Archives For February 2007

I’ll Take the Colts

Kurt —  February 4, 2007

I’ve got no emotional attachment for today’s Super Bowl, all I really am rooting for is a good game.I’m leaning that way because the most logical thing I heard this week was ESPN’s (and former Bronco lineman) Mark Schlereth say that teams like Indy wear down cold weather power defenses in the fourth quarter, and that the Colts would pull away late. The stats guys at Football Outsiders have no idea but lean Bears.

My allegiance can be swayed here, so make your best argument. An enjoy America’s unofficial national holiday.

A word or 164 on Indiana. Is it just me, or did the Lakers last night remind you of last season’s version? The ones that, if Kobe wasn’t on top of his game, couldn’t step up to help out. The ones that had absolutely horrible defensive rotations so their defense only worked when they could create steals. The ones with no good play off the bench. The ones with the passive Lamar Odom. The ones that could not stay in front of a point guard (and cue the defensive rotation comment again).

I’m also going to lay a little of this at Phil’s feet: Why change four out of the five guys on the floor to start the fourth quarter when you’ve been on a 22-8 run with them? Indiana had made some changes, going to their bench as well, but this the chance to put the game out of reach, then rest the starters the last 8 minutes. Instead, the momentum swung and the Lakers never got it back.

Gilbert vs. Kobe. First, let me say this — these two starts are going to get theirs tonight. The team that plays the best around their star will get the win.

That said, slowing Agent 0 would be a big help. Last time these two met Arenas used 37% of his team’s possessions, shot 60.9% (eFG%) and dropped 60 on the Lakers. After which Kobe made the oft-repeated and ironic “he has no conscience” statement.

But it wasn’t just Arenas.
A lot of the Wizards shot well. All-Star Caron Butler used 22 possessions and shot 50% (eFG%) and got to the line a lot, so his true shooting percentage (think points per shot attempt) was a very good 65.5%. DeShawn Stevenson shot 71.3%. Jamison shot well too, but he will not be playing tonight due to a knee injury.

Bottom line: The Lakers are going to have to play a lot better team defense than they did last time these two squared off. Or than they did last night.

As for the Lakers last meeting. Kobe and Vladrad put on a shooting clinic of their own on. Kobe shot 77.1% on his way to 45 points, Radman shot 84,4% on his way to 27. As a team the Lakers shot 58.5%, which will get it done if you play any D.

Injury update. Luke Walton is expected to start playing again on the road trip, possibly in Atlanta. However, Kwame is slower to heal from his sprain, will see a specialist next week and is still a couple weeks away.

Things to look for. While the media attention will be all over the Kobe/Arenas rivalry (and that could lead to some amazing shot making) the game itself is really is all about the Laker defense. The Wizards are second in the NBA in offensive efficiency (113.6 points per 100 possessions, besting the Lakers at 110.5, 6th best). To balance that, the Wizards are 28th in the league in defense. The Wizards play at the fourth fastest pace in the league. What they want to do is turn this into a shootout. The Lakers can’t do that and win, especially on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Lakers need to make their shots, crash the offensive boards to at least slow the Wizards break a little, and then in the half court rotate on defense.

Let’s hope the team bounces back from an embarrassing game last night.

Preview and Chat: The Indiana Pacers

Kurt —  February 2, 2007

Last time these two got together. The Lakers won pretty handily, 101-86, leading from the middle of the first quarter on and the game was never really in doubt. The Lakers did it on the strength of their starters — all five of the regular starters (Smush, Kobe, Walton, Odom and UPS) were at least a +16 and everyone but Smush scored in double digits.

That said, I’m not sure how much we can take from that game — the Lakers are without two of those starters and the Pacers look very different than the team the Lakers faced in December.

What about the new guys? It was just a couple weeks ago when the Pacers sent Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington to bother Nellie and the strip clubs in the Bay Area. In return they got Dunleavy Jr. Troy Murphy and Ike Diagu. The Pacers were one of the worst offenses in the NBA and these guys were expected to help change that. So, how have the newbies done?

We’ll start with the former Notre Dame star Murphy, who is averaging 28.2 minutes per game and is averaging 9.7 points and 10.5 rebounds in those games. He’s shooting 49.1% (eFG%) since the move, which is pretty much where he was at before. The one difference is rebounds, he’s grabbing 21.3% of the available boards since moving east, far better than with Golden State.

Then there is Mike Dunleavy Jr., who is playing 31 minutes a game and is averaging 11.2 points per game as a Pacer. The problem is he is shooting just 43.1% overall and 31.6% from three. He’s also rebounding less and clearly has yet to be comfortable in the offense.

I like Ike, but the people in Indianapolis probably don’t that way (of course, they may have been too focused on some little football game to notice). His minutes have dropped to 6 a game, he is shooting just 33% as a Pacer and his PER is a kicked-out-of-the-ABA level 1.99.

Guys who are playing well.
No shock, Jermaine O’Neal is a force. He remains one of the NBA’s elite and in the last 10 games he has been a 21 and 10 guy, although he is shooting just 42.5%. And, of course, there are the 3 blocks a game.

The guy to watch may be second-year man Danny Granger, who is stepping up. In his last 10 he is averaging 17 points and shooting 57.7%. His hot spot — Granger loves the right-corner three, where he is shooting 55% this season from beyond the arc. Can’t let him get a good look from there.

Things to look for. Last time these two faced each other, Kwame Brown and the Lakers did a solid job on O’Neal, who was a -28 but shot a respectable 50%, However, the rest of the Pacers were 21 of 51 on the night. The Lakers again need to shut down the supporting cast, Granger in particular.

The Pacers are one of the worst offensive teams in the league, even the Lakers should be able to keep them from scoring many points. The key will be to be efficient on offense, as the Pacers are one of the top 10 teams in the league in defensive efficiency. The Lakers were able to do that last time

Kwame Brown had a big game last meeting, scoring 17 on 8 of 12 shooting. The Lakers need something like that out of Bynum.

Remembering Lucious Harris

Kurt —  February 2, 2007

I was a little bit lucky. The year I moved to Long Beach was the year that Long Beach State may have had its best basketball team ever. And, since I didn’t know many people and I had plenty of free nights, I went to a lot of basketball games that year. And that 92-93 team grew on me like few others have.

They were led by Lucious Harris, who not-so-coincidentally gets his number retired by Long Beach State Saturday night.

Most of you probably remember Harris from his recent NBA play, where he was a key guy off the bench for the Nets when they went to the NBA Finals a few years back. I remember Harris as the skinny and lightning quick kid who seemed unstoppable his senior season — he averaged 23.1 points per game shooting 60.2% (eFG%) and 41% from beyond the arc.

I talked with his old Long Beach coach this week, Seth Greenberg (now at #16 Virginia Tech) and he said they tried to use Harris’ quickness off the dribble by setting up a lot of isolation plays for him. But they also ran him off a lot of picks and down screens, trying to get him room for that quick jump-shot release (much like UCLA this year runs screens for Aaron Afflalo). It worked because Harris was such a smart player, even at that young age he seemed able to find the seams and holes in a defense that gave him room to get off shots (a knack he brought to the NBA).

What I remember is you could count on Harris, but it worked because that team had some balance, with Bryon Russell playing the role of the strong guard who got posted up more and used his strength to get off his shots.

What I didn’t know then was how much easier the work ethic of those two, trying to out do one another in practice, made Greenberg’s job easier.

“When you’re two best players are your best practice players, you can do a lot,” Greenberg said,

Lucious Harris saved his best play for the Big West Tournament that season, where he was named the MVP and led the 49ers to the title. It was all good enough to get the 49ers and 11 seed in the NCAA tournament that year, but they faced a strong Illinois team and lost in the first round 75-72.

Harris was the first pick of the second round of the NBA draft that year, taken by the Dallas Mavericks. He played a dozen years in the NBA.

I learned a lot — and had a lot of fun — watching Lucious Harris and those Seth Greenberg-coached teams. When I saw he was getting his number retired, well, it just reminded my how much fun basketball can be.