Lakers survive, win Game 3

Despite a Goran Dragic-type effort from Kyle Korver (9-of-10 from the field, 5-for-5 from 3PT, 23 points), the Lakers were able to edge the Jazz, 110-109, and take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

The Lakers got 35-4-7 from Kobe, but it was Ron Artest (20 points, including a surprising 4-of-7 from 3PT) and Derek Fisher (20 points) that kept the Lakers in the game for much of the second half.

This game featured a great stretch of shooting late in the fourth quarter. Check out this series of shots:

2:25 Lamar Odom makes 24-foot three point jumper (Lakers lead, 101-100)
2:10 Paul Millsap makes layup (Jazz lead, 102-101)
1:43 Kobe Bryant makes 18-foot two point shot (Lakers lead, 103-102)
1:23 Kyle Korver makes 24-foot three point jumper (Jazz lead, 105-103)
0:54 Kobe Bryant makes 24-foot three point jumper (tied at 106)
0:42 Deron Williams makes 18-foot jumper (Jazz lead, 108-106)
0:28 Derek Fisher makes 24-foot three point jumper (Lakers lead, 109-108)

If you’re counting, that’s six made jumpshots from 18+ feet to tie or take the lead in less than two minutes. That is some seriously good shooting.

Unfortunately for the Jazz, that’s where it ended as both Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams missed jumpers that would have given Utah the lead with less than 0:10 to play.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Ron Artest vs. Phil Jackson


Late Thursday night, Artest’s account posted a string of tweets expressing frustration with Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

The first unedited tweet, posted around 9 p.m. PT, read: “Finally Phil Jackson didn’t mention me in media before talking me Now I can build on game 2. Hopefully he talks to me before the media.”

The next unedited tweet, posted approximately an hour later, read: “Ever since phil mention things about me in media before coming to me first I was weird . So every pray he can somehow close his yapper.”

Artest’s brother claimed that the account was hacked, but when a reporter paraphrased the tweets and asked Artest about it, he said:

“No, no, you have to read it exactly. That’s exactly what I said? If you can’t get it exact, then I can’t answer it.”

“I’m here to talk about basketball, basketball, all basketball,” Artest said. “Twitter is for my fans, not for [media].”

For his part, Jackson says that he spoke directly to Artest about the issue at hand — his terrible three-point shooting.

“So, you know, we expect him to break out of it at some point, but he’s got to be discriminative in what’s a good shot and what isn’t.”

Jackson, who described Artest as a “naïve, innocent lamb” during the first-round series against Oklahoma City said, “I guess he might be a little sensitive,” on Friday.

“I usually tell the truth,” Jackson said of his thought process behind commenting about his players to the media. “I usually don’t pull punches, so, I mean, a person has to withstand that. If they’re hearing it on TV in front of a massive audience, they must understand that their coach saying it to them will be probably a little bit more harmful, a little more hurtful perhaps. They have to be tough enough to take that and move on.”

Jackson tweaks, he doesn’t tweet. He relishes needling everyone — players, coaches, officials — through the media, though I doubt he’s ever run into someone like Ron Artest. The Zen Master should tread carefully.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Jack Nicholson b*tches out a ref [video]

It must be fun being a referee having to listen to partisan fans, many of whom don’t know a thing about basketball, cuss at you about “missing” a foul call.

It has to be even more fun when it’s the guy who ordered the Code Red in “A Few Good Men.”

Lakers hold off Jazz to win Game 1, 104-99

The Lakers led by eight heading into the fourth quarter, but with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer out of the game, the Utah reserves took advantage of the Lakers’ bench, going on an 8-1 run to start the period. After Kobe and Gasol returned, the Jazz managed to build a four-point lead with four minutes to play, but the Lakers went on a 15-6 run (featuring 11 of Kobe’s 31 points) to put the game away.

These two teams actually remind me of the Bucks/Hawks first round matchup. Like the Hawks, the Lakers are more talented, yet they tend to lose focus during (sometimes long) stretches of the game. The Jazz are a more talented version of the Bucks — a team that is going to play its heart out from start to finish. What this means is that the Jazz are probably going to have a chance to steal a game or two in L.A. They almost stole Game 1, but five straight missed shots with under four minutes to play did the Jazz in.

Like Jeff Van Gundy said, when it gets into crunch time, the Jazz need to double off of Ron Artest and force Kobe to give the ball up. If Utah can put the ball in Artest’s hands, they’ll have a better chance to win. This may go against Jerry Sloan’s straight man-to-man philosophy, but I’d rather see an uncomfortable Artest launching long jumpers than let Kobe go one-on-one with Wes Matthews.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

2009 NBA Playoff Power Rankings v2.0

At least three games have been played in each playoff series, so it’s a good time to update the power rankings (where I list each team and their relative chances of advancing to the next round and/or the Finals.)

Click here for the first edition of these rankings.


16. Pistons
Detroit was unceremoniously swept by the surging Cavs, who won by an average of 15.5 points. This series was never in doubt, and went just like everyone (but the Detroit faithful/demented) thought it would after the Allen Iverson trade blew up in Joe Dumars’ face. Assuming they let AI and Rasheed Wallace walk, the Pistons will have a ton of cap space to work with this summer (or next, if they choose to wait). The core looks to be Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton. Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson appear to be ready to play heavier minutes, but the Pistons still need to add a free agent big man over the next two summers. Carlos Boozer will be this year’s free agent prize, at least as far as bigs go, while Anderson Varejao, Brandon Bass and Drew Gooden are cheaper options. It’s going to be interesting to see how Dumars reshapes this roster — he gave up any chance at a deep playoff run by trading Chauncey Billups away.


15. Jazz
Down 3-1 with two games remaining in L.A., the Jazz are in serious trouble. They desperately needed Game 4 to have a chance and without it, they…um…don’t have (much of) a chance. Utah faces a tumultuous offseason, though they can rest easy that they have one of the few franchise players in the league in Deron Williams. Carlos Boozer plans to test free agency, so the team will need to decide if he’s worth a long-term commitment or if they should turn the reins over to Paul Millsap, who was actually more productive on a per-minute basis. (For the record, if Boozer wants more than $12 million a year, and he probably will, I’d let him walk.)

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