Problems? What Problems?

 —  January 20, 2005

Last night is the kind of confidence boosting win the Lakers needed — beating a team they are fighting with for playoff position. Now, if we follow form, we will squander that next game out, but I’m not going to let that dampen my spirits. It was an entertaining game with so many things to like, I’ll try to keep the negative down today.

I liked the new starting lineup — not as much because Caron Butler was at the two as Jumaine Jones at the three. Check out the Roland Ratings on the Lakers and notice Jones leads the team, even Kobe — when Jones is on the floor good things happen. He ran the floor in transition and he played good defense. Rudy T. should stick with this for a while.

For all my frustrations, this may be the happiest I’ve been with Rudy T.’s in-game management. I’d still like to see Mihm in at the end of games for defensive reasons, but we got some stops and i’m only looking on the bright side today, so that’s all the airing this topic gets.

The Lakers played defense — for the first time since Kobe went down they held a team below its season average in eFG% (Minnesota’s was just 42.6%). Garnett and Szczerbiak shot the ball well, no surprise there, but the Lakers let Sprewell take more shots than any of his teammates and the strategy worked — Spree was just 35.1% eFG%.

Chucky Atkins can be a true point guard. Him scoring 25 is not a shock — his scoring has never been his problem — but it was the penetration and 11 assists that we hadn’t seen before. He pushed the ball up in transition. This was the kind of performance we’ve needed at the point all year — not the scoring but everything else. His best game of the year and he provided the funniest moment of the night — on the ESPN feed they had a mic on one of the refs, and during a break he came up to Atkins and said, “I knew you were good but I didn’t know you were that good.” Classic.

Lamar had key buckets down the stretch and was solid — but that end-of-the-first-quarter foul was stupid (for those that forgot, the Lakers had a foul to give and Lamar took it). That’s not a foul your star player makes — Kobe and Lamar should never take that foul. In this case it was Lamar’s second and he didn’t have any extra considering he was guarding KG. And, KG took advantage of this late and blew around Lamar and there was nothing he could do. (By the way, some weak-side help defensively would have been nice in that situation, but Mihm was sitting on the bench.)

By the way, Brian Grant and Chris Mihm played at the same time last night. It was more because of Lamar’s foul trouble, but hopefully Rudy T. liked it (he should have) and we’ll see it again.

How confident is Sasha — asking for a clear out against KG? Then taking him to the hole and hitting the shot? Those are some big brass ones, my friend. That said, his way-to-upright man-to-man defense is something other teams are looking to exploit — the T-Wolves went right at him every time. Even Fred Hoiberg — the guy who leads the league with 98% (52 of 53) of his made baskets before last night coming off an assist from a teammate — took Sasha to the hole on the dribble. However, our rookie is only going to get better playing. I like how the minutes broke out — Sasha had 22 and Tierre 9. And I like Sasha coming off the bench for now, allowing Rudy T. to pick better defensive matchups for him.

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