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