More Lakers laughs

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More Lakers laughs

The best way to cope with the Celtics struggles is to shift focus to the drama in LA. Drama and embarrassment might be a better way to describe it, but either way it's a hell of a lot worse than what's happening in Boston.

With half the season in the books, the Lakers are 17-24. They're four games back of the eighth seed, and only the Hornets, Kings and Suns have a worse record in the West. I mean, at least the Celtics are still right around .500, and no one really expected them to win it all. On the other hand, the Lakers were Western Conference favorites, they were supposed to take over the world. But between firing Mike Brown, hiring Mike D'Antoni, injuries to Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, Dwight Howard's slow recovery and inability to get on Kobe's level, it's been a total disaster. It's been a lot of fun to watch.

If you listen to Howard, that's all in the past: "I think this will be the start of a new season for us tonight," he said after Wednesday's shootaround (before tonight's game in Memphis). "Hopefully our effort and energy is where it needs to be tonight. But it starts with me. I have to bring it."
I agree with what he's saying, but here's why I don't expect things to change.

According to the LA Times, the Lakers had an air-clearing team meeting before the shoot around, and here's how it played out:

First, D'Antoni expressed his displeasure with a lack of defense and abundance of players speaking out in the media. Then, Steve Nash said he's willing to do whatever it takes to make everyone comfortable. And then, writes the Times' Mike Bresnahan

Bryant also spoke up, acknowledging he could be "hard to play with" and asking Howard if that bothered him.

Howard's answer was unclear, though he did not engage Bryant in nearly as vocal a manner as Bryant engaged him.

"He didn't go back at Kobe," said the person who witnessed the meeting.

Typical Dwight.

It's obvious that he's not crazy about playing with Kobe. Even if he wasn't feeling it at that very moment, you know he has loads pent up animosity from these last few months. And this was his chance to be honest, to be a man, to say what he thinks without his constant passive-aggressive BS . . . and maybe have a breakthrough.

But from the looks of this report, Howard just shut off. He backed down.

And then he went and said all the right things to the media. "It starts with me," he said. "I have to bring it."

But saying that is one thing. The Lakers will only improve if Howard really means it, and if he's at peace with his role on this team and under Kobe's jurisdiction.

In other words, don't count on the diversion disappearing anytime soon.

The LA disaster is here to stay. At least until Dwight bounces next summer.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.