Archives For December 2006

Preview and chat: The Chicago Bulls

Kurt —  December 19, 2006

Hit the road, Jack. Six game road swing for the Lakers through the Midwest and East, starting tonight in Chicago. I’d say 3-3 is passable for this trip, 4-2 a good goal to shoot for.

About Kobe and Gil. Kobe got a lot of attention after saying Arenas’ 60-point performance against the Lakers was a player playing without a conscious. Bethlehem Shoals at Free Darko had a great post on all this.

As Brett’s noted, there’s a surface irony to Kobe questioning anyone else’s “conscience.” This supposes, however, that it was intended as a swipe at Gil. I think we can all agree that part of what makes Arenas such a joy to watch is that he does lack a basketball conscience. But rather than come off as stubborn or malicious, it’s responsible for his rapturous innocence.

On a personal note. I’m proud and honored to be Time Magazine’s man of the year.

The last meeting. The bad news: Odom led the Lakers with 23 points and used 25 possessions, more than any other Laker in their 10-point win. The Lakers are going to have to pick up that production from somewhere.

Bynum had a great game, sending back a Big Bad Ben Wallace shot early, he was an offensive and defensive force all night, finishing with 17 points and an offensive rating for the game of 103.5 (points per 100 possessions). But the Lakers also got a big game from Kwame Brown, who finished a team best +17 and played all the key minutes down the stretch.

Also, the Lakers pulled away with a fourth quarter run when the subs were on the floor (Odom, Kwame, VladRad, Evans and Shammond Williams back when he was getting minutes). Getting good play from the bench will again be key for the Lakers tonight, and on the road trip.

Defense. Last time these two played was one of the better defensive games for the Lakers as no Bull gave then trouble (save Nocioni, who was the only Bull with an offensive rating over 100 at 118.5).

But in the last three games the Lakers have let opponents shoot 55.7% (eFG%) and 42.3% from three. If they don’t start playing better defense, this is going to be a long road trip, simple as that. That last Bulls win is a model for how the Lakers need to play, both better defense on the perimeter and good defensive rotations in the middle with Bynum/Brown creating a strong inside presence. (That said, it’s easier to do that against the offensively-challenged Bulls.)

The Bulls are hot. They’ve won 11 of 12. How are they doing that? I went straight to the source out in Bears-crazy Chicago to see what has happened, and if anybody stopped complaining about Rex Grossman long enough to notice. Here’s what the always great Matt at Blog-a-Bull had to say:

I wish I could tell you what the difference has been, I’ve never been so unenthused over 11 wins out of 12 games before. It’s a hard thing to figure out, since the schedule has been so soft during that stretch: only 3 road games in that whole stretch, and the only win over a now-over-.500 team was Washington.

So yes, they’re playing better. Wallace has been incredible the past week, getting 62 rebounds in the 3 games. The scoring load has been coming from all places, most times from Deng and Nocioni, and Ben Gordon has been consistent and getting to the line. In case you missed my post last week, their defense has been transformed into a more aggressive one, yet still remains among the elite in the league (

But I can’t shake the feeling that they’re just playing better because of the schedule. I always thought that this team would absolutely beat up on the weaker teams in the league, since they’re deep, they always bring a defensive effort, and don’t play down to competition as a result. Especially when they play bad defensive teams, their movement and sharing within the offense is deadly, and their defense augments that by creating transition opportunities. However it’s still a question whether they can be effective against a team that challenges them defensively. One bright spot in that department is that lately Luol Deng has been a go-to guy late in games, complementing the every-so-often Gordon heroics.

AND, Wallace is a far better offensive player than Tyson Chandler. I’ve been pretty impressed with his passing ability. And even though he still bricks free-throws, fouling him still gets the other team in the penalty, which is nice for the usually FTA-deficient Bulls.

Things to look for. Last meeting the Lakers did a great job of pounding the ball in the paint and working inside on the Bulls and they need to do that again.

Last meeting the Lakers also had good perimeter defense, although the big guys blocking shots was a big part of that (and not so much against Washington). Smush, Evans and Kobe did a good job: Hinrich was in foul trouble and finished with 3 points and -1, Duhon was 0 points and -12, and Gordon had 9 points and +9. The Lakers need another night like that.

Phil Jackson rightly wants fewer threes taken. Look for the Lakers to pound the ball inside more.

Player Pairs (and some other stuff)

Kurt —  December 18, 2006

Now that we’re 23 games into the season — and Phil Jackson has seemingly tried every possible lineup combination in his search for a rotation — that an interesting thing to do is start looking at player pairs. Specifically, what players are playing well with each other (using +/- and other numbers).

For example, who is best paired with Kobe so far? How about Sasha Vujacic — they’ve only played 38 minutes together (not including Washington) and the team’s offensive rating during that time is 121.6 (points per 100 possessions) and during those times opponents have had an offensive rating of just 90.5. There must be something to this because Sasha’s overall numbers are not nearly that good, is it because a spot-up shooter plays well off Kobe?

That said, Kobe has played will with Lamar Odom (the two are +67 in their 533 minutes), Kwame Brown (+60 in 286 minutes), Luke Walton (+43 in 512 minutes) and Smush (+39 in 473 minutes).

One thing that jumps out at you is just how much better this team is with Kwame Brown on the floor. Kwame leads the team in +/- (he is +11.8 per 48 minutes, Kobe is second at +8.5) and every player on the team is in positive numbers (in terms of +/-) when he is playing. It’s pretty clear, right now he is the presence inside for this team, particularly on the defensive end.

Check out all the numbers for yourself, but here are a few more quick observations:

• There aren’t enough minutes to see how well Brown and Turiaf would work together (they have great numbers but just in a couple minutes), but I’d like to see how that combo works.

• Last season Smush was in the positive with every teammate, this season it is just four of them. And the pairing of Parker and Radmanovic has been weak (again, before the Washington numbers) with an offensive rating of 95.8 and a defensive rating of 113.1 — basically the Lakers are being outscored by 17.3 points per 100 possessions when these two play together. So far at least (it was just 50 minutes before Washington).

• Bynum is struggling with everyone except Mo Evans. That’s what Bynum’s inconsistent play gives you (I’m trying not to get too down on a 19 year old, but I agree with kwame a. in the comments that I’d like to see more Turiaf at the center spot on the night’s Bynum is slow on defensive rotations. For example, the Lakers needed to send a hard-foul message to the Wizards’ guards (not Mardy Collins hard, but a firm clean foul) and the only one I remember was Turiaf on Butler.


Two other things to point you too worth reading. One is another, as always, brilliant bit of insight from Roland Lazenby on his blog:

The Lakers have a 27 point lead in the fourth quarter in Houston, then watch the Rockets furiously whittle it down to 2 and still the Lakers wind up winning on a series of missed Rockets free throws and a no-call (yes, Winter said it looked to him like Kwame Brown goal-tended on that late shot attempt).

Then, the Lakes are down by 21 in a rematch with the Rockets at home in Staples Center and somehow end up winning in double-overtime.

“Unbelievable,” Winter said.

So is the epiphany.

Which came at the tail end of all the fury. That’s when Winter saw the truth that had been sitting under his own nose for years now.

“In this coaching business, you have to be a Zen master,” he realized.

The other is a great interview with Jeff from Celtics Blog over at I say that not just because Jeff says nice things about me (although that never hurts) but also because it is a great chance to learn a little about a pioneer and maybe the best NBA team blogger out there.

Oh, and David Stern brought out the iron first today. The Lakers will get one game against the depleted Nuggets (Jan. 5 at Staples).

Last Season’s Lakers. Houston certainly gave “The Kobe Rules” a shot, trying a few different ways to force the ball out of Kobe’s hands. At one point late in the first half, when Kobe had been bringing the ball up the court, the Rockets started trapping him with two men as soon as he crossed half court. They tried that more later, along with other steps, all of which wasn’t terribly successful (Kobe shot 51.3% [eFG%] despite using 40% of the Laker possessions).

The Lakers won in double OT, but that game look like last season’s Lakers — a lot of Kobe and not much else. Odom being out is chance for the rest of the team to grow, to step up, So far, there’s been limited evidence of that. And for the most part, one player taking a lot of shots is not conducive to winning.

Cook or Radmanovic? Vlad got the start, but in crunch time against Houston it was Cook on the floor (Vlad went out three-quarters of the way through the third never to return). In the last two games Cook is +20 and Radmanovic -19. If I’m Phil, the thought of moving Cook into the starting lineup is starting to gain momentum in my mind, even if I’m not making the move yet.

Defensive Challenge. The Washington Wizards are the kind of team that presents a match up challenge for the Lakers, particularly without Odom. Playing point is the exciting (if a bit odd) Gilbert Arenas, old-friend Caron Butler is at the three and Antawn Jamison is at the four.

Arenas is the leader, with a PER of 25.8 (10th best in the NBA this season) and a crazy good +/- of +28.3 (per 48 minutes, meaning the team outscores its opponents by that much when he is on the floor). He is shooting 47.5% on jumpers, 39.9% on threes and is quick enough to get into the lane. Also 18% of his possessions are ending in an assist. That’s a tough match up for Smush and Farmar (or anyone in the league).

Butler is scoring 18.7 points per 40 minutes and is adding 8.2 rebounds in that time. Jamison is shooting 52.5% (eFG%) on the season and his scoring and rebounding numbers are very similar to Butler’s.

The Wizards are going to score, they have the sixth most efficient offense in the league at 110.5 points per 100 possessions (the Lakers are at 109.6, 10th in the league). To slow them down the Lakers are going to need to have good rotations and Kwame/Bynum are going to have to take over the paint, block some balls and generally do some intimidation. And do it without getting in foul trouble.

But the Lakers should score plenty. Bet the over, because the Wizards have the third-worst defense in the league. Team’s shoot well against them (50.6% eFG%) but also grab 30% of their missed shots, shots there are a lot of chance for offensive put backs.

Defensively the Wizards are weakest along the front line — opposing threes have a PER of 19.7 against them, and both fours and fives are above average. The Lakers should be able to get the ball inside today and score, and look for a big game from Walton.

Blogging with the enemy. If you want to know what’s in the Wizards’ heads — well, not Arenas, I’m not sure we want to know that — there’s a new Wizards blog, Bullets Forever, worth checking out.

Things to look for. While Arenas is driving the lane, two-guard DeShawn Stevenson is shooting 42.1% from beyond the three-point line, the Lakers can’t collapse and just ignore him.

The Wizards are not an abnormally good shooting team — they are 15th in the NBA — but they don’t turn the ball over much (14.7% of possessions, third best in the NBA) and they get to the line a lot (seventh most per shot in the league). So keys for the Lakers would be creating some turnovers and staying out of foul trouble.

To me, the key is Bynum/Kwame. If they can set a defensive tone, and if they can grab a bunch of offensive rebounds, the Lakers should be able to control the paint and get the win. Phil has been frustrated with the pair of late, they need to step up tonight.

If nothing else, the Wizards are one of the more entertaining teams in the league to watch.

Preview and Chat: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  December 15, 2006

Don’t expect a long preview, it feels like we did this just a few days ago.

Double Yao. The one thing discussed after the last game here was that the Lakers waited until the second half to start doubling Yao Ming in the post. Not so coincidentally, that’s when the Lakers went on a big run. This time I would think the Lakers will start with the quick double right out of the gate (then vary what they do some from there). Make someone else beat you, if Rafer Alston and Shane Battier go 9 for 11 from three, so be it, the odds of that happening are a lot longer than those of Yao scoring single covered three feet from the hoop.

But, as we remember from the fourth quarter, we may want to stay close to Luther Head out beyond the arc.

Back-to-back. The Lakers catch a break as the slow-it-down Rockets were forced to run and gun up in the Bay Area last night, falling to the Warriors by 2. The Rockets led by double digits most of the third quarter but when the starters subbed out for the bench, the wheels came off and it was a close fourth. Baron Davis was the good Baron Davis, hitting the big three for the win.

About the Rocket bench, it was they that led the fourth quarter comeback against the Lakers last Tuesday. Heck, John Lucas was a team best +22. Padgett was +18. The Laker bench is better than them and need to prove it.

How do the Rockets defend Walton? Should be interesting, Luke had 18 points and was +20 in the last meeting stepping into Lamar’s role, you have to think the Rockets will try to adjust to that.

Along those lines, another start for Radmanovic and another chance for him to step up.

Pace. I mentioned last time this is key — the Lakers want to run, Jeff Van Gundy is likely to lobby for a 35-second shot clock. Especially catching the Rockets in a back-to-back, you should be able to wear them down by pushing the pace.

Hot topic last night. Tony “busblog” Pierce is a big hoops fan, and last night (at an LAist gathering) he was making the case for the Clippers to give up Livingston and to get Iverson. While they Clips would face luxury tax implications, if the window is open and their title chances are the next five years….. What do you think?

The Kobe Rules

Kurt —  December 14, 2006

It was mentioned by Ian yesterday in the comments, Dallas has developed its “Kobe Rules” — defensive rules that apply just to Kobe in an attempt to stop him from doing things like scoring 62 points in three quarters.

The rules are pretty logical: try to deny Kobe the ball, be physical with him, vary the double teams and looks you give him, use different guys on him to keep the defenders fresh, and make Kobe work on the defensive end of the floor.

These are obviously a take off of “The Jordan Rules,” the famous steps the Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly set up in 1988 to stop Michael Jordan from single-handedly beating his title contenders. What people need to remember is it worked — the Pistons beat the Bulls 4-1 in the Eastern Conference semis in 88, beat them 4-2 in the conference finals in 89, beat them in seven games in 90. It worked until there were good enough players around MJ (and some coach to channel the skills) that the Bulls could win without MJ scoring 50.

I bring that up because in Dallas last night the Kobe Rules were in effect, and with Odom out nobody else stepped up.

Radmanovic got the start and at times looked confused as to where to be in the offense, finishing with 5 of 9 from the floor but with just 3 rebounds and a -17. Kwame Brown was 2 of 7, just 4 rebounds and was -17. Luke Walton was 3 of 13 and -23.

Now I don’t think that alone caused the Lakers to lose — playing defense that allows the Mavs to shoot 63.1% (eFG%) was the big problem (the Lakers didn’t seem to fight through an off-the-ball pick all night). And I’ll also say that not many teams have the depth and athletes that the Mavs do to play the Kobe Rules.

But Kobe and the Lakers are going to see a lot more of this for the next month, or until Odom is back. And, unless other players step up, much like those 80s Bulls teams they are not going to win as much as they would like.

Preview and Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  December 13, 2006

Odom’s status. The official word has come down and it looks like the Lakers are without Odom for the next four weeks at least. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Saving Kwame. Another great post at Lakernoise by Roland Lazenby, this one about the turnaround in Kwame Brown:

Yes, Kwame Brown is quite a reclamation project.

And he’s not Jackson’s first.

Bulls fans and old NBA hands will recall the raised eyebrows when Jackson’s Chicago team acquired 7-foot-2 Luc Longley from the Minnesota Timberwolves in February 1994. Longley had been considered pretty much a wasted draft pick after the T-Wolves took him with the seventh overall pick in 1991. The first Australian in the NBA, Longley had languished on Minnesota’s bench, watching what little self esteem he had as a player melt away.

Jackson, though, liked Longley’s big body (the better to counter Orlando’s Shaquille O’Neal) and his soft touch on a face up jumper.

“There are only so many dinosaurs,” Jackson said privately of the move.

Dinosaurs are those big NBA monsters, those 7-footers who can actually play, who can defend a little and can contribute on offense. Longley never became dominant with the Bulls. That wasn’t the plan. But he used his size well on defense. Shot his face-up jumper that worked well in Chicago’s scheme. And he worked well in the pinch post in the triangle offense.

Second-guessing Phil. I know Phil Jackson doesn’t like to double team on defense if he can help it, particularly in the post. I know that the post double can strain rotations and open up the perimeter, especially against a good passing center like Yao Ming.

But with McGrady out the Rockets had no other good scoring option on the perimeter, so I’m not sure why Phil waited until the second half — and foul trouble on both his bigs — before starting with the quick double on Yao. Once the Lakers did it the Rocket offense fell apart and the Laker jumped out to a big lead. At least until LA quit playing defense in the fourth all together.

The Year Without a Santa Claus. Off topic here but I just need to vent. The claymation Year without a Santa Claus from the 1970s — you know, the one with the Heat Miser and Snow Miser — is a personal holiday favorite. The Cold Miser theme was my answering machine’s outgoing holiday greeting for years. I have the movie on tape. Which is why I want to personally punch the NBC executive that thought that painful live-action remake/adaptation they aired Monday night was a good idea. It had no charm or subtlety, the dialogue was stiff and the added subplots were both predictable and tedious. This was the kind of swill usually seen only on the Lifetime Movie Network. I wanted to like it and could only watch 10 minutes.

Please people, leave the classics alone.

Hitting the glass. It’s pretty safe to say that the biggest concern with Odom out is rebounding. This is one area where the Lakers do have some depth and if guys focus on the task. Look at it this way, Odom was pulling down 9.2 assists per 40 minutes played (or 13.9% of the available rebounds when he was on the floor), but four other Lakers are doing that well or better. Bynum is grabbing 11.8 per 40 (17,8%), Kwame 9.8 (14.8), Brian Cook a surprising 10.1 (15.3%), and Turiaf has identical numbers to Odom.

The difference has been that Odom has played far more minutes and was racking up more per game rebounds. Now with the increased minutes, some focus from these players on the glass can make sure there is no big drop-off.

UPS vs. Dampier. This will be one of the more interesting matchups of the night, two much-maligned centers who are playing better than people think. Dampier seems to have found his comfort zone — he isn’t shooting much but is picking his spots well and his shooting 68.1%, then there is the fact he is pulling down 19.8% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor (tied for fifth highest percentage in the league). That said, the position that Dallas has had the most trouble defending this season is the center (opponent PER of 18.5) so the Lakers may want to try to take advantage inside. If either Kwame or Dampier can control the paint, it will be a big boost for his team.

Who steps up tonight? The smart money may be on Kobe — remember that the Mavs have a hard time slowing him. The most obvious example is the 62 in three quarters last season, but the Mavs have had a hard time slowing him for some time. With Odom out Kobe likely will get some extra attention from defenders, so someone else — or someones — need to step up.

Things to look for. There are a lot of good Mavs. When Jason Terry is on the floor the Mavs are +11.2 per 48 minutes, with Devin Harris it is +13.7. Josh Howard is shooting 51.1% (eFG%). And don’t forget that Jerry Stackhouse guy, although he is questionable for tonight.

The Lakers need to defend out at the arc — Nowitzki, Terry and Howard are all shooting better than 40% from three point range.

Besides center, the other position the Mavs have struggled to defend is the point guard spot (which is a bit of a surprise with Terry starting). Smush and/or Farmar could have a big night.

I’d say David Hasselhoff sucks, but I don’t want to piss of Dirk.

Life Without Lamar

Kurt —  December 13, 2006

Well, that sucks. If one guy deserved a season without misfortune it was Odom.

First things first, we’ll know more later today on just how long Odom will be out after the MRI is completed. Early guesses ranged from one to six weeks, depending on who you listen to. But as kwame a. said in the comments on the Rockets game, best not to rush him back and have it never get quite right. It’s a long season and the Lakers need Odom healthy.

Look for power-forward-by-committee trio of Radmanovic, Cook and Turiaf to fill in for Lamar. Also, Luke Walton will see time at the four with Kobe at the three and Mo Evans at the two — that’s the lineup that went +6 in the waning minutes in Houston to secure with win. My guess is that matchups will determine the playing time on a night-to-night basis, along with who gets the hot hand. Much like Phil has done late in games at the point guard spot.

For example, I would guess Turiaf (the best defender of the four) will get a good amount of time on Dirk Nowitzki tonight. But that is also a sign of just how everyone will have to step up — Turiaf can’t handle Dirk out on the wing (nor can Cook, Walton or Radman, they are all too slow) so he’s going to need rotation help from Kwame and Bynum to stop Dirk from driving for uncontested shots.

It’s going to take the entire team because Odom was bringing a lot to the table. His shooting numbers have been almost identical to Kobe: 53.2% (eFG%), 58.6% true shooting percentage, 35.8% on threes, he was +1.9 per 48 minutes (same as Kobe) and he was the only Laker besides Kobe using more than 20% of the offense while on the floor. We’re talking 18.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per 40 minutes played — and Odom has been playing more minutes per game than Kobe.

This is where the Lakers depth can be of use — last night Luke Walton stepped up, another night it may need to be Kwame, another night Smush, another night Cook. Then there may be a night it’s just the Kobe show again. And that’s just the scoring; the bigs are going to have to focus on rebounding because Odom may have been the team’s most consistent rebounder.

I think this team has what it takes. I just hope we don’t have to watch the Odomless Lakers for too long.

Preview and Chat: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  December 12, 2006

14-6. It was the record we hoped the Lakers would come out of that heavy home schedule with, and even with the toughest tests ahead I think we’ve learned a lot about this team through 20 games. And there are a lot of reasons to be excited. Due to a couple of big games I’ll wait a few days before any attempt at detailed first-quarter thoughts.

Here’s my bottom line – we’ve learned this is a team with a lot of potential, but in part because of its youth it doesn’t live up to that every night. They tend to play to the level of their competition. These Lakers are far from alone, some very good teams have done that too — the three-pete Lakers did, but then in the fourth quarter they’d turn it on and pull away. The current Lakers lack the maturity to win on an off night, or at least do it consistently.

But this team is deeper and more comfortable in the triangle than last season, they are growing, and guys like Bynum and Farmar are only going to get better. Then there is Radmanovic, who was set back with the hand injury and is behind on the offense learning curve, but who will come around. This is a team with a bright future, and in the first 20 games this season we have just started to see glimpses of it – like that amazing second half against San Antonio. We should be excited.

Thanks. Quick thank you to Gatinho for filling in for a few days while I spent time with the in-laws. And for all my concerns, Smush on the big screen looked good in that third quarter Sunday.

Iverson. No, he is not coming to the Lakers, nor should he. Iverson and Kobe’s games would mesh like acid and base. And while I generally don’t like to comment on rumors, it’s no rumor that Iverson will be traded. Personally, of all the places mentioned as a destination the one I think makes the most sense is Boston – in the East right now a combo of Pierce and Iverson might be an assault on shooting efficiency but the team would be a threat to make the Finals. What doesn’t make sense to me is Minnesota. Granted, they’ve failed at building around KG the last few years, and this would likely be seen by fans and many in the media as an attempt to right the ship and make them contenders. But while the team would sell tickets and would likely make the playoffs in the West, they are still just a 6-8 seed that would lose in the first round. Minnesota is in a tough spot: it’s going to be very difficult to build a champion around KG any more, but trade him and you alienate the fan base.

By the way, I think Henry at True Hoop’s random thought is not far fetched. I’ve just about finished reading Freakonomics, a book that among other things makes you think about peoples’ and organizations’ incentives for doing whatever they are doing. There are good incentives for the 76ers to bench Iverson then drag this out.

You’re with me, leather. The old leather NBA ball will be new again come January 1. Shocking that once a couple of stars like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd started talking about injuries due to chafing with the new ball, things change.

McGrady Out. The Lakers catch a break as the oft-injured Tracy McGrady is not expected to play against the Lakers as back spasms are slowing him again. It’s a big blow to the Rockets’ offense — McGrady handled 28.9% of the team’s shots when he was on the floor, that’s a lot to make up for.

Yao vs. Kwame. This will be the match up of the night, and I like the Lakers in this one (to a degree). Kwame has always been best when he can use his strength to root guys out of the post. He has his best defensive games against traditional centers like Shaq or Yao. Not that you can stop Yao — he is shooting 52.9% from the floor while using a whopping 30.1% of his teams shots when on the floor (7th highest in the league). That works out to 25.5 points (along with 9.4 rebounds and 2 blocks) per game. Also, Kwame (and Bynum) must keep Yao off the boards, he is grabbing 15.1% of the available rebounds.

It’s all about the defense. The Rockets are the best defensive team in the NBA right now, giving up just 98.8 points per 100 possessions (compare that to the Lakers at 106.8, 13th in the league). They do it the old fashioned way, by keeping the other team from shooting well — opponents shoot just 44.9% eFG% against them. It helps to have a big shot blocker like Yao in the paint, it also helps that his replacement is defensive force Dikembe Mutombo.

Things to look for: Pace will be a key. The Rockets want it slow, they average 88.7 possessions per game, fourth slowest in the league. The Lakers are at 92.4, seventh fastest (and as Rob has said before, when the Lakers are above that number they do well). Whichever team can control the pace of the game will have a big advantage.

Battier was a great pick up for the Rockets, they are +14.2 per 48 minutes when he is on the floor. Oddly, however, the position that has had the most success against the Rockets is the four. Odom needs to step up.

Outside of McGrady the Rockets have gotten spotty (at best) perimeter play. The Lakers need to make sure that trend continues and try to turn this into a Yao vs. Lakers game, then count on Kwame and Bynum (who seems to play his best against the best) to get the Lakers a win with their defense.