Know questioning the Lakers’ collective hearts. Every player goes hard every night for head coach Byron Scott. However, unlike the legendary teams throughout the franchise’s history, these Lakers just don’t have the star-power, at the moment, to win close games down the stretch.
Leading 69-68 with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Lakers were outscored by Utah, 12 to four, and lost to the Jazz, 80-73. Utah held the Lakers to just 39 percent shooting from the field for the game.
“They definitely slowed it down,” said Lakers guard Jeremy Lin who didn’t score a point in 10 minutes of play. “They got us to play their game and we had to find a way to play ours.”
The Jazz (31-37) were led by Gordon Hayward who registered a game-high 22 points. Reserve Trey Burke added 17, Derrick Favors had 14 and was huge on the defensive end making a key block late in the game rejecting Ed Davis right at the rim and Trevor Booker chipped in with 10.
For the Lakers, Tarik Black registered his third career double-double and secnd as a Laker with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Wesley Johnson had 12 points and Carlos Boozer added 11.
This was L.A.’s ninth loss in its last 10 games and fourth consecutive defeat. The Lakers (17-50) now have the fourth worst record in the league with 15 games remaining and at this rate are a lock to keep their first round draft pick in this June’s draft.
The Lakers are back on the Staple Center floor Sunday when they host one of the three teams they’re chasing for worst record in the Association; the Philadelphia 76ers.
Scott’s one of the hottest coaching commodities with prime jobs like the Cleveland Cavaliers bench spot open. With Michigan St. coach Tom Izzo deciding to decline the Cavs offer, Scott’s the prime target in Cleveland. The job’s his if he wants it. He’s decided to wait to see what Jackson decides next week. If the Lakers job is available, Scott will want it. That’s assuming one of Jackson’s current assistants, namely former Lakers guard Brian Shaw, isn’t promoted to the top spot.
Mega-free agent LeBron James could be persuaded to remain with the Cavaliers if they hire Byron Scott. LeBron likes the fact Scott’s been a part of seven NBA finals either as a player or coach. Scott commands respect among players for the simple fact he IS one.
So, it’s up to Jackson. If he comes back for the fourth, three-peat, Scott’s headed to Cleveland with the good possibility LeBron stays. Jackson retires, Scott’s on the Lakers bench with Cleveland back at square one and LeBron entertaining offers from the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, New Jersey and the L.A. Clippers.
…………and there go those dominoes……………
So, with all this on the NBA horizon, gives me a good moment to reflect on last week’s championship game between the NBA’s two most storied franchises.
That was, truly, the best pro basketball game I’ve seen in some time. If nothing else but for the simple fact that it was a game 7 showdown between the Boston Celtics and the, now, two-time defending World Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
It helped they have that finals history going against each other for all the marbles for the 12th time and extending to a game 7 in five of those with the Celtics taking the first four prior to last Thursday’s break-through for the repeat championship by the Lakers at Staples Center, 83-79.
As good as the game was between the two Finals rivals, there’s still no way the series should’ve gone the distance. The Lakers, clearly, were the better team even without 7-foot center Andrew Bynum at full strength. Should’ve been done in five.
Speaking of game five, and backing up my point, the Celtics held the Lakers to 39% shooting for the game while themselves filling it up at a 56% clip, yet were fortunate to come away with a 92-86 win. Same deal in game four.
Down 3-2 and facing elimination, the Lakers just smeared the Celtics in game six at Staples, 89-67. Huge turning point. Celtics lost center Kendrick Perkins to torn knee ligaments early in the first quarter with game 7 looming.
So, that set up the deciding game with Perkins missing from the Celtics line-up and Bynum really ineffective at this point although he did average nine points and seven boards in the series. Pretty good for a guy playing with a knee tear. By the way, for all you Celtic fans who claim an 18th title didn’t happen because Perkins went down, it can be argued had Bynum been 100%, the Lakers might’ve swept the Celtics.
This series was all about the defense and you’ve got to give it up to both Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Jackson for making the proper adjustments to go for the championship. Game 7 looked more like an NCAA elite eight battle with both teams playing text-book defense. Couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
For three quarters, the Celtics, with that “nothing to lose so let’s go for it” attitude, looked as if they were going to script another disastrous game 7 ending for the Lakers at home against Boston.
Problem for the Celtics, the Lakers dominated the boards. Bryant himself had 15. So, although they couldn’t score, the Lakers got plenty of second-chance opportunities they converted keeping them in the game.
If you’re a Boston fan, you hated it, which is understandable. If you’re Lakers fan you, obviously, loved it. If you’re a basketball junkie, you had to have been impressed by it for the simple fact they usually don’t play like that in an NBA game.
Plenty were complaining because of the lack of offense in the game. That’s what happens when both teams play good defense adjusting on the fly and one team dominates the glass. Remember what coaching icon Pat Riley likes to say.
63 champions in the history of “the Association” and these two teams have combined to win 32 of them. Boston has won 17 titles in 21 tries while the L.A./Minneapolis Lakers have earned 15 championships in a staggering 30 tries.
Think about it. The Lakers have represented the West in almost half of the finals while the Celtics have represented the East in a third of them. INCREDIBLE!
This is the 12th time these franchises have clashed head-to-head for the title with the Celtics winning a lop-sided nine of the first eleven including the one two seasons ago.
Lakers came out with purpose in game one of the 12th installment, their 31st finals appearance, at Staples Center in Los Angeles Thursday night beating the Celtics, 102-89.
The Lakers had everything going especially on the defensive end looking like the Celtics usually do……………STRAIGHT UP, PHYSICAL!
Meanwhile, the Celtics looked old, beat up and just plain tired.
The Lakers out-rebounded the Celtics, 42-31. The Lakers limited the Celtics to one for 10 from the three-point line and took the all-important “second chance points” category, 16-0. Quite uncharacteristic of the Celtics.
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant led everyone with 30 points. Pau Gasol had 23 points to go along with 14 rebounds. Finals “rookie” Ron Artest had 15 points but gave Celtics forward Paul Pierce fits on the defensive end. Pierce did have 24 points but those were mostly in garbage time. Same goes for Kevin Garnett. He had 16 for Boston but looked like his knees were smarting and was completely out-played by Gasol.
OK. Remember, it’s just game one. In four other meetings between the two teams in the finals, the Lakers have taken the first game only to see the Celtics come back to win three of their 17 championships.
You can bet the Celtics will play more like themselves come game two Sunday back at Staples. They’re champions and Celtic Pride is quite a force when summoned.
Expect game two to be much closer and much more physical on both ends. Expect the Lakers to get a hard-fought win and a two-zero series lead going into Boston for the middle three games of the series next week. ENJOY!