All the Los Angeles Lakers needed was a bit of hometown loving, and that’s exactly what they got in Tuesday nights 87-81 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center in downtown LA. Kobe Bryant scored 36 points and led the Lakers to a key victory pulling the series to a 2-1 Boston edge. The win improves LA’s home record during the 2008 playoffs to a perfect 9-0 and again forces the question about whether the Celtics road struggles will continue.
Last night’s display by Bryant clearly showed any doubters why he is in fact the reigning MVP of the NBA. Boston knew the man could flat out play, but they had yet to see him take over a game the way he did Tuesday. When he was given space, he’d nail the open jumper. The minute the double teams came flying his way, he was able to distribute the ball to teammates for high percentage looks. On the defensive end he was able to shut down Paul Pierce, holding him to only 6 points on a 2-14 shooting effort.
The clutch performance could not have come at a better time because no team in the NBA Finals has even been able to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a championship.
“What I tried to do with my teammates is just stay calm,” Bryant said. “It wasn’t the end of the world. They did a great job of defending home court. We knew we had to come here and do the same. They feed off of my confidence and I have all the confidence in the world that we can come here and win.”
During the first quarter, neither team jumped out to a large lead and both looked a little jet lagged coming out of the gates. The Lakers missed their first five shots from the floor while the Celtics started the game only 1-8 from the field. After a huge free throw discrepancy in Game 2 in which Boston attempted 38 compared to LA’s 10, the Lakers were able to get to the line 14 times in the first quarter, setting the tone early.
“We just wanted to play,” said Bryant, whose only blemish on the night was an 11-of-18 performance from the foul line. “I don’t think anyone was feeling desperate.”
With 4:01 left on the clock in first half, Kobe calmly knocked down an 18 foot jump shot which opened up the Lakers largest first half lead making the score 40-29. The Celtics were able to put together a little run to close the quarter and the halftime score had LA on top 43-37.
Boston was able to control play in the 3rd quarter outscoring LA 25-17 to take a 62-60 lead heading into the last frame on play. Ray Allen paced the Celtics scoring 10 in the quarter and finished with 25 on the night hitting five 3-point shots, but it was not enough to overcome Kobe and the Lakers 4th quarter effort.
“As bad as we played, we still had opportunities,” Allen said. “That’s the positive. We can look at it, but I don’t think on either side of the floor we were good. We had so much more room for improvement.”
For the first five minutes of the 4th quarter both teams traded bucket for bucket. The momentum would shift on a pivotal shot that came from Bryant with 6:55 left to play. With the Celtics leading by two points at 68-66, a slow defensive rotation left the MVP wide open at the top of the key. Kobe hadn’t been this wide open since he participated in the 3-point shoot out competition a few years ago during the All-Star weekend. Knowing the importance of the shot, he was able to completely collect himself before draining the 3-point trey which would put LA up for good.
A quick spurt capped by a Pau Gasol tip in would make the score 77-70 in favor of the Lakers and things began looking grim for the Celtics. Coming out of a timeout, Boston was able to roll off six quick points and trim the score back to a two point game, 78-76 with 2:41 left to play.
After a missed 3-point attempt by Sasha Vujacic, the Celtics had the ball with a little over 2 minutes left to play and a chance to tie the score. A broken offensive set resulted in an off balance runner by reserve PG Eddie House that did not fall. The Lakers made them pay for the poor choice in shot selection on the next possession. Vujacic redeemed himself and nailed a 3-point jump shot right in front of the Celtics bench, putting LA back up by 5 with under 2 minutes to play.
With lots of playoff experience, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was able to calm his young roster down and help them hold on for the Game 3 victory.
“Kobe was fantastic but I thought Vujacic was the key to the game,” Jackson said. “I said before we are going to have to win a game when Kobe Bryant plays well. We know that. But when that happens, we have to shut off the other avenues.”
L.A’s defensive intensity improved dramatically with the change of coasts. In Boston, LA had allowed the Celtics to score an average of 103 points per game in Games 1 & 2 of the Finals. Game 3 they limited the Celtics to 81 points and held them to a .349 shooting percentage, their 2nd worst percentage in 23 games of the 2008 playoffs.
The Celtics certainly had plenty of chances to steal this game but every time they pulled close, Bryant was able to take matters into his own hands.
Even though Bryant’s performance was an unbelievable effort, some C’s fans may still have a little bone to pick with coach Doc Rivers. Before last night’s game, reserve PG Eddie House had seen exactly 10 seconds of action over the course of the Celtics four previous playoff wins. Rivers had been using Sam Cassell for the most part in the role of back up PG to starter Rajon Rondo. For whatever reason, Rivers decided to call House’s number last night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Nothing against Eddie House, he’s a great set shooter and can certainly knock down a 3-point shot when he’s open and has the time to set, but what was Doc thinking putting him in the game last night and giving him the green light to fire away? House attempted a ridiculous number of 8 shots in 19 minutes of action. It may not sound that bad if you haven’t been following the C’s playoff run, but here’s some food for thought. Before last night’s game, House had only attempted 6 shots in the previous 8 games in only 17 minutes of combined action. That’s .75 shots and 2.125 minutes per game.
Did we miss something Doc? Was your plan all along to save Eddie for the big game pressure situation with everything on the line? Does that mean you’re thinking about sending Brian Scalabrine in there for Game 4?
One thing is for sure, for the Celtics to win in L.A. they are going to need the Big Three to all produce. In the Game 3 loss, Pierce and Kevin Garnett both had sub par outings and that cannot happen if Boston expects to win. Lets be realistic, Leon Powe is not going to score 21 points a game, nor is Rondo going to dish out 16 assists every night like their Game 2 lines.
The environment in LA is hostile and nothing like that of Boston, but that’s no excuse. Now is the time for the Celtics to simply make the necessary adjustments and shake off the road loss. They’ve shut down Kobe and the Lakers four times already this year, last night he merely got the best of them.
Hats off to Kobe, but lesson learned, don’t let it happen again.
The 2008 NBA Finals were supposed to be all about the match ups. Who would prevail as the dominant leader, Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce? Which big man would own the inside, Kevin Garnett or Pau Gasol? What sharp shooter would rain down perimeter shots, Ray Allen or Sasha Vujacic?
With Boston’s 108-102 Game 2 victory in the books, one match up the Lakers never saw coming was the explosiveness of Celtics’ reserve Leon Powe. In one of the most impressive performances by a bench player in the 2008 playoffs, Powe went off for 21 points on 6-7 shooting in only 15 minutes of action to help lead the Celtics to their second win and a 2-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Powe, who scored a total of 8 points in the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Detroit, made the most of his minutes and provided a huge spark off the bench in Sunday’s win. His performance may have instantly earned him the new title of fan favorite and Celtics broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn may just have to replace his famous “I love Waltah” saying with “I love Leon!”
Although the Celtics came away with an impressive win and head out to LA with a nice 2-0 cushion in the series, lots can be learned from the teams effort, or lack there of at times.
With 7:55 remaining in the game, the Celtics led by 24 points (96-73) and it appeared they would coast to another homecourt win. The purple and yellow jerseys scattered throughout the TD Banknorth Garden began turning around for the exits, probably hoping to catch the red eye back to LA. Over the next 7 minutes, the Lakers went on a serious tear, outscoring Boston 29-8 to make it a 2 point game with 38 seconds left to play.
“We’re happy because we won, but we definitely learned a lesson,” Paul Pierce said.
Aside from Powe’s impressive night, the Celtics were again led by Pierce who finished the game with 28 points and 8 assists. From behind the arc, Pierce was 4-4 on the night and didn’t look at all phased from his Game 1 knee injury. He made a key drive to the hoop with 23 seconds left to play in the game and was fouled hard. Once composed, he confidently stepped up to the line and nailed both free throws to secure a Celtics victory.
The Lakers comeback was too little too late but showed the Celtics that this series is going to be a fight until the end.
“We’ve got to play through the game for 48 minutes, and I didn’t think we did that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we got cute when we got the lead.”
Call Rivers captain obvious, but if the Celtics plan on winning in LA, they will need to protect any lead they can get. The environment will be hostile, the calls will not be going their way, and lets face it, Kobe will not shoot as poorly as he did in the first two games of the Finals.
Bryant finished Game 2 with 30 points on an 11-23 shooting performance but did not come out of his shell until the 4th quarter where he dropped 13 points leading the Lakers comeback.
“We’ve come too far to really sweat being down 2-0,” said Bryant, who scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. “We’re going to go home and handle our business.”
Looking at the box score, one stat that sticks out is the discrepancy in each team’s amount of attempted free throws. Boston got to the charity stripe 38 times compared to LA’s 10 attempts. For the Celtics, Powe actually had more attempts then the entire Lakers team, converting on 9 of 13 foul shots.
“I’ve never seen a game like that in all these years I’ve coached in the finals,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who is going for his 10th title in 11 finals appearances. “Unbelievable.”
Well Phil, believe it. Your team is now in an 0-2 hole that only three teams have ever been able to come back from to win a championship (Boston in 1969, Portland in 1977 and Miami in 2006). Your fearless leader in Kobe Bryant has done nothing but cry to officials which may or may not cost him some of those hometown calls you’re hoping for. Not to mention you’re team is letting the likes of Leon Powe score on uncontested dunks and coast to coast drives. Nothing against Powe, he’s my boy, but come on!
So far, the NBA Finals have been nothing but business for Boston and they aren’t about to let a different time zone change any of that.
“We’re not settling on a 2-0 lead,” Garnett said. “We want to go out there and win two games in L.A.”
Game 3 of the NBA Finals tips off Tuesday evening at 9:00pm EST.
And so, for the Boston Celtics, their quest for GREEN 17 continues. Next stop: Los Angeles. The only thing left to be said…BEAT L.A.!
About one year ago this time, things weren’t looking so hot for the Boston Celtics organization. Boston was coming off a 24-58 season that included a streak of 18 consecutive losses, the death of franchise legend Red Auerbach and the 2nd worst record in the NBA that only resulted in the 5th overall lottery selection.
The Los Angeles Lakers franchise was also in the midst of much turmoil just having been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the 2nd straight season, with superstar guard Kobe Bryant demanding a trade publicly from the front office executives immediately.
How quickly things can change.
The two historic organizations find themselves in the 2008 NBA Finals, facing each other in the championship for the 11th time. The Celtics hold the 8-2 edge in head to head series play but the Lakers have captured the last two match ups in 1985 and 1987.
This rivalry has made the NBA what it is today. The Bird vs. Magic era brought excitement to the league like there had never been before and now both teams are loaded with future hall of famers and leaders like Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.
Last summer, the two NBA All-Stars were playing pickup ball together at UCLA’s gym. Both were frustrated with the outcome of their seasons and knew that trade talks would be likely for both of them.
“I remember being in the gym with Kobe, and me and him were arguing over who was going to get traded first,” Pierce said Monday after the Celtics held their first practice in preparation for the NBA finals.
“He went public about getting traded, … and I was like, ‘Shoot, I’m going to getting traded before you,’ and betting that it would happen. That’s what so crazy, now we’re both here sitting in the finals, where a year ago we were both in the gym.”
Big reasons why both players find themselves 4 wins away from a championship are the acquisitions that were made to get their teams to where they are today. For the Celtics, the important moves were made before the season while the Lakers pulled some strings right at the trade deadline.
Boston acquired SG Ray Allen on draft day via trade and then shortly after made a 7 for 1 player swap to package former league MVP Kevin Garnett into beantown as the newest member to the Celtics organization. And as they say, the rest is history. Combined with the force of Pierce, the three have reenergized basketball fans in Boston for the first time since the mid 80′s. As for the Lakers, they were able to trade for All-Star PF Pau Gasol right before the trade deadline for almost nothing. His acquisition has sparked a 2nd half turnaround that put LA atop the Western Conference.
After the Celtics downed the Detroit Pistons in six games and the Lakers took care of the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in five, the stage is set for what many are calling the best Finals match up in over 25 years.
Lets take a look at the probable match ups between teams and which club has the advantage at each position.
At points guard the Celtics will go with Rajon Rondo and he will be matched up against veteran Derek Fisher. Fisher certainly wins some points for experience but Rondo has been more of a contributing factor offensively dishing out assists and scoring big buckets when needed. The best part about this match up is that if Rondo needs a quick blow, veteran back up Sam Cassell will step right in and provide the veteran experience that Rondo lacks to equal that of Fishers.
ADVANTAGE – BOS
The most important match up of the series will be at the shooting guard position featuring two of the NBA’s premiere perimeter players in Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. Both can flat out shoot the ball and anything within a few steps over the half court line is in their range. Allen’s defense can be suspect at times due to ankle problems, while Kobe has been on the NBA’s Defensive 1st team multiple times. Allen will not be the only one covering the reigning MVP, look for some help from fellow wingman Paul Pierce but their job will be simple, hold Kobe to his averages and let the other Lakers beat you.
ADVANTAGE – L.A.
While Paul Pierce is not helping out with Bryant he’ll have his hands full guarding Lamar Odom. This match up will create problems for both sides because at 6’10″ tall, Odom has a 4 inch height advantage and will try to post up his smaller defender when the opportunity presents itself. However, Pierce has the speed advantage and will create for himself opportunities to take the ball to the hole off the dribble which could put LA’s big men in foul trouble.
ADVANTAGE – EVEN
When it comes to Kevin Garnett, it really does not matter who’s covering him because he’s going to have the advantage regardless. The Lakers will send Vladimir Radmanovic for some KG duty but as we saw in both the Cleveland and Detroit series, it doesn’t matter who’s covering the big man because he can beat you in the paint or from the outside with his 18+ foot jumpers all night long.
ADVANTAGE – BOS
The match up at the center position between Kendrick Perkins and Pau Gasol could be a big factor one of the series. Perkins showed Boston fans that he’s capable of being a beast on the boards against Detroit when he hauled down 16 rebounds and dropped 18 points in their Game 5 win. Gasol lifted LA with a similar effort in their Game 5 win grabbing 19 boards and scoring 12 points. Gasol does have a little better offensive touch then Perkins which makes him more a threat in the paint.
ADANTAGE – LA
The series gets underway on Thursday night in Boston at 9:00pm EST. The home court advantage that the Celtics earned during the regular season may be a huge factor with possible Games 6 & 7 to be played at the TD Banknorth Garden in front of the hometown crowd. LA, who has yet to lose a playoff game at home, will try to steal one of the road before returning home for Games 3, 4 and if needed 5.
As the Lakers go for their 15th banner and the Celtics quest for Green 17 continues one thing that is certain, this match up has the potential to be one of the greatest of all time and all we can do now is enjoy every minute of it.
Celtics vs Lakers NBA Finals tickets now available.
Midway through the 2008 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers sat right in the middle of the pack of all the Western Conference powerhouses. The Rockets were in the midst of reeling off a 20+ game winning streak, the Suns had acquired Shaquille O’Neal and the defending champs in the Spurs were simply on fire. That’s right about when some guy named Kobe decided that it was time to start playing some ball, and he and the Lakers haven’t stopped since.
The reigning MVP dropped 39 points en route to Los Angeles’s 100-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night, securing a spot in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004.
“I think it is a tremendous accomplishment,” Bryant said. “I think the West is extremely tough. We’re all extremely excited and proud about it. Now, it’s time to go on and see if we can’t finish it off.”
The Lakers trailed by 13 points after one quarter and gradually chipped away from the deficit with the help of Bryant’s firepower. At the end of three quarters of play, the Lakers had gained a 1 point advantage on a 3-point field goal by Vladimir Radmanovic (8 pts) that came with :28 seconds left on the game clock. The teams would trade buckets for the first two minutes of play in the 4th quarter before Luke Walton (5 pts) nailed his only 3-pointer of the game giving L.A. the 70-68 edge, a lead they would not lose the rest of the game.
Midseason acquisition Pau Gasol might be the most excited member of this Lakers line-up to be heading to the finals. Halfway through his season he was stuck on an awful Memphis Grizzlies team that was already making golf reservations for their summer plans. A trade right before the deadline moved Gasol into Lakerland and both parties couldn’t be happier with what they got. In yesterday’s win, Gasol netted 12 points and grabbed a playoff career-high 19 rebounds.
The only other Laker in double-figures was veteran forward Lamar Odom. Odom finished with 13 points on a 5 for 10 shooting performance and grabbed 8 rebounds in 34 minutes of action.
“My heart’s still pumping, that adrenaline is still running from the game,” said Odom. “Maybe when I sit down and have something to eat, I’ll realize what just happened. We came out here, played our game, and won. It’s satisfying, but one more step.”
That next step will be against either the Boston Celtics or Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, which begin on June 5th. The Celtics currently hold a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 taking place tonight in Detroit. The Lakers will certainly be watching intently but coach Phil Jackson knows that no matter who the opponent, it will be a challenging series.
“We look at both those opponents (Boston and Detroit) with a great deal of respect and know that we have a great, great hill to climb to be able to finish in the finals and win,” said Jackson who will be going for his 10th NBA championship ring. Currently, he is tied with former Celtics coach and legend Red Auerbach with 9 titles as head coach.
While Jackson credits the Western Conference title win as a team effort, Spurs head coach Greg Popovich points out that his team’s offensive struggles combined with L.A.’s defensive intensity were the keys to them winning the series.
“I thought we did a fine job,” he said. “We just didn’t muster the offense, for a variety of reasons. The fact that we didn’t come through offensively is a disappointment, but part of that is a credit to the Lakers. We just played a team that was better. That’s why the Lakers won. The better team won. You get a seven-game series, you win four games, you’re the best team.”
Tim Duncan’s effort in the loss was outstanding. The former MVP scored 19 points, hauled down 15 boards and dished out 10 assists for a triple-double. It just wasn’t enough to lift the Spurs past Kobe and the rest of the Lakers lineup.
“Just got to gear it up again to go to next year,” Duncan said. “Love what we had this year. We just weren’t good enough through stretches.”
Now all the Lakers can do is sit and wait because their next stop is the 2008 NBA Finals.
It’s always nice to have the luxury of three all-stars in your starting line up but its even nicer when those all-stars combine to score 78 points in the biggest game of the year to date. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have individually had their struggles in the 2008 playoffs but Wednesday night they put the past behind them. The ‘Big Three’ put forth one of their most impressive outings as a trio during the Boston Celtics 106-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics now hold a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 6 on the horizon in Detroit on Friday night.
“We knew the significance of this game,” said Garnett, who dropped 33 in the win, the most he’s scored in the playoffs this year. “You don’t win this game, you put basically yourself in a corner. … They’re experienced, and they’ve been in a lot of pressure situations. Now it’s up to us to go up there and try to get one.”
Ahead by as many as 17 points in the 2nd half, the Celtics looked like they would coast to victory but the stingy Pistons defense began to slowly whittle away the lead, capitalizing on turnovers and missed free throws. Leading the charge was veteran point guard Chauncey Billups who scored 26 points in the game on a 7 for 17 shooting performance in the loss.
“The good thing about it is we’re going home,” said Billups, who took the ball to the basket twice in the final 10 seconds trying to draw a foul that was never called. “We’ve been here before, and we don’t like being in this position, but we’ve fought hard.”
The shot of the night came from Allen who nailed a bucket from the deep corner of the floor right in front of the Pistons bench with less then 2 seconds remaining on the shot clock and only 1:02 left on the game clock. The basket pulled the Celtics ahead 102-99 and sent the TD Banknorth Garden crowd to their feet in jubilation. On the night Allen scored 29 points and was 5-6 from 3-point land.
“My feeling right now is no different than if I scored 10 points and we won the game. It’s a great feeling,” Allen said. “Just winning gives me the greatest joy, regardless of what I’ve done.”
Rounding out the ‘Big Three’, Pierce chipped in scoring 16 points but contributed in a big way by playing great defense on Tayshaun Prince, holding the wingman to only 8 points on the night.
Aside for the trio of all-stars, the rest of Boston’s starting 5 also played outstanding basketball. Starting PG Rajon Rondo dished out 13 assists while scoring 7 points in the win. Kendrick Perkins notched a double-double in the first half alone, actually out rebounding the entire Pistons team at the break 13 to 11. He finished the game with 18 points and 16 boards and understands the importance of winning right now.
“I know our Big Three veteran guys. I know this opportunity doesn’t come much,” Perkins said. “I knew if I was up in age, up in my 30s, and a young fellow was there I’d want him to go all-out for me, too.”
The only Celtics points not scored by a starter came from James Posey’s 3-point field goal with 9:54 left in the 4th quarter making the score at the time 89-78.
The Celtics find themselves now only one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1987 season. Rondo and reserve Glen Davis were 1 year old when that last happened.
One thing is certain, if the ‘Big Three’ continue to play the way they did in Game 5, the Celtics quest for Green 17 could very well become a reality, but first they have to find a way to win one more time against Detroit before sending the team back to the NBA Finals for the first time since the original Big Three were in town.
With the Lakers up 3-1 over the Spurs, the possibility of a Celtics vs Lakers Finals is growing more likely.
You don’t win the MVP award in the NBA for mediocrity, you win it for having clutch performances in the games the that matter most. Welcome to the world of Kobe Bryant.
Tuesday night Bryant put on another impressive display that helped lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 93-91 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. The defeat was the Spurs first loss at home during the 08′ postseason and could not have come at a worse time. The defending NBA Champions now find themselves trailing the series 3-1 and heading back into enemy territory, facing a must win situation.
Bryant dropped 28 points and grabbed 10 boards in the game that put the LA only 1 win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004.
“It is a big step for us,” said Bryant. “Tonight we came out and did a much, much better job to win in this building in this particular game. It’s big for us.”
Up two points with 2 seconds left the Lakers were in situation that called for one more stop to secure the victory. Coming out of a time out, the Spurs ran Brent Barry off of a double screen for the game’s final shot. Barry’s 3-point attempt to win the game did not connect, many believed that he was also fouled in the last ditch effort to pick up the victory.
“That’s not going to get called in the Western Conference finals,” Barry said. “Maybe in the regular season. But that call shouldn’t be called in the Western Conference finals.”
Tim Duncan led all scorers with 29 points while hammering down 17 rebounds but it was not enough to overcome the reigning MVP.
“Obviously we’re in a hole and it’s 3-1,” Duncan said. “It’s one loss and an elimination, but we really feel that if we clean a lot of this stuff up we have an opportunity to get right back in this series.”
Tony Parker and Barry both added 23 points a piece for the Spurs but throughout the game it was the Lakers lineup of youngsters that out hustled and out worked the veterans that just last season tasted what it was like to be crowned NBA Champions.
“I told them at the end of the ballgame, their energy was terrific,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Coming out and responding to a loss and getting a lead … and playing with that kind of energy, I think, carried us over and we responded every time that they came in, tied the ballgame.”
One statistic that San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich and the rest of the Spurs lineup can not be happy about is their rebounding effort as a team. They were out rebounded 46-37 on the night which led to 26 second chance points by the Lakers compared to only 4 for the Spurs. That can not happen again in LA if they expect to pull off a victory.
Game 5 will be on Thursday night at 9pm. The Spurs will look to extend the series at least another game so they can play Game 6 in front of their home crowd, while LA is looking to wrap things up in their own backyard.
One thing is certain; Kobe is going to continue to put up MVP numbers because that’s what MVP’s do. It’s now up to the Spurs to shut down the rest of the Lakers club to keep their hopes of repeating as champions alive.
Lakers vs Spurs Tickets available for all remaining games. Tickets also available for potential Lakers vs Celtics or Lakers vs Pistons NBA Finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers 106-88 victory over the Miami Heat last night extended the team’s winning streak to 10 games, and gave them a one game lead for the best record in the Western Conference standings over the San Antonio Spurs. Since acquiring Pau Gasol, the Lakers have been unstoppable and have proven to the rest of the NBA that they are once again a serious contender for a championship run.
The Lakers do have some tough opponents on the horizon that will challenge their winning streak with competitive games. Tonight they face off against the Portland Trailblazers who have struggled recently but have played well against the West and on Sunday 3/2 they will host the Dallas Mavericks for what should be a dandy. That match up will feature two of the biggest names featured in trades this year in Gasol and Jason Kidd.
With the recent surge, some power rankings have listed the Lakers at the number one spot over the Boston Celtics for the first time all year. In the two meetings of the teams this season, the Celtics were victorious in both games. Things could get interesting come playoff time and the rivalry that hasn’t meant anything in recent years could quickly become the NBA Finals.
The 2008 NBA trade deadline is over and has left some teams feeling confident about making a run into the playoffs, and left others wondering how long it will take the potential talent they traded for to actually turn into the superstars they were hoping they might become.
Sorry Timberwolves fans, but that’s just never going to happen for you.
Unlike years past, the league saw some big names relocate from struggling franchises onto playoff contending teams which is not only great for those organization’s playoff hopes, but its great for the NBA as well. Maybe for one month now we can forget about how overpaid Isaiah Thomas and the Knicks are and focus on the fact that there is actually a race going on in the West this year for the top spot in the playoffs, and the best team is the league, the Celtics, are coming out of the East. Who would have thought?
A huge winner in this years’ trade deadline has to be the L.A. Lakers. Landing Pau Gasol makes them instantly a Western Conference finalist contender. The Lakers have gone 8-1 since they acquired the big man, and that is without a healthy C Andrew Bynum. Pretty much all they had to do to get Gasol was give up Kwame Brown, yea remember him, first pick in the 2001 draft (HA!). That may go down as the worst first pick in the history of the NBA draft, but regardless, dishing him out to Memphis was brilliant because his contract expires at the end of the year anyway.
Another huge trade that was really unexpected, and at this point no one knows how it will pan out for either team, was the Shaquille O’Neal trade to the Phoenix Suns. Shaq is averaging career lows in points and rebounds, hasn’t been completely healthy for two years, and is going to be 36-years old in a few weeks. The Suns gave up former all-star power forward Shawn Marion and a talented point-guard in Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat in exchange for O’Neal. The former league MVP leaves the team with the worst record in the NBA to join the Suns who have the 2nd best record in the West. If neither team makes out in the deal, the person who did was Shaq.
Ben Wallace has found a new place to call home… again. The defensive specialist joins Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after he was dealt from the Chicago Bulls for four players in total including Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden. The Cavs also traded for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Joe Smith so the team chemistry may be off for a few weeks, but hopefully they begin to click before the playoffs. The moves they made are definitely an upgrade, but you may not see the results this season.
The biggest name to move right before the deadline may have been future hall of fame point guard Jason Kidd. Kidd was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in an eight player deal that left the New Jersey Nets hurting…even more then they had already been, but with $3 million dollars more in their pockets. The deal also left the Mavs excited for the second half of the season to get underway with Kidd running the show. Mavericks GM Mark Cuban finally got something he wanted, if he couldn’t buy the Cubs, well at least he could buy Jason Kidd… like Jay-Z really needs the money!
Some other moves that were made that wouldn’t be considered blockbuster deals, but are definitely worth mentioning include the San Antonio Spurs landing PF/C Kurt Thomas from the Seattle Supersonics. It’s not a flashy name, but a good move for the Spurs who needed some more size to compete with Shaq and Gasol who they will now be seeing more often playing in the West.
Mike Bibby was traded to the Atlanta Hawks which is an upgrade at point guard from Tyronne Lue who is now with the Sacramento Kings, and the move shows that Atlanta still has signs of life in them and wants to try and sneak in the eight and final spot for the Eastern Conference playoffs. They will need to play better basketball on the road where they are currently at a pathetic 6-19, but Bibby’s leadership could help turn that around.
So when all is said and done with, who were the biggest winner and loser after this year’s trading deadline?
Biggest Loser: The Minnesota Timberwolves – They traded away Gerald Green whom they had just traded for in the off-season when they gave away Kevin Garnett to the Celtics. It seems like this team has been rebuilding for ten years now, and its not going to stop anytime soon.
Biggest Winner: The Los Angeles Lakers – Pau Gasol is going to take a little pressure off of Kobe Bryant, help their team defense, and be the spark to drive the Lakers to the top spot in the Pacific Division. They didn’t give up hardly anything, and they became instant contenders with his addition.
The final two months of the NBA season are going to be filled with lots of action so make sure to contact Ace Ticket if you want to be there and a part of it all!