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Friday , Jun , 18 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Sweet Repeat: Bryant and Lakers win game seven and defend NBA Title

Beating Boston for the first time in a Game 7, the Lakers came up champions again after trailing in the last quarter of the last game of their season.

Kobe Bryant, the finals MVP, scored 23 points despite 6-of-24 shooting and the Lakers won their 16th NBA championship Thursday night, dramatically rallying to beat the  Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game 7 of the NBA finals.

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call:  In game-seven of the NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers showed that defense wins championships.

After all, tonight’s game was supposed to be a dream match-up between the Celtics and Lakers, but – at least on the offensive end – it resembled a bit of nightmare.

Both teams couldn’t execute their offensive sets. Both teams couldn’t hit shots. So both teams dug-in, defended, and battled.

Take the victorious Lakers: Kobe Bryant, the Finals MVP, shot a horrendous 6-for-24 from the floor, but grabbed 15 huge rebounds; Pau Gasol pulled in 18 tough rebounds, which offset his missed chippies and free throws; and Ron Artest – who thanked his psychiatrist in a classic Ron-Ron post-game interview – hit clutch shots, however, his greatest contribution was battling Celtic superstar Paul Pierce.

As a group, the purple-and-gold overcame a 13-point second-half deficit and won their second consecutive championship by getting stops. For instance, they held the Celtics to just 79 points on 40% shooting from the floor.

Lamar Odom sparked the turnaround. The forward entered the game in the third quarter with the Lakers trailing 49-37 and looking desperate.

Odom used his considerable length and versatility to score, rebound, and most importantly, provide energy. And his contribution was far greater than his modest stat line of 7 points and 7 rebounds.   

Boston led for most of the game and looked capable of pulling off the upset to win their second championship in three years.

Their offense went cold for long stretches of the second half. For instance, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the Celtics’ top scorers, were a combined 8-for-29 from the floor.

And the talented bench – which so often provided a lift when the starters struggled – had little impact. Of course, the reserves were short-handed with Rasheed Wallace replacing the injured Kendrick Perkins in the starting-five.

Tonight, Bryant’s Lakers defeated the Celtics for the first time in a game-seven duel, something greats like Jerry West and Magic Johnson failed to accomplish.

Winning back-to-back championships cements this team’s place in history. And their leader and best player, Bryant, keeps solidifying his standing as an all-time great.

And the Lakers, the NBA’s glamour team, achieved this feat with grimy, blue-collar defense.

Got thoughts on the Lakers winning game-seven and consecutive championships?

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Thursday , Jun , 17 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Game-Seven Prediction: Lakers 95, Celtics 88.

The Lakers have the best player, but Boston's depth of big-time playmakers will prevail in a game like this. I count eight Celtics -- the four current or former All-Stars in their starting lineup, plus Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson’s and little-used Michael Finley, a three-point shooter with the potential to become this game's Steve Kerr -- who have it in them to make the big shot. The absence of Kendrick Perkins may create more offense for the Celtics, and they'll make up for his rebounding with a team effort led by Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Anticipate nothing less than a tightly wound classic played to a tempo that suits Boston.

Click here for Ian Thomsen's official game seven prediction and more analysis from the CNNSI crew.

HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call:
The Boston Celtics are deserving of respect.

Consider their road to the NBA Finals. First, they took out Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat -despite some questionable tactics from Kevin Garnett. They made the Cleveland Cavaliers – the NBA’s best team in the regular season – implode, which, unfortunately, gave us an extra month of The LeBron Watch. They then coolly took out the Orlando Magic, the reigning Eastern Conference champions, in six games.

This was a most improbable run for a club that was supposedly dead, gone, and over at mid-season. Clearly, they saved their best for last, though.

The green-and-white have now pushed the defending champion and heavily favoured Lakers to the limit. The secret to Boston’s success: inspired team play on the defensive end.

Look at the NBA Finals: they’ve mostly contained Ron Artest and Lamar Odom; they’ve battled superstar Pau Gasol; and they’ve made the immortal Kobe Bryant look surprisingly mortal.

Doc Rivers’ crew is an all-time great defensive team. They can hang with any of Phil Jackson’s Chicago teams that had notable defenders like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant/Dennis Rodman. And they hold their own against Detroit’s Bad Boys and any of Pat Riley’s squads in Los Angeles or New York.

Offensively, somebody different carries the load each night. For instance, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo have all had moments.

Of course, reserves Glen Davis and Nate Robinson – also known as Shrek and Donkey - won game four of the NBA Finals. And the defending Sprite Slam Dunk Champion went off in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals, too.

That said, the Lakers have the edge in the decisive game-seven. Here’s why:

1) Home-court matters: The purple-and-gold is a different team at home. They’re confident. They’re nasty. And they’re arrogant.     

2) No Perk’: The Celtics will miss Kendrick Perkins. They lack the size to win the paint, and contain Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

3) Kobe Bryant: He’s the best player on either team. He’s the best player in the NBA. And he understands tonight is a legacy game.

Bryant – if he wants to be considered an all-time great – can’t afford a loss. After all, five championships are far better than four. And two losses to the arch rival Celtics in the NBA Finals would be devastating.

Expect Bryant to drop a Jordan-like effort. And HoopsVibe News expects the Lakers to win.

Prediction for game-seven of the 2010 NBA Finals: Lakers 95, Boston 88.

Got thoughts? What is your prediction for game-seven of the NBA Finals?  

Kobe’s Lakers won the title. It’s over. Vol. 2010 NBA Finals game 6
Thursday , Jun , 17 , 2010 J.N.

Kobe’s Lakers won the title. It’s over. Vol. 2010 NBA Finals game 6

What happened? The game was over when Kendrick Perkins got injured. The Lakers took their hearts. After Kobe questioned his teammates’ hearts, they proved that they had more than enough for game 6 in Los Angeles. Pau Gasol finished with a near triple double: 17 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 blocks. Derek Fisher didn’t need to do much. Kendrick Perkins is done. Rajon Rondo took a vicious elbow from Ron Artest that required stitches. The Lakers got this and Kobe got his 5th ring.

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Wednesday , Jun , 16 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Shannon Brown ‘Getting On Up’ in Game-SIx of the NBA Finals

HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: Lamar Odom is grabbing rebounds and bouncing a little when dribbling up-court. Ron Artest doesn't resemble a lost tourist in the triangle. Pau Gasol asserts his will in the paint. Instead of pacing the sideline and dropping quotes about collecting oneself, Phil Jackson is laying back in his throne -also known as The Ergonomically Correct Chair. Kobe Braynt is 'facilitating' rather than scoring. Sasha Vujacic, the self proclaimed machine, is knocking down three-pointers, alienating opponents, and styling his straight-outta-Slovenia do. And those celebs' rocking courtside seats at Staples Center are flashing their Hollywood smiles for ABC.

If you haven't guessed it, these are signs the Los Angeles Lakers are winning. However, there is a notable omission: Shannon Brown's highlight reel jams.

The purple-and-gold always seems to win when the 2010 Sprite Slam Dunk Gets On Up like Jodeci and rocks the rim for two points.

(Yes, HoopsVibe News is referencing the classically cheesy R&B group from the 1990s. And sadly, HoopsVibe News is old enough to legitimately do so.) 

Consider game-six of the NBA Finals. First Brown rammed home a one-handed breakaway jam and then he rubbed his man off an Odom back-pick, grabbed an alley-oop toss and converted an amazing jam.

Both dunks inspired teammates and fans. Not surprisingly, the Lakers won game-six of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.

And they're hoping -at least in California - that Brown repeats his aerial antics in game-seven, even if it's got that Jodeci thing going on.   

Got thoughts? Did Brown Get On Up like Jodeci.

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Wednesday , Jun , 16 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Is Kendrick Perkins the difference between Boston Winning and Losing NBA Title?

"The Boston Celtics might go to Game 7 without center Kendrick Perkins.

He landed awkwardly trying to haul in an offensive rebound midway through the first quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night and suffered a right knee sprain.

Perkins was hopeful, saying: "I'm going to try to give it a go [on Thursday]." But a team source told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan: "He's done."

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: Don't let his modest numbers deceive you. Kendrick Perkins could be the difference between the Boston Celtics winning and losing the championship.

The NBA Finals will be decided in the paint; the team that dominates down-low will host a victory celebration, while the team that gets dominated will spend their life wondering what could've been.

Perkins - despite his limited offensive skill and affinity for arguing fouls - is a throwback. He bangs. He competes. And he intimidates.

For instance, Perkins shut Pau Gasol down in game-five, which, not coincidentally, the Celtics won. In fact, Boston's five-man was so effective experts were again calling the Spaniard soft.

Gasol, however, was far more confident when Perkins left game-six with an injury. He ate the smaller Glen Davis up. Veterans Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace weren't much better, either.

And the Los Angeles Lakers, as a team, successfully attacked the basket, in large part, because Perkins wasn't there to deter them. Guards Kobe Bryant, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown were able to get to the hoop whenever they liked.

Right now, Perkins' status is unknown for game-seven. What isn't unknown is how important he is to Boston.      

Got thoughts on this?   

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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?             

Kobe Bryant brought heart and fire. Can’t do it alone! Vol. 2010 Game 5 NBA Finals
Tuesday , Jun , 15 , 2010 J.N.

Kobe Bryant brought heart and fire. Can’t do it alone! Vol. 2010 Game 5 NBA Finals

This is another episode in the long series called, “Can anybody other than Kobe score?” In the game 5 episode called, “The one where Kobe gets hot in the 3rd quarter,” Pau Gasol still has not shed the “soft” label. Ron Artest’s offense is crappy. People will make excuses for him not being familiar with the triangle offense. That is crap. Man up. This is the Finals. Boston’s defense is just that good to make him look dazed and confused.

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Monday , Jun , 14 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Best playoff block ever: Tony Allen on Pau Gasol or Tayshaun Prince on Reggie Miller?

HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: It was a momentum swinger.

In game-five of the 2010 NBA Finals, Tony Allen delivered a one-two combo block that sparked the Boston Celtics. Allen, an athletic swing, appeared from the helpside to emphatically deny Los Angeles Lakers post Pau Gasol a left-handed chippie.

The play reminded me of one thing: Tayshaun Prince on Reggie Miller.

Back in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, Prince preserved a key Detroit Pistons win against the Indiana Pacers by heroically blocking what seemed like a gimme lay-up for clutch closer and superstar Reggie Miller. 

The Piston won the game. And later they won the 2004 NBA Title.

So watch both clips and get at us with your call on the best playoff block ever: Allen on Gasol or Prince on Miller.  

(Allen with the one-two combo block.) 

(Prince with the amazing block on Miller.) 

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Monday , Jun , 14 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

The Big Four Deliver: Allen, Garnett, Pierce, and Rondo lead Boston to game-five win

It's looking a lot like 2008 again, with Paul Pierce carrying the Boston Celtics to victory in the NBA finals and leading them to the brink of yet another title.

Pierce scored 27 points -- his best performance of this year's finals -- and the Celtics withstood 38 points from Kobe Bryant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 92-86 on Sunday night and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: On Friday, Kobe Bryant told reporters he was miserable because of his poor play. Tonight, he'll be miserable for a different reason.

The Los Angeles Lakers' superstar raised his play, even scoring an astounding 19 points in the third quarter; however, his co-stars all had poor nights, which was the reason for the game-five loss.

For instance, Ron Artest struggled on both ends of the floor; Pau Gasol's 12 points and 12 rebounds won't cut it in the NBA Finals; Andrew Bynum - wonky knee or not - should've been better than 6 points and 1 rebound; and Lamar Odom was a non-factor.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics won with balance. The Big Four delivered: Paul Pierce found his touch and had a team-high 27 points; Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo combined for 36 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists; and Ray Allen had an efficient 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting.

While the bench didn't repeat their game four heroics, they still contributed. Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, and Rasheed Wallace hit some shots, played tough defense, and, best of all, brought energy.

And this was the difference in game five. As a group, the Celtics seemed determined. Other than Bryant, the Lakers seemed flustered.

In the second half, Tony Allen gave the Celtics a surge with his tremendous weak side block on Pau Gasol. Then, in the closing moments, the 6-3 Rondo leaped the 6-10 Odom for an improbable tip-in basket to seal the win.

With the exception of Bryant, no Laker had a momentum changing moment or timely play. The purple-and-gold had too many passengers on this night.

Despite trailing in the series, the Lakers still have home-court advantage with game-six and seven at Staples Center.

The Lakers must improve, though. Or the Celtics will win the NBA championship and Bryant will be more than miserable.

Got thoughts on game five? Get at us in the comment box below.            

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Friday , Jun , 11 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Is Andrew Bynum the difference between L.A. Lakers winning and losing NBA Title?

Andrew Bynum said the swelling in right knee is the most it has been since he initially tore the cartilage April 30, but he is confident he will be back in action Sunday night for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. “It’s a little bit frustrating, but I’m going to play on Sunday, play hard on Sunday,” Bynum said after he played just 1:50 of the second half in the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to Boston.

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: I see the difference. You see the difference. The world sees the difference.

The Los Angeles Lakers are a different team with Andrew Bynum playing -even if he's nowhere near full health. The young seven-footer anchors the middle with his length and size, which allows Pau Gasol to play the four-spot, his natural position, and embarrass opponents with his creative post moves and wonderful skill-set.

Consider Bynum's impact in the NBA Finals. With Bynum, the Lakers physically dominate the Celtics. Without him, the opposite occurs -the Celtics assert their will on the Lakers, especially in the all-important paint.

For instance, Boston's Glen Davis, at 6-8, probably doesn't dominate game four if Bynum, at 7-1, is playing because he'd have challenged and contested every 'Big Baby' shot and putback.

For the Lakers, it's a positive that Bynum will try to play in game five. Like it or not, he's the difference in this championship series.  

Got thoughts on Andrew Bynum?

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Friday , Jun , 11 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Praise the bench: Glen Davis and Nate Robinson lead Celtics to game four win over Lakers

Backup Glen "Big Baby" Davis scored half of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Celtics bench as it pulled away from the Los Angeles Lakers to win 96-89 on Thursday night and even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

Game 5 is Sunday night in Boston. The Celtics' win guaranteed them a trip back to Los Angeles and averted a 3-1 deficit that has never been overcome in NBA history.

Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and Pau Gasol had 21 for the Lakers.

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: Down the stretch, the Boston Celtics needed a spark. And their bench answered the call, winning game four for the green-and-white.

With starters Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo struggling, coach Doc Rivers went with four reserves and first-stringer Ray Allen for most of the fourth quarter.

And this makeshift unit responded in the final frame: Glen Davis tallied 9 of his 18 points; Nate Robinson scored and set up others; Tony Allen forced Kobe Bryant left and made the game's best player work for every point; and Rasheed Wallace's length and physicality eventually wore on Pau Gasol.

Best of all, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Davis, Robinson, and Wallace brought an energy that Boston was missing for most of the game.

The news gets worse for the Los Angeles Lakers: Andrew Bynum sat out the entire second half and only played 12 minutes because of his injured knee.

Bynum's numbers have been mediocre due to his poor health; however, his height and length has given the Celtics problems. Also, with Bynum on-court, Gasol can shift to the four-spot, his natural position.

However, give the Celtics credit. They capitalized on Bynum's absence. And their bench came through in the clutch.

Got thoughts on game four?   

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Wednesday , Jun , 09 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Height and heart: how L.A. beat Boston in game three

Kobe Bryant scored 29 points and Derek Fisher added 16 to lead Los Angeles to a 91-84 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night and give the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Bryant had 25 points after three but did not score for the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. That's when Fisher took over, adding four key baskets after Boston winnowed a 17-point first-half lead to one point.

The Lakers regained home-court advantage they had lost when Boston took Game 2 in Los Angeles. Game 4 is Thursday night in Boston.

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: In basketball, there’s a saying that ‘you can’t teach the height’. In game three of the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics couldn’t beat the Los Angeles Lakers’ height.

It didn’t matter that Kevin Garnett turned back the clock with an inspired performance. It didn’t matter that Rajon Rondo was brilliant. It didn’t matter that the green-and-white’s bench had a big second half.

It also didn’t matter that Kobe Bryant had an off shooting night or that Ron Artest struggled with foul trouble.

On Tuesday evening, the Lakers were bigger and stronger and ultimately better. For instance, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom were especially effective in the middle, disrupting passing lanes and contesting shots with their length.

Size was one factor. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce’s poor play was another.

Allen, who hit an NBA Finals record 8-three pointers in game two, missed every shot he took in game three, while Pierce wasn’t much better, going 5-for 12 from the floor, and ending with a disappointing 15 points.

This was Pierce’s second consecutive sub par performance and it came on the heels of his claim the Celtics ‘ain’t going back to LA!’

Of course, one of the Lakers’ smallest players, Derek Fisher, played like a giant. The veteran went 6-for-12 with 16 points, which included a courageous 5-for-7 shooting display in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory.

Yes, height was the difference in game three. So was the size of Fisher’s heart.

Got thoughts on game four? Get at us in the comment box below.

2010 NBA Finals Game 2 – Jesus Shuttlesworth sets a new record.
Tuesday , Jun , 08 , 2010 J.N.

2010 NBA Finals Game 2 – Jesus Shuttlesworth sets a new record.

Black Jesus was en fuego. How did the Lakers’ defense let this man get hot like that? After game 1, you had to know that the Boston Celtics were not going to play like that again. Ray Allen lit up the NBA world with eight three pointers – NBA Finals record. The certified top 4 point guard in the league, Rajon Rondo, posted up a triple double: 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce played like trash, but the Celtics escaped LA with a win.

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Monday , Jun , 07 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Paul Pierce: “We ain’t coming back to LA!”

Striking a similar tone as he did in Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals, Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce directed a bold prediction at Lakers fans in the final minutes of his team's victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night in Los Angeles.

After Pau Gasol committed a hard foul on Kendrick Perkins with 1:12 remaining in Game 2 and the Celtics leading, 97-90, Pierce, as he helped his teammate off the floor along the baseline near the hoop was heard on video replays yelling, "We ain't coming back to LA!"

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: Paul Pierce has reason to be confident.

Yes, his Boston Celtics looked solid in taking game two of the NBA Finals. And yes, the heavily favoured Los Angeles Lakers' struggled on Sunday evening.

Pierce's outburst was, in part, due to the championship series switching to a 2-3-2 game format, meaning the lower seeded team - the Celtics in this case - have the next three matches in Boston. 

The league uses a 2-2-1-1-1 game format for the first three rounds of the playoffs and critics believe the 2-3-2 format of the NBA Finals gives the lower seed an unfair advantage.

Years back, the suits at league head office thought the 2-3-2 format was appropriate for the NBA finals because it reduced travel. Today, every team has their own luxurious, five-star plane, so travel isn't as great an issue. 

With the next three games in Boston, the 2-3-2 format is an issue for the Lakers. And this has Pierce confident he "ain't coming back to LA!"

Will the Celtics finish the series at home? Is the 2-3-2 format fair? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Sunday , Jun , 06 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Is Pau Gasol right? Has Kevin Garnett lost a step?

Lakers big man Pau Gasol said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett is not the player he used to be, but Boston coach Doc Rivers stressed on Friday that there is nothing physically wrong with KG.

The Lakers held Garnett to 16 points and only four rebounds in a 102-89 win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.

"On Kevin's part, he's also lost some explosiveness," said Gasol, who had 23 points and 14 rebounds. "He's more of a jump shooter now you could say, comes off the lane. Before he had a really, really quick first step and was getting to the lane and he was more aggressive then. Time passes and we all suffer it one way or another, but he's still a terrific player, a terrific competitor, and he's going to bring everything he's got. You can count on that."
 
 
HoopsVibe`s Very Quick Call: Pau Gasol may be absolutely right, but he should not have gone there.
 
By politely calling out Kevin Garnett in the post game press conference, Gasol has provided The Big Ticket with extra motivation.
 
To be fair, Garnett is a shade of his former self. Wear and tear and injuries have taken their toll; however, the legendary post can still raise his play in a short series, especially if he feels slighted.
 
For instance, the Cleveland Cavaliers had their hands full with Garnett in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
 
So Gasol should just stay quiet and play -even if he is right.

Is Gasol right? Has Garnett lost a step?
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Friday , Jun , 04 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Lakers bang, bully, and beat up Celtics, win game one

So the Celtics want to play rough again? Kobe Bryant and the Lakers look ready this time around, and they barged into an early lead in the NBA finals.

Bryant scored 30 points, Pau Gasol had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and defending champion Los Angeles got tough in a 102-89 victory over Boston in the NBA finals opener Thursday night.

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HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: After getting banged, bullied, and beaten in the 2008 championship series, the Los Angeles Lakers turned the tables on the Boston Celtics in game one of the 2010 NBA Finals.

The Lakers went inside early and often, using the size of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to grab a half-time lead. Then Kobe Bryant took over with a strong third and fourth quarter to seal an easy win.

However, this game was decided in the middle. The Lakers' bigs showed up. Other than Glen Davis, the Celtics' bigs did not.

For instance, on one sequence in the final frame, Kevin Garnett missed two point blank attempts. The purple-and-gold corralled the rebound, found Gasol on the elbow, who then threw a bullet pass to the lanky Lamar Odom for an easy hoop. 

Boston better get physical on Sunday or they'll head home down 0-2. 

Get at us in the comment box with thoughts on game one of the NBA Finals.     

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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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Wednesday , May , 26 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Why the Lakers can’t handle the Suns’ zone

The Los Angeles Lakers were outnumbered and outplayed in the desert.

The Phoenix Suns got a decisive performance from their hustling bench to overcome Kobe Bryant's 38-point, 10-assist performance and beat the Lakers 115-106 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night.

A series that looked like a Lakers' breeze a week ago is all even at two apiece heading to Game 5 on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

The Suns reserves, considered an advantage entering the series but largely ineffective through three games, outscored their Lakers counterparts 54-20.

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HoopsVibe's Call: The Phoenix Suns are in 'The Zone'. Literally.

The surprising Suns have tied the Western Conference Finals by using a zone defense against the Los Angeles Lakers. There are several reasons the defending world champions have struggled against this unorthodox defense:

-Zone is rarely used in the NBA, especially come playoff time. In fact, for decades zone was banned because it was believed to limit the players' ability to showcase individual talent. The purple-and-gold is out of sync against a defense they've rarely seen.

-The Lakers lack a true point guard. A classic, pass-first table setter can direct the offense and find the holes against a zone. Too often, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Derek Fisher settled for outside shots and allowed teammates to become perimeter players.

-Bryant had a strong game, hitting 15-of-22 shots for 38 points and adding 10 assists and 7 rebounds. However, he couldn't get clean looks against the zone for most of the fourth quarter and Pau Gasol struggled.

-The zone forced the Lakers to play at the Suns' breakneck pace. No team - not even the great Lakers - beats Seven Seconds Or Less when the game becomes a track meet. 

The Suns' zone has made the Western Conference Finals a best-of-three affair. The Lakers must adjust to the zone or another team will be hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy in June.  

What do you think of Phoenix's zone? Get at us in the comment box below with thoughts.

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Thursday , May , 20 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Andrew Bynum amazed by Pau Gasol

Before he left Staples Center, Andrew Bynum stopped to chat with a locker room attendant, eager to describe what he witnessed from his spot on the bench late in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

“Man, I have never seen anyone ever dominated a guy for six straight minutes like Pau did tonight,” Bynum said. “I mean, never. It was incredible.”

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HoopsVibe Call: As Andrew Bynum noted, there's nothing Pau Gasol can't do when healthy and focused.

The Spanish post missed the early portion of the year with a leg injury and even went public with his frustration over touches and shots.

However, as his game two performance showed, Gasol is hitting his stride at exactly the right time. And his fine play puts the Los Angeles Lakers on track to repeat as world champions.

Are the Lakers unbeatable when Gasol brings his A-game? Get at us in the comment box below with thoughts.

 

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Tuesday , May , 11 , 2010 Hoopsvibe

Kobe Wants Revenge on the Suns

It doesn’t matter to Kobe Bryant that three years have passed and he’s won a championship since then. He has a long memory. And just the mere mention of the Phoenix Suns brings a spark to his eyes.

The Los Angeles Lakers advanced to their third straight Western Conference finals by sweeping the Utah Jazz with a 111-96 victory on Monday night. Next up are the Phoenix Suns, whom the Lakers have beaten seven times in nine games since acquiring Pau Gasol. But that doesn’t matter to Bryant. When asked if he recalled that the Suns knocked the Lakers out of the postseason during their last two meetings in 2006 and ’07, Bryant’s eyes filled with disdain.

“What do you think? You already know,” Bryant said, staring through his questioner.