Winning is Golden

Kurt —  December 10, 2007

On the night the Warriors focused on not letting Kobe beat them — and it worked because while he had 28 points he was 9 of 23 shooting — the other Lakers stepped up. Outside of Kobe the Lakers as a team shot 60.4% (eFG%).

That was the case during the key run in the third quarter where the Lakers pulled away. Let’s break it down the Lakers scoring starting at 6:50 to go in the third — the Warriors have been on a 10-0 run in the blink of an eye to take a three-point lead. (The Warriors scored four points during this Lakers run but had a number of bad shots early in the clock and turnovers, like on Mbenga’s moving screen, which he only got called for once despite setting half a dozen in the game).

73-70 Warriors. Radmanovic and Odom play a two-man game on the weak side, with Odom getting the ball in the high post and giving it to Radmanovic as he uses Odom as a screen going toward the basket. Radman goes straight to the hoop but Mbenga is waiting with some help defense and rejects the ball into the Laker girls.

On the baseline out of bounds Odom skips the pass out high to Kobe, who takes one of those heat-check shots of his from 25 feet out on the wing. Tests confirm that Kobe is, in deed, hot right now.

73-73. Early in the clock Odom has the ball on the wing and is looking to get the ball into Bynum on the block, but instead hits Radmanovic curling from the weak side at the free throw line. Radman has shaken his man and gets a good look, but misses it. Still, Phil has to be frustrated — the Lakers needed to get the ball on the block and instead they shoot a quick 15-footer, playing right into Golden States hands.

(As a side note: Lamar Odom has been taking some heat at this site (and others) for his poor entry passes to Bynum on the block. I’ve been watching this and part of the problem is that Odom often doesn’t set up on the wing but likes to be deeper, closer to the corner — that cuts down the quality passing angles and makes the entry passes exponentially more difficult. Of course, that was not the case in this situation.)

Next time down, Fisher runs the same weak-side two-man game with Odom that Radmanovic did the previous possession, again getting the pass back as he goes to the hole. And, just like Radman found out, Mbenga can block shots.

After a Warrior miss, Kobe gets the outlet and pushes the ball up the left side of the court, and as he gets to the top of the key cuts to the right side and he draws the three Warrior defenders back with him. Kobe makes an over-the-shoulder skip pass to Fisher who has set up in the left corner, and Fish can hit that shot when he gets a good look like that.

76-73 Lakers. After another missed three Kobe pushes the ball up the right side and gets it to Fisher on the wing. The PG drives round the overplaying Ellis and gets into the lane and into the body of Mbenga, but no foul. The shot is rolling off the rim just as the hustling Bynum comes down the lane, and he puts it back in with authority. As we expected, the Warriors just had no answers for someone with the size and athleticism of Bynum.

Timeout Warriors. Play Artist Tiffany. Play Artist Michael Bolton.

78-75 Lakers. After an Azubuike 19 footer, Kobe dribbles into a couple different spots in the offense (from the top of the key to the right wing, down to the right high post) then tries a 15-foot turnaround with Boom Dizzle on him. Davis gets all ball, but the refs call him for the foul anyway. Kobe hits both.

80-75 Lakers. After another turnover the Lakers go back to the weak-side two man game, this time with Kobe running off Odom’s high-post pick. However, the Warriors clearly set out to stop Kobe all night and both defenders go with him. That leaves Odom with the ball and a very clean 17-foot look. Which he drains.

82-77 Lakers. After an Mbenga dunk, the Lakers are setting up the offense when Monta Ellis makes a stupid foul, pushing Fisher on the wing, 25 feet from the basket and knocking him out of bounds. The Lakers are in the penalty and Fisher hits both.

84-77 Lakers. Kobe brings the ball up using the slow-jogging Bynum as kind of a moving target to play around. The Warriors again focus on Kobe, who passes to a wide-open Odom at the three-point line. And this was the reaction of Lakers fans everywhere: “No Odom, don’t, you’re not hitting that… nice shot. This time.”

87-77 Lakers. The Warriors try to trap Kobe out by the half court line just as he brings it up, but Kobe splits the double team, almost loses it, then picks it up and thinks about shooting from 15 feet. But as he is in the air he spots Ariza in the far corner spotting up. Here’s what I like about Ariza — he shouldn’t shoot that shot and he knows it, so he headfakes as the defender runs at him, puts the ball on the floor, goes baseline and almost makes a spectacular dunk over Mbenga. He doesn’t but draws the foul and hits one of two.

That had the Lakers up by 11, and the game was never seriously in jeopardy after that.

A couple other thoughts from that game:

• Great note about the Lakers discipline and style that helps them close out quarters well over at Golden State of Mind. They also talk about Troy Hudson — This is why one-game +/- stats can be misleading, Hudson led the Warriors last night as a +14, but if you watched the game you know he didn’t play well.

• Who wins if the 2007 version of Team USA played the Dream Team?

My gut answer was the Dream Team would destroy them, but the more I thought about it the more I thought the game would be a matter of tempo — the Dream Team was bigger and stronger, but if the tempo really got racing the current team is more athletic, particularly with bigs who can run the floor, and they could get the win.

With Malice has been asking a number of bloggers about this and my answer is up today at his site. To see who I predict, head on over.

• One other note: remember in the comments to keep it business, not personal. There will and should be disagreements, but let’s keep the discussion on the issues and not the person. You know, the opposite of the presidential race.

to Winning is Golden

  1. great breakdown. I like GSoM’s breakdown as well. It’s always great to see what fans of other teams think of the lakers since they don’t watch them every single game. Also, it’s interesting that GSoM comments on the Lakers’ precision on the offensive end (it has been pretty good this year) although we like to comment on the inconsistency of it around these parts. And that they hoped the Warriors would bring more chaos to the game. They know chaos works for them and structure works for the Lakers.

    Did anyone else notice the Warriors had to run a lot of half-court offense last night? The Lakers did a good job of limiting turnovers that led to fast breaks and getting back on defense.


  2. Lolz big time at “play artist Tiffany.” That car really needs to fly over a cliff.


  3. Interesting…

    Accoring to Hollinger, we have had the toughest schedule thus far by a pretty wide margin. The next team down the list with a winning record is Houston.

    Of the league’s “elite” teams only the Magic and Mavs come close with sos of .519 .506 respectively, compared with our .568

    I know statistics can be misleading, but the SOS is a pretty objective stat and i tink it says a lot about where this laker team is headed.

    Who else is excited for when this schedule loosens up a little bit?


  4. I feel like our SOS is slightly overrated because we’ve played good teams on back-to-backs and without their best players, on a couple occasions.


  5. the other Stephen December 10, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    haha i can’t believe they tried using mbenga and o’bryant.


  6. MS, I also like the fact that we’ve had the toughest schedule, yet we have a pretty nice record. And although we’ve gotten lucky on a couple of occasions we’ve still beaten some pretty decent teams. Not to mention we haven’t been 100% healthy either.


  7. SOS is still important because it’s based on the other teams’ records with or without injuries, and the harder it is now, the easier our schedule is later. Check out the SOS of Denver, New Orleans and Utah- all below .500. And we’re within a game and a ahlf of all of them. As the season wears on and our schedule gets easier and theirs get harder, we’ll be positioned to maybe make a leap in the seeding, though obviously a million other variables go into that.

    Of course, our SOS is only going to get harder on Thursday and Friday. the Warriors are a whole ‘nother team with their fans feeding off of every break.


  8. Can we get the Lakers to wear those unis for the rest of the season? I never have been a fan of the newer style. bring back the tank top and shadowed numbers!

    Good to see Nelson not be able to make us adjust to him as he does with most teams. The irony of that was the Warriors ad that has Tom Tolbert talking about how Nellie always made coaches adjust to what he was doing. Harrington on Bynum?


  9. Gatinho,
    I agree. I love those unis!


  10. 8. Phil Jackson doesn’t buy into adjusting to Nelsons Style he never has. If you looked at when he was with the Mavs Jackson always played a bigger line up with Shaq, despite shaq having to guard smaller player and he still is doing it now that Nelson is with the Warriors. There is nice article on Nelson Vs. Jackson on ESPN.

    Here is a excerpt that I think sums it up quite nicely.

    “Jackson always has looked down on Nelson’s gimmicky lineups. After his Chicago Bulls beat Nelson’s Warriors in a 1994 game, Jackson was asked his opinion of Nellie’s matchups. Jackson said: “What about when he had [5-foot-7] ‘Mister’ Jennings on [6-7] Scottie Pippen? I liked that matchup.”

    So Jackson once again stayed firm in his resolve Sunday. He sent his message to Nelson from the outset: Have some of Andrew Bynum. Bynum had 20 points and 11 rebounds and blocked five shots. ”



  11. 8. I agree with those unis. Too bad they didn’t have the short shorts to match it =]

    Nellie should know by now that big ball beats small ball (no pun intended). Next game should be a great test on how the Lakers are doing. I like the Lakers chances now that they have Ariza. Seems like he’s gonna have a great future here in LA with the way he’s been picking things up. He provides that defense that we’ve been missing on the 3, and helped contain AI in the fourth last Wednesday. I wonder who he’ll be matched up against. Manu? Tony P (aka Balance Toi)?

    I’m just a newbie posting for the first time, but I’ve been reading this website for a while. Gotta love all the insight and sane discussion in this site. =]


  12. welcome euph0ria, this is THE place for sane discussion.

    Our best defensive lineup might end up being:


    I can’t wait to see this team healthy


  13. I remember following Javaris last year while he was at GT and everything I read said he was a great defensive PG…any chance he can become a defensive stopper for us against the uber-quick PG’s in the league (Parker, Paul, AI) later in the season?


  14. great breakdown, except that we start at 73-30 😉

    what surprised me this game was that the Lakers, despite Kobe ‘heat-checking’ a lot, stayed in the game instead of just going ‘here he goes again, let’s see where this goes’ path. They actually stayed pretty hot despite those mini-streaks of coming up empty, courtesy of Kobe.

    As much as Kobe seems to be embracing his team, his team seems to have finally gotten to realize how to use a player like Kobe. In soccer, Kobe would be a fantasista – can make things happen, but plays outside the system so much that his teammates have a hard time using him within the larger gameplan.

    Maybe it’s Fish, maybe it’s the team growing up, and maybe it’s Kobe growing up, but something’s changed and we may be able to use the double-edged sword with more finesse.


  15. 13. – I haven’t seen Javaris play significant minutes, maybe one of the guys can shows some light on the subject. But for the time being, Javaris’ place is watching Farmar and Fisher playing…

    Regarding those unis, please bring them back for good. That’s who the Lakers are suppose to show up for home games. The format, the colors, the numbers…

    Is there a petition I can sign about those unis?


  16. 13-Javaris isn’t physically ready to be a defensive stopper….this season, his future, now that’s a different story, he will be an impact player, he already has shown great ball-handling and quick decision making. hopefully he can contribute later this season, if not, defintley next year.


  17. From the previous post…

    I do believe that Ariza was traded mainly for salary purposes and his skills next. However, on how things have turned out, Mitch is looking more like a genius by the day.

    Lets look at this breakdown…

    Orlando owns a 2.6M in disabled player exception due to Tony Battie’s injury. Since playing SVG’s style of dominating D12 and shooting a bunch of threes (which has worked very well), Orlando saw Brian Cook was at the tail end of our bench and offered someone who was at the tail end of theirs… who was redundant for our team (Cook – Radmanovic) for someone who was redundant to theirs (Ariza, Turkoglu, Shard).

    Since Cookie (good luck to you man) is BYC in status, Orlando had to “suck up” more salary from the Lakers in which case, Mo Evans was the winning candidate.

    If we break it down, there is no way Mitch could have traded his 8th man for Orlando’s 14th man esp that Odom was significantly moved to SF this year. Ariza would then become the 12th man for our team of which would not see action unless the game is blown out in the 3rd Q.

    Cook = Ariza
    Evans = DPE (disabled player exception)

    If you ask me, it was a money trade gone right. But we have to give Mitch the props…


  18. J.A.’s doing a terrific job for the espns. I always liked him at latimes, but I feel like he’s stepped it up a bit. His piece on the Warriors culture last week was also quite good I thought.


  19. Interesting stuff from Shoals over at Free Darko talking about Kobe:


  20. 19. just went and read the post, not sure what it is that you find interesting, as all of it seemed a given in Lakerland.

    Kobe throws Bynum under the buss, Bynum gets mad and sorta wakes up and smells the coffee, works hard, Kobe sorta apologizes but not really (what text? he didn’t text!) until he finds out that the boy can play a bit. Even then he’s reluctant to praise him, knowing too well what he said over the summer, but makes sure that he doesn’t come across as being too cocky and too mean to an up-and-coming player.

    well, at least that’s the impression i got from the summer, and i think the two have a relationship that’s FAR from best pals. I’d be surprised if Bynum and Bryant talk to each other. I won’t be surprised if Bynum and Farmar secretly get together to plot revenge against Kobe, and dream of one day saying ‘Kobe? You kidding me? Get me Durant’ or something akin to the other post that sorta claimed Bynum was more important.

    Sure Kobe is smart enough to use what he’s got, but he’s still Kobe, and will remain so until he realizes that giving props to others does not diminish his value at all. Secretly, Kobe might be very ambivalent about Bynum’s growth – he’s glad that he can win now, but he realizes that he’ll NEVER equal Jordan if Bynum helps him win another title. Kobe would probably like to be in Gil’s shoes, leading a group of guards and small forwards to a title and finally shedding that ‘he-coattailed-shaq-to-three-championships’ label.


  21. I read it too. The first thing I noticed was the baby elephant – guess that stood for Drew eh?

    If we talk about the politics of the locker room, its best that we understand what cameraderie means to a team. Ever notice how “lonely” the Lakers were after hearing news about Mo and Cookie’s departure? Cameraderie is a good thing but too much of it is not healthy.

    Along with those lines, where Cookie will be missed by just everyone as Drew misses his best friend Mo, the welcome for Trevor will not be celebrated as much as the Lakers are somehow still “missing” those guys. Trevor (depending on how he reacts and thinks) will somehow feel alienated that this is not a team that welcomes him, instead, a team that is judgmental on whether his arrival can translate to wins for the team.

    Talking about motivation, I see 2 different kinds of people here: one that plays well because he is reinforced, and one that plays well because he is cursed. I think Kobe signifies the latter, that’s why he will always wow you with more even if the odds are stacked against him. Drew seems like the kind of kid who might thrive in praises and pats.

    To make the long story short, both players, Kobe and Drew are motivated by different things. Yet for some good reason or two, Kobe’s “hate” for Drew translated into a fire that burnt his motivation thus transforming him into more of a man than a boy this year.

    While it may be contra-conventional to be a semi-introvert like Kobe, its these personalities that are the most dangerous. I’d rather have him on my team rather than play against him.

    If we have to include Shaq in this argument, being the one barometer that would spell or dispell Drew’s success, let us remember that Shaq attended college and more or less grew up before he became the man.


  22. After a summer (and fall) of wild rumors, things seem to be dovetailing nicely don’t they? Maybe I’m just looking for conspiracy theories but I think Kobe learned much more from PJ than he’d like to acknowledge, publicly anyways. Kobe is more than capable of playing mind games too.


  23. Harold: I don’t know if Kobe and Bynum take in dinner and a movie together but they seem to be comfortable on court and having played on a number of teams myself that goes a long way towards reconciliation in these types of matters. Not to mention that Kobe has repeatedly said how happy he is with Bynum’s improvement.

    I mean am I missing something here because I’ve seen at least a few post game interviews where Kobe has complemented bynum and his team… I just don’t think these guys are that worried about the summer anymore now they are winning.

    The mood may change if they start losing a lot of games but I think it all comes down to Kobe being relatively happy because he is winning, and the Lakers as a team being happy because they are showing Kobe that they are a winning team with potential.


  24. Quick thanks to Kurt for the breakdown and the reminder to be nice. That’s what I appreciate about this site… we treat each other with respect even when dumb things get written (lord knows I’ve been guilty of that).

    Deciphering Kobe’s state of mind is beyond my mental faculties. However, I’m not sure that even he knows how to feel about this team. He wants to win a championship soon, but probably knows by now that any doable trade would only diminish those prospects. Bynum’s emergence could turn LA into a formidable team in the playoffs, but it also makes Kobe look like a bit of a moron for trashing a 19-year-old just a few months before his coming out party. Kobe is sick of being on a young team that’s going nowhere, but as recently as August wanted to be traded to a young team that now appears to have much dimmer prospects (Chicago). It’s a good thing Kobe is such a great basketball player, because he really couldn’t make it as a fortune-teller or a GM.


  25. 23. Bynum himself has said that Kobe’s comments motivated him. Maybe Bynum’s emergence is a result of hardwork and dedicated that was prior to Kobe’s comment non existent. Maybe given his prior work ethic it was a no brainer to trade him for Jason Kidd, arguably the second best point guard in the NBA. Maybe Kobe felt like Bynum would be a great player, but just several years down the road. Maybe Bynum and Kobe are great friends now. Maybe they aren’t. Who cares as long as the keep showing this type of chemistry on the court. I’m also reading that Kobe is going to be pissed that Bynum is playing so well b/c it is going to take away credit from him.

    I really wish Lakers fans would just stop with the nonsense speculation and controversy and enjoy the alley-hoops between these two great players.


  26. DMo,
    “but it also makes Kobe look like a bit of a moron for trashing a 19-year-old just a few months before his coming out party.”

    Not so sure about that. What I saw in Bynum the first two years was a lot of potential but also a lack of intensity. His conditioning level was also less than deisred.

    This summer Kobe makes his comments.

    This season so far Bynum has shown very noticeable improvement, particularly in the two areas I mentioned above.

    Are those three steps on the timeline unrelated? I don’t think so. (Bynum has acknowledged that those comments helped fuel his summer program. )

    A lot of MJ’s leadership (which he is roundly praised for, and which Kobe is criticized for lacking) was, in fact, bullying his teammates to work harder.


  27. It seems that Kobe and Bynum have or at least are starting to develop a working relationship on the court. I would like to see Bynum be a little more aggressive on the offensive end, but he is getting better. I think the team has pretty much put this last summer behind them and are enjoying themselves and getting better.

    As a side note. All of you who live in LA should feel pretty lucky. It took me 15 minutes to scrape of the 1/2 this sheet of ice that my car was encased in this morning. If california wasn’t so expensive and crowded, I would consider moving back there, well after I finish grad school anyways.


  28. Kurt,

    I’d love to see you do a breakdown in which you merely chronicle inspirational “stops,” transitions, and bailouts. Here are a few recent examples.

    Trevor checks in, finds his man, makes a steal, and turns it into a breakaway. First Laker breakaway points vs. 10 for Warriors.

    Baron Davis breaks through the defense (fourth quarter), heads for an easy layup. Bynum blocks it just before it hits the glass–no foul. Davis is amazed.

    Fighting to recapture a rebound, Kobe manages to hit the ball off an opponent just as he is falling out of bounds. The Lakers get the posssession back.

    Warriors Jackson is too closely guarded to launch a three, can’t find a driving angle, can’t find a moving cutter–throws a pass to the announcers!

    Rather than have the top three scorers, you could mention the top three stoppers. In the most recent Warrior game, that could be Kobe, Trevor, and Andrew.

    In memory of the Smusher, we could also have the Smush Parker “sieve” of the game award to the player who single handedly lost the most opportunties for his team through bad passes, missed rebounds, missed assignments, bad switches, and bad team skills.

    I’m not sure that there was a Laker qualified to be a Smush Parker level “sieve” in the Warrior game, but stay tuned!


  29. Speaking of Smush Parker, he currently has the lowest PER among PGs at 5.76. Fisher is 16.57 and Farmar is 18.14. (Farmar is listed as a SG on Hollinger’s ratings)


  30. On the same PER note Lamar Odom has a career low 11.59


  31. Also,
    Shaq’s PER = 21.04
    Bynum’s PER = 20.58


  32. I don’t doubt that Kobe’s comments helped to motivate Bynum, but I would be very surprised if that’s what Kobe was thinking when he made them to a couple random dudes in a parking lot with a camera. Furthermore, the point is that if the Lakers are successful it is a double-edged sword for Kobe because his trade rhetoric went way beyond “motivation” and into the realm of trashing. He wanted out because he saw no potential for improvement. If the team improves significantly, I hope he isn’t too petty to appreciate it… and apologize to all those he disrespected.


  33. The thing is that we are never going to hear any apologies from Kobe. If they happen(ed) they would be private and to the players involved.

    It was noted that Andrew had only played basketball for 5yrs (2+ in the NBA). Might that – and his age – not account for his “slower than we wished for” development?

    The news nerds are still saying occasional things about Kobe’s trade request. Doesn’t that give any of you a clue that most of these people haven’t any idea what they are talking about?

    This is a good team developing. This is a fun year. Still – I don’t really expect any championship in June.


  34. Mike in the Mountain West December 11, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Don’t you think we should give Bynum at least a little bit of credit for his own improvement this year? Much like God, just because we want to see Kobe’s omnipotent influence every where we look (at least as it relates to the lakers) doesn’t make it so.

    Bynum started his regiment long before Kobe’s inadvertant reality show moment and he heard criticism from a multitude of people, maybe you’ve heard of some them, little people like Phil Jackson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

    Sure, it’s possible that Kobe’s comments put a fire under his ass, wait strike, it was probably more like a warm lightbulb, in any case, it probably gave him a little more motivation but does anyone really think there would be a noticable difference in his performance if Kobegate hadn’t happened? I mean, c’mon, seriously?


  35. Mike, I’m sure Bynum worked hard, but the word on the street was that he still lacked fire and drive. We always hear how MJ used to conjure up rivalries and slights to push him over the top – such motivational ‘gimmicks’ are necessary for many of us – and Kobe’s comments probably served as the motivation Bynum lacked.

    We all hear about players playing with a chip on their shoulder, about players having something to prove against their former coach/team/fans, and it’s not hard to imagine that those things are indeed helpful.

    I’m not saying that Kobe had all of this in mind, nor that Kobe is responsible for Bynum’s growth – I’m only saying that Bynum probably (and thankfully) used it as fuel and worked on getting better. All credit is due to Andrew for using what was given, not to Kobe for inadverdantly providing motivation.


  36. harold,
    It is just a probable that Andrew was tired of hearing the gripe, maturing into a man, and wanted to establish his own identity in the NBA. I mean, if he wasn’t motivated before, I doubt Kobe would have made that big a change. As Mike said, it was probably one more arrow in the quiver, but I seriously doubt it was the only/dominant one.


  37. Craig, yeah, it can’t be the only/dominant reason, but I think it’s reasonable to think that it did in fact contribute. How much, I don’t think even Bynum could answer that.

    Anyway, easy to give meanings to otherwise insignificant things when your team is playing well. I could even claim that the injuries to Kwame and Luke did our team service in the long run as it could have jumpstarted Bynum and Trevor.

    Interpolations and wild intepretations aside, I’m glad things worked out the way they did. This team looks immeasurably more promising than it did during the summer.


  38. Mike in the Mountain West December 12, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Ultimately, like Harold says, no one really knows what, if any, the catalyst was for Bynum’s seemingly improved work ethic.

    I’ll say just one more thing about this topic. It’s very possible Bynum wasn’t working as hard as he his now, not because he was lazy or didn’t have drive, but didn’t realize the extremely high level of effort required. And his crash at the end of last year is what taught him, no one else, just learning from his experience. In support of that I’ll just remind of you two really great moments of the Bynum of yore. First, that great move and dunk on Shaq followed by some aggressive elbowing on the other end. That shows some chutzpah! As a 18 year old with no accomplishments to date, to basically say to one of the best players your team has ever had that won the team three championships, this is my house now. I mean, wow! Second incident was when Bynum called for the ball from Sasha and after Sasha didn’te give it to him he berated him. Both those incidents I think show Bynum has always had a certain amount of fire and drive. Maybe it just took a while for him to realize that it had to apply to his off-court preparation as well.

    Alright, I’m done with this topic.