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Wednesday , Jun , 16 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Do-or-Die: Bryant and Lakers ‘man up’ to force game-seven against Celtics

Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 17 points and 13 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers emphatically extended the NBA finals to a decisive seventh game with a 89-67 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 on Tuesday night.

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: Two days ago, Kobe Bryant demanded his teammates 'man up and play'. Well, the Los Angeles Lakers - both individually and collectively - fulfilled his request on Tuesday evening.

The purple-and-gold dominated every aspect of game six, building an early lead through tough defense, infectious hustle, and inspired play. The Celtics never mounted a serious challenge and the Lakers cruised through the second half to an easy win.

The difference between games five and six was obvious: Bryant had help. Loads of it.

For instance, co-star Pau Gasol had a double-double, but - best of all - the Spaniard imposed his will down-low; Ron Artest hit shots; Lamar Odom stopped complaining about the flu and got active; and Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Sasha Vujacic provided energy off the bench.

Two specific plays stand out. First, Artest was so confident he over-dribbled and still sank an improbable fall-back shot. Second, Farmar out-hustled Celtic Rajon Rondo for a loose ball by sacrificing his body and diving on the floor.

Bryant aside, no Laker looked confident or sacrificed in game-five.

As a group, L.A. played superb defense. They challenged every shot. They provided helped. They got stops. They won the battle of the boards. And they held the Celtics to 67 points, the second lowest total in NBA Finals history.

Meanwhile, Boston resembled a team with a one game cushion. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo were outplayed by the Lakers' big guns. The bench - which had been so effective earlier in the series - looked awestruck.

Of course, Kendrick Perkins' injury didn't help. The rough and tumble post sprained his knee early in the first quarter and never returned. His status for game-seven is unknown.

With or without Perkins, the green-and-white must re-establish their presence in the paint and show greater urgency on Thursday.

In fact, the Celtics should consider Bryant's advice and 'man up'. Or the Lakers will win what has become a one game, do-or-die NBA Finals and will hoist the Larry O'Brien championship trophy.

Got thoughts on game six? And what's your prediction for Thursday's game-seven?             

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Tuesday , Jun , 08 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Lamar gone MIA? How the Lakers find Odom

These have been forgettable games for Lamar Odom, a sixth man gone asunder in the most important series of the season.

The Lakers aren't playing Phoenix any longer, as Odom could definitely attest, the 14 points and 11.8 rebounds he averaged in the Western Conference finals apparently a thing of the past now that the Lakers are playing Boston in the NBA Finals.

Odom had a five-point, five-foul debacle in Game 1 that somehow got worse Sunday in Game 2, when he finished with three points and five fouls in the Lakers' 103-94 loss.

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: He is the Los Angeles Lakers’ barometer.

When Lamar Odom has his A-game, the Lakers are unbeatable. No other team can bring a versatile, play all five positions type off the bench?

But Odom is somewhat of an enigma. Most of the time, he's brilliant. Some of the time, he disappears.

For instance, former coach and ABC broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy often calls the four-man a top thirty player in the NBA.

At times, such praise is warranted. Last year, he was brilliant as a sixth man for the purple-and-gold. And years ago, he looked like the second coming of Magic Johnson when he led an upstart Miami Heat squad to the second round.

Odom's reputation for going MIA prompted Phoenix Suns star Amar’e Stoudemire to call his 19 point, 19 rebound performance in game one of the Western Conference Finals 'lucky'.

Unfortunately Odom has vanished through the first two games of the NBA Finals (he's averaging a sub par 4 points and 4 rebounds). This doesn’t bode well for the Lakers, so here’s how Coach Jackson fixes the situation:

1) Go to Odom early and often. The coaches must put him in the game no later than half way through the first quarter.

2) Get him involved. Derek Fisher or Kobe Bryant, the veteran leaders, should call a play or two for him in the half court set.

3) ‘Run, Lamar, Run’. Odom needs to use his length and athleticism to score easy points in transition.

4)  Get on the glass. Odom is at his best when grabbing rebounds. The other parts of his game follows suit. 

Got thoughts on how the Lakers get Odom going? 

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Tuesday , Jun , 01 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Why we love a Celtics-Lakers Final: was Paul Pierce faking or hurt in the game one of 2008 Finals?

HoopsVibe's Quick Call: Like you, HoopsVibe News loves having the Celtics and Lakers in the NBA Finals because of the controversy. 

For instance, in 2008, you'll remember these two met, clashed, and fought for championship glory. The mighty green-and-white of Boston prevailed, in part, because of Paul Pierce's heroics in game one.

The All-Star injured his knee, but - in a moment that reminded many of Willis Reed emerging from the Madison Square Garden tunnel to lead the New York Knicks to victory on a sprained ankle - returned to lead the Celtics' comeback.

Was it really heroic?

Of course, there were doubters, especially amongst Laker-nation. They felt Pierce exaggerated the injury. They felt he wanted to set the stage for his dramatic return.

Perhaps.

Others, however, believed Pierce displayed tenacity and guts by playing through the pain. And Boston fans see it as the defining moment of his proud career.

The Truth, pun intended, may be somewhere in the middle.

Was Pierce's return in 2008 acting or heroics? Was he faking or hurt? Watch the clips below and get at us in the comment box below with thoughts.  

(The case for Pierce faking!) 

(The case for Pierce having a legit injury!)

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Monday , May , 31 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Ron Artest’s greatest regret: ‘bailing out on that Pacer team’

"The biggest regret of my life, really, is bailing out on that Pacer team," Artest said. "I mean, outside not going to church every single Sunday, bailing out on that Pacer team is my biggest regret. Every time I see Jermaine, every time I see Steve [Jackson] and Jamaal [Tinsley] ... I get a little bit of a feeling when I see Bird, because he was such a great player and I respect him so much. So I get that feeling when I see Bird. I feel like a coward. I feel like I don't even belong in their presence, really."

"When I saw Jermaine [this season], I felt like I didn't even belong in the same room as him," Artest said. "I felt like a coward. I don't like feeling like a coward, and I feel like a coward. That's the biggest regret of my life. Steve Jackson, Jermaine, Jamaal, even Jeff [Foster] -- a blue-collar guy like him, put his life on the line for us on the court, and I totally disrespected him. And of course Reggie. I was in a position to win a championship, Reggie was in position, and I bailed out on Reggie. I feel like a coward. A big-time coward. It's hard for me to even speak to them, hard for me to see them."

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HoopsVibe's Quick Call: Love him or hate him, Ron Artest is honest and his heart seems to be in the right place.

After all, few athletes in the cut throat, macho world of pro sports would publicly admit to such feelings, especially about an incident that took place years ago with the Indiana Pacers.

Still, it's great Artest understands the impact his actions have on others. And, in some strange way, it's hard not to cheer for him -regardless of what you think about the Los Angeles Lakers.

Got thoughts on Ron-Ron's comments? Get at us in the opinion box below.        

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Sunday , May , 30 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Video: Why Kobe Bryant ‘will Kill’ Sasha Vujacic

HoopsVibe's Call: It was The Slovenian Elbow.

With the Los Angeles Lakers up 91-76 and on their way to a fourth and decisive victory in the Western Conference Finals, Sasha Vujacic got personal, throwing an elbow at countryman and mortal enemy Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic.

Vujacic and Dragic - both hailing from Slovenia, a tiny republic on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean - often resemble Hollywood socialites with their beef both on-and-off court.

Anyway, the refs caught Vujacic's elbow, assessed a flagrant foul and, suddenly, the Suns had enough energy for a fourth-quarter charge. In a post-game interview with Craig Sager, Kobe Bryant said he would 'kill' The Machine (Vujacic) for such a lapse in judgement.

Check out our grainy video and get at us with thoughts on Vujacic and Dragic's feud.

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Sunday , May , 30 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Kobe and Lakers oust Suns, face Celtics in NBA Finals

Get ready, Boston, for a rematch with Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant wrapped up a magnificent series with 37 points, Ron Artest added 25 and the Lakers held off the Phoenix Suns 111-103 on Saturday night to win the Western Conference finals.

The Lakers and Celtics, the NBA's premier teams for much of the league's history, will meet in the finals for the 12th time with Game 1 Thursday night in Los Angeles.

"We'll see how much we matured," Bryant said. "They challenged us extremely well in the finals a couple years ago. Now is a chance to see how much we've grown."

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HoopsVibe's Quick Call: The Phoenix Suns' zone, fast tempo, and affinity for the three-point shot wasn't enough because the Los Angeles Lakers were simply better and deserved to advance to the NBA Finals.

For instance, the Suns' fourth quarter charge was put out by Kobe Bryant, who nailed two clutch jumpers, even though Grant Hill was playing air tight defense. After sinking the second jumper, Bryant even gave Suns coach Alvin Gentry a friendly tap and stretched his arms in celebration.   

The Lakers will now face the Boston Celtics in a classic finals match-up.

These two teams met in the 2008 NBA Finals, with the Celtics prevailing in six games because of their superior toughness down-low.

The 2010 championship will also be decided in the paint. Expect Boston to try and impose their will with bigs like Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, and Rasheed Wallace, while L.A. will be anxious to show they can mix it up in the middle.

Got thoughts on a Boston-Los Angeles NBA Finals? Come back to HoopsVibe for more Finals coverage.   

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Saturday , May , 29 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Will L.A. Lakers make Alvin Gentry and Phoenix Suns sick in game six?

HoopsVibe's Quick Call: It would have been understandable if this was Alvin Gentry's reaction to Jason Richardson forgetting to box-out and allowing Ron Artest to win game five of the Western Conference Finals with a bank shot at the buzzer.

However, J-Rich's mishap wasn't the cause of the Phoenix Suns' sideline boss coming down with a case of gag reflex.

Instead, Gentry got up close and personal with the trash because of an upset stomach during the second quarter of Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Watch the clip, if you like, and tell us if Gentry will be need the Pepto Bismol for game six of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Suns.  

(Charles Barkley: That is what you get for eating deep fried avocado.)

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Saturday , May , 29 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Ron Artest believes Steve Nash has ‘no respect for us’

Los Angeles coach coach Phil Jackson and Game 5 hero Ron Artest had different takes on comments made by Steve Nash.

"Maybe we deserved this game, maybe we didn't," Nash said during a postgame news conference Thursday night. "But we lost. And they held home court. We'll go back and do the same and we'll come back here for Game 7."

Jackson said he was not offended.

"What else is he going to say?" Jackson asked. "'We're going to go home and lose?'"

Fresh off his game-winning shot in Game 5, Artest took the comments another way.

"That's like no respect," Artest said after Lakers practice Friday afternoon. "No respect. No respect for us."

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HoopsVibe's Quick Call: Ron Artest has a case of the 'Aretha Franklins' and he's blaming Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash.

The forward believes Nash doesn't respect the L.A. Lakers because he suggested the Suns may have deserved a better fate in game five. Of course, Artest was the hero Thursday with a last second bank shot that gave the purple-and-gold the win.

As usual, Artest's perspective is unique. Nash likely meant no offence and Lakers coach Phil Jackson interpreted his comments as such.

Oh yeah, it's worth noting Artest was late for Friday's practice. No word on whether his tardiness showed a lack of respect.    

Is Ron Artest right? Did Steve Nash disrespect the Lakers?

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Thursday , May , 27 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

L.A. Lakers must defend against Phoenix Suns

The Lakers' swagger is more of a stagger after consecutive losses in the Western Conference finals.

After leaving town last week to chants of ``We want Boston,'' Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol realize they won't even get the chance to defend their NBA title unless Los Angeles starts defending the Phoenix Suns.

Although Gasol says Game 5 on Thursday night is ``a must-win for us,'' the champions' California cool shows few signs of cracking, beyond Bryant's grumbling about missed defensive assignments.

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HoopsVibe's Call:  The Los Angeles Lakers have to get back to defending.

Look for the world champions to focus on getting stops, especially since they've struggled with their shooting against the Phoenix Suns' zone.

However, the Lakers hold the advantage. They're more talented. And two of the next three games will be played in the friendly confines of Staples Centre.

Still, as the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon pointed out last night during TNT's halftime show, these Suns aren't afraid; they can score in the halfcourt and play defense, too (even if it's a zone).

One thing is certain: expect a classic finish between L.A. and Phoenix.

Got thoughts on game five, six, and possibly seven? Let us know in the comment box below.  

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Tuesday , May , 25 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

End of L.A. Zen: Will Phil Jackson leave Lakers for Bulls or Nets?

"There has been no direct contact between Bulls officials and Jackson, the sources told Broussard, but people close to both parties have spoken and come away with the belief that Jackson would be open to a potential reunion in Chicago next season.

Gar Forman, the Bulls' general manager, refused to comment on the club's coaching search when reached Monday night by telephone.

The Bulls are not alone in registering interest in a coaching reunion with Jackson. NBA coaching sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein on Tuesday that the New Jersey Nets have made similar back-channel inquiries about their chances of luring Jackson away from the Los Angeles Lakers at season's end."

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HoopsVibe's Call: Money and power.

These are the reasons Coach Phil Jackson could leave the Los Angeles Lakers when his contract expires at season's end. Jerry Buss, the team's owner, wants the Hall of Fame sideline boss to reportedly take a $5.0 million salary reduction next season.

Jackson is earning $12.5 million for 2009-10, the last year on his contract. Buss hopes he'll do the exact same job in 2010-11 for $7.5 million.

There's also a power struggle going on. Buss is aging. He named his son, Jim, as successor -even though his daughter, Jeanie, enjoyed great success in the team's marketing department. Rumor has it Jeanie was passed over for the Lakers' top job because her long-term partner is Jackson.

Jackson, health permitting, has repeatedly said he wants to continue coaching the purple-and-gold. He's settled out west; his team will contend for years.

Still, with a huge pay cheque available and the chance to partner with a top free agent, Jackson could conceivably go back on his word. 

Will Jackson leave the Lakers? Get at us in the comment box below with thoughts.        

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Tuesday , May , 18 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Lamar Odom’s length gives Suns fits, Lakers win game one

"Even on a balky knee, Kobe Bryant had no problem giving the Los Angeles Lakers an early leg up in the Western Conference finals.

Bryant scored 40 points, Lamar Odom added 19 points and 19 rebounds, and the Lakers opened the series with ruthless offensive efficiency in a 128-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.

Pau Gasol had 21 points for the top-seeded Lakers, who won their seventh straight playoff game and snapped the Suns' six-game streak with a phenomenal second half highlighted by Bryant's 21-point third quarter.

The defending NBA champions beat the third-seeded Suns at their own uptempo game when necessary, fluidly running the court to set up baskets for Bryant in his sixth straight 30-point game. Bryant then rested his sore knee for most of the fourth quarter in the 11th 40-point game of his playoff career."

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HoopsVibe’s Call: The headlines, news stories, and highlights will give most of the credit to Kobe Bryant, who tallied 40 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in the L.A. Lakers’ game one win over the Phoenix Suns.

Fair enough. Bryant, however, wasn’t the difference maker. Lamar Odom’s length was.

The ultra versatile forward dropped an impressive 19 points and 19 rebounds, using his lanky frame to give the Phoenix Suns fits.
 
For instance, during one sequence in the second half, Mr. Khloe Kardashian grabbed two impressive offensive rebounds before drawing a goaltending charge against Amar’e Stoudemire.

Odom’s fine play propelled the purple-and-gold to the NBA championship last season. And the Lakers are a different team when their chubby cheeked reality star brings his A-game.

How important was Odom to the Lakers winning game one against the Suns ? Get at HoopsVibe News with thoughts in the comment box below.