Game Preview & Chat: The Seattle Supersonics

Kurt —  November 27, 2007

Records: Lakers 7-6; Sonics 2-12
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.7 (6th); Sonics 100.5 (25th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (14th); Sonics 110.5 (26th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Vladamir Radmanovic, Andrew Bynum
Sonics: Earl Watson, Kevin Durant, Damien Wilkins, Kurt Thomas, Chris Wilcox

Lakers Notes: “There is little margin for error.” That has been one of the mantras of this site regarding this year’s Lakers — the squad cannot absorb injuries and perform at its best for long. The players cannot have mental lapses and get wins.

And that’s what this three-game losing streak is really about. Kwame Brown is out injured for at least a few more weeks, and Turiaf is not 100%, two things that threw the Laker rotations off and hurt the defense along the front line. Key players have had off games or off moments — Lamar Odom, or Andrew Bynum on the last play against the Nets. The team tried to compensate by chucking up threes at a pace only Rudy Tomjanovic would love, and that was a recipe for disaster..

All that said, while the record says 7-6, the point differential (or Pythagorean record, if you prefer) suggests the Lakers are still playing like a 54-win team. The offense has been mostly good, the defenses has had lapses but is basically average in the NBA this season. If they keep that level of play up for the entire year, they will do just fine. A three game losing streak is hardly a time to panic.

The Sonics Coming In: If you have a 19-year-old rookie as your go-to scorer, it’s going to be a long season. And that’s where the Sonics are. I’ve seen some of their games and that combined with talking to people around the team leads to my two cents:

Durant is going to be very good but he’s on a steep learning curve in the NBA. He can score and does so with an amazing flourish at times, but he hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like and that leads some ugly attempts and a 43.1 shooting percentage (eFG%). Which is not good for a guy using 26% of the team’s possessions when on the floor. He’s also turning the ball over a lot. All that said, he’s young and learning, and there are flashes where he shows why he may well be worthy of that lofty pick.

By the way, Sonics fans are saying the hype around Durant is overshadowing how good Jeff Green is as a rookie. He can drive and get the ball in the lane, 56% of his shots come right around the basket. He will be a good defensive challenge for the team tonight.

The Sonic that has impressed me is former Clipper Chris Wilcox, who has developed some polished post moves, which is why he is shooting 53.7% and has a PER of 19.89, best on the team.

Also playing well for the Sonics is Kurt Thomas providing a veteran presence inside. Wally Szcerbiak can heat it up at times (and seems to do that against the Lakers). Damien Wilkins has improved his shot and Delonte West has some brilliant plays (and some horrible ones).

Bottom line, this team has talent, but it is young and still blending and trying to figure out the way at the NBA level.

The Fouth Quarter Gets A Litte Fuzzy: The Seattle Weekly has given us the Sonics drinking game:

Let’s get drunk. (Take a drink every time):

-Kevin Durant takes a shot that would have gotten you benched on your high school, junior high, or rec league team.
-Chris Wilcox dunks.
-Robert Swift looks like a victim stuck in a bully’s body.
– Damien Wilkins pump fakes.
-Jeff Green’s jersey looks too small for him.
-You find yourself examining the southern shore of PJ’s beard for grip marks.

Blogs you should read: Friend of the site Kevin Pelton, the web master for the Sonics, has a blog with great insight into the team. And also there is Supersonics Soul, which is a blogging insutution. Then there is Save Our Sonics, the site right in the middle of the noble fight to keep this team in Seattle. Personally, I hate the idea of this team moving to OK City.

Keys To The Game: This is going to be an up-tempo game — the Sonics play at the second fastest pace in the NBA so far (tied with Phoenix), the Lakers seventh. Both teams also turn the ball over at a high level (the Lakers on 17.5% of possessions, the Sonics on 18.1%, both in the top [or is it bottom] 10 in the league). If one team can take care of the ball tonight, it will be a big advantage.

The Lakers need to get the Sonics athletic wing men to shoot from the outside, because none of them are terribly good at it. Durant, Earl Watson, Jeff Green, Nick Collison are all shooting under 50%. Szcerbiak runs hot and cold, if he is missing let him shoot from out there too. When the slashers do get to the rim, Bynum and Mihm (and Turiaf) need to alter and block shots without getting in foul trouble.

On offense, the Lakers should be able to get the shots they want — this is not a great defensive team. But they have to be patient and run the offense (when the break isn’t there). In the starting lineups there is no way Kurt Thomas or Chris Wilcox should be able to handle Bynum in the post, and the Sonics don’t have the perimeter defenders to slow both Kobe and Lamar.

Tonight’s Game: Where A Slumpbuster Happens: When you need to break out of a slump, you don’t worry about how it looks, just that you get what you need to get back on track. The Lakers need a win, and this is the perfect team to get it against. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just a win to right the ship. We’ll worry about pretty next game.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into Fox Sports, nationally you will need League Pass. (Sorry for the TNT note earlier, thanks for the corrections).

44 responses to Game Preview & Chat: The Seattle Supersonics

  1. Are you sure its on TNT??

  2. Kurt, just a thank you for these game previews. It helps me know
    what to look for during the game. I never comment during the game.
    If they are doing well, I’m afraid I’ll jinx them. If they are doing poorly,
    I’m afraid I’ll use inappropriate language.

  3. Kurt, the Denver game (on Thursday) is on TNT. The Sonics game is only on League Pass.

  4. I had a dream last night that the Lakers got Jason Kidd. We had Kidd, Kobe, Lamar, and Bynum as four of our starters. Is that a championship team?

  5. Change made on the TNT thing. I screwed that up, sorry.

  6. There’s so much fidgety panic going on in Lakerdom these days. People need to take a deep breath and realize what’s going on around the league.

    Dallas lost last night to Washington, extending their losing streak to 3. Their previous two losses? To the Pacers and Bucks.
    San Antonio lost to the Kings last night.
    Phoenix lost to Golden State last night.
    Houston just recently snapped a 6-game losing streak.
    Utah lost last night to the Knicks.

    The moral of the story is that even good teams loses games. Sometimes they even lose winnable games.

  7. “the squad cannot absorb injuries and perform at its best for long.”

    The problem is that four of the significant players on this roster are injury-prone. (Lamar, Kwame, Turiaf, and Walton.) Last season was maybe a little worse than you would expect from this group, but not a whole lot worse than you should expect.

  8. The other problem is that those guys are all forwards. So if a couple get injured at the same time (ie, Kwame and Turiaf), it can really throw the team out of sync.

  9. Who will guard Duran Duran? Lamar? That is a matchup I’m looking forward to. Lights Out!

  10. Jeff Green “will be a good defensive challenge for Jordan Farmar tonight”

    Uhh, Jeff Green is a 6’9″ forward ( I sure hope Farmar is not given the defensive assignment.

  11. Paul I meant to change that and spaced, but I did now. Thanks for the catch.

  12. Does anybody know what is going on with Luke? I thought overall he had a great season last year. This year nothing seems to flow for him. His offensive efforts feel forced and he isn’t facilitating like we know he can. For Luke to be effective he needs to be efficient. Also, he has his defensive moments but overall he has been lacking their too. Any thoughts on why he isn’t playing up to his potential? I used to think he would be an important piece in the Lakers puzzle but now I am not so sure.

  13. I think Luke struggles at time cause he lacks self-confidence. We’ve seen him drive the lane, take outside jumpers, make incredible passes etc.

    I think teams are giving Walton space and eliminating the passing lanes on defense. This forces Luke to be a playmaker or an outside shooter. If there is a better option on the floor (I.E. Kobe or Farmar), Luke will dish and accept his passive role. If he has space he needs to drive the lane and dish or finish with contact.

  14. Bobby, Luke was in a contract year last year. Everyone in the NBA plays their best ball during their contract years.

  15. If the only reason Luke played well last year was that it was a contract year then we don’t need him and he should be on the bench. I don’t really believe Anon was right about Walton, however. I think Phil has changed the approach to the game by speeding things up and 1) it does not play as well to Luke’s strengths and 2) he is having to adjust his game to the faster pace for the 1st time in his NBA career.

  16. Luke seems to have a better chemistry and play better with the first unit. The first unit tends to play more half court and that may suit him better. Lamar is better when the offense runs through him so why not start Luke and bring Odom off the bench. Having another player besides Farmar who can create his own shot on the second unit might help, also another good passer and shooter (though his shot hasn’t been to great this year though it is better than Lamars) on the first unit might open things up a bit. It might not work too well defensively though since Odom is a better defender (when healthy, I don’t think he is 100% right now).

  17. I think Luke’s struggles are part physical things — he does not work as well at pace and doesn’t seem to be getting as many chances lately in the high post (where he thrives) as he did earlier. I think 81 Witness said it well too, teams are daring him to shoot more as well.

    In addition, I think part of it his him not adjusting well to coming off the bench. It’s a different mindset, he hasn’t done it for a while and is struggling because of it. Like other issues with this team, I think it is one that will work itself out over time.

  18. I left a very good Sonics blog off the list, Sonics Central, which has a breakdown of the lack of a go-to play for the Sonics.

    At this point I’d have to say it’s probably Chris Wilcox in the post. Last night we saw San Antonio front the post on multiple occasions, denying the entry pass to take away Wilcox’s post up game. Why? Because it’s damn effective. I wish this team would make more of an effort to start their offense in the post, be it through Wilcox or Durant, because it has to be more efficient than the constant Shammond-ing I’m seeing right now.

  19. The reason I asked in the last post for help with the last three games is that I answered some questions for Kevin Pelton over at the Sonics official site. Those are up now.

  20. Re Luke’s struggles w/second unit. Perhaps it’s simply that Kobe and Fish are comfortable in the Triangle and know where their spots are whereas the second unit is still learning. Luke may be have mental images of where the players should be and how they should be moving but the second unit is not doing what they should and it’s throwing Luke off. We know Phil sped up the tempo for the team because many of the young players don’t have a full grasp of the Triangle.

  21. One of my favorite games of the season tonight, where I hope I can play a little Ice Cube after a victory. I had the brew, she had the….., the Lakers beat the Supersonics. Today was a good day.

  22. Bynum gets no love from the refs. He gets hammered on the offensive end and as you could see with the first foul tonight, he gets called for cheap fouls (standing there with his arms straight up).

  23. Ha, Jeff Green’s jersey does look too small. 21 pts for Seattle in 8 mins. Not bueno

  24. Can’t have a lineup with Walton and sasha as the wing defenders. Bad idea

  25. Outside of Kobe, no Laker is shooting over 50%. Not bueno.

  26. Gawd…Mihm has muffed two very easy, uncontested defensive rebounds, leading to two dunks over him by Seattle’s bigs. I also agree that the referees are taking it easy on Seattle. Petro jumping on Mihm’s back on another rebound was not called, and Watson deliberately grabbing Sasha’s arm with 1.5 seconds left in the 1st quarter (right in front of the official) also was not called.

  27. The Lakers commentators brought up something I think it pretty interesting. They said Bynum is essentially in only his second real season in the NBA considering he was nonexistent the season after he was drafted. For all the talk of him needing to have a breakout season this year (his third), shouldn’t we be waiting till next year for him to be a complete beast (he is showing great signs already).

  28. We have our losing streak, and Kobe asserts himself. Lamar and Fish seem to have carried over their performances from last game, and Bynum was great until he accumulated all those fouls. That will decrease as he establishes himself and gets some leeway from the refs, so we’re looking good.

    1 minute in the 3rd, and we’re all-bench now, +10 when the starters left. Let’s see where the score ends up…

  29. Mike in the Mountain West November 28, 2007 at 12:20 am

    Let me start off by making clear that in general I like the +/- stat but tonight is a great example of it’s limitation. Bynum got a -3 and Mihm clock a +10. Now, I could be wrong but I don’t think either of those numbers are indicative of what each of them contributed tonight.

  30. Kurt and the rest bare with me here. I know Bynum is playing much better than Mihm but I really truly feel that right now Mihm should start along with Ronny for the betterment of the second unit. I really think that’s been the difference in the last four games where the bench has lost it’s identity. Consider the following points;

    Farmar’s play has suffered a little due, I think to the unfamiliarity with mix up of the unit.

    I don’t know if it’s pressure but Vlad has struggled in the staring role.

    Mihm playing with the starters can hide his limitations at this point and the pace the second unit plays at might be too fast for him.

    Ronny brings energy to the starting unit which isn’t need off the bench since Farmar has assumed that role.

    I don’t know if it’s just me but I really think that’s the way the starting five should look till Brown gets back. Farmar and Bynum really connect at this point and we need that to make up for the loss right now of Evans which may not seem like a lot but until Ariza gets in there, is a loss none the less.

    good win tho, sonics are competitive with everyone they play so it didn’t need to be a blow out and Durant is a baller, just needs to hit the weights a little.

    p.s. how good is it to have a PG that hits his free throws??

  31. 29 Right, Mike. You could be wrong. Bynum has been consistently getting those – numbers all the way back to last year.

  32. The best thing about this win was Lamar taking the ball to the cup-and going to the line eight times. It was only a matter of time before Kobe had a game like this and I think Bynum is on his way to become a double – double guy, but L.O. is the difference between first round exit and a nice run in the post -season, especially if Luke continues to struggle. Still concerned with our perimeter D though.

  33. That’s a great point Mike (29.). I think the (+ -) is most usual when looking for noticeable trends over many games. On a game by game basis there are too many others factors at play to make that stat very useful.

  34. Yeah, he’s been getting them so consistently that he has the highest +/- on the team amongst any of the regulars.

  35. The Lakers can’t come out and play a listless first half like they did against Seattle against a quality opponent. Next three games, Denver, Utah, Orlando. They have to play with defensive energy and purpose on offense. The teams defensive is noticably more active and alert with Turiaf in the game, when is he gonna start again?

  36. I think what Phil did last night with Bynum–he pulled him early to ensure he would get minutes with the second group (I think that was why). That way he is starting and setting the tone down low with his rebounding and building chemsitry with the first unit, but he also gets to help the second unit. Once we are well into the second quarter Phil can then manage the post players based on how people are playing and what is needed.

    That allows our best big to start and also helps the second, all without significantly increasing anyone’s minutes.

    I’d like to see this line up for the next 3 games:


  37. The best starting five we’ve had this year is Rony at Power and Lamar at small. Vlad is, at this point, better on the second unit. I think we’ve underestimated the value Rony has for the starting unit and it’s defense, and the value of Vlad on the second unit spreading the floor for Farmar to penetrate.

  38. I agree with both 36 and 37.

    As I mentioned in my review of the Laker game I saw in Boston the other night, Phil has an unusual timeout routine he uses. ESPN picked up on it last night and someone from ESPN.Com asked Jackson about this:

    “Jackson handles timeouts differently than his peers. First, he huddles with his assistants instead of talking to the players right away at the bench and drawing up plays. “I like to collect information from my coaches — go over our past possessions, look at how many successful possessions we’ve had and how many turnovers we’ve got,” Jackson said. “We’re competing with a sound system most of the time, a dance crew, or something else going on that’s a noise factor. So I like to tell the players that this is the time they can support each other, talk to each other, towel off and get a drink. We only need about 20 seconds with them, anyway. I mean, I’m not going to give them a lecture on how to play basketball. But if we have something we have to correct, we go in there a little bit earlier.”

  39. Hmmm, it seems the Forum has stumbled onto a basketball philosophy question: Should a coach go with the best starting five athletes, or find the best complementary starting five? Is the answer to this question absolute? Or does it change from team to team? Shouldn’t a coach be able to take the best five athletes and meld them into a cohesive starting five?

    Just thought I’d generalize the question from the details that folks are discussing.

  40. Rob- I think the onus, as far as lineups/rotations, is on Phil. Phil has to give the team 2 things. 1. direct advice: at the same time Phil ackowledges the teams youth, he stubbornly refuses to call quick timeouts or yank people who make the same mistake over and over. This isn’t a vet team, the problems that are exhibited on the court won’t fix themselves. 2. stability: I know injuries and trades factor in, but look at Phil since has come back the second time around, his rotations are inconsistent and I think one of his great abilites the first time he was with the lakers was to define roles. What is Lukes role? Odoms? Vlads? Its 2007 and our team is mostly under 27, Phil needs to coach to the roster, not his own preferences

  41. The starting five comments should go in the new thread/post just created for this interesting topic.

  42. 39. I think it depends on the team and the coaches philosophy. If a team has 3 players that can all put up big offensive numbers then sometimes it works better two have one of those players coming off the bench. This seems to work really well for Dallas and SA. SA starts Duncan and Parker which is enough scoring ability for the starting unit. Then they bring Ginobili off the bench which gives the second unit a big boost in scoring ability as well. It also allows SA to keep 1 or two of their 3 best players on the court at all times and still keep minutes relatively low. Dallas has a similar approach with Nowitzki and Howard starting and Terry coming off the bench. A team like Boston that doesn’t have much besides their 3 best players can’t really do this.

    For the Lakers its good to have Farmar playing on the bench because it allows for a change of speed when the second unit comes in. Fisher provides floor leadership for the first unit and some shooting ability. Then when Farmar comes in he tends to push the tempo which provides energy for the second unit. As far as Bynum is concerned, he seems to have a better chemistry with the 2nd unit. I think its because he is facing 2nd unit players on the opposing team and therefore looks better, and Farmar and Walton tend to look for him more than the first unit does. It also provides a boost in scoring and defense for the second unit. Mihm is clearly still recovering from his two ankle surgeries (he looks really flat and has almost 0 lateral speed right now) so putting him out there with the second unit hurts. I think it would hurt the first units interior defense though so its kind of a tough situation the Lakers have without Brown. Having Brown allows Bynum to come off the bench and provide both offense and defense for the 2nd unit. It also improves the 1st units interior defense and any lack of offensive ability is not that big of a deal because Kobe and Odom can make up for it.

  43. By the way, I agree with Bobby Smith about the starting five for the next game. Turiaf looked healthy and his defense changed the game in ways.

  44. Chris Mihm is not playing well enough to start.However
    Walton and Turiaf played better as starters and Vlade
    played better off the bench. So , why is Vlade starting?