Notes On A Defensive Collapse

Kurt —  February 22, 2007

It doesn’t look like any trades are coming today (if that changes there will be updates), but when the Lakers sit down in the off-season too address changes, personnel moves need to be made with defense in mind. Last season perimeter defense was a problem so we brought in Radmanovic. It can’t be that way this summer.

I sloughed off the defensive problems a little bit last week, noting that the problem is the offense isn’t bailing the defense out any more. And that is true. But good teams — teams that can get past the first round of the playoffs or even challenge for a title — don’t need the offense to bail the defense out on a nightly basis. Usually it’s the other way around.

Last night’s Laker defensive effort really made me angry. And it starts with effort — in the NBA the guys have the athleticism to be decent defenders, but these Lakers couldn’t seem to care less about that end of the floor.

Smush equates steals with good defense. He had three last night, of course his guy went 9 of 12 from the floor, got into the lane at will and had 30. Rotations, what are rotations? And if the Laker bigs have to cover a guy who can step away from the basket and hit a jump shot, well, he’s going to get open looks because apparently the Laker front line is tethered to the basket support in some fashion and can’t step out to far.

It’s that last problem that was the catalyst for a Portland run last night. Let’s look at the Blazer possessions during a 2:09 stretch of the fourth quarter where Portland pulled away from the Lakers.

7:05, 90-89 Portland. Roy and Aldridge run a pick-and-pop from near the top of the key. Roy goes to his right but Sasha does a pretty good job sticking with him. However, Bynum lays back on Aldridge. Roy makes a jump pass back to Aldridge, who is setting up 20 feet out and has plenty of time to set and shoot, draining it.

6:39, 92-89 Portland. This time it’s Dickau and Randolph running the pick and pop, but the results are the same. This time it is Odom staying well off Randolph, who sets and scores from the top of the key. (I should note that Randoph is not a great jump shooter, but as he clearly was hot last night the Lakers should have adjusted the game plan.)

5:57, 94-89 Portland. Odom is forced to take a desperation three as the clock runs out, which leads to a fast break for the Blazers. Roy has the ball and nobody picks him up out high so he gets into the middle of the lane before two LAker defenders go to him. Roy passes to a cutting Udoka who makes a nice touch pass to Aldridge, who lays it in.

5:34, 96-89 Portland. Dickau misses an open three, but Aldridge outworks the Lakers and tips the rebound out to Randolph, who gets it at 17 feet with nobody around him. This time he drives into the lane and hits a 5-foot left handed running hook shot.

4:54 98-89 Portland. Back to the pick and pop with Roy and Aldridge, although this time Kobe is on Roy. He gets held up on the Aldridge pick, but Bynum still is hanging back so Roy drives to his left and hits a 15-foot jumper before Bynum can close out.

100-89, and while the Lakers make it closer the game is never really in doubt.