want to say let Denver win game 4 so we avoid their super power of being down 3-1 but that’s hogwash: let’s go beat them on Thursday and force them to make a 3rd, improbable, come back. But you have to respect this Denver squad, they have a lot of weapons that can alter the game, solid star power and a coach with one foot in modern hoops and the other in the old school style. Our comeback using a 2-2 zone was something that worked and we can deploy more often, I expect our overall energy to be higher on Thursday, as well. From the start this game felt like a problem for us and it was. They were ready, now we need to punch back. Go Lakers.

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    • Am sticking with Lakers in 7.

    • Well written post and well opined, Jamie. There is not much to add here except to say the Lakers were completely caught off guard and I would even add that they didn’t show up. I tipped my hat off to the Nuggets for presenting such a challenge to them. How the Lakers were outrebounded by such a wide margin is beyond me. Add to that the fact that Grant and Morris were having a field day, then you are going to have a lot to deal with, if even possible, to overcome.

      Yes, overcome did they try in the fourth quarter, only to come up short. They mounted a furious comeback in the fourth that showed just how dangerous the Lakers can be when focused until the 4 minute mark where they faltered. At that point the Nuggets were rattled, shellshocked and ready to give up. But a rash of inexplicable turnovers coupled with missed wide open 3 pointers allowed Denver to get their bearings and hang on to win. A 3 point dagger by Murray during that time frame simply iced the game and the Lakers weren’t able to recover.

      Another problem the Lakers encountered was playing AD against Jokic for an extended stretch, which eventually wore him out. Jokic is a behemoth and heavier than AD. To have AD bang with him for such an extended period of time with his slightly smaller frame is not wise. AD was completely tired at the end of the game. Compared to game 2, he was the one carrying the scoring load down the stretch. That’s why they need to share the load between McGee and Howard guarding Jokic. Easier said than done, but there has to be a solution. The only thing that bothers me is why Howard can’t play a good 20 minutes without fouling out. For a guy who has been in the league for such a long time and won several awards, why is it that he can’t stay on the court without being in foul trouble? Is it the referees tilting the game in the opponent’s favor? This is happening too often and is baffling to me. Also, dribbling the ball until the clock is about to run out before making a move and then settling for a low percentage shot (3s) when no one is shooting the ball well is not smart at all. They should simply find a way to keep attacking the rim and not settle for jumpers. That’s one of the things that doomed us last night.

      But anyway, game 3 was a wakeup call for the Lakers and they must take this Nuggets team seriously the rest of the series.

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