Archives For December 2004

Trade Talks

Kurt —  December 30, 2004

I have put off writing about potential Laker trades so far for two reasons: 1) We needed to see 20+ games from the team’s new configuration before forming opinions about what we should trade for; 2) Meaningful trades are rarely made before the first of the year anyway (this year had the exception to prove the rule).

But now we’re at a point I think we can start to have serious discussions along these lines. Problem is, I’m not sure if there are any good and realistic options out there.

I think the consensus is the Lakers’ top need is at the point guard — not another a shooter but a passer and defender. Second on the list would be a true power forward (both Brian Grant and Vlade could help here, but both have been injured and are at the tail end of their careers).

Lets take a look at the rumors floating around — some from legitimate media sources, some from talk radio. Please feel free to comment or add your own suggestions.

Lamar Odom to Chicago for Tyson Chandler, Ben Gordon and some other players/picks. This is one of my favorite ideas to play around with, because it would give the Lakers an up-and-coming point (who is stuck behind Hinrick) and an inside player. Both future Lakers have just one year left on their deals, so they could be resigned at a reasonable price (or let go if need be).

But, are you ready to give up on Lamar and Kobe being able to co-exist after less than half a season? Who is going to pick up the scoring this season (and in future ones) with Odom out? Are you willing to bet on the underachieving Chandler who has had some big injuries at a young age?

There are other variations of this trade to consider, something like Butler and Vlade for Eddie Curry and Gordon. I’m not sure why the Bulls would do this, unless they thought Butler would explode in their system. But there are other configurations to play with.

Devon George and Luke Walton to Cleveland Eric Snow. Getting Snow has been mentioned a lot lately and solves the point guard issue. Eric Snow has a pure point rating double any current Laker and an assist ratio near the top of the league. He can play defense — his oPER at the point is a good 12.8. After a blow up with the coach a month ago, he is (allegedly) in the doghouse in Cleveland and may well be available.

But this is far from perfect. Snow is not a great shooter — his eFG% is just 39.6%. Cleveland has actually performed better with him on the bench than on the floor. He’s not young (31) and his contract runs through 2009, starting at $5.4 million this season and building to $7.3 million four years from now.

And, that seems like a lot to give up to get him. The Lakers have small forwards to spare, but two-for-one to get Eric Snow?

Lamar Odom, Deavon George and Luke Walton to New Jersey for Jason Kidd. There’s no better point guard in the league than Kidd, and he’s said he wants a trade.

But there are more problems with this than the plot of 12 Monkeys. First, there’s all the problems mention a few paragraphs ago about getting rid of Lamar Odom (save that Kidd would pick up the scoring). Plus, could Kidd and Kobe both control the offense with just one basketball to go around? And, does Kidd really want to leave (or does New Jersey really want to trade him)? If I were an owner thinking of moving a team to Brooklyn and needed star power to fill the building, Kidd and Vince Carter would work pretty well.

Lamar Odom, Jumaine Jones and Luke Walton to New Orleans for Barron Davis. The former Bruin comes back home. He’s a great point and could give the Lakers 20ish points and 9ish assists per game. It would give Buss another marquee name to sell and fill the building.

Except, rebounding would suffer dramatically — this trade erases 14.3 rebounds per game from Los Angeles. There’s a question of whether Davis and Kobe — both of whom want the ball in their hands plenty — can co-exist. Also, I’m not sure that New Orleans wants to trade the guy they sold the team on in a new city away that quickly.

Luke Walton and Brian Cook to Boston for Marcus Banks. The Lakers almost had Banks before the season, but lost him when Rick Fox and Gary Payton freaked out at being dealt. In some ways that going through would have been the best thing for the Lakers, we’d know if the up-and-coming Banks was ready. However, looking at what people in Boston are saying Banks has been a more talented version of Tierre Brown this season — one moment great, the next moment looking like a rookie. It’s driven Doc Rivers crazy. Also, this trade is not likely to happen — Delonte West fractured his hand so Banks is the number two point guard in Boston for now and they can’t give him up.

So now what? Any good ideas out there?


Two quick side notes: 1) The possibilities of these trades were checked with REAL GM trade checker to see if the salaries matched and other CBA mandates were met. I recommend this site before floating the “trade Tierre Brown for Jason Kidd” ideas. 2) The best Laker trade writer going is Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld. If you like this stuff you need to read him — the rest of his work is first-rate too.

For The Record

Kurt —  December 30, 2004

In my preview of Tuesday’s game between the Lakers and Raptors, I mocked the Raptors posting a Playstation2 prediction of the score on their pregame home page.

The last laugh is on me. Playstation had the Lakers winning 110-99, and Kobe being the game’s high scorer with 28. The real final score was 117-99 — Playstation got the Raptors score exactly right — and Kobe was the game’s high scorer, although he had 48.

I’m hoping that as part of next year’s Playstation2 NBA package, there will be team bloggers you can read.

It’s All About Ball Control

Kurt —  December 29, 2004

Throughout this season many Laker watchers — myself included — have harped on the volume of three-pointers taken, the poor shot selection and the lack of flow in the offense as problems. And they are.

But when you look at the numbers, it’s not the Lakers offense that’s holding them back — it’s the defense. Or, lack thereof. More specifically, the lack of aggressive defense that causes turnovers, combined with their inability to hold on to the ball at their own end, that is hurting the Lakers.

The Lakers offense isn’t as bad as it appears at times, especially when you look at the key offensive statistics. The Lakers eFG% of 49% this season is sixth best in the NBA. They are getting offensive rebounds on 30.1% of their missed shots, 11th best in the league. Thanks in large part to Kobe’s penetration, the Lakers shoot 27.7 free throws per game, fifth best in the league. The one problem spot is turnovers, the Lakers average 16.2 per game, which puts them in the bottom half of the league.

Overall, that gives the Lakers 105.4 points per 100 possessions, sixth best offensive efficiency in the NBA. They could take more advantage of that by picking up the pace of the games — they are averaging 93.1 possessions per game, up just one from last season.

Defense is another matter entirely. The Lakers are allowing 102.9 points per 100 possessions by their opponents, ranking them 24th in the league behind the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

It’s not that other teams are shooting terribly well against the Lakers, opponents eFG% is 46.4, eighth best in the league. Although it doesn’t seem like it at times, the Lakers do not give up an inordinate amount of offensive rebounds (29%, 16th in the league). They don’t foul much, they are fourth in the league allowing opponents just 20.1 free throws per game.

But the Lakers are dead last in the league — by a wide margin — at creating turnovers. Opponents average just 12.5 against them per game, the next lowest team (Minnesota) gets 14 per game.

What this means is that the Lakers average almost 4 more turnovers per game then the team they are playing. Saying the average possession is worth a point, that is an eight-point swing every game.

That lack of ball control on one end and inability to create steals at the other stems from the lack of a true point guard. You can see it watching almost every game — last night Rafer Alston looked like he merited All-Star votes with 13 points and 11 assists, driving past the defense at will.

Last night was a perfect example of this issue. The Lakers had 10 first-quarter turnovers, and trailed at the end of it as the Raptors got out and ran. The Lakers had no second-quarter turnovers, and by halftime they had the lead.

That kind of quarter-to-quarter inconsistency has us Laker fans pulling our hair out (well, those of you that have hair). But in the end, if they’d just take care of the ball and pick up the defensive aggressiveness, a lot of these problems would go away.

The New Stats, Part Deux

Kurt —  December 29, 2004

With no Laker games until Sunday, this is a good time for some reflection and breakdowns of the team and its coaching thus far. But to do that properly, I believe I should lay down a little more foundation of the new statistical thinking in the NBA (call it “basketball money ball” or “NBA sabermetrics” or whatever you like).

The first piece I did on this was basically a glossary of terms, this time I will focus more on basic theory and application. While some of this may seem simplistic at first (the concepts are simple), we are building toward something. (It should be noted that what I’m talking about here is based on the work of other people, such as Dean Oliver, and places you can find more information are listed at the end of the article and in the links to the left.)

Let’s start with the most basic of questions: What wins basketball games? Obviously, scoring more points than your opponents — it’s been that way since the day James Naismith nailed up the peach baskets. However, by the basic rules of basketball, you and your opponents will have the same number of possessions per game, so what really is the key is being more efficient in your possessions than your opponent. (This concept is mentioned near the end of the first stats article I did.)

The best way to compare offenses and defenses is on a level playing field, usually 100 possessions (which is slightly more than in the average NBA game). For example, so far this season, for each 100 possessions the Lakers are averaging 105.4 points, sixth best in the league. However, they are giving up 102.9 points per 100 possessions to their opponents, an unimpressive 20th in the league.

Points per possession is a better barometer of a team than points scored per game because the latter is influenced by the pace games are played at (pace can be measured seperately). The Lakers are offensively efficient with their possessions, but because they average just 93.3 possessions per game (19th in the league, so much for the return to “Showtime”) they are averaging 98.4 ppg. (10th in the league).

If you take the difference between what a team scores per 100 possessions and allows per 100 possessions you come up with a spread that gives you a pretty good picture of who is playing the best ball in the league. Right now, the top five (according to Stats Pimp and that site’s in-house calculations) are San Antonio, Phoenix, Seattle, Dallas and Miami.

The next logical question is what factors lead to scoring on a possession? And, its corollary question, what can be done to stop an opponent from scoring?

Dean Oliver, in his groundbreaking book Basketball on Paper, says there are really only four ways to create offense on the team level: shoot accurately, don’t turn the ball over, grab offensive rebounds, and get to the free throw line. These things are not equal — shooting efficiency is twice as important and limiting turnovers and getting offensive rebounds. Getting to the free throw line is the least important.

That said, the teams that do these things well are successful. The five most efficient shooting teams (using eFG%, of course) this season are Phoenix, Miami, Seattle, San Antonio and Minnesota — the cream of the NBA crop.

How well you defend those four areas gives a good picture of a team’s defense. The five teams playing the best shooting defense (limiting opponents eFG%) are San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, Miami and Dallas. (I know seeing Chicago on the list is odd, but the Bulls play great defense, allowing opponents to score just 98.2 points per 100 possessions. The problem is they score only 94.6.)

Breakdowns of the four areas highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your team play at both ends of the floor.

There’s a lot more information on basketball statistics out there — things like value over replacement and efforts to predict how much better (or worse) an individual player will be in the coming year. Check out places like 82games, Stats Pimp or Knickerblogger on the Web, or buy the Basketball Forecast book put out by John Hollinger (it used to be called Basketball Prospectus, and it is the equivalent to Baseball Prosepectus) to find out more.

Update: The Soncis and Dean Oliver got an interesting write-up in the mainstream press this week. (Thanks to Knickerblogger for posting this.)

On Tap: The Toronto Raptors

Kurt —  December 28, 2004

If we use Playstation2 as our Nostradamus, then the Lakers should win 110-99 tonight.

The Raptors are the only team I’ve run across to list the results of a Playstation match up on their game preview page. But I guess it makes sense — with what’s left in Toronto, you’d probably rather play a video game than watch your real team.

After the Vince Carter trade (which was about cap space down the line), here is your Raptor starting five: Rafer Alston at the point, Morris Peterson at the two, Eric Williams playing the three, Chris Bosh at power forward and Loren Woods at center. Only Alston, at 17.28, has a PER above the league average of 15. Only with Peterson on the floor has the team performed better than when any of the starters are on the bench.

The team’s biggest name player, Jalen Rose, was benched last week. He dealt with it in a classy fashion, showing up to the meeting with coaches dressed in all black — including black earrings. Reports said he “looked disinterested while scoring just four points” in the first two games after the switch, but in the team’s game two nights ago in Phoenix he came off the bench to play 29 minutes — more than all but one starter — and led the team with 19 points.

Maybe the Raptor’s best player coming off the bench has been Donyell Marshall, who has a team-higher PER of 19.55 and is averaging 10.9 point and 6.5 rebounds per game. Coming out of a game where the Lakers got just 4 points out of their bench, and facing a team with Rose and Marshall, the Lakers need the back ups to step up.

As has been the case often in recent games, the best place for the Lakers to attack the Raptors is inside — they have very high oPERS of 18.8 at the four and 18.7 at the five. The Lakers need to get the ball on the block to Lamar Odom early and let him set the pace. Chris Mihm, who has worked hard in recent games, may get rewarded with some buckets to tonight.

That said, this should be another big scoring night for Kobe. For the season, the Raptors have been weak in guarding the two (15.9 oPER), although part of that was Vince Carter was often disinterested in playing defense. The problem for the Raptors is his replacement, Peterson, has an oPER of 18.7 against fellow off guards. Kobe should be able to take him off the dribble and get to the hole without any big bodies in his way (like he saw against Memphis and Miami).

Offensively the Raptors average about two more possessions per game than the Lakers but they are not terribly efficient with them — for every 100 possessions the Raptors average 101.6 points (the Lakers average 104.8). Both teams are near the bottom of the league in just about every defensive statistic.

Rafer Alston should have a good game as the Lakers continue to struggle with good point guards. And Alston is the kind of point the Lakers could use — a pure point with a great assist-to-turnover ratio — the Raptors average the second fewest turnovers per game in the NBA. Combine that with the Lakers being dead last in the league in creating turnovers and I think the Raptors may have single-digit turnovers tonight.

I’m not sure any December game can be a “must win,” but the Lakers could really use this one. The reason is that after the first of the year, the schedule gets tough for a while — Denver, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, Denver and Cleveland are the Lakers next seven. Or, look at this from Stats Pimp: Laker opponents faced so far have a combined 0.452 adjusted record, the 4th easiest schedule in the NBA. The next 10 opponents have a combined 0.545 adjusted record, the 5th most difficult stretch over the next 10 games across the league.

Tonight is the kind of game and match ups the Lakers should win handily. Whether they do or not will be a good test of their growing maturity, or lack thereof.


Kurt —  December 28, 2004

ESPN is reporting that the Denver Nuggets have fired coach Jeff Bdzelik and given the interim job to former Laker Michael Cooper.

I’m happy for Coop, the former Pasadena City College star, who in recent years coached the Sparks of the WNBA to two league titles and has been eager for an NBA head job for a while (he was a Laker assistant under Magic Johnson and Del Harris). This could be a good one if he can turn the Nuggets around — last year they were everyone’s darlings but this season they are 13-15 and would be out of the playoffs as the 10 seed (they are 2 games back of the Lakers, three in the loss column).

Coop’s got his work cut out for him. While Denver has Nene, Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony, they have no scoring threat from the outside (an eFG% of 39.8% on jump shots, which accounts for 63% of their shots taken). Injuries have slowed them early, but that doesn’t explain why they can’t play defense — teams have an eFG% against them of 49.8%.

“This is tough, but my goal now is to get us playing a little better,” Cooper said. “We’ll concentrate on defense and just try to continue the winning ways this team ended last season and sort of started with at the beginning of the season.”

Maybe Coop can get them to play the kind of shutdown defense and outside shooting he was known for back in the day. I hope so; I’d love to see him succeed.

Christmas Day For Hoop Fans

Kurt —  December 27, 2004

You know how on Christmas Day you open that one present that makes you ohh and ahh (and makes you wish you’d bought that person something better than a salad spinner), but three months later its another present that you use every day.

Well, while the Lakers and Heat provided the ohhs and ahhs on Christmas Day, Knickerblogger has given basketball fans — and those of us fans of who are fans of the new stats in basketball — something we (or at least I) will use almost daily.

Knickerblogger’s got a new statistics page — one that keeps track of all the new stats I mention often but can be hard to find, broken down by team and with league leaders. There are not only the basics like PER and eFG% but also things like statistical measures of a players ability to create his own shot, pure point guard ratings and more.

It’s a wealth of information compiled and crunched by one man — a yeoman’s amount of work. There’s a reason it’s the other NBA blog I think is a must read, even if you’re not a Knicks fan.

And, in the course of the long break between Tuesday’s game and the next one the following Sunday, we’ll look at the Lakers through 26 games in detail using this new information plus the info over at Stats Pimp.


A couple of other quick notes today:

• Ah, what a little drama and conflict can bring. Did you see that the Lakers/Heat game drew the largest national television audience for a regular-season NBA game since 1998 (back in the Jordan era)? People in an estimated 8.5 million households tuned out the family and tuned in the game on Christmas. In Los Angeles it drew an insane 17.0 rating (meaning about 900,000 households tuned in) and 44% of the households in the city with the television on had the channel on the game.

• The bottom line out of Saturday’s game, the Heat players fit and know their roles better than the Lakers players do.

• Rudy T. needs to find a way to get more of the offense running through Lamar Odom, and Kobe needs to let it happen. Notice in the overtime Saturday Odom had eight points and Kobe none.

• Last week the L.A. Times weighed in on the NBA and hip-hop, today it’s Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who has some interesting thoughts.

My Christmas Day Diary

Kurt —  December 26, 2004

In an absolute rip-off of the Sports Guy, here is my minute-by-minute diary from Christmas Day. (Well, not the entire day, unless you want to read about how many times you have to change a six-month-old’s diapers in an afternoon. This just covers game time, sparing you some ugly descriptions of smells.)

12:10: I sit down on the couch, granted a three-hour no-baby-care window by my wife so I can watch the game we’ve all been waiting for. The problem is we’re supposed to be at my brother’s condo in Hollywood — 40 minutes away from me in Redondo Beach — at 3 p.m., which is just about when this game should end. I’ve already got the reputation as the guy in the family who shows up late for everything, but I’d like not to be too late.

12:17: In his pre-game analyzation Hubie Brown says the Lakers need to “play their age.” I have no idea what that means, but he’s a basketball guru so they should do that.

12:19: Shaq gets a nice, if mixed, standing ovation. Glad to see it, he didn’t deserve to be booed. A minute later Mike Tirico chimes in to tell us it was a 37-second standing ovation. Would love to have been in on that production meeting. “So, Mike, you’ve got the stopwatch on Shaq’s ovation? Great! The fans need to know that.”

12:20: We get to watch the cameras focused huge pieces of cloth where the Laker highlights are being shown. It’s dark and bad television for 60 seconds. How about this in the production meetings — rather than worry about the stopwatch, try to get any videos the Lakers may show before the game.

12:24: Has there been anything as over-hyped since Al Capone’s Vaults as the pre-game handshake between Shaq and Kobe?

12:25: The first two trips down the court, Kobe drives right at Shaq, making one and missing one. So much for the recent trend of getting Odom involved early. I get the feeling today is going to “all Kobe, all the time” radio.

12:29: The Lakers have just hit three-pointers on their last three trips down the court, giving them the early lead. I’m not happy. When they hit early threes they stop penetrating or moving and spend the game just looking for them. They’ve done it all season. I was hoping that for this game the bad habits from the rest of the season would disappear, but apparently not.

12:30: The Lakers are now five of five from three point range. If they can shoot 100% for the game from out there, this strategy could work.

12:31: You know things are going well when Chris Mihm hits a running jumper over Shaq. 19-11 Lakers, who look fired up.

12:37: The first Coach Carter ad. I wonder how that movie ends?

12:40: Dwayne Wade gets his second foul on Kobe, with 4:25 in the first. If I had a bigger ego, I’d say somebody was listening to me. This, Laker fans, is the problem with Kobe at the point — he can’t defend really quick guards without getting fouls. (I still think they should use it, at least at times.) The Heat should keep going back to this well, the Lakers need to make a switch and get Kobe off Wade.

12:46: Kobe, and Shaq, go to the bench.

12:48: With Kobe on the bench, Lamar Odom becomes an aggressive floor leader. He needs to be more like this when Kobe is still on the floor.

12:53: Coming out of commercial is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while: Luke Walton rips his father on national television, saying his fondest Christmas memory is how Bill would get free stuff over the course of the year — “Power Bars and NBA-logo T-shirts” — then wrap them and give them to the kids. As much as tickets to this game cost, it would have been worth it if you could have seen Bill’s face as that aired.

12:55: Kobe and Shaq are back and Kobe continues to drive right at him. At least this time he got a foul on the big guy.

12:58: Hubie Brown says, “Every time the Lakers drive into the paint good things happen, so you wish they’d stop settling for threes.” It took Hubie just a little over a quarter to get to the core problem with the Lakers offense right now. If he can see it so plainly, why can’t Rudy T. or the players? (Well, Hubie is a guru, but still.)

1:04: Sometimes you forget just how quick Shaq is for a big man. He just blew past Mihm.

1: 15: The crowd erupts on a high-flying, one arm dunk by none other than — Chris Mihm?!? He’s playing another better-than-I-expected game.

1:20: This is a really entertaining game. I expected to be let down, but this is fun.

1:22: Odom just abused Christian Laettner. The offense just looks smoother when it runs through him, everybody moves rather than just hovering around the three-point arch.

1:26: Kobe picks up his third foul. Miami should have whoever he is guarding (it’s not Wade anymore, mostly Eddie Jones) go right at him.

1:27: Laettner scores as time runs out in the half, and I can’t help but have Duke flashbacks. The good news for me is this game has been going pretty quickly, I’m not going to be too late to my brother’s.

1:40: ABC’s halftime interview is called “Access Amahad.” That is enough to drive me to the fridge for a beer, even though I said I wouldn’t drink today until I had to start dealing with my parents.

1:51: This is the kind of thing you can only see if you stop and rewind with TiVo. On a free-throw attempt by Eddie Jones, Odom and Jumaine Jones are on either side of Shaq and want to box him out. When the shot comes off the iron Shaq steps back and Jones and Odom just crash into each other. Great stuff.

1:55: ABC just flashed a stat that said Odom has 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting. So, what happens the next time down? Kobe shoots a three without trying to penetrate. And you wonder why the offense looks sad.

1:56: A hustle play by Mihm draws the third foul on Shaq.

1:57: ABC just went to commercial with “The Way We Were” as the background music. As a rule, Streisand should never be played at an NBA game. Never.

2:01: Jumaine Jones is doing a good job covering Dwyane Wade. Part of it may be that Wade’s leg is bothering him, but Jones is doing a better job than Kobe was.

2:03: Wade just hit an impressive reverse lay-up. I take back anything I said about his leg.

2:04: In an amazing coincidence, Samuel L. Jackson, star of the Disney movie “Coach Carter” has got courtside seats with the REAL coach Carter for this game shown on a Disney-owned network.

This kind of modern cross-promotion drives me nuts, but at least Jackson is a hoops fan and a Laker regular. It’s better than when the cast of “Malcolm in the Middle” shows up with great seats for a Yankees World Series game.

2:11: The quarter ends and that was one of the better quarters the Lakers have played overall this year. They’re up by 4. I’m feeling optimistic about getting a win and getting to my brother’s at a reasonable time.

2:16: Jumaine Jones hits a three to give the Lakers a 7-point lead. This seems a good time to mention that the Lakers got only 4 points from their bench in this game.

2:19: Shaq blocks an Atkins shot and I can see why Miami is doing so well this year — Shaq is playing defense like he did in 2000 and 2001.

2:30: This has been a fun game to watch — the Lakers are up by 4, 86-82, which helps I guess, but really this has been an entertaining match up. I know I’ve said this before, but it needed repeating.

2:31: Shaq gets foul number 4 because Mihm out-hustled him to a rebound.

2:35: That’s foul number 5 on Shaq as Kobe goes right at him. The Lakers need to exploit this, start driving and passing into the paint every time down.

2:37: It’s 89-89 now and any confidence I had before is gone because in crunch time the Heat have two options — three if you count Eddie Jones — and the Lakers will never leave option #1.

2:40: Great drive by Kobe to get the sixth foul on Shaq. That is a huge advantage for us — it’s 91-91 but my confidence in getting a win and getting to my brother’s at a reasonable time is back.

2:45: Kobe just picked up his fourth foul. He has to be careful, his loss to the Lakers would be bigger than Shaq’s to the Heat.

2:48: Tied at 94-94, one minute left, Lakers have the ball. Please, go into the lane, no fade-away threes. There’s no Shaq in there, go to the hole.

2:50: That may have been the worst single possession of the season. Laker after Laker drives into the lane but, rather than looking shot first, they are looking dish-out for the three first. The Heat don’t buy it and stay out on the perimeter players and dare the Lakers to shoot inside. They don’t — 24-second shot clock violation. I’m feeling sick to my stomach. And I haven’t even had my brother’s cooking yet.

2:51: Christian Laettner out hustles the taller Laker team on the floor, giving the Heat the last two shots of the game. I’m really feeling ill.

2:52: Wade misses, for once. We go to overtime.

2:55: Still no Shaq for OT. Will we get the ball to Odom in the low block and try to take advantage of this?

12:56: Eddie Jones and Odom trade quick baskets.

2:57: Wade scores on an impressive spin move. Then steals the ball and leads the break, dishing to Eddie Jones for a long two. The Lakers are down by four. Of all their weaknesses, I didn’t think transition defense would be the one that kills them today, but the Heat have gone small and we’re just watching them run the floor.

3:01: I’m now officially late for the family Christmas party, depriving the first-time grandparents of time with their favorite person. Plus, the Laker offense now consists of Kobe shooting fade-away threes while double-teamed. I’m not feeling good about anything right now.

3:03: Odom hits a three on penetration with a kick-out pass. How did the Heat not see that coming?

3:04: Lakers down by 2 with 45 seconds left in OT and the ball. Please get a good shot.

3:05: Shockingly, the Lakers drove the lane with the intent of kicking-out for the three. Nobody was buying it. We didn’t score.

3:06: The final Heat possession and the Lakers are playing good defense, although the Heat don’t appear to care if they score or not.

3:08: Last shot of the game time. Rudy T. is drawing up a play in the timeout. Three seconds left and down by two. My fervent prayer — there’s more than just one option. Kobe, don’t be afraid to pass.

3:10: Kobe misses a fade-away three over a double team. Chucky Atkins stands alone in the corner with an open look and can do nothing but watch it clank off the rim. Game over.

3:13: Can we move past the Kobe/Shaq thing and get on with our season now? That’s what I want for Christmas.