Dispatches from Lisa Leslie Court
I'm not going to look it up, but this might be the first time media availability for the NBA Finals has ever taken place on WNBA hardwood. But with the Sparks ready to crank it up tonight against the (hold on while I look this up...) Detroit Shock, the Lakers floor had been replaced with the confetti sprinkled sidelines of the LLC. Good for her, by the way, for having her own court. Not even Magic has that. Anyway, there were a few basic themes repeated by players from both teams over the course of the confab.
- Both teams felt they could have played much better, making it hard to take away too many lessons from the evening.
- Both teams suffered from a lack of production from members of their respective Big Threes.
- Both teams know the series is far from over. The Lakers weren't overly proud of themselves, while the Celtics weren't exactly the picture of panic. Each team had reason to believe better things were ahead.
- The Lakers were more aggressive and ramped up their intensity.
- Fatigue might have been an issue for the Celtics, and contributed to the raggedy play overall. PJ said last night he believed KG ran out of juice, Pierce admitted he might have burned through energy faster than normal, given all the hype surrounding playing in front of his home town fans, and a cross-country flight without an extra off day hurt, too. Doc Rivers burned more TOs than normal, to try and combat fatigue. Thursday should be a sharper effort all around.
Having had a chance to reflect, Walden Pond style, on Tuesday's L.A. win, I'm starting to find more encouraging signs for the Lakers. On my List of Important Things for the purple and gold to figure out heading into Game 3, I'd have said (more with the lists?) 1) Find a way to get Kobe going. 2) Shore up the defense. 3) Get Lamar Odom going. Well, as that great poet Meatloaf once said, two out of three ain't bad. Kobe had 19 points and 12 free throws by the end of the first half. The Lakers held the Celtics to 35% from the floor, limited Paul Pierce to six points, and clamped down on KG to the tune of 6-21 from the floor. That's pretty good.
Some of LA's defensive adjustments made a difference. Kobe's time on Rajon Rondo helped limit the water bug's ability to roam free in the lane, and PJ was pleased with the work he did on Pierce down the stretch. Pau Gasol was able to keep KG off the post (or Doc wasn't able to get him there), Ronny Turiaf was effective against him as well. As a team, the Lakers were able to play a cohesive defensive game. It was on that end that the Lakers made their greatest improvement. Granted, it'll be tough to hold Pierce to another 2-14 night, but if the Lakers can continue to do what they did Tuesday night for the rest of the series, they'll find some success.
The third issue, Odom, remains a problem. For his part, LO is clearly frustrated but isn't going to give up. "You have to persevere. Right now it's about the L.A. Lakers, not about Lamar Odom. If I could just stay on the court to help the team, whether it's rebounding or making plays. I just have to stay on the court," he said. "I wouldn't call them careless (fouls). I think I'm just trying to protect the rim as much as possible, if there's penetration, stepping up, trying to wall up, but getting called for the foul. So maybe I need to get more aggressive and try to make a play on the ball, instead of just trying to wall up."
"You just keep playing basketball. Once you give enough hustle, things go your way."
Odom felt he was still able to be aggressive when he was on the floor, going at the hole late, but having trouble finishing. No question, though, his inability to avoid personals has hurt him in the series. (And as an aside, I think LO's biggest problem isn't the foul calls contesting shots, but on loose balls and charges. He's drawn too many whistles being on the wrong end of contested layups. Discretion is often the better part of valor, and LO needs to find that balance, and make sure all his fouls count.) Finding some rhythm would help.
"It's tough when you're in foul trouble, or you can't get those regular minutes where you can get yourself in a groove," Luke Walton said. "Lamar is definitely a rhythm player. There's some guys who can step on a court and make jumpers all day. Lamar has to get in the flow of the game and get going. He wasn't able to do it, a lot of it having to do with the foul trouble he was in all game."
Said assistant coach Jim Cleamons, "He hasn't had a lot of success, but at the same point of time, we ask Lamar to do a lot of different things. Lamar's kind of our jack of all trades. He hasn't quite found the rhythm to do what we need him to do to lessen the burden of both Pau and Kobe. Last night Pau didn't have a good game, but the good thing about it was they both kept playing and got rebounds for us... We're asking LO to come off of Perkins- and Perkins is a moose in there- all these things we're asking them to do, and adjustments, the best thing you can do as a basketball player is just react. So we're asking them maybe to do too much thinking and not enough reacting. But I don't think our assignments will differ, we'll just ask (Odom) to continue to do it better, and hopefully (Odom and Gasol) will feel more comfortable with what we're asking them to do.
-Download jim_cleamons_6.11 II.mp3
Other news and notes:
- Rajon Rondo said he's sore, but should be able to play despite a bum ankle. "It hurts a lot, but it's not too painful. I have 24 hours and hopefully with the treatment I'm getting, I'll be fine." Nothing a little extra tape can't fix, he hopes. Right now, he put himself at about 70%, for whatever that's worth.
Okay, maybe I should have left it at "note."
Anyway, more interviews and whatnot to come later.