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.