Archives For February 2006

On Tap: The Orlando Magic

Kurt —  February 28, 2006

Record: 20-35 (21-34 Pythagorean), 11th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 1-9
Offensive Rating: 105.9 (19th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 109.4 (25th in the league)

Reaching Goals: Back on Feb. 9, I wrote that the Lakers had one of the softer parts of their schedule coming up for the next 10 games and this was the chance to solidify that playoff position and really start to make a run to the post season. I said they should go 7-3.

Their record so far, 3-4. Left is Orlando tonight, at Portland and at Golden State.

Laker news: Von Wafer has been sent down to Fort Worth of the D-League. This is good, he needs the playing time if he’s going to become and NBA level-player, and he’s not getting it up with the big club (nor should he).

I hope he works out, but it still leaves the question: What is it with Mitch K. and skinny shooting guards who don’t play defense? We get one every draft, it seems.

The Magic coming in: Orlando should be a good team — in 2008. They aren’t right now. They do have the best sophomore in the league in Dwight Howard, but he is not old enough to legally order a Jack and Coke, let alone carry this team.

After the big trade, they don’t have Stevie Franchise in the backcourt as a threat, but that was a smart trade for two reasons: 1) Orlando will have a lot of cap space after next season to build with; 2) Jameer Nelson is a good young point guard (a PER of 18.7, compared to say Smush at 13.0, where the league average is 15) and he should be given the keys to the car so he can learn.

Last time these two hooked up the Lakers won while Chris Mihm was 8 of 9 from the floor and looked like an All-Star. It helped that Howard twisted his ankle two minutes in and never returned to the floor, so Mihm was covered by Tony Battie (who is really a four). This time around he may also be covered by Darko Milicic, who has been a nice +4.5 (per 48 minutes) since coming to Florida. Watch out for Carlos Arroyo, who has torn it up since coming to town — shooting 57.8% (eFG%) and has a PER of 25.7 so far.

Keys to a Laker win: The Magic are 25th in the league in defensive efficiency, so the Lakers should be able to score plenty. The Magic are weakest defending the point and the four, so again this is a game Odom, Cook and Smush should back Kobe up with big games.

But scoring was really never the question. Orlando is 19th in the league in offense, which means the Lakers should — should — be able to keep them in check and win handily. The Lakers should get a little fat this Tuesday.

The problem is, when they win handily they seem to take the next game off. Still, I think we could all use an easy win before a couple of road games.

Prime Ticket returns

Kurt —  February 27, 2006

Prime Ticket, the cable station that was once home to the champion Laker teams as well as the Dodgers and Kings for so many years will be back in April. Technically, it’s still FSN2, but they are rebranding it as Prime Ticket after some consumer studies that showed people remember Prime Ticket fondly and the Fox corporation, well, not so much.

All of which is good by me if they bring back those stylish 1980s graphics.

A Tale of Two Games

Kurt —  February 27, 2006

The game against Sacramento may have been the best of times, the Lakers played defense for 48 minutes, ran the offense smoothly, other players besides Kobe stepped up and they handily beat a team chasing them in the playoff hunt.

The Boston loss may have been the worst of times. Defense? Ha. The Lakers let a team that shoot’s an already good 50.2% (eFG%) for the season improve on that to 56%.

I feel like I’m repeating myself lately, talking about defensive intensity, but what else is the main difference between those two games?

Some will look at last night and point their fingers at Kobe saying he was just 11 of 23 from the field, but that ignores him going 15 of 17 from the line. When you look at his points per shot attempt — which is what true shooting percentage is — he looks good, 65%. Frankly, the entire team isn’t bad, take away Kobe and they have a respectable TS% of 53.4%.

Ah, but the Celtics had a TS% of 60.4% as a team. That is bad defense. Horrible really, considering how banged up the Celtics are and that they are on the end of a West Coast road trip. Some props to the Celtics here, who showed up and played hard, something a lot of teams would not have done. How can the Lakers, over the course of a season, not defend so many back-door cuts and off-the-ball pick plays?

And they still could have won if, just to name two: Lamar Odom hits more than 2 of his 7 free throws; on the last play of the game, Luke Walton passes to a wide-open Odom under the basket (he had shaken Wally off a pick) rather than passing to the double-teamed Kobe for an almost impossible shot.

That last play shows just how much the Lakers rely on Kobe, and how they need to start trusting other people to take those key shots. I knew they were going to pass to Kobe, you knew it, the Celtics all knew it, even cricket fans in Pakistan knew where that ball was going to end up.

But while the last play was unfortunate, the game was lost long before that.

At the end of last season, what we said about the Lakers was “if they only played defense.” If this Laker team doesn’t make the playoffs, we’ll be saying the same thing – but it will be more frustrating because we’ve seen flashes of it this time. We know they can do it, they’re just inconsistent.

I’ve run out of ways to say defensive focus and intensity is the key. Every game. All game.

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The best spark the Lakers had last night was from Ronny Turaif, who finished a team best +15. Why? He hustled on defense and took advantage of his offensive chances. The Celtics were on a 25-7 run to start the third quarter that ended when Turiaf entered.

And Phil has noticed he is a smart player as well, telling the LA Times:

“He just really hasn’t shown any signs of not knowing what we’re doing,” Jackson said. “Kobe [Bryant] was kidding him the other day that he knows more about the game than a lot of guys that have been with us for six months. He’s not behind the eight ball at all. He’s an intelligent player that is right on speed and seems to know what we’re doing.”

We need to see more of him, more of Bynum. They are not polished but the effort is there every time they step on the court. And the Lakers need that right now.

On Tap: The Boston Celtics

Kurt —  February 26, 2006

Record: 22-33 (24-31 Pythagorean), 10th in the East
Record last 10 games: 4-6
Offensive Rating: 106.7 (17th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 108 (22nd in the league)

The Rivalry: Jeff from Celtics blog may be right, maybe nobody outside of Boston and LA — and only people over 30 in those cities — really see this still as a rivalry. Maybe younger Laker fans think of Sacramento as our biggest rival. Heck even I’ve matured. My wife lived in Boston for a few years before we got married and we’ve gone back several times — I really like the city.

But I still can’t stand the Celtics. Danny Ainge trails only Kenny G on my list of guys I’d just punch if I ever meet them — he just bugs me and always has. I hate Red Auerbach and his damn cigar. I can’t stand parquet. I don’t like that the next crop of Celtic rookies may have to have numbers with fractions in them because they’ve retired so many numbers. I even hated Greg Kite.

For me, rivalries don’t change with the seasons, with the inevitable ebbs and flows of a franchise’s fortunes. As long as those banners hang over the floor for Boston, I’ll want to beat them more than anyone.

The Lakers coming in: Do you really have any idea what Laker team will show up on any given night? Does Phil? Does Miss Cleo? The Clippers are a pretty good squad (who will get screwed by the playoff system and get bounced in the first round by Dallas or San Antonio) but the Lakers just looked like crap. I guess playing well against Sacramento was enough.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time breaking the Clipper loss down because with this Laker team, the last game seems to have no bearing on the next one.

Paul Pierce vs. Kobe Bryant:
It could come to that, these two are capable of some fireworks. They are both the unquestioned leaders of their teams and both lead their squads in both scoring and +/-. A quick comparison: Kobe is averaging 34.4 points per 40 minutes played, Pierce 27.1; Kobe’s True Shooting Percentage (basically points per shot attempt) is 55.6%, Pierce is more efficient at 58.1%; Kobe is averaging 26.3 shot attempts per 40 minutes, Pierce 19; Kobe is dishing out 4.5 assists per 40, Pierce 4.7; Kobe is grabbing 5.3 rebounds per 40 minutes, Pierce 7.1.

The rest of the Celtics: It’s been a few tough years for Celtics fans, but you have to see the hope on the horizon.

Al Jefferson is very good, scoring 17.7 points per 40 on 51.9% shooting while pulling down 17.4% of the rebounds when he is on the floor. He has the second best PER on the team at 17.9. I have no idea why he is playing only 17.8 minutes per game — in the last 10 games Brian Scalabrine has had more minutes than Jefferson. Weird. Also, Delante West is good in the backcourt, dishing out 5.1 assists per 40 minutes and with a very good true shooting percentage of 58.8%.

Remember they also picked up Wally Szczerbiak not that long ago and he has been a thorn in our side lately. That said, he hasn’t been shooting as well in Boston as he was before he got there (although he has been shooting 37.8% from three point range).

The Celtics biggest problem this season has been the lack of defense. The weakest spots have been the point and the four, so this is the game Lamar Odom could have a big night.

Key’s to a Laker win:
Everyone say it with me — defense. Against the Celtics the Lakers should be able to score. Odom needs to be aggressive and get inside, via penetration or post up, and Smush/Cook/Sasha need to knock down the outside shots.

If they play defense, this is one they should win. But who knows what Laker team will show up. That makes this team very frustrating to follow.

On Tap: The Los Angeles Clippers

Kurt —  February 24, 2006

Record: 30-23 (33-20 Pythagorean), 5th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 4-6 (lost 5 straight)
Offensive Rating: 106.5 (15th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 104.6 (6th in the league)

No Trades Is Good Trades:
On message boards and talk radio yesterday I kept hearing this sentiment, “If we had just gotten X we could have made a serious run in the playoffs this year.”

No, we couldn’t (unless Minnesota decided to trade us KG for Slava and a pick, which seems a tad unlikely). The Lakers wisely are about being in position two or three years from now to make a deep playoff run, and Jamal Crawford, with his huge contract and nonexistent defense, is not how you get there.

Frustrated as we may be at times with this year’s Lakers, no move is still better than making a move “just to shake things up.”

By the way, great note in the LA Times this morning: “The last Laker deadline-day deal came when shooting guard George McCloud was acquired from New Jersey for Joe Kleine and draft picks in February 1997.”

About Last Night: That’s two good games in a row. Isn’t that fun to watch (even on TNT)?

As a team, the Lakers had an eFG% of 59%. Odom was driving the lane liked we’d all been praying for and was hitting the outside shot when the D laid off him, he had a true shooting percentage of 59.4% and was +21. Kobe, 10 assists and just 1 turnover, a TS% of 62.6% and was +30. Cook and D. George had good games. Kwame Brown played as well as we can expect and was a +23. Even Turiaf got in the game to blow off some of that energy he expends on the bench.

But again the key was defense – the Kings had an eFG% of 45.1% for the night, well below the 48.6% they shot for the season. The Lakers had 10 steals (while the Kings had 2).

As a side note, Smush had a tough defensive night on Bibby, and was -2 for the game. I think he gets too far up in the face of quick guards, trying to use his quickness to cover them but he’s not fast enough at this level. Smush is tall and long, he should stay just a little off the guy and use that length.

About the Clips: Clipper fans are worried. And they should be, this team that showed so much promise has been losing games at a pace like, well, the Clippers. But now they’ve solved their problems by bringing in Vin Baker! He’s a four-time All Star and Olympian! What? That was in the 1990s? Oh, never mind.

The Clips haven’t been playing as bad as you’d think lately — they almost beat Dallas the other night. In the last 10 games, as a team, they have a true shooting percentage of 52.6% while holding their opponents to just over 50%. Keep that up and you’ll win more than you’ll lose.

Elton Brand is a stud – he has 30 double-doubles this season. Chris Kaman’s hair is Gallagheresque, but the guy is a solid center – he has a true shooting percentage of 56.7% (Chris Mihm is 56%) and he pulls down 16.3% of the rebounds when he is on the floor (Mihm is at 14.3%).

A few guys to watch: Vladimir Radmanovic is a guy who seems to still be trying to find his way around the offense but is always capable of a big shooting night; James Singleton has looked good coming off the bench in the parts of a couple recent games I’ve caught; Shaun Livingston should give us some highlight reel passes but his defense is suspect.

Key’s to a Laker win: Play like they did last night and they should get a win – this team has been fun to watch. That said, this is the second game of a back-to-back and that opens the door for the inconsistent Lakers team to return. I just hope we left that version of the team behind.