A bit of a frustrating loss because, even though they were outplayed for most of the game, that was one the Lakers could have stolen at the end. Plenty of room for improvement, but not a bad outing for the first game either.
I think there were two key areas that cost the Lakers the season opener against Houston:
1) The Laker second unit didnâ€™t have the success it did in the preseason â€” all five Laker starters were positive in +/-, but every Laker off the bench was in the negative (except Coby Karl in his very short stint). A large part of that of that is that Houston is one of the few teams in the NBA as deep (or deeper) than the Lakers. To cut one other guy some slack, I think Bynum had a good second half off the bench, playing some good defense. . I think the preseason will be more typical, but this was not a great night for the bench guys.
2) Too much Kobe â€” he used 43% of the Laker possessions for the game. This isnâ€™t all on him, for extended stretches the Lakers got away from really executing the offense and became â€œKobe watchers.â€ Guys didnâ€™t move without the ball, and when they got chances they missed (which leads Kobe to not make that pass the next time). But a lot of this is on Kobe â€” he didnâ€™t look to pass and get other players involved, instead heâ€™d just put his head down and drove into the lane. (Throw the ball to Bynum on the block once or twice.) Often the Lakers would push the ball up the court but when nothing materialized quickly they would make a couple passes around the perimeter then all but clear out for Kobe (or maybe give him a screen on the wing at best). Without the option of Odom as a second person who can create their own shot the Lakers canâ€™t do that.
The lack of Odom hurt in another way â€” it meant extra minutes for Brian Cook, who was a team worst -14.
â€¢ A few other Lakers stats, courtesy Rob L. who sent me some spreadsheets right after the game.
Kobe shot pretty well, considering the volume, ending with a 51.3% True Shooting percentage (think of that like points per shot attempt, it includes free throws as well). A lot of that came because he got to the line so much, even if he had an off night there. Fisher had a great night shooting (79% TS%) and Turiaf continues to be efficient on the offensive end with a 63.3% TS%.
However, no other Laker was above 42%. That hurt.
A few other notes from the game.
â€¢ Kobe got boos during the pregame introductions, but the fans should have saved that sentiment for the first four minutes of play (from both teams).
â€¢ The Rockets did a good job of getting back on defense most of the night.
â€¢ The tempo off the game and the Lakers offense â€” even in the half court â€” picked up when Farmar entered.
â€¢ Rockets hit 4 of their first 20 shots, a sign they are just not comfortable with the new motion offense of Adelman. Yao just looked far better on the low block. That likely will change some as the season moves on.
â€¢ Yao has such a nice touch from 10 feet, including a beautiful fade away he used a few times, and that makes him so hard to defend in the low post.
â€¢ Interesting lineup the Lakers went with when Turiaf picked up his third foul with just under 5 minutes left in the second â€” Farmar, Fisher, Kobe, Walton and Kwame. Going a little small, and that unit was -1.
â€¢ At 5:30 in the third Lakers go with Mihm at the four and Kwame at the 5. That unit was -1, but it was because the Rockets were outworking the Lakers, tipping balls and getting offensive rebounds. Then LA went to Bynum/Mihm combo up front and that also was a -1. Still, I like the idea of giving Mihm a chance to see if he can be a backup four. Especially if it means fewer minutes for Cook.
â€¢ The three inactives for this game were interesting â€” Odom (expected), Crittenton (rather than Sasha?) and Radmanovic (huh?).
â€¢ Congrats to friends of the site Carter and the boys at Plisken at the Buzzer, who will be doing some subbing in over at Free Darko. Thatâ€™s a great fit and well deserved. As a present, hereâ€™s a link to a good thesaurus.