A few minutes before the TV pregame starts so I thought I'd take a quick spin around the neighborhood for some Laker Links, in case anyone is interested...
Lakers/Rockets Game 7 - Here We Go
by Kurt, Forum Blue & Gold
As much as I am confident the Lakers will win today, there is a sense of nervousness around a game seven. Because anything can happen. We want more Ron Artest from the Rockets, but he is fully capable of having one of those games where his poor shot choices are falling. There are a lot of things to make Lakers fans nervous.
That said, the road jitters that take the team out of their offensive rhythm will be gone, replaced by a loud and supportive home crowd. The Lakers never lost home court in this series (as has been said), this game is why you want home court. And for all the stories that have said "the Lakers didn't learn anything from Boston's game six last year" this is the game where we really find out if they did. The team sounds ready. I know Kobe will be.
The key for the Lakers in this series has been on the offensive end of the floor. When they have lost that is the end where the Rockets and themselves took them out of their rhythm That is the end that fuels their passion on defense. Darius had a few suggestions on what the Lakers need to do. * * *
A couple more after the jump...
Click the headlines to read the complete stories...
Only Lakers Can Stop the Madness: They should beat the Rockets to win the series today, but if they don't, watch out.
by Jeff Miller, Orange County Register
EL SEGUNDO - They've already lost in front of the home fans, failed to compete in one game and couldn't knock out their wounded, undermanned and undersized opponent in another.
But the Lakers still have one more chance to really go from playing the stud to making a thud.
A defeat today would have them longing for those glorious playoff times, like Game 6 last year in Boston, where they lost only an NBA title.
Falling to Houston again at Staples Center would result in them losing dignity, face and — not to be overly dramatic — the right to walk out of the arena with their pants on.
The point is, if they're going to embarrass themselves, they should be forced to exit this postseason as red-faced as possible.
While there seems to be little chance of the Lakers losing today, this series also once seemed more likely to feature a snow day than a Game 7.
"Oh, a lot," Kobe Bryant said about the amount of pressure his team faces. "But this is what we do. We're supposed to be here. As players, we have to respond."
By respond, we're assuming he meant like a team worthy of the Western Conference finals. There are other ways to respond, ways not so worthy. You know, a whoopee cushion responds, too.
Asked if he felt even the slightest discomfort about his team's current condition, ultra-cool coach Phil Jackson admitted his sleep patterns have changed recently. He then explained, "That's why I meditate."
The Lakers' uneven play also is why others medicate, prescribing for themselves things like Jagermeister. * * *
This One's On Phil Jackson: Coach needs to shake up the Lakers and win Game 7 against the Rockets or there will be Zen to pay.
by Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times
This one is on Phil.
If the powerful Lakers unimaginably lose Game 7 and the Western Conference semifinals to the puny Houston Rockets today, the loudest, angriest thunder will crash down upon Zeus himself.
This one is on Phil.
There will be folks wanting to skewer Kobe Bryant, and certainly, while Bryant has played hard and smart, would Magic Johnson have let this happen?
There will be mounds of blame placed on Pau Gasol, and absolutely, he has been spun around by a Houston sprocket named Hayes, and I don't mean Elvin.
There will be handfuls of fingers pointed at Andrew Bynum, and, yes, he hasn't even been as aggressive as his scratchy knee brace.
There will also be frustration at Derek Fisher, and sure, he has been regularly beaten by Aaron Brooks while countering with the sum total of one forearm shiver.
But the conscience of this team has always rested in its coach.
The heartbeat of this team has always been pumped from the sideline.
The zing of this team has always started with the Zen.
This one is on Phil Jackson.
Today in Game 7, nobody's reputation requires more redemption.
Nobody's legacy is in greater need of liposuction.
Nobody needs a win worse.
Jackson, I have long maintained, is the best coach in NBA history.
But for the last couple of weeks, he hasn't even been the best coach on the court.
He has been out-schemed by Rick Adelman.
He has motivated with all the power of a librarian.
He has worked the sidelines with less impact than Jack. * * *
* * A D D E N D A * *
For Lakers, Game 7 will mean new life or a dead end
by Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times
Nobody talked about Saturday's practice possibly being the last of the Lakers' season, though it hung in the air, an uncomfortable guest during video sessions, a quick round of shooting and as the players went their separate ways after leaving the team's training facility.
Few people would have predicted a Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals, particularly after Houston center Yao Ming went down after Game 3, but here the Lakers are, forced to extend themselves to the max a month before many forecast they would be beating Cleveland for their 15th NBA championship.
Players are typically reluctant to admit there's pressure on their team, but there will be plenty on the Lakers today if they want to get to the next round against Denver, much less the NBA Finals.
"A lot," Kobe Bryant said. "We're supposed to be there. As players, you have to respond. If you're to be the NBA champion, you've got to be able to respond to situations like this."
That the Lakers are in this situation in the first place can be traced to a host of realities.
They haven't been able to control second-year point guard Aaron Brooks, who has averaged 18.8 points and 2.5 assists this series only three months after being handed the starting job. (How unexpected is his success? He's not one of the seven players pictured on the cover of the Rockets' 2008-09 media guide.)
Derek Fisher has averaged only 5.2 points while shooting 29.4% in this series and has had trouble defensively with Brooks. The Lakers' big men haven't been as effective as expected down low against the Rockets' undersized front court.
Steps have been taken to remedy the above. At least, that's the Lakers' hope. * * *
Kobe in the last 6 elimination games (Lakers 1-5)
posted by "KB24@CL" to Club Lakers.com
2003: Kobe: 20 points (9-19), 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 7 turnovers...L
2004: Kobe: 24 points (7-21), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers...L
2006: Kobe: 24 points (8-16), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 turnovers...L
2007: Kobe: 34 points (13-33), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 6 turnovers...L
2008: Kobe: 25 points (8-21), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, 6 turnovers...W
2008: Kobe: 22 points (7-22), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 4 turnovers ...L
Straight up anti-clutch. Horrible. He didn't contribute in any cathegory but low FG% and TO machine.
Hmmmm, not sure I like the looks of that one.
Kobe and Game 7: Question of the Day
by Andrew and Brian Kamenetzky, LA Times Lakers Blog
After Game 6, I was IM-ing with John Krolik, a great young basketball writer for Slam and the ESPN.com TrueHoop Network (via Cavs The Blog), and it was the first time I heard the question. Since then, it has been kicked around in various forms by various people, but he was the first to bring it up to me:
Is Sunday's Game 7 with the Rockets the biggest 48 minutes of Kobe's career?
I think so, at least as his legacy is concerned. Should the Lakers lose, I have a feeling that the hit to Kobe's reputation will be large. This, after all, is his team, one that whipped the rest of the Western Conference en route to 65 wins and has played with a championship-or-bust mantra since October. Losing in the second round to a star-free Houston team would be a monumental embarrassment and while others would be damaged along with him, as LA's frontman Kobe's production and leadership would be under attack.
When U2 releases a bad album people blame Bono not Adam Clayton, even if the bass lines are crap.
With LeBron James continuing to rise, the skills of Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and so on ascending, Kobe's place in the NBA's Order of Royalty would be damaged, as would the belief that a Kobe-led team (i.e. one without Shaq) can win a title. Lose in the Finals, and it's different. Lose here? Especially when his play, while good, hasn't been of superstar quality?
There are other implications, too. If they lose this early, does it change the context of Kobe's opt out? Does it get him thinking about greener pastures? I don't think so, but I can guarantee I'm not the only person who has wondered about it over the last couple days. That Kobe has played his whole career with the Lakers is a unique aspect of his potential legacy, especially in the modern game. Anything that could change that is worth noting. * * *
Vegas has this one as a 12.5 point Laker win, so the Wise Guys love LA anyways...