It’s a best-of-five

Kurt —  April 27, 2006

If before the first two games in this series you had offered me, or just about any other Laker fan, a split on the road we would have taken it. What’s more, after the win last night, the template is there.

It’s all about tempo, about imposing your style on the other team. Before last night I suggested if the Lakers could keep the Suns under 94 possessions they would win the game, and it ended at 90. It was 88 in game one and required a huge night from Tim Thomas and an off night for Kobe for the Suns to eek out the win.

Keep playing at this speed and the Lakers win the series — so expect the Suns to play more like they did right out of halftime in game two, pushing and taking quick shots just to pick up the pace. It’s almost like the old Paul Westhead Loyola Marymount teams, the Suns would be willing to give up a basket or two, or take an ill-advised shot or two, just to get the tempo up. The Lakers can’t get sucked into that trap.

Some other thoughts from last night and the series:

• You probably read or heard it this morning — see what happened when Kobe was aggressive and shot more. Really? In the game one loss Kobe took 21 shots and got to the line for 8 free throws, so figure that was 25 attempts. In game two, it was 24 shots and 6 free throws, so figure 27 attempts. Just two more shots. The difference was in game one his true shooting percentage (basically points per shot attempt) was 44.9%, in game two it was 54.4% (still below his 55.9% season average). Things look better when your shots fall, Kobe just had an off night.

• By the way, Deadspin has a pretty interesting theory on Kobe’s switch to number 24.

• Play of the game: I’d have to go with Odom diving to the floor for the loose ball then having the presence of mind to make the pass to Kobe for the MONSTER dunk. It sealed the game. I think Jon pointed to that play last night (and I never want to disagree with him, he went to Stanford and all so he’s far smarter than us state school guys).

And if you want to relive the moment of Kobe dunking over Nash, here you go. (Trust me, follow this link.)

• The Laker defense has been good, especially in rotations, which have been a weak spot at times this year. For the two games, Nash is shooting 58.6% (eFG%), but the rest of the Suns just 47.9%. Those other players count on the easy looks from the fast break and penetration of Nash, and they just aren’t getting them.

• The Laker bench is another strength in this series, and it showed in game two. Devean George finished a team high +13 and Cook gave us key minutes and was +12.

• In the comments, Worthytomahawk suggested we need to see more of Chris Mihm because he is better offensively and could really punish Thomas and Marion inside. I’d agree, save for the ankle injury, which kept Mihm from even suiting up last night. With the way Kwame was playing — going to the hole hard for early dunks — Mihm would have to be at 100% to be any improvement.

• A few +/- numbers through two games: Luke Walton, +12, Smush Parker +2 (while covering Steve Nash), while the rest of the Laker starters are still in the negative (their game two numbers were not stellar because of the number of bench players on the floor during key runs, like at the start of the second quarter). For the Suns, Nash is +6, Marion +2 and T. Thomas +4 (but a +12 and a -8). Raja Bell leads the Suns as a +12 through two.

• A note to Joel Meyers (not that he reads this, but I had to get this off my chest): You and Stu Lantz have been saying lately during broadcasts that when look at players like Luke Walton stats can’t tell the whole story. I think you’re using the wrong stats. Use more modern ones and his value is very apparent.

• Just so we all remember that this was just one win and we’ve got a ways to go before “The Hallway Series” — seven seeds have lost in the first round almost as frequently as the eight seeds. Only the 1986-87 Sonics (who reached the Conference Finals), 1988-89 Warriors, 1990-91 Warriors, and 1997-98 Knicks defeated #2 seeds in the first round. Got that from the very good lowpost.

Kurt

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12 responses to It’s a best-of-five

  1. I was thinking basically the same thing as Deadspin (though without all that handy sneaker knowledge). One could speculate that KB’s literally trying to “one-up” Jordan.

    I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. But I would like to know — is there any logical explanation for the number change that DOESN’T represent a simple marketing ploy?

  2. chris henderson April 27, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    great win! no doubt, but I gotta tell ya that I’m more nervous being 15 points ahead than 3 points behind against these Suns, (or almost any NBA team).
    we all knew PHX was going to make a come back, and it was nice to see our guys dig in with some solid D, …enough to pull it out anyway.
    one thing I feel we need to improve on is the way we run our first play of a possession vs the way PHX/Nash runs it….
    when the Suns run their first play, usually a pick and roll with Nash, as soon as they run the set, Nash has, within a nanosecond, some kind of idea how he’s going to play it, either a pass to a cutter, a drive and dish, or an outside shot…whereas..
    when we run the high pick and roll, usually to get the ball into Kobe’s hands, the Suns would immediately double team Kobe, and he spends a good deal of time and energy trying to dribble around and out of the double team, sometimes taking an ill-advised shot with 2 guys in his face, forcing up a shot. I think we need to EXPLOIT the double team weakness that would be exposed, right away! this means we got Kobe with 2 guys way out on him, leaving 3 guys to cover our 4, and PJ should set up some secondary pick actions to free up someone like Kwame who is usually wide open underneath. for this to happen though, Kobe can’t consistentaly try to dribble his way out of the double teams.

    the other area I think we’ve got to increase the D is to play the full 24 seconds on D…a few times last night Nash slipped away from Smush, (this after the main or ssecondary play was in action) but Nash quietly got into position for a free, wide open 3 pointer…and Smush was way out of position. we need Smush to stick to Nash like glue for the full 24 ticks. they got too many “last seconds of the shot clock shots.”
    but other wise, well done Lakers!

  3. WorthyTomahawk April 27, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    Does anyone know if #24 was taken when Kobe was drafted by the Lakers? I can’t seem to find it on the Lakers site.

  4. Worthy, here is the list of all the Lakers who have worn 24 before:

    #24 – James Pollard, Herman Schaefer, Gary Alcorn, John Wetzel, Keith Erickson, Kermit Washington, Ron Boone, Butch Carter, Adrian Branch, Steve Bucknall, George Lynch, Lloyd Daniels, Fred Roberts, George McCloud, Shea Seals

    I don’t think any of them were on the 96-97 team.

  5. That Odom play was marvelous. I’m huge on Odom right now because he’s really playing to his potential. Kobe and Phil have brought out the best in this team.

    However, the Suns were still the perfect matchup for the Lakers right now. With Kurt and Amare both out, it completely cleared the post for Lamar and Kwame. I don’t think the same strategy would work as well if those two were still looming in the post.

    I love how every writer with a voice was saying how this was going to be team vs. individual, yet really the individual is becoming Nash and the team is clearly the Lakers.

  6. Pincus called this in February….

    “24
    Watching the Lakers season has been more stressful than the weekly dose of 24 on Fox. Certainly one can see parallels between Kobe Bryant and the protagonist Jack Bauer. Will Bryant evade the gauntlet of double and triple teams thrown recently at him night in and night out, with his cohorts falling at his side (Lamar Odom out for two games, Chris Mihm still on the shelf)? Maybe he should change his jersey number to 24 . . .”

    http://www.hoopsworld.com/article_16081.shtml

    When asked the significance he said, “The reason I was told is that he wants to be reminded that he has to go 24/7 all the time. ”

    Weak.

    Big ups to the bench for production in limited minutes. For them to be a strength is a huge turn around. I think the most positive comment they got before this post was “thin”.

  7. John in Vancouver is right — the Suns sans Amare & Thomas make a good, if not favorable, matchup for the Lakers rights now. And God knows the margin of error for the Lakers isn’t much even when they play top-notch ball. They shot great last night (and a fantastic 9 out of 16 from behind the arc) and it was still really really close.

    But all those made shots came directly out of the Lakers ability to move the ball & run the offense at a steady tempo, which bodes well for the rest of the series and (getting ahead of myself here) next year.

  8. Yes, a healthy Suns team creates a lot more problems. But you play the team in front of you, and this one is flawed.

  9. Not that I’m in any way comparing him to Amare, but the Lakers haven’t had Chris Mihm the entire series, so it’s not like they’re at full strength themselves.

    Until he got hurt and Kwame awoke from his four-year slumber, Mihm was the only decent-to-good big on the team.

  10. WorthyTomahawk April 27, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks again Kurt (you are the man with the resources). i thought Kobe might justify the switch if someone else had #24 when he was drafted, but that is out the window.

    PS – Here is the Possession formula used on Basketball-Reference…
    Poss = FGA + 0.4*FTA – 1.07*(ORB / (ORB + Opp DRB))*(FGA – FG) + TO
    … it requires opp. off rebounds.

  11. There was some debate about how to best estimate possessions on the APBRmetrics message board last summer. I will guess that Justin at B-R got it as close to right as can be, I just tend to use the Hollinger formula (listed before) because it is simple and pretty accurate.

    The best thing for all involved would be if the NBA started officially tracking possessions.

  12. I am one of the biggest Sasha Vujisucks bashers out there but one thing I saw from him is that in the game he was flowing and going easy rather than sprint all over the place on offense…This was the first time I have ever saw him play under control and in relax mode—note on Def he still sucked bad but on the O he was not worthless for once