The Fundamentals

» May 15, 2009 12:30 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle:  “If you think the Rockets have already won because they’ve pushed the Lakers farther than anyone thought possible, because they’ve survived without Yao Ming and because they’ve exhibited so much determination and fearlessness, you don’t understand this group. ‘I’ve stopped trying to figure this team out,’ Rockets forward Shane Battier said. ‘I just think when we are down and out, this team comes together.’ They weren’t all that impressed when they ran up a 29-point lead on their way to winning Game 4 at Toyota Center last Sunday, and they didn’t blink when the Lakers won big in Game 5. To come back from that kind of defeat, to regain their poise and confidence, speaks volumes about the kind of people they are. ‘I don’t care if we don’t have the most talented team,’ Battier said. ‘There’s not a team with more heart in this entire league. We’ve shown it again and again.’ Just because the rest of the country doesn’t know about their toughness and confidence doesn’t mean that toughness and confidence doesn’t exist. Their whole is much greater than the sum of their parts, and in the end, that’s all that matters”

Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News:  “The Lakers’ lack of panic always seems to create the opposite reaction in the faithful. A few more scowls or growls might actually help people sleep at night, if only because it would let on that the team’s emotional fire has been sufficiently lit. What’s become clear is that that’s just not who the Lakers are. ‘If we didn’t have that fire, we wouldn’t have won 65 games,’ forward Lamar Odom said. ‘If you’re asking us to act out of character, I don’t think we’ll do that. We have our identity and we’ll stick to it.’ In other words, don’t expect any Dennis Green-like news conferences any time soon. Deep down of course, the Lakers are as emotional as anyone. But they take their cues from their coach, who has been particularly Zen-like this season, and even more particularly disciplined in protecting his young players from public criticism. Asked if he was worried about his team, Jackson smiled. ‘I’m not. There’s nothing to worry about. It’s just a game,’ he said. ‘And we’ve got the home court.’”

Bethlehem Shoals of the Sporting News:  “There is something decidedly weird about L.A.’s inability to hurry up and dispense with a Yao-less, T-Mac-less Rockets team. But before we start jumping off bridges and selling our children to gypsies, I have three words for you: Remember the Celtics! If you recall, before the Big Three smacked around the Lakers and became the model of a major modern championship team, they went 7 with Atlanta, 7 with Cleveland, and 6 with Detroit. The Hawks were just finding themselves that week as real competitors. Cleveland back then was Bron and a bunch of rebounding. Detroit had to get by without a healthy Billups. So don’t go buying the myth that Boston had a hard road to the Finals that only made them stronger. It might have made them stronger, but it wasn’t that hard, and up until the Finals, it also had supposedly exposed their age. In life, you will meet many interesting people. Some will tell you that it’s the journey, not the end result, that matters. Others will insist the opposite, that the ends justifies the means. When it comes to the NBA postseason, we want it both ways. We speculate endlessly about the present, only to turn around and rewrite history when the Larry O’Brien trophy has been decided.”

Ben Q. Rock of Third Quarter Collapse:  “The Magic didn’t crumble. In fact, they played their most inspired stretch of basketball in recent memory. Orlando closed the game out on an 11-2 run, effectively putting the game away on a three-pointer from Hedo Turkoglu with 1:24 to play. Turkoglu was 2-of-12 prior to launching that shot–which he took with 14 seconds on the shot-clock–but pulled the trigger anyway. In his postgame comments, Lewis said he and his teammates had told Turkoglu during timeouts to keep shooting. He did, and the result was fitting: the Magic’s Mister Fourth Quarter for two seasons running iced the Magic’s biggest win of the year. But win or lose tonight, the Magic weren’t going down without a fight. They played active, energetic, smart basketball almost the entire way, and should be commended for their effort. Apart from Turkoglu’s big three, all of the Magic’s shots as they tried to close the game out came on drives to the basket. Driving the ball is always a good idea, but it was especially important for them to do it late in this game with Boston in the penalty. Nobody expects the Magic to beat the Celtics when they shoot as poorly as they did tonight, or when they allow Boston to rebound 31.6% of its own misses. But they fought hard, forcing 22 turnovers in an 86-possession game.”

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:  “In the wake of Game 5, there was ample room to question the Magic heart. Watching them airball shots down the stretch Tuesday, one had to wonder if the guys from Orlando had the nerve to stand up with a truly tough NBA opponent. The same queries were valid much of last night as the Celtics put them in a 10-point hole, but the Magic couldn’t go away. The philanthropic Celts wouldn’t let them. The Bostonians committed 22 turnovers, which led to 28 Orlando points. That’s a bailout plan that would make even Congress blush. On the other hand, the C’s got a mere three points from the 10 Magic turnovers. That’s a 25-point difference in an eight-point game. You are free to draw your own conclusions. ‘It’s frustrating,’ said Perkins. ‘I think we beat ourselves tonight. We were getting stops and we came down and turned the ball over. We weren’t getting rebounds at crucial times. And we were fouling too much. They shot, what, 31 free throws? That just can’t happen.’”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:  “There was a different resolve to the Magic when it mattered most. Had the Magic been able to make free throws, this wouldn’t have been a one-point game with two minutes left. They missed 14 for the game – including Howard’s seven – and Howard’s brute strength and a friendly home whistle nearly fouled out the Celtics frontline. When asked how difficult it was to draw a foul on Howard near the rim, the fearless Rajon Rondo – who tried drive upon drive – sniffed, ‘Almost impossible.’ Boston had chances to steal the game, but Orlando had a different desperation. The Magic are hellbent on chasing Ray Allen everywhere on the floor, and his shooting bottomed out. Pierce still comes and goes. Rondo had a remarkable 16 rebounds with his 19 points and six assists and four steals. Yet, Kendrick Perkinsand Big Baby Davis were in constant foul trouble with Howard, and the Magic lived in the free-throw penalty. Orlando shot 31 free throws to Boston’s 13, a stat borne of Orlando’s elimination-game aggression. Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers had to concede that, ‘They play harder than us in a lot of stretches.’”

Chuck Carlton for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “Nowitzki isn’t oblivious to the Mavericks’ deficiencies. Topping the list: defense. The defensive identity forged under former coach Avery Johnson has given way to breakdowns. Denver shot 58.5 percent in Game 5 and 50.6 percent in the series, attacking the rim often. ‘We used to be a pretty decent defensive team with Avery,’ Nowitzki said. ‘I don’t think we’re good enough defensively. We had great spurts there, great quarters and halves, but overall, defensively we weren’t consistent enough.’ The defensive lapses impact the offense, Nowitzki said, especially Jason Kidd and the transition game. While Nowitzki said he could opt out of his max contract in 2010 and become a free agent, he said he hasn’t considered the possibility. ‘After I played here for 11 years, played hurt, played sick, whatever they needed me to do, basically playing my heart out for the last 11 years, I don’t think it would feel the same way somewhere else,’ Nowitzki said. ‘It’s always been my dream here to finish my career and win a championship. I think my window has not closed yet.’”

Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer:  “According to coach Mike Brown, the Cavaliers are right on schedule. The coach says they are following the plan he laid out when he was hired by owner Dan Gilbert four years ago. Although he credits his players and assistants for his team’s success to this point, they, too, were all part of the plan. ‘You ask Dan Gilbert,’ the coach said Thursday after practice. ‘From day one, I had a plan. Whether we win it this year or not, whether we don’t win it in my time here, I don’t know. But I know one thing, that same plan that I gave Dan Gilbert when I interviewed is sitting in my office right now. If you read it, you would think that we scripted everything from day one to where we are right now. The gist of the plan is that the Cavaliers bond together and construct a foundation built on defense and then expand their offensive capabilities. It took the better part of three years for the first two elements to fully develop and this season for the offense to come around.”

One Response to “The Fundamentals”

  1. john amaechi Says:

    that is a gr8 photo right there. sort of epitomizes KOBE!!’s legacy.

    i mean look at those eyes.

    that is a game face that says, nobody wants to win more than KOBE!!

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