Light at the end of the tunnel. The first quarter last night, when the â€œthese were the guys we are supposed to have out thereâ€ starters were in the game, the Laker offense looked like a triangle again. Guys were moving without the ball, Kobe was drawing the double team then dishing (and guys actually hit the shot). There was spacing and passing lanes. As a team the Lakers shot 60% in the first quarter. It gave me some hope â€” once Luke and Lamar get their legs under them again, the offense could get back to where it was.
That light at the end of the tunnel could be an oncoming train. While the offense looked good for a stretch, the Laker defense looked, well, like the Laker defense. It still sucks. Steve Kerr gets it and said this last night:
â€œDespite the fact that (Kwame Brownâ€™s) numbers arenâ€™t great and heâ€™s taken a lot of heat this year, heâ€™s a big reason for (the Lakersâ€™) lapse in defense, they miss his body and his inside presence. Because of his absence and that of Chris Mihm, the Lakers have been very porous defensively.â€
The third quarter run by the Nuggets started when Bynum subbed in for Kwame with the game tied, the next thing you knew the Lakers were down 11. And it got uglier from there. For the game the Nuggets shot 60.5% (eFG%), 69% in the third quarter, and youâ€™re not going to win games allowing your opponents to shoot like that.
The last meeting with Portland looked like last night. The Lakers fell to the Blazers last month, Portland pulling away with a 16-2 run in the fourth quarter. It was maybe the Lakers sloppiest defensive game of the season. Jarret Jack abused Smush for 30 points on 9 of 12 shooting, Zach Randolph stepped away from the basket and Bynum didnâ€™t follow, so he had 22.
During the key stretch, Portland relied primarily on the pick-and-pop, with Roy and Aldridge a couple times, with Dickau and Randolph another time. The Lakers misplayed it just about every way possible. I think the Lakers can count on seeing a lot more of this tonight.
Another big difference was how much the Trailblazer bench outplayed the Laker bench.
Things to look for: Phil did one smart thing last night, sitting Lamar and Walton when the game got out of reach, resting them for tonight.
Iâ€™m curious to see if the offense runs smoothly for longer tonight. That said, play defense like last time these two met and the issue is moot.
Defensively, it means forcing Randolph into the midrange and then â€” unlike last game â€” donâ€™t give him time to set and get a perfect look from there. Heâ€™s not a great mid-range shooter if you get a hand in his face.
And for the love of God, somebody stay in front of Jack. At least sometimes.