Taking The Next Step

Kurt —  January 24, 2008

That is what good teams look like in the playoffs.

Not the Spurs of the first half, who floated semi-aimlessly around the court. Rather, the team that came out in the third quarter and cranked up the defensive pressure. They pressured the ball, and Fisher made some ill-advised passes (a couple long ones up the court trying to push the pace). They pressured Odom and Walton, and those two gave up the ball to Kobe and watched. Yes, Kobe (as is his way) was more than willing to take on this burden and started forcing shots. But this is not all on him — the Lakers as a team stopped moving, returning to the “let’s watch Kobe” offense of years past.

Rather than a long breakdown from me, the words of Tex Winter in the LA Times sum it up much better:

“The ball has to move, the players have to move,” he said. “And when they don’t, they start standing and watching Kobe. Kobe might get 50, but we still ain’t going to win, or we’ll have a tough time of it.

“It’s a team concept. It’s based on ball and player movement with a purpose. It’s predicated on that, and if we don’t have that, then we’re not a very good team.”

As the Lakers try to find an identity without injured center Andrew Bynum, Winter went right to the heart of a possible solution.

“Lamar [Odom] and Luke [Walton] really might be the key to this,” he said. “They’re going to have to hit the open shots. They’re going to have to hit a good percentage of their shots, which they’re not doing right now. They’ll get better and more open shots if we play a team concept and move the basketball and go through with our cuts.”

Odom took only five shots until the final three minutes of the game. He finished with 11 points on four-for-seven shooting. Walton was also quiet, scoring five points on two-for-three shooting.

Consider this a learning experience (Phil certainly did, not calling a time out and letting his starters try to work through it). It cost the team a game, but costing the team a game in January (in a road loss to the defending champs) is a good time to learn. When the Lakers see this again in the playoffs, maybe they will react better.