Archives For March 2005

Fast Break

 —  March 16, 2005

Another busy day at work, so here are some quick thoughts.

• Why, if Kobe has a good first quarter, does the rest of this team seem to go in a funk? We’ve talked about Kobe needing to get other players involved early, but there will be nights when he’s hot early and the rest of the team needs to step up later and they never seem to.

• Sasha was a +12 against the Sixers and Luke was +11, and while some of that came in garbage time some did come against the Philly starters near the start of the fourth quarter. The zone defense they went to helped.

• Lately I’ve needed to keep reminding myself that the moves last summer — keeping Kobe and trading Shaq — were moves that looked ahead three years and were not going to help the Lakers this year.

• I also kept telling myself that I was hoping for 3-3 on this road trip, and so far they are 2-2. The bad news is the last three games have been defensive disasters, the Lakers were just lucky to win one of them.

• I fear that Thursday night in Miami could be another blowout. Check out this note from ESPN.com’s Mark Stein: Miami hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Feb. 1. The Heat’s only two losses in the past 17 games came in overtime — and both without Shaq.

• The guy with the front-line job of stopping Shaq — Chris Mihm — has a sore back that has limited his play lately.

•One other thing about Shaq is you can always count on him for a clever quote (and you wonder why the media likes him better than Kobe). This one is pretty funny.

• The Lakers have used 243 different lineups this season, according to the Dallas Maverick’s stats people. That puts the Lakers toward the bottom half of the league — Charlotte has used the most at 597 and Seattle has used the least at 170.

• Apropos of nothing else, the book I’m reading right now, 1968 by Mark Kurlansky.

On Tap: The Philadelphia 76ers

 —  March 15, 2005

Tonight I hope to see Frank Hamblen’s Lakers take the court, because last night I could have swore I watched the Rudy T. Lakers — and their 34 three point attempts. I kept rewinding TiVo to see if Rudy T. was wearing a Kurt Rambis mask and taking his place on the bench, but there was no compelling evidence to prove my theory. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

For the past five quarters the Lakers have moved away from the triangle. The problem with that is they had success in the fourth quarter in Charlotte so they moved farther away and closer to the isolation-and-three offense of earlier this season in Washington. In part, this move was pushed by Washington’s pressure defense, but the Lakers didn’t fight through it. The result was shooting 40.9% (eFG%) for the game and an ugly loss.

Tonight is a match up of two teams battling to make the playoffs (Philly is 1.5 games back of the eighth playoff spot in the East) with both needing this win.

The 76ers probably thought they were playoff bound when at the trade deadline they picked up Chris Webber. But in the last 10 since the trade they are just 4-6 (Webber has been there for nine of them and they are 4-5).

Offensively, the 76ers have been a little better since the trade. They are shooing 48.5% (eFG%) in their last 10, compared to 47.2% for the season. Their offensive efficiency is 102.4 (points per 100 possessions), compared to 100.6 for the season.

Defensively, however, they have gotten worse. In the last 10 games, teams are shooting 51.1% against Philadelphia, compared to 49.1% for the season. Their defensive efficiency in the past 10 is 105.1 (close to the Lakers 105.8 for the season) compared to their season average of 102.2.

The Lakers can try to exploit this defense tonight by going right at Webber. He and his bad knees can’t cover Lamar Odom and his quickness. If the Lakers are going to go away from the triangle tonight, isolation plays with Odom are the way to go.

The Lakers will need to show up defensively tonight as well, particularly in transition. Look for Philadelphia to push the ball, they have the second-highest average number of possessions per game in the league, 97.8, trailing only Phoenix (98.6).

Obviously, stopping the 76ers starts with playing good perimeter defense on Allen Iverson. He has a PER of 23.8 this season (ninth best in the NBA). He is averaging 28.5 points per 40 minutes but is only shooting 44.6% (eFG%) for the season. For comparison, Kobe has a PER of 24.01, is scoring 27.2 points per 40 minutes and shooting 47% for the season.

One other Sixer to watch is Lakewood-born Kyle Korver, who is shooting 56.2% this season and leads the Sixers with 1.17 points per shot attempt thanks to his proficiency from beyond the arc (40%) and good free throw shooting (87.3%). (The highest Laker in PSA is Atkins at 1.15.)

With tough games in Miami and Indiana looming, the Lakers need to win tonight to make sure they finish the road trip at least 3-3. I just hope Rudy T. isn’t hiding on the bench again.

Carnival Time

 —  March 15, 2005

Busy day at work for me, I’ll get the 76er preview/Wizards recap up as soon as I can. Not that we really want to relive last night.

In the short term, check out what everyone around the NBA is saying with the Bulls Blog Carnival posting. It’s a great review of other NBA blogs — you can see why the people in Boston are happy right now and the fans in San Antonio aren’t that worried about the Suns. (What they should worry about is Duncan’s knees.)

Another good read is over at Hoopsworld.com, where Eric Pincus has his latest article up looking at the Lakers down the stretch.

The realist admits it’ll be tough for LA to make the playoffs, but they have a legit chance. If they play well enough, they’ll likely get a first round match up with the Spurs. Maybe they win a couple of games, but it’ll probably be an early summer for the Lakers in either case.

On a separate note, a big change is coming to this blog in the next week or so. Nothing to worry about yet, but when it happens, you’ll be the first to know.

On Tap: The Washington Wizards

 —  March 14, 2005

Things were off and running earlier this season in Washington D.C., but like the president’s Social Security plans, things have slowed down of late for the Wizards. And it hasn’t been good for either of them.

So far this season the Wizards are averaging 97.1 possession per game, the fourth fastest pace in the league. They take 44% of their shots within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, and shoot 51.8% (eFG%) on those. The Lakers got a first-hand view of that earlier this season when the Wizards dropped 116 points on the Lakers (and won).

However, in their last 10 games the Wizards are averaging 93.6 possessions per game. The slower pace and lack of easy buckets has hurt their shooting — as a team they are shooting just 44.1% during that span (down from 46.7% for the season). The result, the Wizards are 3-7 in those last 10.

Part of the problem is the “Big Three” in Washington — Larry Hughes (22.85 PER), Gilbert Arenas (21.93) and Antawn Jamison (16.66, he is not 100% physically right now). Back when they last played the Lakers, those three accounted for 92 of the Wizards 116 points. However, in the last 10 games, those three are shooting 43.4%, and as they take the bulk of the Wizard’s shots the team is struggling.

They will try to get healthy against a porous Lakers defense ranked 27th in the league in efficiency, giving up 105.8 points per 100 possessions. With the Wizards’ strength being the backcourt and dribble penetration, they play right into a Laker weakness.

Despite their defense the Lakers have won the first two games on this road trip, led by Kobe Bryant, who is shooting 52.1% in his last 10 games. The two possessions the Wizards have struggled to stop this season have been point guard (16.9 opponents PER) and center (16.6), so this is a night Atkins and Mihm can step up big.

My guess is, just like the other night in Charlotte, this one should be fast paced and entertaining. That said, the Lakers would do well to slow down the Wizards, who shoot just 38.6% on jump shots. Besides just slowing them down, the Lakers need to stop the dribble penetration of Washington.

I said going into this six-game road trip the Lakers needed to be at least 3-3 when they get back home to stay in it, and getting off to a 2-0 start has been huge. Get a split of the back-to-back tonight and against the 76er tomorrow and the Lakers can reach that goal with games to spare. Including that little game in Miami Thursday.

Some NCAA Hoops

 —  March 14, 2005

Have you filled out your bracket yet? I just started mine (I run the office pool here, forcing me to get a jump on this) and at first blush here are my final four: Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina, which seems a little ACC heavy but they seem to have the best teams and best paths through. I’ll take the Tar Heels to win it all. I also really like UConn, but I can’t see them beating North Carolina in the Elite Eight. I’d like to see Gonzaga beat Wake Forest, but I can’t pick that either. And is Washington really a #1 seed?

As for UCLA, um… the fact they made it should be a victory in itself. Using the best college hoops stat sight around (offensive and defensive efficiency stats at your fingertips), Bobby Knight’s Red Raiders are 25th in the nation in defense (UCLA is 56th) and they are 50th in offense (the Bruins are 68th). So the other team has better offense and defense, well, in just one game anything can happen.

When your filling out your bracket and trying to figure out if Niagara is any good, log on to kenpom.com’s college stats page — click on a team and it will give you similar teams. For UCLA those teams are Mississippi State and Buffalo. Also, check out the Yoco College Hoops Blog, which will give you more information.

Not that all this is going to save your bracket, or mine.