Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Lakers Crush the Nuggets 119-92 advance to the Finals



The Lakers saved their best game of the series for last in administering a season-ending beat down to the Nuggets in dominating fashion to return to the NBA Finals. Los Angeles showed that they were focused and ready to play from the start of the game.

Trevor Ariza set the tone early by knocking down three shots from behind the arc; he finished the game with 17 points.

Los Angeles was active, aggressive, attacking the basket and had everything working, Kobe Bryant wore the hat of the facilitator early getting all of his teammates involved, and then he showed why he is the best closer in the game.

Nine Lakers had taken a shot in the first half prior to him taking over the game. Los Angeles used a focused total team effort.

Kobe had 18 points on six-for-10 shooting, six assists and one huge blocked shot in the first half. He scored 11 of those points during a decisive 21-7 Lakers scoring run that gave the Los Angeles a 53-40 lead at halftime.

Kobe Bryant’s stat line for the game showed that he scored 35 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds. All of this was accomplished by efficiently shooting 20 shots. What it didn’t show is the leadership, teaching and motivating he did to raise the level of play of his teammates.

The Lakers used all of their weapons to increase their lead and had five players score in double digits.

Pau Gasol scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, had six assists, three steals and blocked a shot. Lamar Odom had another great game leading the second unit with 20 points and eight rebounds. Luke Walton contributed 10 points off of the bench.

Los Angeles held the lead for the majority of the game the lead got to high as 29 points and sent the Nuggets faithful to the exits with four minutes and 10 seconds left in regulation.

The Lakers bench outscored the Nuggets bench 40-34. Los Angeles out-played Denver in every way possible in game 6. The Lakers out-rebounded the Nuggets 38-27, shot 57.3-percent from the field, 56.3-percent from behind the arc and knocked down all 24 of their free throws.

Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points on his 25th birthday, JR Smith pumped in 24 points but to say this wasn’t the Nuggets day would be an understatement. The Nuggets trailed for all but a few seconds of the game and never mounted a serious charge after halftime.

The Lakers 4-2 series win over the Nuggets means that it is the 16th straight time that team has won a series after winning game one.

Kobe Bryant has scored at least 500 points in four different post-seasons, only Michael Jordan, who accomplished the feat eight times, has done it more.

The Lakers have advanced to the NBA Finals for the second straight season and their 30th appearance.

The Lakers are seeking their 15th title, Head Coach Phil Jackson is seeking his 10th NBA title; Kobe Bryant is after his fourth. Los Angeles became the first team to make consecutive NBA Finals appearances since the Pistons in 2004 & 2005.

The Lakers 2009 playoff journey has been a much more bruising and much more difficult task going through Utah, Houston and Denver than cruising through West as the team did last year.

The road to the Finals this year has taken the Lakers through an arduous, grueling and physical two weeks of basketball. Ending the series in six games has allowed them some much needed rest.


Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier & Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Lakers Win 103-94 Using A Balanced Attack & A Strong Close



The Lakers and Nuggets played this game even, the teams were tied after three quarters then Los Angeles put on a 23-5 run to separate themselves from Denver and take a 3-2 series lead. The Lakers got an excellent start from their reserves.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 22 points but he did it by shooting 13 shots. He wore the hat of the facilitator and drew countless double-teams and found open teammates. Those teammates knocked down shots provided.

Everyone who touched the floor contributed to this win however reserve Shannon Brown might’ve had the shot of the game when he got out on the fast break and put Chris Andersen on one of his posters by dunking over him.

Lamar Odom banged on Chris "the Birdman" Andersen as well and could easily challenge him for the shot of the game. The Lakers played with a sense of urgency, with passion and did an excellent job of executing down the stretch.

The Lakers were aggressive, attacked the basket and didn’t settle for jump shots. Derek Fisher & Andrew Bynum combined to score 21 points. Pau Gasol had another solid outing recording his eighth straight double-double scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

Lamar Odom was active and finally put his stamp on this series. Lamar Odom stepped his game up and filled the stat sheet; scoring 19 points, pulled down 14 rebounds, handed out three assists and blocked four shots. He played like a man possessed.

The Lakers played solid defense in the fourth quarter causing the Nuggets to miss 11 straight shots. Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets in scoring with 31 points, despite shooting nine-of-23 from the field.

The Nuggets are now on the brink of elimination and will have to bounce back at home on Friday. The Lakers have to continue to put the pressure on the Nuggets by playing well defensively, getting a contribution from everyone and getting Pau Gasol more shots.


Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Nuggets blow out the Lakers 120-101 to tie series


The Nuggets crushed the Lakers to knot the series at two games apiece. 48 hours removed from an outstanding effort by Los Angeles in the Pepsi Center to take a 2-1 advantage the Lakers came out lethargic with no energy and looked tired and got beat.

The Lakers were out-hustled, out-rebounded, out-muscled, out-worked and out-played in game four. The Lakers could be fatigued and showing the effects of going through a tough seven –game series with Houston.

The worse part about it was that the loss came on a night that Denver was playing with a sub-par Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups had an off night but finished with 24 points. Anthony & Billups combined to shoot 10-for-32 from the field.

The Nuggets received a strong contribution from everyone on the team; all of their starters were in double-digits. The Nuggets bench, led by JR Smith’s 24 points, out-scored the Lakers bench 42-24. The Lakers were destroyed in the rebounding category 58-40.

The Lakers trailed in this game from start to finish and really didn’t even compete in this author’s opinion. The officials unfortunately became part of the story by allowing the game to get out of hand.

I’m never one to say that the officials took a game from a particular team and I’m not going to start now, nor am I going to say that the officials were the reason the Nuggets won. Plain and simple the Lakers took a beat down by the Nuggets.

However the officials were too involved in this game as evidenced by the unfair advantage given by the disparity of free throw attempts 49-35. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 34 points on 10-for-26 shooting from the field and 2-10 from behind the arc.

Eighteen was a magic number for Denver in this game. The Nuggets out-rebounded the Lakers by 18 and out-scored them in the paint by 18. Denver also had 10 more points than Los Angeles on fast break points.

The Lakers as a team shot way too many three point shots (31), when you consider that they’ve a size advantage in the post. Pau Gasol is shooting 62.5-percent from the field and not getting enough touches. The Lakers need to make the adjustment of running their offense through the post.

The series is now tied at two games apiece heading back to Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oakland Raiders: Don’t Sleep on Frantz Joseph



Who is Frantz Joseph?

On the surface you can consider Frantz Joseph as a priority un-drafted free agent linebacker capable of playing all three linebacker positions that the Oakland Raiders signed to a 2-year deal. You would be correct in that assumption but it doesn’t answer the question.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNstliEo4Hs


You would also be correct if you saw this tackling machine as a hidden gem. YOu would imagine that with his body of work the guy would be invited to the NFL Combine but he was denied that priviledge and it just made him work harder.

A guy projected as a high as a 3rd or 4th round pick by some and a 6th round pick by others as well as being the first drafted player from Florida Atlantic University but again he was denied and went un-drafted. It simply made him work harder.

Joseph is a strong inside presence, a tremendous competitor with great range and instincts. He is an excellent fit for the Raiders; a team seeking to improve their run defense by adding a tackling machine.

If he were drafted by an NFL club it would’ve been great for Florida Atlantic University and their fans but also for the Sun Belt Conference.

Several times when it comes to the Raiders draft the focus is on measureables as oppose to production on the field. Some people seem to view un-drafted players as merely guys that are being brought in as simply training camp bodies. I would beg to differ.

There is a long list of un-drafted players that have had success in the NFL.

That list would include names like Adewale Ogunleye, Brian Waters, Wes Welker, Priest Holmes, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett, Willie Parker, Stephen Neal, Rob Bironas, Tony Romo, Antonio Gates, Kris Dielman, Jason Peters, Joshua Cribbs and 2008 Defensive player of the year James Harrison.

Upon further review when you look deeper into answering the question posed above you find a solid football player who in 2008 was the second ranked tackler in the nation recording 154 with all the tools to make an impact at the NFL level.

His journey to the NFL started as a kid in south Florida. Frantz Joseph played for David Martin at Fort Lauderdale high school football where he earned 4A All-County honors as a senior linebacker. He led the Flying L’s in tackles in 2002 & 2003.

He amassed 73 tackles in five games during the 2002 season. He followed that up with 96 tackles in seven games; he also found the time to force seven fumbles and acquire two interceptions as Ft. Lauderdale’s captain in 2003. He earned the team MVP honors, also won the All-American student-athlete award.

He attended Boston College in 2004 but did not play at all during his freshman year. He transferred in 2005 to be closer to his mother who was having health issues but he practiced with the team.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNstliEo4Hs

Two years removed from the game Joseph came back with a vengeance. He was moved into the starting lineup and made an immediate impact. After 11 games he finished the year with 61 tackles which was third on the team. Joseph most productive game that year came against Lafayette when he recorded a team-high 14 tackles.

He became known for his hard hits and sure tackling he earned the team’s “Bone” award, an honor earned following each victory for the hardest hit. The season-ending honor is named The Ramon Rickards Memorial Bone Award for the squad’s inaugural defensive end that was killed in a motorcycle accident in June 2006.

In 2007 he was one of just two Sun Belt Conference players listed on the Butkus Watch List. He has played hurt on more than one occasion as he did against OSU. He put up double digit tackles in victories over Minnesota, a team-high 14 tackles, 12 against North Texas.

He posted double-digit tackle totals in seven games; his lowest tackle total was seven. He accomplished playing division one football, completed a double major in business and management as well as working odd jobs to help support his mother.

Frantz Joseph had a solid game in Florida Atlantic University’s win in the Motor City Bowl posting 13 tackles. He followed that effort with a great game in the Texas vs. The Nation game; he was named the MVP of the game making plays all over the field.


He is a high character guy that understands the importance of preparation and is a guy that will do whatever it takes to win. More importantly he is a hard working guy with great leadership skills that has a nasty attitude and plays the game it is suppose to be played.

He has a desire to bring back the missing ingredients of physicality and intimidation back to the silver and black defense. They’ve been missing from this team for too long. From everything I’ve seen and read about Frantz Joseph tells me that this is a guy deserving of a shot and a guy that you can’t sleep on.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kobe Bryant Drop's 41 in Los Angeles Lakers Win Over Denver Nuggets,103-97



Kobe Bryant knocked down a huge fourth quarter 24-foot three point shot over J.R. Smith to give the Lakers a 96-95 lead and five clutch free throws to seal the win.

Game three was another nail biter that went down to the wire. The Lakers started off to a sluggish start but stayed close. The Nuggets took the lead early in the first quarter and held onto said lead, the score at the end of the quarter was 28-26 Denver.

Carmelo Anthony got off to a fast start for the third straight game he scored 21 points prior to fouling out 18 of which were scored in the first half. The Nuggets received a huge lift from Chris Anderson & J.R.Smith who combined for 25 points off the bench.

The Nuggets opened the second quarter with an 8-3 scoring run to increase their lead; the Lakers continued to hang around. The score was 39-all when both teams closed the quarter with scoring runs; this run was 12-8 in favor of the Nuggets. The score at halftime was 52-48 Denver.

The Lakers 13 missed free throws, bad defensive rotations and not boxing out the Nuggets front line were some of the main reasons the team was facing a deficit at the end of the first half. The Lakers and Nuggets continued to battle in the third quarter and took an eight point lead at the end of the quarter on a J.R. Smith three pointer.

The game statistics won't show this but Luke Walton played a solid game and had an excellent third quarter defensively on Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers made defensive adjustments in defending Anthony that turned out to be effective. Anthony & Billups both saw constant double-teams and four hands in their faces at all times.

Emotions got the best of him as he got in the face of Sasha Vujacic; who defended him on the shot, and started barking at him. He was called for a technical foul for taunting the score at the end of third quarter was 79-71 Denver.

The fourth quarter started with Kobe Bryant knocking down the technical free throw. The teams slugged it out toe-to-toe throughout the quarter, the lead changed hands multiple times but the Lakers defense improved and the team executed in the fourth quarter.

Once again Trevor Ariza made an important steal late in the game.

The Lakers fueled by a 21-12 run the Lakers outscored the Nuggets 32-18 in the quarter to earn a 2-1 series lead. Carmelo Anthony & Kenyon Martin both fouled out of the game.

Kobe Bryant scored 13 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter which topped his own Lakers’ record for points scored in the first three games of a conference final with 113; the previous record was 109.

This was a heart breaking loss for the Denver Nuggets; it also snapped their 16-game home win streak. The win was also the Lakers seventh straight road playoff win against the Nuggets which ties an NBA record for consecutive road wins against a single opponent.

Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Lakers-Nuggets: Nuggets behind Carmelo’s 34 points win 106-103 and tie series


Nuggets Forward Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points and grabbed nine rebounds and led his team to a 106-103 road win to knot the series at a game a piece. The win also snapped the two decade plus long playoff dominance the Lakers have had over Denver.

The playoff win was the first for Denver over Los Angeles since 1985, the second-longest post season winning streak against one team in NBA History a span that lasted 11 games.

Chauncey Billups made his mark on the game by scoring 27 points, 17 of those points came in the second half and knocking down three of four free throws to seal the win.

This game was eerily similar to the first game. Give the Nuggets credit the team did what it had to do to avoid going home looking up at a two game deficit to overcome. This game it was the Lakers jumping out to an early 14 point lead, playing highly efficient basketball and solid defense.

All of the momentum that the Lakers built to start the game was erased by a 14-2 Denver scoring run along with excellent defense that allowed them to get back into the game. The score was 55-54 Lakers at halftime.

Linas Kleiza came off the bench for Denver and had an immediate impact scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Unlike game one, the Lakers were the ones who missed free throws and the clutch shots made in game one didn’t fall the Lakers in game two.

The second half started with the Lakers increasing their lead but the Nuggets stayed close, the score at the end of the third quarter was 81-80 Lakers. The lead changed hands multiple times in the fourth quarter.

Identical to game one, this game came down to executing in the fourth quarter and in the first game the Lakers were the ones that executed down the stretch but in game two it was the Nuggets.

The game came down to a critical jump ball situation, Trevor Ariza got control of the tip and then lost it when he was bumped. Denver outscored the Lakers 26-22 in the fourth quarter.

A foul could’ve been called but it wasn’t, in addition to that a jump ball violation was made by J.R. Smith for entering the jump ball circle which wasn’t called as well.

It was water under the bridge so to speak and the bounce of the ball didn’t go the Lakers way and the reality is that the series is tied and the Lakers need to make adjustments and rebound in Denver where the series shifts to for games three and four.

The Lakers front line played much better in the game as oppose to game one. Kobe Bryant led the in scoring with 32 points.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lakers-Nuggets: Lakers led by Kobe comeback to beat Nuggets 105-103



The Lakers got off to another sluggish start, clearly functioning on tired legs against the well rested Nuggets. Denver came out on fire and almost knocked down every shot that the team put up.

Carmelo Anthony was held to 14 points per game against the Lakers all season. He sought to break out of his scoring slump against L.A. and the Nuggets followed the hot hand. Anthony had 39 points in the game; 16 points came in the first quarter.

This helped Denver take a double digit lead; the Lakers were able to cut the lead down to eight by the end of the quarter. The score at the end of the first quarter was 31-23 Denver.

The second quarter appeared to mirror the first quarter in terms of scoring, but the difference was that the momentum had shifted into the Lakers favor.

Los Angeles outscored Denver 32-23 in the quarter, capped off by a play where Kobe drove to the basket and drew two defenders and passed to Derek Fisher for a 25-foot three-point basket to give the Lakers a slim 55-54 lead at halftime.

You could sense in the second quarter that this would be an epic playoff battle that would go down to the wire. The third quarter didn’t disappoint as Denver continued to play well and knockdown shots led by Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.

This was a match up where we saw both teams continue to fight. The Lakers used an 11-2 scoring run to take a four point lead only to see that lead vanish; the score at the end of the third quarter was 76-74 Denver.

The Nuggets maintained their lead in the fourth quarter increased said lead to as many as six points. Kobe Bryant kept the Lakers close; he finished the game with 40 points which included him dropping 18 points on Denver in the fourth quarter. Whenever Los Angeles needed a basket Kobe Bryant was the one that provided it.

The Lakers continued to chip away at the Nuggets lead and eventually took the lead on a timely Derek Fisher three point play after Kobe attacked the painted area and drew a double-team making the score 97-96.

Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin then made the first of his two ridiculous fouls late in the quarter sending Pau Gasol to the free throw line. Denver escaped that blunder as Gasol missed both free throws.

Chauncey Billups knocked down a 27-foot three pointer to give Denver a 99-97 lead. Gasol was fouled again and given the opportunity to redeem himself at the line and this time he made both free throws to knot the score at 99-all.

There were 30 seconds on the clock and the game was on the line; Kobe made the correct decision when he decided to attack the basket. He was fouled by Kenyon Martin and calmly knocked down both free throws 101-99 Lakers.

An interesting coaching move was made by both coaches that would seal the fate of both teams. Nuggets coach George Karl made the decision to insert Anthony Carter into the game for J.R. Smith. Lakers coach Phil Jackson replaced Luke Walton with Trevor Ariza.

On the in bounds play; the 6’2” Anthony Carter attempted to lob a pass over the 6’10” Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza who was out of the vision of Chauncey Billups, read the play shot the gap and made arguably his biggest play as a Laker stealing the ball.

He got the ball to Kobe Bryant who was fouled and sent to the free throw line where he knocked down both shots again 103-99 Lakers. On the very next play Chauncey Billups knocked down a controversial 23-foot three pointer to cut the lead to one.

It was controversial due to the fact that the replay showed that his right foot was on the line as he jab-stepped to shake free of Ariza’s defense. Kobe Bryant was fouled on the next possession and calmly knocked down another pair of free throws to secure the win for Los Angeles 105-103.

The Lakers used energy, guts and experience to come from 13 points down and literally stole this game from the Nuggets who played well enough to win. The Nuggets lead the majority of the game and their frontline destroyed the Lakers scoring 68 points.

The problem was that Denver missed 12 free throws, didn’t get the defensive stops they needed and made some bad decisions at the end of the game. Carmelo Anthony & Chauncey Billups were nothing short of spectacular and the Nuggets wasted an excellent performance by the duo.

This was an epic battle of basketball played at its highest level. Kobe refused to lose this game as evidenced by his 40 points but a point made clearer by the six clutch free throws down the stretch.

Kobe Bryant was able to will his team to victory in game one but he will need help from his teammates who were wildly inconsistent to win the series. I could say the same thing for Carmelo Anthony.

It will be difficult for the Nuggets to recover from the loss mentally but they’ve no choice but to forget about it Game Two will be on Thursday 5/21/09 at 6:00 pm PST.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier & Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lakers-Rockets: It’s a wrap Lakers; Blowout Rockets 89-70 to win series




The series win took the Lakers 13 days and 7 games and came down to an anti-climatic series ending blowout by the Los Angeles Lakers. Some might say that the Lakers woke up, broke out of their doldrums or finally decided to show up.

Facing elimination Kobe Bryant set the tone early; he played the role of facilitator and scored 14 points.

All of the pressure in this game was on the Lakers, but the team knew what they had to do to end this series, the team played hard; they were active and aggressive from the start.

The fast start afforded Los Angeles an 8-0 run to start the game.

The Lakers defense was the story in this series clinching game. The defense Los Angeles played in Game 7 forced the Rockets to miss their first 12 shots and forced them into 15 turnovers; of which the Lakers turned into 20 points.

The Rockets went scoreless for the first five minutes of the game and notched their first field goal of the game seven minutes and fifteen seconds into the contest. The purple and gold clad team from Los Angeles raced out to a lead and never looked back.

Los Angeles increased their lead to take a double-digit lead into the end of the quarter. The score at the end of the first quarter was 22-12. The team that has won the first quarter has won the game several times.

The Lakers were playing through the post; Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were dominating the paint. The two big men combined for 35 points, 24 rebounds and five blocked shots. Los Angeles owned the glass and out-rebounded Houston 55-33.

The team continued to play well and build on the lead acquired in the first quarter. The Los Angeles lead reached as many as 25 points; the team held a 51-31 lead at halftime.

The game was essentially over and a bit of a sigh of relieve came over the Lakers and some of their fans. The ones in the know realized that the team had to play just as well if not better in the second half to secure victory.

The Rockets working off of the directive of head coach Rick Adelman; looked to cut into the Los Angeles lead and get back into the game. The directive was heard but the Rockets were out of gas and could not muster a charge.

The Rockets traded a few baskets with the Lakers but never got the much needed stops defensively. Los Angeles was able to maintain their lead and close out Houston and take the series four games to three and advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

Photo Credit: Wally Skalij & Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lakers-Rockets: Game 7 Preview


The pressure is on the Los Angeles Lakers, no one expected the series to go seven games but it has. The good news is that the Lakers are back at home. The bad news is that the Lakers didn't take care of business lost Game 6 and have to play in an all important Game 7.

This isn’t the type of situation that the Lakers wanted to be in, they haven’t been in this position in a while. This is the playoffs folks, this is the epitome of the phrase “win or go home” this speaks to the finality of the situation.

The Lakers know what they have to do, the team fought to earn the home court advantage in the event they were put into this situation. This is a different Rockets team then the one the Lakers faced this season and Los Angeles has to adjust to this team on the fly.

The Lakers need to adjust to the Rockets being physical with them on the block and be physical themselves. Too many times when teams are physical with the Lakers the team settles for jump shots. That can not happen today, the Lakers need to use ball movement and player movement to find the open man who needs to take a high percentage shot.

The Lakers need to attack the basket early and often, this is the attack the rim time of the year. It is what it is; the Lakers know what is at stake and will deal with it. The real question is what type of energy, effort and resolve the team will bring into this game.

The Lakers have been wildly inconsistent from game to game. The Lakers need to have a high energy level, increased effort and play with a sense of urgency. The Lakers need to play hard & commit to playing solid defense, the type of defense that the team played in the 40-point beat down administered in game 5.

It is imperative that the Lakers increase the intensity of their defense and get off to a fast start so they aren’t playing uphill. The team that has won the 1st quarter has won the game several times in this series. Kobe Bryant will provide a stellar performance, as usual, but the rest of team has to knock down shots.

The Lakers will win by doing something that they haven’t done with any consistency. The Lakers need to control the tempo, the glass, get back in transition, stop the dribble penetration and most importantly rotate out to three point shooters.

Nothing can be left to chance, the Lakers need to stop the pick-and-roll play and Aaron Brooks and make the screener Chuck Hayes beat you. When the Lakers got back into the game the Rockets used the pick-and-roll play to distance themselves.
This game and the rest of the playoffs for the Lakers is about their defensive intensity, focus and controlling the painted area.

The Lakers know what they’re dealing with a scrappy trio of energy and effort guys in Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes. The Lakers need to match the intensity, effort and energy of these guys and the entire Rockets team.

The Lakers need to limit the Rockets to one shot per possession and contest every shot. Despite the fact that Houston was able to dominate the paint in Game 6; that will not happen again. This has been an action packed playoff series the will end today, the Lakers will be ready to play.

To be a champion you have to rise to the occasion and overcome obstacles like this. You’ll see a game ready focus from the Lakers. Kobe Bryant will start fast, aggressive start and set the tone his teammates will follow his lead. The world watched the Spike Lee Joint "Kobe Doin' Work" on ESPN over the weekend, we will have the opportunity to see him doin' work again today live on ABC.

Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Lakers-Rockets: Rockets win 95-80 and Force a Game Seven Showdown


The Lakers came into Game 6 with the opportunity to closeout the Rockets and this series. The key term in that sentence was ‘opportunity’ and it was apparently a concept lost on the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers put on an excellent performance in game 5 and all of the momentum built from the success of that game was left in Los Angeles with their defense because I know for a fact that neither made the trip to Houston.

The lessons learned from prior success in this series did nothing for them in this game partly because it wasn’t put into to action.

Kobe Bryant scored 32 points, he is in this authors opinion the best player in the game, but he can’t do it by himself his teammates have to knock down shots. Houston has something that several other teams don’t; two players that can defend Bryant.

Kobe will get his but Shane Battier & Ron Artest will make him work for it. The Lakers are a talented team but entirely too inconsistent from game to game. This was a lackadaisical defensive performance of epic proportions.

I am of the belief that if the Lakers weren’t going to show up they should’ve simply forfeited this game informed the league office stating they were going to wait to play in game seven.

The Rockets are a formidable team that plays with tremendous amount of effort and energy at home, as the Lakers can attest to. The Houston Rockets refused to be closed out at home. This Houston team played with a high energy level and out-worked the Lakers.

Houston looking to make amends for the beating that the team took in game five, really put it on the Lakers right from the tip off. The Rockets got off to a fast start and the Lakers appeared to be either sleepwalking or walking quicksand, the start I’m speaking of 21-3.

The Rockets forced the Lakers into a horrible shooting night they were 1-of-11 with 3 turnovers and the already mentioned three points. The first quarter ended with the Rockets on top 27-15.

The Lakers were immediately playing uphill on the road, again. The Rockets bombarded the Lakers scoring at will playing screen-and-roll basketball and the Lakers never adjusted. The Rockets were on a roll and proceeded to increase their lead, the first half ended with the Rockets on top 52-36.

The Lakers came out of the locker room with a little more resolve, a higher energy level and fought their way back into the game with a 7-0 run to start the quarter. The Lakers dramatically cut the lead and got to within a basket when the score was 52-54.

The Lakers put on a furious 16-2 rally to tighten the score, the Rockets re-grouped with a 8-2 run of their on and were able to hold off the Lakers and proceeded to increase their lead, the lead was 74-65 at the end of the third quarter.

The Rockets held on and maintained their lead by continuing to play pick-and-roll basketball. Chuck Hayes was the screener on numerous occasions and the Lakers decided to play him as oppose to the more dangerous Aaron Brooks.

The Rockets got a tremendous contribution and effort from the entire team and staved off elimination. Houston forced a series deciding game seven which will be played in Los Angeles on Sunday May 17, 2009 on ABC.

Photo Credit:Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Lakers-Rockets: Lakers make a statement in 118-78 win



The Lakers came out aggressive and played with a much needed sense of urgency. The Lakers had to overcome and early deficit but took the lead by ending the first quarter on a 22-4 run.

Conventional wisdom said that after the fall that Lamar Odom took in the third game of the series that he wouldn’t play in this game. He not only played but played well and was a bit of an inspiration to the team scoring 10 points and six rebounds.

Andrew Bynum showed up and put up 14 points and grabbed six rebounds; meaning that it’s time to officially welcome him to the playoffs.

The Lakers played smart basketball using their size advantage and playing offense through the post. The Lakers defense was active, aggressive with timely rotations and much improved leading to a 35-24 lead after the first quarter.

The Lakers played the game at their pace and tempo and continued to increase their lead. The Lakers defense was solid and the team forced the Rockets into multiple turnovers the L.A. was able to score 1 points off of said turnovers. This allowed them to get out in transition and score20 fast break points.

The Lakers shooting was much improved in Game 5 compared to their Game 4 performance; the Lakers knocked down shots and continued to outscore the Rockets. The Lakers were clicking on all cylinders and ended the quarter on a 23-6 run, the score at halftime was 64-39.

The Lakers started the second half with the same aggression that the team begin the game with, the quarter began with an 8-0 run. The Lakers continued to pour it on and never looked back; the Lakers lead quickly became insurmountable.

The Lakers solid play continued throughout the third quarter, the score at the end of the quarter was an amazing 94-54. The Lakers put on the dominate performance that the team and their fans were waiting to see.

A performance so dominate that if the Lakers would’ve been completely shutout and held scoreless in the third quarter the Rockets would’ve still been down by ten points.

The Lakers showed the killer instinct that was missing earlier in the series and continued to score putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the Rockets. The Lakers received a contribution from everyone with seven players scoring 10 points or more.

The 40-point beat-down that the Lakers laid on the Rockets was the worse playoff loss in franchise history. It was the Lakers seventh 40 point win in franchise history, their first since the 1986 season. The Lakers now have the opportunity to close out the series with a win in Houston.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier & Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oakland Raiders 2009 Training Camp Battles


There will be several positional battles in the Oakland worth watching. It is way too early to start making predictions as to what will happen without attaching the phrase “until proven otherwise” to it.

It appears that the Raiders will have a nice mix of youth and veterans and almost every spot. The first mini-camp of the year gave us all a glimpse of the new players. The main thing it did was give the coaching staff a chance to play with their new toys.

You can’t come away from it with any definitive answers, it is premature to do so but with that being said some people did. Look forward to one of the most competitive training camps you’ve seen as the team works toward respectability. Coach Tom Cable is prepared to right the ship and lead the team in the right direction.

Here are some of the highly anticipated training camp battles to look forward to:

LT Mario Henderson vs. Kalif Barnes
Mario Henderson played well in the opportunities that he had last year. In my opinion he should’ve started the remainder of the season after the week 2 game in Kansas City. He had a prominent role in all of the Raiders five wins last season. He earned the right to be the starter of the left side. Barnes was brought in to challenge him, he will have the opportunity to compete for the starting job but it is Henderson’s job and it will be up to him to remain the starter or lose it to Barnes. There is also a good chance that the loser starts on the right side.

RT Cornell Green vs. Erik Pears, Kalif Barnes and James Marten
Cornell Green was the starter on the right side last season but did not play well and didn’t cause anyone to forget about Lincoln Kennedy. He was the starter on the right side in the team’s recent mini-camp but it isn’t a mystery to say that the Raiders really want someone to take that position from him. You’ll see a tremendous amount of competition at the position Kalif Barnes, Erik Pears and James Marten.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. Johnnie Lee Higgins, Louis Murphy, Todd Watkins, Sammie Parker, Arman Shields
Al Davis wanted more targets with Raider speed for JaMarcus Russell to throw to. Al has his track team and a talented group of young receivers. The team has a total of 11 receivers on the roster right now. Obviously several won’t make the roster but more than likely five or six will the number of receivers carried on the roster. I’ll use a wait and see approach with this statement but I don’t think that Javon Walker will be on the active roster. He appears to be ready to go on I.R. Look for a talented young group of wide outs that will be able to make plays all over the field. You’ll see a few of the other receiver’s factor into the return game.

SLB Ricky Brown vs. Frantz Joseph, David Nixon
This position and the DT position are the two most neglected positions on the team and have been for a while. The team has started Robert Thomas, Ricky Brown and Sam Williams at the position. Robert Thomas is no longer on the team, Ricky Brown has returned from injury and Sam Williams was re-signed.
The team needs to have a lot of competition at the position between Ricky Brown, Frantz Joseph and David Nixon. The team should come out of training camp two or three deep at the position.

MLB Kirk Morrison vs. Frantz Joseph
Kirk Morrison has the starter in the middle for a few years now. He has been the team’s leading tackler for years. However, too many of his tackles have been after the runner has gained substantial yardage. This isn’t a knock on him or his play nor is it a demotion and speaks more of the problems the team has had at the DT position.

Frantz Joseph is a talented player and if he can show in training camp that he can play in the middle it would be better for the team to move Kirk Morrison to the SLB position. He played the SLB when he came to the Raiders. One of the reasons he was drafted was his versatility and showing he can play all three linebacker positions. This would allow the team to have three solid young linebackers on the field at the same time.

Frantz Joseph is a very versatile 6’2” 243 lb. linebacker that can play all three of the positions. He has what is known as natural violence which is trademark for a solid linebacker, he has takes on blocks very well and shows a lot a desire, effort, instincts and playmaking ability he has the ability to change the culture of a defense.

LDE Jay Richardson vs. Derrick Gray, Matt Shaughnessy, Stryker Sulak and Desmond Bryant
The team added depth at the position selecting three players at the position in the draft and one as an un-drafted free agent. All of the players mentioned won’t make the roster but this group will have brought healthy competition to the position. Jay Richardson is in his third year but hasn’t seized the position. Derrick Gray was an un-drafted player that came off of the practice squad last year. It appears that players were brought in to compete with and will have the opportunity to beat out Jay Richardson. Expect the team to come out of training camp two or three players deep at the position while the remainder will have a chance to make the team on special teams.

RDE Derrick Burgess vs. Trevor Scott, Greyson Gunheim, Slade Norris
Derrick Burgess is the starter and he is in a contract year so I fully expect him to have a good year but it all depends on him remaining healthy and injury free. Perhaps the team can use him more on passing downs as oppose to running plays to keep him healthy. Trevor Scott had a great first year and made an impact as a sixth round draft choice with five sacks. Greyson Gunheim came off of the practice squad to contribute and show the coaching staff what he could do. The unknown factor right now is Slade Norris he played both Defensive End and Linebacker in college right now he is being penciled in as a developmental pass rusher. Expect the team to come out of training camp three or four deep at the position.

TE Zack Miller vs. Tony Stewart, Darrel Strong, Branden Myers, Chris O’Neill and John Paul Foschi
Zack Miller is the unquestioned starter the reason this position is put down as a position that will have a training camp battle is due to the fact that Zack Miller is recovering from sports hernia surgery. He is scheduled to be ready for training camp but it also appears that the Raiders will run more two tight-end sets which will help improve the running game and provide more pass protection while allowing Zack Miller to be more involved in the passing game.

Brandon Myers was drafted for his size & blocking ability. Chris O’Neill is a talented player that is an excellent receiver and a decent blocker. The Raiders brought back veteran John Paul Foschi who was with the team from 2004-2006, he played fullback, tight end and on special teams. He is an excellent blocker and a good receiver over the middle and on the seam routes.

The article isn’t going to predict the Raiders regular season record either. The goal of this article is to point out a few of the training camp battles that will go down in Oakland, Ca.

I want to be realistic and with that concept in mind first things first I want to see the Oakland Raiders play better, be more consistent, show improvement and be far more competitive. These are all attainable goals for the team.

Al Davis wanted his track team at the wide receiver position and he has it. As a matter of fact the team’s got the height, weight, speed combination that they’re at every position with the exception of the offensive line & defensive tackle position where you need more power than speed.

Speed does you no good in the middle. Speaking of the middle the Raiders didn’t draft any defensive tackles which I didn’t agree with but it wasn’t my decision to make. This means that the team will count on the current players at the position and these guys have to get the job done or this will be the main need area in the 2010 draft.

New Defensive Coordinator John Marshall will not talk to the media but word has gotten out through Head Coach Tom Cable that the team will address their issues against the run with scheme and technique as well as that the team wants to be more aggressive on defense.

That could mean several things, however, try this on for size the Raiders playing multiple fronts. The Raiders are focusing alot on fundamentals, making sure players are in the right position. They're also adding a lot of pressure packages but focusing on the fundamentals, teaching them and coaching them is a welcome sign.

Keeping the 4-3 as their base defensive look but also showing a 3-4 look. I know some might scoff when that statement is read but a good way to mask the issues at DT is playing with less of them.

To be successful in the 3-4 you need a NT who is big enough to demand a double-team block as well as one willing to sacrifice himself and his body for the good of the team. I don’t feel that the team has that right now but the hope is that Terdell Sands can be a stop gap toward say a Terrance Cody next year.

The next step would be having the necessary linebackers to pull it off. This is all speculation but imagine this if you will: LDE Desmond Bryant, NT Terdell Sands, RDE Tommy Kelly, LOLB Thomas Howard, LILB Kirk Morrison, RILB Frantz Joseph, ROLB David Nixon, LCB Nnamdi Asomugha, RCB Chris Johnson, FS Hiram Eugene, and SS Mike Mitchell.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reminiscing about the 1983 Los Angeles Raiders











As I reminisce about my favorite Raiders team of all time several thoughts come to mind, how satisfying 1976 was, providing equal vindication was the 1980 team but I have to talk about 1983.

Taking you back to a time prior to free agency in the NFL; this didn’t start until 1992 known as “Plan A Free Agency” which remains in the league today. Actually the first form of free agency was known as “Plan B Free Agency” which was the norm from 1989-1992.

Speaking of free agency, the Raiders acquired CB Mike Haynes from the Patriots mid-season to shore up the secondary and form one of the strongest CB duos in the league. Being awarded his contract in a settlement the Patriots received a 1st round pick in 1984 and a 2nd round pick in 1985.

The Raiders franchise that started in 1960 in Oakland had moved 343 miles south to Los Angeles in 1982. The team had won two super bowls prior to coming to Los Angeles so the expectations were high. The Raiders second year in Los Angeles started with a successful draft.

The 1983 NFL draft was one of the leagues best ever, when you factor in the performance of the players drafted. This is the draft that is widely thought of as the draft that produced the QB bonanza of Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and John Elway.

However the fact that 15 of the 28 prospects selected in the first round participated in at least one Pro Bowl makes a definitive statement in my opinion. The draft was 12 rounds in those days and the Raiders got a lot of production out of several their selections that year.

First Round pick Center Don Mosebar played 173 games, Second Round pick Nose Tackle Bill Pickel played 174 games, Defensive End Greg Townsend played 190 games, Wide Receiver Mervyn Fernandez played in 86 games and Wide Receiver Dokie Williams played in 74 games.

When you consider that the players selected in 1983 were in addition to the second year players selected in 1982 Running Back Marcus Allen, Linebacker Jack Squirek, Free Safety Vann McElroy. This provided the Raiders an excellent mix of veterans and youth.

That mix produced a team that put up 20 points or better every game of the year. In fact, the Los Angeles Raiders scored 442 points (27.6 points per game) third in the league and allowed 338 points (21.1 points per game) 13th in the league.

One of the more intriguing games of that year was a wide open high scoring week five game against the Washington Redskins, the Raiders came into the game undefeated. A game won by the Redskins 37-35, in which the Raiders rushed for 105 yards and Jim Plunkett passed for 372 yards and four touchdowns.

Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann passed for 417 yards and three touchdowns and Running Back John Riggins rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown. An impressive game seeing the Redskins score 17 points in the final six minutes of the game, but an interesting note about the game was the fact that two future Hall of Fame players Marcus Allen & Mike Haynes didn’t play in that game.

Even in defeat the Raiders knew that they could play with and beat the Redskins and to a man still wanted a piece of the Washington Redskins as well as another shot to prove their point. That chance would come in the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida.

After posting a 12-4 regular season record, winning the AFC Western Division in the process, the Raiders earned a playoff appearance. In the post-season the Los Angeles Raiders outscored the opposition 68-21 by beating the Steelers and the Seahawks.

The outstanding playoff run led to a Super Bowl match-up against the Washington Redskins on January 22, 1984 at Tampa Stadium. The Redskins were winners of Super Bowl XVII.

The Redskins were favored to win the game by three. Due to their stellar play all season, a 14-2 record, setting a NFL record scoring 541 points (later broken by the 1998 Vikings & 2007 Patriots) and the fact that the Redskins had the top rated defense. Washington defense allowed the fewest yards against the run.

Not to mention Joe Theismann was the league MVP, the second rated passer in the league that year. He had WR’s Art Monk & Charlie Brown at his disposal in concert with RB John Riggins and the always dangerous, Multi-talented Joe Washington.

Former NFL player Bronco Nagurski performed the coin toss, Barry Manilow sang the National Anthem and fittingly Pat Summerall & John Madden were in the Broadcast booth for CBS Sports. A total of 72,920 fans were at the game with millions more watching on television.

What we all witnessed was a Raiders blowout, seeing as the Redskins came in as the favorites and left after a humiliating defeat it become known as ‘Black Sunday’ in reference to one of the Raiders colors.

History buffs will associate the name ‘Black Sunday’ with the 1977 novel written by Thomas Harris and the film with the same name in 1977. The win gave the city of Los Angeles its first NFL championship since the Rams victory in 1951.



The starting lineup for the Raiders:

Offense

QB Jim Plunkett
RB Marcus Allen
FB Kenny King
WR Malcolm Barnwell
WR Cliff Branch
TE Todd Christiansen
LT Bruce E. Davis
LG Charley Hannah
C Dave Dalby
RG Mickey Marvin
RT Henry Lawrence

Defense

LDE Howie Long
NT Reggie Kinlaw
RDE Lyle Alzado
LOLB Ted Hendricks
LILB Matt Millen
RILB Bob Nelson
ROLB Rod Martin
LCB Lester Hayes
RCB Mike Haynes
SS Mike Davis
FS Vann McElroy


For those who don’t know the Raiders played a 3-4 defensive front and not the four-man line that the team has played for years.

The Raiders took an early one touchdown lead off of a Jeff Hayes punt that was blocked by Derrick Jensen deep in Redskins territory and never looked back.

Early in the second quarter Jim Plunkett connected with Cliff Branch on a 50-yard pass to advance the ball to the Redskins 15-yard line. Two plays later; Jim Plunkett found Branch again for a 14-point lead. The Redskins put together a 73 yard drive but it stalled in Raiders territory and Washington had to settle for a 27-yard field goal.

The score was 14-3 and the Raiders drive stalled leading to a punt, Ray Guy did the honors and pinned the Redskins at their own 12-yard line with .12 seconds left in the half. Linebacker coach Charlie Sumner made a last second substitution and sent in LB Jack Squirek for Matt Millen.

The Redskins called the play that the Raiders were ready for and waiting on “Rocket Screen”, but Jack Squirek read the play intercepted Theismann’s pass and returned it for a touchdown to make the score 21-3 at halftime.

Going back to week five, the Redskins ran the same play to Joe Washington and it resulted in a 67-yard gain. The Redskins put together a nine-play 70 yard drive capped off by a John Riggins TD but Mark Moseley’s extra point attempt was blocked by reserve Tight End Don Hasselbeck making the score 21-9.

On the next drive Redskins CB Darrell Green was called for a 38-yard pass interference penalty while defending WR Malcolm Barnwell, setting up Marcus Allen’s 5-yard TD run. The next Raider drive Marcus Allen broke free on a 74-yard run the made the statement that this game was officially over.

You know about all the stars of the game but what isn’t mentioned enough are the unsung hero’s like Punter Ray Guy (who should’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame years ago), Linebacker Jack Squirek, Special Teams player Derrick Jensen to name a few.


When I think of my favorite Raiders teams, several thoughts come to mind but I can’t forget the 1983 Los Angeles Raiders.

Photo Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Forget what you’ve heard the Oakland Raiders are on the right path


The Raiders are putting together a competitive nucleus. Following free agency & the draft the Oakland Raiders still had holes to fill on the roster at Defensive Tackle, Linebacker and Fullback.

The Raiders have been besieged with criticism after drafting WR Darrius Heyward-Bey in the first round and then Safety Michael Mitchell in the second round. Both are talented players and the criticism is more of where the players were drafted then the actual players.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey will unfortunately be the most scrutinized player from the 2009 Draft not named Matthew Stafford. Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree will be compared to each other their entire careers.

The decision was made to provide QB JaMarcus Russell with more weapons to open up the passing game which is needed but stopping the run in my opinion is just as big a need. The Raiders have a lot of speed and young talent at WR and a total of 11 players at the position. Several of them will not make the opening day roster. A serious question at the position has to be will Javon Walker?

Don’t be surprised if someone in the bay area just happens to chart both Darrius Heyward-Bey & Michael Crabtree’s receptions, yards per catch, yards gained after the catch, total yardage, touchdowns and dropped passes side by side.

Seeing as he was the first wide receiver drafted and selected in the top 10 to be a number one or go to wide receiver he will have to put up consecutive 80-catch seasons or better to avoid people glossing him with the bust label. I don’t feel that it is right or fair but seeing it happen will not surprise me.

He is a talented player that provides QB JaMarcus Russell a deep threat that fits the Raiders scheme and possesses all the tools to be a playmaker in silver and black.

The Raiders made a huge pick up in signing veteran fullback Lorenzo Neal, his blend of experience and toughness will make him a leader on this young team as well as vastly improve the Raiders running game. He has blocked for a total of 11 1,000-yard running backs in his career.

Check out the clips for reference, but disregard the bolts shown.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-preseason/09000d5d8013fba4/The-importance-of-Lorenzo-Neal

<"http://www.nfl.com/players/lorenzoneal/profile?id=NEA237924">

Several people in the media have taken their shots at Al Davis and the Raiders for the draft as oppose to taking a wait and see approach before dooming the drafted players to failure. The fact of the matter is that the draft is in the rear view mirror at this time.

So after the draft the Raiders signed a group of un-drafted free agents to fill the above mentioned needs on the roster in LB Frantz Joseph, DL Desmond Bryant, S Jerome Boyd, LB David Nixon, G Jon Compas, WR Nick Miller, WR Shawn Bayes and TE Chris O’Neill.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNstliEo4Hs LB Frantz Joseph

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-IEZJdPEAM SS Jerome Boyd

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRhZCByOJYw OLB David Nixon

The only exception was the defensive tackle position, although Desmond Bryant has played both positions on the D-line. This position has been neglected by the Raiders for far too long. To be specific, the Raiders have drafted a total of five defensive tackles in the last ten years and none of them are still on the roster.

Coincidently at a need position the Raiders have had the top defensive tackle prospect in the draft fall to them for the second year in a row and Al Davis declined to fill the need, in any round. This means that the Raiders are content with the four defensive tackles currently on the roster.

Head Coach Tom Cable stated the team has good defensive tackles and at issue is that they haven’t played like it. The statement made could be debatable, based upon past performance but the need to stop the run isn’t. The Raiders brought back Tommy Kelly, Gerard Warren, William Joseph and Terdell Sands.

The Raiders are content with the players at the position and these five veteran players are being counted on to get the job done. Terdell Sands reportedly appears to be a lot lighter than last year. My biggest concern on the team is the defensive tackle rotation. If the defensive tackles hold up the defense has a chance to improve. We’ll have to use a wait and see approach on the matter.

The Raiders did add one defensive tackle via free agency, Ryan Boschetti a little-used un-drafted free agent out of UCLA formerly with the Washington Redskins. He is a tenacious player with size and talent that will not be outworked by anyone.

The Raiders have ranked at or near the bottom of the league at stopping the run for the last six years. This trend has to stop and it appears to be a top goal for the coaches on the defensive side of the ball.

The intriguing news Raider fan’s is that it has been rumored that new defensive coordinator John Marshall through scheme and technique will address their issues stopping the run and play a more aggressive approach.

This could mean several things but just to know that the team has decided to stop playing with a conservative approach and plans to dictate to the opponent how the game will be played as oppose to the opposite happening.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lakers-Rockets: The Lakers are dazed by the Rockets 99-87



The Rockets got the bad news on Saturday that Yao Ming has a broken foot and will miss the remainder of the NBA Playoffs; the team that suffered most was his absence was the Lakers. Los Angeles came into Game Four thinking that they had an advantage and that the Rockets would give the fame to them; little did they realize they had walked into a trap game.

The Rockets had lost their biggest player and in some ways were undersized and undermanned due to injuries but the way Houston played it didn't slow them down it set them free to open the floor and run.

The Lakers had an embarrassing effort and the team didn’t match the intensity or energy level of the Rockets and took a beat-down. The Rockets came out with a tremendous amount of energy; beneficiaries of a total team effort took a nine point lead and never looked back.

The Rockets destroyed the Lakers with the dribble penetration of Aaron Brooks, playing pick and roll basketball to perfection, and knocking down shots. The Rockets used excellent ball movement and made the extra pass to find the open.

Houston held a 16-29 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Rockets continued to increase their lead each quarter, at halftime the score was 54-36.

The only Rocket who didn’t knock down shots was Ron Artest. Aaron Brooks put on an excellent 30 point performance. Shane Battier had a solid 20 point effort knocking down five three point shots. The defense of Chuck Hayes, Shane Battier and Ron Artest were huge in this game.

The Rockets defense was solid again but offensively the dribble penetration, ball movement and lack of a defensive effort by the Lakers provided the several open shots and this game Houston took full advantage of the space being provided.

The Rockets were on fire and never took their foot off of the accelerator and continued to increase their lead which reached as high as 29 points at one point. The score at the end of the third quarter was an amazing 83-54.

The Lakers put up a modest effort in the fourth quarter to cut the 29 point lead down to 13 points toward the end of the quarter to make the final score closer but this game was already over. The outcome of this game was actually decided before halftime.

The second half of the game was sort of a variation of the same theme.
The Lakers were outplayed in every way and they’ll have to make some adjustments to be ready for Game five which will be in Los Angeles.

The Lakers took a beat down and in the process missed out on a golden opportunity to take a commanding lead in this series. This is now a three game series and the Lakers need to bounce back in Game five.

Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lakers-Rockets: Lakers top Houston 108-94 as the Rockets have a failure to launch



The Lakers made a definitive statement by bouncing back and winning Game Two of the series. That statement was confirmed on 5/8 as the Lakers took care of business, came out and played with a sense of urgency from the tip-off in Houston.

Los Angeles was playing this game without starting point guard Derek Fisher, but the Lakers and their fans got a glimpse of the future with Jordan Farmar starting. Led by a strong start by Kobe Bryant, who had 11 points in the first quarter and set the tone, Los Angeles started the game active and aggressive.

Both teams played well in the first quarter and almost played even the score was 30-28 at the end of the quarter. The Lakers got into a rhythm on both ends of the court, shot 60-percent from the field and had only one turnover.

The Lakers understanding what was at stake started to display excellent ball movement and excellent player movement and literally outplayed the home team. Los Angeles was able to knock down shots and started building momentum.

The Lakers gained the upper hand after the lead changed hands in the second quarter but the Rockets were right there at halftime with the score 50-48.

The Lakers took control of the game in the second half by continuing to outscore the Rockets and playing stellar defense. The Lakers held the Rockets to 14 points in the quarter on six-of-twenty five shooting from the field.

The Lakers continued to increase their lead which was 71-62 until Kobe Bryant’s 33-foot three point shot put an exclamation point on the Lakers dominance in this game and on the series in the final three seconds of the third quarter for a 74-62 lead.

The Lakers maintained their lead by outplaying the Rockets despite the 32 points scored in the quarter by Houston this game was already over. The Lakers scored 34 points in the quarter to seal the deal for a 108-94 win. The Rockets got 25 points from Ron Artest before he was ejected for a flagrant foul on Pau Gasol.

Yao Ming had a double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds; he also finished the game with a sprained ankle that could unfortunately affect his performance for the rest of the series.

The difference in this game was the Lakers defense, forcing the Rockets into a poor shooting night and 17 huge turnovers. Another factor in Game Three was that the Lakers shot 55-percent from behind the arc going 11-of-20.

Kobe Bryant scored 30+ points in the playoffs for the 54th time; he has scored 3,928 career post-season points and passed Larry Bird (3,897) in the process. He had another stellar playoff performance filling out the stat sheet with 33 points (11-of-28), four-for-six from behind the arc, seven-for-eight from the free throw line and three huge blocks while leading his team to a crucial win that ended the Rockets nine-game home winning streak.

Kobe showing excellent leadership led his team to a big win and showed something that we already know he had in his arsenal the ability to score and defend as well as take over a game.

Jordan Farmar played an excellent all-around game in 32 minutes he had 12 points, seven assists, five rebounds and one blocked shot and most importantly only one turnover. Including the effort of Shannon Brown, the Lakers point guards scored 20 points.

The Lakers received an excellent performance from everyone as all of their starters were in double digits and also received a contribution from the reserves.

The win gives the Lakers a two-one advantage in the series going into Game Four on 5/10 that might be played with an injured Yao Ming. The Lakers have won six of the seven games that they’ve played against the Rockets this season. Game Four will be on ABC.

Photo Credit: Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lakers-Rockets: Lakers Bounce Back with 111-98 Win to Tie the Series



The Lakers knew what was at stake and understood the importance of winning Game 2 came out and played determined playoff basketball. The Lakers were able to raise their level of play and perform with a much-needed sense of urgency.

There was a bit of angst in the air in Los Angeles prior to the start of this game. The Lakers realized that they’re being challenged and planned to respond by being aggressive and active from the start.

The first half was really the tale of two different quarters of basketball. The Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant, came out of fire knocking down shots. Los Angeles with Lamar Odom in the starting lineup were able to play the game at their pace and control the tempo.

The Lakers shot 86-percent from the field, with Kobe Bryant scoring 15 points in the quarter, to include a 22-foot jumper to end the quarter and raced out to a 39-25 first quarter lead.

The Rockets were down by 14-points but clearly not moved. Houston came out and turned the table on the Lakers, tighten the screws defensively and sending in the reserves to change the pace of the game.

Houston’s reserves did that and more, they sparked the team into outscoring the Lakers 32-18. Carl Landry at one point had single-handedly outscored the Lakers in the quarter 16-14; he finished the game with a career-playoff high of 21 points off the bench. The Lakers shot four-of-14 as a team and saw the Rockets take the lead.

Rockets center Yao Ming was saddled with foul trouble, collecting three personal fouls in the first half. Ron Artest had another solid game scoring 25 points. Kobe Bryant’s three-point shot right before halftime tied the score at 57.

The Lakers are caught up in a dogfight and have to fight their way past a physical and determined opponent with the tools necessary to challenge them.

The second half saw the Lakers take the lead and push said lead up to as many as ten points three times in the quarter. There was a lot of talking back-and-forth among the players and before you know it tempers flared.

The score was 86-74, Lamar Odom fouled Luis Scola. Scola, Lamar and Luke Walton began jawing at each other and got in each others faces. Referee Joey Crawford in an attempt to maintain control of the game hit Lamar Odom, Luke Walton and Luis Scola with technical fouls.

Shane Battier knocked down the technical foul shot making the score 86-75. The game was physical all night but with less than .15 seconds to go in the quarter Scola came out to the top of the key to screen Derek Fisher who was guarding Kyle Lowry and Fisher wasn’t having it.

He met the screen with a combination of a forearm shiver and a shoulder knocking Scola to the floor. He was accessed a flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the game, he will more than likely get a call from the league office informing him of how long his suspension will be.

The move got him ejected but clearly inspired his teammates. Derek Fisher later stated that he wasn’t retaliating against Scola for the dust-up previously but the timing of the foul makes that debatable.

The game also had some drama on the sidelines at the end of the quarter, as Rockets guard Von Wafer for whatever reason exchanged words with Head Coach Rick Adelman, after catching a whiff of the madness coming out his mouth Adelman calmly sent him to an early shower.

The ejections didn’t stop there, with the Lakers up 94-84 in the fourth quarter Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest were locked-up, fighting for rebounding position underneath the basket. There was a lot of contact, it got physical and Ron Artest felt that Kobe hit him with an elbow in the throat.

He wasn’t happy about it and told the officials what had happened and then told Kobe about it. He was ejected for pointing at Kobe and gesturing toward his throat. He got in Kobe’s face and informed him that he was hitting the wrong person.

The Lakers went on to win Game Two 111-98. In the process of playing a tough, physical game the birth of a long playoff series emerged. Kobe Bryant finished the game with 40 points, his seventh career 40-point playoff game.

The Lakers responded to tie the series. Every game for the rest of the series will be physical, but this one saw Ron Artest & Derek Fisher ejected by the referees, Von Wafer ejected by his head coach and total of five technical fouls called.

The Lakers speed game was a huge factor in this game, the Lakers outscored the Rockets 20- five on fast break points. Pau Gasol had a solid game with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

I'd like to take this time to welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to the Playoffs. They'll need to play every game with the intensity shown tonight, without any players being thrown out.

The Lakers out-rebounded the Rockets, had more assists, less turnovers and blocked more shots. They were led by their All-Stars as Kobe & Pau combined for 62 points.

Ladies and gentlemen you might want to fasten your seat belts because it might be a rough ride but we have ourselves a series, Game Three will be in Houston on 5/8/09.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lakers-Rockets: Rockets stun the Lakers 100-92 to take a 1-0 series lead


The Rockets came into the Staples Center for the second round playoff series after losing the season series to the Lakers 4-0. The team knew what they had to do to secure a victory and the game plan worked to perfection.

The Rockets immediately established Yao Ming in the low post; the Lakers started Andrew Bynum who immediately has to exit the game with foul trouble. The Rockets were more physical team and simply outmuscled the Lakers.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to the Lakers so they should be able to make the adjustment. Several times Playoff basketball comes down to making adjustments during a game as well as from game to game.

Neither team shot well in this game. Houston played with a sense of urgency and the Lakers did not.

The Lakers were horrible from behind the three-point line, shooting two-for-18, their fifth worse performance in that area since 1996. But what had to be the most disappointing part or main reason for the loss was their performance from the free throw line, shooting 12-for-19 63-percent.

Simply put had the basics been covered and the Lakers could have back the seven missed free throws we’re talking about a one point game towards the end of regulation and with Kobe Bryant wearing a gold jersey you ‘d have to like your chances in that situation.

The Rockets got a quality effort from everyone and took a three point lead that was established in the first quarter with them into the locker room at halftime.

The NBA playoffs usually comes down to a game of runs and the Lakers got close on more than one occasion in the second half, but every time that happened the Rockets had a run or their own.

All of the people thought that the Lakers would sweep the Rockets have to rethink their strategies at this point. This was a game that the Lakers could’ve easily won by playing better.

A lot of credit has to go to the Rockets for doing what was necessary to secure a win. Los Angeles now needs to regroup make adjustments, play Game Two with a sense of urgency.

The Lakers had their opportunities and were presented with several clean wide open looks that they failed to knockdown. The Lakers have to step their game up and at the same level that the Rockets are playing. Game Two will be on 5/6/09 on TNT.
The Rockets came into the Staples Center for the second round playoff series after losing the season series to the Lakers 4-0. The team knew what they had to do to secure a victory and the game plan worked to perfection.

The Rockets immediately established Yao Ming in the low post; the Lakers started Andrew Bynum who immediately has to exit the game with foul trouble. The Rockets were more physical team and simply outmuscled the Lakers.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to the Lakers so they should be able to make the adjustment. Several times Playoff basketball comes down to making adjustments during a game as well as from game to game.

Neither team shot well in this game. Houston played with a sense of urgency and the Lakers did not.

The Lakers were horrible from behind the three-point line, shooting two-for-18, their fifth worse performance in that area since 1996. But what had to be the most disappointing part or main reason for the loss was their performance from the free throw line, shooting 12-for-19 63-percent.

Simply put had the basics been covered and the Lakers could have back the seven missed free throws we’re talking about a one point game towards the end of regulation and with Kobe Bryant wearing a gold jersey you ‘d have to like your chances in that situation.

The Rockets got a quality effort from everyone and took a three point lead that was established in the first quarter with them into the locker room at halftime.

The NBA playoffs usually comes down to a game of runs and the Lakers got close on more than one occasion in the second half, but every time that happened the Rockets had a run or their own.

All of the people thought that the Lakers would sweep the Rockets have to rethink their strategies at this point. This was a game that the Lakers could’ve easily won by playing better.

A lot of credit has to go to the Rockets for doing what was necessary to secure a win. Los Angeles now needs to regroup make adjustments, play Game Two with a sense of urgency.

The Lakers had their opportunities and were presented with several clean wide open looks that they failed to knockdown. The Lakers have to step their game up and at the same level that the Rockets are playing. Game Two will be on 5/6/09 on TNT.
The Rockets came into the Staples Center for the second round playoff series after losing the season series to the Lakers 4-0. The team knew what they had to do to secure a victory and the game plan worked to perfection.

The Rockets immediately established Yao Ming in the low post; the Lakers started Andrew Bynum who immediately has to exit the game with foul trouble. The Rockets were more physical team and simply outmuscled the Lakers.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to the Lakers so they should be able to make the adjustment. Several times Playoff basketball comes down to making adjustments during a game as well as from game to game.

Neither team shot well in this game. Houston played with a sense of urgency and the Lakers did not.

The Lakers were horrible from behind the three-point line, shooting two-for-18, their fifth worse performance in that area since 1996. But what had to be the most disappointing part or main reason for the loss was their performance from the free throw line, shooting 12-for-19 63-percent.

Simply put had the basics been covered and the Lakers could have back the seven missed free throws we’re talking about a one point game towards the end of regulation and with Kobe Bryant wearing a gold jersey you ‘d have to like your chances in that situation.

The Rockets got a quality effort from everyone and took a three point lead that was established in the first quarter with them into the locker room at halftime.

The NBA playoffs usually comes down to a game of runs and the Lakers got close on more than one occasion in the second half, but every time that happened the Rockets had a run or their own.

All of the people thought that the Lakers would sweep the Rockets have to rethink their strategies at this point. This was a game that the Lakers could’ve easily won by playing better.

A lot of credit has to go to the Rockets for doing what was necessary to secure a win. Los Angeles now needs to regroup make adjustments, play Game Two with a sense of urgency.

The Lakers had their opportunities and were presented with several clean wide open looks that they failed to knockdown. The Lakers have to step their game up and at the same level that the Rockets are playing. Game Two will be on 5/6/09 on TNT.
The Rockets came into the Staples Center for the second round playoff series after losing the season series to the Lakers 4-0. The team knew what they had to do to secure a victory and the game plan worked to perfection.

The Rockets immediately established Yao Ming in the low post; the Lakers started Andrew Bynum who immediately has to exit the game with foul trouble. The Rockets were more physical team and simply outmuscled the Lakers.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to the Lakers so they should be able to make the adjustment. Several times Playoff basketball comes down to making adjustments during a game as well as from game to game.

Neither team shot well in this game. Houston played with a sense of urgency and the Lakers did not.

The Lakers were horrible from behind the three-point line, shooting two-for-18, their fifth worse performance in that area since 1996. But what had to be the most disappointing part or main reason for the loss was their performance from the free throw line, shooting 12-for-19 63-percent.

Simply put had the basics been covered and the Lakers could have back the seven missed free throws we’re talking about a one point game towards the end of regulation and with Kobe Bryant wearing a gold jersey you ‘d have to like your chances in that situation.

The Rockets got a quality effort from everyone and took a three point lead that was established in the first quarter with them into the locker room at halftime.

The NBA playoffs usually comes down to a game of runs and the Lakers got close on more than one occasion in the second half, but every time that happened the Rockets had a run or their own.

All of the people thought that the Lakers would sweep the Rockets have to rethink their strategies at this point. This was a game that the Lakers could’ve easily won by playing better.

A lot of credit has to go to the Rockets for doing what was necessary to secure a win. Los Angeles now needs to regroup make adjustments, play Game Two with a sense of urgency.

The Lakers had their opportunities and were presented with several clean wide open looks that they failed to knockdown. The Lakers have to step their game up and at the same level that the Rockets are playing. Game Two will be on 5/6/09 on TNT.

Photo Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Monday, May 4, 2009

NBA Playoffs: Lakers vs. Rockets Second Round Preview


NBA Playoffs Second Round Match – Up
#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #5 Houston Rockets

The Lakers beat the Utah Jazz Four games to one in the First Round. The Lakers have been dominant in the First Round as a #1 seed, 10-0 to be exact.

The Lakers didn’t have to wait long to find out who their second round opponent would be as the Houston Rockets took care of business at home and dispatched the talented young Portland team.

This will be a tough series for the Lakers due to the fact that it is the playoffs. The regular season does provide an indication of what to expect although it must be said that the intensity is higher and so is the level of play in the playoffs.

The Lakers have Andrew Bynum back and are at full strength; however he failed to get on track in the Jazz series. The Jazz still have some players nursing injuries. The Lakers were 4 – 0 in the season series against the Rockets.

11/9 Los Angeles Lakers 111, Houston Rockets 82
1/13 Los Angeles Lakers 105, Houston Rockets 100
3/11 Los Angeles Lakers 102, Houston Rockets 96
4/3 Los Angeles Lakers 93, Houston Rockets 81


The Lakers, as expected, beat the Utah Jazz but did show signs of a leaky defense and issues maintaining leads. The Rockets come into Round 2 after impressively dispatching the young Portland Trail Blazers in six games.

The Lakers led by All-Stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and a deep bench are facing a tough defensive team in the Rockets whose defense appears to have improved in the playoffs. Both teams are seeking to build on their success in round 1.

The Rockets are elated to have finally advanced to the round 2 and feel that they’re ready to beat L.A. The Lakers know what areas of their game that are in need of improvement and have been working to correct them in practice. A key will be to not to come into the series too confident or complacent.


Starter Match Up’s

PG Derek Fisher 6’ 1” 210 lbs. 12thYear, Avg. 9.9 Pts, 3.2 Ast, 2.3 Reb, 1.2 Stl
PG Aaron Brooks 6’ 0” 161 lbs. 1st Year, Avg. 11.2 Pts, 3 Ast, 2 Reb,
This will be an interesting match up of two very different point guards. Aaron Brooks is a young point guard facing a battle tested veteran point guard in Derek Fisher. Aaron Brooks is quick off the dribble and can penetrate and cause trouble for any defense.

He doesn’t have the size to consistently be effective against the Lakers long front line. He will have to have success shooting outside. Derek Fisher did what he had to do in round 1 but will have to knockdown timely shots to stretch the defense.

Advantage: Lakers

SG Kobe Bryant 6’ 6” 205 lbs. 12th Year, Avg. 26.8 Pts, 4.8 Ast, 5.2 Reb.
SF Shane Battier 6’8” 220 lbs. 7th Year, Avg. 7.3 Pts, 2.3 Ast, 4.8 Reb.

Shane Battier has been in the starting lineup numerous times due to injuries. Von Wafer has started some games but has been dealing with back spasms but will play. The combination of Battier & Ron Artest will take turns defending Kobe.

Both are solid defenders, placing Battier on Kobe will effect his offense and the Rockets need him to knockdown 3-point shots. Kobe is on a mission to win another ring. He will be a nightmare for whoever attempts to guard him. He has played the role of facilitator early and closer late.

If the game is close in the fourth quarter he will take over. He has dominated the fourth quarter of all four games in the season series.

Advantage: Lakers

SF Trevor Ariza 6’ 8” 210 lbs. 4th Year, Avg. 8.9 Pts, 1.8 Ast, 4.3 Reb, 2 Stl.
SF Ron Artest 6’ 7” 260 lbs. 7th Year, Avg. 17.1 Pts, 3.3 Ast, 5.2 reb.

Ron Artest will start out checking Ariza but will have to exert a lot of energy guarding Kobe Bryant. Artest offense like Battier’s will suffer due to the energy needed to defend Kobe. Ron Artest was up and down in the first round series but has shot badly against the Lakers.

He attempted 36 shots from three point range in the series against the Blazers and made only 10. Artest could be highly effective in the low post.

Trevor Ariza is a slasher who will attack the basket. He will have difficulty scoring on Artest but will need to remain active and could help get Artest into foul trouble. His improved scoring and range has been a huge surprise for the Lakers all season.

Advantage: Rockets

PF Lamar Odom 6’ 10” 230 lbs. 9th Year, 11.3 Pts, 2.6 Ast, 8.2 Reb, 1 Block
PF Luis Scola 6’ 9” 245 lbs. 1st Year, Avg. 12.7 Pts, 1.5 Ast, 8.8 Reb.
Luis Scola is a talented player that can score around the basket. He isn’t a shot blocker but is a solid rebounder. He was very effective on pick-and-roll plays where he would spot up for a mid-range jumper instead of rolling to the basket.

This will be a key play for the Lakers to contain. Lamar Odom is a starter but he was asked to come off of the bench to impact the game with the second unit.

Odom is a huge key for the Lakers his activity on both ends of the court are vital for the team’s success because he has the potential to average a triple-double. He will be a match up nightmare for Scola attacking the basket.

Advantage: Lakers

C Pau Gasol 7’ 0” 250 lbs. 7th Year, Avg. 18.9 Pts, 3.5 Ast, 9.6 Reb, 1 block
C Yao Ming 7’ 6” 310 lbs. 6th Year, Avg.19.7 Pts, 1.8 Ast, 9.9 Reb

This is a match-up of two All-Star Centers. The Rockets do a good job of establishing Yao Ming early in the game but tend to go away from him being a focal point of the offense late in the game.

Yao is a tough match up for whoever defends him but he is content being a decoy and getting his teammates involved. Pau will have to stay grounded and play good position defense and force Yao to take a contested shot over him.

The same will apply for Andrew Bynum when he faces Yao as a starter or as a reserve.
Pau is a talented offensive player with a wide array of moves around the basket but his deadliest attribute is his ability to pass the ball and find his teammates.

This is a match-up that Yao has to win for the Rockets to be competitive in this series. The Lakers respect his talent as well as look to take him out of his game by attacking the basket hopefully getting him in foul trouble early.

Advantage: Rockets

Bench

For the Rockets, Von Wafer played well in the first round and enjoys playing against his former team. He has scored 20 + points on the Lakers twice. Lyle Lowry, Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes have all had success and were effective in the first round.

For the Lakers, Sasha Vujacic, Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar have struggled to make an impact. These players have the talent to be effective but haven’t put it together as of yet. Shannon Brown has been effective bringing the team energy solid defense and knocking down shots. He was 6-for-nine from behind the arc in round 1.

Advantage: Rockets
Prediction
This will be a tough series that the Lakers will win in five Games.

Photo Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times