Sleeping Well

Kurt —  April 25, 2006

There are a lot of things keeping me up at night right now – from my new daughter’s crying to thoughts of the cost of college when she is old enough to go – but the Laker loss in game one of the first-round playoff series against the Suns isn’t one of them.

Here’s the key thing I came away with Sunday: The Lakers can play a few notches better than that, but I’m not sure the Suns can.

So, befitting my optimistic mood (maybe it’s the rush of a new child, maybe it’s the rush of all the caffeine coursing through my veins to keep me going), here are a list of reasons Laker fans should feel optimistic going into Wednesday night.

• The most obvious one, Kobe is going to play better. Despite what Bill Plaschke thinks, Kobe did the right thing in the game sticking with the game plan and pounding the ball inside, and in the later stages all the pounding got Kobe some isolation coverage and good looks. He just didn’t hit them. And he didn’t take too few shots, he took 21 for God’s sake, they just weren’t falling. Phil Jackson’s game plan of exploiting the inside weakness of the Suns is the right one for several reasons (a weakness of theirs defensively, it slows their break) and Kobe can get his shots within that. And they will fall.

• The Lakers showed they can slow the Suns – all that pounding the ball inside did its job, the Suns had 91 possessions against the Lakers, 7 fewer than they averaged on the season. That’s a lot and helped take them out of their game. Look for the Suns to press harder, meaning getting the ball inside and hitting shots down there will be a bigger key Wednesday.

• The Lakers can play defense against the Suns. I will give Phoenix this, I said before the series the key was to get the Suns to shoot from the midrange, but I charted as much of the game as ESPN’s midnight replay, shortened version to fit their time slot would let me and the Suns never left what they wanted to do – get lay-ups or shoot threes. What the Lakers did well in the second and third quarters was play better perimeter defense, they didn’t give up the three or if they did it was contested. The Suns went 0-6 from beyond the arc in the second and third quarters, but they were 9 of 15 the rest of the game. The Lakers know what they need to do.

• Tim Thomas isn’t that good. Or, to phrase it better, Tim Thomas isn’t that good consistently. Kwame needs to play better defense on him and keep him off the boards, but Thomas is no longer the guy who can put up numbers like that night in and night out (and he never really did it that consistently anyway, just ask a Bulls fan). I would bet the farm he is not a game high +12 again.

• Lamar Odom can play that consistently. The Suns are going to have to adjust to him in the post, which should be one of the more interesting things to see Wednesday night. The thing is, double him in the post and he can pass out of it so well. Which leads to….

• The Lakers can shoot the three-ball better. They were just 5 of 21 as a team, with Smush 1 of 5 and Kobe 1 of 6. Those percentages will improve.

• Luke walton was team-best +6 and can do that again, and Devean George can play better (he was -7). I still think he’ll be a big factor in this series.

• The Lakers can make better passes into the post. The Suns fronted the post players and were aggressive, and the Lakers seemed confused by this. They made several weak passes over the top that were picked off. You know how to correct this came up in practice, because it was part of the problem with….

• They can’t blow that many lay ups and chances inside again. Can they?

• Kwame has played better than that. The last few weeks leading into the post season, Kwame seemed to have slowed down a little and let the game come to him some. But, whether it was playoff nerves or the swarming Suns defense, he was back to rushing again Sunday. We now he can slow it down, we’ve seen it.

• My wife and daughter are out of the hospital. This is not just a cause of optimism for me – as I had said before, our last daughter was born during the 2004 NBA Finals where the Lakers fell to the Pistons. While we’re watching games at the Torrance Memorial Medical Center, the Lakers are 0-3. This one I’ll watch from the favorite spot on the couch, wearing our lucky hat.

to Sleeping Well

  1. chris henderson April 25, 2006 at 10:54 am

    Hey Kurt, glad to hear the family is all healthy, goodonya! our wedding went off without a hitch, I was a bit worried cause it was outside, but we got a perfect sunny window, and a great time was had by all!
    now, to that game, I am also optomistic, while of couse not happy about a loss, I felt like we were in it all the way, at least until Nash got that last 3 pointer off…
    and who knows…??… had Kobe gotten that call, and made a few more of his attempts, and Lamar hadn’t missed so many free-throws…well, we’ll see what happens tomorrow ight.
    One thing I did notice was that Kwame’s man was leaving him on D, to double up, leaving him open for some nice alley-oops…i hope PJ saw that in the game films and exploits it, because not only will it give us some easy points, it’ll give Kwame some early confidence in his game, calm him down a bit…and like the last game when Sasha missed a critical 3, the Lakes ran the exact same play and he hit it that time, giving us our only lead…
    we need to see Kwame, Sasha, and a few other key role players have a high level of confidence, cause we all know how important that is.


  2. According to Nash the Suns don’t feel they played a very good game at all. He said they have a lot of room to improve.


  3. They’re probably saying that because they didn’t score as much. Because otherwise….what else do they improve upon?


  4. If I were the Suns, where I think I could improve was pushing the tempo more, they got slowed down by the Lakers. If they get out and run, and the Lakers try to play with them, Phoenix wins handily. I just think Phil has got the Lakers playing too smart to get sucked into that game again, they’ve seen what works.


  5. And Chris, congrats! Glad everything went well. Now, why aren’t you on your honeymoon 🙂


  6. i thought the lakers gameplan was excellent. they moved the ball and we proved that Brown and Odom can control the paint and Luke can score from the mid-post. Kobe played a beautiful game, the type of game i’d like to see him play more of. phil is a genius and this plan will work over the course of the series. we played great d, and if the only thing we are concerned about is tim thomas going 8-9 and kobe being cold all game, i feel we will pull this series out.

    congratulations to you and your family, get some rest and enjoy our split in phoenix kurt


  7. chris henderson April 25, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    hey Kurt, thanks for the congrats! we are going to do a second service in Hawaii someday for my wife’s family to be able to attend, (coming from Korea)…so we’ll consider that our honeymoon, (and it won’t be during the playoffs! hahaha).
    another game to watch the films of was (I think) was our first game against PHX, didn’t Smush pick Nash’s pocket a few times, and generally get under his skin throughout the whole game?
    I really want to see Kwame dominate in the paint, and LO creating havoc, doing what he does with those long arms, if he is aggressive, drives the lane, then Kwame will be open when his man leaves to double up/cover LO, so LO has to be looking for Kwame diving to the hoop…this is one area they’ll have a hard time stopping. (and Kwame HAS to be ready for the pass, stay focused! I seem to recall that after he dropped a few passes in the last game, we stopped looking for him)
    if Kwame can get a few early touches, handle the ball well, finish strong, his confidence will be high, and his game will dominate.


  8. I believe it’s time to call him KB24

    Nothing more than a cash ploy it seems, but i’m glad I haven’t bought a jersey yet..


  9. ^I really hope he doesn’t change it.


  10. I hope he doesn’t change it either. He really made #8 his own, like the way Jordan did to #23.


  11. Reports are coming in that Nash has won the MVP…

    ESPN unofficially saying that of course…


  12. I was expecting Nash to win. If you voted for him last season, then you had to this season to be consistent because Nash was better this year. Doesn’t make it what I would do either year, but I think we all saw it coming.


  13. notreallyimportant April 26, 2006 at 11:46 am

    Kurt, normally I agree with just about everything you say, but your logic there is terrible. You can vote for someone one season, and not the next even if they do play better ther second season. Nash isn’t running the race against himself, other people are there.

    By your logic if someone won the 100 meters at one olympics running a 9.86, then he should win the next gold running say a 9.82, even if someone else runs a 9.78.

    Just ’cause he got better doesn’t mean that everyone else didn’t get a lot better and surpass him.


  14. notreallyimportant April 26, 2006 at 11:49 am

    And I say this realizing that you don’t actually think he should win either MVP, but your consistency remark is just erroneous.


  15. Lord knows I don’t want (or expect) everyone to agree with everything I say. Hell, I’m married, I expect to be disagreed with and occassionally yelled at (that was my Sam Kinison impression for the day).

    Maybe I phrased it poorly, but I think if your logic was that Nash was the MVP because of how good the Suns became two years ago, then what they did without Stoudemire (look at Diaw) this season would almost force you to vote for him again, just to keep your internal logic consistent.


  16. What Kurt is trying to say:

    If you thought last season Nash was more deserving of MVP (than Shaq) because he “made all his teammates better”, then his job this year without Amare of “making his teammates better” ridiculously trumps any case of MVP you can even make this year, which it does, if you really think he’s the only reason that team is good, which I don’t


  17. I think I need to hire Goo as my speech writer…..


  18. To what effect?

    Will these early reports that Nash will win the MVP have any impact on the current series? Will the reports cause Kobe to be any more motivated?

    Kobe always plays motivated. If, however, it is possible for Kobe to be any more motivated than normal then these reports are coming out at a terrific time.

    Another nice thing about these reports is that they force Kobe to focus on what’s important: winning the series. This is because Kobe will get more props if he averages 25 and the Lakers win the series than if Kobe scores 80 in a game and the Lakers lose.

    And everyone should agree that Kobe is all about getting props.