Los Angeles Lakers: Game 4

How the new Lakers might have helped

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
10:05
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Aug. 23, otherwise known as "the day Kobe Bryant turned 34," recently came and went with NBA TV airing a slew of games featuring #24. Among those chosen was Lakers-Thunder, Game 4 of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals, the second of two games in that series marred by epic Lakers collapses down the stretch. (This odd way of celebrating The Mamba's birthday undoubtedly will serve to Kobe zealots as Example No. 1,374,810 of the world conspiring against him.)

This particular game saw the Lakers up nine points to begin the fourth quarter, 13 with 8:02 remaining, then back down to nine with half of the quarter to go. The bottom eventually fell out with a series of clumsy and/or empty possessions, capped by the mother of all unforced turnovers from Pau Gasol.


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Westbrook shredded the Lakers as they fell apart down the stretch.


I was able to DVR only the final seven minutes of the loss, but during that time noted plenty of occasions where Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison and even Jodie Meeks could have contributed to possibly prevent a loss. In a general sense, all four could have improved the collective scoring punch.

Nash and Howard are among the best pick-and-roll players in the league, which could have provided cohesion desperately missing during this stretch. Beyond his proven resume at getting buckets, Jamison can create his own shot, a skill set in short supply last season. And while the odds of Meeks on the floor down the stretch are dicier, there were a few occasions where a credible outside shooter was glaringly absent.

More specifically, here are some possessions where Nash and Howard especially seemed capable of making a difference.

6:31: Russell Westbrook uses a screen to reach the right elbow, is met with a hesitant challenge from Andrew Bynum, then drains a jumper before Steve Blake recovers. Nash might not have defended the possession any better, but Westbrook took over this game down the stretch, in part because less energy is sapped checking Blake or Ramon Sessions than Nash. Granted, Westbrook's elbow J is often deadly, but who knows how much gas would have been left in the tank after guarding Nash all game? (LAL 92, OKC 85)

6:03: This point above is ironically demonstrated as Blake (of all people) takes the ball to the rim for a layup. Blake was able to take Westbrook off the dribble because the Lakers point went completely ignored on a backdoor baseline cut, then Russ got caught on his heels in scramble mode. For that matter, Blake's game-winning 3-ball attempt in Game 2 came after Westbrook fell asleep guarding him. Call me crazy, but I don't think he'd treat Nash with the same ambivalence. (LAL 94, OKC 85)

(Read full post)

Lakers Late Night Replay, Game 4 vs. OKC plus postgame video

May, 19, 2012
5/19/12
11:59
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
This is going to leave a mark.

Lakers lose, 103-100 and now trail 3-1 heading back to Oklahoma City for Monday's Game 5.

On tonight's show, we review the fourth quarter collapse, from a huge mistake down the stretch from Pau Gasol to a horrible 12 minutes of shooting for Kobe Bryant (2-of-10) to dominant play from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. From there, we reflect on a season on the edge of extinction, and leaving the locker room tonight with a sense not just that this season is over, but that the era is done, too.

This band won't be touring much longer.

Watch live streaming video from espnlosangeles at livestream.com


Click below for video of Bryant, Ramon Sessions, Bynum, Gasol, and Metta World Peace.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction, Game 4 - Thunder 103, Lakers 100

May, 19, 2012
5/19/12
10:33
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
For the second time in the series, the Lakers had a game in their hands, and for the second time, they let it get away. In the process, they allowed any realistic chance of advancing to get away, too.

This will be one the locals talk about for a while. Final score: Oklahoma City 103, Lakers 100. The Thunder lead 3-1, with Game 5 coming Monday in OKC.

Here are five takeaways:

1. Kobe Bryant continued attacking.

He came out of the gate hot Saturday, hitting three of his first five shots and earning four trips to the line in the first quarter en route to 10 points. At the half, Bryant had 16 points along with three assists. Certainly nothing to scoff at, but relative to what he did in the third quarter, it felt like a trifle. Bryant attacked relentlessly out of the break, pounding on Thabo Sefolosha in the high post, bullying him to favored spots on the floor before rising for baby jumpers. When he wasn't putting bruises on Sefolosha's upper body, Bryant went at the rim, earning seven free throws. He capped a brilliant 12 minutes with a 22-footer at the end of the quarter so tight against the buzzer, it made 0.4 look like an eternity in comparison.

Combined with the 18 free throw attempts he took in Game 3, Bryant now has taken 35 in the past two games after getting only nine attempts total in Games 1 and 2. This happens only if he's in full attack mode, sending all his energy forward, as opposed to settling for the outside game. When it happens, the results can be staggering.

2. Unfortunately, it came at a price.

While Kobe was red hot in the third quarter, he cooled off considerably in the fourth and, perhaps emboldened by the tear he had just finished, started forcing shots. He missed six of his first seven, and the one make was a brutally tough, don't-try-this-at-home baseline jumper on James Harden. In the process -- I'm talking about both the third and fourth quarters -- the post game with Andrew Bynum that served the Lakers so well in the first half was basically abandoned. Bynum had 11 shots and 14 points in the first half, and only four attempts in the second.

Not to say Bryant was the cause of Saturday's loss, but as brilliant as he was in the third, he shot the Lakers out of the fourth. The Lakers' offense, as productive as it has been through the first four games of the series, scoring 29, 27 and 24 points in the first three quarters, died down the stretch. Only 18 points, in part because Bryant made only two of his 10 shots (the second being a totally meaningless jumper at the buzzer).

There was no balance and very little ball movement. Blame his teammates for not capitalizing on opportunities or being aggressive enough -- Pau Gasol, for example, passed up an open shot off a pick-and-roll with Kobe, compounding the error by turning the ball over while trying to kick out to Metta World Peace on the perimeter. Kevin Durant jumped the pass and hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, tying the score at 98 with 33 seconds remaining. It was a horrible, horrible play from any player, let alone one of Gasol's caliber. Throw some blame at the coaching staff as well for not figuring out ways to penetrate an Oklahoma City defense once again fronting Bynum and working hard to deny post entries.

But in the end, it's telling that nine of the team's 18 fourth-quarter points came in the first three minutes with Kobe on the bench, two more just after his return, when Jordan Hill put back a Bryant miss, then one more on a technical free throw.

He finished with 38 points on 28 shots (he made 12), but combined with the free throws it shows how ball dominant Kobe was Saturday night. It had an impact on the offensive flow, for sure, even when things were going well. How much, we'll probably never know with certainty. But what was shaping up to be a spectacular game went south. Bryant is going to take plenty of flak for Saturday's result, and with cause.

(Read full post)

Lakers vs. Thunder, Game 4 - What to watch

May, 19, 2012
5/19/12
11:58
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers came up with a crucial win Friday night, and get to try and replicate the victory less than 24 hours later!

We preview Saturday's Game 4, video style.

Andrew Bynum apologizes for hit on J.J. Barea in Game 4

May, 10, 2011
5/10/11
12:40
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Before he took questions from the media Monday morning following his exit interview in El Segundo, Andrew Bynum felt compelled to make a statement:

"Number one, I want to apologize for my actions at the start of the fourth quarter in Dallas on Game 4. They don't represent me, my upbringing, this franchise, or any of the Lakers fans out there that want to watch us and want us to succeed. Furthermore, and more importantly, I want to actually apologize to J.J. Barea for doing that. I'm just glad that he wasn't seriously injured in the event. All I can say is that I've looked at it, it's terrible, and definitely won't be happening again."

Following Sunday's loss, Bynum was hardly the face of repentance, something a little time and video fixed.

"I saw it. I went and I watched it, and it was terrible," he said. "The whole sequence, taking off the shirt and everything. Sometimes you have to man up and own it. That's what happened."

He's right, of course. The play was among the more dangerous and totally bush league moves I've seen in sports. Given the frustration felt by the team over the course of the playoffs and certainly following the Mother's Day Mauling (I'm open to other nicknames), I'm willing to excuse his postgame comments. Had he come today, with time and space to think about it, and said the same thing? Yikes.

Bynum expects to hear from the league office. "I believe I will be suspended," he said. "I don't want to be suspended."

He will, and the punishment could be very, very stiff.

Phil Jackson's last stand ends (video)

May, 9, 2011
5/09/11
10:46
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
He's not coming back, this much is clear. In fact, following Sunday's season-ending debacle in Dallas, Phil Jackson described how difficult it was just to get through this year:
"It feels really good to be ending this season, to be honest with you. I came back this year with some trepidation. Kobe's knee was an issue, and obviously our team was older. The thrill of trying to chase a three-peat is always an exciting thing. But yes, I knew it was a big challenge for this team to three-peat. We've gone to the Finals, and to go back twice and win it after losing in '08 puts a lot of strain on the basketball club from all angles. Personalities, spiritually, physically, emotionally. Getting charged up for game after game and assault after assault when you go in and play a team. So it was a challenge bigger than we could beat this year."

The relief he references comes not because Jackson didn't want to win, but in recognition of the strain and stress of the 2010-11 season for his team, along with his mind and body. This year, more than any in the recent Finals run, was a grind, an exercise closer to cat-herding than the slow building of continuity and cohesion for which Jackson had become so well known. There were sparks here and there, but no sustained fire. "The bond," as Lamar Odom called it, was lost. What was true of the players towards each other applied equally to the connection between Jackson and his players.

For a variety of reasons we'll dissect throughout the upcoming weeks, this year it was just too hard. Hindsight makes it less surprising, especially considering how last year's Finals required every ounce of will the team could muster. This year's title was never quite as much the Lakers' to lose as we all suspected.

Still, Jackson didn't regret giving it one more go: "As much as we struggled at certain points during the year, there was a real bond that was with these guys that was terrific. They worked real hard. They tried to do their best." Had he passed on the opportunity, there would have been regret, Jackson said, but he exhibited no such regret in walking away. "This is, in all my hopes and aspirations, the final game that I'll coach. This has been a wonderful run."

Jackson was supremely effective throughout the season at burying talk of his impending retirement, pushing what could have been the year's dominant story into the background. As a result, the team's spectacular flame-out in the second round, at least a week or two before most people expected it could come, killed any dramatic lead up to his last game. It was supposed to conclude with Jackson coaching against the Bulls in Chicago or meeting up with Miami's Big Three, a storybook ending with P.J. riding into the sunset with a 12th ring, helping Kobe tie Micheal Jordan in the process.

Reality refused to cooperate, as it generally does.

Fittingly, Jackson didn't leave without one more swipe at the league, who unburdened his bank account of $35,000 for criticism of officials at Saturday's practice. The NBA's charitable arm, Jackson noted, will need a new angel donor. "As Richard Nixon says," Jackson cracked, "you won't be able to kick this guy around anymore."



Click below for more from Jackson, including what he thinks he might do in retirement, his future connection to the Lakers, and more...

(Read full post)

Derek Fisher on Phil Jackson, Magic, and more (video)

May, 9, 2011
5/09/11
12:42
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
"There will never be another one like him. Regardless of who the coach is going forward, things will be different," Derek Fisher said of Phil Jackson following Sunday's season ending loss to Dallas in Game 4. "We'll miss the big guy on the sideline, but we all just want him to be happy. He deserves to ride off into the sunset and do whatever it is he wants to do the rest of his life. We're happy for him."

Hearing Fish speak of Jackson in such high regard was no surprise. I was, however, not expecting Fisher's answer when asked if, just as the epic loss to Boston in the '08 Finals helped fuel the team going forward, the horrible failure of Game 4 could do the same next year.

"I don't know, ask Magic," Fisher replied. "Ask Magic what's going to happen."

This, of course, in reference to Magic Johnson's comments during the ABC hoops broadcast Saturday about the need for Dr. Buss to "blow up" the team following an inconsistent season then alive in name only. From there, Fisher declined to add much, likely understanding his first comment expressed everything he felt it necessary. "All I can say is it's an honor to be a part of the Los Angeles Lakers organization and I hope that my future is still with the Lakers."

Magic may be a Lakers and NBA legend, but whether you agree with him or not (I don't, at least not in such dramatic terms), I can tell you his comments were not well received inside the locker room.



Click below for more postgame video, including Lamar Odom speaking candidly about the loss of this team's "bond," Andrew Bynum, and more...

(Read full post)

Kobe Bryant on Phil Jackson, the end of the '10-'11 season (video)

May, 8, 2011
5/08/11
8:57
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
"We just didn't execute," Kobe Bryant said following Sunday's season-ending blowout loss to the Mavericks in Dallas. "We made too many mistakes defensively, and tonight it was just one after the other, and they didn't miss 'em."

To put it mildly. The Mavericks buried the Lakers and their championship run in a hail of 3-pointers, scoring 60 points from downtown, nearly as many as L.A. scored through three quarters (62) from everywhere on the floor. While the Mavs weren't quite this dominant in the first three games, Bryant made clear the Lakers were outplayed throughout. "You have to put the credit in the right place, which is in the Mavs’ locker room. They played extremely well," he said. "Their spacing was excellent. They shot the ball extremely well and their depth hurt us -- every night it was another player stepping up and performing and making big plays. The credit belongs with them."

Looking at the bigger picture, Bryant spoke about Phil Jackson, and the disappointment of sending him into retirement on such a sour note. Moving on without him won't be easy, Bryant said. "It’s tough for me to put into words what he’s done for me. I grew up under him. So, the way I approach things, the way I think about things, not only in basketball but in life in general, a lot of it comes from him because I’ve been around him so much. So, it’s a little weird for me to think about what next year’s going to look like."

The last question asked Bryant Sunday was to name which of the titles he won under Phil was the most satisfying. "Last year's. That was the toughest one to get," he said. By extension, it's reasonable to presume this year's pursuit was even tougher.

Too tough, in the end.



Click below for more video of Bryant...

(Read full post)

Sunday's loss reflected a series and a season

May, 8, 2011
5/08/11
6:21
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Jason Terry and the Mavs shot Kobe Bryant and the Lakers straight into the offseason.
DALLAS -- Japanese monster movies are filled with scenarios in which otherwise manageable creatures are irradiated, mutate, and develop enough destructive power to take out a few cities. Godzilla, for example. Something similar happened to the Lakers on Sunday afternoon, as the Mavs unleashed a monster wiping out L.A.'s three-peat chase.

Call him Threezilla.

We saw glimpses in the fourth quarter of Game 3, when Dallas canned five of eight tries from beyond the arc, swallowing an eight-point lead for the Lakers and, for all intents and purposes, ending the series. Sunday, however, he finished the job. In the first quarter of Game 4, Dallas hit four of seven from downtown, enough to create four points of separation from L.A. despite putting the Lakers at the line eight times and giving up 13 to Kobe Bryant. In the second, the Mavericks poured it on, overwhelming the increasingly confused visitors. Seven makes in eight tries, including five from Jason Terry, as part of a 36-16 quarter. By halftime, the Mavs had only three fewer triples (11) than the Lakers had field goals and a 24-point lead.

If this were boxing, the ref would have stopped the fight. Game -- and season -- over.

"They just hit three after three after three," Bryant said after the Mavs made 20 in all.

In total, Game 4 was a supersized version of everything plaguing the Lakers throughout the series, save an opportunity to blow a late lead. They lacked any sense of continuity defensively, missing assignments and rotations helping spring the Mavs for open looks. The Lakers, meanwhile, hit only five of 24 from distance Sunday, and 19.7 percent for the series. J.J. Barea, with 22 points and eight assists, again sliced-and-diced the Lakers, combining with Terry (32 points) and Peja Stojakovic (21 points) for 20 makes on 28 tries, part of an 86-point bench performance for Dallas, a painful reminder of their superiority over the Lakers' reserves. And, of course, it was the Mavs keeping their composure while the Lakers shamefully lost theirs. Sunday offered no opportunity to blow a late lead, but the Lakers did pick up a pair of Flagrant-2 fouls in the space of 45 seconds, the most egregious and inexcusable belonging to Andrew Bynum and his cheap shot of a driving Barea.

"They executed extremely well, their spacing was excellent, they shot the ball extremely well. Their depth hurt us. Every night it was another player stepping up and performing, and making big plays. The credit belongs [with them]," Bryant said.

What they had was what the Lakers lacked all season.

(Read full post)

Lakers vs. Mavericks, Game 5 -- What to watch

May, 8, 2011
5/08/11
9:17
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Ninety-eight have tried, 98 have failed.

If the Lakers are to be the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series, the comeback will start this afternoon in Game 4. The team can find motivation from a variety of sources. Think of Phil Jackson, for example. As a Laker, do you want to be the guy who sends him out on the wrong end of a sweep? Think of your fans, who might like one more chance to cheer (or boo, I suppose, given what happened in Game 2) the team bringing home consecutive titles. Think of pride, personal and collective.


Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
The battle of stars has favored Dirk Nowitzki heading into Game 4.


But most of all, think of the mothers. Is it right to ruin their day?

Here's what to watch for in Elimination Game No. 1 ...

1. Fight. Thursday afternoon after arriving at DFW, I found myself riding the shuttle to the rental car station with another member of the media. We talked about the series to that point, and kicked around thoughts on Games 3 and 4. Both of us felt confident the Lakers would throw the kitchen sink at Dallas in Game 3, and they did. (In the end it didn't matter, but they did.) But as we played out potential scenarios, he was convinced the Lakers wouldn't get swept. If they lost Game 3, under no circumstances would they lose Game 4.

I felt strongly otherwise.

It's not simply a question of matchups on the floor, many of which are working against the champs (gotta call them that while there's still time), but of the team's collective mentality. The Lakers are a group interested in winning titles. Having reached a point where it's pretty clear it won't happen, how do they respond? If they understand eventually the end is coming, do they really care if the final count is 4-0, 4-1 or 4-2? The question wades deep into moral victory territory, something for which these Lakers have no use. "Win title/lose title" is their only relevant measurement.

If the Lakers truly believe they can do what has thus far been impossible over the course of NBA history and are motivated to try, they can win Sunday afternoon, pressing through whatever adversity comes in the process. However, if deep down Game 4 is collectively viewed simply as a way to delay the inevitable and maybe save a little face, the Lakers likely won't see Game 5.

(Read full post)

Gasol pushes back on rumors, Bryant shoulders blame

May, 7, 2011
5/07/11
6:34
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The playoffs have been incredibly unkind to Pau Gasol, and the offseason is unlikely to be any different. But while he hasn't been able to formulate any sort of explanation for his decline, Saturday afternoon on the floor of the practice court at American Airlines Center, Gasol took the opportunity to address one supposition currently sweeping the web.

Referencing rumors published on internet gossip sites suggesting relationship problems are responsible for his poor play, some inferring Kobe Bryant's wife helped facilitate a breakup of Gasol's relationship with his girlfriend -- good lord, this is so high school -- Gasol said his relationship with Bryant is just fine. "Chemistry is great, actually. There has been a lot of talk, even rumors and stories made up that I don’t know where they come from, but it’s unfortunate. Apparently it comes with the situation that we’re in. People try to find reasons, throw stones at us at this time, and it’s part of the deal.”

Gasol said the impact of the rumors isn't so much on him, but those around him.

(Read full post)

More fun with Game 4 numbers: Post play, and defending CP3

April, 25, 2011
4/25/11
11:08
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
There were plenty of things not to like about what the Lakers did offensively in Sunday's Game 4 loss to New Orleans, starting with a decided lack of movement as the game went along, and a total inability as a team to knock down important jumpers.


Harry How/Getty Images
"I'll bet you we don't take more than 10 shots between us in the second half." "Deal."

We also noted the lack of inside-out play, and a lack of commitment to working the post. The numbers there were stark. Via ESPN Stats & Information, the Lakers came into Game 4 averaging 18.6 post plays per game, on which they earned .98 points per play on 52.4 percent from the floor. On Sunday, the Lakers only had 12 post plays, including two in the second half. This despite a high level of success (1.42 points per play, 71.4 percent shooting) when they did get the ball to the post.

Over the course of the second half, the Lakers became extremely Kobe Bryant-centric, and while he continued moving the ball, it also changed the offense into a decidedly outside-in operation without nearly enough variety. The Lakers didn't -- couldn't? -- figure out ways to work Bryant away from the ball or get him into the post, and it hurt. For that, blame can be spread from the coaches to Kobe to his teammates. However the blame pie is sliced and served, touches for the rest of the group within the flow of the offense shrank precipitously. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum weren't a factor -- Pau had only six FGAs after the first quarter, and Bynum had six in the second half (not a monstrous number), three coming while Kobe was on the bench.

Some of the credit goes to New Orleans, which made it tough for the Lakers to get inside. Much of the blame goes to the Lakers for losing their commitment to interior play, aided by the aforementioned inability to hit perimeter shots to open up the floor.

Regarding their work on Chris Paul, Stats & Information had another interesting nugget to offer:

(Read full post)

Sheed vs. Pau, the highlight video

June, 11, 2010
6/11/10
9:52
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Another great piece of work from TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz, highlighting the matchup between Pau Gasol and Rasheed Wallace in Thursday's Game 4, including all the action happening away from the ball. Needless to say, there's a lot of pushing and shoving.

It's important to note, too, that with Bynum unavailable, Gasol is forced to absorb a lot more abuse, whether from Sheed, Kevin Garnett, or Kendrick Perkins. He stands up to it pretty well, but it undoubtedly has an impact.

Game 4: Five statistics to watch

June, 10, 2010
6/10/10
9:57
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
On Tuesday night in Game 3, the Lakers came up huge early and again late, enough to grind out a critical 91-84 win. With it, they took a 2-1 advantage over the Celtics in the Finals heading into Thursday night's Game 4. Having already taken back home-court advantage, the Lakers would just as soon channel their inner vampire hunter and drive a stake through Boston's hearts by taking two straight on their floor and a 3-1 lead.

So what do you want -- what do you need -- to prepare for Game 4? Everybody loves stats. Everybody loves information. Which explains why ESPN Stats & Information is so popular. Here are five bits that S&I has compiled ahead of Game 4, with some Land O' Lakers commentary for each.

Stat 1: Pau Gasol was on the floor for 66 Lakers possessions in Game 3. For the 32 on which he had a touch -- not a shot, but a touch -- the Lakers shot 55.5 percent. For the 34 he didn't, they were 42.3 percent.

The meaning: It's instructive that these numbers came out of a game in which Gasol finished 5-of-11 from the floor, an inefficient shooting night by his standards and hardly prodigious production. It demonstrates both the value of moving the ball (Gasol can't touch it if nobody gives it to him) and specifically of moving it to Gasol, whose great court vision and decision-making put major pressure on a defense. Against the Celtics, who feast on isolation sets where they can load up on one player and one side of the floor, it's even more important.

When Gasol is used effectively in the flow of the offense, it allows Kobe Bryant to free himself away from the ball. Anything the Lakers can do to give Bryant opportunities to catch on the move benefits their offense.

(Read full post)

Lakers-Jazz, Game 4: Five things to watch

May, 10, 2010
5/10/10
8:10
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers will say all the right things -- it's a best of seven, not a best of five, nothing is done until they get that fourth win and officially advance to the Western Conference Finals. They can't say it, so I will (likely on your behalf as well):

L.A. may be taking the floor tonight for Game 4, but the Western Conference seminfinals are over.

Including Phoenix's series-clinching win Sunday night over the Spurs in San Antonio, teams building a 3-0 advantage in the NBA playoffs are a robust 91-0. I suppose you can argue "0" is due, but it's pretty clear the Jazz won't be the team to bust through the wall of history. It'll be Lakers vs. Suns in the WCF-- the question is when, and how much rest will the Lakers get going in.

As Kobe Bryant pointed out Sunday afternoon after practice, extra games are a bad thing in the playoffs. Weird things can happen. Ankles get turned, knees get wrenched, fingers get broken. The only foolproof way to guarantee guys won't get hurt in a game is to make sure they don't have to play it. So that is as good a reason as any to wrap this puppy up Monday night in Game 4. Will it happen? Here are five things to watch:

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 4.9 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2