The Lakers nearly gave this away in spectacularly 2013 Lakers fashion. L.A. had an 18-point third-quarter lead that got whittled to one in the closing seconds, and yet they somehow survived three Pistons possessions and four missed free throws to come away with the win. The fact that two of those missed free throws came from Steve Nash made the near-collapse all the more stunning.
The second of three Pistons possessions ended when Will Bynum's floater bounced around all sides of the rim and fell out. Bynum made a great move to get right and took advantage of matador Pau Gasol's pick-and-roll defense to get a good shot off, but the ball spun out. This was how close it was to going down.
Then, on the final play, a lob to Andre Drummond was just off target, allowing the Lakers to survive. It initially looked like inbounder Kyle Singler made a heads-up play to find Drummond, arguably the league's most dangerous lob threat. When it doubt, throw it up at the rim. But re-watching the play, it's actually Singler who cost his team a win by not seeing Drummond sooner.
Look at how open Drummond is on this frame.
I don't know why Gasol is standing where he is, but Drummond has clearly realized it and is making a dart to the front of the rim. If Singler notices this on time, he leads Drummond in stride and they get an uncontested dunk. Instead, he's looking in the corner to Brandon Knight, who has no shot to do anything from there with 1.2 seconds left. By the time Singler sees Drummond, it's too late.
The pass still got over Gasol's outstretched arm, but Drummond was bothered enough to miss the stuff.
Ultimately, the Lakers need to take what they did well for the first three quarters and forget what happened in the fourth. The Pistons, meanwhile, should probably play Bynum and Drummond more often than they do.
Are the Celtics really better without Rajon Rondo? I guess the question has to be asked after their fourth-straight win since his season-ending ACL injury. My feeling here is that this is a classic case of two common phenomena that happen when a team loses a star player:
- The veterans on the team rally around each other and up the intensity to try to prove the doubters wrong.
- The team becomes harder to scout in the short term because their style of play changes so drastically without their star in the picture.
There's been lots of talk about No. 1, but I think No. 2 is just as big a factor. Fact is, without Rondo running the offense, the Celtics are just different. They run more set plays to compensate for the loss of Rondo's creativity. Different players get the ball in different spots. The sets are initiated from different spots on the floor. In the short term, there's just no material for scouts to use to help their teams gameplan to stop Boston.
That'll change as time goes on, though. For now, the Celtics are benefiting from the unknown.
(For more on this game, read Paul Flannery).
That was a 2012 Finals-type defensive performance from the Heat in the second half. It's amazing how they can just flip a switch on that end of the floor. They had such poor fundamentals in the first half -- you don't need to close out hard on Rudy Gay from the three-point line, guys -- and such pristine rotations in the second half.
I wouldn't get too discouraged if I were a Raptors fan. The second-half offense was problematic, but they seemed to find something by putting Gay at power forward in the first half. That's something Dwane Casey can build on as he tries to figure out how to use his new roster.