Rosen’s Report

Rosen’s Report: Spurs at Lakers




This game is all about jockeying for playoff position. In the homestretch, the Spurs have two goals: To stay healthy and to catch Oklahoma City and gain home court advantage throughout the Western Conference post-season tournament.

The Lakers are intent on keeping the Clippers in the rear-view mirror by securing the third seed. And in doing so, the Lakers would face Dallas in the first round, a team they’ve swept in the regular season (4-0). Also, with Kobe Bryant‘s injured shin most likely to keep him on the bench, the Lakers have another chance to develop the offensive chops of his teammates — something that would undoubtedly make L.A. even tougher to beat in the playoffs.

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Rosen’s Report: Heat at Bulls




Miami is still reeling from a pair of home-and-home losses to the Boston Celtics. The Heat need a win in Chicago to keep alive their chances of earning the top-seed in the East, and also to demolish suspicions that they lack heart and are only wannabe champions.

Fresh from their gutsy, Rose-less, bounce-back win versus the Knicks, Chicago simply wants to douse any title hopes the Heat might have.

HOW MIAMI CAN WIN

  • LeBron James must have his way when variously working against Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer or Kyle Korver. This means that LBJ has to knock down his jumpers, minimize his domination of the ball and make quick decisions to keep Chicago’s alert defense on the move. Contrary to many of his past playoff performances, LeBron must also deliver the goods if/when the game is up for grabs. At the other end of the court, the self-proclaimed King has the size, strength and foot speed to play bothersome bump-and-grind defense against Deng, but can also be beaten off the dribble because his balance is sometimes compromised when he leans forward looking for a steal.
  • Dwyane Wade can easily out-quick and overpower the veteran defense of Rip Hamilton, and also has the legs to tailgate Hamilton’s (and Kyle Korver‘s) perpetual motions. D-Wade must, however, remain mindful of Brewer’s timely off-the-ball cuts. If Wade can bag his jumpers, then driving lanes and pull-up opportunities will become available. Even so, because of Chicago’s gang-up defense in the paint, Wade must also look to make accurate kick-out passes when surrounded in the shadow of the hoop.
  • Although he has adhesive hands, Carlos Boozer is slow off the floor, can no longer take his dribble to the rim, is utterly defenseless and has a history of choking in the clutch. Oh, and his son is a diehard Miami fan. Chris Bosh has the capability of scoring against him from near, far and all points in between, but needs the space and the ball-time to do so. Above all, Bosh’s jumper must be on-target.

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Rosen’s Report: New York at Orlando




Jeremy Lin is down for the count and who knows when/if Amar’e Stoudemire will return to action. That means what’s left of the Knicks’ roster will have to carry New York for the duration. While the Knicks are still battling for the last playoff slot, they also have their sights set on the No. 6 seed in order to play Orlando in the opening round instead of either Miami or Chicago. And on the heels of last week’s trampling of the Magic, a repeat performance would not only greatly enhance the achievement of both of these goals, but also make Orlando shiver in anticipation of encountering New York in the money season. After their fourth-quarter meltdown in Indiana on Tuesday, the Knicks also has to prove that they do have a necessary killer instinct.

On the flip side, the Magic need the win to demonstrate that their humiliating performance in New York was a fluke, and that they are indeed legitimate championship contenders.

HOW THE KNICKS CAN WIN

  • Forget about LeBron, Kobe and/or Kevin DurantCarmelo Anthony is the most versatile scorer in the game. If KD is a better long-distant dialer, Anthony’s 3-point shooting is more reliable than the other two elite scorers. The difference is ‘Melo’s dynamic post-up game. With Stoudemire out, Anthony is now filling the power forward slot, which makes his offense even more unstoppable (plus he’s a better rebounder than his predecessor). There’s certainly no way that either Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson (if he makes a miraculous recovery from a freshly sprained ankle), or Glen Davis can put up any meaningful defensive resistance without considerable help. The problem is the Knicks’ spacing forces defenders to come a long way to double Anthony. And should Anthony bring his A-game into the last period, the Magic will run out of tricks.
  • Assuming that Dwight Howard has recuperated from the infamous phantom punch, Tyson Chandler has the length and the defensive chops to make him labor mightily to score in the low post.  In addition, Howard gets flustered when he’s doubled on the move and tends to force shots, make wayward passes, or simply commit turnovers.  Chandler’s timely dive-cuts on high screen/rolls should also put him in dunk city. (more…)

Rosen’s Report: OKC at L.A. Lakers




In the wake of their recent trouncing of Miami, the Thunder are convinced that they are destined to be champs. Their occasional lapses in focus, however, still need to be remedied. Here is a chance for OKC to restore their A-game and discourage the reconstituted Lakers from thinking that they are now the best in the West.

After previously being a good-to-middling team, the Lakers believe that the addition of Ramon Sessions does indeed make them a legitimate championship contender. Even as Sessions’ shakedown cruise continues, L.A. seeks to prove that they now have the size and the speed to quell the Thunder.

HOW THE THUNDER CAN WIN

• Kevin Durant has to escape the defensive clutches of Metta World Peace to score at least 30 efficient points. To accomplish this, KD must move without the ball, drop beacoup treys, and also knife his way to the rim. In so doing, he must be prepared to be physically assaulted. Moreover, when Durant moves into the low post, his passing options have to be expanded by his teammates executing more dive-cuts and fades than are generally included in OKC’s game plan.

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Rosen’s Report: Chicago at Orlando

The Bulls are in a holding pattern, trying to maintain their position atop the Eastern Conference standings while Derrick Rose recuperates.  Thus far, some spirited play from their second unit has been a huge help in keeping the Heat in the rearview mirror.  Yet despite Chicago’s being the best road team in the conference, winning in Orlando would provide a significant boost in confidence for all of D-Rose’s supporting cast.

With Dwight Howard committing to stay put, the Magic are looser and more sure of who they are than they have been all season long.  Moreover, getting safely through the trade-deadline enhances the security and mutual trust of the entire roster, and contributes to the players’ belief that the best is yet to come.

HOW THE BULLS CAN WIN

• Unless Rose undergoes a miraculous recovery, C.J. Watson will start at point guard.  Watson is a savvy, experienced veteran who can routinely drain 3-balls, show quick helping hands on defense, and alertly draw charging fouls. Since Jameer Nelson is the motor of Orlando’s offense, Watson has the difficult task of both staying in his face to discourage bonus shots, and also to keep his opposite number from penetrating. If Watson can match Nelson point-for-point and assist-for-assist, the Bulls will cruise.

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Rosen’s Report: Dallas at Phoenix

Despite the dismantling of their championship squad, the Mavs still nurture hopes of defending their title. For now, they are languishing in the lower-seeded playoff bracket but are only one game away from earning the third seed in the West. They also anticipate that their corps of veterans will have their respective A-games honed when the money season commences.

For the Suns, competing in the playoffs is both a distant memory and an unimaginable future. While Phoenix is still a moderately competitive team, two of their stalwarts — Grant Hill and Steve Nash — are learning that the older they get the faster they get old. Is it time, then, for management to utter the “R” word — Rebuilding?

HOW THE MAVERICKS CAN WIN

Unless he’s double-teamed, Dirk Nowitzki’s dreadnaught arsenal of off-balance, step-back, wrong-footed shot-releases can seldom be deterred. Plus, he’s a dead-eye shooter with 3-point range, is virtually unstoppable when driving left, and has the most convincing shot-fakes in the NBA. Nowitzki has certainly recovered from his early-season slump, yet he remains somewhat erratic — especially before the halftime intermission.  However, Nowitzki usually has long arms whenever a game is up for grabs. Even though Jared Dudley is Phoenix’s best defender, Nowitzki will still have to be two-timed — which will create opportunities for Nowitzki’s timely passes to generate open shots for his teammates.

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Rosen’s Report: OKC at Orlando

The Oklahoma City Thunder believe that they are storming their way to a championship. Raining on the Magic’s parade in Orlando would be another indication that OKC is bound to devastate all comers on their righteous path to glory.

Meanwhile, Orlando has several issues that have conspired to drop them into the lower bracket of playoff-seeded teams in the Eastern Conference. Chief among these is the uncertainty surrounding the immediate and long-range future of Dwight Howard. Otis Smith and the rest of the front office are hoping that a win over the Thunder just might convince Howard that the Magic have a legitimate shot at the championship, and encourage him to finish his career in Disneyland South.

HOW THE THUNDER CAN WIN

Notwithstanding the warp speed of Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook is quicker with the ball than any point guard in the league. As such, there’s no way that Chris Duhon or Jameer Nelson (assuming his sore knees allow him to play) can keep Westbrook from zipping the ball into the paint whenever the spirit moves him. In so doing, the Magic’s defense will be forced to collapse en masse to prevent Westbrook from shooting multiple layups. By virtue of Westbrook’s timely kick-out passes, the Thunder’s sharp-shooters will have the time and space to launch uncontested treys. Moreover, Westbrook is a rhythm shooter, who rarely misses when he can pull-up right.

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Rosen’s Report: Knicks at Heat

Yes, the Knicks lost on Monday to the lowly Nets but they rallied with an impressive rout of the Hawks on Wednesday where they showed signs of  Carmelo Anthony, J. R. Smith, and Baron Davis adjusting Linsanity. Yet despite the massive hype surrounding New York during the last two weeks, facing the Heat in Miami is the best chance yet for the Knicks to prove that their recent spectacular successes are legit.

At this point in the season, the Heat have their collective mojo working and, thus far, are the best team in the East if not the entire league. Their three leading lights are in synch, and their supporting players are likewise at the top of their respective games.  Miami’s aim is to stuff Linsanity into a straitjacket.

HOW THE KNICKS CAN WIN
Jeremy Lin must hit his perimeter jumpers, repeatedly penetrate and make accurate kick-out or drop-passes, generally keep the ball moving, and play a modicum of man-to-man defense. While he’s far from being a speedster, Lin can read defenses and anticipate where the driving lanes will materialize. Once these openings manifest, Lin’s long strides, slick left-to-right crossovers, and ability to find air-space at the rim are virtually unstoppable. If his straight-up defense is merely ordinary, Lin’s quick hands and extraordinary help-decisions enable him to come up with frequent steals and run-outs.  In any event, Mario Chalmers isn’t the kind of dreadnaught scorer who can consistently embarrass Lin. (more…)

Rosen’s Report: Clippers at Blazers

The Clippers’ championship aspirations took a significant hit when Chauncey Billups was lost for the season. In the five games since he went down, L.A. has been mediocre. Even so, a victory in the Rose Garden would help prove the viability of their reorganized backcourt rotation and get the Clippers back on track in the race for the gold rings.

Even as the Trail Blazers are desperately battling to qualify for the playoffs, an injury to a key player has likewise forced them to make adjustments. The difference is that while Billups is down for the count, LaMarcus Aldridge’s sprained ankle should only be a temporary setback.  Beating the Clippers would give Portland’s confidence a huge boost.

HOW THE CLIPPERS CAN WIN: Chris Paul has to use his speed and quickness to avoid being bullied by Raymond Felton, to take full advantage of the defensive ineptitude of Mo Williams, and to navigate his way around and/or through the inevitable double teams he will face.  Look for CP3 to have a big game. (more…)

Rosen’s Report: Lakers at Boston

With a dismal record of 3-9 away from the friendly hullabaloo at the Staples Center, the Lakers are certainly not road warriors.  And since it’s highly unlikely that they’ll have the home court advantage throughout the playoffs, for their own confidence and world-peace of mind they desperately need to beat the Celtics where the leprechauns dwell.

On the opposite side of the equation, the Celtics are beginning to get their collective mojo working.  And Boston’s corps of senior citizens — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen — will certainly be rejuvenated with the return to action of Rajon Rondo.

HOW THE LAKERS CAN WIN:  The Andrew Bynum-Jermaine O’Neal matchup is a lopsided one, requiring Boston to routinely two-time LAL’s newest All-Star.  Although Bynum doesn’t move his feet well in a crowd, his passing out of the double-team has shown dramatic improvement — especially in finding Pau Gasol.

  • Operating against Boston’s sub par frontline, Bynum and Gasol should tally a stat sheet full of put-backs and offensive rebounds.
  • While Bynum is an excellent shot-blocker, he must also avoid turning his head when playing weak-side defense.
  • Kobe Bryant has lost a half-step but is still a high-volume scorer.  He’s gotten used to being doubled and is willingly (and mostly accurately) making slick attack-passes.
  • Too infrequently, Kobe will pass when under double-pressure, cut through the middle, then use a weak-side screen to come back to the middle to receive the ball.  This kind of movement confuses the defense, creates disadvantageous defensive switches, and/or fatally delays any possible re-doubles.  More of this tactic is needed.
  • When Kobe isos along the baseline, he can usually find an open shot by spinning away from any attempts to double him from the top — particularly early in the shot clock.  The risk, though, is that if he can’t find a good look, his passing options are seriously compromised.
  • For much of the game, Kobe will be defended by Ray Allen, certainly a worthy opponent, yet too old and too slow to do an adequate job.
  • In the second half of LA’s most recent game — a loss in Philadelphia — Gasol had zero touches in the low-post.  Even though KG is a scrappy defender, Gasol must get more opportunities to exercise his considerable pivotal skills.
  • Although Rondo can run rings around Derek Fisher, the Lakers wizened veteran will take advantage of the youngster’s sometimes wild enthusiasm to be in position to receive judicious passes and knock down clutch treys.
  • Because Rondo seems more reluctant than ever to shoot jumpers, he can be defended from a distance to discourage his penetrations into the paint.
  • Metta World Peace has to play exceptional bump-and-slide defense against Pierce.
  • It’s imperative that the Lakers get substantial contributions from their bench players.  Of these, only Andrew Goudelock has a well-developed offensive game.  Too bad the rookie is another example of a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, making the second-unit effectively headless.
  • With Rondo’s swift ambushing of passing lanes, the Lakers have to take better care of the ball than is their wont.
  • To slow down Rondo’s one-man fastbreaks, hustling defensive transitions are a must.

HOW THE CELTICS CAN WIN:  Since Kobe is nearly the entire focus of LAL’s offense, special measures must be taken to control him.  Doubling him whenever possible is the primary anti-Kobe strategy.  And Allen’s slow but pesky defense can be complimented by the more quick-footed and aggressive efforts of Mickael Pietrus. 

  • Moreover, since Kobe has passed his 33rd birthday, he’s driving less and relying more on pull-ups.  Accordingly, defenders should play him chest-to-chest, thereby forcing him to take his dribble into rush-hour traffic — where his shots have become increasingly blockable.
  • PP must abuse MWP with from-the-top isos.
  • Because Gasol is taller and even longer than KG, scoring in the low-post will be difficult.  That’s why the Big Ticket’s mid- and long-range jumpers must be on-target.
  • Rondo’s warp-speed advantage must blister both Fisher and the inexperienced Goudelock.  By repeatedly zipping into the paint, Rondo will draw the undivided attention of LA’s bigs making kick-out and drop-passes extremely successful.
  • Whereas Allen cannot mount as many serious attacks with his dribble as he used to, and his long-distance dialing is much more erratic, he remains a dangerous if streaky shooter.  His perpetual off-the-ball scampering will undoubtedly create open shots, and he must warm up when the game gets hot.
  • Pietrus and Brandon Bass (if he’s healthy) have to overwhelm the shaky defense of LA’s subs.
  • Since the Celts lack any menacing shot-blockers, their defensive rotations have to be swift and precise.  Unfortunately, both Allen and Garnett tend to be head-turners when playing off the ball.  Plus, their rotations often leave the middle open for dive cuts.
  • Too many miles on too many legs often leave corner shooters unguarded when the Celtics defenders have to collapse on ball-penetration.  Fortunately, with only a .294 success rate, the Lakers are the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA.
  • And with MWP being an honorary member of the bricklayers’ union, he simply does not have to be guarded on the perimeter.
  • Bynum scores most of his point on dunk-backs and drop passes from his teammates—so whoever’s defending him must maintain body contact at all times.
  • Bynum’s effectiveness with the ball in the low-post can be nullified by doubling him in anticipation of his habitual reverse-moves.
  • On offense, Boston’s trademark is terrific ball- and player-movement as well as admirable unselfishness.

FIVIE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Halftime is crucial because that’s when coaching staffs make necessary adjustments.  These adjustments (or lack thereof) will be clearly manifest during the initial five minutes of the third quarter.  Which team, then, will dominate that stretch?
  2.  Part of Boston’s halfcourt offense is the effectiveness of their dive cutters.  Will LA’s defenders be able to clog the weak-side to prevent easy receptions and easy scores?
  3. The Celtics have often struggled when operating against zone defenses.  Will the Lakers take advantage of this shortcoming?
  4. Because Boston is the best beyond-the-pale shooting team in the league (.422), their perimeter players will be routinely tagged.  Can the Celtics take advantage of this stretched defense with in-the-post scoring by PP, KG, Bass, or whomever?
  5. The Lakers score only 93.16 points per game (19th in the ranking), with Boston ranking 25th at 90.65 ppg.  This means that defense-generated runouts and early offense will spell the difference.  Who will win the battle of points-off-turnovers?