Archives For January 2007

Aloha

Kurt —  January 19, 2007

I can’t take these brutal Southern California winters, I mean it barely got up to 65 degrees yesterday. How can a man live in these conditions?

So, my family and I are off for 10 days in Kauai, where the low yesterday was 70. While I may watch a Laker game while sipping on a fruity blended drink with a little paper umbrella in it, I will not be blogging. I’m leaving FB&G in the more than capable hands of Rob and Gatinho, who will take very good care of the place while I’m away.

Aloha.

First, let’s enjoy last night for another minute. This is what I’ve come to enjoy about this team: With the game still hanging in the balance late, and with the Lakers having the best go-to clutch player in basketball on their team, the Lakers got the ball to third-line center Ronny Turiaf. He turns and runs right at All-Defensive-Everything Tim Duncan and sinks an awkward little running bank shot over him. Game over. And nobody saw it coming — the Spurs did everything but pull guys out of the stands to be an extra body covering Kobe, but this Laker team has a bunch of confident guys willing to take the big shot.

Kobe is efficient (12 of 19, plus eight assists). The Lakers mostly played good defense and held the Spurs to 47.4% (eFG%) shooting, 27.3% from beyond the arc. The Lakers got good play from the bench again — Farmar was a team-high +13 and the Lakers big run to take the lead in the early fourth started with the subs on the bench. The Lakers — both teams really — showed what good passing looks like.

How can you not have fun watching this team?

First hand view. Regular commenter Cary D. braved the ice storm to get to the game last night, He emailed me some thoughts, which I’ll pass along.

The thing that stood out to me the most was the amount of Laker fans that were present, and LOUD! I couldn’t believe the chorus of boos that could be heard throughout the entire arena everytime Tim Duncan shot free throws, especially in the 4th quarter. The Spurs have such a home court advantage, and you can’t tell me those Spurs players couldn’t hear the Laker loyal last night.

Unfortunately, my girlfriend and I were high up in the “Gi-nose-bleed” section of the arena. But, being high up really lets you experience the game at a whole new level. It was easy to see the Spurs ball movement and the results they got when they ran their offense well. I just can’t believe they went away from their offense in the final 3 minutes, and they stopped using the pick-and-roll with dribble penetration by Tony Parker. Is it me, or does Tony Parker seem to be that guy who kills you in the first 40 minutes and then conveniently disappears in crunch time?

The triangle looked quite nice in key stretches of the game. Kobe was really a surgeon last night. My girl asked me why he took a few shots without moving the ball around first, but when you see the game from that level, you realize he knows EXACTLY the spots on the floor he is most comfortable shooting from. To score 34 points on 12-19 shooting and plenty of assists in the Spurs home arena shows how good this guy really is.

Another great moment you commented on, Turiaf’s bucket took the crowd’s collective soul out from under them. When they moved the ball to Turiaf I almost cringed with Duncan on him. The thing about Turiaf is that he has fundamentally-sound footwork which allowed him to beat Duncan to his spot for an easy lay-in. Killer bucket.

You can tell this is a Phil Jackson coached team because their footwork is really sound. Anyone who has read his books and know his background can see his influence on this team more so than his other Laker teams this decade.

The Laker fans and I were rejoicing in the tunnels, forming instant friendships at what we just saw (sorry to sound like Bill Walton).

One final thought from last night. This one via Bandwagon LA, which has the video evidence to back up something they noticed after Kobe’s third-quarter tomahawk dunk over Duncan:

if you watch the replay (after the 3rd Q graphic in the video), check out the dude on the end of the Spurs bench. As soon as Kobe finishes of the tomahawk facial, the guy looks like he’s about to get up and start celebrating but then realizes he’s on the Spurs and stops himself. But for one split second, he was a fan.

Cake Caper. I am just briefly violating my own rule about not commenting on off-the-court issues in this blog to pass along Dan Reines comment on the cake-throwing incident:

to be fair to kwame, the cake probably just slipped from his tiny granite hands…

Oh yea, that game tonight. As a reward for an exciting win, how about a flight in a storm to face one of the two hottest and best teams in basketball?

When the Lakers beat the Mavs a couple weeks ago they got great performances from Luke Walton (21 points on 8 of 14 shooting, plus six assists), Sasha Vujacic (4 o 5 from deep) and very solid roll-playing nights from Smush and Turiaf.

That night the Lakers also made Dirk inefficient, just 10 of 24 shooting (although he finished with 29 points and 13 boards). As a team the Mavs were held to 46.1% (eFG%) shooting.

With the second game of the back-to-back, the Lakers are going to need that kind of defensive performance again. Kobe is going to have to leave and not let the team think a split of the two-games in Texas was good enough. But others will have to step up again. How about Radmanovic, who seems be more and more comfortable in the offense and finding his space. (Really, his grown is worthy of its own post.)

Whatever happens, I bet it will be fun to watch. Just about everything with the team is.

On Tap: The San Antonio Spurs

Kurt —  January 17, 2007

Don’t Sleep on the Spurs. There seems to be a lot of taking the Spurs for granted this season (and in the comments on this site), but that would be foolish.

They have the second best point differential in the league (nearly tied with Phoenix). They have the fifth-rated offense in the league with 110.8 points per 100 possessions, which is noticeably better at that end of the floor than last season (107.5). Their defense is third best in the league at 101.5 (points per 100 opponent possessions), which is just slightly off last season’s league leading 99.5.

Oh, and they still have that Tim Duncan guy. And Tony Parker. And Manu.

That said…. When these two met last month the Lakers won. It was also one of the Lakers better defensive efforts of the season.

The game was close but the Lakers took charge late in the third quarter with a 22-3 run, one that not-so-coincidentally started when Tim Duncan went to the bench in favor of Francisco Elson (bad news for the Lakers, Elson is out with a bum shoulder). The other Spur the Lakers took it right at on offense was the aged and slowed Robert Horry (-22 for the game). The Lakers got good play all around — as a team they shot 53.4% (eFG%) against the good Spurs “D.” Kobe led the way with 34 points and shot 60%.

The Lakers dominated the pain that night, outscoring the Spurs in it 62-38.

Guys the Lakers miss tonight. Lamar Odom had 18 points, 11 rebounds and made key defensive plays in the last meeting of these two.

By the way, the Lakers are 11-7 since he went down. Not bad at all.

Big night for Tony Parker? From the very good Spurs blog Pounding the Rock:

Look for Parker to have a big game. He got schooled by Kirk Hinrich on Wednesday and got benched multiple times. Here’s what Pop had to say after the game:

Asked what the home team did to control the focal point of the offense, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich answered, “Not a damn thing.

“It would have made more sense if he was hurt,” the Spurs boss added. “He is fine (physically). Which is not the way he played, if you catch my drift.”

Yes, Pop. Your subtlety is not lost on us… Parker sucked the donkey balls.

By the way. From Marc Stein at ESPN:

The Golden State Warriors have agreed to trade Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod to the Indiana Pacers for Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell.

Things to look for: With San Antonio you not only have to defend the paint (with Duncan and the slashing Tony Parker) but also the three-point line. They’ve got guys who can knock it down — Parker is shooting 47.8% from beyond the arc, Ginobili 42.6%, Barry 48%, and Bruce Bowen 46.7% (and he loves the corner shot).

How well do the Lakers play defense tonight? It’s a key every night but you know the Spurs will bring it. If the Lakers play D like they did against the Heat it’s going to be a long night.

More Than Treading Water

Kurt —  January 16, 2007

No Odom. No Kwame. Still, the Lakers are 7-3 in the last 10, 5-2 without Kwame. At a time many would be happy just playing .500 ball until we get healthy, this team continues to show its depth and beat expectations.

And they continue to be exciting to watch. It’s all we can ask for as fans.

Cook may have had his best game as a Laker. Smush seems to have found his offensive game, shooting 60% (eFG%) in the last 10 games. Luke Walton is a steady 12 points, five assists and six rebounds a night. Andrew Bynum is shooting 58.8% in the last 10 and is being more aggressive. As a team the Lakers are shooting 39.3% from three in the last 10 games.

There are a lot of good things going on here. Sure, there are some bad things — the defense continue to be a problem that needs to improve by playoff time — but there are far more positives than negatives. Like just how good a passing team the Lakers have become, both moving the ball around the perimeter and interior passing.

We need to remember all that because things may not be pretty the next couple of games, with back-to-back road games in San Antonio and Dallas. Then again, with the way this team has come together, you never know.

Preview and Chat: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  January 15, 2007

Webber to Detroit. Not a shock, but Webber made his choice. It wasn’t money or effort on the Lakers part (Kobe and Mitch talked to Webber over the weekend). The issue was playing time — in LA he’d have to fight for it, in Detroit he’ll get a lot more right from the start, particularly at the five.

Overloading the TiVo. The Lakers, The always entertaining drunken acceptance speeches at the Golden Globes. Two more hours of Jack Bauer. Man, that’s a lot of television I want to watch crammed into one night, so if the Lakers could win this in a blowout and let me turn the channel early it would help.

No Shaq. No Pat Riley either. Of course, if the Lakers don’t do a better job defensively on Dwyane Wade than they did on Christmas it really won’t matter who else shows up for the Heat.

Stopping Wade. Christmas may have been the worst example of pick-and-roll defense from the Lakers all season, and so you get a spectacular game from Wade.

Wade used 33% of the Heat’s possessions, and despite the heavy workload he shot 62.5% (eFG%), had 11 assists and had an offensive rating 140. He scored almost a point a minute.

Kobe was on Wade for chunks of the game, but #24s lateral quickness is not what it was, and he was slowed out high by good picks set by the Heat. The other problem was that Kwame, apparently afraid that Wade would blow by him in he went out and hedged on the pick (coming out and playing Wade right after the pick stayed back near the paint. So Wade came off the screen, turned toward the hoop and got a full head of steam toward the basket before Kwame was even in the picture. Bad idea. You saw the results.

Of late Bynum has been much better about coming out on the picks and hedging, forcing the ball handler to do something other than just drive straight to the basket. He needs to do a lot of that tonight, as does Turiaf when he is in there.

The other Heat players. These are the guys you want taking shots, although there are things to watch out for.

We’ll start with Jason Kapono, who shot 78.6% (eFG%) against the Lakers last meeting. He’s hot right now, shooting 65% on threes in the last 10 games, the Lakers can’t give him uncontested looks from beyond the arc.

Of late the Heat also have gotten solid play from a variety of sources: Alonso Mourning, Jason Williams, Dorrel Wright, Udonis Haslem and James Posey. They have not been asked to do a lot on offense, but most have hit key shots, pulled down boards and been good role players the last week.

That said, if James Posey beats you so be it. You can’t let Wade beat you.

Shoot better. The Lakers shot poorly last meeting, led by Kobe’s 23.5% from the floor. Can’t do that again. The Lakers also had a lot of shots blocked — Wade had four and Mourning had three.

The star of the game for the Lakers was Turiaf, who played 20 minutes and had 13 points shooting 60%. Walton also shot 60%. With Kobe still not 100% because of the groin these guys and others need to step up.

Things to look for: The Lakers played Miami in the middle of a long road trip and came out flat on Christmas. Now the Lakers catch the Heat on the last game of their six-game road trip, and those final games are often let down games. Something to hope for.

Of course, the Heat come in having won four in a row.

Bynum needs to stay out of foul trouble dealing with Wade’s quickness and Mourining’s strength. How well he plays, particularly on defense, will b key to the Lakers success.