Preview and Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

Kurt —  December 31, 2006

Bad Charlotte. It was maybe the ugliest Laker game of the season. On offense, it was a game where Kobe was hot early, so everyone else seemed to spend the rest of the game (and particularly the overtimes) just throwing him the ball, clearing out and letting him go one-on-one. Kobe clearly got tired as the Bobcats turned their focus to him (as noted in the LA Times today, Kobe Bryant made 16 of his first 27 shots but only six of his last 18). Commenter skigi said it well — the triangle offense can get everyone good looks if you just run it properly.

Then there is the pick and roll defense. This really is a team failing. Smush gets easily rubbed off picks, always has, and can be slow to recover. Phil was right in his comments about Kwame – last game was not the first time that he laid back off the pick and roll, both Wade and Arenas took great advantage of it. Last season, the majority of time (65% in a short study I did) the Lakers “showed” on the pick-and-roll, meaning Kwame or Mihm would step out on the ball carrier and not let him run right at the basket until Smush could recover. This season Kwame seems not to want to go much above the free throw line, I had thought that was by design but apparently it is Kwame not feeling comfortable out that far. And finally, Kwame’s complaints were right that the rotations behind him were often late. I’m sure we’re going to be dissecting and discussing this again, but there is room for improvement all over the place.

But here are the important things – the Lakers were still 3-3 on the trip, they are 5-5 since Lamar went down (I count the Houston win where Odom played 3 minutes). That is not great, but it’s not bad. Phil’s big picture philosophy can be frustrating, but he’s right that this team needs to grow and improve over the course of the season. This was an ugly bump in that road, but it’s one game. There are things to learn from, but the team also needs to move on.

Goodbye ball. Tonight will be the Lakers (and the league’s) last game with the “new” composite ball. It will be interesting to see if there are any dramatic changes in shooting with the new/old ball.

Green to Germany. Devin Green has decided the NDLB, and waiting for a guard spot to open up on the Lakers, is not for him. He is off to play for Rhein Energie in Germany. Some media have questioned why he would do this, but for the most part the pay for a top European team (and apparently this is one) is way better than the D-League. And while the team has just four Euroleague games left, it has a 20-game league schedule remaining.

The point guard for Philly. Gone is the guy who can score on anyone, in is the underrated Andre Miller. In his four games with the Sixers Miller is averaging +45 per 48 minutes, and he’s is doing it by setting up teammates (31% of his possessions have ended in an assist). The current configuration of the Sixers is much better with him on the floor and his 15.5 points and 8 assists per game.

By the way, the book on Miller is similar to the one on Steve Nash – make him a shooter. Miller is shooting just 45.5% in his last four games, and a pedestrian 47.5% on the season.

Who is benefiting from the change?
Andre Iguodala is having a good year, with a PER of 18.25, but he’s been playing better of late. In his last 10 games he is shooting 54.2% (eFG%) and 38.9% on threes – all of his numbers have been a little since AI was benched, and Iguodala said that the reason for his improved play the last four is Miller is getting him good shots.

Also playing well is Samuel Dalembert, who is shooting 57.6% and grabbing 17.1% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor this season. The Lakers also need to keep an eye on Kyle Korver, who is shooting 44.3% on threes for the season, but has been cold since AI left and is shooting just 30.6% from beyond the arc in his last 10.

Things to look for:
Drunk drivers. If you are going out for NewYear’s Eve tonight, don’t drink and drive. And be careful on the roads, too many people don’t follow that advice.

As for the Laker/Sixers game, this is one the Lakers should win, and I expect that they will bounce back with a lot of energy, particularly on defense. I have a gut feel this could be blowout win,

Defensively, the Sixers have struggled most to defend the small forward spot, although the entire front line has been a weak spot this season. So, good chance for Kwame, Luke and the gang to bounce back and show they can contribute.

Iguodala is going to be matched up on Kobe, which should make for an interesting match up. However, having one of the Sixers’ best scorers (he had a career high 32 in Portland Friday) expending that much energy on the defensive end should be a plus for the Lakers.

Have a happy New Year!!