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Postby LaLaKeRz4LiFe on Sat Nov 10, 2007 6:21 pm

:bow:
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Postby sam shile on Sun Nov 11, 2007 11:37 am

:freak2: :mhihi: your defensive analyisis is really an enjoyable read.
Fan#2 of the "White Mamba" for over a span of 5 games. Go Sasha

Go Lakers.
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Postby KB24 on Sun Nov 11, 2007 2:53 pm

:bow: :bow: :bow:

really appreciate the analysis especially when I miss a game or something...

thanks a lot Cruc. :jam2: :bow:
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Postby crucifido on Thu Nov 15, 2007 11:56 am

I think this year for back to backs I'll be doing one article for both games. So here's the first try. Hope you like it.

Lakers vs. Spurs/Rockets (Games 6/7 November 13/14, 2007)

Splitting The Texas Two-Step

That wasn’t too bad actually. Dropping the first game to the Spurs wasn’t as painful as it felt during the game. The more impressive part of the road trip was that the guys pulled out the second of a back to back. That’s something that wasn’t only a rarity the past couple of years, but a downright impossibility at some points.

There were some definite lessons to be learned during the brief little trip. The biggest two that stand out are in game defensive adjustments and a shockingly easy ability of the Lakers to shoot their selves in the foot via the turnover.

Putting the whole Spurs game together it was lost in one quarter, the second and really thrown away in one half. There is no way you can beat any NBA teams, let alone the champs, when you’re turning the ball over as easily as the Lakers were in the first half of that Spurs game. 15?! Seriously, 15 turnovers in one half?! Yikes! The worst part of that stat was that 11 of the turnovers were unforced errors.

Its one thing to give the ball away to a stellar defensive team, but when you’re out and out handing it to a better team because of absent-minded play, it makes things all that worse to deal with.

You’d be hard pressed keeping ahead of the Wolves and Sonics of the league when you’re handing scoring chances over with that kind of frequency. However, when that first half came to a close, there was something that happened that had to be encouraging. The Lakers saw their flaw and corrected it rather quickly. Going from 15 to 4 turnovers is something to be noticed. That’s a little element of the Laker profile that hasn’t been there recently – the skill to recognize a weak spot and change it.

But let’s not get too excited about it. There was s till a serious lack of in-game adjustment in both the Spurs and Rockets game. In San Antonio it was the ever-annoying doubling off a shooter that does nothing but shoot thing. Matt Bonner, a guy who can’t do anything on the court but spot up was constantly left alone to do the only thing he can do – shoot. That has got to stop. Once you notice someone getting hot or getting open, the Lakers have got to start sealing that off.

The same thing happened in Houston with Bonzi Wells. When it was readily apparent that Luke had trouble containing him, there should have been either a switch or better yet, quicker help once the corner was turned by Bonzi. Too many times did Bonzi get around Luke’s right (his weakest side step in his defense) only to see no contest until he was right under the basket. This season the Lakers have shown that they’re at their best when they recognize help situations as they happen, not as they’re getting a lay-up.

Sure there are some players that will get their shot even with help (or at they very least find the open man the double came off of), but for the most part the Lakers are getting killed by single skilled ancillary players that can, should and must be stopped if the Lakers are to have more energy to defend the real killers in the NBA.

One giant positive thing in this Texas swing (and the young season so far), is “The Bench Mob”. After the Houston game it’s now been every single game this year where the bench has come in a done a better job than the starters. Granted, it is against the opposition’s bench as well, but look at it this way. In years past the Laker bench has looked either lost or without any drive on the court, not so this season. The bench has come into every game with confidence and what has looked like a far deeper understanding of what needs to be done.

It’s no bulletin, anyone can see that the bench has played better than they did before, but the big difference this year is that the bench is playing together well. Above that, they’re communicating better. A lot of this has to do with the rash and stunning improvement of Jordan Farmar.

It’s been a long time since a Laker has made as serious a jump in his second year as this. The hustle, quickness, sharpness and pointed hitting of his spots in the offensive set have been remarkable. Though the rest of the bench has played good too, it’s been Farmar’s leadership and drive in the second unit that has driven them. Skill wise the leap he’s made in recognition has been big too. Jordan’s knowledge of when to push the ball and when to hold it back has been fun to watch too. There’s no panicked uncertainty in his offense right now.

Take that and the remarkable improvement in Bynum’s confidence and the bench is starting round out to be one of the better ones in the NBA. Now, I know some will argue that until they’re gasping for breath, but the Laker bench is anything but weak.

What I’ve really enjoyed watching with Andrew is his realization of his length. In the Spurs game there were at least 3 times when he reached over Duncan with no foul for a board. Using that length on the offensive boards is a key to Andrew getting more confidence to get into the mix (where he should be) on every shot.

On to a couple of other players…

Lamar looks to be going through his pre-season right now. That first game out of the box was good to see, but this last couple of non-productive games (by Odom’s set standards) has got to change if the Lakers are to be successful in the long term. The game smarts are there, but Lamar seems to be sluggish, particularly on the defensive boards. Odom needs more plays run for or through him in the post, but unless Lamar makes a concerted effort to get to where he has to be to take advantage of his skills, there’s no way the Lakers can use him to his fullest.

Having Ronny’s energy in the starting lineup has paid big dividends in some aspects of the game. What’s hurt the Lakers is Ronny’s developing sense of game balance. Again, the enthusiasm and tenacity he comes into every game with is vital to infuse this team with the drive they need to get into games quickly. However, Ronny has still got to learn how to balance his enthusiasm with control. It’s a mantra I’ve said over and over again, but it has yet to kick in. Some of (not all of) the turnovers have a bit to do with Ronn’ys manic play. With Luke in the starting lineup the ball movement is a bit crisper and the game’s calmness is in place. With Ronny, you get great energy and hustle, but it sometimes leads to sloppy play on the offensive end. Overall though, Ronny has been another young Laker taking big strides in his game. The biggest of which is his high to mid post defensive play. His lower body strength is serving him well. It’s keeping players from turning off of him into low block positions for rebounds. Ronny has quickly learned how to shut off that roll to position.

Luke has struggled a bit as of late –defensively. That being the weakest part of his game, the first couple of games this year looked to be different for him. But, in this Texas trip you saw Luke begin to slow down on D. It’s his speed in keeping up with off the ball movement by his man that’s causing Luke to work too hard on defense. That extra work is taking a bit of a toll on his offensive game as well. Though he ran multiple two man games in Texas with almost everyone at one point or the other, you can see the fatigue settling in. Rushed decisions and short-armed shots are the first signs of it. Luke would be well served to keep up the tenacity on defense but allow himself a bit more space for speed recovery. Bodying up is fine and well in the post, but on the perimeter Luke is playing to tight up into guys. What I have liked about Luke’s offense this trip was his persistency. Though his shot hasn’t been falling as it has in the past, he stuck with it and its now beginning to get a bit more strength.

Kobe’s defense has been outstanding. Again, the weak side shot blocking Kobe was throwing out in the San Antonio game in particular was incredible. His help off of the weak side of the ball has altered or flat-out stopped some gimmes from falling. What Kobe has struggled with (as much as 30 a game can struggle) offensively is tunnel vision. If he gets shut out, as he did by Bowen in San Antonio, or if he gets smothered, as in Houston, Kobe has a tendency to try and fight through it himself. What he might want to look to do (especially now that the rest of the team has decided to help out offensively) is not force the action so much. If he gets collapsed on in the middle, don’t fight through it with dribbling, pass it out, re-post or circle back out to the pass option spots on the perimeter. Wanting to fight through an offensive glut is fine, but not if it comes at the expense of the ball movement that’s served the Lakers so well already.

The slight fall off of Fisher in Texas was due mostly to his lack of speed. In Parker and Alston, you’re dealing with speedy point guards. Though Derek did decently in making Parker a jump shooter rather than a slasher, it wasn’t consistent. That consistency wasn’t because of a lack of trying, but rather a lack of spacing ala Luke. If you give up the shot to Parker or Alston so be it, but you can’t expect to play tight on them and keep up with their quick corner turns. For Derek that won’t happen. Instead play the percentages. Its not an ideal way to play defense, but if you’re outmatched with speed, allowing the guard to get inside and break down interior defense is far more detrimental than giving up the occasion jumper.

Kwame’s offense is getting worse for sure, but what keeps Kwame an intriguing piece is his defense, in particular his defense in Houston. Kwame did a good job of keeping Yao off his roll to the middle for the fade away he loves to take. He bodied him p well in the post, often making Yao either work harder for a shot or making him turn to the baseline, where his shot often falls short. That offense, though, damn, it’s just not good at all.

Good to see Maurice have a tiny bit of a breakout game in Houston too. Another energy guy off the bench, but you can tell that Evans’s injuries have hampered him somewhat. There’s too much outside play for Maurice to thrive. When Evans is causing havoc in the middle, he helps out a ton. His defense on Wells was better than Luke’s and he did make a welcome addition on the court in the 3rd and 4th quarter of the Rockets game, but there is clearly a long way to go for Maurice to get back to the impact he began to have last year.

The team took good advantage of penalty situations this trip. When they had the Spurs or Rockets on their heels defensively they were going inside with it instead of settling for jump shots.

Anyway, enough blathering. Ya know what I thought was real key and also real telling this trip? Kobe’s plea in from the bench in the 2nd quarter of the San Antonio game to his team of, “More energy, more energy” I thought was real telling. This team for all its ability it loves to flash then hide does really well when they play with bounce. The big jump from last year, is that this team looks like they want to play every game. They’re not coming into games with lethargy and then hoping Kobe can bail them out later. They’re making it a concerted team effort on both ends.

Whether they’re successful all the time or not isn’t as important to me as just wanting this team to give a 100% at all times. Right now, with tiny lapses here and there, they’re doing just that.

It’s a heavily front-loaded schedule right now, one of the toughest in the NBA in fact. However, at 4-3 the Lakers have only been beaten once (San Antonio) and that was in one quarter. They’re showing they can match up with some pretty strong teams. If the match-ups and energy is there, the winning will follow.

Its up to the Lakers to take advantage of both.
Last edited by crucifido on Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Postby crucifido on Thu Nov 15, 2007 11:57 am

By the way everyone, thanks for all the comments, I really do appreciate 'em!!
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Postby revgen on Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:34 pm

Great Writeup Cruc! :jam2:

One thing I liked about Farmar in the San Antonio game was that he aggressively attacked the rim for dunks. We always talk about Jordan's 42 inch vertical at his rookie combine, but rarely does he show it. Those dunks against the Spurs frontline (especially Duncan) were awesome to behold.

I was really impressed by Bynum's clutch play in the Houston game. For a young player to show the kind of poise he did to grab that crucial board and hit those free throws under pressure makes me feel positive about the future of this team. There have to be other players on this team who can step up under pressure besides Fisher and Bryant.
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- Metta World Peace on teammate Kobe Bryant
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Postby crucifido on Sat Nov 17, 2007 1:17 pm

Lakers vs. Pistons (Game 8 11/16/2007)

WOW! Great game! One of the best wins ion a long, long time. Hopefully this can serve as a springboard for the rest of the year.

Defense = Winning, Winning = Chemistry

Of course winning any game is sweet, but winning as a team the way the Lakers did against the Pistons last night – man that is beyond gratifying.
Starting in the first defensive set of the game, Kobe’s All-World defense s astounding to watch. Defending Hamilton isn’t one of the easiest assignments you can draw. With his constant movement and range of shots, he’s got to be one of the toughest opponents to keep after ion the NBA. However, Kobe, working his tail off every minute he was on the court, was jaw dropping to watch. That stellar defense he was throwing out there not only set the pace for the rest of the team on the back end, it got everyone thinking hustle first, everything else second.

I mean honestly, that was one of the more impressive defensive games from anyone in the last couple of years in the NBA. By keeping Hamilton physically and mentally out of the game, it took what couple of Pistons they had left in the engine from doing the damage they normally do at Staples.

Not enough can be said of Kobe’s D. Offensively I found it a blessing that he was a bit cold. I’m sure a lot of it came from using so much energy on D, but it was good in the way that it made the rest of the team step up into some great contributions. Likewise, the rest of the guys stepping up allowed Kobe the freedom to play more aggressive defense and use the lion’s share of his concentration on the defensive end.

That’s a strong sign of a team not only willing to play together, but capable of it.

Without Ronny in the lineup, it was essential that once again (as Kobe pleaded in San Antonio) that the guys keep up the energy. They all did that, and then some.

Along with Kobe’s torrid start, Kwame did an outstanding job on Rasheed in the post. For that matter anyone else who came into the low block was being solidly kept out of any turns into the paint or baseline, or any pet shot by Kwame. Of course as is always the case, its Kwame’s carnie stone hands on offense that keep him from being in the game as long as he’s needed sometimes. That aside though, Kwame did a great job sealing off the movement from strong to weak even when his man (or another near him) didn’t have the ball. Keep an eye on what Kwame does defending the baseline and about 5 feet in from it next game. Like the guy or not, he makes movement along that area (one of the areas the Lakers have had serious trouble keeping people out of the last couple of years) down to a minimum.

It would be good though to see Kwame back off of the reach gambling he’s doing on defense. As good as his post defense is, he compromised the team more than once by trying to poke a ball free when bodying up would have been the better choice. Let the perimeter players and those with more assured / quicker hands go for the steals.

So as Kwame came out of the game for his offensive problems, in comes Bynum, playing one of the best games he’s had as a Laker. Better yet, it wasn’t a solely offensive run from Bynum that kept him taking minutes from Mihm . One of the best plays Andrew threw down was that reaching dunk he had in the 2nd quarter. It wasn’t because of the dunk. It was that extra dribble he took to complement his footwork turning inside that perked me up. That dribble wasn’t there before. The last 2 years it was more of an attempt to reach over or through the defenders to get something to go.

One thing Andrew has learned is how to get through space on both ends of the court and draw his man out with him. His motion going through the key and from his growing reputation is bringing players out of traffic, making it easier for everyone to get easier shots.

Couple that with the use of his length to grab boards over the Pistons without a foul and Andrew was looking real good this time out. Not to mention that spectacular drop pass to Kobe on the back cut, man that was nice. Really though, Andrew’s leap in patience has been notable too. In this game there was no rushing of any shot, another leap fro3ward from Andrew. If he didn’t throw a head fake out to lose someone in the post, he used his physicality to bully his way from the side of the paint into the middle, where it became pretty tough to stop him from doing what he wants. Defensively Andrew was spacing himself damn near perfect for blocked shots. There was no swinging completely down with the arm or jumping into the target. The blocks Andrew did get (although it wasn’t a ton) were controlled in power and in jump. That use of his natural size will serve Andrew well as he comes up against the rest of the NBA’s top big men.

Its games like this one that make people pull their hair out over Odom. The guy is a fantastic talent that shows what he can be - sometimes. Therein lies the eternal question with Odom, when will he be the beast he can be? Backing away from that though, Lamar was on his game early and often. You get the feeling some of it was trying to make up for his dispassionate and lackluster game in Houston, but whatever it was, I’ll take it.

The work Lamar was putting in along the baseline and in the middle was heartening to watch. He was working extra hard to not only get into the mix, but once in there to use his skills to cash in on the hard work. Its one thing to do the work to get the boards or cause the havoc you have to inside, it’s another to finally take reap some benefits from it. By doing the work Lamar and Andrew were doing inside on the offensive boards, you saw the Laker perimeter and mid-range game open up like few times before. That kind of energy and work inside will draw extra help from other teams. With the length and size the Lakers have up front, it’s tough to contend with anyway. But if you throw in the work ethic to boot, suddenly teams have to start rolling down 3 or 4 players to contain only 2. This was the case this game. Andrew and Lamar were often (if not about 90% of the time they were in the key) drawing 3 defenders to push them out from second shot chances or from getting deep for an easy bucket.

Odom’s defensive rotations out on the perimeter were great too. For that matter, the whole team’s communication on switches in the first half was outstanding. That played a huge part in garnering the double digit lead early on. That lead not only put the Pistons on their heels, but it gave the Lakers the confidence they needed to realize that they can slow this team down.

Just a good solid game from Odom, that doesn’t have to be matched stat-wise every time out, but the hustle / work ethic he showed needs to be brought every single game.

Even Radmanovic played a heads up game. It may have not been a dead on shooting game for him, but Kobe's defense seemed to even inspire Vladi to get out after everyone on the perimeter and do drop switches on the money. The "off-the-ref" play was a good sign from Vladi too. It seems odd to say, but from someone who is notoriously spacey on the court, it was a quick thinking play by Radaman to realize the ball was still live and make the most of it, when everyone else froze.

Lastly, the player of the game for me – Jordan Farmar. Sure Kobe’s defense was ridiculous, Lamar’s and Andrew’s work inside was beyond admirable and everyone else’s hustle was fantastic, but Jordan out and out changed the game when he came into it. I don’t know if it’s the drafting of Crittenton, the acquisition of Derek as a mentor for Jordan or just a deep desire to improve, but whatever it is – keep it coming. It’s been a long time that a point guard of all positions has improved this quickly on the Lakers. The guard core from last year to this year has taken a giant leap forward.

Farmar’s fearlessness, challenging any size player, getting involved in every play defensively, getting around screens and picks, active hands, use of his body on drives to seal off block attempts, spot on lateral movement and quickly developing offense is sparking this team’s second unit to heights that didn’t look attainable not but a year ago.

The best sign for me this game was that Kobe Bryant was cold as cold could be offensively, yet the rest of the team didn’t continue to solely look for him, get down in the mouth or stop looking to score their selves. I’ve never been happier with a 1-8 shooting performance from Kobe in the first half.

I don’t want to hear about the Pistons missing Billups and McDyess, every team plays wounded. Not but one season ago, the Lakers would lose almost every gamer to crippled teams. So to me, that whole line of reasoning doesn’t fly, especially for the Lakers.

It was one of the best team wins a recent memory and something I hope becomes an inspiration for these guys. A game I hope they look on and realize that they can compete with the NBA’s best teams through defense, hustle, communication and passion.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Postby LaLaKeRz4LiFe on Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:14 am

:bow: :bow:
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Postby crucifido on Mon Nov 19, 2007 3:40 pm

Alright, the home stand has been won, now go get fat on the weak out East.

Lakers vs. Bulls (Game 9 11/18/2007)

Bench, Bench And More Bench

Not but a year ago there was concern as to whether the Laker bench was both deep enough and/or willing to do what it took to play solid minutes in the meat of a game. Though the season is still young, it’s apparent that everyone from the largely unchanged reserves has answered the question – and answered it big time.

Ignoring the sheer statistical sweetness the bench has thrown down, you’ve got to be impressed with the maintenance of energy level they’ve shown. There’s anything but lapse in concentration, energy or effort from these guys. It’s a rare luxury in the NBA to have subs that hold leads and better yet, build on them.

The play from the bench is an advantage in a lot ways…

1) Keeps up the pace (if not improves on it) of the starters
2) Allows everyone (not the least of which is Kobe) to shoulder an equal load of both ends of the court. That cuts down on frustration with your teammates and leading to stronger chemistry.
3) They let Phil settle into a more consistent and solid rotation
4) It gives the starters confidence ion the bench that their work won’t be for wasted
5) Most importantly – the even playing time between players will go a long way to the team having the health and energy to sustain a high level play later on in the season

Of course along with the bench play that looks to be pretty consistent right now, so was the turnover curse of the 1st half. I do think that some of the turnover problem results from no stabilizing ball handler on the floor controlling the ball. The ball movement is fantastic, but when the ball is run through a stable set of hands turnovers lower. Sure some of the giveaways are from the Lakers moving before they get the ball. Keep an eye on the amount of thrown passes to spots once held by a teammate. The one pass out of bounds to where Andrew once stood in the 2nd quarter is a prime case in point.

If you notice too, when Luke is in the game, turnovers tend to smooth out, or get significantly cut. Mainly its because of the ball routinely running through his Luke’s hands, hands that know the system. This isn’t top say that Derek isn’t solid in the triangle or doesn’t know where everyone needs to be, but Fisher is better at a pass and move type of point guard-ism than used a control element in the offense. Farmar and Walton are primarily playing around the perimeter at the beginning to the middle of a set, rather than Derek who looks to pass and dive or penetrate. It’s a great thing to have access to both types of guards on one team. There’s another rare luxury in the NBA nowadays.

For this reason you can see how the turnovers have increased since Cook’s insertion into the starting lineup in place of Luke. Luke is a stabilizing agent on this team, something that goes unnoticed quite a bit but is indispensable if this team wants to get to the next level. There’s a tough call there. If you take Luke out of the bench rotation then that ball handling confidence kind of wanes. However, Farmar is a bench player for the time being and balancing out the two wouldn’t hurt the Lakers rotation too much. As long as Ronny is out and there is an open spot in starting lineup, it may be a worthy experiment to try Luke out. I know Cook is in there for length and size in the front court, but Cook’s shortcomings are being exposed at an alarmingly quick rate right now.

Though I hate to see the Laker infirmary fill back up and I wish no injury on anyone (Except maybe Chris Webber), Kwame’s injury may be a good thing. For one, it pushes Bynum into the starting lineup, making him perform immediately and more consistently on the defensive end. Second, it gives Mihm more time. Though Mihm is no All-Star center, I do believe that his activity on both ends, though at times they may be mediocre can do a lot of good things. It’s yet another blessing on this team right now, having 3 centers with varying abilities. However, ultimately it would be great to see one outstanding big man excel at all facets of the game. For now, though the 3 headed (or 2 as it may stand for a bit) center idea is paying off like it did in Chicago.

One of the best things of this game - an actual in-game defensive adjustment happened, no really, it did. Sure Nocioni sat for a good long time, but the Lakers, while he was in saw him make the first couple of his shots and turned up the pressure. There’s something huge that just hasn’t been done for some reason. But the next time Nocioni came in it was a combination of pushing the ball into him on offense and keeping him from moving from side to side of the court that stifled his soon-to-be-hot play.

Andrew was again using that length to really do some damage. The best use of this was Andrew’s now innate holding of the ball up high. Gone are most of the effective slaps at the ball from holding it on his hip. Rebounds are gotten with both hands, brought down, one dribble and repositioned for an outlet pass or a put back. He’s learned his spots on the low block on drives and to receive a post pass. He’s also doing a great job of holding ground. One thing that drives me nuts about some big man (Cook in particular) is standing ground at the start of a defensive set, then backpedaling whenever anyone comes into you. Andrew isn’t doing this.

One other thing Andrew is showing, patience. Patience in setting up his drop step, patience in getting second shots put back up, patience in outlet passes and most of all patience with himself to get the job done. Rushing shots is quickly fading away, a lesson Kwame would be well served to pay attention to.

The onus on Kobe right now is finding a pace between getting himself involved early offensively and getting everyone else on pace. As it stands right now, it looks as if the rest of the team is willing to step up without looking to Kobe to give them the o.k.. Other than that, it has to be as welcome a sight to Kobe as it is to us fans that he isn’t on an island by himself any more. Suddenly, it looks like there is a team out there with him and not just a group of 4 spectators.

Though it was a down game from Lamar after the superb performance he threw out there against Detroit, it was still effective. What Lamar is doing really well right now is pushing his presence inside via weak to strong baseline motion. This off-the-ball movement is disrupting defenses and keeping the lane scattered for posts and drives. That same thing is giving him rebound stats too.

It was good to see Chris get some significant minutes (as I expect he will as long as Kwame is out). The guy does give 100% at all times on the court. Defensively, he’s still swiping a bit too much and keeping his feet off the ground more than he needs to. Oddly enough he can use Bynum’s holding his ground as an example of what he needs to do. Chris’s main hitch has always been trying to get everything, rather than getting what he can get without fouling. The fouls have subsided (mostly due to stronger perimeter defense) because Chris has done a better job controlling his need to block every shot. He still has a bit to go, but not too bad right now for a third string center who missed a whole season.

Yet again, the man of the hour was Farmar. With every passing game I’m just amazed at the leap he’s taken this year. Farmar, as much as Kobe, has realized that defensive hustle is where this season has taken a turn. I don’t know what else to say really. It was a fairly flawless game from Jordan again.

I’d like to see the guys push penalty situations a bit more. There was spell in the 3rd quarter that saw nothing but jump shots. Whether the team is tried or not, they have to stick with letting the ball do most of the running for them. One pass offenses don’t work.

I’d also love to see them exploit the mismatches that Bynum and more so Lamar give them. There were flashes of that happening the last couple of games, but that post mismatch has got to used to its utmost – every game.

Team-wise they’re all challenging shots (something missing the last couple of years), no shot is going without a hand in the face or a rush. They’ve all realized that it all starts on D.

There’s something a lot of people still disregard, yet every successful team in the NBA (or on any level) always – always – has a dedication to stopping (or at least making it difficult for) other teams. Sure there was no Deng and he does account for some scoring, but look at the total score for the Bulls. This is the kind of win you want. Good offensive output, without giving up triple digits. Holding teams to under 100 points is good for more than just free tacos.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Postby LaLaKeRz4LiFe on Mon Nov 19, 2007 6:41 pm

great summary of the game as always. :bow:
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Postby revgen on Mon Nov 19, 2007 7:12 pm

Great job Cruc.

I always look forward to your articles after a game rather then looking for the LA Times or any other paper. Your writing skills are excellent and your descriptions of the game and how the Laker's played is more detailed than those papers can ever hope to be. It's guys like TRodgers, yourself, and others that make CL the place to go for everything Lakers.
"Every time he’s hurt, he always plays, he always comes through."

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Postby Satan on Mon Nov 19, 2007 8:15 pm

revgen wrote:Great job Cruc.

I always look forward to your articles after a game rather then looking for the LA Times or any other paper. Your writing skills are excellent and your descriptions of the game and how the Laker's played is more detailed than those papers can ever hope to be. It's guys like TRodgers, yourself, and others that make CL the place to go for everything Lakers.


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Postby crucifido on Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:12 pm

Sorry everyone - I wrote an article for the Pacers / Bucks games, but forgot to submit it. Anyway, here's the article for this game, now that I've calmed down some.

Lakers vs. Celtics (Game 12 November 23, 2007)

A Rivalry Renewed

I’ll say one thing for the colluded trade of Garnett to the Celtics – it certainly dredged up my innate distaste for the Celtics, their players and their “fans”. The same “fans” that not only one season ago were chanting for Kobe as MVP were suddenly enthusiastic Celtic fans, as rabid, temperamental and fair weather as they ever have been. The problem is that watching this game I felt as though I was the only one who takes beating the Celtics seriously.

From the tip of the ball you could see the Lakers were either hung over from Thanksgiving (which by the way, I hope everyone had a good one), intimidated by the Celtics formidable starters or taking this game for granted. Something that after the self-inflicted Bucks loss, they should learn can never be done.

Though I did appreciate that Kobe looked to be the one guy who had some semblance of energy out there, it was apparent that Kobe took this game far too personally. Sure the offensive schemes weren’t running like clockwork, or smooth in any respect sometimes, but there far too much one on one play from Kobe tonight.

Now look, I don’t put a loss at anyone’s doorstep personally. You win as a team and you lose as a team, but sometimes there are overriding / fundamental reasons a team can’t get their feet off the ground. One of those reasons (again, not the sole one – relax) was Kobe dominating the ball. There were plenty of times from the 1st quarter on that others did hit their spots and give the passing angles they needed to, but Kobe didn’t look to pay them any mind. Don’t get me wrong; when nobody else wants to play a determined game, I appreciate Kobe giving it everything he’s got. However, that everything does entail involving your teammates when you’re able.

It’s that hard line to tow for Kobe. His supporting cast, though showing more determination to be a team behind him than ever, is not the strongest. So, as always the question for Kobe is, when do you take control of a game and when do you defer some of the responsibility to your teammates. My problem with Kobe’s mindset this game was that it looked like he came into the contest with distrust, rather than letting anyone prove their desire or get into a rhythm. As the leader of this team, Kobe has to be the facilitator in many ways. That facilitation doesn’t always mean that he initiates the offense per say. Often it means that he dictates the type of game the rest of the team will play. When Kobe began the game (and continued it) as a one on one battle, the rest of the guys followed suit. Even the rash amount of threes taken became a shooting contest of sorts of every man trying to match their assignment’s shot for shot.

Like I said, this is not to say that Kobe was the reason the Lakers lost – far from it. It is to point out that Kobe, while this team continues to develop its identity, still has some development to do himself. It’s no easy task, but this year, more than years past, seems like an opportune time for Kobe to figure out how to walk that toughest of fences that all superstars have to walk. When is it too much and when is it not enough. Kobe has to know that dominating the ball is fine when it needs to be dominated. And he does know this, he’s shown it. I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to do, but it has to be done.

Now onto the enigma that I (and anyone who watched the game) do believe impacted the game more than anything else (of which there are a couple of others) – Lamar Odom.

Largely, I am an Odom supporter. However, the last two games (maybe reaching into the last 3 games, but mostly the Bucks and Celtics games) have shown why Odom is undoubtedly the biggest question mark in the NBA. When will he show up, and when will he fade into the background? As the number two guy on this team Lamar has got to know by now, that no matter what the game, he must step into that leader #2 role. There’s no waiting for others to get going. He has to find the motivation within himself to at least give an effort towards being the Lakers’ second go-to guy.

Throughout this whole game, I counted zero, zilch, none, nada post-ups by Odom. It’s not like Garnett (while a great player to be sure) can outright stop Lamar every time). There were plenty of times, in fact that Odom had a smaller man on him yet for some unknown reason faded out of the post positions in favor of spotting up on the arc. This doesn’t work. For Lamar to be at his most effective he MUST get into the post virtually every time down in a half court set. There is no way the Lakers can win against any team without Lamar being active on the post on offense and along the baseline when the play is away from him. That timid play translated itself onto the defensive end of the court too.

At the very least Odom and Garnett shouldn’t necessarily be a wash, but statistically they should be fairly even – that’s if Lamar decides to play like he can. So it’s back to the eternal question with Lamar, is there anything that can get him to use his vast skill set with any regularity. I’m not asking for the Garnett kind of passion that will never happen. What I’m asking for (as every Laker fan) is for Odom to give 100% effort more than 50% of the time.

I’m sure nobody would be that upset with Lamar if he never showed his capabilities. The problem is – he’s shown us what he can do. He’s shown how much damage he can inflict against a decent post team (ala Detroit). Yet, for the umpteenth time, Odom has chosen to take a backseat. That can’t happen if the Lakers are looking for any kind of success, post-season or not.

During this whole game you saw Chris and Andrew get repeatedly frustrated at the calls being blown on them. Every foul, sans 3 of them that were called on them could’ve been avoided. It’s very simple, inf fact Bynum in particular has shown that he can do it with ease – stay grounded on defense.

Maybe it was intimidation playing Garnett or maybe it was nerves, but either way Andrew can’t take himself out of the game by doing something that he knows better not to do.

It was fine that the Lakers came into the game looking to make Perkins beat them, but they can’t sit back and let him beat them. There is absolutely no reason in the world that Perkins should’ve blown up the way he did. A good ¾ of his points were uncontested lay-ups or dunks. Man, it kills you, doesn’t it? Of all the guys on the Celtics to challenge, it was Perkins. Allen, Garnett, Pierce they need to be challenged but they can hit shots under duress. With Perkins you have a guy that can easily be pushed into any post spot you need him to be in, yet it wasn’t happening. So, through the silly foul trouble of the middle and a lethargic switching defense from everyone the court, Perkins had a career night. Obviously, the Lakers need to put an end to the team that was giving lower tier players career nights. Like I said, the sentiment of making the smaller guys step up is a good one, but you can’t let them step up whenever they want.

Speaking of the Laker defense tonight. You can’t give efficient offense second chances or resets via stupid fouls, on the road or anywhere. There was chronically late to no help on drives. For the second game in a row the defense starting at the free throw line was newborn bunny soft. There was little to no communication from anyone on the perimeter. So back to the perimeter defense being slow to switch, making the inside mor3e vulnerable, making the big men feel that they need to block everything rather than hold their ground.

Offensively the Lakers looked intimidated. There was way too much one pass and shoot offense going on. The minimal off ball rotation and lateral movement along the base and through the paint was killing any set the Lakers tried to run. Not to take anything away from the Celtics defense, but when 4 out of 5 players are planted on the arc at any given point while the other is not asserting their position in the post, it’s going to lead to bad things.

One of those bad things - the Lakers’ undying obsession with three pointers. You would think that after they went 1- 7 from the arc that they may look elsewhere for offense. But coupled with the lack of motion and a plague of one on one play, I guess the Lakers felt the 3 was the only option. But if those aren’t falling I would hope that they would look to get easier shots – from such things as running their offense as prescribed (and shown to work quite well this year so far). The best way to get confidence and rhythm in your shot is to get yourself easier shots, not to keep trying the lowest percentage chuck on the floor.

One last defensive thing and I’m done (though there are plenty more). The Lakers have got to stop allowing straight line penetration. The last 2 games, any player on the elbow or even one step inside the three point line has been able to get far too deep into the teeth of the Laker defense without ever having to change direction. Allowing this kind of elementary drive to happen opens up lanes for every player on the court that can dribble a ball. You have got to seal off lanes when you see them, or are told by others around you (if that happens).

If it seems I’m a bit on fire about the loss, I am. I did expect a tough game, but I also expect the Lakers to give that 100% effort they were showing before the last two fumbles on the road. Not only that, but I HATE the Celtics. And losing to the Celtics, well that does nothing but light fires.

I hope that as the Lakers fly back home tonight that the fire they sparked this year gets re-lit from this loss. It’s not how they handle this loss right now, its how they emerge out of it for the next min home stand that matters most. Take what happened, learn from it, build upon it, and use it as inspiration to not make the same mistakes again.

Also, wake up Lamar, we all have faith in you, want you to succeed and above all, the Lakers and their fans need you – every game.

P.S. – I hate the Celtics.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Postby crucifido on Sun Nov 25, 2007 11:15 pm

Talk about one that got away. I hope this one settles in and gets the Lakers thinking a bit. You've got to play all 48 minutes - 24 doesn't do it, against any team. Damn, what a frustrating loss.

Lakers vs. Nets (Game 13 11/25/2007)

That One Stung A Bit

Ya know at the end of the year when everybody says things like, “If only we had one more win” or “All we needed was one more game to get (this or that) seed.”? Well, this was the kind of game you want back as soon as the final buzzer sounds.

Just like in Milwaukee, this was basketball hari-kari. The 3rd quarter where the Lakers have started out playing so sharply and well has come back to bite them in the butt again. The bench play that was so vital in binding this Laker team together has fallen flat recently . The worse part about it is that they’ve fallen flat from lazy play. It’s not like the games they were playing before can’t be done again, it just looks like the Lakers have become lackadaisical and for no good reason whatsoever.

Everything in the first half that was done right, or was going right via solid play not only took a back seat, it ran away – fast. The Nets, being the veteran team they are saw the opportunity and swooped in to take control of the 3rd quarter, stretching it into the 4th and eventually pulling out the game due to the Lakers mysteriously going away from what was working so well in the first half.

Its games like this that give you doubt. The losses happen, its part of the game, nobody ever goes undefeated. But it’s the way you lose games that matters most. After the embarrassing drubbing they took in Boston, you would think the Lakers would come into this game with some serious fire, or a mind for redemption. And, in the first half it looked that way.

The Lakers came into the first couple of plays with a hop in their step, some energy behind their game that was missing. The spacing on offense was superb. Andrew was pulling his man out to create open lanes well, passing angles were created on the money, shots were open and some were knocking them down. The pressure defense was back to where it was in the first 10 games. The Nets were in the penalty with 7.10 left in the first period and the Lakers took advantage. 2 post plays, 3 drives and 2 inside pushes all during that time to get the Nets back on their heels and use the bonus as a – well – a bonus.

Remember in San Antonio when Kobe pleaded with the team to play with energy? Well evidently, that plea needs to be repeated to this team on a nightly basis.

Because in the second half, the third quarter in particular, all came to a screeching, violent halt. It wasn’t because the Nets turned up their defense. Sure, I give some credit to them, but seriously, it’s not hard to tighten defense when the Lakers decided to utterly abandon any kind of inside game in the 3rd. All the work they did getting Andrew or Kobe the ball in the post (notice there’s no Odom mention there, but I digress), was completely absent.

I counted 2 inside plays in the entire quarter. Alongside that there were countless chucks from 3 point range and virtually every shot the Lakers one passed their selves into was from distance. Here you have a Nets team that was having trouble containing Bynum (and Mihm to some degree), yet the Lakers chose to jack up shots from anywhere outside of the paint. Not only that, but most everyone on the court was shooting difficult shots as well. They weren’t set up shots through plays; they were desperation or terrible situation shots. So when those long shots go up, the Lakers then stay flat-footed looking for short rebounds. Somehow I guess the fundamentals of “long shot, long rebound” went by the wayside.

As the Lakers stay flat on the ground, the Nets get out on the break and either get easy shots underneath with blocking fouls falling from the sky because the transition defense was non-existent. It’s no wonder the Nets scoring went up. Out of the 12 point make up they did in the 3rd 2/3 of that deficit was made up on breaks or on imbalanced possessions. Meaning the Nets often had 2 on 1, or 3 on 2. There was rarely a 5 on 5 defensive set for the Lakers.

Long shot, long rebound, out on the break, easy score spells more than disaster – it spells defeat.

So when the Lakers were rarely set on defense, the Nets get into offensive rhythm and the Lakers fall out of any defensive rhythm they had going before.

Individually there were the obvious 2 standouts, Kobe and Derek. Kobe dominated the ball correctly tonight. He was balanced but aggressive in the first half and when the game looked to be slipping away, and then he took over. That kind of Kobe play is tolerable to me. This was a game where Kobe’s frustration with his teammates comes to fore. While he was going on his unbelievable run, the rest of the Lakers fell into spectator mode. Roll the game footage back and notice that on every possession in the 4th during Kobe’s amazing run, the rest of the Lakers stood still. They in react mode rather than create mode. That off the ball movement that opened up chances for everyone, especially when a guy like Kobe is going off, disappeared like the rest of the Laker game in the second half.

When someone of Kobe’s stature is playing the way he was, the whole court should open up, but instead the remaining Lakers froze. Kobe has a right to be angry with his team on this night.

Alongside of Kobe, Derek was playing nothing but strong. It was readily apparent that Derek took the Boston loss seriously. He was stepping into his jumper perfectly. No forcing shots, nor pushing the ball into tough situations, it was a rhythm offense within plays that got Fisher off and running. Defensively, he did an above average job denying Kidd the ball when it was brought up by someone else. Jason still got some numbers, but he had to work harder than normal for them due to Derek playing body up defense on him. He used his strong core well against one of the league’s best.

Andrew was a standout as well, though not as much as Kobe and Derek, largely due to an odd rotation by Phil. It’s easy to see that Ronny is having a little trouble getting confidence in his ankle, so Andrew’s minutes have been staggered, but tonight was hard to fathom. When Phil was trying to keep pace with the Nets in the 3rd Andrew was yanked in favor of Ronny. However, in spite of Ronny’s ever present desire, he was getting killed by anyone in the post (including the enigmatic refs).

At that juncture I fully expected Bynum to get re-inserted to establish the inside game again. Andrew’s really getting a nose for rebounds which is great to see. Someone of his length can easily dominate a game without scoring a point if he keeps at it. His control and strong finishes on offense coupled with his improving footwork is fun to watch and above all becoming vital to the Lakers getting off on the right foot in games. It’s gratifying to see Andrew continue to block shots as he did in the 4th while controlling his lower body. The kicking of legs and the sideways jumping of the last season is gone. There was a return to grounded defense that served him well before too. Staying on his feet and staying straight up and down on defense will help him get more balanced minutes. Andrew still has moments of looking lost in the paint switches. Luckily for him the baffling refereeing oversaw a lot of his camping out in the lane on defense, but he can’t count on that myopic reffing every game.

Outside of those three there was yet again the confusing Odom bringing up the rear. Though he did break back into the scoring column, it wasn’t enough and worse yet it wasn’t gotten the way he needs to get it. In the first quarter he had 2 posts in the first 4 minutes, then the disappearing act. Its so important that Odom uses his skills out of the post rather than trying to dribble drive to the left every time. His confidence was coming back a bit in his mid-range jumper which was good to see. He wasn’t passing up open shots, but still, it wasn’t enough. It may sound harsh, but without a viable second option being brought to the table by Odom, things will continue to get tougher.
Luke had a flat-out bad game. Lazy passes and absent-minded defense ruled the day for Walton. It was a rare sight to see a player that is usually fundamentally sound fall apart the way Luke did. Mostly he was picking up his dribble at terribly awkward times and making things tough on himself.

Farmar had his moments in the first half and was looking to have another stellar game, but the physicality of Kidd showed that Jordan doesn’t match up well against every top flight point guard. As Kidd was in the game Derek should’ve been. It was good to have faith in Jordan to defend Jason, but I do think that Derek should’ve been re-inserted into the game far earlier than he was.

Sasha played exceptionally well. It was good to see a return to the annoying harassing defense he has shown in the past. The composure he showed on the 3 to take the lead in the 4th should go a long way to his offensive confidence.

Ariza's debut was decent. He does look to have some defensive chops, but its tough to get a hold of his eventual impact after limited minutes in only one game.

Once again the team has got to know that when Kobe starts becoming super-human in games, it opens up the entire game for everyone. It’s not a time to be a fan. More than any other point in the game, that is the time the Lakers should be even more active than before.

So in the end, it’s a painful loss that won’t only hurt now, but it could hurt in the end of year when everyone’s jockeying for playoff seeds. It vastly important that the Lakers regroup, quickly, and minimize these kinds of self-inflicted losses before they become a habit. Kobe can’t bail the team out every game. It’s still a team game and I’m pretty sure it’ll always be a game with two halves. You can’t play the first half of the game and expect the rest to just fall in line.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Postby crucifido on Wed Nov 28, 2007 2:05 pm

Not every win is pretty.

Lakers vs. Sonics (Game 14 November 27, 2007)

A Flat Win’s Still A Win

It was nothing pretty and actually it was one of the uglier wins in quite a while, but at the end of the season nobody remember how you won just that you won. But for this team to right themselves, it does matter how they go about things. This time out, it really wasn’t text book.

The biggest problem of the day - consistent energy. That first half, especially on the defensive boards was lackluster. It looked like the 3 game losing streak was having a bit of a hangover into this game. You’d hope that when teams like Seattle roll into town that the Lakers would seize the opportunity as not only a win, but a time to tune up and work out the kinks that from before. Perhaps that was what the first half lethargy was, but really it just looked like the Lakers were sleepwalking.

It wasn’t just a rebounding problem from one player; it seemed as if the whole team. Too many times they weren’t calling each other off of rebounds. They were competing for the same board, often giving the ball up to a Sonic or fumbling the ball out of bounds. Simple communication like that should be a mainstay, not something to work on.

Another notable problem - finishing around the basket. Most everyone at one time or another was trying the cute little lay-up or the soft shot around the rim and it wasn’t working. Hey, if it happens once in a while, but you adjust that’s fine, but it felt as if it took too long (if it ever sunk in at all) for the Lakers to start finishing strong. Though there was no striking inside presence for the Sonics, there’s no reason to always use a soft touch around the rim. Along with making sure the ball goes through, it also reassures the refs of the type of aggression you play with. And oddly enough, when the refs know that you’re a team that finishes strong, they’re more apt to call fouls in your favor. It sounds stupid and in essence it is dumb, but it’s a fact. Aggressive teams get the benefit of the doubt in the NBA.

Along those lines, my only concern for Bynum as of late is that he may not be playing with enough aggression. At this point of his career it’s vital that he begins to establish what kind of player he is. If he comes into every game looking to play tough and aggressive it will serve him well his entire career. If referees (and for that matter, other teams) know that you’re the kind of player that once around the rim doesn’t play to give up ground or finish soft, it will work to your advantage. Make yourself known as a strong player and you can get away with much more physical play than those who are known to be finesse oriented with occasional spurts of aggression.

Otherwise, for my money Andrew’s been doing pretty well. In this game, he had free reign in the middle. With no Swift or big man in the middle to contend with, aside from Wilcox who was often drawn out of the defensive paint. For the most part, Bynum saw that opportunity and took it. He ran the floor really well tonight. What struck me he most was Andrew’s assertive movements into the post. Once he got himself in the block, he was virtually impossible to route out. And he got into position quickly. The developing passing game of Andrew is interesting as well. It shows a better understanding of the off ball motion involved in the set plays. If you noticed, moist times Andrew passed the ball off he was making his turns to the hoop with confidence and strength. Those turns led to alley-oop attempts, and superior position for boards.

When Andrew made those turns into the middle the team looked for him straight away. It’s a great sign to see Kobe look for Andrew first in the post. It shows that not only is Andrew where he’s supposed to be, but his team is gaining confidence in his ability to get the job done once he’s in position.

Defensively, Andrew needs to start taking one step to the side when he sees the drive coming down the side of the key. Learning how to split defensive space between your man stopping the drive is vital for a center. Right now, Andrew is about 1 to 23 seconds to late on that slide and it’s gave the Sonics some easy hoops that just shouldn’t have happened.

One guy who is splitting space incredibly well is Ronny. Though it looks like his confidence in the strength of his ankle is growing, there’s still a bit of hesitancy in Ronny’s game. That will come back with time though. Turiaf’s post defense on Wilcox in the 3rd quarter was superb. Wilcox still got inside, but he was having to push really hard to do it) bordering on offensive fouls nearly every post up). The early and often bodying up of Ronny on Seattle’s post game had a huge impact in the 3rd quarter wake-up call of the Lakers.

Ronny’s energy and enthusiasm for the game is well known and is huge for the Lakers on and off court chemistry. Also important is Ronny’s general impact on the morale of this team. You may have not seen it on t.v. but Ronny’s quickly become the glue that holds this team together and keeps their spirits up. At one point in the game when Bynum was getting fouls called on him left and right, Ronny sat beside him on the bench, nudging him, talking to him and reassuring him until Bynum got a smile. You could see Bynum relax afterwards.

Again, Radmanovic came out of the game at one pint down in the mouth. Ronny went right over to him, started dancing in front of him until he smiled. Ronny pat him on the back and sat back down. Countless times, he’s reassuring players, keeping their heads in the game and their moods light. Add that to his developing game (don’t forget that Ronny is young as well and has nowhere to go but up) and that is what you call an invaluable teammate.

As far as the enigmatic Odom goes, it was a better outing. Although not as assertive as he needs to be (which may never come about at this point), it was good to see Lamar make a conscious effort to get involved. His teammates were all obviously looking out for him as every chance they had to get the ball to Lamar at an even slightly close post range, they did. It was no coincidence that the first play of the game was a successful trip into the post for Lamar. Still, you want to see Lamar not post up early then abandon the game. Along with everyone else, the timidity on offense has got to go. Being blocked by the rim isn’t too acceptable from someone of Lamar’s skill set.

Defensively, he was one of the few people actually grabbing boards in the first half with two hands. He was keeping the Lakers in the game with just that, which was good to see. However, his assignment – Durant, for most of the game, was getting the better of him for no good reason. Durant has great off ball skills and a wide array of shots he can rely on, but it’s nothing that Lamar should be getting lost over. With the limited amount of big skilled big men on the Sonics, Lamar was getting buried by screens and traffic too often. Still, it was a step above the non-existent games he had on the road.

It was good to see Luke wake back up. The sleepy performance against the Nets, looked to be an anomaly at the time and luckily it was. His confidence in his shot still seems to be wavering, but having Luke on the floor with the bench (despite his tough time adjusting to it) is an enormous help. He was seeing the court like he can and some of the passes from mid-post he was pulling off were downright brilliant.

On defense, he most definitely struggled a bit with the size of Green and the size of getting too easily switched onto Wilcox one too many times. It seems like along with the rest of the team it’s a slow waking process back to the activity that served Luke so well in the first couple of games. The game was a good step in the right direction, but there’s still some revving up for Luke to do.

Derek was just solid offensively. Giving up a bit too much space on defense (mostly to guard against drives around him by Watson) was Derek’s big hitch this time out. Otherwise, his hustle after loose ball or mistakes saved more than one or two easy buckets by the Sonics.

Kobe, well, he played a great game. He was much better at seeing the passes available to him though in the second half, players were hitting their spots with much more crispness than the last 3 games). It was a real good balance of offense for Kobe. Good timing on drives, and anticipatory play that was really opening up the mid range for the Lakers in the 3rd. Defensively, once he locked onto Wilkins it was over. He’s fighting through screens perfectly, using lateral speed like few players can and harassing every shot from the weak side without fail. This kind of All-World defense from Kobe is the best in the NBA right now.

As a team, the Lakers have got to stop giving up ground on defense. Radmanovic, Luke, Lamar, Chris and Andrew were all backing down when anyone would simply jab dribble at them. This can’t happen. By backpedaling so easily, you’re giving up the size and length advantage the Lakers naturally have in the front court versus some teams. It’s a bad habit.

The bench unit is looking lost simply because they’re not running plays. They’re getting in the half court set and letting any slight change from a defense throw them into a panic. There are options in every play, and for the bench to get back to where they were they need to move the ball better, hit their off ball spots and above all stay collected as a unit. I’m sure the Kwame injury changing the lineups a bit is having a toll on it right now, but its nothing that can’t be or shouldn’t be adjusted too sooner rather than later.

As usual too, if you can’t block a shot don’t jump in a desperate attempt to. Stand your ground, keep your body straight.

The center core for the Lakers should be following Turiaf’s example of bodying up early and often on strong post players. The game took a turn for the better when Ronny got his footing in the post and started denying easy access to the little 2 to 3 foot shots the Sonics were getting all too easily in the first half.

Budget doubling off of the mid-post. The flashing defense of Andrew has been above average, but the front court had got to be careful of overstaying or overstepping their bounds. The immediate help on a good perimeter player doesn’t have to automatically come at the expense of leaving the mid-post wide open.

The Lakers have to recognize when a team like Seattle is in town. They were weak in the middle, but it took far too long to exploit that. Again, it started early inside which was great, but they can’t back off of the post game anyway, especially when you’re playing a team with minimal presence inside in the first place.

And remember Lakers, the game is 48 minutes, not 36. Every team has professional players, no lead is safe. Start games well, but most of all finish off teams when you have a chance!

So here starts a heck of a busy week for the Lakers. Though it was clunky, its good to start it off with a win against a team the Lakers should beat easier next time out. It was a decent recovery off the season’s first (and hopefully rare this time out) losing streak. Put the losing behind you, put this game behind you as well and move into the next game with the energy they’ll need to get through this pretty tough run.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Postby crucifido on Fri Nov 30, 2007 11:00 pm

Lakers vs. Nuggets/Jazz (Games 15 & 16 November 29/30, 2007)

Well there was the good, the bad and the really really ugly all in 2 games. Sunday ought to be a good one.

Wounded Animals

In the third back to back set of the year, you got to see a microcosm of the best and worst this Laker team can offer. What makes it frustrating for the fans is that from game to game you rarely know which team is going to show up.

For instance, in that Denver game, one of the best of the year after the 1st quarter, you saw a Laker team lethargic, sleepy, passing incredibly soft, running no plays, watching the ball handler, rarely moving off the ball completely switch to a motivated awake and active group that ran away with the game in the later stages.

Among the highlights of the Nuggets win, the 45 point turnaround. It wasn’t just a turnaround b y the starters or by a star driven core of players. That flip-flop in the game was predominantly run by the bench unit and secondary players. It’s a rare thing when Phil plays complete bench units in the meat of a game. That entire 4th quarter wasn’t just run with bench guys, it was run without a scorer or a prime time type of player on the court at all. Most encouraging was that the Lakers not only preserved the lead in the 4th but they built on it and most admirably played with hustle until the final buzzer.

Flash forward to Utah where an again sleepy, listless, and above all sloppy Laker team came trudging onto the court. The big difference was obviously that the Lakers never dug themselves out of this hole.

Which brings me to the main point of both of these games.

It’s vitally important that the Laker team doesn’t get into the habit of coming into games soft. At the outset of this year the Lakers were coming into every game with strong, assertive play. That type of play both won them games and kept them in games when they were behind until the last couple of minutes. Now for some reason that theory of play has been abandoned. Chalk it up top another Laker mystery. It’s been a long time since a Laker team has thrown this many schizophrenic games together at such an early point in a season.

What the guys have to realize is that they are nowhere near good, experienced or complete enough to expect the type of Denver comeback every game. Even the best teams can’t turn it on and off at will. There’s no reason this team should EVER come into a game thinking it’s a n easy one. Whether the team is crippled by injury or running at full strength, the best lesson this young squad can take to bed at night is that every game, no matter who the opponent, deserves your full attention and energy – every, single game.

Against the Jazz the Lakers did a terrible job o f pulling Kirilenko off of the weak side of the ball. Most of that is due to Lamar’s soft defense. Lamar has got to learn how to put a player on their heels by making them play more active defense against him. If he plays assertive and aggressive on the offensive end his assignment won’t have the type of rhythm or energy they have now in their offense. Likewise, by pushing that ball right into them at every given chance, Lamar wears out defenses, opens up shots for others, takes pressure off of Kobe and best yet, contributes the stats to the game he need to contribute in order for the Lakers to be successful on any level.

In other words, yeah, a lot of the Laker game plan hinges on Lamar and right now, he’s not delivering in the slightest. This can’t continue, it simply can’t go on if Lamar is expecting to stay a Laker or the Lakers are expecting to jump up to the next level of NBA teams.

In the Denver contest the Lakers were making one cardinal mistake that haunted them straight into the Jazz game – sloppy passing. It’s not just a sloppy pass here and there, the Lakers are promoting the mistake by keeping planted when dribbles are picked up. Nobody is coming to help with the ball, so passing angles are flattening out instantly, and the Nuggets were jumping into every passing lane.

This kind of unforced error is absolutely deadly. Its one thing to get an occasional pass jumped on due to hustle, but it’s another to literally be throwing the ball to the other team. There’s yet another thing that cannot become a habit any more than it has.

The thing about the early deficit in the Nuggets game and the ongoing drubbing in the Jazz game was that the problems were self-inflicted. In an odd way, it’s a positive, a very odd way, that they can be corrected with smarter play by the Lakers.

In the Nuggets game, it was slow off ball movement and lazy passing (along with a penchant to watch transition offense from the wrong end). In the Jazz game it was unadjusted soft defense (and moreover help defense) in the middle. Sure the Jazz are a pound it inside kind of team, but there’s no reason to make the job even easier for them by 1) not helping on a beaten player and 2) straight up sidestepping drives with matador defense.

That smacks of communication problems. The blind steals in the first half of the Denver game and the entire game in Utah were victims of a Laker team that was not talking to each other whatsoever. This team doesn’t know the offense or defense well enough to let the court go silent at any point. In fact, when they get better, there should never be a point where the Lakers become mute.

This game is motion, determination, teamwork and communication at its heart. If any of those elements are missing things get awfully tough – and in a hurry.

Alright, enough preaching, now for some positives…

Kobe – He struck an incredibly perfect balance of offense, aggression, scoring and passing against the Nuggets. The leadership skills of Kobe really came to fore in that game and it served as a huge lynchpin to the Lakers running the game more as a team in last ¾ of the game.

Sasha – Well that was a game of a lifetime for Sasha and even for a long time detractor like myself, it was good to see. Sasha played an all around good game as well. What was most impressive was Sasha’s best Rip Hamilton impression. Motion off the ball was fantastic. It was so fantastic that it frustrated the Nuggets to the point of knocking Carmelo out and essentially sealing the game. I also liked seeing Sasha keep shooting. There was no break in confidence or persistence from Sasha on and off the ball and paid off huge for him.

Jordanr – He did a great job of pushing the ball up the court even into half court sets. Getting the ball up on the offensive end with that kind of aggression does a lot of good. Versus Utah Jordan was the sole bright spot. His confidence in his jumper continued and he played undaunted throughout the whole game. Again, defending the Utah point guard core after the Lakers let them get into such a rhythm is nearly impossible, but Jordan played with good energy and hustle as he has all year so far.

Andrew – What is most impressive about Andrew in both the Jazz and Nuggets game was Andrew’s positioning. He was getting early deep post position in the spots he needed to be in on set plays and didn’t give up ground. Once he got rooted into the paint it was pretty damn hard to nudge him out. The Jazz and Nuggets had trouble with it; the difference in the game s was the soft high post and middle defense in Utah that took Andrew out of position early and often. He keeps the ball high on traffic rebounds and puts the elbows out in light traffic, securing the ball and never turning it over after it was in his hands.

Derek – (In the Nuggets game) had yet another solid offensive performance. He’s been really sharp on shot selection and thus has shot an impressive percentage. Defensively, he was over-matched with Williams and his side to side dribbling speed. Allowing himself that extra step of space would have served him better, though keeping up with Williams was a long shot to begin with.

Luke – He did a real good job cleaning up his sloppy play in a hurry. What he had trouble with these last 2 games was the physical play of his assignment. It’s nothing Luke can instantly improve upon, it’s something he has to account for and ask for early help with.

Team wise, there weren’t a lot of positives in Utah. This was a horrible game by the Lakers. Again, in the last two games you got to see what makes the Lakers who they are – unpredictable, sometimes amazing and sometimes baffling – all leading to sometimes winning.

What can kill that frustration is a Laker team playing at 100% awareness, not matter who the team is. When you see a wounded animal of a team con your schedule, you can’t relax. When your opponent is weakened you go in for the kill even stronger. And when a team is at full strength, you go in for the kill again. There can never be a game or a quarter in a game where you take it easy – NEVER.

Alright, so the Lakers and the Magic come into Sunday’s game on a loss. The game will come down to which team decides to use that loss as inspiration – and which team plays with their head and heart the entire 48.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Crucifido Articles

Postby Killer on Sat Dec 01, 2007 10:36 am

Another extremely well written, intelligent, right-on article about Denver/Utah. Thanks, Crucifido for your continuing accurate and interesting analysis of the games. You should apply for a job with the media - and if any of them read your articles (which I understand they have), they should give you credit and get you a writing job. No one in the media (I repeat, No One) does analysis as well as you do. Thanks again.
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Postby crucifido on Mon Dec 03, 2007 2:40 am

Lakers vs. Magic (Game 17 December 2, 2007)

Missed Opportunity – Again

Let’s cut right to the chase. It was yet another game when the Lakers had chances (many of them) to get this game yanked into the win column. But as I’ve been harping on for 3 years now, this Laker team seems to either have trouble or a strange hesitancy to cash in on things. Sometimes those things are mistakes made by other teams and other times they’re things the Lakers do to other teams by playing good defense or offense.

Either way, the Lakers failed to make good on some hard work they did in the 3rd and 1st quarters of the game. My biggest poet peeve of this loss was that the Lakers would play some decent hustling, fast switching, communicative defense only to look at each other and let the Magic grab the board. There was little to no aggressiveness on the boards.

Sure, Odom got his fair share of boards on the defensive end, but honestly most of his rebounds were uncontested boards that were run away from by the Magic. This isn’t to take away the board work Odom did in the game – it was good to see Lamar assert himself, somewhere. It’s just that you would hope that after working so hard to stop a mostly stagnant Magic offense, that someone anyone would be completing the play by getting the ball.

That, unfortunately failed to happen and the Magic got their requisite second and third chances far more often than they should have.

I did like seeing the first play of the game run through Andrew in the post. That was a good message to send to the Magic. The Lakers weren’t going to settle for outside jumpers and shy away from Howard on the inside. But, and a big but at that, that message was abandoned about as quickly as it was sent.

Sure, we all know that Howard is a monster on the inside, but the Lakers were far too timid about getting inside top score. The Magic have good perimeter defense, it’s how they allow Howard to patrol the inside without having to go after people waltzing into the lane. But there were plenty of times that that same perimeter D was broken down. However, again, the Lakers didn’t cash in on their work. Instead everyone from Kobe to Lamar (mostly to Lamar) and others decided to pull up for mid-range jumpers that weren’t falling or ill-advised one pass 3 pointers.

The one time the Lakers did make good with a good situation was when Howard went out in the 1st quarter with 2 fouls and 6 minutes to go. You saw what happened when they did, right? The Lakers went up by 10 with relative ease. Howard on the court or not, the Lakers were finally using their hard work to a lead, rather than playing mysteriously disjointed as they did in the 2nd and 4th quarters.

Along those lines – when Kobe was going on his tirade in the first quarter, an all too familiar trend reared its nasty little head. The rest of the Lakers became spectators. So if Kobe, missed a shot in that spurt, there was nobody but Kobe following his own shot to get the board. Everyone else on the court was nowhere close to being active off the ball or anywhere near rebounds. That can’t happen

Running an isolation play doesn’t mean that everyone else gets to take a break. If you’re not still in motion to move people out of the paint or pull them further out , then you damn well better be ready to get rebound position as soon as you see that first jab dribble go off. Alas, most of the guys just stood there.

Use Kobe’s run, or anyone’s good run for that matter as an inspiration to become even more active, even more involved. If nothing else get more active and alert to keep someone’s good run going. Standing around does nothing but let the Magic throw any defender they need to in the way of whoever’s heating up.

Back to the not going inside thing…

Initially Andrew had plenty of chances inside and if noticed, when he did get the ball into the post, even though it wasn’t scoreboard productive, Howard got 2 fouls quickly. The Lakers were making the Howard play physical defense, which he is surely capable of, but the point is that they were pushing Howard to play the way they wanted to. Once the Lakers started copping / relegating their selves to a jump shot team, the Magic’s defense and in particular Howards’ defense got rock solid. They became predictable. The bad part was that some of that predictability was from the Lakers barely running the offense.

It would’ve been great had the Lakers seen the Magic giving the back door plays to the Lakers all night. At no time was the alley-oop lob guarded against. IT was an open play that was done a couple times, but could’ve been abused tonight with or without Howard on the court.

The game really broke the Magic’s way in the 4th when the Lakers had 3 chances to take the lead at 94-93, but couldn’t quite come up with something to do so. Once that happened the point of this game was made clear and the Magic swooped in to take a game that could’ve easily been a win for the Lakers – easily.

Individually there were positives tonight.

Andrew did a real good job on staying a step back from Howard when he went out to the perimeter to set a screen or pick. He wasn’t rushing to be right beside him, giving Howard an easy dive to the hoop, one play the Magic love to run. Andrew was holding that middle ground well. It would be good for Andrew if, along with playing physical like has, which is great, to still try and seal off the lane sooner. I just mentioned it in another article/rant, but he was yet again slow to taking one simple step in front of a driving lane to halt a drive. There are plenty of players that avoid going into Andrew’s blocking range, its time he starts using that to push easy drives out of the lane.

Ronny did a good job showing that running the floor at all times pays off. He has got to get more points off of missed shots on the break than most in the NBA. That’s all attributed to Ronny always in motion. Turiaf just had trouble on D. No surprise there, Howard’s a giant armful on defense. Ronny just had to keep his hands in his pockets. There too much slapping at the ball. Even more so, Ronny was trying to step around Howard (as was Andrew) on the post too much., Going from standard defense to fronting a guy like Howard does nothing but give him that extra inch of space he needs to roll towards the hoop. At that point, all anyone on the Magic needs to do is hoist up a shot and they know Dwight will corral it.

One thing about Radmanovic you have to like. The guy doesn’t give up. It would be lesson well learned by Lamar to see how Radmanovic goes about his offense. When his shot isn’t falling he doesn’t shy away from it entirely, he continues to shoot. In fact, you can often see Vladi start working along the baseline or in the mid-post to get easier shots when the long range bomb isn’t going. You can’t improve shooting by running away from every opportunity to shoot.

Sasha as well, doesn’t hesitate to get his shot going. His off the ball movement was still there and pays dividends for a guy that is still a mighty ‘tweener kind of player right now. By keeping active when away from the crux of the play, Sasha is creating open shots while pulling defenders out of easy defensive stances.

One thing I do like about Jordan is that he isn’t satisfied with just getting one part of play right. If he gets the foul, he gets upset at missing the 3 point chance. If he gets the bucket, he doesn’t celebrate; he gets right back into defense mode. That kind of focus is another lesson Lamar should be watching. He was getting lost amongst the trees in this game, which can happen with the likes of Howard running out to pick you off. Jordan, though good and alert on defense was losing track of his man (as was Fisher) far too easily, giving the Magic point guard core a ton of open looks. Tall guys on the perimeter or not, you can’t lose sight of where your assignment is going.

Kobe played a decent game tonight. You could see the frustration in his teammates come to the surface a bit. There was quite a bit of head nodding and snapping at guys to get where they needed to be to make a play work. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing from Kobe, but he was letting his temper get the best of him. There were plenty of times in the second half he took himself out of defensive sets simply because he was clearly thinking of something that had already happened. It’s rare for Kobe to not be focused the whole 48, but tonight it happened. He had a right in this game to be upset in some ways. Again, there was little to no help on the offense. Kobe’s shown that even when he’s hot, he’ll gladly pass the ball off. But you can’t pass the ball off when nobody is getting to open spots. Likewise, it’s tough to let the ball go in this game when there were long stretches of everyone not being able to hit. That’s going to happen, not everyone excels at every shot. It’s key for Kobe to not let this game spoil what had been working in every Laker win so far. Defensively, Kobe was off his game. He was also getting distracted by inside play, often letting Bogans get wide open looks without any contest. He had times when he wasn’t even putting a hand up, that can’t happen. The last guy that needs a defensive lecture on this team is Kobe, but it was his sloppiest effort on defense so far this year in my opinion.

Now onto Odom… The stats were decent tonight. The boards he was collecting, though mostly uncontested, were vital to the Lakers staying in this game early, but it wasn’t a good game for Lamar. Far too many times Lamar ran away from easy shots that not but a one season ago he would take without hesitation. There were 2 drives in particular in the 2nd quarter where Lamar had a clear lane to the hoop but chose to pull up for a jumper or pass the ball off to Andrew in heavy congestion. That wasn’t only unfair to Andrew, but it was unfair to himself. And therein lays the problem.

At some point Lamar has lost faith in himself. The confidence he shows in the games is shaky at best. The Nuggets game was good to see because Lamar wasn’t shying away from shots. The big thing with Odom right now is keeping his spirits up. I don’t know why this year he’s chosen to be more than just quiet on the court, but it’s the one consistent thing Lamar has done.

Fore this team to have any glimmer of hope this year, Lamar has got to step up in some fashion. Hopefully that fashion is on the offensive end. The worst part of tonight was seeing is poor offensive assertiveness spread to the defense a bit tonight. There were too many times Lamar was being easily led away from his man or started pursuit of his assignment on off ball movement ridiculously late.

Lamar has to see that, like it or not, he’s a leader on this team. When he comes out playing hesitant or soft, others follow. Whether they know they are or not, they follow.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Lamar, I support him as a Laker and think he is absolutely necessary for this team to have a guy of his skill set on board. I’m not laying anything at Lamar’s doorstep that hasn’t been put there on his own. He did have a good rebounding night and did a decent job playing watchdog on Howard when Andrew or Chris couldn’t cope. We all know there are obviously enormous positives to Lamar’s game tonight and other nights, but ignoring the big picture isn’t helping Lamar’s game. Lamar has got to drag himself back into the aggressive, multi-skilled in the post and out kind of player that he is. That player is still there, I just wish he would find a way to tap back into it.

File under a terrible 4th quarter or another game that was 24 minutes of hustle countered by 24 minutes of rickety play at both ends. Like I said last time, the team that plays 48 in this one wins, and it was true (as it is most games).

The Magic played right into the Lakers hands. The key is the next time this happens (and it will) that the Lakers turn it into a W, instead of another “we should’ve gotten that one” kind of loss.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Postby Weezy on Mon Dec 03, 2007 1:33 pm

Great read as always cruc, love the stuff about Lamar, food for thought.
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Yet another Lamar miss:

Postby Killer on Mon Dec 03, 2007 1:53 pm

And here's the point:

"Again, there was little to no help on the offense. Kobe’s shown that even when he’s hot, he’ll gladly pass the ball off. But you can’t pass the ball off when nobody is getting to open spots. Likewise, it’s tough to let the ball go in this game when there were long stretches of everyone not being able to hit. "

You might not have seen it if you were at the game, but after Lamar missed that three-point attempt (that Kobe knows now he should have taken himself) he [Lamar] turned around and just laughed and smiled about the miss. That's not what you should be doing when your made three-pointer might have sent your team into overtime and maybe given them a chance to put the thing away. Sorry, but I don't want someone who's happy, or at least smiling, about missing critical shots on my team.


. . . but yet another great read. Great help for those of us who can't go to the games or get time to watch them all. Thanks.
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Postby crucifido on Thu Dec 06, 2007 5:34 pm

That Denver win was a big one. Great to see the bench play continue to be one of the NBA's strongest too. Hopefully the guys can roll this into a long winning streak.

Lakers vs. Wolves/Nuggets (Games 18/19 December 4/5, 2007)

Opportunities Given And Strides Taken

O.K., first off – that was a great back to back set for the guys.

Second, if I was a T-Wolves fan I would be burning Kevin McHale and/or Glen Taylor in effigy or holding some kind of ceremony to get rid of them, because it looks like they may have screwed that Wolves organization (and their fans) for years to come. Every time you have some need to bash Mitch Kupchak, just remember you could always have McHale as your GM, the worst (not to mention most crooked) GM in the NBA.

Alright, so anyway, the Minnesota game couldn’t have come at a better time for the Lakers. This one gave the Lakers a chance to run through some kinks in the offense, work on some defensive communication. Even better, it didn’t only give them that chance, but the Lakers used to its full advantage, making it pay big in Denver the next night.

What struck me from the T-Wolves game was that you could tell the Lakers began to play much calmer in their offensive sets. There wasn’t a moment of panic where they decided to scrap plays in favor of the one or no pass offense that gets them in trouble. That kind of in control play was a valuable lesson to take away from the Wolves. It’s so valuable in fact that it came serious handy in Denver.

When Iverson was going absolutely off in that game, there were maybe 5 or 6 minutes of manic play from the Lakers where they surrendered the lead and went into the 4th tied. Even in Minnesota there was a point where the ball kind of fell dead and the Wolves got a tiny glimmer of hope. But yet again, the Lakers collected themselves and went back to what was working for them. What was important about those stints was that they were only small amounts of time. There was no prolonged freak out like in the past where the game completely turned on them. A timeout or a break in between periods was all they needed to settle down. That’s a healthy jump forward.

It was perhaps the biggest thing to come out of the Nuggets win. The Lakers, at least for one contest realized that control and staying within your overall game plan wins games. For a young team, that’s something that can’t be taught, it must be gained through experience. The coaching staff can preach it all they want, but until the team sees the benefit for their selves it won’t hit home. Hopefully with the Denver win, some of hit did just that.

Another good thing that came of this back to back was a repair of the big flaw against Orlando – walking through open doors. As a team, there was little to no hesitation or confusion as to what to do when an opportunity presented itself.

In Minnesota it was simply going out there and taking care of a team they should’ve taken care of. Though some will scoff at it, this pouncing on a team thing hasn’t come easy to the Lakers of the post-Shaq era. Finally against the Wolves they got in there and took care of business swiftly. Because of that the starters were able to sit the 4th quarter and majority of the 2nd half, while the bench took care of everything.

Everyone knows that the bench playing prolonged successful minutes like that can do nothing but help the overall health of this team. The bench gets time on the court and experience in game situations, while gaining confidence in the system and what they can do within the system. That bench play experience in Minnesota seemed to have given them enough confidence to carry the team when Kobe had to sit in the 3rd for 10 minutes.

I don’t think many people would’ve thought that holding the fort with a strictly bench unit out there while Lamar, Luke and most of all, Kobe sat on the bench in foul trouble would’ve ever been possible. Needless to say that’s when the Denver game was won. Sure they came out the 3rd with a tie, but the point was that the Nuggets (even with Iverson losing his mind out there) couldn’t make headway on the Lakers when they were weakened by fouls.

Count that was another healthy jump forward for the Lakers.

Kind of shooting off of the bench play, there’s one big key that I’d like to see the Lakers carry forward. If the team aside from Kobe can not only contribute, but simply keep competitive in a game, you can let Kobe finish the games in the 4th. If the rest of the team is giving the effort they can, it won’t force Kobe carry the brunt of the scoring or defensive burden. In other words, play as a team. This is what was at the heart of this summer’s drama. It’s not so much dissatisfaction with people personally, rather than dissatisfaction with this team not giving 100% at all times.

Like I’ve always said, most people can take losing as long as they know that the team has given it everything they have while they’re out on the court.

A couple more team notes…

In the Denver game, as Iverson continued on his tear, the Lakers did something that went largely unnoticed. They didn’t let anyone else benefit from Iverson’s hot streak or let anyone else get into a groove as well. Often when one guy is going as hot as Iverson was it tends to spark the rest of the team to play better. What was good to see was the Laker defense settle into their assignments without panicking and throwing double or triple teams Iverson’s way. In fact, there were very few double teams. There was a good dose of different defensive looks thrown Iverson’s way. Though for most of the game it didn’t do much good (as sometimes great players are just unstoppable, we’ve seen it ourselves with Kobe many a time), it served to keep from letting one person get absolutely exhausted and take the rest of the defense down.

In the past if one player was going off, and typically in most games, it would lead to the rest of team getting into a groove. Of key note was that Camby was kept completely out of the scoring column. There was a good concerted effort from both Lamar and Chris to start the game, backed up by Andrew using his size particularly well, to keep Camby from getting to put backs. The weak side of the ball and the back end of rebounds were sealed off better than usual. The baseline was watched this time. Usually when the Lakers get around the Nuggets they have a tendency to turn their backs on the back door plays and runs along the base. Though Carmelo did get a couple alley-oops behind the Lakers D, it was kept from being exploited for either points or rebounds. That alone went a long way to keeping Camby off the backboards.

One big improvement on defense would be quicker help when the point guards get run by. The help stepping into the path of the ball or sealing off a drive is about a second too late.

Alright so a player thing here and there and we’re off to the next game…

You know night in and night what you’ll get from Kobe. Andrew’s getting to the point now where you have a general idea of what he can do for you bon both ends of the court. We know Ronny, Farmar and Sasha bring off ball energy and such and Lamar, well we know that we don’t know what we’ll get from game to game. Still though, there’s one guy that can completely change the profile of this team – Radmanovic. If the guy is where he needs to be and is hitting, this team gets a whole lot more fluid. What I loved seeing was Radmanovic absolutely abusing (and the other seeing him get there) the corner spot ion the Denver game. He got hot from an area, used the post pass and screen in the mid-post to get around to the corner and got the ball there with regularity. Obviously it doesn’t do too much if he isn’t sinking the shot, but when he is (as he was last night in Denver) the Lakers get dangerous in a hurry. Not only that but its good that Radmanovic has been getting involved in the middle more. His size allows him to move amongst the trees with relative ease, while his reputation gets him some loose balls that the Lakers wouldn’t have gotten normally. Against Denver Vladi did real well being the post for passes between the guards and the big men.

Andrew is getting a reputation. That block in the 4th versus Carmelo wasn’t just a simple block. It was a stuff in crunch time and better yet, done with control. There was no need to swat the ball, which he could’ve done. It was a smooth controlled block that wound up right in the hands of the Lakers. What I’d like to see Andrew do offensively is roll of the picks a bit quicker. He’s setting the pick and rolling, but often remaining behind the ball. When he rolls down into the key or alongside it he has to be sure to keep level with the ball. At the very least he should be getting into a pass option position if someone is driving down the middle. Drop to the level of the ball and the passes off that roll will come with even more frequency.

Speaking of dropping to the ball level, Derek has done a fantastic job giving slashers or stunted post plays a pass option. The triangle calls for motion into passing angles, and Derek is taking full advantage of it. Most of his shots are coming off of the pass option spot. When it isn’t a play for an outside shot, Fish has done a more than decent job ailing out dead plays by simply getting into the proper passing angle. Defensively, there was plenty of under screen runs, which by now isn’t worth complaining about, it’s just the way he is. Matching up against the likes of Iverson is a dead matter before it begins, but at least Derek is giving himself a step or two away from his man to make up for the speed differences.

The standout in these two games has been Trevor Ariza. Acquired for his athleticism, he is slowly adding a different defensive dimension to this team. In Minnesota he made real good use of his wingspan. Though new to the Lakers’ style on both ends of the court, he’s moving assertively. There is no hesitation (especially on defense) from him. He being in the games has made for slightly better defensive help. He’s quick to react to the perimeter breaking down and gets up into guys before they get too deep into the paint. His smooth play on the offensive end has really benefited him on rebounds. He moves along the baseline with good fluidity and in Denver did a real good job of recovering off being beaten on the dribble. There was no lagging behind a play. If he was beaten he dropped down to the board or switched with relative ease. His (and Kobe’s) defense on Iverson in the 4th quarter of the Denver game absolutely crucial. Having that kind of size to run behind or alongside Kobe in the 3 or 2 spot could become incredibly valuable down the line.

Chris played those extended minutes in Minnesota. Though he played well against relatively little opposition in the middle, you can see that Chris is still a ways from being in the game shape he was before. In the Denver game there was 2 instances where Chris would literally walk out of the middle to get to his man, leaving a big gap in the middle for the ball to get into. The quick flashes up top and dropping back down are things that Chris can’t quite do yet. What can help him out is to split space better between high post and inside help. Leaving a big man open on the perimeter is most certainly better than leaving a hole in the middle for the ball to get into. Staying within that space between the two will allow Chris’s limited mobility to have a better impact on defense. Offensively, you gotta love the hook shot that he’s been shooting with more confidence. The ankle rears its head on the soft finishes quite a bit, but with time that will hopefully morph into the strong dunks that Chris can do.

Farmar continues to raise his level of play. Though terribly overmatched in Denver, Jordan didn’t quit on the ball once. That persistence will pay off in the long (and sometimes short) run. Jordan would be well served to watch some Iverson video on his jab dribbling technique. The jab into the man and subsequent bounce off opens up his shot and often gets the foul. Jordan can use that move himself with his speed while also learning how a lot of the veteran point guards in the league get fouls drawn on him and others. His offensive confidence and relentless pushing the ball is great to see. I mean seriously, how different is the point guard core from last year to this? Not only is it Derek and his leadership and poise, but a good portion of it is Jordan’s fearlessness as well.

Sasha is still playing very well off the ball. He’s coming into games ready, despite the jagged playing time. I do like seeing Sasha continue to shoot and move along the baseline as well. Like Jordan there’s been no quit in Sasha’s game. That goes a long way to him getting more consistent playing time.

Kobe, well he was Kobe in Denver. The Nuggets contest was one of the better games by Kobe actually. Obviously still not looking 100%, he showed good patience and confidence in his teammates, culminating in that great pass to Bynum for the dunk in Denver. Taking over in the crunch time of games is Kobe’s M.O. and yet again, he came through when the rest of the team needed it. Again though what allowed him the energy to do so was the great bench play in both Minnesota and that key 3rd quarter run. Kobe had to be happy that it didn’t have to be a 30 point outing for the Lakers to get a win on the road in a tough arena.

The win in Minnesota was big. Predominantly because the Lakers finally beat someone they should’ve beaten – and with the bench carrying the load. That game allowed the Lakers the energy and confidence to go into Denver and get an even bigger win. That Nuggets game should show this young Laker team that composure can go a long way. The best dividends to come out of this brief road trip looks to be a touch of maturity and a glimmer of consistency.

Now its time to springboard these games into a beefy winning streak.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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Postby revgen on Thu Dec 06, 2007 11:05 pm

Great writeup Cruc.

Drew's impact on defense was good, however I also wanted to point out that even though Drew didn't score a whole lot of points, his impact on the offensive end was still there. Especially on many of the Vlade 3 pointers. Part of the reason why Vlade was open was because of Drew being doubled and on some rare occasions he was even triple teamed. And in one noticeable part of the game, Drew was given the ball for a lob 3 times in a row in one offensive possesion. 1 of the times he was fouled by Martin and then a 2nd by Klieza. Then the 3rd time, the Nuggets collapse on him and he passes it out to an open Vlade who promptly throws down a 3. Drew's presence on offense more than made up for his lack of points.

If we keep doing inside-out with Drew and Vlade on the 2nd unit once Kwame gets back, it could be a killer.
Last edited by revgen on Fri Dec 07, 2007 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Najim on Fri Dec 07, 2007 12:22 pm

at this point, what is Andrew Bynum not doing that others are that is preventing him from being the mythical "anchor" that our Defense has so desperately craved?
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Postby OC Lakerfan on Fri Dec 07, 2007 2:18 pm

Najim wrote:at this point, what is Andrew Bynum not doing that others are that is preventing him from being the mythical "anchor" that our Defense has so desperately craved?


His rotations (other than blocks) are a bit slow. He seems a bit slow to react, especially out on the perimeter. He has trouble with the P&R. I like him off the bench, although he should get the bulk of the mins..
"If I was Kobe," AI continues, "I'd have begged Shaq to come back, and if I was Shaq, I would've begged Kobe to come back. Ego ain't going to get you nothin' except an early exit."
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Postby crucifido on Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:48 pm

Another great team game.

Alright everyone, I'm gone until Friday night, so there won't be any write-up for the Spurs game (I'll be lucky if I get to see any of it). Have a good weekend and I'll talk to y'all after the Clippers game on Sunday the 16th.

By the way, I'll be at the game (Section 115, Row H, seats 1 & 2) if anyone can make it down to say hey, I'd love it!!!

Sharing The Wealth, Splitting The Burden

That was another good game - with more signs of what this team could do in the near future (hopefully nearer than most of us thought).

When you see Andrew play like this (sure it was against a predominantly shorter team, but nonetheless, a playoff team) it does give you pause as to exactly what he can accomplish a couple more years down the road.

The best thing about Andrew’s play, or at least the plays around him, was that the team began to look for him in the post a bit. It would’ve been great to see more touches for Andrew. He’s pretty close (as in a year or so) to the point of the ball needing to run through him on a good 2/3 of the half court sets. His passing has improved enough to where several times throughout the game everyone was passing into the post and moving off of his position to either get him a clearer shot, or moving to a spot where he could hit them. Most of the movement was for Andrew to go to work in the post, which isn’t a bad thing.

For a kid who barely played basketball until he got to the pros, he showed a couple moves (in particular the change of direction on Biedrins in the first half of the game that showed some veteran like poise. Though he’s far from being a seasoned vet, having those kinds of moves in your arsenal this early, and especially for a big man, is huge. For the first time in Andrew’s career the Lakers exploited his size in the middle. The alley-oop play from Fisher to Andrew in the 1st quarter is something the Lakers should be looking to use more often. With a lot of teams going fairly small in the middle, that reach that Andrew is quickly learning to use to his benefit should be exploited.

In this game Andrew was really sharp in recognizing open lanes (both passing and driving) and mismatches. Though there’s really nobody on the Warriors that gets close to his height and strength, he saw when he had a smaller man on him and made assertive moves to get to the hoop, rather than try a soft layup or shot from 3 or 4 feet. That assertion is showing some seriously improved strength.

Even stronger were the 5 blocks he put together. That’s nothing but a bonus at this stage of career. If he can average 2 blocks and 3 or 4 changed shots, things will be looking even further up in the middle for the Lakers. His flashing defense up top was on the money as well. O.K., enough Andrew talk.

Meanwhile, Kobe played a remarkable calm and sedate game for the amount of mysterious calls not going his way. The good thing about this one was that when Kobe was getting oddly gypped by the officials, he didn’t lose his cool and let it bring his game down. Instead, Kobe got crisper in his motions. You could see a noted difference in his cuts and off ball movement. To that end, maybe the strange refereeing was a blessing in disguise. Because when that crisp motion came from Kobe the rest of the Lakers followed suit. Whether most know it or not, this team does take on the demeanor of Kobe more often than not, as most teams will do with their leader.

Kobe did a great job of looking for the post as well. There was very little forcing it into the teeth of the defense. Finding the balance more in favor of drive and kicks or using his reputation to clear the post out a bit for Andrew is another huge step forward for Kobe and the Lakers. Again, a lot of it comes with ability to trust his teammates to get the job done consistently. But the first step is Kobe playing more team oriented ball in garbage, crunch and mid-game time, which he did very well.

The co-player of the game for me (aside from Andrew) was Ariza. The guy presents an interesting element to this team. The athletic length Ariza naturally has is something that wasn’t present on this team. Not only that, he knows how to use that wingspan to his advantage. Not but a couple seconds after coming into the game, it was his quick hands and reach that got him a steal and a bucket.

Better yet, Trevor’s presence of mind is on the money for such a young player. He rarely quits on a play or a loose ball. When he did get beat off the dribble, there was a concerted effort to immediately recover by going under the defense or along the baseline from strong to weak to get board position or to make another swipe at defending his man.

Offensively, the guy makes assertive moves to the middle. With or without the ball, he seems to have more of mind to run straight up the paint to get himself more space. For better or worse, there is little hesitation in his game. That is one of his strong points, but it sometimes serves to get him out of control a bit too. He’s more of freewheeling kind of player in a pretty structured system. But if Phil lets the reins go a bit with him (and it looked last night like that happened to some degree) Trevor could make a hard to handle position at the backup small forward.

I don’t know why Lamar waited until the end of the second quarter to start getting into the mix, but the good thing was that he did. He was finally taking open shots that were set or given to him. How many NBA players nowadays do you have to urge to take a shot? It’s a rare affliction, at best, for Odom.

Nevertheless, it was gratifying to see Odom take a low post pass and move hard to the rim. Maybe getting knocked to the floor a time or two will knock some aggression back into Lamar. Defensively he did a decent job in keeping Barnes off the boards and limiting his off ball movement to high post or arc spots.

Fisher was solid, as he has been all year. Moving Kobe over to Baron was obviously the smart move and helped Derek stay in the game a bit longer than he may have otherwise been able to. Shooting wise, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Derek so self-assured in his range. There’s not as much cringing from me when Fisher rears up from that 13 to 15 foot range.

Radmanovic did something particularly well in this one. He was holding his ground on high post defensive really well. There was very little give. Too often Vladi was backpedalling before someone would even fake a jab dribble at him. In this game there was backing down off his spot. Once he got up into someone outside, he stayed up on them. Lateral mobility will always be an issue with Vladi, but for the most part he was played one of the stronger defensive games in his Laker career.

Offensively, he’s been hitting his spots better and better. That’s something the whole team can learn. If you hit your spots this season you’ll more than likely get the ball. It’s when the Lakers go away from their set half court plays that things run amok. When everyone gets to where they should be, Radmanovic especially, good things have come of it.

Jordan was again strong off the bench. Still pushing the ball even ion traffic is getting defenses out of rhythm and letting the Lakers get some shots with the Warriors on their heels.

In the future the Lakers have still got to learn to play their pace. There were little spurts there when you could see the panicked ball handling come back to the Lakers. If they play within their pace and use their offensive sets to slow the pace to where they need it, everyone (big men in particular) will have more stamina and strength to finish games off)

One more thing, long shots against a running team do nothing but play into their game plan. Long shots equal long rebounds and with the way the Lakers are one handing or tapping a majority of hard to reach boards (using two hands is awesome by the way) that’s going to hurt them in the long run.
It was another well-timed game. With Luke hurting a bit and Kwame close to recovery, being able to leave them to rest their injuries was vital. It’s really vital now that the Spurs are coming up. Like them or not, they’re the NBA’s most efficient team and the Lakers need to be sharp.

Part of that sharpness will be being able to play with confidence. Team games like this one feed that confidence to the utmost. The Lakers will need team play and controlled ball handling to make a run against the Spurs. A win isn’t too much to ask, but getting that win will mean that everyone does like they did this game – work together, hit their spots and use that strength in the middle until it gets shut down.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
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