On Tap: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  February 8, 2006

Record: 17-29 (Pythagorean 14-32), 14TH seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 6-4
Laker record against Rockets: 0-1
Offensive Rating: 103.3 (27th in league)
Defensive Rating: 105.3 (9th in league)

The Laker reserves suck: It showed in Dallas and it’s a surprise to nobody. Lakers starters are shooting 46% on the season, reserves 39.5%. The Laker starters have an offensive rating of 107.9 (points per 100 possessions), the reserves 99.1.

Kobe coming in: He has not completely adjusted to the intensity and speed of the double teams he has coming at him of late. Part of the problem is other players are not consistently stepping up to make the double teams pay, but part of it is Kobe gets frustrated and then tries to do too much. The Dallas game was a good example, Kobe had trouble getting dribble penetration consistently because of the defense, and so he tried to shoot over it. Some nights that has worked, but it didn’t in Dallas and he was 5 of 22, with half of his shots from three-point range. These nights he has to find the hot hand and give up the ball, plus push others to break their men down off the dribble. He has to lead, not just get pissed off.

We need some penetration, so to speak: Cook had a great shooting night against Dallas, but there was precious little dribble penetration from the rest of the Lakers. When Odom and Smush were doing that things went well against Dallas, when the Lakers shot from the outside they were playing into the Mavs hands. When Laker legs got a little tired, they settled on the perimeter.

Two Lakers who just plain sucked last night: Sasha Vujacic and Kwame Brown. Sasha was a painful -25 off the bench, adding little on offense and getting torched on defense. He has been the model of inconsistency this season.

Kwame has been consistent, but not in a good way. He was a -19 against Dallas and he is such a waste on the offensive end and an inconsistent rebounder it overshadows his solid man-defense (his rotations are still pathetic). I said in the mid-season report card I think he’s a backup center, and Phil Jackson hinted at that in the Times today. But, with Yao Ming and the Rockets tonight, it’s either start Brown or Bynum, and both are likely to get plenty of court time.

About the Rockets: For most of the season, the Rockets have been held back by an offense that, well, looked like Jeff Van Gundy designed it. There were injuries to Ming and Tracy McGrady — the two key cogs — and Stromile Swift was lost in space. Lately things have gotten better.

While McGrady is still one of the game’s most dangerous scoring threats, in the last 10 games he’s gotten a lot of help from everyone else. David Wesley is shooting 53.7% (eFG%) and 43.2% from beyond the arc in that span. Swift is shooting 56.7%. Juwan Howard is at 50%.

Every time the Lakers play Houston the “how good is Yao Ming” discussion starts. He has never lived up to the hype, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact he’s a good center. He’s shooting 50.1% from the floor and has a true shooting percentage of 57.2% (that counts his free throws), and he grabs 16.2% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor. A lot of the Rocket offense goes through him. He blocks 1.6 shots per 40 minutes. He is not the next Shaq or Wilt, but he’s still one of the top centers in the league right now.

One thing I hope to see tonight: I know we said Ronny Turaiff was set to play last night, but flight delays kept him from getting to the arena on time. Tonight he should play some, at least he brings energy to the court.

Key’s to a Laker win: One good thing for the Lakers, it may be the second game in as many nights Houston is not going to run the Lakers out of the building — Houston plays at the third slowest pace in the league.

The key really is to run the offense and have other guys besides Kobe get shots in the paint, particularly through dribble penetration. It will be a challenge with Ming in the paint, but the Lakers need to get inside and not just shoot over the top. If they do this is a winnable game, shoot 25+ three pointers and the Lakers have a punchers chance, at best.

to On Tap: The Houston Rockets

  1. Do the Ref’s hate the Lakers?
    I thought I’d seen the worst from the ref’s this season but last night took the cake. It seems to me like they want the Lakers to lose and do their best to make sure that happens.
    Kwame Brown should not start for the Lakers or any other team. He, by far, has the worst hands in Basketball.

    The Lakers need to stop stooting the Three ball so much. They just give up on offense and either look to hand it off to Kobe or just jack up a three.

    With Mihm out, the starting line up should be: Smush, Kobe, George, Odom, and Bynum.

    Let’s just hope we score more than 10 points in the first quarter tonight.



  2. I think Cook has earned himself a spot in the starting lineup and Odom shouldn’t play any PF until his shoulder is in better condition. But I’m all for starting Bynum. Brown is giving us absolutely nothing and maybe Bynum’s length can bother Yao.


  3. http://www.blogmaverick.com/ Owned.

    No. The refs don’t hate the Lakers. No franchise in basketball gets protected like the Lakers and no current player gets protected like Kobe Bryant. The team is bad. They lost the game and deservedly so. All you saw last night was the Lakers treated like a normal team instead of some special better entity.


  4. Im Sorry John but Kobe gets hit every play and they dont call it. Then they call a foul on the Lakers for something far less.
    Two fouls in the fourth quarter that i can’t get out of my head.

    1) The Technical foul on George!!
    2) The foul on Odom when the point guard for Dallas had his arm wrapped around Odoms body and Odoms arms were behind his back!!

    Those were the 2 worst calls I have ever seen.

    Cook has had my respect all season, the only problem is his on ball deffense sucks. He is a great 6th man. George has more experience, better rebounding, and quicker on deffense to stop the dribble penetration.



  5. While Kobe may get some benefit from the refs, guys like Chris Mihm have been on the wrong side all year, always losing the borderline calls. I think it evens out. Last night the Lakers were jobbed on some calls down the stretch (not that it would have changed the outcome).

    That said, Phil’s complaining after the game was more about setting up future games, I think. Especially tonight — the Lakers need to be physical with Yao Ming and if they get calls like last night they are in trouble. So Phil laid some groundwork.


  6. Well put Kurt.
    Lets pray for our boys tonight!



  7. What the hell has gotten into Kwame in the 1st half? This really can not be the same person we’ve watched all season…


  8. DJ not damon jones February 8, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    goo, this is why they call kwame an inconsistent player, one night he’s off, one night he’s putting better number. and by the way, does anyone notice that charlotte has won 3 straight after knocking down the lakers…


  9. woo hoo! yay, we “outworked” a team finally. plus we found out getting wins on the second game of a traveling back-to-back, not so impossible after all! heck, they can even be relatively easy!

    kinda makes me even MADDER.

    let’s hope the ground they lost keeps the team’s fire going after they leave houston. maybe this rough patch could turn out to be a good thing.


  10. as I said a few days ago here on this site, there have been occasional flashes of amazing plays from Kwame, I mean he does a quick spin move and finishes with a fierce dunk, or like last night, he can finish strong trailing on a fast break, so I KNOW he can do those things, no doubt about the physical skills.
    so then, why do we only see this maybe once in a game, or sometimes a solid overall game, then next time a no-show? it really is the inconsistency that s maddening.
    Is it a lack of desire, or problems focusing?
    Or is it that he is still learning the system? confusion? insecurity?
    that also seems to be the case with LO,
    …maybe it’s the combination of a complex system, along with playing alongside the most prolific scorer, and overall most agressive player the league has seen in years?? (Kobe DOES need a lot of touches!)
    last night was a fun game to watch, I liked that when their offense stalled, they picked up the D, can’t go wrong with that approach.
    however, we STILL rely TOO much on outside shooting and 3 pointers, thus we “live and die” by our shooting percentage, (or Kobe’s %).
    I’d love to see more plays with guys diving to the hole, watching Phoenix and Nash’s ability to find a cutter, reminds me of the mid-80’s Pistons we had so much trouble with. seems to me with Kobe getting so much attention, double and triple teams, we should be looking for the unguarded, and setting up picks for a good look at a layup, or open look in the paint.
    we’ve got to stop relying so much on the trey.
    time for Phil to draw up some plans to make the opponents pay for the double/triple teams, (and this does not mean finding another guy to shoot a 3).


  11. http://tinyurl.com/bgcp7

    Channing Frye? I didn’t really see that coming…

    Anyway, like the rest of you I’d like to see more driving to the basket but most of the team just does not have enough of a grasp of the system to understand when and where to cut and look for passes and such…I don’t mind all the shots from long range as long as they play good defense, thats what the Lakers’ ultimate destination will come down to


  12. No. The lakers get way more respect than they deserve. See 2002 WCF Game 7 vs Sacramento and 2000 WCF Game 7 vs Portland. Explain those away. End of discussion. Chris Mihm gets called for fouls because he commits fouls. In fact, I think he should get called for more.


  13. Teams don’t get breaks from refs, certain players do. Like most stars, Kobe gets some borderline calls (not all, though). Vets get calls. Shaq did and didn’t (he’s so strong some stuff that would be called gets ignored on him). Those teams you talk about John R. were veteran and star heavy. They got some breaks. That’s the NBA.


  14. Goo, I saw that Frye to Lakers rumor, but seriously, what could we give up to get him? They might have called to test the waters, but I just don’t see how that happens — or why the knicks let their most promising rookie go.


  15. In the WCF against Portland, the Lakers shot 37 free throws to Portland’s 16, but 24 of those Laker free throws were shot by Shaq or Kobe, two players notoriously hard to guard, and Portland was a perimeter team. They also blew a 13 point lead and consistently double teamed Shaq without the ball, an illegal defense back in those days, and were never called for it.

    In the Sacramento game, Sacramento shot 30 free throws to the Lakers’ 33, again the bulk of the Lakers’ free throws (25) were shot by Shaq and Kobe. Hardly an advantage unless the refs made the Kings miss 14 of their 30.

    I would say that would succesfully explain any discrepancy.


  16. Oh I know its the NBA, I’m the season ticket holder here. I saw in person when Cuttino Mobley was called for a foul after CLAPPING HIS HANDS TOGETHER 15 feet behind a driving Raja Bell. That’s why I’m not going to sit back and let Laker fans complain about the refs. Its rediculous at best and hypocritical and childish at worst. In the long run, all things average out, and the Lakers owe a metic tonne of averaging to the basketball gods.

    Except Gat, it doesn’t. Calls aren’t about the numbers so you didn’t even begin. If that was the case all we have to do is make sure they are even every game and then we know the game was called well, right? Don’t be so simple.


  17. It would be ridiculous to assumne that each team would have an even number of fouls. That would be simple. I’ve been listening about people complain about that Sacramento game forever. I was simply stating that both of the games chosen were poor examples of the refs favoring the Lakers.

    Getting to the line is also a talent because it usually happens withn in a few feet of the basket and a lot of guys can’t even get into that space.

    Any complaining Laker fans have done this season is more a product of their desire to see their less than impressive team do well. We know that the game hangs on a thread this year and so everything is magnified, including a call going the “wrong” way. It’s called fanatacism and it is the leading cause of myopia. Ask any Clipper fan.