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.


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.

to A Tale of Two Games

  1. another point to seeing more of Ronnie was that meant we saw less of Kwame, did you see him riding the pine for the entire second half? I hope this gets through to Kwame, no effort, no show period, and you’re not gonna get any playing time. it deservedly goes to the rookie who hustles his butt off. this is why we saw Mark Madsen start on our championship teams, why he got a good contract from Minny, and has had a nice pro career, not because he was born with a “gifted for hoops” body, no, it was because he had the mental abilities to play in the system, and keep his intensity on D, the boards on both ends, loose balls, everything where if he could make the difference, …HE DID!
    I was happy (in a weird twisted way) to see Kwame riding the pine, cause I want our front office to WAKE UP, they have brought in a great coach, to help a great player in his prime, to see this great franchise get back on track. Now, it’s time for management to look in the mirror, of course we’re all human, and all the moves could be as much due to good or bad luck, but for us, our MLE for the past 2 years has brought us zip, nada, zero…Vlade and McKie…gotta do better than that.
    another point to mention that would have brought us a W last night was Smush, going something like 2 for 8 free throws,(in the 4th qtr) and this is a guard, who should be shooting 80% FT’s…do the math…no excuse…


  2. Turiaf was awesome, you could see how Kobe has taken to him on the court, you can almost see a Charles Oakley/MJ relationship brewing there..you know Turiaf isn’t the type of guy that’s going to be scared of throwing some elbows and getting rough in there…and thats what the Lakers need, someone that’s pissed off and won’t get pushed around (Mihm and Kwame I’m looking at you)

    I feel bad for Kwame, I really do, when he blew that easy layup in the 1st quarter you could see it affect him throughout the game, he wasn’t hustling anymore on the offensive end, he looked completely passive and didn’t want the ball at all, as if he was too scared to mess up again…if there’s anyone that can fix those mental issues its Philip…

    Mihm is a good off the ball defender but completely blows when he’s 1 on 1…Kwame has great instincts on the 1-1 game but is lost on an island whenever he has to drop off his man…if only you could fuse them together like the old Storenzen Wrift days in Memphis…then again they were being completely abused by the speed and hustle of a 6’7 SF playing PF and Raef Lafrentz (ugh)

    The answer? There isn’t one, no one is quite sure if the team is underacheiving or is just not talented outside of Kobe, I might be the only one that thinks the effort is there but they just aren’t very good at defense…. Odom isn’t going ot confuse anyone with Dennis Rodman and Smush Parker is basically a rookie brought up in the one on one game…

    The Playoffs are still there with a likely 1st round exit, and even with wins against Miami and Sacramento…it’s a rebuilding process…this team isn’t very good (is it even better than last year’s team?) and to get wins against Sacramento and Miami are the exception, not the rule…this team is too much in the mold of teams like the Sixers, the Celtics, the T’wolves…and Seattle to really get anywhere


  3. “Never mistake activity for achievement.” -John Wooden


  4. ronny is the man. mad heart. too bad he didn’t come into the game earlier…could of made the difference between a L and a W. big ups to ronny!


  5. Goo, you are right about Mihm and Kwame on defense (although Mihm’s man D has improved some). If we had another real strong inside defender I think he becomes much more valuable, covering the weaker of the 4/5 opposing players and coming over to stop penetration.

    Goo, that Wooden quote really hits home with this Laker team. I may steal that for a future post.


  6. One thing I truly did not understand is when guys like Devean and Smush pump fake for three and get their defenders way up in the air, but then move away from the contact and drive to the hoop…especially after seeing Wally pump fake and get a free 3 points (which prompted Devean to look like a sheepish puppy who accidentally pissed on the carpet, a welcome change to the laughing smiling look of “oh my bad”) why don’t they just bump into their men and get the FT’s? I think Devean ended up missing the two times he tried to drive anyway…(but he did atleast hit a 3 after giving wally 3 ft’s)


  7. Jumping in from CelticsBlog to check your site. I like it, especially the calls for Tauriaf and Bynum. Management always seems like the last to recognize a situation.

    Have to say that there’s nothing like beating the Lakers for a Celtic fan but I say that with much respect. The 80s were the greatest days in the history of the NBA. I catch a game on ESPN Classic and there’s like 8 Hall of Famers on the court at one time. We’ll never see that again.

    Right now I’d rather be the Celts than the Lakers. We have some young guys coming up and could be something in a couple years. The first thing I’d do as Mitch Kupchak is get rid of your coach. He doesn’t Give a bleep.


  8. Defense… and preaching patience…. that’s starting to get really FRUSTRATING! Yes we saw some flashes of brilliance on the defensive end… but inconsistency might be a symptom of a structural weakness. i fear we got to get accostumed to that… Hope to see more out of Ronnie and Andrew!


  9. Siggy, they s/b getting rid of Kupchak not Phil! He put them in this mediocrity spin with bad trades or lack of; no waiver pickups/signings and suspsect drafts.


  10. http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635188125,00.html

    “According to NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence, writing in last Sunday’s New Daily News: “The Jazz held off on dealing Carlos Boozer to the Lakers, but look for that deal to be revisited this summer. The Lakers’ package included Brian Cook and Chris Mihm, but the Jazz believe it can do better than that.”
    An older rumor suggested talk of a three-team, multi-player trade that would have included Boozer going to L.A., Mihm to Golden State and the Warriors’ Troy Murphy to Utah — but that discussion supposedly never got far.
    If after watching Boozer finish the season the Jazz do decide to trade him next summer, expect for them to want to hold out for what they believe is fair exchange value — no panic deals, in other words, a la Vince Carter going from Toronto to New Jersey.”