Archives For May 2006

Open Thread — game 5

Kurt —  May 2, 2006

First off, congratulations to the Clippers, who won their first playoff series since Rick Monday saved an American flag. I really have been rooting for this, a Laker/Clipper match up in the next round will be the biggest basketball happening in this city in a long time. Hell, Bill Simmons is excited and he’s not even from here. And, whichever team wins and gets to face Dallas in the Western Conference Finals will do so rested, having not traveled for a couple of weeks.

But first, the Lakers still have to get there. And, as we had noticed and the always-contrarian Charlie Rosen points out, the Suns have started to do some things right (thanks to Henry at True Hoop for finding this).

While the Lakers have kept the tempo down (there were 96 possessions in the last game, including overtime), the Suns started to do a better job executing the half-court offense. Specifically, they are running their standard wing pick-and-roll, which the Lakers have mostly switched on all series, but now rather than have Steve Nash try to beat Odom (or Kwame or whomever), they are posting up Diaw or Thomas on Smush or Sasha. The smaller Laker guards acquitted themselves well, but the Lakers may need to switch up how they deal with picks just to keep the Suns a little more off balance.

At times in the last game, the Laker defensive rotations were late and Suns players got easy lay-ups. If they want to win another game they need to cut down on those.

The Suns worked harder in the last game to not let the Lakers have position, particularly on the wing and at the elbow — Odom, Kobe and others were fronted and bodied in an effort to disrupt the triangle in the same way you screw up a football timing pattern by bumping the receiver at the line of scrimmage. The Suns defensive doubling on Kobe and Odom also improved, with the three players not involved on the ball doing a better job of reading and anticipating passing lanes.

The triangle, with its read-and-react properties, has plenty of adjustments for all this, we’ll have to see what Phil Jackson and staff try. Personally, I like getting the ball to Walton and posting up Smush on Nash.

John Hollinger points out today that the Lakers offense in the playoffs actually has been less efficient than it was during the regular season — down 3.2 points per 100 possessions to 102.3. Part of that is taking the ball out of Kobe’s hands. But that pound-it-inside offense, which Hollinger thinks doesn’t work too well, is the key reason the Lakers are winning because they have taken the fast break away from the Suns. It’s part of the reason the Suns offense is off 7.9 per 100 possessions, down to 101.5. (By the way, Hollinger then goes on to say the key is what Josh pointed out here days ago — offensive boards).

So long as the Lakers continue to do execute their plan and play defense (Nash, the Suns best player, is shooting 53.7% eFG% in the series, well below the 58.4% he had in the regular season, and most of the Suns are in the same boat), I think they will win the series, either tonight or in game six.

Now, if you want to see the Kobe show, watch if the Clippers decide to put Mobley on him in the next series….

(By the way, I’ll be “watching” the first half tonight via ESPN’s gamecast, since I’ll still be at work. I’ll need you all to be my eyes and ears, but I’ll still try to post some comments. On the bright side, that’s 15 less times I have to see that Vince Carter commercial.)

Update: Well, not so much an update as an ommission: Last game, the two Lakers leading the way in +/- were Devean George and Sasha Vujacic (+12 and +11, respectively). Another game like that from them tonight, outplaying the Suns bench, and we’ll be playing the Clippers this weekend.

Yup, these are my readers

Kurt —  May 1, 2006

First things first, congratulations to Kobe on his new daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant. I can’t imagine the emotions of his day, winning that game then later that night having his second child born. I couldn’t be happier for him. And if he needs some extra newborn diapers, the wife and I have got plenty.

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In the last couple of weeks the always-impressive commenters on this site have been in playoff form themselves. From Gatinho’s review from courtside to some great breakdowns from people like Kwame a., this site has been filled with great stuff.

So, just to shine a light on some of it (and encourage posting during the open thread for game 4 tomorrow), here are a just a smattering of highlights (I couldn’t get to all the good stuff):

• From Josh before game 4:

I actually think shooting the three is one thing Phoenix has done fairly well this series (and the Lakers are still winning!). The Suns had one off game from 3 (game 2 where they shot 9 out 27) but overall they’re shooting their season average of 40% from behind the arc.

The Suns’ rebounding, on the other hand, is atrocious. I was fiddling around with numbers over lunch today & the Suns offensive rebounding percentage during this series is 12%. That’s a steep drop-off from their regular-season average of 22.1%, which already was the worst in the league. They’re like a team of reverse Dennis Rodmans.

He’s right, and that trend continued in game 4 — the Suns grabbed 14.3% of the available boards. The good news was their three point shooting has dropped off to 33% in the last two games, still pretty good but well below their season clip. The Lakers have not made it easy on them.

• Josh also pitched in with the answer to the question: Who is that guy next to Jack Nicholson: Lou Adler, longtime record executive and also the producer of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

• The general consensus of the commenters seems to be we want the Nets to lose as soon as possible so Vince Carter can film a new commercial so we can stop watching that Verizon one.

• Deen (aka Worthytomahawk) during game 4:

Kwame is playing like Tyson Chandler – too bad there is no low post scoring threat to be guarded.

• Then, when the game got close, Deen spoke for a lot of us trying to watch at home:

My wife and 1.5 year daughter are so scared of daddy jumping up and down that they retreated into the bedroom during overtime.

• John is watching the NBA playoffs from Vancouver (while figuring out how to scam free Olympics tickets in four years) and has had some good thoughts.

There’s so much you can say about what this series is showing. You can talk about Nash and the Sun’s inability to perform when it matters. You can talk about this young Laker team playing the best ball we’ve seen them play. You can talk about how Jackson is coaching circles are D’Antoni.

But it all comes down to one man who has lift over any defender in the league. One man who makes those shots every year now, whether it’s a three to send it into OT or the game winner.

The closer.
The Mamba.
In the 4th quarter, Melo WHO?

It’s all number 8 (24).

• Then, from game three, there was Craig:

People need to give Jackson a lot of credit for the ability to direct/teach/instruct his teams toward mental toughness. (What I mean by people I mean those who just say, “Anyone can win with Jordan/Pippen or Kobe/Shaq”) Back oh say 3 weeks ago, this team looked lost. I felt they lacked proper basketball IQ and they couldn’t close out games.

Somewhere between Mihm’s injury, the confidence of a good finish to the regular season and the confidence in the triangle, this team is COMPLETELY different from the March edition. They look relaxed and confident. Who would have ever thought that they would stick to the pound-it-inside on offense and stay-at-home when Nash drives on defense gameplan for two games?