May 2004 - Posts

A week and a half ago I blogged about how ESPN has started offering RSS news feeds for their various sports sections.  RSS syndicated content is typically consumed via RSS aggregators, but can also be parsed by Web pages.  I have added the five most recent NBA news items from ESPN.com on the NBAWebLog.com homepage.

For those that are interested in how I implemented this, I used the free RssFeed control.  It's an easy-to-use ASP.NET server control that you can plug into your Web site with just a few lines of code.

Posted by Scott

Bill Simmons is back with another great article, yet another Fact or Fiction piece.  I particularly like his analysis of the Lakers in his last section: “Fact or Fiction: The Lakers are on cruise control.”  (Bill says, Fact.)  I'd highly recommend reading it in its entirety.  Here are some choice quotes:

[The Lakers are] the worst possible champion -- too good to be beaten, not quite good enough to be remembered. ... As for Malone and Payton, neither one of them seems to be enjoying themselves. It's like the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, it may come true." These guys wanted a ring, but not like this -- not as replaceable parts in a traveling soap opera. ...

The Lakers are going to win another title, for the same reason they won the first three titles: Kobe and Shaq. They lost to the Spurs last season because their supporting cast was so mindbogglingly awful, even those two guys couldn't overcome it. Now they have a mediocre supporting cast -- and let's face it, as far as 3rd-thru-6th guys go in this league, Fisher, Malone, George and Payton are average at best -- but that was enough for them to (barely) fend off the Spurs. Still, nobody looks like they're having fun. And they clearly aren't playing to their potential. ...

For me, Phil Jackson has been the most fascinating figure here. He seems exhausted from managing egos and diffusing various time bombs, like one of those dads who fathered too many kids and sits around fantasizing about when everyone will finally be out of the house. Even when Fisher beat the Spurs in Game 5, Jackson looked like he couldn't wait to drive home and catch the last 20 minutes of "CSI."

I agree with 90% of what Bill writes in this piece.  Kobe and Shaq are two of the greatest players ever, but this team is a far cry from being one of the top teams throughout the history of the NBA.  No one seems to play up to their potential, and Kobe and Shaq haven't played focus, ruthless basketball for more than a game or two at a time since the second championship ended.  Those Lakers were so dominant, so much like the Bulls in their second season during their second three-peat.

In any event, go read the Simmons article - it's worth it.  He also has a few good pieces on the ECF series, which hosts an important Game 4 tonight in Detroit.

Posted by Scott
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Well, I didn't get to see this game, but I did get to listen to the last six minutes or so on my drive home.  Sounded like an odd game - Kobe not scoring in the first half; GP with 18 points.  About the only thing that did seem familiar was the outcome - Lakers win 100-89 ; Shaq's free throw shooting - 8 for 22; and the Lakers inconsistent play down the stretch - up by 17 with five minutes left, to up by only 7 two minutes later, with the Wolves in possession of the ball and momentum.

The Wolves implemented what many teams have tried in the past - Hack-A-Shaq - and met with the same results as teams past.  I don't get the Hack-A-Shaq approach.  Yes, he averages less than 50% at the stripe, but he tends to shoot a tad better down the final stretch, it seems, and even if he shoots 50%, that means he's going to get, on average, 2 points per possession.  With the average team shooting well below 50% from the field, it's not hard to see why Hack-A-Shaq rarely works.  Add to that the fact that Hack-A-Shaq takes a team out of rhythm, slowing the game down, killing any momentum a team might enjoy from a good couple of trips down the floor.  Yes, foul Shaq when he's got the ball down low and is about to posterize you, but don't run and foul him when he's off the ball.  That's not a recipe for a W - just ask the Portland Trailblazers.

Game 4 is tomorrow, and Bryant has a court date in Eagle earlier in the day.  Bryant has had big games when having to fly to Eagle on game days, so hopefully tomorrow will be no different.  The Lakers need to follow up last night's victory with another one, sending a strong message to the Wolves that this series is going to be a short one.

The local media are still expecting the Lakers to steamroll the Wolves.  A sports radio personality this morning predicted the Lakers would win Games 4 and 5 to close out the series 4-1.  I hope the Lakers can manage that, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see this go six.  It all depends on how well the Lakers play, how focused they stay, and whether or not Cassell can be any kind of factor in the remainder of the series.

Over in the East the Pacers and Pistons are still battling it out, with the Pistons taking a 2-1 series lead tonight.  That series, I imagine, will go seven, and will do so as unattractively as possible.  I checked out the game at Halftime - 35-30!  Granted, the teams made it a bit more entertaining in the second half, but for a minute I thought we were going to see a final score of 69-64.  Even if you're not a Laker fan, you have to feel good that the Finals aren't going to come down to Spurs v. Pistons, as those games would be lucky to break a combined point total of 125.

Well, the Lakers lost their second in their series against the Wolves by 18 points last night in a game that got physical and resulted in seven technical fouls down the stretch.  Cassell came out very early in the game with a tight back, but did not need to return as the Wolves showed the world why they have the best record in the NBA, and why the Lakers cannot rest on their laurels.  Garnett played better this game, abusing Slavo on multiple opportunities.  Shaq had a double-double, but only scratched up 14 points, and was anything but dominant in this second game of the series.

The highlight (or, perhaps, low light) of the game came late in the 4th, when Malone gave a hard forearm shot to Darrick Martin.  Marc Stein has a good piece on the flagrant foul call on Malone, who might be suspended for Tuesday night's Game 3 in L.A.  I'm all for physical play, but physical play doesn't equal thug play.  There are guys at the courts I play at who, when they get frustrated, will pull a stunt like Malone did last night.  All I've got to say is that Malone should have known better.

Game 3 takes the series to L.A. where the Lakers need to play aggressively and intelligently, and take the series lead.

Go Lakers!

The Lakers won Game 1 of the WCF series, besting the Wolves 97-88.  The Lakers played well: Shaq stupefied all by shooting 81% from the free throw line, sinking 9 of 11; Malone outscored and outrebounded KG, picking up 17 points on 8-13 shooting; Kobe led the team with assists and scored 23.  Not only did the Lakers look good, but the Wolves looked tired.  If the incessant yawning wasn't proof enough (see photo to the right), to top it off Cassell's back tightened up, causing him to miss the fourth quarter.

Of course, this is only Game 1 - the Lakers still need to win another three games before advancing to the Finals.  I trust that they can do it if they stay focused, but many sportscasters on the local radio stations here have already written off the T-Wolves altogether.  Don't forget - these are the same Wolves that last year lost the first playoff game against the Lakers only to come back and blow the Lake Show out of the water.  Granted, the Lakers are a much different team this year, and are still riding high on their victory against the Spurs.  The Wolves, though, are still a team to respect and fear, and I hope the Lakers enter Game 2 with a strong will to win, energetic defense, and boundless energy.

Sadly I was unable to watch the game last night - had to work.  Not only that, but I'm going to have to miss tomorrow's game, too!  And if you don't feel sorry enough for me already, I'll likely miss the first half of Tuesday's Game 3 to boot.  Sucks to be me.

All right, one down three to go!

Awesome, ESPN.com now has news feeds.  The NBA news feed is available at http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/rss/nba/news.  Wish they would have added this feature earlier in the season... but better late than never, I guess.  To subscribe, get yourself an RSS reader, like FeedDemon or SharpReader or RssBandit.

There are also news feeds for other sports sections on ESPN.com (NFL, NHL, MLB, etc.).  More info at Josh Ledgard's blog entry.

Posted by Scott

The Wolves won, 83-80.  A huge game for Kevin Garnett, ratcheting up 32 points, 21 boards, and five blocks.  Good to see him respond like this to Peeler's elbow.  This is, by far, the best way to get back at a thug-like play.  (Although I still think he should have given Peeler a good, hard shove to let him know what's up.)

I was hoping to see the Kings win this one, actually, as I'd like nothing more than to see them lose to the Lakers (again), but the Wolves will be a fine team.  It'll be good to see Mark Madsen again, who's vying for his fourth ring in his fifth year in the league.

This brings up an interesting questions: would you rather be one of the greatest players, but never win a championship, or would you rather be a role player, and have won four or more rings?  To put it another way, would you rather be a John Stockton, Charles Barkley, or Patrick Ewing, or a Steve Kerr, Mark Madsen, Robert Horry?  My gut reaction is to choose skill over the rings, but the more I think about it the more I think I'd choose the rings.  I am ok with not being the best, it's something I have to face everytime I go out to the courts to play ball.  I guess this question is analogous to whether you'd want to be moderately wealthy and extremely famous, or extremely wealthy, but not famous.  I'd so choose the wealth over fame, in a heartbeat. 

A short break in teaching, checking out the T-Wolves / Kings game.  What excitement.  Sam stepping up and hitting his free throws - too bad his team mates didn't do the same, or the game would be over by now.  16 seconds left; Kings ball, down by three, and I have to get back to teaching!  :-)  D'oh!

The first round of this year's playoffs were, understandably, a bit disappointing.  While Miami and New Orleans went seven games, the remaining series were uninteresting at best.  In all eight series, the better team won.  And to top it off, it took weeks to get all of those games played.

While the first round was rather lackluster, the second round has been anything but.  The Lakers/Spurs series was one for the ages, with perhaps one of the most exciting finishes in Game 5.  The Kings and T-Wolves face off tonight in the deciding Game 7.  The Nets take on the Pistons in another Game 7 tomorrow.  And the Heat took the Pacers further this season than anyone expected.

Some highlights from the second round:

  • Fisher's shot to save the season.  What an amazingly lucky shot, one of those games you had to see as it was happening, from start to finish, to truly appreciate.
  • The outstanding play of Heat rookie Dwyane Wade.  How come no one talked about this guy in the same breath as 'Melo or LeBron?  When's the last time a rookie has had such an impact in a playoff series?  Clearly Magic Johnson shined in the playoffs as a rookie... can't think of anyone since.
  • The Peeler elbow to Garnett's chops, and Garnett's non-action.  How weak was that of Garnett?  He still has Game 7 to redeem himself, to come out like an animal and dominate the game start to finish, but barring that this incident has made him look soft and weak.  I, admittedly, am soft and weak, but if someone elbowed me in the face like that out on the courts where I play, and if that person was seven inches shorter and 12 pounds lighter than me (as Peeler is to Garnett), I'd, at minimum, give that 5'2“, 138 lbs. guy a hard shove back, if not an elbow of my own.

I'm hoping the next round is as exciting as the second.  Here are my predictions for the two Game 7s yet to be played:

  • Sacramento beats Minnesota by 8+ points.  Old man Jerry at the courts is from Minnesota, and he'll be the first to tell you Minnesota teams are always the quickest to fold.
  • Pistons beat the Nets in a close one.  The Pistons are a better team with more talent, and are playing against a seriously hobbled Jason Kidd.  Why this has gone seven games is beyond me.  Remember Games 1 and 2?  I expected all games to be like that.

So, I'm expecting Lakers v. Kings and Pistons v. Pacers.  Should be exciting, especially since the Kings and Lakers have a bit of a rivalry going.  It'll be fun to watch the Kings' dream of reaching the Finals obliterated once again.  Lakers v. Pistons in the Finals.  I think the Pistons and Pacers match up well, but the Pacers are another team that doesn't play up to their potential, in my opinion, so I expect them to fold when the going gets tough.

Go Lakers!

Amazing.  Absolutely amazing.

After blowing a 16 point third-quarter lead, the Lakers squeaked out of town with a victory thanks to an exciting last-four-tenths-of-a-second shot from Derek Fisher.  And this just after an amazing 18-foot, off-balanced jumper from Tim Duncan to give the Spurs a one point lead with 0.4 seconds remaining.  Just incredible.

While the Lakers are amazingly up 3-2 in this series - and have won three straight against the defending world champions - what is a bit distressing is that the Lakers shut down the last 15 minutes or so of that game.  With five minutes remaining in the third, the Lakers held a 16 point lead.  By the fourth, the lead was down to 9.  The Spurs were up by three with just a few minutes left in the game.  Damn.

But Shaq scored.  And then Kobe finally hit a jumper, after having missed his last several attempts.  And with 11 seconds and change, I had my fingers crossed that the Lakers could play tight D and prevent the Spurs from scoring.  The Lakers did play tight D, indeed, but Duncan, with under two seconds left, heaved up an off-balanced shot from the top of the key, with Shaq in his face, and... and... it went down.

Swish.

Cue the emptying of the Spurs bench, rushing out to mob Duncan.  An incredible shot, insanely lucky.  You'd bet good money that he'd miss that shot 99 times out of 100.  That's a horse shot that you pull out when you want to show off.  Nevermind that Duncan had two hands of O'Neals up in his grill.

The game was not over though.  It looked to me that there was 0.7 seconds left on the clock when the ball went in, but for some reason the refs didn't add any time to the clock.  0.4 seconds.  The Lakers setup; the Spurs call a timeout.  The Lakers setup; they can't get it in to Kobe, and are forced into calling a timeout.  The Lakers setup; Kobe is guarded well, but Fisher flashes down, covered by Manu.  Payton hits him and Fish chucks up shot, the ball a foot or two out of his hands when the clock reads 0.0.  And... and... SWISH!  Amazing.  (And that was not Duncan's only lucky shot of the game - a few minutes earlier he had an 18-footer at the top of the key that he had to double-clutch because Shaq was coming at him - he managed to bank it in.)

Shaq said it best: “One lucky shot deserved another.”  Well said, big fellow.

One win away from the Western Conference Finals.  The Lakers play in L.A. on Saturday.

The Lakers have the following going for them right now:

  • Lead the series, 3-2.
  • Took the heart out of the Spurs with that last second victory.
  • Have won three straight, and are playing with confidence.

There are more portends that may spell a loss in Game 6:

  • Kobe is fatigued.  You could see at the end of Game 5 he was tired and out of breath during the timeouts.  His shooting in the fourth was pretty horendous, save his shot to put the Lakers up by one late in the game.  With any luck, he'll be able to recouperate with the day off on Friday.
  • The Lakers blew a 16 point lead to barely win this game.  You could imagine how demoralizing a loss here could have been, when they should have been able to wrap up the game.
  • Parker, who was effectively shut down in Games 3 and 4, regained his confidence in the 4th quarter in Game 5.  Through the first three quarters, Parker shot poorly, seemed to second-guess himself, and had too many turnovers.  But he started lighting it up in the 4th.  Hopefully this victory will take the wind out of his sails once again.

On a closing note, it must be hard to be Robert Horry.  Not only has he been cold this series, but he had a three point shot late in the game that didn't even draw iron.

One more win to go until the WCFs.  Go Lakers!

Posted by Scott

Kobe and Shaq had monster games to give the Lakers an 8 point victory on Tuesday, brining their series with the Spurs to a 2-2 tie.  The Lakers started the game with a nice little spurt, but this time the Spurs were ready for the Lakers aggressive collapses on Parker and Duncan.  Hedo Turkoglu, for example, drained three 3 pointers early in the game.  Manu had a triple as well.  Spurs players were alert and ready to be open and to shoot.  At half time the Lakers trailed by 10...

But then the 3rd quarter came.  The Lakers have been very strong in the 3rd quarter in all of the games in this series so far, and Game 4's third quarter was no different.  During the third quarter, the Spurs outside shooters cooled off, and the Lakers outscored their opponents 31 to 16, bringing in a 5 point lead to start the fourth.

While the Lakers have played strong third quarters throughout the series, their fourth quarters have typically been abysmal.  At the start of the fourth, my main concern was that the Lakers would fold, much as they did in Game 2.  But Kobe would not be stopped.  He took over the game and made sure his team would walk off the court the victors.  At the end of the game, Kobe had 42 points on 15-27 shooting.  Shaq, too, had a big game, ratcheting up 28 points with 14 boards and 4 blocks.

So now the series goes back to SBC Dome in San Antonio, where the Lakers have yet to win a playoff game.  The momentum is definitely with the Lakers at this juncture, and Game 5 is tomorrow - not a lengthy wait, as was the case between Games 2 and 3.  I contend Game 5 is a must win for the Lakers.  The older Lakers team cannot afford to let the Spurs to move one win away from the next round.  The Lakers must come to San Antonio, and play like it's Game 7.  Karl, Gary - you guys wanted to be champions, now's the time to step up.

Thursday's Game 5 promises to be an exciting one.  Let's go Lakers!

Posted by Scott

On Sunday the Lakers dismantled the Spurs by a 24 point margin, 105-81.  The Lakers finally played team defense, and were able to hold Parker to just 8 points, and Duncan to a mere 10.  Aside from their defense, the Lakers also dominated on the offensive end, shooting 57% to the Spurs 34%.  Too, Shaq played another stellar game, ratcheting up 28 points, 15 boards, 8 blocks, and 5 assists.  Still, though, the Spurs lead the series 2-1.

The pivotal fourth game is tonight, and it is paramount that the Lakers win agian.  Can the Lake show continue?  I hope so, but this is a team that has been plauged by inconsistency.  If the Lakers can win tonight, and win convincingly, it is most definitely a series again.  If the Spurs take this game, though, it spells a virtual end to the Lakers season.  Even with a win tonight, the Lakers are still looking at needing to win one in San Antonio.

Should be an exciting game tonight, with the game a must-win for the Lakers.  Let's win this one and make it a series!

Posted by Scott

The Lakers lost by 10 to the Spurs again tonight, putting themselves in a two game hole.  They now have to win 4 out of the next 5 games to advance.  It that possible?  Sure.  Probable?  Not by a long shot.  As I mentioned in an early blog entry, I didn't think the Lakers could win 4 out of 7 against the defending world champs, so you know my prospects on them winning 4 out of 5.  Shaq played much better today, and Gary had a few outbursts of productivity.  Karl had a solid performance as well, shooting above 50%, grabbing 9 boards, and scoring 13 points.

The problem is that the Lakers don't have an answer for Parker, Ginobli, or Duncan.  True, the Lakers have Kobe and Shaq, but they are missing the third key piece that the Spurs have.  Too, the entire Spurs bench is head and shoulders above the Lakers bench.  Fox is still MIA, Russell, Walton, and Rush have seen next to zero playing time this series (for good reason), and George has not offerred anything extraordinary.  It's no wonder that the Lakers have having such fits.  Couple that with the relenting Spurs defense, and it's obvious why the Lakers are having such difficulties winning games in this series.

It was frustrating to see the Lakers trail by so much during the first half, but what are you going to do against Parker when he's red hot?  He's a better player.  He's a 21-year old phenom.  And to think that the Spurs were seriously trying to trade him for Kidd.

So the Lakers head back to the Staples Center down 0-2, needing desperately to win two straight.  I think the Lakers might be able to pull off one W, but I doubt they can win the next two, let alone 4 out of the next 5 to win the series.

Come on now, let's get going!  Go Lakers!

Posted by Scott
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