Stung By Hornets

Kurt —  November 7, 2007

There were a couple of key things I took away from the loss to the Hornets Tuesday night:

1) It’s all about the defense with this Laker team. We knew that — it was my mantra this summer — but sometimes a little reminder helps. After four games (a very small sample) the Lakers defensive rating is just about what it was last year, something that needs to improve. They have had good defensive games (Phoenix) and now a bad one. As was said many times in the comments, a number of Lakers helped off Peja (and West) then never recovered, and perimeter rotations were non-existent. The Lakers were so focused on stopping Paul (even Phil in his post-game comments focused on him breaking down the defense) that it gave the rest of the Hornets great looks, which they hit. The Lakers may consider the “Steve Nash system” (make Paul the shooter not the distributor) next game against NO.

2) The Lakers are still 2-2, having played four teams likely headed to the playoffs in the deep Western Conference. And they have done it without their second-best player. Remember, before the season we said if the Lakers could get through the first 10 games 5-5 that would be a pretty good sign, and right now they are on that pace.

So it’s a loss, there will be more of those this season, and this one doesn’t bother me a ton. No Kwame inside, no Mo Evans off the bench to go with no Lamar. Plus, the Hornets are healthy and improved — last year the problem was they couldn’t shoot (47.9% eFG%, 28th in the league). This year, 54.4% on the season (third best). They are legit.

A few other random news and thoughts:

• I don’t think the Lakers falling to the Hornets is a case of playing down to a team they should easily beat. However, Friday against Minnesota…

• David West may be the most underrated player in the NBA.

• Tyson Chandler didn’t score much or rebound much, but he was a presence and was a game-high +20.

• Great point by several commenters about the Lakers not going at Peja on the offensive end, getting him out of rhythm by making him play defense. This is where we miss Odom.

• If you’re a sports/NBA columnist at this point going to the “Kobe trade” column for the day, you’re just picking the low-hanging fruit. The angles have been beaten into the ground and everyone is sick of it. Try harder.

• The Washington Bullets new offense is pretty simple. (Hat Tip to True Hoop.)

• Dallas/Golden State tomorrow night should be entertaining. But I bet the Mavs crush them.

• Knickerbloggers stat page is up (this is my personal fave). That said, we’ve got to get 15-20 games in before I put too much weight in the numbers.

• Are Hornets very common in New Orleans? The name made more sense in Charlotte (it’s a Civil War reference from North Carolina) but I’m less sold in The Big Easy. Then again, the perfect New Orleans name is currently in the least jazzy big city in the nation.

Kurt

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48 responses to Stung By Hornets

  1. Recap of five points:
    1) Crash the boards. The Lakers have a definite rebounding advantage over this team, except at starting center and maybe PF. The Lakers cannot let the Hornets get those second attempt points as they will get killed by Predrag’s shooting and CP3 finding the open man.

    Lakers won the battle of the boards 45-43. However, CP3 and Predrag killed them. More on that later.
    Grade: B+

    2) Get Chandler in foul trouble early. Fish, Kobe and Farmar must not be hesitant to drive the ball and get some early contact against Chandler. After Chandler, the Hornets have little depth at center and will be dominated by Brown and Bynum. Armstrong is listed as day-to-day.

    The Lakers did get Chandler in foul trouble in the first quarter. He also rested quite a bit in the 2nd and the Lakers attacked the basket without much resistance early. However, late in the 3rd and the entire 4th they stopped taking the ball to the bucket. That’s when they started hoisting up 3s, having Bynum and Mihm post up over Chandler, etc.

    The Lakers also only attempted 9 FTs? 9 FTs, that’s it? Terrible.
    Grade: C+

    3) Play solid perimeter D. NO can shoot the 3 and the Lakers need to limit the amount of open looks on the wing for Peja and Mo Pete.

    As Craig W. said last night, “If I were PJ I’d have lots of 4 letter words for Luke.” The Lakers got killed on the perimeter, but I personally blame PJ. PJ should have made half-time adjustments and have Luke and Vlad in charge of solely shadowing Peja. 10-12 from the 3. Lots and lots of open looks the entire game.

    Additionally, they should have let Chris Paul take the 20+ ft jumpers all game long. He wasn’t all that successful from deep last night.

    Grade: F

    4) Continue moving the ball well. The Lakers need to continue making that extra pass and pulling NO defenders out of position for the easy 2. NO will probably want to slow the game down and the Lakers should not play their tempo.

    The Lakers continued to move the ball well, but in the 3rd and 4th, they started to take step backs and hoist 3s. They played NO’s game. This will not earn you a W against NO.

    Grade: C+

    5) PJ must use the bench. Since the Lakers are advised to be physical and play a running scheme, players will tire quickly. Go into the bench and use your depth Phil. The bench has shown their worth the last 2 games.
    37 points on the bench with Bryant playing 37 minutes. That’s pretty good.

    Grade: A-

    Other thoughts:
    Kobe needs to quit playing “opportunistic” defense. What is this? Opportunistic defense is what AI usually plays. Laying low and getting the easy steal. Too many times, Kobe tried to get that easy steal and left NO with numbers on offense. This lead to Peja getting open. He did play good D in the paint as seen with his 7 boards and 3 blocks.

    Tonight’s game reminds me of why other coaches besides PJ deserve the coach of the year award. He rarely implements half-time adjustments that turns the games around. Poppovich, Scott, and Van Gundy are capable of these decisions, and not Phil. In retrospect, he should have made the following two adjustments: 1) Shadow Peja, and 2) Do not let CP3 drive the lane; encourage him to take that 20 foot shot.

    Kudos to former Laker, Byron Scott. Your team out-hustled the Lakers to get loose balls, beat them in the transition game, at the free throw line, and really showed they wanted to win last night. Way to stick with your game plan and beat the Lakers with good perimeter looks. The Hornets also did a great job of taking away FT attempts.

  2. Perhaps Utah and New Orleans should change names – since Utah is the behive state.

  3. I like your thoughts. It seems that the Lakers have done a great job in learning how to play offense together, knowing where each person on the team is at all times. Unfortunately, they have not learned how to do the same on the defensive end. I feel that when Lamar comes back, things will fall into place more, he seems to have a better relationship with Kwame than the rest of the guys as well. Overall, four games into the season, I’d say we have some good things to look forward to, if we can cut into the 5th seed or 6th seed, there is the potential of making some noise, second round would be a good achievement based on todays roster, but we are all still hoping that we can upgrade to Jermaine eventually at the hands of Kwame, Cook, and Kupchak! You think the Pacers would go for that package??

  4. Hey I am not too depressed about the Laker loss. Chris Paul had a ridiculous game, and totally broke down our defense. And Peja had one of those career nights . Dan Patrick mentioned that he thinks Peja is one of the top 5 shooters in the leauge and teammates have said that in practice “he can shoot 50 three pointers without missing” (hmmmm?)

    I actually think that we missed Kwame last night. Obviously the Lakers have to improve their defense but I also want to see more physical play by the Lakers. Somebody should have knocked Peja to the ground atleast once either on defense or offense. But who is willing to do that besides Ronny and Kwame ?? Either way I think that good defense and rought physical play go hand in hand.

    Finally, atleast the Lakers got beat by one of their own: Byron Scott. I really like his style, adjustments, and attitude. I think he is the best Laker player to become a coach. I salivate with hope that maybe he will succeed PJ and not Rambis. What do you think?

  5. 1. Great stuff as always 81. I think Kobe has always been a gambler on defense, but that has grown more so in the past several years. It hurt the team last night, and it’s something the coaching staff has to get him to back off of.

  6. There is no doubt that Kwame was missed, but Mo Evans too. His quickness and grit could have helped around the perimiter (or, at least kept the defensively-challenged Sasha on the bench). The Lakers should take some good lessons out of this game. The reality is that most teams are not going to shoot well-over 50% from beyond the arc, even against a weak defense. However, the fact that Peja will now haunt the Lakers’ dreams might be a good thing… maybe next time they play a team that is hot from outside, they will get more physical on both ends and try to break the rythem.

    I expect the “bench mob” to set the pace on Friday and to come out angry. We can’t afford to lose to subpar teams like Minnesota, because there are too many good one’s in the western conference this year.

  7. B. Scott is a hellauva coach. He may be a hard-ass, but I think players (for the most part) will respect that approach if its consistent. Injuries killed that team just as bad as they did the Lakers. Hornets, Lakers, Clippers, G.S., all will be fighting for those last two playoff spots, and health will play a big part in who gets them.

  8. My observations from last night:
    Mihm looked like he’s not ready to start yet.
    Bynum didn’t get position close enough to the basket to be effective on offense.
    Ronny was great.
    Lakers allowed themselves to get sucked into NO’s game, hoisting way too many 3s
    Lakers continually left Peja open outside where he killed us.
    Overall its 1 game in a long season. let’s move on.
    BTW
    I’m surprised to actually have felt we needed Kwame

  9. Excellent point about Kobe’s defense. The small forwards rotating to cover Kobe’s man is what left Peja open. From what I can see the Lakers defensive scheme calls for that rotation, so we should stop killing Luke and Vlad for making the proper team defense play. Besides if they didn’t rotate Kobe would have a legitimate beef about his teammates not helping and he would have been embarrassed by his guy scoring multiple baskets. Kobe’s teammates need to show that they have his back, and PJ needs to tell Kobe not to gamble as much against a good shooting team. It should be noted that this is the same style of defense that Kobe was praised for playing in Vegas. So we should really assign blame to the coaching staff for not telling him to reign it in a little.

  10. I forgot to mention NO is well coached

  11. I have a few comments about this team (moved from last thread):

    1. Luke Walton needs to play better to stay in the starting rotation. His shooting is off, and his defense isn’t the greatest either. I think 6th man is the appropriate role for him.

    2. Turiaf should be a starter for the season. He has proven that he can play thus far. He has been efficient, hasn’t gotten into foul trouble, and he has a great chemistry with Kobe cutting into the lane.

    3. I’ve never liked Cook or Vujacic as Lakers. That hasn’t changed. On or off players, mostly off.

    4. I love the way Kobe has been playing this year since the second game. Plays well within the offense, shoots efficiently, tnacious on defense, and a leader on the court.

    5. Farmar is an animal, and I would love to see more Java Critt.

    That’s all I’ve got right now.

  12. 11. I’m pretty sure that by the end of next week Walton will not be in the starting lineup. Regardless of how he plays.

  13. 11/12: I’m not even as interested in who starts as much as how the minutes will be distributed and who plays when. I feel that the forward rotation, when healthy, should be Odom, Turiaf, Walton, Vlad. Odom and Turiaf should start, Walton should be the first guy off the bench and Vlad will get his 15-20 mins somewhere in there. Phil’s biggest determination will come in the 4th qtr. Will he sacrifice Rony’s great interior defense, mid range shooting, hustle and size for Luke’s passing and tri-savvy?

  14. Watched some of the Miami/San Antonio game tonight. Man, I don’t miss Smush.

  15. Amen on Smush.

  16. I don’t think Miami will miss Smush much either.

  17. Kurt, can we send Brian Cook to Miami to hang out with Smush? Miami is desperate for outside shooting.

  18. LOL Jones. Cook is definitely a deadweight on this team… I am looking for ways to get rid of that one trick pony.

    Just like I said, in winning, everyone looks good. When we lose, that’s the time we see the flaws more. Good thing our bench is a really promising one and we should really try for upgrades even though mit might alter the chemistry a bit. I never cease to want to improve…

  19. Re: Smush
    Riles is crazy from the (Miami) Heat…

  20. I haven’t seen a game of theirs yet. It’s early, but…what is up with the Clippers?

    Anyone seen a game? Are they for real?

  21. Wow. The end of the Utah-Cleveland game was great. Deron Williams is a killer.

  22. Mike in the Mountain West November 8, 2007 at 12:57 am

    Kurt,

    Can you explain the +/- statistic you quoted with regards to Chandler. I saw it as a statistic on the nba.com box score also. It’s not the same as the 82games.com +/-, is it?

  23. The +/- on NBA.com (and in the gameflows on popcornmachine.net) are raw numbers of how much better or worse a team did with said guy on the floor — the Hornets outscored the Lakers by 20 when Chandler was on the floor (just the same as it works in hockey). There are limits to how much one wants to use this stat and what it tells you, but in the case of Chander I think it says his impact was big (and that his sub was much worse).

    Over at 82games, I am pretty sure they average their +/- over an average 48 minutes and use the season stats.

  24. Rob L.: The Clippers are playing well because Kaman is a completely different player than he was last season. He is showing that he was definitely worth the extension they gave him last season. Also, Sam is healthy. This team will always come and go based on the health of Sam I Am. Lastly, theymoved Mobley to the bench (although he got hurt tonight), and he’s been lighting up the other team’s second unit. Obviously they won’t stay on this pace the entire season, but if they can hold things together until Brand gets back, they are going to be a load to contend with the rest of the season. Especially if Kaman is able to play like this with Brand in the lineup…

  25. I watched some of the Miami game as well and echo your sentiments on Smush. Also seeing a old fat Shaq I am once again reminded that trading him was not necessarily a bad Idea, it was just the package that we got (read Brian monstrous contract) that was bad; some cap space would have gone a long way.

    24. I like Kaman he played pretty well two seasons ago, but than really fell back a few steps last season, it will be nice to see if he can bounce back and preform at this level all season.

    One more note. It is nice to see Ronnie getting more minutes and earning his playing time as well. He is fundamentally sound, and a great interior passer. He also seems to have gotten better at picking up penetration without fouling. I think he was a good pick at #37. He would have gone in the first round but teams overlooked him because of his heart problem and injury history.

  26. Rob L.- To add to what Jones said, Dunleavy Sr. has them running. They start Thomas at the 4, and he has been shooting well. They have a nice 2nd unit, Brevin Knight, Mobley, Thornton, Rueben Patterson and Paul Davis. They go 10 deep, push the tempo and score a ton. Not sure if it will sustain, and Cassell has already complained about a lack of playing time.

  27. Funny how the Lakers and Clippers real strength this year seems to be their bench. It’s important in this league to have some sort of bench. It’s the reason the Suns have always burnt out come playoff time.

  28. JONESONTHENBA,
    If the Suns don’t get Amare back,or trade for another mobile big,they may not have to worry about their bench come playoff time.
    Re another top team,I believe the Spurs will really regret giving Scola to the Rockets. Not so much for what he does for the Rockets,but for the energy off the bench he’d give the Spurs. It’s early and there was a 4 game layoff,but I was shocked at how disinterested Duncan looked. Watching the Spurs against Houston and Miami,they look like they have Shaqitis-yeah let’s just get thru the reg season and then we’ll dial it up when the Playoffs roll around.

    It’s early and teams haven’t really gelled-or have their final roster-but the West looks much more open than I thought it would before the season started. Dallas looks really deep,but this may be a yr when a mid-low seed could get on a roll late and make it to Finals.

  29. Great post up at FreeDarko on Ronny, penned by friend of the site Carter Blanchard:

    http://freedarko.blogspot.com/2007/11/we-dance-to-all-wrong-songs.html

  30. sorry for the off topic comment, but i have to.
    KG is putting up great numbers. I know it’s only been 3 games, but that’s still impressive. anyone here think he could have been better than Duncan had he had SA’s supporting cast?

  31. Good stuff on Ronny, The Times paid tribute to his contibutions today as well.

    Pat Riley has said that he comes from the “Bill Sharman school of coaching” and B Scott has said that he comes from the “Pat Riley school of caoching”. The basic philosophy being that no team will beat them because of their lack of conditioning.

    That being said, if anyone caught the Hornets and the Blazers last night… Peja had 5 points.

    Speaking of hustling, hard working bench players, Riles filled that niche well as a player…

  32. Looks like Riley should alter where he’s from. The “Bill Sharman school of coaching dinosaurs”

  33. Stephen,
    Every year people write off San Antonio because the start slowly. Greg P seems to allow his vets to ease up in the beginning of the season and get a feel for the rest of the league, then they get into high gear around FEB and fine tune their game. I think this also is a reason they have fewer injuries – they keep early minutes down, regardless of the wins.

  34. Popovich is smart

  35. Gatinho-Imagine the bright red face of fury that Smush Parker puts on Riles face

  36. Smush has probably never run so much in practice in his life.

    Riley loves suicides for screwing up.

  37. Happy to say it, but Cook’s defense did not kill us against NO. He had good Kwame D against West and Hilton in the post. Forced them to take tough turn-around, off balance jumpers and finished with a nice box out.

    His heaves early in the shot clock killed the Lakers though. NO had numbers off of his long misses.

    The Lakers cannot fall in love with the 3 pointer. Based on their poor transition D, they should only launch when wide open, hot, or with 3 secs or less left on the playclock.

    Next time around, Lakers should use the same strategy vs. NO as they did with the Suns.

  38. Mike in the Mountain West November 8, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    If you haven’t already, check out the practice report videos on lakers.com. Today’s edition has interviews with Phil, Lamar, and Kobe. Lamar’s interview is particularly entertaining. He has a couple of pretty funny lines. His interview starts around the 5 min mark.

  39. The Lakers web people are to be commended for all the added content this year. Great stuff.

  40. Jeanie Buss has implemented several ‘fan-friendly’ features to the Lakers, and they are all welcome. If this Laker team turns out to be great people will be loving the 2nd generation, Jim (for picking Bynum and Turiaf) and Jeanie (for improving transperency and keeping Phil in town).

  41. Craig,
    I realize the Spurs don’t really crank it up til the Rodeo Road Trip each Feb. Still,I ‘ve never seen Duncan look so disinterested in a game as he was against Rockets. He didn’t even break out the “Timmy face” or complain when calls went against him. Nobody bothered to run w/Parker. I’ve seen 3 of their games and they have not looked good in any of them.They should have blown out Seattle and Miami early-neither of those teams should have been remotely close to being in the game in the 4Q. They just look complacent-and ask Detroit what happens when you start to expect success instead of working for it.

    LO,
    Re Garnett,no I don’t think the Spurs would have won multiple titles w/Garnett. Teamed w/Robinson yes for that one,but the solo Duncan titles I doubt. Duncan is so much more dominant 15′ and in. The Spurs weakness at C would have required a diff roster w/Garnett and it’s unlikely Horry and Garnett would have been on court together.
    (The Wolves owner has been making some veeeeery interesting comments on KG and KG playing favorites w/teammates. If there is any truth to his comments that raises potent questions of chemistry.)

  42. Stephen and LO: I compared Duncan and Garnett’s games last season. Take a look when you have a chance:

    http://sports.aol.com/fanhouse/2007/05/17/kevin-garnett-vs-tim-duncan-a-comparison-of-two-of-the-league/

  43. JONESONTHENBA,
    Thanks,nice way to evaluate the two. For me it’s more of a gut thing-in crunch time I hate seeing Duncan get the ball because I know he’s going to either bank it in or do an up and under and get the basket or a foul. I don’t get that feeling of unstopability from Garnett.
    For me Kobe creates the same feeling at the end of a close game. If the Lakers are down 2-3 pts I expect Kobe to jack up some impossible 3,w/defenders all over him,and I just expect him to make it.

  44. Listen to what yahoo reports about Smush. Any surprise to anyone?

    Parker struggling to fit in with Heat
    Thursday, Nov 8, 2007 9:47 am EST

    Getty Images
    When point guard Smush Parker signed his two-year deal with the Miami Heat in July there was talk he would push incumbent Jason Williams for the starting job. But so far, Parker has yet to supplant undrafted second-year guard Chris Quinn as the top backup.
    ”He hasn’t [shown enough],” Riley said when asked why Parker has remained on the bench the past two games. “That’s the reason. He’ll get his chance. He’s more of a scoring point [guard]. I really don’t need that right now. What I want is somebody who’ll get us organized.”

  45. At least we get some payback on the Shaq trade… maybe they’d like Cook too? LOL.

  46. JonesOnTheNBA, thanks. great piece.

  47. LA Times are reporting that Kwame Brown and Mo Evans are expected to be out again tonight:

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakerep9nov09,1,4418892.story?coll=la-headlines-sports-nba-lakers&ctrack=1&cset=true

    This is bad news as it means more possible playing time for Brian Cook.

  48. Lakers need to become a smarter defensive team. You can put in a lot of energy and effort,but if you dont play smart,you will still get burned.

    If a guy is on fire like Peja was the other night,stop cheating off of him and simply just stay with him. It wasnt like Chris Paul was dominating us with his scoring. Make Paul a scorer. This is where our leaders have to step up and be more vocal and communicate with the rest of the team.