Crucifido's Corner

Postby crucifido on Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:54 pm

Thanks again revgen.

Yeah Gasol is fitting in kinda good, ya think? :man12: The efficiency is stunning.

So its good to be back from the All-Star break, and even better coming back with a decisive win.

Lakers vs. Hawks (Game 53 2/19/08)

A Tiny Bit Of Revenge

The Lakers return from a historic road trip, Pau’s first game at Staples / home, the first test of Kobe’s now overblown / infamous pinky, revenge for a silly loss to the Hawks on the road, there was a lot of storylines to watch this game - the least of which being the debut of Bibby in a Hawks uniform.

The rust was kind of there in the 1st, with one turnover a blatant bad pass by Gasol and another over-pass to Kobe from Lamar on the break, but that’s it. It was shaken quickly via defense, both in transition and in the half court set. Once they shook off that tiny amount of squeakiness, the Lakers showed some serious team hustle on all fronts, creating rebounds, passes, seams and plenty of open chances all over the place. That defensive hustle got their shots going and the entire team involved in more than just the box score.

Jumping onto teams like this is a good lesson for the Lakers to keep taking to heart. Its starts like they had tonight that will serve a giant double purpose, no matter who the opponent. First, you dictate the pace and second, you get your rhythm in gear before the other team even knows what hit them.

What you had to just love watching was the Lakers not only creating turnovers from the Hawks, but also cashing on a vast majority of them. And when the Lakers did score off turnovers, they were emphatic. There wasn’t any indecisiveness on breaks or off of turnovers, which is a solid sign of this team getting into a groove – as a team. The pressure was put on early in the half court sets and it pushed Atlanta into some seriously sloppy play.

The Lakers obviously enjoyed some home cookin’, because that kind of energy for a whole game hadn’t been seen in quite a while. You watch this game and have to wonder how the Lakers dropped a game to these same Hawks.

Odom – Again, he’s taking the shots given to him, which for most players is no big deal, but for Lamar it’s a big deal. He was working into the lane immediately, with the lay-up on Smith and the driving cut down the lane for the dunk in the 1st. I liked seeing Lamar push his way into the low post tonight. He often squirms around defenses taking seams given to him, but there was a little fight in him tonight. With guys like Smith around, you have to play strong in the paint and Lamar did well doing just that.

The key to Odom’s game tonight was anticipatory positioning. He looked like he had gotten the hang of reading where his teammates will be and where balls will come off the rim to. The rebounding from Lamar was gorgeous to watch. He cleared space and got virtually every board with two hands whether contested or not. It was textbook board work from Lamar tonight.

He was pushing it into Smith’s chest from the outside all the way to the hoop offensively. Aggressive contact initiated by Lamar like that got Smith on his heels in a hurry, making him expend a lot of energy running from outside to inside trying to keep up with Lamar.

Walton – Much better defense from Luke tonight. His lateral movement was livelier. Though his offense is still just out of character right now. Its still forced and starting from too deep to be effective.

Farmar – Strong drives was the order of the day for Jordan. The push he had against Law in the 2nd quarter along the baseline for a soft reverse lay-up was great. The steal and dunk in the 2nd wasn’t terrible either. They were both good to see not only for the score, but because it showed that the All-Star break indeed gave Jordan his wind back. He was looking ragged before the break, but tonight Farmar was back to his off-ball activity and smart offensive play that’s made him one of the better back up PG’s in the NBA.

Farmar did a good job of budgeting his 3 point attempts tonight, only taking open or structured threes.

Gasol – Along with Bynum running the floor well when he’s out there, Gasol is another big for the Lakers that runs the floor ridiculously well. It starts with the tap with Gasol and there was no slowing down for him the entire game. Pau’s control under the hoop was remarkable, even in heavy traffic situations. When he got himself the board or in position there was no wasted movement in the block.

What was and is great about Gasol, aside from everything else is that you rarely catch him off guard. If it’s a quick or sudden pass, he doesn’t lose sight of it. His awareness is at a super high level.

One defensive hitch for Pau is when he has to run with his man from the high post to the block. He should be calling for help, or the Lakers should rotate over to help him quicker. He doesn’t have the elevation to make up for the space he loses with a slower side step.

Radmanovic – I loved his perimeter defense on Williams. He did a good job staying in front of him. He gave up space on lateral dribbles, but Radmanovic did well keeping his man pushed a bit more to the outside than the outside. This was the most impressive defensive performance from Vladi since he’s been a Laker. I loved watching the full court pressure he put on the Hawks. It was relentless hustle from Radmanovic.

He also did well keeping on eye on passing angles from the high post. Though a bit sluggish getting to spots sometimes, he was paying attention in this one, which for Vladi is a big key to him getting more involved with the team.

Karl – Being the last guy off the bench isn’t easy, but you had to like Coby’s energy tonight. That throw-down he did was a fantastic strong finish and some sweet enthusiasm for a guy that rarely sees time in a game. It was good to see him come in ready.

Bryant – Pinky? What pinky? The funny thing about all the talk of Kobe’s finger was that the guy who’s actually hurt has said since day one it was no big deal. Now believe him or not, if he feels he can gut it out with it for the rest of the year, then nobody else’s opinion really matters. When Kobe got that bouncy trot in his step outside, you knew he was feeling fine. Yet again, he did a fantastic job playing a quiet game in the fist half, letting the rest of the team get their rhythm and find their way.

By the way Lakers, head fakes do wonders against shot blockers. There were far too many soft takes or unaware takes to the rim. If you give one small fake to adept pogos like Smith, more than likely he’s leaving his feet opening a pass or a shot.

It may seem like nitpicking with a blowout like this, but the Lakers have got to stay on top of teams, even when up by 40 or so at home at all times. Certainly the first half was amazing to watch, but that kind of hustle play cannot stop until the final buzzer – against any team. There can be no letting up. It not only seals games up, but it lets your starters rest (especially with a big game versus the Suns tomorrow) and it sends a message to other teams that once you get up on them, you won’t relent.

Also the Lakers have to be careful of not getting carried away with the crowd and the energy ion the court. The hustle, play and movement were great, but you can’t let the excitement lead you to playing out of control. Just like with Ronny, balance energy and control.

Well Atlanta got their taste of payback tonight. Next its onto the Suns and Shaq’s debut.
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Postby crucifido on Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:39 am

What a game huh?! yeah Lamar is playing just beautifully right now, as did everyone else (outside of a sleepy game by Luke).

Lakers vs. Suns (Game 54 2/20/08)

Resiliency In The Desert

It was one of the biggest stages surrounding a regular season game in a good long time. As the tip grew closer in Phoenix, the fans got more anxious. When the ball was finally thrown, the Lakers stepped on the gas and didn’t look back until the final buzzer.

There were plenty of ups and downs as Phoenix fought back from a 13 point deficit, took a late lead and had momentum working for them throughout the second half. Yet, despite all of that the Lakers stood tough. Their will to win wasn’t broken and for the first time in a handful of years, the Lakers looked like true contenders.

My main goal for the Lakers in first half was to just stay within 4 or 5 points. A lead would’ve been great to have, but I figured if the Lakers could keep close, they’d give themselves a chance to pull it out in the end. Luckily for me, them and the rest of the Laker faithful, the Lakers had bigger goals in mind. From the first run the Lakers had about midway in the 1st quarter it was apparent that intensity was alive and well within every player on the floor and on the bench.

Out of everyone there was Kobe leading the way. I hope that now we can put to rest the great pinky debate and realize that a simple pinky injury won’t hold Kobe back right now. Out of everything he did what I loved seeing was Kobe waiting in the wings as the game got itself up to a boil. He did a perfect job of letting the rest of the team get them into the game mentally. It didn’t take much because the Lakers looked focus from the outset, but by Kobe taking a backseat to the team’s welfare, he let everyone rev their game up to speed. That speed kept up the entire game.

Kobe’s work on the defensive end was easy to miss, but it was powerful tonight. Raja Bell, normally good for 10 o21 points against the Lakers was held to zero. His switching from top to bottom to help out with Shaq in the paint was on the money. It was a defensive performance that in a 130 – 124 game where there was little defense to speak of overall, could easily be unseen. But with Kobe holding one of the key elements the Suns look to spread the floor was big.

Along those lines, I liked that the Lakers for most purposes let Amare do what he had to do. Certainly Shaq eased up a lot of room for Amare to operate more freely, but the Lakers did well in holding down the peripheral players. They didn’t let guys like Bell, Diaw, Strawberry or even Shaq go off for big games. I mean it’s so tough to spout off about defense in a scoring-fest like this; there were things like containing Phoenix’s bench and what I mentioned above that kept the Lakers mentally focused throughout.

A big key in beating the Suns is to make them dig into their thin bench for help and the Lakers did well doing that too. The Lakers bench was looking a bit intimidated, but for the most part they did real well keeping the Suns from going on a game changing run.

When the Suns did go on a run (at a couple points in this game) the Lakers bounced back consistently. They showed a focus and dedication to their game plan that veteran teams show. Though the Lakers are still vastly young, tonight they showed that their confidence in Phil’s system, in each other and in each of their own games is growing by leaps and bounds right now.

Along with Kobe there was inimitable Lamar Odom. Again, now that the Lakers don’t rely on him to score more, he does. When the Lakers don’t ask him to rebound more, he does that too. There’s been a lot of talk of trading Lamar right now (and in the summer the Lakers MAY very well shop him, maybe) but after games like this one and games like he’s played since the arrival of Pau, it’s hard to see dealing Lamar for someone who will do more. I loved the aggressiveness from Lamar in the beginning. We haven’t seen him go after boards with that much tenacity even during this recent tear he’s been on. The Suns had real trouble keeping track of Lamar. You could see Phoenix’s focus turning to Gasol and Kobe in the paint, but often Lamar found himself with a free run to the back end of a board on both ends.

There were some missed lay-ups in heavy traffic that Lamar should still be finishing with strength, but that was minimal. Odom did real well in patrolling the mid post too. When the attention of the Laker defense sunk low Lamar popped out on either side of the hoop to get early board position. When the Suns moved Lamar out of the paint his recovery back into strong position was without hesitation. It was one of Lamar’s best performances of the year, if not as a Laker.

So you have Kobe throwing down another MVP game, Lamar doing well playing watchdog in the mid-post and Gasol playing as strong as he could down low. It was a tall order for Gasol to try and keep stable against a big body like Shaq, but once he got the hang of where to get his feet set (after a bit of a disjointed 1st quarter) Gasol did as well as an undersized (girth wise) 5 could do. He found a good balance of energy from defense to offense too. He did get beat down low, but often he flipped back around and made Shaq play into his strength, mobility.

I would’ve liked to have seen Gasol step outside a touch more to get Shaq out of the paint, but what he lacked for in that he more than made up for in footwork. Pau’s dives down the lane and timing on cuts were spot on. His finishing with bigs running at him was amazing to watch. Having a 7 footer run breaks like he did and to also be able to finish with that kind of conviction is something the Lakers can just thrive with.

As many times as the Lakers did well running dives with Gasol, they all need to begin to look for him more often. There were some drives by Sasha, Kobe and Lamar that left Gasol with space on the side of the key. If the Lakers can begin to keep their peripheral vision open to Gasol filling those spots, the Lakers can exploit Pau’s talents even more.

But seriously, Pau was just brilliant in his first big time game as a Laker. It was the kind of game from Pau that leaves you wondering just how much more he may be able to add to an already strengthening Laker team.

Derek, though Nash got 20+ points, played Nash the way you need to play him, physical. Steve still had plenty of easy runs (mainly around picks by Shaq), but Derek did well in keeping within arm’s reach of him. Playing quick point guards is definitely Derek’s big hitch on D, but tonight he did about as well as he could do against a point with the talent of Nash.

One game that might have not been seen so well too was Ronny’s. He played Shaq really well. He kept right up in his face, keeping his arms wide and pushing up into Shaq as much as he could without getting a foul. He did well in literally bouncing off of Shaq in the mid post to drop down under the bucket in help situations.

Jordan is obviously getting his feet back under him. He again had great timing on his shot. He made solid decisions on when to shoot, when to drive and when to play the perimeter offensively. His defensive rotation on Barbosa was right where it needed to be. Farmar played a big part in keeping Barbosa off of his normal slashing game that usually kills the Lakers. Farmar also did well in abusing the weakness of the Suns’ defense in back door passes. With Gasol moving as fluidly as he was, Jordan was equally aware of where to put the pass for an easy lay-in for Pau.

Radmanovic, though quiet offensively, did well in the first half defensively. His hands were still active from the last couple of games and he made a decent contribution on the perimeter D again. The Lakers did well watching the Suns drive and kick to the corners for threes and Radmanovic was right in step in the first half by keeping good split space between the paint and his man on the outside.

Sasha played good again. What he did particularly well tonight was movement off the ball. There were a couple times when the Lakers got stagnant on the offensive end, but when Sasha came in the game his motion from the perimeter down to the corners kicked the rest of the Laker off ball players into gear. When you couple that with really good shot decisions and Sasha threw down yet another good game.

WTF Of The Game: What was up with the 8 to 10 seconds of the clock stopping in the 3rd quarter? It was weird watching the refs look up at the clock and do nothing to stop the game. It’s comforting to know the refs are really paying attention to their jobs.

There are just a couple things to look out for.

All the Laker point guards have to be aware of big picks up top. If they play the Suns again, or when they play the Spurs they’re getting caught up top too much.

The Lakers till were soft on boxing out the weak side rebounders. When there’s big guys like Phoenix has now and/or activity on the low block from jumpers, the Lakers have got to always be aware of the off man coming around the back end.

Movement off the ball kind of fell flat for a bit. When it did the Suns went on a run. The Lakers have got use their athleticism and activity off the ball (especially with defenses having to focus on Kobe and Gasol) to the utmost. When the Lakers keep getting to spots and don’t watch, they click.

Maybe more nitpicking from me, but the late quarter (and in particular late first half) buzzer beaters can be a dangerous game to flirt with. Often those shots change momentum. The Lakers have kind of gotten sluggish in the waning seconds of quarters. They’ve got to prevent late shots from not only going in, but even getting off in the first place.

But really, this game was huge. It was a big win in more ways than one. What’s important to remember though is that it was just one regular season game. There can’t have a letdown when the Lakers get into this run of weaker teams. A second of a back to back in this big of a game atmosphere is tough to pull off, but the Lakers showed the focus of a team that like Kobe said doesn’t think they can win, but knows they can.
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Postby PnOySneakerBoi24 on Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:42 pm

LkrsOvrMia wrote:
Critical Beatdown wrote:
Satan wrote:Good to see the corner back! Great read as usual. :jam2:
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Postby crucifido on Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:16 am

Sorry, I've been absent guys. I was pretty knocked out with a bad virus for the 3 or 4 days. But now the haze is burning off and I'm fresh from Staples and the Blazer game.

So here's my babble for this one...

Lakers vs. Blazers (Game 57 2/26/08)

The 9th Time Is A Charm

Now I’m never one to blame game son refs or say that a referee has alone completely changed a game, However, when you start into a Laker game and you see Steve Javie is one of the refs, you have to know that this could be a problematic.

The clunky calls in the first half being reminiscent of the way of his crews have called Laker games (and a fair share of other games to boot). The real story of this game for me was that the Lakers fought through the unusual reffing, the sloppy play on the offensive end, the soft interior defense of the first 3 quarters and the generally disjointed play by some of the team only to come out with another win.

There would’ve been no way that the Laker teams of the last 3 seasons could’ve pulled out a win like they did out of this game tonight. The first big shots of resiliency they showed in Phoenix were astounding to say the least, and now to watch them grind out a victory from the 15 point deficit they put themselves in, was at the very least gratifying. The fact that this Laker team (even with Pau coming on board) has absorbed the injuries they have with really ever suffering a major setback to their intentions this season is something Laker fans should be proud to be a part of right now.

There hasn’t been any self-pitying or wallowing in circumstance. The Lakers showed again tonight (yes even against a Roy-less Blazer team, which remember had them down by 15 with relative ease in the 1st quarter) why they could very well be the team to contend with in the West. The bench came through in a big way tonight.

Led by Farmar who had a banner game on the offensive end, hitting shots when nobody else on the Lakers seemed to be able to hit anything, the Laker reserves were beyond key. Farmar lit the fire offensively, with Ronny bringing the effort in the paint and Sasha bringing tenacity on both ends of the court.

Starting with Jordan – the key for his game tonight was him developing a downright dangerous aggressive jabbing kind of “half-drive” on half court sets. Where Derek faltered against Blake (as he is apt to do versus quicker guards) Farmar, took Blake to task on his footwork. There were probably 3 or 4 times I counted Farmar having Blake completely on his heels without any momentum to get back up to Farmar. Jordan took the ball into him and made quick decisive passes to the high post, getting to his spot without a moment of hesitation at any time. When that fast run of the offense came down, Kobe (who mostly got his passes in the high post) was quick to see him and hit him with the pass.

Shooting can go in and out to be sure, but when those passes hit Jordan the shots were falling in tonight. Farmar’s shot has of course gotten a ton better than it was just last year, but you could see Farmar using the half court set plays to his advantage tonight. When he got Blake back on his heels, there was little time for him to recover to catch back up with Jordan at his shooting positions. When Jordan didn’t bring the ball up he had great lateral movement along the arc, using the Portland big men against themselves to give him the extra foot of room he needed to get his shot off. That was just a real solid performance from Jordan tonight offensively.

Defensively, though he did get beat by multiple screens set through the middle, he did well in staying on pace with Blake and his side to side runs.

The next guy off the bench, Ronny played with his usual passion that tends to get the entire arena awake and alive. Whether you find his game appealing or not, the one thing about Ronny that is indisputable is that he has a positive impact on the game whenever he gets into it. The very first offensive play he stepped foot on the court for tonight, at the end of the first half was the great setup by Kobe he put in for 3 point play. Defensively, when Lamar was hampered by fouls, Ronny came right in and gave everything he had to at least causing havoc in the middle where the Lakers were falling deathly flat for a while.

Sasha had a rickety night offensively, but what struck me tonight was his tenacity on the defensive end. The frustration he had with himself offensively didn’t just get balled up; it came out as impassioned focus on the defensive end. The height of that being the one literal rip Sasha came away with from the Blazers. There was no light swiping at the ball or apprehensive off screen defense. Sasha came with purpose on steals and with a physicality that he usually doesn’t show as often as he did te4onight. He’s never been shy with the defensive buzz saw routine, but tonight there was purpose behind it and it showed.

I loved seeing him shoot his way out of his little mini-slump he had in the first half. Though it would be great to see him follow his shot much more than he does. Once he got himself into rhythm, the defensive hustle stuck as well. They both served great roles in taking some focus off the Lakers’ usual offensive / defensive key players.

The third player of the game to me, behind Jordan’s inspiration off the bench and Kobe’s sweetly familiar all-around play, was Lamar. There was a little concern I the first half, as Aldridge took Lamar into the block too often and made Lamar pay for some slow footwork in the paint on and off the ball. When the fouls starting rolling in I was hoping Lamar wouldn’t let them take him out of his game. It looked to be that way for a while, and then the 4th quarter came. I don’t know if it was Phil’s faith in Lamar in leaving him on the floor with fouls racking up, or if Lamar just kicked himself in the butt, but it was something to watch for sure.

Doing his best Dennis Rodman impression (point total included) Lamar came into the 4th quarter with a defensive tenacity on the boards that was simply amazing to watch. The entire Staples crowd got to a point where they were on their feet to see Lamar do his dirty work in the paint on defense. That incredible ferocity he showed on the backboards (on both ends eventually, but mostly defensively) was another in a long line of encouraging signs from Odom and his ever growing capacity for focused play.

Onto this Kobe guy, turns out he’s not too bad after all huh? The frustration for Kobe with the refs was apparent to even the unbiased viewer tonight. I don’t know if it was seen at home but Kobe was being held onto on the defensive end pretty consistently. There was a concerted effort to bring the ball to Kobe’s man, cycle it back out to the outside, and then as Kobe moved to keep up with his man, there was a screen and hold behind that screen, keeping him about two steps behind Webster, or whoever he got thrown onto. The push in the back on the alley-oop, was easy to see, but during timeouts Kobe was going over to the refs to tell then what the Blazer defense was doing the whole game.

In the first half Kobe did a good job of denying Webster the ball. Early on in the game there was a concerted effort to keep the ball from getting to Webster, letting him get hot. Kobe split space very well between Webster’s multiple spots on the arc and inside of it. They were running every half court set they could for Webster, but Kobe was usually between the pass and Martell, keeping any kind of shooting rhythm away from the Blazers. That denial of rhythm ultimately kept the Blazers from getting hot from the outside.

Pau had a bit of a down game, but luckily for Laker fans, Pau’s down game still resulted in a 16 point performance. There was a noticeable downgrade in the energy for Gasol. Offensively he was a touch slow getting to post spots. When he got a shot off from places he’d usually drain everything, he was short-arming them. That kind of play just spoke a bit of a player that looked tired. Which honestly, is both acceptable and alright. One tired game out of 10 for a guy who has so seamlessly integrated himself onto the Lakers is perfectly fine.
Overall, the Lakers would do well to not let fast break opportunities tempt them into making ill-advised passes. There were a couple tonight, the most noticeable being Sasha’s pass off the fingertips of the Blazers to a not so open Kobe on the break. The Lakers have to not let break opportunities become opportunities to turn the ball over unnecessarily. Sometimes foregoing the tightly threaded break pass for a sure fire half court set would be the best advice.

Again, coming into every game with passion and desire is always key. No matter the team, they’re all professionals and anything can happen at any time.

Team rebounding is so vital. There may be games where not everyone is playing with the spark of life they need to get over the edge. But what must always be there is the knowledge that limiting second chance shots for your enemy and opening second chance shots for yourself, is going to play huge in who gets the trophy this year. The weapons for getting most every board (especially your own defensive ones) are there en masse’ with this squad. The Lakers had one run tonight where they let the Blazers get 4 chances to score, that can’t happen – again – at all.

9 in a row at this time of the season, with the West being so ridiculously close as it is, is invaluable to both the Lakers’ confidence and to their playoff seeding. There’s certainly a long way to go and everyone knows that a 2 game losing streak can take you from 1 to 5 to almost out of the playoffs. What can’t be overlooked is that the Lakers are focused on taking care of their own business and letting their wins dictate the pace of the West. Worrying about what other teams are doing is wasted energy.

The Lakers are taking the wins they want, and right now its damn close to every one of them – don’t let that stop.
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Postby crucifido on Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:22 pm

This team isn't only winning, they're having fun and that can be dangerous for the NBA.

Lakers vs. Heat (Game 58 2/28/08)

The Cooled Off Battle With The Heat

Gone are Shaq and the once hot tension between the Lakers and the Heat. In come an oddly happy Marion and a humbled Wade to Staples with hardly the same kind of buzz behind them.

Just like every other wounded animal or weak team all you want was the Lakers to come into this game not looking past it or taking it too lightly. The energy was instantly better than the Portland game, letting you know that the Blazers may have shaken off some the malaise teams on a winning streak can get.

Odom was again doing his diving act through the paint and making himself available for any pass from through or in the lane. His first jump shot in the 1st quarter had such a confident step about it; it just doesn’t look anything like the same Lamar Odom that was field mouse timid about shooting earlier on this season. What was good to see in this one was Lamar correcting his spacing mistakes before they destroyed plays. He recognized crowding or a wrong run somewhere and went to the right area without having to be told to do so.

I love the early concerted effort by everyone on the team to get a quick start for all on the starting squad. When one gets the shot there’s a run to the open spot and a look to another to get them going too. Not only does it get your whole team going, but also it kept the Heat defense running around like headless chickens for the entire first quarter.

At the forefront of this effort is Kobe. It was just another great distribution run from him. I wish there was an attempted assists category for the years when the Lakers were struggling. These same passes were there before, but now he has a team that is both willing and able to make the shots off of his passes. But you have to give it to him that he has stuck with getting his mates going before getting his own.

His shot seemed to be a touch off, but his drives into the paint were just amazing. There was a great jump in his step through the middle. If the amount of drive and kicks that Kobe was looking to do tonight can keep coming, it will give the Lakers yet another facet to this developing offense. Kobe’s defense on Wade though was right on the money again. Keeping Wade out of any open shot or any chance to make a run to a spot for a pass was key in getting the Lakers out to the kind of start they needed on a team like Heat. Although I don’t think Wade has any shot at getting going like he has on other teams against Kobe, its still good to see Kobe really push Wade far outside.

Looks like the heat went from Miami to Jordan, because the rhythm he had shooting versus the Blazers flowed right into this game. He’s got a real nice first step into his shots. He’s becoming downright dangerous, to the point of teams needing to send a man to him on the arc. As long as teams continue to sluff off of him its good to see the Lakers exploit that. Even better, its awesome that Jordan has found his stroke and best offensive spots on the floor. He is becoming downright scary from the corners of the arc right now. Hopefully he can remember to not become just a shooter and that his real strength still lies in leading breaks and keeping the offense in rhythm on half court sets. But I don’t think I’d turn this shooting development down at any time.

More enthusiasm from Ronny just makes me want more Turiaf energy every minute of every game. The throw down followed by the vintage goofy run back to defense in the second quarter he had, nearly taking the air out of the ball was just awesome. He may not be putting up the numbers that he was before Pau came, but yet again when Ronny came into the game the spirit and fun of the game takes a step forward. Being denied the great block he had only to come right back and block the next drive from the heat down the lane and then the 2 rebound effort in the last minutes of the game for the 3 point play is an irreplaceable tenacity and one the Lakers are fortunate to have coming off the bench. That kind of strong attitude and stick-to-itiveness will get fans excited every time.

Luke looked like he had a little spring in his game tonight. Playing as hurt as he has, hasn’t made him look like an All-Star and it hasn’t done justice to the intelligent utilitarian player he is. In this one though there was a lot of loose ball activity from Luke. Off ball movement and play initiation is Luke’s specialty and there was a slight return to that form. The highlight for Luke was that his offense wasn’t being forced from the low post (sans one ill-advised botch in the 3rd). He was back to outside runs with flashes to the post then back to a mid-range level. Pulling up to shoot every once in awhile from a decent distance, Luke’s offense became much less pained. Defensively there wasn’t a bad or good game from him, just an unchallenging one.

That second quarter bounce pass from Pau to Kobe on the dive through the paint was a thing of beauty. Passes like that from your center on the high post is just beyond a privilege for the Lakers to have. You picture that kind of skill on the high post with Kobe and Lamar diving and Andrew on the high post with Derek or Sasha roaming the arc and you have get a smile on your face.

The giver of that pass, Pau, played a quiet game tonight, but intelligently quiet. His grasp of the offense was on display tonight. Not only was he in the right spot to receive passes, he knew where others would be once he got the ball in the post, high or low. It wasn’t any major highlight reel for Pau, but what he gave to the Lakers was another stabilizing performance even though out of position.

There was a drive and kick play in the 2nd quarter from Kobe, where Sasha ran through the middle to his spot perfect, Jordan got to the top of the arc and Ronny got to the low block all in this symphonic kind of movement. Plays like that where the Lakers are almost not having to look where everyone is are signs of a team that is finding, or even found its way.

I suppose you can add Wade to Sasha’s list with Bibby and Anthony. His tenacious no space defense does more than annoy people, it does actually take them out of their game. Sasha did an exceptional job in getting the ball out of Wade’s hands early in sets. He would harass him enough to where Wade would be looking sideways at where to dish it before he would look for his shot. Defense like that on a supposed better player can give a player confidence that will extend to other parts of their game. What I like seeing about Sasha playing this kind of game is that he doesn’t let it take him out of what he can do offensively. He doesn’t let it get to his head. Before the off ball foul from Wade, Sasha had a beautiful drive in the middle with a dish to Farmar. I’ve said it before, but I do like the Laker shooters occasionally putting the ball on the floor to take pressure off of their well-known strength.

My favorite play of this game – (aside from the insane Kobe > Luke > lamar for the dunk passing thing) the inspiration, fun and effort they played with until the last second. Though it was a big lad on a weak team, there was no let down.

It’s alright having a cruise control win here and there, but there were a couple points that should be fixed, despite the win…

I would’ve liked a bit more a killer instinct to the point of making the 12 point lead 20, rather than toying with the Heat. Letting a team get on a run to bring it back to 7 here and there is a dangerous game to play, not to mention unnecessary. You have to bury these teams fast and early, they won’t come back and then you can play as loose as you want. No more giving teams even the slightest thought that they can beat the Lakers.

2 shot clock violations and forced against the clock chucks versus a team like the Heat is a tad inexcusable. There should be no defensive scheme the Heat (or teams on their level) stumble onto that can stop the Lakers talent on the floor.

I’ll bring up my nagging little point again; the Lakers have got to be far more aware of end of quarter plays. Tonight they let Banks sink a mildly contested 3 at the end of the 1st quarter. They did have the amazing block from Kobe on Marion at the end of the 3rd, and that’s what the Lakers need to keep doing in the last seconds of quarters.

WTF Of The Game: I must have been sleepy, or unknowingly drunk, because I think I heard Barkley say the Lakers were in the equation for the championship and not the Suns. Seriously though, it’s hard to deny the power of this Laker team right now.

I hope I don’t hear any moaning about easy games, its damn sweet having a team that you can casually watch play an inferior team without worrying whether they’ll fall asleep and let it slide away. This is the kind of team we’ve been waiting for; focused and ready to win the games they should be winning (and hopefully a bunch of them that are up for grabs too).
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Postby Critical Beatdown on Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:52 pm

:bow: I enter your mind, decorate and paint my sign...LA Lakers will be 2008-09 NBA Champions!
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Postby crucifido on Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:09 pm

Thanks for the bow Critical :)

Its only one loss, no big deal. Time to regroup and get ready for Sunday's start to a brand new streak.

Lakers vs. Blazers (Game 59 2/29/08)

The Rose Garden Continues To Stump The Lakers

Coming off a good game against Miami, the Lakers jump back out on the road real quick to grab a game against the Blazers up in Portland. The Rose Garden hadn’t treated the Lakers too well recently, but this year’s edition of the Lakers went up there riding their winning streak and a confidence that hasn’t been around since the 3-peat days.

As usual, with a streaking team you worry about the weaker teams more than the marquee match-ups, so tonight brings a bit of concern. With Roy back in the lineup you had to know the Blazers would be in gear a whole lot more than they were in L.A.. Conversely you also had to think the Lakers wouldn’t let a 15 point lead go up like the last game. And they didn’t let the same girth of a lead happen, the problem was the Blazers had the lead when it mattered most – at the final buzzer.

The Lakers looked concentrated and dug in on the defensive end from the start. Second shot opportunities in the first quarter were limited, which is always a huge sore spot for the Lakers. When the Blazers did get the second shot, they were hitting them, so it was vitally important playing a long team like the Blazers that the 4 chance sets they had in L.A. didn’t happen in the comfort of their own home. Unfortunately as the game wore on; and the Lakers lead grew a bit, the Lakers started sleeping on defense. With a team like the Blazers who have such good shooters and length in the middle, they are better served to put the weight of their pressure to the mid-posts, not letting Portland sneak their big men in for easy second shots, or the outside shots be that far out of reach.

Despite the outcome of this game, there’s not enough O’s in smooth for Kobe’s game this season. That still goes for tonight too. Between the falling down bank shot and the drive between 3 Blazers for the lay-up and the foul, Kobe is barely breaking a sweat lately. Kobe’s work on the boards (like that sweeping from the weak side put back he got in the 1st) has been tenacious. Tonight Kobe was working hard, coming in from all angles. Getting rebounds like that just spells bad news for opponents.

The steal after the dunk in the 3rd quarter was a pounce with the enthusiasm of a rookie. He played a heads up game that was coming at Portland like his rebounds, from all angles.

The one defensive set with Kobe going back and forth around Pryzbilla and Gasol standing pat in the post was beautiful. Kobe moves with his man without losing step with him unbelievably well.

Luke in the 1st quarter made his presence known on the offensive end. Not only with a behemoth of a bad pass but with some really good high to low post motion off the ball too. The teardrop shots and the quick turns into the perimeter of the paint were good to see. Last game Luke took strides towards what he can do, rather than trying to do something he can’t and it continued tonight. Real smart positioning on the offensive boards tonight from Luke too. Defensively, there’s something Luke can do against a versatile shooter like Outlaw (or a talent like Roy). He was getting abused on the outside. Luke needs to make sure he’s taking the aggressive step into Outlaw and push Travis to his right rather than his left where most of his shots go right in. If Luke gets stuck on Roy, he has got to push him to an outside shot, not push up on him letting him get an easy step around him.

What Luke has got to watch is getting himself dug into the paint on breaks. He tends to bring the ball right into the meat of a defense in half court and full court sets. Its good that Luke has that desire to get early offense, but not via putting the ball in the most dangerous spots on the break. There’s got to be more court awareness of where defense are packing it in and then move away from that.

Jordan showed another gear at times tonight, just jetting in from the outside on one drive in the opening of the 2nd quarter. Defensively, Jordan was backing down on drives starting from the high post a little too much. You can’t stay flat-footed and stagnant against your man, but Jordan was giving up ground before trying to move the offensive player to their uncomfortable side.

Strong rebounding has been Lamar’s calling card, and it didn’t change tonight. The days of getting a majority of his boards with one arm are gone. They’ve been replaced by an Odom that was getting boards with a positive step into the paint that was pushing the Blazers out of position immediately. What was lacking in the first half from Lamar were the dive plays he’s been doing so well. Give Portland credit as they have the length to keep Lamar from being highly effective in the paint with the ball. But there was a lack of movement from Odom around the rim if it wasn’t getting a board where before there wasn’t.

With the falderal about Derek’s shot being off, it was especially good to see the team look for Fisher in the corners early. Better yet, Fish was hitting his shot again, but only early. Derek showed a little more zip in his step, which got him the ball where he needed it in the 1st quarter. He was getting to his spots without dragging behind the break or putting himself through traffic for no reason. As the game went on though Derek’s energy level seemed to take a dip and his scoring followed suit.

Fisher did a respectable job keeping up with Blake the best he could on the perimeter. He did get lost once the screen was set to free Blake to the corners. Derek’s questionable screen defense was alive and well in this one.

Early foul trouble stopped Pau from getting going in the first period/half. You could see that his rough defense against Aldridge in the first game was on again. The length of Portland gives Gasol trouble. LaMarcus is not easy to handle and Gasol has problems with his lateral movement in and back out of the posts, almost mimicking what Pau can do on the offensive end. That movement in the post and the motion on the arc of the high post took Gasol out of his groove in the mid-post.

Come the 3rd quarter Pau got assertive with his offense. His assertion, accompanied by an array of shots got the Lakers back even with the Blazers in a hurry. Once that offensive assertiveness kicked in, he got himself involved in the paint a lot more than he was in the first half. That involvement led to a nice 2 rebound set resulting in a Sasha 3 and much better pressure put on Portland on their defensive end, making their offense step down a notch or two at times.

Ronny’s been setting up Sasha and other shooters (but mostly Sasha) really well from all posts. His patience in that spot has improved immeasurably this year. This game there were two good passes from the side of the paint to the corner from Ronny for open shots. If Ronny can continue to show that kind of developing patience in the post, his shots will open up as well as defenders start giving a couple more vital inches of space to him.

Ronny really ran the pick and roll extremely well – again. He dives with the speed of the ball perfectly and gets so many good passes from a very ware Kobe because he’s running plays like that so well. With that in mind, it was surprising that when the Blazers stated working from the weak side in the 4th quarter that Ronny’s minutes disappeared.

Too many shots for the Blazers (moreover Steve Blake) from their comfort spots on the floor. Derek isn’t known for his quickstep defense, but you cannot let someone showing you they make a 3 get to where they want to go. If nothing else, there has to be an effort to push them into spots they’re not comfortable in. Better yet, change that shooter into a drive or make them pass the ball off by playing physically with them. Any way you do it, letting a shooter or a good shooting team find their rhythm easily from where they want to be can’t happen.

There’s been a lot of over-passing without any regard to positioning. This game saw a good amount of passes over heads, fall out of hands or beyond the guy on the break. An extra dribble off the rebound and a look to where the person will be would go a long way to killing those giant passes. Along with that, the Lakers still have to remember to not let their success take the fundamentals away. Get the ball in your hands, and then make your move.

Spotty help defense rotated to the middle once drives got past the perimeter. Sure, there’s no Andrew but there hasn’t been a gap that big in the middle for a long time. Why that hole in the paint suddenly cropped up is pretty mystifying.

Like I mentioned quickly above, next time the Lakers see the Blazers, make Outlaw move to his right for his shot.

Earlier recognition of the zone has got to happen before the playoffs. The Lakers have the tools and know-how to get around the NBA’s weakest defense. There’s no reason the Lakers should be so stumped, or so late in the clock getting going once the zone has been setup.

Hey, it happens, streaks have to end somewhere. The good thing is that the streak happened. It got them the lead in the West and put them in the minds and conversations of the other Western Conference powers. So with this sleepy performance behind them the Lakers should find new inspiration to start a new streak on Sunday against the new look Mavs.
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Postby crucifido on Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:22 pm

Whew! Great game and a great win when the Lakers needed it. Losing two in a row now is a scary proposition in the West.

But luckily, that didn't happen and the Lakers are still running with the best.

Lakers vs. Mavericks (Game 60 3/2/08)

Overtime, Free Throws And Lay-Ups, Oh My

In this Western Conference where every win is magnified and every loss can knock you out of the playoff picture, it was vital that the Lakers come back home after the loss in Portland with getting back on track on their minds. Unfortunately they had to get themselves back into the winning groove against one of the top flight teams in the West, the Mavericks.

But fortunately, the Lakers brought an - interesting - performance to battle the Mavericks.

It wasn’t a great shooting night for either team, as both teams tanked a lot of easy jumpers. The Lakers main bane of existence was at the free throw line where a normally infallible Kobe came up shy 7 times total. Then there was Lamar with his late game misses. Every miss can kill you, but when they came in bunches like they did against the Mavs today, it looked like it might be the inevitable “thing that comes back to bite you in the butt”.

Thankfully Kobe straightened his stuff out on the line and wound up sinking double digit’s worth in second half. But with the missed free throws came a batch full of missed lay-ups as well. Uncharacteristic over-shooting by Gasol, eyes off the rim lay-up misses by Lamar and Derek didn’t help the Lakers get any room against the Mavericks either. When it became epidemic you had to have a little worry in your head that the Mavericks would simply use every one as an excuse to get into transition for easy buckets. And that they did.

Luckily, the Lakers transition defense for the most part was in tow. Though they did get beat back a couple times, one time for a big Stackhouse dunk, the Lakers did an overall good job making sure they sent back at least 2 lead people back to defense on every full and half-hearted full court push.

Aside from transition defense there were some good defensive performances that kind of got lost in the shuffle due to the playoff excitement that all around Staples Center. The first half saw Lamar hold Nowitzki to a paltry 5 points. Watching Lamar off the ball on the defensive end was a welcome sight. There was physicality in Lamar’s play that kept Dirk from even getting close to any post spot he wanted to do. Lamar’s insistence on Dirk being shadowed even out to the perimeter for screens kept Dirk from getting into any rhythm. In fact, it kept him from even getting the ball for the good part of 3 quarters.

Lamar’s biggest problem came when he let a couple obviously questionable calls get to him. Once he started playing tentative worrying about what the refs may call, his defense started to give 2 steps to Nowitzki’s driving. When Dirk smelled that Odom was giving those couple of step Dikr found the room he needed to get back to the offensive game he can play. In turn those same calls that got to Odom on the defensive end looked to take some concentration away from his offense too.

Lamar lost sight of the rim as he was around it and when the free throws did come his way, he looked tired at the line. Lamar’s usual rebounding prowess was hampered a bit today too by the Mavericks sending 2 guys to every single rebound possibility. When Lamar was in position he was getting absolutely crushed by Dampier and another on every attempt. All of that kind of kept Lamar from putting up the numbers we’re getting used to seeing lately.

Another good defensive performance that gets lost in the shuffle was Sasha on Kidd. In the first half both Fisher, and especially Farmar were getting burned by Kidd in the post. Once the second half rolled around and Sasha was moved over to Kidd to give him a different defensive look, the Lakers tuck with it. Sasha did real well keeping Kidd to the mid-range at his deepest. There was only one probe allowed in the entire second half from Sasha and that alone kept Kidd from getting to any spot to lure the Laker defense into the switched they were easily pulling in the first half.

Sasha’s shot was obviously off the mark, shooting only 1-10 but the good thing was that Sasha wasn’t taking any threes that weren’t set up for him. Most of his shots were in the spots he can usually hit from and in rhythm, they just weren’t falling. That will happen, it wasn’t a big deal, but it would’ve been good to see Sasha use his known prowess as a shooter to set up a couple more drives.

One good game to see was Luke’s . Despite getting absolutely no love from the refs, Luke played one of the stronger games he’s pulled off in a while. The ankle looked strong in the post where Luke has been forcing a lot of his offense. Today the post play was less forced due to Luke taking guys into the post that he had a chance against, instead of battling the trees like he has too much. The early quick offense from Luke was a welcome burst to the Laker arsenal today. The sputtering start was killed quickly when the off ball movement that Luke excels at reared its head.

The Mavericks were pulling a lot of switches on Luke defensively, but he rolled with the punches well and didn’t let a lot of different Mavericks running to him disrupt him too much. What took Luke down was the lack of movement on defense in the second half. Luke started looking a bit worn in the second half, and from that his lateral movement took a dive. Once that movement took a dive, he was getting himself into late bad position on defense, leading him to foul out way too early.

The Laker point guards struggled against the Mavericks’ size in the back court and the screens set by the Mavericks to free up the corners and angles of the arc. Derek is still looking a bit tired, but the shot seems to be beginning to come back. It’s still spotty, but maybe starting Farmar for a couple games, giving Fish a bit of a rest to start games may not be a bad experiment. Farmar on the other hand is just giving up space on defense far too easily. He’s almost backing himself down in the post before anyone makes any contact with him.

Pau played a bit of a ragged game today. We’re learning (as is the rest of the West0 that Pau doesn’t handle physical play on the block and the low post too well. It wouldn’t hurt Pau to gain a little leg strength over the summer just to give him a stronger base to deal with the Dampiers of the West. Once that size got a foothold on Pau’s sweep to the middle and his drop step, it was rough for Pau to get into any rhythm from the post. That rickety play from the posts kept Pau out of his comfort zone from the 2nd quarter on.

The great things about Pau today, as has been since his arrival, were his hands. He doesn’t drop passes whether expected or not and always has his hands in the ready position. That readiness allowed Pau to get a couple grabs free in the paint towards the end of the game which got him a bit more active as the overtime approached.

Quietly grabbing double digit boards, it wasn’t Pau’s best game of the year, but it didn’t stink. You can see that Andrew’s presence in the middle is beginning to be missed, one both ends. Pau’s done a fantastic job holding down the fort, but the physical play of the paint is a bit of a concern. Pau can’t get worn down to the point of injury. Better ball movement in and out of the post, resetting the ball a little more may alleviate some of the collapsing teams are starting to do on him.

Kobe’s game was spectacular. Free throws aside, Kobe played with the now vintage control he’s displayed this year. The highlight of Kobe’s game for me was his work in the posts on rebounds. The assertive rebounding he showed on the missed Kidd free throw and the missed Odom free throws was astounding. The 52 points came within the context of the offense and better yet, the 52 points came with an extreme amount of control. When that 6 minute mark hit in the 4th quarter watching Kobe settle into the groove he got into was amazing. Kobe has learned how to take over a game without dominating it. In other words, he’s taking over offensive responsibilities, but isn’t letting team play go beyond him. There isn’t a blinded drive-minded Kobe any more. The drives he had to today were done looking to score but also with an eye to the pass.

The key to Kobe’s offense was in him taking the ball right into Dampier’s chest in the 4th quarter. Dampier was destroying the Lakers on the backboards and clogging the game for Odom and Gasol, but Kobe did fantastic in putting Dampier on his heels and eventually putting his butt on the bench. No Dampier in the overtime went a long way to the Lakers having a much freer go of it on offense.

Defensively it wasn’t his best game, but nonetheless Kobe was in help situations early. The Portland loss had a lot of late and missed help defense chances, but Kobe did a good job sealing up dive lanes and cuts today.

After all is said and don I think Kobe cemented the MVP award for himself this year.

Every win is a big win, but when you beat a rival in a playoff type game like this, it gives you both the win and the confidence that it can be done again. Even without the quality bench play that’s been there all year, the Lakers showed real professionalism today. There was never a point when the Lakers looked down in the mouth or carried themselves like they couldn’t come back from anything the Mavericks dealt them.

That is the sign of team that’s not so much on the rise, but on the ready.
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Postby crucifido on Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:56 pm

That Kobe guy is a pretty decent player. My god, what a mess that game was. Glad that the Lakers / Kobe decided they wanted the win after all.

Lakers vs. Kings (Game 61 3/4/08)

No More Skin On The Lakers’ Teeth

An odd schedule to be sure, but the first time the Lakers play the Kings turns out to be in March. Of the last 22, the Lakers play the Kings 4 times, which is more than a single tiered blessing. First off, playing a non-playoff team for conference games this late can definitely help the Lakers build up their win total (as long as they stay sharp every time). And second, playing a team that doesn’t like the Lakers can give the Lakers a bit of edge to their play that can hopefully be remembered and transferred to other games.

The number one priority for me coming into this game – don’t take it for granted. For as poor as the Kings are right now, they play tough at home and it’s the Lakers – so there’s added intensity automatically. As the Lakers sleepwalked through the first half, that intensity from the Kings was showing. Luckily for the Lakers they staggered into the 2nd half only down by 5. But as the lazy play kept going, you wondered whether the Lakers would ever wake up.

That’s when having the MVP of the NBA on your side comes in real handy.

Establishing an inside game against the Kings early is key. Miller isn’t a center (and is barely an NBA player at all) and Moore is anything but intimidating on the inside. With that the Lakers looked a sluggish at the start trying to get the ball to the post. Slow-footed movement with the ball and minimal movement off of it led the Lakers to sputter in the 1st quarter. Once Lamar began to dive in the middle as the ball swung to the side the Lakers inside opened up. That’s a big benefit of Gasol (and it’ll get beiger when Andrew comes back). The attention paid to Gasol on the side of the paint and on the high post opens up the lane for dive after dive for anyone.

The problem lay in an inconsistent half court set for the Lakers tonight. There was an effort to get in the middle, but it wasn’t concerted. The Lakers can’t only get the ball into the post to start plays against a soft underbelly team like the Kings every once in a while.

Lamar had some trouble defending Artest on the high post, as he did with Nowitzki. Lamar needs to stop pushing up so tight on his man as early as he is. With the early contact he’s limiting his ability to move laterally and the offender is using that to attack Odom, drawing the foul on occasion (as Artest did in the 1st & 3rd quarters). On the boards Lamar did real well staying in the mix on every loose ball. He was getting sandwiched pretty well in the low post, but stuck with most rebounds. The Lakers have got to start sending another body down low on boards. There’s been too many times in this game and versus the Mavericks that Lamar has been caught alone under the hoop.

Pau was flat out getting murdered inside, as he did against Dallas. Physicality is rising as teams realize that playing aggressively in the middle on both ends is occasionally lowering Gasol’s effectiveness. It’s not killing it, but as the refs continue to let teams play uber-tough in the middle against the Lakers, the points in the paint against are rising. The only thing Pau can do about this is to come into games knowing that this is how it’s going to be as long as it’s working. If you can come in with a wider stance in the middle and prepared to battle, maybe the effects of that style of play will diminish. They won’t completely go away until the Lakers get a shot blocking presence back in the middle.

What was real good about Pau’s game tonight was his patience, as the play got stronger. His shot was still not rushed and he had a good sense of when the defense collapsed too much, allowing him to step through and draw fouls. He played with impressive control while he was getting jumped on. The stoic play of Gasol went a long way to taking the Kings out of their packing it in play in the first half.

Every shot Luke makes from outside is a big help. It sounds obvious, but not solely because of the box score. With Luke making shots again from distance, it pulls pressure off them middle and opens up the game for Gasol or Odom on the block. Now that Luke’s ankle seems to be healing, his shot looks much softer. It’s not being thrown up in haste like it was earlier this year. There was a real nice spin and shoot from the mid-post that showed the patience that’s Luke’s shot has regained. Luke was however putting passes into Gasol when Gasol was in heavy traffic. He can’t be passing to guys that are already in trouble or in position for Luke’s shot rebound.

Luke’s been drawing the tough defensive assignments at small forward lately and tonight didn’t change much. The inherent athleticism at the 3 is wreaking havoc with Luke’s foul column. The speed was never really a strong suit for Luke, and that’s holding true.

Kobe played a lackadaisical defensive game against martin in the 1st quarter. For some unknown reason Kobe didn’t look like keeping up with Martin off the ball or getting to him if he got the ball off a screen was a priority. I have no idea why that happened, but you hope that Kobe wasn’t trying to play a dare kind of game with Martin. With Kobe being the pace setter on all fronts for the Lakers, he has to make sure he doesn’t come into games playing as sleepy as he was tonight on defense.

Offensively Kobe was playing for the foul too much. There were too many shots thrown up in anticipation for the foul instead of looking for the shot first and foul second. Its something Kobe does struggle with when the team is having trouble getting going. In turn, Kobe’s offense just wasn’t as precise as it can be through 3 quarters.

And then… the 4th quarter came. The guy has a will, strength, and a desire to win / dominate like no other in the NBA. There are not enough words to describe exactly how his passion impacts a game, the team and the NBA. Amazing to watch – just absolutely amazing.

Derek’s offense has to wake up ands it did in spurts tonight. The gaps in scoring (from Derek and Sasha) are starting to hurt the Lakers. With Fisher being a starter and having the skills he does you look to Fish to step up his game first. As the game wound down, Derek stepped up his defense a bit, but that step has got to come far earlier in a game. Right now the point guard core of the Lakers is struggling to get going on either end. Its up to Derek to lead the staggering backcourt back to the crisp offense and defense they were playing.

Aside from the obvious transition problems…

- Absent drive and kick game. Most inside shots in the first half were forced without any movement from the outside or look to the outside for a pass.

- No runs to the offensive boards. It was one and done for a good part of the game. With or without Lamar running the middle of the paint for boards, there’s got to be some kind of team effort to get offensive rebounds.

- Minimal to no help for anyone stuck in a post. If Kobe got trapped on the high post or Gasol got trapped in the mid or low post, there was nobody moving to passing options. There weren’t a lot of turnovers from those spots, but what did happen is the Lakers wound up shooting a terribly tough shot or a completely out of balance one. All sliding to pass option spots was completely gone.

- The Lakers can’t let teams like the Kings tonight (or the Blazers recently) get into early rhythm offensively. It’s far too dangerous to flirt with pacing like that. The worst part of games like this is that its not overwhelming offense from the opposition its lazy or soft defense from the Lakers that’s killing things. They’ve got to come into every arena, home or away looking to dictate the pace on both ends. Letting teams get into a groove like that makes it even tougher to pull them out of it when the game starts ticking down.

- Communication was at a minimum on the defensive end in the 1st quarter. Going with the pacing comment, that can’t happen versus any team, good or bad. There has to be communication and a constant effort to stop the easy bucket off of simple screens at all times. You can’t get on an offensive roll if the communication and subsequently the defense itself can’t get in sync.

- The word is out - play physical with the Lakers. If teams are going into games with that in mind, the Lakers have got to begin to brace themselves for that style of play. You can counter that collapsing tough play in the middle with better ball movement and crisper movement off the ball (like they did during the winning streak). They can’t let the refs no-calls or the rough play take them out of the methodical style of play that got them in contention.

- There was an odd lack of emotion throughout most of the game from the Lakers. An occasional “Let’s go!” from Pau, but overall the Lakers looked tired for no good reason.

Andrew’s absence is beginning to be felt. This is the second game in a row now where you can see exactly how Bynum’s presence in the middle would completely change these sloppy, scrappy kinds of games.

WTF Of The Game: The new trend of not calling jersey pulling. Its been season long plague league wide that isn’t being addressed. In the 4th when Martin pulled on Kobe’s jersey on the break, Luke getting a new customized jersey against Dallas and countless more. Alongside that, the refs have got to start calling plays on the body as flagrants, like they’re listed in the rulebook.

Well thank you, Kobe, thank you for getting that win on a night when the Suns and Spurs both walked to easy W’s. This kind of game, this brand of lethargy cannot rear its head again. As mentioned, the lack of a big man on defense is hurting right now, but there’s still weeks to go before Bynum comes back. The Lakers have got to regain some of that fire they had on the road while the schedule continues to be soft.
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Postby Don 10 15 83 on Wed Mar 05, 2008 1:42 am

^^ great read. I'm a little confused though how you can write so much so quickly. I mean, do you write during the game and change the tone of your piece depending on how the Lakers are playing?

Either way.... :jam2: :jam2: :jam2:
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Postby crucifido on Sun Mar 09, 2008 5:56 pm

Yeah I do Don. I write pretty fast sometimes. (Thanks for the compliment too Don).

I have my laptop on during the game like right now (at my coffee table). I watch write notes here and there and adjust as the game goes on as to what's happening. As soon as the game's done I edit a bit and submit.

So it goes kind of fast sometimes. Other times I may go out to a bar to watch or be at thew game and it takes me a while to gather notes after that. i didn't write one for the Clipper game because there wasn't much to write about a complete butt kicking.
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Postby crucifido on Sun Mar 09, 2008 9:20 pm

Sorry I didn't write one up for the Clippers game everyone. It was such a butt kicking there wasn't much to write other than a gushing praise laden article that wouldn't have said much,so I took a pass / break for a game.

Here's the one for the Kings one tonight though.

Lakers vs. Kings (Game 63 3/9/08)

No Game Can Be Taken Lightly

After the bailed out game up in Sacramento and the drubbing the Lakers handed down to the Clippers a couple days ago, you would expect revenge minded play. What you don’t want to see is the Lakers playing like they’re reading their own press or they can flip the switch whenever they want. Kobe’s bail out of the Lakers in Sacramento was certainly worthy of praise, but you don’t want to see the Laker team slip back into that big of a dependence on Kobe. That, in a nutshell is why the Clipper game was so good to see. It wasn’t an absent-minded performance by the Lakers. They went out as a team, driven and looking to bury the Clippers. Better yet, they didn’t just look to do that; they executed that game plan to perfection.

That game showed the first glimpses of a Laker team that may hopefully be developing that “killer instinct” that everyone has been clamoring for the Lakers to have.

You have to be aware that no matter how bad the Kings are, these games against the Lakers are their Superbowls, and they’ll always play accordingly. Beating the Lakers is a top priority for them, so you have to come into every game against them knowing this. The Lakers have got to ramp up their game when the Kings come to town or they go up to Sacramento.

Now the big question tonight was would that same focused play show up against the Kings or would the Lakers skate through the start of the game looking to wake up on the back end?

The answer – the Lakers decided to play it sleepy – again.

In a terrible defensive game there were some good things, but all in all it was a disappointing game for everyone in uniform tonight.

Radmanovic has been running the curl off the high post really well since coming back. It was real good to see is Vladi changing his game up. He began the game working inside rather than chucking up shots from the arc right away. The more Vladi sets himself up inside the more open his outside game will become. There was a decent balance in Vladi’s game from inside to spotting up on the arc. That balance threw the Kings defense into crowding the paint or crowding one side of the paint far too much. The inside play of Vladi opened up his outside shot in the second half.

Defensively, he’s getting switched onto Martin almost every turn. That’s good for the Kings, but the Lakers have got to recognize that mismatch and move to help out as soon as possible. Leaving Vladi on the perimeter against the likes of Martin or Salmons is nothing but bad news.

Pau’s setting up of everyone from the post was patient, methodical and more often than not right on the money. Whether it was passing to a curl, resetting the post or taking a step inside to get his own shot, Pau’s post work was beautiful to watch. Defensively Pau was closing the drive from the side to perfection. The problem was when the Kings collapsed on Pau in the post, no Laker was moving to open a passing lane.

Pau’s help defense running from the posts to perimeter or vice versa was decently timed. It gave the Lakers the confidence to play more aggressively on the perimeter, chasing people off of comfort spots or getting the ball out of shooters’ hands. The shot blocking of Pau is a completely unexpected dividend right now. It started with the touch on Dirk’s shot in the Dallas game and since then Pau has been looking for the block on the perimeter. It can be a gamble but tonight it was anything but. It was real good to watch Gasol come in to crash the boards with Lamar. You could see him tracking shots and getting into early position just outside of Lamar’s low block positions.

Kobe was aggressive from the get-go. Some of the shots he was creating out of bad situations versus 3 or 4 Kings were incredible. The acrobatic takes he had in the paint were amazing to watch also, but... I’m still concerned about Kobe shooting shots in anticipation of the foul, instead of concentrating on the shot more than the possible whistle. Yes he can make any shot in the book and often does, but he has a tendency (especially if he isn’t getting calls early) to force action in the paint.

Lamar was far too tentative on the offensive end in the first half. The concentration defense and rebounds is appreciated, but the Lakers can ill afford Odom waiting to get into the scoring column until the second half. The shots were there (due to the size mismatch he had every time down the court), there just wasn’t any assertion to step into the shots like he did versus the Clippers. Defensively, Odom got lost in the first half, but collected himself a little better in the paint in the 3rd quarter.

Unfortunately by the time Lamar dug in on defense, he let Artest get into a groove that was nearly impossible to push him out of. The strength of Artest and him bringing Odom out to the perimeter, leaving the block essentially open was wreaking havoc on the Laker defensive rotations. This game wound up being a schizophrenic affair for Lamar though. When you thought he got taken out of position sometimes, he would dive down into the block securing a board with strength that was absent in the first half. Without a doubt, Odom’s game was mimicking the ragtag effort by the Laker team.

Good work on the boards for Luke tonight. He was tenacious on the offensive boards especially and usually in heavy traffic too. Along with everyone else there were plenty of questionable passes in the paint, but at least the hustle was there. His defense was just as scattered as everyone else, its tough to lay any blame on any one player in this one.

Sasha’s expertise for annoying the living hell out of players is still in tact. He got his shot back a bit tonight and right along with that was the pestering style of defense that he does so well. The technical foul on Mikki Moore was just the latest in the long list of players Sasha has grown to aggravate to no end.

WTF Of The Game: What did Pau do in another life to not get any calls tonight? That last shot with Hawes swinging down on Pau’ shoulder was maddening. Credit Pau with not letting it get him a T, if it was me I would’ve been out in the 2nd quarter.

Alright onto my gripes:

How many times do the Lakers have to realize that letting teams (good or bad) get into rhythm quickly is beyond a dangerous game to play? Make a statement early and don’t let teams get running as easily / early as they let the Kings go tonight.

Poor decision making from the point guard core tonight didn’t help much. Not so much from shooting range, but on drive and kicks and breaks, the Laker point guards were not at the top of their game. There were too many passes to count that were thrown from cluttered spots on the offensive end. Both Jordan and Derek know the system too well to be playing as carelessly as they did.

Earlier help when Vladi or Pau get stuck on the perimeter with a slasher moving to the paint from the sides. Would shore up the soft middle of the key that gets exposed from time to time.

Awful passes on the interior and the break, threading a needle that wasn’t there, passing into a barrage of flat angles, making the ball travel too far and spacing in the lane were big problems early on in this one. The clean spacing on breaks too was sloppy at best and the scoreboard showed it in the 1st half. The Lakers created some decent turnover numbers, but let a lot of them go to waste. Again, getting the ball into transition off turnovers is fantastic, but it goes to waste when the break is rushed, thoughtless passes get thrown around or they’re played without regard to spacing.

No defense from the perimeter on end-to-end plays let the Kings get into rhythm early. The same thing happened in Sacramento. There was no reason other than distracted play to allow the Kings so many easy lay-ups from distance. Too many points were given away (1st quarter = 31, 2nd quarter = 40!!! Are you kidding me?!), including (4 coast to coast trips for the Kings) to a team that has no business scoring like that on their court, let alone the Lakers home floor!

There were odd defensive sets where the Lakers would immediately pack it into the paint, leaving the perimeter wide open then switching the next set to pushing outside too much. That just speaks of no / little communication and not looking to where your man was on the run back to D.

Unless you’re absolutely assured of getting the steal stop jumping out of position to gamble on a swipe. With the Lakers defense being a sieve like it was, giving up position without any contest didn’t help whatsoever.

I didn’t think the Lakers needed to be told that when a shooter is hot shooting, close out on them and make them become something else. Garcia had it flowing from 3 in the first half. When you see this happening get out on him, make him out it on the floor or pass it off. Don’t keep sagging off of him or losing him on screens allowing him to do what he was doing best. Due to that first half Garcia’s confidence from every spot on the floor was rough to slow down.

The Lakers need a big man in the middle again. These easy drives from everywhere wouldn’t be happening with an intimidating size in the paint. The Lakers have got to find a way to shore up the strength in the paint until Bynum can return.

Aaaaaaaaanyway… it’s not like this loss was tough to see coming after the first half. The Lakers got caught playing asleep and without the sharpness that’s gotten them into first place. They can’t expect to play with the lethargy of a team that doesn’t need every win they can get. The schedule is soft right now and this kind of loss is absolutely unacceptable in such a tight Western Conference. Luckily, the Spurs lost and the Suns are still a full 3 games back, so if the Lakers were going to lose, this one probably has the minimal amount of impact.

Use this game as a springboard for the game against the Raptors.
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Postby crucifido on Wed Mar 12, 2008 12:23 am

Well it was better than the Sacramento game, but there's still a lot to be worked on defensively. But, it was good for a win tonight and with this race in the West every win, pretty or not, counts the same.

Lakers vs. Raptors (Game 64 3/11/08)

The Blue Collar Crew Saves The Day

After the disappointing but oddly well timed loss to the Kings (due to the minimal loss of ground in the standings), the Lakers were coming into this one trying to avoid a highly dangerous 2 game losing streak. Considering a tiny string of losses can drop a team right out of home court advantage in the first round, its vitally important for the Lakers to not let 1 loss turn into 2.

As the 1st quarter started the Lakers looked about as careless and uninspired as they did against the Kings. It wasn’t one individual slowing the team. But rather it was a slight effort from everyone on both ends of the court that got the Lakers off to another unimpressive start. As the game wore on into the 2nd and it started looking like it might be another unnecessary dogfight in came the bench. Most notably the insertion of Coby Karl for Sasha, who for some reason decided to play little to no defense on anyone he was in front of.

The crew of Karl, Turiaf and Walton came into the game with determination, something that seems to be flittering with the starters right now.

In particular Karl did a real good job containing and at the very least staying step for step with Kapono. When the Raptors had a slight lead to keeping up with the Lakers, they put Kapono in to pull the slow to react interior defense out to the perimeter. With Sasha having trouble keeping up with anyone and Derek playing subpar defense in the first half, Karl did a fantastic job staying alert and alive. Most importantly Coby did well on the help defense end of sets, something that’s been sputtering recently. Along with tracking Kapono expertly, Karl’s high leaping helping block was amazing to see. We knew the guy could leap well, but the timing he had on that block was on the money and just the kind of defensive fire the team needed to see to get going.

Offensively Karl was paying good attention. His movement off the ball was crisp and even better he worked the perimeter passing game (even moving from inside to outside on one occasion) really well.

Along with Karl coming in with energy, Ronny came in with his usual enthusiasm. Though he was still swinging far too long of an arc for block attempts, Ronny was doing something no other Laker was doing. He was filling the middle on screened drives. Again, there was a parade to the hoop at times without anyone even so much as getting halfway in the way of anyone. Once Ronny came, there were still lay-ups being given but there was some contest coming from nice slides from the side of the key to the middle from Turiaf. Offensively Ronny’s shot selection was on the money. The developing 12 / 14 foot shot he’s starting to hit is invaluable. That shot has eased up his cuts to the hoop even with the ball cycling through his hands on plays for others.

Luke worked hard tonight too. There’s still some serious jagged play from Luke, but he eased up on his forced post game tonight and the Lakers benefitted from it. Once h stepped out of the low post and into a mid range spot to initiate plays things got easier for everyone. Luke’s main problem this season has been trying to prove his post play through forcing plays and getting so deep that he’d impeded movement through from and around the post. There was a real nice interior pass along the baseline to Gasol and a couple kicks out to the perimeter for swings to an open shot that showed conclusively that Luke has got to move through the low post instead of camp out there.

His defense wasn’t the best, as he was getting beaten laterally (as Luke is apt to do). Luke had some real problems with flash defense up top and fading off of obvious drives / lanes to dip back down into the low block where the Raptors are little to no threat.

Farmar came in and did some respectable work. I do think he’s beginning to look for the three too much at this point. Having his shot getting into gear is a nice accessory to his natural point guard game, but I don’t think the 3 should be his main weapon. Jordan’s best play comes from probing the ball into the paint and bringing defense in from mid range. The less he moves the ball into the top of the key or along the arc to find a good entry point, the more the Laker bench starts to stagnate. There was a touch of that going on tonight.

One bad game doesn’t out you into a slump and good game doesn’t take you out of one, but it was more than gratifying to see Fisher’s shooting prowess poke its head out of the muck. You don’t expect a high quality defensive performance from Fisher against quick points like the Raptors field. To that end, the Lakers struggled early and often in containing the Raptors easy penetration from the outside. The result of that weak perimeter D came with the slow rotation of any help to the middle. Again, with quick point guards a little extra space to turn slashing guards like Ford into a shooter would’ve helped immensely. For some reason the point guard core again didn’t have their feet under them. We all know from watching the past couple of years of Lakers that when the perimeter D is poor, the rest follows suit.

Either way, the good thing was seeing Derek get back on track a bit from range. Derek also did real well getting to the pass option spots with perfect timing. There was never a stranded post p[layer while Derek was there. He’s an expert at dropping to the level of the ball on drives and getting right where he should be on every inside run.

Lamar had a sluggish first half but really came to life in the 3rd. He was stepping forward into his shots from the outside, becoming a semi-reliable option from mid range and more unusually the 3, hitting both of his attempts. Once Lamar took the initiative to get into the paint on drives the entire Laker offense began to click. There were 2 instances when Lamar was pushing his way past the Raptors interior defense, using his size to move around the defense where he needed them to be. With Lamar driving to the hoop with authority it helped put the Raptors back on their heels, not allowing them to play one on one defense everywhere. Odom’s rebound kicked into gear in the second half too. Though he wasn’t terrible in the first half, he wasn’t being assertive whatsoever on either end of the court. The encouraging thing was seeing Lamar notice the weakness in his game tonight and being proactive in changing it.

Odsom had a good offensive night when all was said and done. Overall he, along with the rest of the starters have got to stop running away from offensive boards in their haste to get back on defense. The transition defense has been lacking, but completely abandoning boards on the offensive end, or leaving only one person to get an otherwise easily nabbed board has to find a a better balance.

Pau looked tired. Just like Derek did a couple games ago, Pau’s game took a dive due to a lot of inactivity. He was active in posting up, but once he made a move to the basket (in the first 3 quarters) his shot was falling short from very little lift in his legs. Playing the center position may be taking its toll on Pau and any help coming back from injury can go a long way to letting Pau step out to the high post where he’s more effective with his drop step or turning and shooting.

Kobe was forcing the issue inside tonight at the start. The thing with Kobe is the immediate correction to his foibles. The one hitch Kobe does have in his game is his aggravation with getting no calls on obvious fouls affecting his game. He started moving in that direction in the first half, but quickly corrected it and began to play initiator from the outside posts. His 3 was falling early which was enough to get some kind of rhythm for him, but the real game didn’t being until the 4th quarter when Kobe began to get that hop in his step that usually tells that the win is near. Kobe’s best attribute tonight was the drive and kick. On the game sealing play, Kobe did a beautiful mild drive to the high post, turning to pass to an open Fisher on the corner where he hit a 3 to give the Lakers the final distance they needed to close out the game.

That decoy kind of play, using his multiple threats to draw defenders in, is something Kobe has absolutely perfected this year.

A couple things before I wrap it up…

Everyone outside of Derek is too slow to the pass option spots that fill the triangle. Too many players (iso plays or not) are being left alone to go up against 2 or 3 defenders while there’s little to no movement off the ball.

Help defense has got to both be called for and r3ecognized in the paint far more than it has been for the last 4 or 5 games.

The Lakers were doing little to make the Raptors double off of anybody the more they played into the shooting contest style of game the Bosh-less Raptors want to get you in.

If the outside shot isn’t falling, use the inside to alleviate the outside. There are too many weapons (Gasol, Odom, Kobe) to be relying on the outside shot as much as the Lakers have. Take advantage of the varied attack the triangle and the personnel you have offer.

Above all, the Lakers can’t get caught up in a style another team wants to play. The Raptors had good chunks of minutes there where they had the Lakers playing their 3 point shot happy style. For the Lakers to be ultimately effective they have not only establish pace, but make the other teams conform to their speed and style. The more the Lakers adjust to other team’s way of playing, the more they run away from the brand of ball that has gotten them mentioned among the league’s best teams.

Alright, I’ve gone on too long as it is, but there are some concerns right now. There are times the Lakers look like the shortage of players is starting to wear on them. As they come into the home stretch of the regular season (and the home stretch of being short-handed as some players look to come back), the Lakers have simply got to suck it up and dig deep on the defensive end. Scoring isn’t a problem on this team, but all the scoring in the world won’t overcome a sluggish defense.
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Postby Kobe Bryant 8 on Wed Mar 12, 2008 1:38 am

If the outside shot isn’t falling, use the inside to alleviate the outside.

I was saying this in the gameday thread. We never use an inside/out game to stretch the floor. Pau could have gone to work if we just allowed him to.

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Postby crucifido on Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:26 pm

Oh man this injury thing is a downer to say the least. I've had enough. Its not even depressing to me as much as it is annoying, laughable and ridiculous by now.


Lakers vs. Hornets (Game 65 3/14/08)

Not The Best Way To Start a Road Trip

The unbelievably relentless injury bug hit the Lakers again tonight with Gasol going down for the game. What we have to hope now is that it’s just a surface sprain and it can be gotten back on soon. It goes without saying that the slack has to yet again be taken up by everyone. The Lakers know fully well what has to happen to make up for the ground lost by losing a valuable teammate to injury. Just a big pained sigh from everyone, at some point the injuries have got to stop – right?

Once Gasol hobbled his way to the locker room, the Lakers did very well in getting their heads back in the game and getting down to taking care of business. It goes 2 ways with injuries to major players, teams can crumble or they can suck it up and play tougher. The Lakers played tougher – to start, but once the game turned into a running / shooting contest, it became evident the Lakers would have a mountain that would be more than hard to climb.

The sporadic press was really good to see. Throwing a sudden press on a quick-footed guard, let alone any guard is a good idea when you’re fighting a fast moving team like the Hornets. The danger in the press is if the press is broken quickly, you’re automatically compromised. The Lakers did well though putting the press on unpredictably then recovering faster than normal on defense.

Better team rebounding on the defensive end tonight. There wasn’t any leaving others alone underneath the boards to contend with 3 or 4 offenders. Release time off of missed shots was moving a bit back to where it should be at all times.

Aside from injuries, the Lakers’ other bane of existence this year, unforced turnovers were hot and heavy.

Missed easy chances are always tough to see, but when they get contagious, as they often do, it’s twice as painful. Missed lay-ups from Bryant, Turiaf, Radmanovic and others are difficult to take when points in the paint against most teams, but especially against the Hornets weak inside game are so precious.

The help and recovery defense from the bench was solid. Especially in the second quarter, the Laker bench was scrambling to keep up with the Hornets, but losing no ground in the process. Sasha was spearheading the effort on the perimeter, doing a great job splitting space from the outside top the high post with a slight reach.

Radmanovic was spry tonight. He showed much more than the usual amount of activity off the ball and on boards from him. Without Gasol, it’s much needed not only tonight but also for as long as the Lakers are once again hampered by an injury to a key player. Along with Odom, Vladi’s decision making off of rebounds was good. There were less forced shots and more looking for clean opportunities.

Its’ just a bad defensive match-up for most point guards coming into any Hornets game, but for Derek its particularly rough. Chris Paul destroys Derek on defense, making Fisher’s time difficult and sparse when the Hornets are on the docket. Speed is / always has been Fisher’s arch rival on defense and when you couple speed with the superb decision making and talent of Paul, it becomes a needed team effort to try to contain Paul. The only chance for Fisher is to push Paul out of moving across the court and make him more of a shooter than a slasher (of course this doesn’t mean leaving Paul wide open like he was all too often in the second half. Give him a step or two of extra space and keep an eye out for screen sets. Other than that, the Lakers will always have a difficult time containing guards like Paul.

With that in mind Farmar had an early entrance. As Pargo played opposite of Farmar, Jordan did well keeping the Pargo a passer instead of letting him get on a roll from distance. Unfortunately for the Lakers Paul came back in and continued to give the Lakers’ defense fits, headaches and any other kind of pain you can think of. Jordan had a great attack to the hoop in the 3rd along the baseline among the trees. That kind of offensive aggression does well to freeze Paul on the perimeter. If Paul has a weakness on defense it’s driving around him to the low post then along the base for a hard lay-up. Paul gets stuck on screens as players go to the baseline and Jordan played to that very well.

Defensively the Lakers can hope to keep Paul in check, but to completely take him out of the game is a tall, tall order.

Lamar’s rebounds on the offensive end were impressive. Though using two hands to secure most boards is ideal, Lamar did a good job using his reach to get through defenders without fouling to grab long rebounds. He had good decisions with the ball once the ball was secured to. Most were passed back out to reset the offense, but the shots he took back up to the hoop were well-advised and done with enough strength to either draw the foul or get a decently open shot. What I liked seeing was Lamar holding off from the arc. He had success in the game against the Raptors from 3, but didn’t let that make him 3 happy.

Odom had great movement off the ball. He was hitting his spots on both pass option and moving from weak to strong with assertion. That movement kept the inside defense of the Hornets from being able to just pack it in and ignore the Laker perimeter.

Lamar looks like he’s now scared to move laterally when he’s deep under the hoop. He’s been getting called for a lot of blocking calls and tonight the result of those calls showed in his defense along the baseline in particular. He can’t let past history with questionable calls put a clamp on his defensive aggressiveness.

The Lakers have a terrible habit of playing opponents to their strength. The two biggest instances tonight were the Lakers playing Stojakovic to give room to shoot and they stayed tight out high on Chandler when he won’t shoot from distance.

What I thought the absolute key to the game was - there was no inside game for the Lakers – at all.

Once Gasol went out you figured the Lakers will struggle to get anything going from the posts, but with Turiaf and Lamar in the game there was on reason to absolutely abandon the inside game the way the Lakers did. There has to be some effort, especially when the shots aren’t falling for anyone from outside, to get the ball working from inside. If the shot can’t be had inside then work it inside out. Make the Hornets defense have to move. As it was the Hornets were able to find position, settle in and do nothing to keep up with the Lakers. It killed movement and it most of all it deterred the Lakers from getting any kind of rhythm.

To that end the Hornets were able to collapse onto Kobe, keeping him outside of the paint mostly and making him pass the ball off or shoot the 3 out of multiple doubles. Once Kobe was taken out of the paint, the Lakers looked like a team that had no recourse for anything the Hornets threw their way. As much drive as Kobe has (and despite the 36 point effort), he can’t do anything if the rest of the team doesn’t do much or anything to get their selves fired up or involved in the game.

WTF Of The Game: Is offensive interference been stricken from the rulebook? Countless times the last 4 games both against and on the Lakers there has been no calls for what have been obvious violations within the cylinder. I’m cool with it not being a main focus, but man its brutal to see guys put shots back in the rim as they hang off the edge.

Overall, this was not what you’d call an awesome game. From the injury to Gasol, to the lack of transition play, to the absence of inside play, to the turnovers from no pressure, to the disjointed play on both ends, this was a disappointment. It wasn’t all terrible, Lamar had a good game and Farmar played with some serious focus, but every loss is a team loss.

The health of the Lakers is, for the billionth time, the hitch the Lakers’ get along. It was aggravating and maddening to see another Laker go down even if it’s for one game to the dreaded ankle sprain. Hopefully, its not a major deal and the Lakers can bounce back after this disheartening loss. Get better Pau, Andrew, and Trevor - and for the love of Laker fans everywhere – NOBODY ELSE IS ALLOWED TO GET HURT!
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Postby crucifido on Sun Mar 16, 2008 11:32 pm

I think I've cooled off enough. Well I relaxed enough to be able to write this article without crushing the keyboard, so that's a step forward... :freak2:

Lakers vs. Rockets (Game 66 3/16/08)

Disappointment On More Than One Level

Before I get into this game, let me let everyone know that there is a positive side to this injury plague. Once Bynum, Gasol and Mihm come back fully healthy from their bumps and bruises, the Lakers will have a team of guys that up to 13 deep know how to play in the meat of a game. That is to say that once the team is all on their feet again, the Lakers will be a team that has experience in meaningful game time down to the last guy off the bench. That will come in huge handy once the playoffs arrive.

Now onto my tirade that I had to step away from before in order to formulate it rationally.

First off, it was a waste of a real good defensive performance on McGrady. Team-wise Tracy was held to far below what his average and/or what he can normally get in a big game. The Lakers did so well in pressuring every single move he made and keeping right up on him on every outside shot. There were a couple instances of McGrady working around the Lakers in the mid-range, but overall they kept him out of rhythm the whole way. But that wasn’t enough…

While they played decently on McGrady, they (for some reason) let the 3 point shooting go practically unabated. While the Lakers packed it in on the inside because of the lack of a big man, they chose to ignore the fact that Houston drains 3’s with the best of ‘em. Every Laker was splitting space on the outside, keeping a step to the inside for no good reason. Meanwhile that step or often 2 steps allowed every Rocket with any kind of shot to slide to any spot they wanted without obstruction. Essentially the Lakers were defending open, possibly used space in favor of defending the actual threat.

It’s the umpteenth time the Lakers have done this. For some unknown reason, the Lakers enjoy letting shooters do what they do best. There was no effort to make anyone play outside of their comfort zone. Once McGrady was taken care of, it’s almost as if they figured nobody else would dare to contribute. So again, the Lakers get burned from outside, not because the other team was running efficient plays to get the shots, but because they simply let the Rockets go wherever they wanted. Once that 1st quarter 4 3’s from Alston thing was done, you’d hope the Lakers would get together and clamp down on it happening again. However, they not only let the Rockets continue to hit 3’s, they let Alston keep getting open for any shot he wanted. That’s maddening.

The Lakers also let 6 minutes of Rocket ineptitude on offense got to waste. Yes, they climbed back into the game, but they were making it as tough on themselves as they possibly could. There was little to no use of Odom on the inside. The entire game Lamar was playing aggressive and looking to cause havoc in the paint. Yet while Lamar played on like that, the Lakers were running mid-post plays for Mbenga. Now I like Mbenga, but running plays for him (even without the big man core intact) is something that just shouldn’t happen. At best he should be a passing pivot point, not an offensive option.

Without the exploitation of Odom in the middle, the Lakers relied solely on a shooting contest. Once again, they got caught up in a game that is both out of their realm and a style of game that utterly destroys the methodical passing offense the triangle is. The Toronto game saw a little preview of the Lakers doing the same thing. Today you saw the fully fleshed out version of that same thing.

The Rockets, surprisingly, weren’t using the middle offensively whatsoever. Even with Mutombo in the game (and Scola as well) they weren’t using the post for anything but a rebound jumping off point. So when the Lakers saw that they should have been going right into the paint immediately to push the apparently soft Rocket inside game on its heels. Alas, that didn’t happen.

Meanwhile, the Lakers have got a big hill to climb without Gasol on the road. That hill led to Houston today as the Lakers limped into the Rockets crazy winning streak looking to do what no other team could do in the last 21 games versus the Rockets.

Without any legit center (outside of Mbenga) rebounds are obviously the story coming into this game. The Lakers had to look to have a team rebounding kind of mentality on both ends. But there’s no reason to send everyone into the paint on a drive to help, leaving the outside ridiculously open for Alston to drain 3’s. You cannot let the outside suffer the consequences of the lack of size in the middle.

Also again, there was no rotation to help on drives. Even Kobe, the team’s best defender had 2 times in particular (one on a drive by Battier in the 4th) where he stood within help distance watching Battier waltz to the hoop without contest. It can’t be that tough to send one help guy (not off of a shooter) to seal up at least a little space in the middle. It doesn’t have to be a shot blocker, but it has to be somebody. You can’t stand and hope they miss a lay-up.

The real problem today came with the point guard core of the Lakers again. They’ve had a recent bad run on the defensive end in particular and today was no different. With Derek letting Alston run free on the outside, it got Alston off to that quick start that usually proves deadly with him. The foot speed just isn’t there with Derek and in game like this against big outside screen sets like Houston sets that can really hurt the Lakers perimeter D. Farmar did slightly better, but got caught on screens over and over due to an all to familiar lack of communication.

The Lakers played horrible defense on the high pick and roll. Once the roll came off of the pick, the Lakers got stuck where the pick was set., There was no movement to drop down with the roll and like mentioned above, if the roll was contested but still open, help was nowhere to be found.

The Lakers had a deplorable habit of obstructive flash defense on 3-point shooters today. The flashing is fine but you can’t flash by getting in the way of your teammate defending the shot, ultimately screening him out, then running off of the flash leaving the shooter wide open. That happened way too many times today against Alston.

Lastly, a little point about the way the Laker injuries are happening. They’re coming off of guys stepping on each other’s feet. To me this smacks of a communication problem. Even when the Lakers were rolling there was little talking going on. If the Lakers would open up their communication more and let each other know what’s going, call each other off of rebounds and also move to open space, maybe all of this slipping off of each other’s feet thing will take a step aside. I’m not saying it solves all injury problems, but maybe it plays a small role – who knows.

O.K., enough of that rant. Let me bookend my whining with some positives from today.

Like I said before, Odom played a real strong game. Aggressive from the start and looking to be a factor in this one, Lamar had an impact from end to end. He played real well in the post with ball. He was showing the full range of his arsenal today, often freezing the Rocket interior D without problem. His rebounding was outstanding. Even without the pad of Gasol in the low block, Lamar has developed a real knack for grabbing boards. His rebounds in heavy traffic were beautiful. He was reaching above 2 and sometimes 3 defenders to get boards and even better was kicking back out to reset the offense instead of jacking up low percentage contested shots.

Defensively he was a little slow on the help, but when shots were coming off the glass, Lamar was in perfect position more times than not to either get the board or clear space for a teammate to grab it. Particularly, Odom was getting the long rebounds off of long shots with great accuracy.

Radmanovic did an admirable job on McGrady early on. In particular he did real well no biting on the multiple head fakes that McGrady threw at him. He played with solid footing and didn’t really let McGrady get any breathing room around or in front of him. Of all people to set a defensive pace it was Vladi in the 1st quarter that showed that McGrady can be contained.

Ronny played really, really well active off the ball. Hat activity from mid-range into the paint was invaluable in making the Lakers a bit more threatening inside than they would’ve been without Ronny playing so alertly. He cleared space on the defensive end good too. If he wasn’t moving people around to create space for himself in the paint, he was constantly in the mix, not letting easy offensive or defensive boards go off without him having a say in it.

I loved the blocks today. Usually Ronny goes in with way too much swipe in his motion but today he was a bit more under control. The blocks were timed well and he was going up when the at the height of their jump rather than crashing down his swing on them when they were almost back down.

Luke did some quality work in the high post. He’s still slowly moving away from his low post forcing offense, but today he was vital in the mid to high post, delivering some tough passes and keeping his shot under control well.

Kobe did alright, but without any movement off the ball, it was real rough for Kobe to find any room to move. The Rockets were free to send double teams at him because the rest of the Lakers weren’t getting to their pass option spots whatsoever. It’s hard to gauge Kobe’s game today, he never really got a chance to get going. The Lakers allowed the Rockets to pay heavy attention to him, without making them pay for overplaying Kobe.

Like I said, to me, this was one of the more disappointing losses of the year. It’s not because 1st place has been surrendered (although yeah, that does suck) but moreover because this game was easily winnable.

The Lakers failed to cash in on the Rockets almost handing to them by playing intolerable defense on the arc. I don’t like losing, but I don’t mind it as much when the Lakers give their full focus and effort. Today, they just looked disinterested, almost glum. They looked like a team that was giving up the ship before it even left the harbor. That’s what angered me the most about this game.

First place is a hot potato in the West right now. As of this moment the Rockets have it, but with more focus, common sense on the defensive end and a continued aggression on the boards (along with other things, but you get the point), it can once again be the Lakers’ place to have.
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Postby crucifido on Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:22 pm

Now that I've calmed down and my heart isn't in convulsions, here's the article for this one...

Man, that was crazy...

Lakers vs. Mavericks (Game 67 3/18/08)

The Lakers Win With A Big Ol’ But

After the loss in Houston there has to be a sense of urgency on the Lakers to not let this little losing streak turn into a big one. That urgency can’t turn to panic it has to go into focused determination. Dallas hasn’t been a kind arena to the Lakers recently, but even despite the shortage of personnel, the Lakers have more than a chance to beat the Mavericks on their home court with communication, defense and smart play on both ends.

Now I don’t know if it’s the tight race in the west, the 2 game skid, playing the Mavericks at their arena or just general game time jitters, but I wanted this game badly. A 3 game losing streak (as seen by the Spurs) can be deadly to your positioning in the West. Yes, there’s a ways to go, but with a higher seeding the Lakers can fall into an easier second round match-up if they advance. Anyway, suffice to say, I hoped the Lakers wanted this win as much as us fans did tonight.

The Lakers can ill afford getting down early to teams on this road trip. They’ve got to come into games looking to take the upper hand by dictating pace. The Lakers have for the most part been a victim to pacing the first two games. This game saw the Lakers making the pace. Bringing the ball up quickly on open breaks, but showing good patience in the half court sets.

Getting the ball into the mid-post to Ronny was smart. As Ronny started to take the ball into Dampier without fear, it took Dampier out of the game early and right there the Lakers should know that the inside is compromised and the playing field on the inside evened out. Ronny’s pushes into Dampier, even getting knocked down a couple times in the process, got the Lakers the inside presence that they sorely needed/ignored in Houston. Those knockdowns didn’t deter Ronny at all. In fact, it looked like the early contact fired his game up offensively and defensively. Ronny’s movement off the ball has usually been spot on, and tonight it was no different. Ronny was moving off the pass into pass option spots with crisp steps.

When Dampier did come back in the game Ronny had good shot selection stepping out of the paint and draining the 15 footer he’s adopted into his arsenal.

The Lakers moved to the inside via passing or via driving with smarts tonight. Without a legit center stepping in after Ronny took Dampier out of the game, the Lakers had a wide-open chance to exploit the softer than usual belly of the Mavericks. Kobe did fantastic passing the ball to the cutter and the patient movement around the horn pulled the Mavs out of defensive comfort spots the way the Lakers were doing earlier in the year. There are typically wide gaps in the mavericks mid range defense, but the Lakers forced an even bigger gap in the middle tonight with aggressive and forthright movement to the hoop.

Defensively, how can you complain about Ronny tonight? His blocking has become much better timed and the over-eager swiping has taken a backseat to controlled movement. Without a legit 7 footer in the middle, Ronny has done a more than admirable job holding down the center spot. Ronny (along with Lamar) absolutely owned the paint tonight. There was not one shot that came within the reach of Ronny that wasn’t contested. The guy just played like an 8 footer tonight, not letting anyone get into any kind of rhythm in any post.

Luke did better using the post. He used it to set up the play, instead of setting up a highly contested shot in traffic. He is put in the post to be used as a passing pivot and the more Luke plays the paint to that end, the better the Laker offense moves. Very smart transition defense tonight from Luke. He got back on defense but more importantly he wasn’t losing sight of where the ball was. His defense outside was a bout 2 steps slow, but he did well in getting into rebound position when he did get beat.

Farmar has fallen in love with the long shot recently, and I was screaming my head off last game for him to get back to the probing dribble in the paint and right around the key that he was doing before. In this one, Farmar looked to make amore concerted effort to just that. There were open jumpers here and there, but Jordan did well in taking the ball into mid-range gaps, moving the Mavericks defense with him, instead of moving his game around their defense.

Farmar however has got to make his post passes sharper and not as telegraphed. He’s holding the ball too far out before he makes the pass, letting his defender and the others around him where the ball is going to go.

Sasha officially freaks me out on breaks. I don’t know if its his hair bouncing everywhere that’s making him look out of control or the bullish head down dribbling style into the front court, but either way Sasha has got to start giving the ball up about 2 seconds earlier on breaks.

Kobe was pure genius in the first half of this game. He made Dallas pay for doubling him at every turn. Of course being Kobe, you can’t help but double, so you take that passing look from Kobe and the good movement from the Lakers and there’s no mystery as to why the Lakers played the way they did early on. The key was Kobe’s amazing vision on the court. The confidence in his teammates was there in full effect. Kobe’s hustle to loose balls and everywhere at once defensive mentality was spectacular. There was no ball that was with in 3 feet of Kobe that wasn’t either gathered or gone after.

Alright, Derek’s offense has got to be more varied than strictly spotting up on the arc. The driving game he had earlier this year has disappeared and because of that defenses are not being forced to move from the outside. With Derek standing only on the line not moving his feet, he’s keeping the offense from moving, as it should. Derek’s smarter than this and this addiction to the long distance jumper has to stop - now.

Radmanovic has now strung together two quality defensive games. His job on McGrady set the pace for the team and tonight he was locked in on the perimeter. He gambled a bit too much on post passes or players swinging the ball from down to up, but all in all, Vladi has played really good defense on whoever has been thrown his way. Offensively there’s no streakier shooter on the Lakers other than Vladi. I’ve said it a lot, if there’s one wild card that can swing a game in the Lakers favor, its Vladi. If that shot gets going and he moves to the option spots he should be in (as he was in the 4th) the guy can truly swing a game.

Real good takes by Odom into Dampier and Nowitzki in the 1st quarter. Plays like that are something that has risen to the surface since Gasol’s arrival. The best part of that game is that right now the same aggression is still there even with Gasol out injured. The diving effort off of the bad shot from Lamar in the 4th goes to show just how much hustle has worked its way into Lamar’s game.

The help defense Lamar played in this one was much better than in Houston. Odom set the pace by keeping a hold of the baseline, avoiding the 3-second call but always watching when to slide over to cut the drive off. His timing on the slide and on help was on the money. The strength Lamar held the ground in the paint also helped his growing rebound numbers. He had complete control of the area directly under the boards and about 1 to feet around it. The Mavericks were throwing 2 to 3 guys into the paint on shots and often holding one right outside the block to swoop in, but Lamar held ground superbly.

By the way, missed free throws make me crazy. I don’t expect 100% but the Lakers are shooting without following through most of the time and are letting too many points escape them from the line.

The Lakers have a bad habit/awful/terrible/horrible/deplorable of playing prevent defense. Whether Kobe is in or not, or there is a viable offensive option in the game, the Lakers seem to settle back on their heels offensively when they get a big lead. They can’t do this. They still have to learn that when you have a lead, it’s never big enough. There can be no sluggish play or getting away from running successful plays simply because you have a lead.

You simply cannot let a team (home or away) get a look at the game when you have a lead the size of what the Lakers had (25). The killer instinct that everyone begs for is still escaping the Lakers. There’s no tired excuse, there’s no back-to-back excuse, in fact, there’s no excuse to let the good game you played in the first 3 half.

How in the world do the Lakers continuously give up threes in crunch time, especially against the team you recently went to overtime against from the same thing? I will forever not understand how every single Laker doesn’t understand how to push the out soothe ball has to be either passed away from a shooter, turn a shooter into a passer or have the ball put on the floor. There’s just no reason, aside from lazy play this should happen as much as it does.

I’ve harped on it before too – tonight saw another end of the period 3 that swung the momentum Dallas’ way going into the 4th. Along with the prevent defense mentality they show, the Lakers have got to keep alive until the buzzer sounds. There is no relaxing simply because a quarter is winding down. I rip on fans leaving games early, and this is right along the same lines. You have to play sharp until the game is over.

The ball movement in the 1st quarter was real good. What facilitated that movement were the Lakers getting to the spots of the offense before the ball fell dead in a post or in an iso set. Its real good to see the Lakers realizing that movement off the ball, rotating with the play gets the ball better passing angles. The ball’s been falling dead quite often on this road trip due to 3 or 4 Lakers watching a play develop rather than making the play develop.

The whole Kobe and company coming to the arena fresh off a flight after a loss to practice shooting is something that is simply beautiful to hear happening. That kind of dedication is contagious, beyond helpful and shows a drive the Lakers haven’t had in a long, long time.

WTF of The Game: The mics on the nets in Dallas are hilarious. It makes every basket sound like a punch in an Indiana Jones movie.

Despite the wacky play in the second half, the Lakers won – in essence that’s what matters. They showed good composure in holding on when the pressure was really clamping down on them. I can point out other things, but I’m going to take this win and run away to the Utah game looking for our guy to come home 2-2 and hopefully getting healthy.
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Postby AceOfSpades5 on Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:00 pm

Some good stuff.
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Postby crucifido on Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:41 pm

Much better second half. Still some lapses, but that's the way you wind up a tough road trip.

Lakers vs. Jazz (Game 68 3/20/08)

A Streak Broken, A Place Kept And A Road Trip Finished The Right Way

From the second best home team to the best, that’s the way the Lakers’ road trip and the West in general goes. There’s no night off that’s for sure. And so the Lakers roll into Utah to try and snap another crazy winning streak.

On the first defensive set the Lakers looked crouched down and dug in to play the same defense that got them the big lead in Dallas. Solid footing on the perimeter at the opening kept the Jazz from working inside out. They relegated the Jazz to a jump shooting team, taking away any drives and probes to the paint.

What they have to watch with mobile teams like Utah is the movement from mid-range along the baseline looking to pop out on the other side for a pass or to swoop in for a rebound. The Lakers had it happen once to them, but quickly sealed it up in the 1st quarter.

Speaking of that 1st quarter, what a great performance it was. I mean scoring 38 on your own home floor in a period is great, but pulling it off on the road against the league’s best home team, that’s something amazing. The best part of that run was that the Lakers got it off of defense first play and controlled play on the offensive end working inside out.

Lamar did well making Okur play moving defense early. The take from the side along the baseline was a good way to establish his offensive game before the Jazz got settled into their spots. Odom’s move to the middle to get the wrap-around pass from Ronny was one of the more aware pieces of footwork he’s pulled off this year. The effects of Gasol’s arrival are still alive and well though Gasol is out. You’d think with Lamar being pushed into the 2nd option again that his game would fade back into unsure play, but it was quite the opposite.

Odom was stepping into shots, taking the open chances he had and even better, knocking them down. Defensively what Lamar had huge success with (and its something I complain about every game – to myself) is playing grounded defense in traffic. When the cutter came in, or the drive came into him, he didn’t jump with the shot. His arms went up, he kept his feet turning with the direction and often came up with forced missed shots or the board. That kind of controlled, non-pogo defense can save a lot of fouls for all Laker big men. Couple that with Lamar’s crisp transition defense (the block on Brewer in the 3rd quarter) and you have a spectacular performance from Odom.

Lamar’s confidence is even coming out in his interviews. The halftime interview with Cheryl Miller saw Odom with his head up, him looking at her while he talked and saying assured positive things. Before he was often head-down and mumbling cliché’ speak with no energy.

That steal on the 2-on1 break from Derek (and the block / recovery from Lamar and Farmar) is the reason that everyone has got to get back on defense every single time. That was beautiful hustle from him (and Radmanovic). Riding on that Radmanovic kept up his defensive run. He has been playing incredibly solid defense moving from the mid-rang to the inside lately. This game was no different as Vladi had his feet moving before his hands and arms reached. A lot of times Vladi is guilty of playing hands first D, getting himself into foul trouble for no reason. Something seems to have clicked though because Vladi is now playing focused foot-first D.

Now from the defensive improvement, Vladi looks like he may have found his shot again. Just like Lamar, consistency is the tough thing for Radmanovic. So seeing him have two good games from distance in a row isn’t the end of the inconsistency, but it’s certainly the beginning of a waking up of Vladi.

Back to Derek – he really played some bodied up defense on Williams in the first half. He didn’t give Deron any room to move up and down. He let some lateral movement go, but Fish did real well in taking away the quick straight in drive away from him.

Ronny, once again (and yes I’m biased) made his presence known. He has played a strong combo game of power forward and center in this injury run. Snagging a board between two Jazz players more than once. When he did get the rebound, the key to his success is that he’s kicked it back out to reset the offense, instead of taking it up in traffic. But he does real well worming his way into the paint, getting set and not giving up ground.

It got to one point this game that the Jazz began sending two players to defend Ronny even when he was out of the post. That is an unexpected dividend to Ronny’s play. Any pressure taken off of the main offensive options through unexpected sources is huge. The beginning of the game had Ronny establishing position so early the Jazz looked lost on how to recover the space.

Ronny had to be more careful of pushing Boozer too much physically. Boozer wants to feel the defender push up on him so he can pound the ball into the low post. When Ronny started getting into Boozer on the high post, he gave up too much room to the inside, giving him a tough time to recover and block the shot or play D without fouling.

Farmar finally started ditching the long shot when he had a drive. There’s been a huge lack of probing, cutting, slashing and even empty drives to pull defense off the perimeter. Jordan changed that a tiny bit tonight, taking the ball in for a nice, strong drive in the 2nd quarter. However, his passes in general on offense have been slow and flat, making them candidates for steals almost every time. He has to start moving to better pass position if the angle isn’t there. Don’t pass it just because someone seems open.

Sasha found his groove. Mainly he found it through getting to the pass option spots early, without hesitating off of screens. He got back to his movement right to his spots after the first pass in the play. Once he got the sides (where he thrives from) the shots were both more open and coming in rhythm with the offense, instead of forced out of desperation.

About Kobe: simply amazing – again. I love the “this game is personal comment” about the Jazz fans booing Derek. That and the drive he showed tonight after the foul on Williams 3 is without a doubt the most incredible thing to watch (and have on your side) in the NBA. I’ve run out of superlatives for him actually. The no-look pass on the break, the help rebounding in the second half, the mobile perimeter to mid-range defense, the ice cold shooting from 12 to 14 feet when the Lakers needed it the most – it was all again, amazing.

Points in transition and turnover numbers were good this game. The unforced errors weren’t falling into bunches like they can sometimes. Controlled play came in at the start and only had two instances of faltering, but it was shored right back up.

2 massive keys to the game:

1) The Laker bench running the lead back up to 19 without Kobe on the floor. That run (even though it was from shooting against the zone) played really big in a game that, 4even though the lead was there, felt precarious at times.

2) Keeping Kirilenko outside and completely away from any post or inside play. There was no weak side domination that Kirilenko can do. They kept him out of the post and off of the baseline and that was vital in killing second chances.

Why does the zone defense confound the Lakers so much? They insist on shooting 3’s against the zone, playing right into their hands. If we know how to beat the zone, there’s no reason the Lakers shouldn’t know. Attack the middle – attack the middle – attack the middle!!

Flash defense from Luke on the arc killed the Lakers a couple of times. One game it was Lamar and this one it was Luke jumping out to defend the 3, pushing his teammate off of his man, then fading away from it. There’s enough open 3’s going up on the Lakers as it is, that team-wide theory has got to stop.

One thing the Lakers did in Dallas and in this one in Utah, is getting caught up in the atmosphere of the game. Event though the crowd is anti-Laker, they have a habit of playing along with the energy of the crowd, often hurrying their offense or taking ill-advised / early in the clock shots. It wasn’t as apparent this game, but it was there. They have got to play methodically at all times. It’s decidedly tough to not get caught up, but the Lakers need to learn that lesson if they are to have any success in the quickly approaching playoffs.

Well they didn’t break the Houston streak, but at least they broke this one. Coming home 2-2 on this road trip at this time of the year after losing Gasol, is totally acceptable. The strength of the bench is getting thicker (the good side of the injuries) and it is impressive that the Lakers have held their head above water with everything that’s been thrown their way and in this crazy Western race.

Now, they can’t let this win and coming home to play a weak Seattle team take them out of the focused play they’ve shown these last 2 games.
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Postby crucifido on Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:55 pm

A good piece of home cookin' and a bit of a tune-up kind of game for the home and away with the Warriors.

Lakers vs. Sonics (Game 69 3/21/08)

Back Home Again

Without Gasol going 2-2 on that road trip is nothing to scoff at. The Lakers hung tough pulled out two wins that were needed, important, impressive and inspiring. Now they get to come back home and play a not-so-hot Seattle team that’s playing nothing but the spoiler for the rest of the year.

The team ball movement was right on the money in the 1st quarter. They showed a quickness to get in the frontcourt and more importantly, the paint that was a pleasant surprise. Often coming off of a rough road trip teams tend to relax and let game like this slide a bit, but the Lakers showed some really sharp hustle as soon as the ball was jumped up.

Once again Radmanovic looked locked in on defense. You can see it in his posture – hunched over eyes focused on his assignment and moving really well laterally. These are all things that at one time Vladi looked completely incapable of. The forced turnover from jumping into the p[assign lane in the 1st was a jaw dropping play for Vladi.

Radmanovic’s curl to the hoop for the lay-in in the 1st quarter off of the high post pass from Lamar was gorgeous. There’s an assertion in the movement of Vladi on offense that shows that he looks to have finally clicked into where he needs to be offensively. All of this sudden success from Vladi is stemming from one thing – active feet. He’s not planting himself in a spot waiting for a pass or waiting for a drive any more. There’s a bounce in his step that’s having an effect on both ends for Radmanovic.

An unexpected element in Radman’s game tonight was the passing on the give and go’s. His dimes were perfectly timed and placed. Oh yeah, and how ‘bout that put back dunk off of Mbenga’s miss in the 2nd? This is a Vladi that was nowhere to be found before, but has luckily found his game within the system – finally.

Lamar’s board work is becoming instinctive. Not only is he getting himself involved in the mix every time underneath tonight, he’s really learned how to create space underneath. Odom’s early in the shot footwork has been the key. If you watch as Lamar works himself into rebounding position, he’s always on the balls of his feet. He’s keeping his arms up from mid-range to high, allowing himself room to go up for the board without making contact on the opposition. Tonight, against a good rebounding team and a team the Lakers tend to give a lot of second chances to, Lamar was a major factor in getting the Lakers off to the scorching start.

Limiting second chances has been a bane to the Lakers existence at times, but tonight Lamar proved that the dent he’s made in that hitch isn’t a fluke any more. If you’re not seeing or appreciating the amount of work Lamar has put in the last 10 or 11 games, then you’re not watching the same game I am. This hustling determined play looks like it just may stick.

Just like with Vladi, this footwork of Odom is having far reaching effects. Low and behold the confidence he’s getting from controlling the boards is giving him confidence in his shot.

Derek made me a happy guy tonight. Instead of just instantly settling for the 3, there were a couple instances where Fish actually took it to the hoop. Unfortunately it just isn’t as much as it should be from your point guard. There’s nobody on the Sonics in the paint that should be obstructing Fish from getting where he wants to go.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that Derek has added the long range jumper to his game, but in the last 20 games or so, he’s been a one trick pony when in actuality he has more than a 3 point shot offense within him. It should be an element to his game, not his entire game. Also, in the most basic terms, for Derek to keep his shot open from the outside he has to drive or at the least probe the paint with a dribble. He knows it, we know it, but the thing is will Derek do it consistently?

There was one moment in the 1st quarter where Derek played Watson on the perimeter, but when Watson picked up his dribble he stayed back. However, within 2 seconds Derek closed the space and took away the shot that could’ve been there. That closing out of space on perimeter shooters is one of the best things to see right now – especially from the point guard position. It didn’t really happen with Farmar on the court. It seems like Farmar is following Fisher’s lead on both ends, but at some point one of them has got to start putting more pressure on slow moving offense on the perimeter.

As far as Farmar goes, its good to see his shot come alive, but I hope that with every made 3 it doesn’t take away another chunk of Farmar’s driving instinct. For the shot to keep being open and keep falling, Jordan, like Derek, has got to remember to break down the defense as enthusiastically as he shoots the 3.

Ronny had his hands at the ready in this one. That may be one of Ronny’s biggest positives this year (next to getting to his spots quicker than most on the floor). Off of that Ronny’s passing has seen a sudden burst. It started in Dallas really with a couple decent passes out of pressure in the paint. Then it developed even more in Utah, dishing the ball off in traffic sometimes instead of throwing up contested shots. Now in this game Ronny continued his great passing work. The big highlights though come from his readiness. You rarely, if ever, see Ronny caught blind on a pass.

He’s everyone’s favorite whipping boy right now, though I think if everyone knew how hurt Luke’s been this year and the way he’s played through it opinions may change. It was fantastic to see Luke finally knock the lid off the basket. He did well shooting through it tonight, but even more so he dove to the rim on a couple rolls and got some easy buckets that got some confidence and lift back in his shot. He hasn’t a good year to be sure, but he did well staying alive on his feet tonight even when the shot wasn’t falling.

What I didn’t like was the lazy inbounds pass in the 3rd to Ronny. Whether you’re hurt or not you can’t pull off lackadaisical plays like that.

Kobe played some good harassing defense on Durant. When he got the chance to stay with him through screens, Kobe pushed up into him constantly. Whenever there was a tiny bit of breathing room Kobe closed it up. That close made Durant backpedal or give the ball up. There was no room for shot that Durant was trying to get going.

That was a picture perfect trap on Ridnour in the 3rd. That occasional trap defense of Phil was active tonight and it paid off more than not.

With the Sonics being who they are and crippled even further without Wilcox, the Lakers really should be looking to attack the middle on almost every play. At the very least they need to set up every other play or so coming form the post. There was ball movement on the outside, but the problem was it never saw anything but the arc. That makes the Lakers easy to defend and it absolutely stalls the Laker offense.

Run the curl play (mostly with shooters) more often. It worked well tonight with Radmanovic and Sasha and there’s no reason it can’t work to at least move a stagnant offense. Even if it’s used as a decoy play, the dive down the middle (particularly versus the zone) can scramble a defense much better than simply hoisting it up every time there’s any glimpse of an open look. When the defense gets put back on their heels, the long jumpers will be there, but the easy lay-ins will also crop up.

It was spotty energy on defense tonight. The 1st quarter was lively, the 2nd saw the Lakers play slow and lazy at times, especially when the ball moved around the mid-range. The 3rd quarter had the Lakers moving a little better but looking like they had to ramp the energy of the 1st back up to speed. The transition lost some speed there. And the 4th was alright, but still lacked the pop they had in the 1st. Different defensive profiles were evident tonight. That could be fatigue from the road trip, a let down mentality playing Seattle after tough teams or miscommunication. Needless to say consistent hustle defense is what the Lakers have banked more wins on this year. That’s what’s got to show up, no matter who the opponent.

It was a good palette cleanser kind of game. It was the saltine at the Pepsi Challenge. Now that the cobwebs of the late arrival at home are shaken off, its time to get re-focused for Sunday and Monday and the home and away with the Warriors. With or without Gasol, it’s not going to be easy as the Warriors are still fighting for their playoff lives. Above all else, remember that consistent defense will lead to consistent offense and energy begets energy on all fronts.
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Postby crucifido on Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:16 pm

Man that was aggravating

Lakers vs. Warriors (Game 70 3/23/08)

Surprise, Defense Does Matter After All

It was a bright and sunny day here in So Cal. The hybrid summer/spring season felt like it officially kicked in. As the sun began to set and the Lakers took the court against the Warriors, the day would hopefully continue to on its pace with a Laker win.

However, the great day led to a disappointing game from the purple and gold. The game wasn’t without its positives, but overall it was a loss that was laced with aggravation.

The board numbers were there again for Lamar today. He came out working hard (mostly on the defensive boards). He was just vastly underused in the first half. What was good for Lamar was his sudden aggressiveness getting inside while everyone else insisted on shooting long jumpers in the 3rd quarter. The guy was playing rock solid defense in the second half, denying anyone and everyone access to the rim. If the ball came off the rim, Lamar was not only in the mix every time, but usually getting the ball using his length. He’s learned the strong stance defense that has escaped the Laker frontcourt for quite a while. That stance and the determined yet relaxed manner in which Lamar has played the last batch of games is exciting to see develop.

It was a waste of a brilliant, strong performance from Lamar.

Ronny keep his eyes open on the defender coming on his weak side. Ronny holds the ball out from his body too far, allowing easy steals or at the least swipes at the ball that can take him out of rhythm. The outside shot was falling for Ronny tonight. Again, every point Ronny can pull in from the outside helps the entire team too. Not just scoring wise, but also the spacing inside gets relief at the time and for the rest of the game.

There were a lot of good things in Ronny’s game aside from the shot. With a weak inside team like the Warriors, its imperative the Lakers established some kind of inside position and Ronny did a decent job making the Warriors have to collapse from the perimeter defense to the mid-range. Ideally it would’ve been good to have a cutter or two diving in the middle. The Lakers had Ronny filling the post space, but there was a problem inside in that nobody looking to cut off of the post to get an easy bucket. The ball was dying in the post with Ronny and little activity anywhere off of it.

Ronny’s big hitch was his Odom-like sharing of the ball. There were 4 shots that would’ve been easy makes for Ronny but he passed it off, resulting in 3-second violations or lower percentage shots.

Kobe did a good job posting up Baron early in the game. He got into the post as fast as he could once the Lakers pulled the switch for Kobe’s position. Once there Kobe leaned into Baron in the 1st, gathering the foul on Davis, putting the Warriors on their heels a bit. However, once those 2 fouls were riding on Davis’ back the Lakers didn’t post him up, take it into him (or his area) or do much at all to take advantage of the inherently weak defensive spot those fouls created.

Offensively Kobe seemed held back a touch. In the second half he got more aggressive and started to get into the groove. That first half though had Kobe playing far too passive against a team that really has absolutely no answer in the slightest for his game.

Against a high scoring team like the Warriors, I would’ve liked to see Kobe a bit more foot active on offense earl in the game. He had a lot of moments where he passed the ball and fell stagnant (as the rest of the team did). The usual precise off ball movement he shows was a step or two slow in spots.

There was better balance in Jordan’s inside / outside game tonight. He had one drive along the baseline for a dunk in the 2nd that was great to see. Just like Derek there’s been far too much settling for the 3 amongst the Lakers’ point guards. I say it a gazillion times a year, but there has to be some kind of probing dribble into the paint from the points. You can’t expect to hoist long distance shots without taking pressure off of them with a drive or two.

Anyway, Jordan did much better this game looking to at least pull the guards in from the perimeter. It pulled some defense off of long shots and it also made the Warriors scramble like they should against an agile team like the Lakers. It’s dangerous to get caught up in the fast penetration game with the Warriors, but with Jordan playing as spry as he did today, it provided a much-needed element of energy.

Derek played some clutch offense in the 3rd quarter. What you don’t want to see is success from the perimeter isolate Derek to playing strictly the shooting game. When he started sinking the jumpers, you ultimately want Fish to take the ball inside, if only for a play or two. He got his 3’s in that second half from getting to his spot well. There’s no doubt that Derek (aside from Kobe) knows the triangle the best and he exploited the benefit of the system’s spacing. I’m not sure why when Derek was as hot as he was the Lakers decided to go away from him almost entirely in the 4th quarter. He got to the same spots with a foul plagued Ellis on him, but the ball never worked over to him.

The main fault today - playing that manic style of play the Warriors love you to play. There’s no reason that a team with the talent and composure the Lakers have shown have to feel obligated to run crazed from end to end with no plays to speak of.

The Lakers were tentative at the beginning of the game. The quick pace they set in the previous two took a back seat to bit more of a slow paced / though out kind of offense. Its not the worst gambit to play against the speedy Warriors, but the Lakers can set the pace without playing a running game out of their talents. They lacked that spark they showed the last couple of games in trying to bury teams early. Not only did they give the Warriors a good size lead in the first half, they weren’t coming at them with any kind of assertion right away. You can’t delay that controlled sense of urgency.

There was a little reversion tonight to the unforced turnover version of the Lakers. You have to know our opponent. There were too many flat angle passes from the side to the mid-post in slight traffic. You have to know that the Warriors have quick defensive hands, sneaking a pass through minimal space like the Lakers were trying to do is unlikely. That and some sleepy transition defense (even more dangerous against a team as fast as the Warriors) had the Warriors dictating the pace early in the game. Unfortunately the Lakers were playing right into the Warriors’ hands by shooting quick long distance jumpers, virtually ignoring the inside game. The driving, cutting and slashing game of the Laker backcourt was completely absent. In turn the Lakers gave up way too many points in the 1st quarter.

If they happen to meet up with the Warriors in the playoffs, or any team with speed, they should know by now that they have to stay within their game. Once the Lakers try to run, it takes them out of the systematic pace of the triangle. There’s some leeway in the triangle this year, but not enough to make up for the loss of pace as in the 1st half.

There was stretch (from the 3 minutes left in the 1st to 9.43 left in the 2nd) where they didn’t take the ball inside once. Every bit of offense was a jump shot. You saw the Warriors having a parade to the paint the 1st and 2nd, but for some reason the Lakers looked like they were being pushed out of the inside. (Case in point: there were only 4 touches in the paint (via passes or plays) for Lamar the entire first half.) In that 2nd quarter Ronny was forced to sit with 3 fouls, yet both Baron and Jackson were playing comfortable defense from all spots sitting on 2 fouls (to that matter there should’ve been switches pulled on Ellis to get him out of the game when he had 5 fouls with 7 minutes left in the game). That’s unacceptable offense. There is nobody on the Warriors that does, will or should make the Lakers as hesitant from getting inside, as they looked tonight in the first half.

Statistically, the inside game wasn’t tested as much as it should’ve been, however, the second half saw improvement (over a lackluster first half):
3rd quarter: 5 drives, 2 posts, 2 dives/cuts
4th quarter: 8 drives, 4 posts, 2 dives/cuts

Those numbers aren’t overwhelming and tell the story as to why the Lakers struggled tonight.

That 3rd quarter defense was right on the money, as the numbers will attest to (from 38 in the 2nd to holding the Warriors to 15 in the 3rd). Now why that couldn’t have been played without the coaching staff having to drive the point home is a mystery, but lucky for us (and themselves) they cleaned up the defense a bit. The 4th though again saw the Lakers revert to letting guys get far too deep into the defense before they got confronted.

That 2nd half, though played defensively better by the whole team was all about Lamar and Ronny. Their insistence on position and not letting any easy shot inside go uncontested went miles in the Lakers being able to stay viable in this game.

With a sigh I say again, I don’t know why the Lakers can’t defend the 3-point line in crunch time. They let Jackson get two 3’s after Kobe’s shots with no contest. It’s just unforgivable how many times this has happened this season. It’s a no-brainer at that point to push up, play physical tight defense and at the worst give up 2. To give up a 3 in that kind of situation is at best frustrating.

Back to the unforced turnovers – that just has to stop (or at least be cut down to a bare minimum). I know some were from the Lakers were mistakenly trying to keep pace with the Warriors, but that’s still no excuse for wildly errant passes, balls mishandled from all spots and the generally mindless ball handling from everyone. Simply put, the game was wrought with terrible decisions, and even worse focus.

WTF Of The Game: That play by Kobe in the 4th, spinning and passing the no-look to Ronny for the slam and the foul was Magic-esque. That was one of the most amazing plays I’ve seen in a long time. I have no idea exactly how anybody is able to carry that kind of move off – simply astounding.

In the end it was a case of the Lakers letting a team get into rhythm early and having to fight both the scoreboard and momentum. The Lakers are talented for sure, but you can’t put yourself in this kind of spot this much. It’s happened a lot this year and at some point I hope the Lakers learn that lesson.

The Warriors needed this game and they played hungrier than the Lakers for the majority of it. In this tight race for best in the West its another regrettable loss that didn’t, and shouldn’t have happened. Hopefully, the Lakers turn this loss into motivation and take that out on the Warriors tomorrow.
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Postby crucifido on Mon Mar 24, 2008 10:34 pm

The return of the cardiac kids bring a win from the road, but not without some serious sweating along the way.

The Lakers are back in first where they should be.

Lakers vs. Warriors (Game 71 3/24/08)

The Time The Sequel Surpasses The First

The Lakers had to go up to Oakland looking to redeem themselves against a team that they should beat without having to come back from 26 down.

Luckily, through this hard fought game, the Lakers found the composure they sorely lacked in L.A.. They rode that, along with a concerted effort on the defensive boards and mid-range, to a much needed, heart attack inspiring win.

There was a lot of good and a fair share of bad in this one, so let’s run through it.

Good early offensive post work by Ronny. When he got position in the second half mostly, he wasn’t letting go of it. That hold on position went a long way to giving the Lakers a pass option to the middle inside, easing up movement everywhere else. He has got to stop passing the ball in or out of the paint when he has a shot. He’s right by the basket for a high percentage shot, a foul, or sometimes both. It’s not a bad problem to have (players that pass too much), but it can’t come at the expense of 3-second violations or missed easy chances.

There was determined defensive work from Ronny though. He isn’t letting any shot go without a fight and you’ve got to love that. He had numerous changed shots and played some really well contained jumping defense. The emphatic swat he was doing before has given way to a more controlled type of block.

A most impressive element to the Lakers game tonight (mostly in the second half) was the team effort on the defensive boards. Lamar was heading the effort, but there were few times in the second half that he was alone underneath. Luke, Kobe, Vladi, Sasha and Jordan were crashing the key to get position alongside Lamar. That bolstering of the paint helped almost completely wipe out the second shot chances of the Warriors in the 4th quarter and overtime.

Sasha, overall, is shooting well, but he has really got to settle down from the arc. Making shots is great, but hoisting up a shot early in the clock is doing no good in the long run. He has got to get back to his drives along the baseline that he was doing earlier in the year. At the very least he’s got to put the ball on the floor along the key once in a while to ease pressure off of his shot. Defensively, he has to stop gambling on steals. Once he gets beaten on drives, he reaches for the improbable steal when he should be looking to get into a recovery position to help on the other player rotating onto his man.

Sasha’s 4th quarter help defense on the swing through moves of Davis and Jackson were desperately needed. With the Baron looking to sweep from side to side up high to set up his drive or get space for his jumper, it was really important that the Lakers had someone on him that could take a quick step back or laterally to keep up with him.

So I guess consistency is no longer a problem for Lamar. From the outset the guy was in the groove on the boards. The one board he got away from 2 Warriors underneath, holding it high with one hand then going coast to coast for the 3-point play was fantastic. Even when the rest of the team decided to stop helping on defense and let their man run free into the middle, Lamar was there to contest (with Ronny at his side) the drive. He guy is working harder than anyone on the floor. 7 double-doubles in row, back-to-back 20-20 games, domination of the paint on the defensive end, stepping into shots, taking the drives available to him and standing straight and tall in all circumstances are all impressive.

Like him or not (and if you don’t right now you never will), Odom is playing like a no holds barred stud right now.

The real snag to me in the Lakers’ offensive struggles against the Warriors is why they refuse to run more post plays for Lamar right now. With small teams like this (and with the absolute roll Odom is on) you have got to use him to your advantage in the block. Relegating him to a watchdog on the boards (though he’s done spectacular in that respect) or having him shoot from 10 feet that often is doing nothing but shooting yourself in the foot and out of the game.

Kobe looked like he was running in mud at times. He got stuck on post after post without the ball on the offensive end with limited agility that he usually has. He just didn’t have that cutting power that he normally has. With Kobe being as immobile as he was, its even more imperative that the Lakers get the ball inside to create freer space for Kobe and the perimeter players to move. His shot is being affected by his ankle now as you can see that the lift he gets isn’t quite where it should be.

Despite that, the guy played like a true warrior again. There is nothing that can keep him from being on the floor and that kind of determination got him out from under his hindered movement to put up yet another strong game.

The smartest / most gratifying defense the Lakers played tonight was on broken plays. They closed out on everyone incredibly well, once the Warriors had a play get shut down or altered.

There was still a control issue in this one. Once the ball started running faster by the Warriors, the Lakers started copping out for jumpers on breaks instead of getting to the half court offense they thrive in. Even with the lead the Lakers just weren’t careful enough with the ball or the pace. There should be no reason the Warriors force the Lakers into shooting these one-pass break rhythm shots or the bad passes they had in the 4th.

If I were coaching I would fine every player that shoots a 3 off of one pass, on a break or when there’s tons of clock left. The Warriors have NOBODY – ABSOLUTELY NOBODY inside that should be intimidating the Lakers this way. I can’t believe that I have to write this, but get the ball inside a measly 5 times a quarter, please!

Every single time the Lakers got inside they got a foul called, the shot made or a 3-point opportunity. The 3rd quarter was evidence to that. Patient, though-out ball movement and jabs to the paint got the Lakers the pace they needed. When the Lakers began to not throw a shot up without working the ball in and out things fell into place. The Warriors were scrambled on defense and exposed on the inside.

Make shooters out it on the floor and make slashers shoot or give up the ball. To that end the Lakers have to make Ellis (and speedy guards in general) more of a shooter. Sometimes they push up so close to him it gives him easy runs to anywhere he needs to go. I swear it’s not that hard to do, take 2 steps off of him. If he makes a shot from the space, so be it. It’s not the points, its giving up that many drive and kicks through one player. They did better in the 2nd half containing this, but at times (ala all last game and the first half of this one) the Lakers make this easy type of defensive maneuver look about as hard as taking the SAT in Chinese.

I know it’s hackneyed to read in my rants, but I have to say it - this game brought the 8th (that I can recall right now) buzzer beater against the Lakers. They continue to relax at the end of quarters despite getting burned time and time again. Closing out quarters means playing until the buzzer sounds. This kind of easily contained nonsense is the type of thing that can lose you a series in the playoffs. Not just from the points, but also from the confidence and momentum it gives the other team.

By the way, it’s a zone - a weak in the middle stagnant defense that is seemingly a 20-sided Grand Canyon sized Rubik’s Cube for the Lakers. Stop passing around it and attack it!

WTF Of The Game: A re-jump of a ball because of a “bad toss” and a step into the key on the first free throw called in overtime. Those two calls weren’t just rare; they were flat out preposterous.

Well that was just one complaint laden article for a win, huh? I and we all will take the win, but the Lakers will hopefully be getting healthy soon because the cracks in the armor are starting to show. For now, first place is back where it should be, in the Lakers’ hands and they now have a favorable run of games coming their way.
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Postby BDG on Mon Mar 24, 2008 10:35 pm

Damn that was fast! Great writeup!

Huge props to Lamar Odom.
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Postby revgen on Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:28 pm

Great Writeup Cruc!! :jam2:

Yeah, I was having a heart-attack too. I had a nagging feeling the Warriors would turn us into worriers, and they sure did especially with our bigs out.

I was also shocked by the toss and the FT violation. It's like the refs were trying to give the game to the Warriors. I've seen guys step into the lane on the 1st FT many times in many games and never called for it. Usually the refs call it on the 2nd FT.
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Postby BDG on Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:49 pm

revgen wrote:I had a nagging feeling the Warriors would turn us into worriers
Pun intended? :man1:
Slava laughed at the suggestion his skills might be affected by the down time. "Are you kidding?" he said. "Basketball is like ball. It's all a circle."

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