Lakers vs. Grizzlies (Game 73 3/28/08)
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go In The Water
This team is tired.
Not like tired as in boring, but I mean this team is exhausted, pooped, worn out and just plain beat ( no pun intended) right now.
Before I get into anything else, it’s readily apparent that this team is in dire need of an infusion of energy. The multiple games playing woefully short-handed is officially catching up with the Lakers. They held the ship above water for an admirably long time, but right now that ship needs to fix some leaks. That shot of adrenaline that is desperately needed right now can only come from one thing – getting the Laker big men back in the lineup a.s.a.p..
This is not a plea to rush anyone back, or some freak-out article about how everything is falling apart. The Lakers will make the playoffs no matter what. Rather, I need to state the obvious here - the Lakers need to get healthy if they expect to keep up with intensifying West (as if it could get tighter).
Mbenga did an admirable job tonight in the paint. He had a couple spells of keeping Milicic out f the low block with some really strong foot and leg work. However, the mobility of the Grizzlies inside (particularly Milicic and Gay) was putting Mbenga and Ronny into bad situation after bad. There was nothing either of them could do in trying to hold down the paint and keep an eye on the active high post game of the Grizzlies.
As Ronny got more fouls, his mood began to sink. To his credit the guy has done a respectable job playing this long out of position. You could see it while he was on the bench and you could see it in his tentative defense. Mbenga was a different story. For all the talent that he lacks he makes up for it in hustle. He was outmatched at almost every turn in the post, but he kept plugging away, playing fearless defense in an effort to back up the sluggish defense everywhere else. Between the two of them, you could plainly see that they were getting exhausted trying to play under control yet with the energy to match the Grizzlies increasingly confident post game.
Lamar was obviously not feeling well (as his lack of playing time in the second half and his early dismissal from practice today will attest to). So without the rebounding of Odom in the middle, Ronny and DJ truly had a big task at hand. If you look at the point differential in the average of the Grizzlies to what they had tonight, it was plain to see that the majority of it came from Milicic’s 22. If Bynum or Gasol is in there the Lakers could’ve easily held him to his typical game of 5 to 10 points. But without either in there and with Lamar not feeling 100%, the Lakers could do little to keep Darko from doing almost anything he wanted in the block.
As the middle was getting worn out by Gay and Milicic, the perimeter wasn’t much better. That is where the game was seriously lost. The Grizzlies were merely running a set of 2 screens out up top to free up guys, almost in the same succession with the same players, but the Lakers couldn’t figure out how to get around it. Sasha, Jordan, Derek and once in a while Kobe were all getting stuck behind the same series of screens repeatedly. Farmar had the Fisher disease of going under the screen and frequently letting his man or the quick pass off to the shooting guard on either side get easy access to the paint without contest.
One of the guys who was playing defense, and the one guy who looked like one of the few who wanted to play at all was Kobe. (Granted Radmanovic played some decent defense in the first half, having a great recovery play to jump back down towards the baseline for a steal in the 1st) I’ll get to the point thing in a second, but the big thing from Kobe tonight was keeping Miller out of rhythm. There was never a time with Kobe on him that Miller got a free look. In fact, I could only count 3 times that Miller even got mildly free to get a shot off. To that end the perimeter defense was working well. The problem was that it was only coming from one guy.
I don’t think this team is naturally deficient at the perimeter defense, but again, the tired factor looked like it played heavily in the lackluster effort that was put out there tonight.
Scoring-wise it was a great performance from Kobe. The only hitch there – nobody else wanted to play along. Before any critic gets into some irrelevant ball hog rant, there were countless times this game that Kobe used himself as a decoy, passing the ball off to various people for good looks at the hoop. That one pass through 3 Grizzlies in the paint to Radmanovic was incredible to see live. The passes were there, he was trying to get the others fired up, but the all too familiar smell to Laker fans of a team that looked like they were almost scared to step up reared its nasty little head.
So the Lakers went back to the Kobe doing everything style of play that got them a nice little exit in the first round the past couple of years. Of all teams hat know about how that style of ball doesn’t win, you’d hope these guys did. It made the Laker offense incredibly easy to read. The Grizzlies just began to swarm Kobe in the 3rd quarter, forcing someone else to get it going. Alas, nobody else really ever did.
Kobe being Kobe took it upon himself to try and get the game in hand, but it was just too easy for the Grizzlies to defend and by that time, they had worn out the Laker interior defense to a shell of what it could be. So Kobe goes down, hits a shot, the Grizzlies come back and hit theirs. They exchange basket back and forth and to not so big of a surprise the Lakers fall with Kobe posting 53.
The 53 is great, but Kobe, the Lakers, the coaching staff and us fans know that won’t win games – even versus teams like the lowly 18 (now 19) win Grizzlies.
When you looked at the scoreboard at the half and saw Kobe with 34 and nobody else was above 6, the trouble wasn’t too tough to see coming.
I still thought that the Lakers were under using Lamar on the offensive end. The guy still had a presence in the middle and could’ve been at least given the ball to initiate the offense from the post more than never. I don’t understand why Lamar doesn’t get plays called for him in the mid-post. Even being sick, the guy has moves over the likes of the Grizzlies. But, Lamar was hampered by illness and held back by a sheer lack of drive that he obviously has plenty of to give. It’s hard to blame Lamar for anything tonight really.
As far as Sasha goes, I appreciate persistent shooter trying to shoot themselves out of a slump, but seriously, if the shot isn’t falling then get an easy bucket or two, to get yourself going. The one pass offense ending up in a predictable 3 wasn’t working. Why the Lakers insisted on continuing with it I won’t know. They had no inside presence established on offense and for some reason thought that shooting an absurd amount of threes when they weren’t falling would ease up the inside. The problem was that when the inside did get eased up there were no cutters or dives to take advantage of it.
All Sasha had to was put the ball on the floor once or twice. He’s gotten away from the jab dribbles he was doing earlier in the year and that’s done nothing but brought more pressure to his shooting.
It took until the 4th quarter but it was good to see Luke fighting to get inside. The elusive zone defense stumped the Lakers yet again. It put them in this endless loop of perimeter passing that got nowhere, but Luke did real well in pushing the ball into the middle to collapse the weakest defensive scheme in the world. He was taking the ball to the hoop with authority and got to the line every time he did so. Why that lead wasn’t followed, why the Lakers then went back to the long distance jumper I don’t know.
Luke had a bit of a breakout game on offense because of his work though. He got back ot starting his offense in the high post and kept an eye out for passes that are always there (ala the pass to Ronny for the jam in the 4th).
Just a couple quick points and I’m done:
The Lakers were running away from offensive boards in a feeble effort to get back on D. They needed to improve the transition for sure, but they also might want to not send everyone back as the shot is still in mid-air.
2 keys to the Lakers downfall late in the game:
Missing in 3 attempts to get a bucket when they were back 109-106. The rebounding was tough but every shot was rushed and came from – again – the outside when there was an inside player in good position every time.
No 2-for1 with 37.7 seconds on the clock back by 2. The Lakers instead ran the clock down to 16.6 getting, what else, a 3 out of it. The whole game they were shooting too early in the clock and out of rhythm, but the one time they needed to shoot quickly, they didn’t. Because of that, they went down by 4 and were taken out of the game.
Fouling at the 3 point line is a new craze lately. The Lakers are late in rotating or seeing the move to the open shot, they rush in swiping and get called for the foul. That’s completely unnecessary.
No screen communication on defense. It looked like everyone was surprised b y the screens they ran into. There wasn’t a word said as to where it coming from. The communication in general was poor at best.
Alright, that’s enough of that. The Lakers lost their 3rd home game in a row at a time of the year when every game versus easy opponents is a godsend. They’ve successfully broken down the cushy little home stand they had. Again, I know it’s not on purpose, but injuries or no, these are teams they should beat – no excuses.
The brightest spot to the game - the return of Mihm. Hopefully this will begin the parade of Lakers back to action and the Lakers back to the team we and they know they can and will be.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill