Archives For November 2006

All That Jazz The Lakers need to bounce back after a tough loss on the road. The Utah game went down to the wire, but the Lakers let Boozer, Okur and Williams get double-doubles. That won’t win you many games. On the positive side, turnovers were at a season low 11, Odom looked aggressive and we saw the return (albeit briefly) of Ronny Turiaf. Kwame seems to be progressing nicely as well. Now if only the Lakers defense hadn’t allowed all those backdoor cutters…

Nothing But Nets Vinsanity’s been having a good year. 51.4% eFG so far, and he’s averaging 28.4 points/40 min. But at 5-7 the Nets aren’t exactly lighting it up. They lost Friday night in Phoenix 99-93. The Nets were down by 22 in that game but fought their way back in. This was due in part to rookie guard Marcus Williams throwing up a season high 27 points. Still, the lesson from Phoenix is that New Jersey isn’t a team that will just roll over on the road.

99 Problems Yet this is a game that the Lakers should win. They out rebound the Nets on the offensive boards 29.8% to 21.6%. On the season, the Lakers have a slight offensive edge while New Jersey has the defensive edge. But the Lakers should be able to push the pace on New Jersey. I don’t expect to see a repeat of the Chicago game. Add in the Staples Center, and the Lakers should take care of business.

Marcus Williams You probably haven’t heard a ton about this guy, but he’s one to watch. Williams has not been consistent this season, and there’s a strong chance he won’t repeat Friday’s performance. (I certainly hope not.) But he’s shown flashes during the season. Don’t expect rookie of the year, but he will be dangerous in a season or two.

Final Thought I feel my turkey haze has lifted. I’m tanned, rested and ready to sit on the couch eating leftovers and watch some ball. Tonight should be a fun one.

Rob L.

Preview and Chat: The Utah Jazz

Kurt —  November 24, 2006

How is Utah 11-1? The answer is offense. Right now the Jazz are the best offense in the NBA, racking up 115.2 points per 100 possessions, much better than second place Detroit (111.9) and far ahead of the 10th-ranked Lakers (107.2).

The Jazz are shooting a very nice 52.6% (eFG%) as a team, but more importantly they are grabbing a league-leading 33.6% of their missed shots — they are beasts on the offensive boards. Think about it, one out of three missed shots they get another crack at.

Driving that is the healthy and resurgent Carlos Boozer, who is grabbing 21.6% of available rebounds and combine that with his 78.6% shooting percentage inside and you see why the Lakers need to box out and crash the boards, or they get to watch some easy putbacks. By the way, Boozer is still shooting a decent 43.9% on jumpers.

Bet the over. While the Jazz have been an offensive force, they are 20th in the NBA in defensive efficiency right now, actually worse than the Lakers. Other teams are shooting a pretty average 49.3% against the Jazz, but they are creating few turnovers, and the result is giving up 107.8 points per 100 possessions.

For the record, after a couple games of good defense the Lakers defensive efficiency is at 105.6, 14th in the NBA.

You know who can play defense? UCLA. Have you watched much of them this season? Very aggressive trapping defense that is fun to watch, and is slowing other teams way down and forcing them to use up most of the shot clock every possession. You can see the frustration creep into opponents as the game wears on, leading to unnecessary risks. The Bruins are going to be very good this year.

Maybe he wasn’t a bad pick. The Jazz got laughed at by the mainstream media last year after they passed on Chris Paul to take Deron Williams. Now, Utah is laughing. The guys is running the offense well, shooting 55.4% (eFG%) on jumpers and playing good defense.

Kevin from ClipperBlog, after his team fell to the Jazz, said he was very impressed with how well Williams fits into what coach Jerry Sloan wants to do, much better than Paul would have. For what it’s worth, he also said that you can’t sleep on just how good a coach Sloan is.

Who is this Paul Millsap? What, you didn’t watch a lot of Louisiana Tech hoops last season? Millsap led the NCAA in rebounding last season, grabbing 24.5% of the available defensive boards and 18.1% of his offensive chances. But that was the college level, the WAC no less, you say? So far this season he is grabbing 17.1% of the rebounds when he is on the floor (only Bynum and Kwame have better percentages on the Lakers, and they both have at least 5 inches on the guy). As he should, Millsap has been shooting 70% inside, which means easy putbacks if the Lakers don’t box out (see a theme here?).

Best Name Since Enron Field. This past summer the Jazz made the switch from The Delta Center to the EnergySolutions Arena. The building is now named after a company that disposes nuclear waste.

Things to look for. Can the Lakers keep Deron Williams shooting from deep? He is shooting just 26.7% on threes but fills it up from the mid-range. Good on him, by the way, last year he jacked up a lot of threes but this season he’s stepping inside the line to take a shot he can hit (ahem, Jordan Farmar). Can’t let Williams get open looks in the midrange.

Crash the defensive glass or you are toast, Lakers.

Turnovers by the Lakers will be key — the Jazz are creating turnovers on just 15.7% of opponent possessions, but the Lakers have been coughing it up at a 20.2% clip. If the Lakers give that potent Utah offense a lot of extra shots with turnovers — or by giving up a bunch of offensive rebounds — the Jazz will win handily. Don’t and this should be a close, entertaining game.

I’m out of town until next Tuesday, but you are in the capable hands of Gatinho and Rob until then. Oh, and

GO IRISH!!

Happy Thanksgiving

Kurt —  November 23, 2006

Before I head off to a tryptophan-induced coma and to watch my weekly football pool fall apart, just wanted to wish all of you a happy holiday. I, like you, have a lot to be thankful for (and a first-place Laker team is on that list, albeit fairly far down), you don’t have to look far around the world to see just how fortunate we are. Be thankful for all of it, enjoy the day, and the long weekend.

Laker/Clipper Thoughts

Kurt —  November 22, 2006

Welcome to first place, the view is amazing from up here. Can’t quite see all the way to the playoffs from this vantage point, but I bet on a clear day….

There were a lot of things to like out of last night, and not just frustrating Clipper fans. Here are a few notes I made.

• This was the first game that Kobe looked like the explosive Kobe of old to me. Q. Ross is a good perimeter defender, so the Lakers were smart early to post Kobe up on him and let him use is strength advantage on him. But this was one of those nights Kobe was feeling it, and no one or two men was going to slow him. Plus, a team best 5 assists with just one turnover. Easily his best game of the season.

• Kobe shot 54.5% (eFG%), the rest of the team 37.1%. And the Lakers shot 40% of their shots from beyond the arc.

• Luke is shooting 71.4% on three pointers, a sign that he has both worked on the shot and his picking his spots well, shooting just when he gets a good look (like from the corner with :30 seconds in the game). The other thing, after every Laker game, if you read an opponent’s blog, they almost always say, “When did Luke start to play like that, he’s not that good?” Um, yes he is.

• There are games you can see the tandem of Bynum and Kwame making a solid 1-2 inside punch for seasons to come. There are still things that Kwame does that irritate — he made some bad defensive rotations and poor plays on high picks, plus was out of synch when first hitting the floor during a Lakers first quarter run. That said, seven offensive boards, 14 total and 15 points with some solid defense at other times, it was the kind of game I’ll take from him nightly.

• It was nice to see another team struggle to defend the pick and roll. When the Lakers made a run in the third running a pick and roll at the elbow with Kobe having the ball. Three consecutive times he drew the double, passed out at the top and the Lakers (either off that pass or with one more) got a clean look at a three for Lamar or Smush. It was a fast nine for the Lakers.

• Cassell abused Smush off the dribble in the third, then the Clippers went away from that in the fourth (yes, they went on a run in the fourth, but that was because the Lakers went 0-11 shooting). Not sure why they didn’t exploit that more.

• I may do more on these later, but want to thank Ian for pointing me toward two new Laker posts up by Roland Lazenby. One, before the Clipper game, was Tex Winter talking about Kobe. The second was about Tex’s role as bad cop, allowing Phil to be good cop. As always with Roland, great and interesting stuff.

• Sorry this is up so late, the MAN is making me work hard today. (Weird, I know, but busy day at the office for me.)

UPS. We’re not the nickname-giving type of blog, but we love the suggestion from Dan to start calling Kwame Brown “UPS” — What Can Brown Do For You?

Tonight he may need to do a lot, his slow introduction back into the Laker rotation will get a jump start as the Lakers look to match up with the big front line of the Los Angeles Clippers

Everything I learned about the Clippers…. I learned from Clipper Blog. Kevin may be the most insightful blogger out there, and while his team is an impressive 6-2 on the season he has a couple of concerns (and he is not alone).

First, the Clippers aren’t taking advantage of their biggest strength by pounding the ball inside — so far this season Elton Brand has used about 19% of the Clipper possessions when he is on the floor, well below the 24.7% of last year. That slack has been picked up by guys like Tim Thomas and Shaun Livingston, who make their living on the perimeter. Add to that Chris Kaman shooting just 37.7% on the season and you’ve got trouble. Kevin reports that things returned to normal other night against Philly — Brand looked like Brand again. I’m sure they will try to establish him early and often tonight.

Second, young Shaun Livingston has not lived up the hype. He was all but handed the starting job at the point, but his is shooting just 35.8% (eFG%) with a PER of 8.91 this season, a regression for him. Sam Cassell has stepped up and again bailed the Clippers out, but obviously he is not the future — and Kevin is beginning to wonder if Livingston can be.

Despite that… How much have the perceptions changed in Clipperland when they are 6-2 and concerned, rather than rejoicing?

Some guys can flat-out write. There’s a reason one of the links on the left is to “anything by Eric Neel” — I found him way back at Sports Jones and have followed his writing ever sense. If you wonder why, read this great column post Lakers/Bulls game about what is going right in LA.

Things are bad. Just how warped has our world become when Rupert Murdoch can be positioned by his PR people to take the moral high ground?

Things to look for. The spot the Clippers have been the weakest defensively this season is at the point, not a big shock with the older and slower Cassell getting more minutes (Livingston is a good defender). If the dunking-on-Ben-Wallace Smush Parker shows up he could have a good game.

While it’s a game time decision, Jordan Farmar appears to be sitting this one out because of his sprained ankle. Look for Shammond Williams and Aaron McKie to get some run.

Want to keep your eye on a fun matchup — Quinton Ross on Kobe. Even the “slowed” Kobe.