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Not even LeBron James can save the hapless Lakers from themselves in humiliating loss to Celtics

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When LeBron James entered the game for his final stretch on Friday, his Los Angeles Lakers trailed the Boston Celtics by 11 points. This was hardly his fault. He was the only Laker with a positive point-differential at that moment. His team had won his minutes by four points … but lost the ones he missed by 15. This is standard LeBron protocol after 19 years. No player in NBA history has done more to lift underperforming teammates than James. An 11-point road comeback is old hat for him at this point. But one player can only do so much.

Three minutes later, he left the game with the Lakers trailing by 19. All told, the Lakers managed to turn a 14-point lead into a 22-point defeat. Such collapses have become commonplace this season. The Lakers blew a 26-point lead to the Thunder mere weeks ago, but LeBron’s return was supposed to prevent such embarrassments. James held up his end of the bargain. He managed to score 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting despite playing through an abdominal injury that just cost him eight games. But the Celtics helped expose a sobering truth about the team that he plays for, one that might never have been true for any other team for which he’s played. Not even LeBron James can save the Lakers from themselves. 

The 8-9 Lakers are the first James team to be below .500 through 17 games since his rookie 2003-04 Cleveland Cavaliers. James was obviously absent for many of those games, but the primary value of acquiring Russell Westbrook was to prevent this exact situation. The Lakers were supposed to have two superstars capable of carrying them when James sat. They didn’t when he was hurt. They didn’t when he needed rest Friday. Of course, they didn’t really have a chance to. Frank Vogel’s bizarre rotations continue to kneecap the Lakers at every turn. 

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In James, Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker, the Lakers have three attackers at their best with the ball in their hands. Between the 3:54 and 1:56 marks of the first quarter, all three of them were on the bench while Rajon Rondo ran the offense. With Rondo on the floor this season, the Lakers have scored a paltry 97.2 points per 100 possessions. They predictably lost this stretch by two points. In the second quarter, he played a stretch with both James and Davis on the bench. The Lakers lost that one by another two points. These are inexcusable mistakes. Staggering is standard NBA procedure. It makes sense not to play minutes without at least one of your two best players on the floor. It makes sense to separate players with similar skill sets so you can make the most of what they bring to the table. The Lakers haven’t done that. 

They’re not exactly making the most of their players even in the best alignments, though. Does it really make sense for James, Westbrook and Horton-Tucker to clear out while Avery Bradley works off of a dribble hand-off? 

Late in the third quarter, the Lakers played nearly three minutes with James, Davis, and perhaps their three best shooters: Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington and Malik Monk. This is a lineup made for the James-Davis pick-and-roll that has been their late-game bread and butter over the past two seasons. The Lakers ran it once. On the other hand, they posted up twice in that span and used 14 total post-ups against the Celtics. No NBA team uses even nine per game, and most are below five. This is, again, common sense. They are an inefficient form of offense that bails out lumbering big men. Five of those post-ups came with Enes Kanter, maybe the worst pick-and-roll defender in the NBA, on the floor. That’s the one defensive skill he has. The Lakers didn’t tailor their game-plan to their opponent. 

They didn’t tailor their roster to their superstars either. You know how you drop from No. 1 in defense to No. 18 in a single year? You get rid of all of your best point-of-attack defenders and entrust a 20-year-old with guarding the best opposing scorer. You know how you build a bench in which every player posts a negative plus-minus against your biggest rival? You devote two thirds of your roster spots to players making the minimum salary. You know how you hold yourself to 70 points in the last three quarters against that rival? You introduce a high-usage non-shooter into an ecosystem that relies on low-usage shooters. 

Through 17 games, the Lakers have no discernible identity. The defense that won them the 2020 championship is gone. The transition attack Westbrook was supposed to spearhead has underwhelmed as the Lakers ranked second in pace entering Friday, but only eighth in fast-break points and 15th in points per possession in transition. Even when they roll out simplified lineups that facilitate the style that made them successful offensively over the past few years, they just can’t help but waste those possessions on the wrong kinds of shots. 

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James has lifted plenty of underwhelming teams to unfathomable heights. We’re talking about someone that made the Finals in nine consecutive healthy seasons. But those teams lacked talent. The Lakers lack something deeper. They lack cohesion. They lack common sense. Where James’ worst teams were once overcome by more talented foes, the Lakers are the team with the talent this time. It hasn’t mattered. They won’t get out of their own way. The Lakers are doing this to themselves, and not even LeBron James can overcome his opponent when his own team is standing in the way. 





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MLB Continues To Trail The NFL In Key Category

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(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

 

American sports fans can’t help it: they love to compare everything they see, use, watch, or enjoy.

It’s a natural thing to do, and it happens in every country.

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In the specific case of the United States, fans often discuss which sports and leagues are the most popular.

Several metrics and factors are used to determine the winner: average attendance to games, overall revenue, TV ratings, social media followers or interactions, and more.

The people at FiveThirtyEight wrote an interesting article and show us a key graph using average attendance to games.

The NFL is heavily favored in that exercise.

“Put simply, NFL games are massively bigger spectacles than contests in any other American sport, with thousands more people showing up to NFL stadiums during football season than we see at MLB, NBA or NHL games,” they tweeted.

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There are several things to consider.

Attendance to MLB games is, on average, just under 27,000 while the NFL is just shy of 70,000.

NBA and NHL are next with almost 18,000 and close to 17,000, respectively.

We have to account for the fact that there are 17 games per team in an NFL season, and the number is 162 in MLB.

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Additionally, NBA and NHL would have a problem with bigger venues from a visibility standpoint.

NFL is a huge league, but these are important factors to consider.

There is no question, however, that NFL is ahead of MLB when it comes to viewership.

MLB has to make sure to showcase its product in the most possible avenues to start making up some ground.

The post MLB Continues To Trail The NFL In Key Category appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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NBA Insider Reveals Latest On Kyrie Irving Trade

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(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

 

After Kyrie Irving demanded a trade on Friday, the Brooklyn Nets acted quickly, agreeing to send him to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

On Monday, NBA insider Shams Charania reported that the trade was now official, and he gave the details on what Dallas gave up to receive the perennial All-Star point guard.

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On the surface, it looks like the Mavs didn’t give up a whole lot to get a man who is averaging 27.1 points and 5.3 assists per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from 3-point range this season.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who was a member of the Nets a few years ago, will give them a solid point guard and 3-point shooter, while Dorian Finney-Smith will provide them with a decent defender, but neither player gives opposing teams headaches.

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However, the Mavs are taking a significant risk here because of Irving’s off-the-court issues.

He was suspended for eight games earlier this season after promoting a documentary with antisemitic content and then failing to explain why he did so to reporters.

Last season, he refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which led to him missing most of the season, as New York City banned unvaccinated athletes from playing.

Some also wonder if Irving and Luka Doncic can mesh together in the same backcourt, as both are ball-dominant players.

Then there is the matter of getting Irving to sign a contract extension to keep him in Dallas past this season.

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If it all works, the Mavs will have the foundation to become a championship contender, but if it doesn’t, they would have given up several of their limited trade assets for essentially nothing.

The post NBA Insider Reveals Latest On Kyrie Irving Trade appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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Dodgers Manager Withholds A Bold Claim In 2023

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(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 

The spring is usually the time for hope and lofty goals in the MLB universe.

It’s also the time for the “I’m in the best shape of my life” quotes by players, and the “we built a squad to compete” by general managers.

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With that in mind, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts may have gone a bit too far last year.

In late March, around the end of spring training, he said that he “guaranteed” the Dodgers winning the World Series.

In reality, every sign pointed at LA being extremely competitive until the end.

Time proved that his squad was historically good, with 111 wins and just 51 losses.

However, they lost in the first round of the playoffs, against the San Diego Padres no less.

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Dodgers (and other teams’) fans blasted him for his spring training remarks.

They couldn’t believe he promised a World Series win and couldn’t even get past the Division Series.

That’s why this time, Roberts decided to be a bit more cautious with what comes out of his mouth.

“Dave Roberts, speaking to the media at Dodgers Fanfest, said he will not guarantee the Dodgers winning the World Series this season,” Jorge Castillo of the LA Times tweeted.

Talk about learning from your own mistakes.

He received so much backlash that he is trying a more conservative approach.

He knows that his Dodgers are still elite, but he prefers the team to show it on the field this time.

They might not have such a dominant regular season because the Padres improved a lot.

However, all fans want is to see them win the last game of the season.

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The post Dodgers Manager Withholds A Bold Claim In 2023 appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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