Sunday, May 10, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The Lakers apparently forgot that Yao Ming was not the only competent professional on the Houston roster. L.A. simply laid down in the first game since Yao's season-ending broken foot was diagnosed, trailing by as many as 29 points in a 99-87 loss that leaves the Western Conference Semifinal series tied a 2-2. The Rockets were able to trounce the Lakers even as Ron Artest struggled through a 4-for-19, eight-point night because the Lakers let Aaron Brooks simply dismantle them for 34 points on 12-for-20 shooting. Opposing shooting guard Derek Fisher wasn't a factor on either end of the floor, finishing with two points on four shots as L.A. struggled to find any offense. Kobe Bryant followed up five consecutive 30-point performances with a 15-point dud in which he failed to get to the line even once. Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 30 points, but 18 of those came in the fourth quarter once the game was already out of reach. The Rockets simply did a masterful job on defense, and picked up scoring from infrequent contributors like Brooks and Shane Battier, who nailed five of 10 three-point shots for 23 points. Houston wound up with a 43-37 advantage on the boards even though L.A. had a significant size advantage, thanks to Luis Scola, who had 14 rebounds, Artest with 10, and Chuck Hayes, who started at center and pulled down nine. The Lakers were simply outworked in an ominous sign for their championship hopes. They clearly suffer from a lack of focus, and the onus is on Phil Jackson to call upon his Hall of Fame coaching talent and get the team to play to its capabilities.

2. The Celtics are in great shape against Orlando whenever Glen Davis can go toe-to-toe with Rashard Lewis. That's what happened Sunday, when Davis nailed a 21-foot jumper at the buzzer to give the Celtics a 95-94 victory to tie the series at 2-2. Davis scored 21 points, including the game-winner and another jumper with 32 seconds left to give the Celtics the lead, to go with six rebounds. Lewis got to the line and sank two free throws to put the Magic up with 11 seconds left, and had 22 points and five rebounds on the night. The Celtics won despite foul trouble for Paul Pierce, Brian Scalabrine and Davis, 1-for-10 shooting from long range, only two bench points and just seven points off eight Orlando turnovers. Boston made up for it with phenomenal 53 percent shooting, and it helped that the Magic, who rely so heavily on three-pointers, shot an abysmal 5-for-27 from behind the arc. Pierce was the primary offensive force once more for the Celtics, going 9-for-15 from the floor and 8-for-9 at the line for a game-high 27 points. Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins had 12 points and 13 rebounds as Boston gained a 44-38 edge on the boards despite Dwight Howard's 17 for Orlando. No one other than Howard had more than five rebounds for the Magic. Howard, who scored 23 points, and Lewis were the only consistent offensive threats, as no one else scored more than 11 points. Mickael Pietrus had a good-looking 11 points on eight shots in 27 minutes, but Hedo Turkoglu had an ugly 11, following his best performance in the playoffs so far in Game 3 with one of his worst Sunday, going 4-for-14 from the floor and 1-for-4 from three-point range. Turkoglu must come up with a better showing offensively, and Lewis has to contain Davis defensively, for the Magic to turn back the determined Celtics.

3. Here is the schedule for the next few days:
Monday, May 11
Cleveland at Atlanta, Game 4, 7 p.m. TNT
Denver at Dallas, Game 4, 9:30 p.m. TNT
Tuesday, May 12
Orlando at Boston, Game 5, 8 p.m. TNT
Houston at L.A. Lakers, Game 5, 10:30 p.m. TNT
Wednesday, May 13
Atlanta at Cleveland, Game 5, TBA TNT (if necessary)
Dallas at Denver, Game 5, TBA TNT (if necessary)
Thursday, May 14
Boston at Orlando, Game 6, 7 p.m. ESPN
L.A. Lakers at Houston, Game 6, 9:30 p.m. ESPN

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