Archives For January 2008

Anatomy of an Assist

Kurt —  January 22, 2008

The first two times the Lakers played the Nuggets this season, Denver wanted to make sure Kobe didn’t beat them. It’s a strategy a lot of teams have used over the last few years — make those other guys around Kobe step up and win the game.

That strategy doesn’t work anymore. Even without Bynum or Radmanovic last night, the Lakers had plenty of other guys who could score if you focus too much on #24 — he showed trust in his teammates and they responded. (In past years, when Kobe made those passes the shots were too often missed, so the next time down Kobe tried to make shot over three collapsing defenders.)

Maybe it was because Bynum was out, but for a third time the Nuggets went with the “stop Kobe” option, doubling Kobe the second he touched the ball. Kobe took only seven shots (making five) but racked up 11 assists. And in the first three quarters he had seven “Gretzky assists” where he made the first pass but a second pass got the player an open look (they give those second-pass assists in hockey).

Here is an anatomy of Kobe’s assists (with mentions of the Gretzkys thrown in):

10:21 First Quarter, Denver 8-2. Gretzky Assist. (Fisher three from the corner after Kobe was doubled on the high pick and roll.)

9:09 First Quarter, Denver 12-4. Gretzky Assist. (Kwame dunk, Odom with the primary assist cutting to the basket after Kobe was doubled in the post.)

8:45 First Quarter, Denver 14-6. Gretzky Assist. (Kwame dunk, Odom with the primary assist cutting to the basket after Kobe was doubled in the post.)

7:01 First Quarter, Denver 16-12. Gretzky Assist.
(Fisher three pointer, Odom with the primary on a very nice skip pass, open because of the double on Kobe.)

6:28 First Quarter, Denver 18-14. Gretzky Assist. (Fisher three pointer, Walton the primary after Kobe was instantly doubled in the post and dribbled back out of trouble.)

3:55 First Quarter, Denver 22-21. Gretzky Assist. (Fisher three from the corner, Turiaf the primary after Kobe passed out of the double in the post. Sensing a pattern here?)

3:26 First Quarter, Lakers 24-22.
Odom takes the ball from Kwame under the Nuggets basket and brings the ball up, but no Nugget really comes out to greet him so he keeps going. Camby eventually tries to pick him up at the free throw line but Odom has a head of steam and blows by him — the only thing Camby does is force Odom to go to his weaker right side. That’s enough, Odom misses the lay-up. But Turiaf doesn’t give up on a rebound that is clearly Kenyon Martin’s (does Ronny know the words “give up?”) and knocks the ball free. Kobe picks it up six feet from the basket and, since all the Nuggets sprinted down for the fast break, it is a three on one. Kobe drives into Camby then makes a sweet behind the back pass to Odom for the one-handed jam. With the left hand. That’s one for Kobe.

2:00 First Quarter. Lakers 28-24.
Kobe is back in the low post, something the Lakers used to great success all game, especially when Carter and other smaller players were on him. With Bynum out the Lakers used Kobe as the post anchor in the triangle (much like the Bulls often used Jordan in that role), and they should go back to that when the matchups favor them like they did in this game. On this trip down however it was Kenyon Martin on Kobe, and it is Farmar who makes the entry pass to Kobe from the corner — Martin tried to front the pass but Kobe sealed him off beautifully and Farmar’s pass was perfect, leaving Martin on the wrong side and Kobe with a clear two steps to the basket. Camby came over to help, leaving Turiaf who went to the basket, Kobe wrapped a pass around Camby and Turiaf had a dunk and one. That’s two.

:10 First Quarter, Lakers 37-29. Gretzky Assist. (Farmar three from the corner, Sasha with the primary assist after he got a pass from Kobe, who was doubled out by half court as the Nuggets wanted to make sure he didn’t get the last shot of the quarter.)

11:00 Second Quarter, Lakers 41-29. The Lakers reset the offense halfway through the clock and again Kobe goes to the post against Carter, and again Farmar makes a great entry pass. Kleiza comes over to double, but does it in a stack fashion putting no pressure on the ball. So Kobe directs traffic, asking Farmar to move to the corner, then drives against the grain and trying to spin into the middle. As he rolls that way into the lane two other Nuggets collapse making it the rare quadruple team. Turiaf is alone and cuts baseline to the basket, and Kobe hits him with a pretty bounce pass. Turiaf dunks and Kobe has three.

10:10 Second Quarter, Lakers 43-31. Guess what? Kobe is trying to post up Carter. This time it is Odom with the entry pass but the Nuggets are slow to double. Doesn’t matter. Farmar comes off a Turiaf back screen, but really both defenders are looking over at Kobe, waiting to collapse on his move they are sure is to come, so they pay no attention to Jordan as he cuts to the basket backdoor. Kobe makes a pretty pass right over his man to Farmar for a reverse lay-up. And we have four.

3:15 Second Quarter, Lakers 62-50. Fisher pushes the ball after a Nuggets make and the defense never gets set. Fisher stops 22 feet out and Kleiza leaves Kobe to get him, so Fisher makes the quick pass to an open Kobe on the low block. Camby rotates quickly, but he is the only Denver player to do so — which means his man Kwame is unattended. Kwame goes to the basket, Kobe hits him with the pass and Kwame remembers to dunk. That’s five.

9:10 Third Quarter, Lakers 68-59. Now Martin is on Kobe and the bigger body is denying quality post position, Kobe is halfway out to the wing by the time he gets the ball. Kobe realizes this and faces up, then drives to his left into the center of the lane. Three Nuggets collapse and, stop me if you’ve heard this before, Kobe kicks out to an open Fisher for a three. Kobe is up to six.

3:00 Third Quarter, Nuggets 79-77.
This time it was Odom on the block getting the double, passing out of it and the Lakers quickly working the ball around the perimeter faster than the defense can rotate. Apparently Fisher is wearing an invisibility cloak because the Nuggets leave him open, Kobe throws him a quick pass and it’s another three, And another Kobe assist to make seven.

2:23 Third Quarter, Lakers 80-79. This time Kobe gets to the high post and is relatively unguarded when he gets the pass from Odom. Seeing this Fisher’s man (Yakhouba Diawara) comes to Kobe and leaves Fisher alone in the corner. By this point you think the Nuggets would rather have anybody but Fisher shooting, but apparently the lesson has not sunk in. Kobe makes the quick pass from the high post to Fisher, and it’s another three. Eight for Kobe.

1:53 Third Quarter, Lakers 83-79. Kobe gets the ball on the right baseline early in the clock and then basically gets a clear out. The Nuggets have gone to a zone, sort of a 2-1-2 match-up, so with the clear out the Lakers overload the weak side but three Nuggets stay with the ball because Kobe has it. Kobe makes the quick skip-pass to Farmar on the opposite wing for the three, which falls. That’s nine.

About 1 minute left in the third, when TNT decided that the score and time box they had up all game needed a breather or something, Lakers 86-79. Kobe gets the rebound and brings the ball up himself, then gets a drag screen (a high screen early in the clock) from Turiaf, and the Nuggets switch which leaves Camby on Kobe. That’s a mismatch out high. So Kobe drives right and goes past Camby easily, Martin and Carter collapse. Unfortunately, Carter had to leave Fisher alone in the corner to collapse. Tell me if you’ve heard this before — Fisher gets the kick-out pass and buries the three. Kobe reaches double digits.

:40 Third Quarter, Lakers 89-81. Kobe gets the ball out high and has Martin with him on out at the three-point line — Martin great in the post, not so much out on the perimeter. Kobe blows past him on the right side and here comes the collapsing Nuggets defenders — I think Dan Issel came out of retirement to collapse on Kobe in the paint. This time it is Turiaf following the play who benefits from the pretty Kobe behind the back pass for a lay-up. And you have Kobe’s 11.

The pattern is pretty obvious – and not just that you shouldn’t leave Fisher alone for the corner three (although that’s a good one, too). The Nuggets were so preoccupied with Kobe that the other Lakers were getting good looks and knocking down the shots. This season Kobe really trusts his teammates (particularly Fisher and Bynum) and the result is a team that is much tougher to defend.

Records: Lakers 26-12 (5th seed); Nuggets 24-15 (4th seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.8 (6th); Nuggets 109.4 (14th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.4 (7th); Nuggets 105.3 (6th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown
Nuggets: Allan Iverson, Anthony Carter, Linas Kleiza, Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby

Yes, the records and seedings are right: If the playoffs started today, the Lakers and Nuggets would meet in the first round. The Nuggets would have the higher seed — as the leaders of their division they can be no lower than fourth — however the Lakers, with their better record, would have home court advantage.

Lakers Notes: As some backup at center, the Lakers signed 7-0 big body DJ Mbenga to a 10-day contract today. This is a solid 10-day pickup, a guy who can provide some defense and depth — he averaged 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes his last year in Dallas and is a decent help defender. He is not a great rebounder for his height but he will get some boards. He will give us no offense. But rather than taking a big risk, the Lakers are playing it smart and seeing if DJ can provide a patch for a week or two until Mihm gets back.

Now, on to the injury report. I’m not a doctor, but I play one on this blog.

Trevor Ariza broke his fourth metatarsal bone in his foot. The metatarsals are the five long bones in the forefoot which connect the ankle bones to those of the toes. The fourth one is the for the toe next to the little toe. Healing depends on the severity of the break, but recovery lasts four to eight weeks. So, expect Bynum and Ariza to be back about the same time.

Chris Mihm is also a couple weeks away. Bynum is out. It would be nice if Radmanovic can play as he torched the Nuggets last meeting. And I just got carpal tunnel typing up the Lakers injuries.

The Nuggets Coming In: Denver’s isolation basketball that relies on Iverson and Melo continues to work pretty well — they are 6-4 in their last 10. Melo has four double-doubles this month (the stat, not the In-N-Out burger) and Iverson consistently leads the team in scoring. Linas Kleiza has had some hot games of late (he had 41 a couple games ago) being the open spot up guy with two other slashers who draw the attention. Read more about him from David Thorpe in an interview at True Hoop.

It is really Marcus Camby that makes the Nuggets work, however. Without his great backstopping defense in the paint the Nuggets would try to get in a shootout every night, but Camby can take away the paint (Bynum had just two points against him last meeting) and that forces other teams into more jump shots than they would like. The result is one of the better records in the West.

Last Time These Two Met: Back on Dec. 5 Alan Iverson put up 51, Melo had 26 and the Lakers still won, thanks to 15-5 run to end the game. While the Nuggets are a good defensive team the Lakers shot 53.6% (eFG%) for the game. Vladamir Radmanovic was a key part of that, hitting 6 of 9 three pointers on his way to 21 points on a sharp-shooting night for him.

In the first meeting of the year, the Lakers sported the Nuggets a 17-point lead by turning the ball over every chance they got. But when they took care of the ball they took care of the game and won.

Keys To The Game: If you were going to be without your high-scoring center for a game, this is not a bad one — he wasn’t going to score a ton against Marcus Camby, one of the best defensive centers in the game. (Last meeting Bynum had just two points against Camby.)

In part tonight depends on what Nuggets team shows up — when focused on defense and moving the ball on offense they are one of the best teams in the NBA. But that team only shows up sporadically, sometimes for just a quarter or less. No way of predicting this squad.

One thing the Nuggets are starting to get is play from their bench. In the first two Lakers win against the Nuggets the bench was key — it was Farmar and Bynum off the pine that started to turn the first meeting around, last game it was some key players off the bench that ensured the Lakers win (although the starters did a lot of damage). The depleted Lakers bench needs to find a way to step up tonight because J.R. Smith and others have started to step up more for the Nuggets lately.

This needs to be a big night for Kwame and Turiaf — the Nuggets are a team that likes to drive the lane, and in the process get a lot of fouls. Iverson and Melo can get by anyone outside (best to make them shoot from there if possible) but the Lakers need to block and alter some shots without fouling.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). We get a choice here in LA between the Fox Sports broadcast and the national TNT version. But, if you live in Boise, you’re stuck with Chuck (and a lot of “fav five” commercials).

Tech problem…

Kurt —  January 21, 2008

I suddenly seem to be without all my posts from 2008.

Trying to figure out what just happened and repost my Nuggets preview to start.

UPDATE: Everything is back and up again.

Thoughts From Vegas

Kurt —  January 20, 2008

First off, thanks to Rob L. and Gatinho for filling in while I was gone. Apparently I should take more vacations because the quality of posts here seems to go up when I leave.

UPDATE:
Trevor Ariza broke a bone in his foot during practice today, apparently getting tangled up with Lamar Odom. That, combined with Bynum, certainly will not help the Lakers defense or depth. Walton is going to have to step up, particularly on defense. However, read the first bullet below before freaking out.

Last week was an interesting week to be out of the media loop for the most part, watching just parts of games and following the reactions from a distance. That space can help provide a different perspective. So here are a few thoughts.

• The world is not ending. It’s amazing how fast doom and gloom envelopes Lakers fans from one injury. First, Bynum will be back for the part of the season that matters — the playoffs. The team needs to be rolling going in, and with Andrew back and a favorable schedule late, they should be. Seeding is seeding, but you will have to beat the good teams some time anyway.

In the short term, certainly the Lakers will miss Bynum, and there are going to be some adjustments, but this team is still better than last year’s team without Andrew — Farmar and Fisher replace Smush out top, there is more depth and the team is playing better defense. This is better than a .500 team without Andrew.

But only if they snap out of their mental funk the injury put the team in. The Lakers have had one bad offensive game (Phoenix) and one bad defensive game (Seattle) in the wake of Bynum going down. The team needs to find its rhythm, its rotation and get back to exploiting match-ups if they are going to win.

• The Kwame conundrum. With Bynum anchoring down one corner of the triangle, the offense looked a lot more like what Tex Winter envisioned this season compared to the last couple of years. The Lakers got used to that. And in the Phoenix game they kept throwing the ball into Kwame and expecting Bynum-like things to happen. They didn’t, and they will not for seven weeks or so.

Kwame Brown is what he is, a big body who can play man post defense well. I like the Kurt Rambis line about Kwame that Matt “Money” Smith repeats: “For the best players the game moves in slow motion, for Kwame it’s always in fast forward.” To me, this is not a question of Kwame’s hands, contract or work ethic — those are what they have been since before he came to the Lakers. (Which is why I never understood the $9 mil contract offer.) It’s really a question of expectations. People still expect Kwame to play like a former number one overall, to play like a guy with a $9 million contract, to play like a guy with that physique. He never has. He never will. He’d make a decent backup center at $3 mil a year, expecting anything else is courting disappointment.

That starts with the Lakers players and coaches. You can’t throw the ball to Kwame on the block and expect an automatic score. When Kobe or Fish drive the lane they can’t expect to dish inside to Kwame and know the dunk is coming. You can’t count on quick defensive rotations. He is what he is, the Lakers need to play to his strengths and not expect him to be Bynum.

And, Kwame should have plenty of motivation to step up — this is a contract year.

• Thank god Phil Jackson put an end to the Chris Webber rumor. (Hat tip to Muddywood.) The Lakers improvement has been based on defense this season, and Webber hasn’t played it in years.

• If you’re in Vegas and want to see a show, I recommend “Love” at the Mirage. It’s the Cirque du Soleil show done to Beatles music, and it is spectacular. If you’re in Vegas and want to gamble, I recommend craps (it was the only game that treated me well, I was somehow repelling good cards, whether playing blackjack or poker).

• Save the Sonics! I think I get the business game David Stern is playing, trying to pressure some state and local governments to pick up much of the tab on a new arena, that’s a good precedent from the owners perspective. But really, you want to move a team out of burgeoning Seattle to go to Oklahoma City? Really? To me Vegas makes more sense if you’re going to move a team, and the Hornets seem like a team that has to move, not the Sonics. But all that doesn’t make the current owners the most money in the short term — and Stern, the one guy supposed to be looking out for the long-term health of the league, backs the greed.

Suns Preview

Gatinho —  January 17, 2008

W-L: 26-12
PF: 109.8
PA: 104.9
Home: 13-4
Road: 13-8
Streak: Lost 1
Last 10: 7-3

The injury to Bynum has thrown the Laker’s fan base into a frenzy. What this proves is how far Bynum has come in his importance to the team. Kobe’s “We’re a championship caliber team with Andrew” comment bares out the feelings of his teammates, as well.

We’ve discussed what the Forum Blue and Gold lining of this situation can be (Kwame finds a groove and plays himself back into shape, Turiaf continues to grow) but the reality is we know that there are struggles ahead. Will staying at .500 be a realistic expectation while Drew is out?

Can Kobe show that he trusts in teammates not named Fisher or Bynum? Look for him to facilitate more tonight. Hope that he looks to facilitate more tonight and doesn’t go for the “Kobe versus the world offense” until the latter stages of the game necessitate it.

The man who is really going to have to shine over this stretch and find his way out of the proverbial woods is… Lamar Odom. His aggressiveness on offense is key. He needs to find his confidence and use this Bynum-less stretch return to the ball he played in the playoffs last year.

But we all know that it’s all about the defensive end of the floor (and rebounds). An effort similar to the Seattle game will not cut it in this contest.

The Lakers hold a 2-0 season edge because of their stingy defense, holding the Suns to under 45% from the floor.

Phoenix coming in: Phoenix has semi-struggled of late. Grant Hill will not play after having his appendix taken out. His calming force has been missed as the Suns have been a .500 team in his absence.

In their previous five games they are 3-2, but coming off a loss to the Clippers in which they scored 90 points and a loss to Utah earlier in the week in which they scored 86. So once again the theme for the day is tempo.

Update: if you haven’t seen it yet, True Hoop has a great Q &A w/ Kurt Rambis and his 80’s mustache. He addresses Bynum, the Triangle, and Kevin McHale’s infamous clothesline.

Blessed to be a Witness

Gatinho —  January 16, 2008

I met his car in the parking lot. His driver opened the door, and I helped him out of the car and into a wheel chair. I introduced myself and let him know that I would be here all day long to help him with anything he needed.

“Coach Wooden, I’ll be your host today.”

We took him to a room that held the other legends who had graciously given their time for this worthy cause… Bill Sharman, Tex Winter, Jamal Wilkes, AC Green, Keith Erickson, Chick’s wife Marge Hearn, and Ann Myers-Drysdale.

As soon as Coach Wooden was wheeled into the back room, these basketball luminaries were reduced to fans. They all stopped what they were doing to greet The Coach. He may not have ever been their Coach, but you couldn’t tell who he knew intimately from those he knew in passing. Only Ann Myers-Drysdale openly betrayed her devotion to the man by referring to him as “Papa”.

We were unsure of who would exactly show up. Kareem was unavailable as he was called back east to preside over a function for the American Library Association, for which he is the national spokesman. Bill Walton was called away by ESPN, but in his stead, he enlisted his son to wrangle a couple of Lakers, and Tex Winter was asked to do his best to encourage their attendance by getting them out of practice early.

At about 1:00 Luke Walton arrived, followed shortly thereafter by Jordan Farmar, and shortly thereafter by Derek Fisher. They followed the same ritual of reverentially greeting Coach Wooden.

The rest of the legends and players made their way out to the newly built Toberman Neighborhood Center gymnasium to mingle with the those who had paid for the opportunity to hobnob with people that they probably had previously only known as guys running around on their TV screens in shorts trying to put a ball in a hoop.

This was a day where I was allowed to be privy to the kind of fly on the wall stuff one could only dream about.

I listened as Bill Sharman explained to Luke Walton that his real name was William Walton Sharman, so he was the first “Bill Walton”. And as Coach Wooden told Luke that it took his dad three months to agree to recite the part of The Wooden Pledge that stated, “No whining, no complaining, no making excuses.” Coach Wooden let Luke know that his dad lobbied for some “wiggle room” on that part of his pledge.

As the meet and greet portion of the event ended, the guests were sat in chairs as the Legends and Lakers made their way down the red carpet. It became very obvious that a majority of the folks were there to see and hear from one person. They rose to their feet as Coach Wooden walked down the red carpet. I was honored to hold his arm and escort him. At 97, the toll that that long a life takes on the body is obvious, but with Coach Wooden, the toll is solely physical.

The question and answer session afterwards had several highlights…

Tex Winter was asked if Phil Jackson’s reluctance to call timeouts ever frustrated him. He explained that Phil thought the value of working through situations was worth more to the team, even if it cost them a loss here or there. He also responded in his own sarcastic fashion that he used to sit by Phil and elbow him, “Coach, get a timeout. And as most of you now know, I’ve been demoted, and now I sit behind him.”

Tex also was asked how come more teams don’t run the Triangle after all the success he’s had throughout his coaching career and he responded, “Coaches should coach styles that they have a thorough understanding of.” He hinted that it was too complex for some to coach and remarked that he was glad that they didn’t utilize it.

Marge Hearn broke up the room with a hilarious story about Chick coming home from a road win in Phoenix with a hang dog look on his face. She inquired why he was sad, knowing that the team had won and Chick replied, “I think I lost my job.” He then relayed to her that when he signed off from the game he said, “We’ll see you next time. This is Chick Hearn signing off from The Sunshine Sh*tty…”

Part of the fun was the relaxed atmosphere that allowed these people to get on the microphone and riff during the auction. As Luke auctioned off a Bill Walton gift package he commented that,

“This looks like what I get for Christmas every year.”

Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton traded friendly barbs over the microphone during the auction. Farmar poking fun at Luke’s fundamental game, hinting that it was devoid of any flash.

“Every see someone post up on a fast break? That’s him right there,” pointing at Walton.

Walton retorted while auctioning off an opportunity to be Laker ball boy,

“You have to be between the ages of 13 and 17. Jordan, you’re seventeen, right? Wouldn’t you like something like this?”

But Wooden’s time with the crowd made us all feel blessed to be in his presence. The gym fell silent as we all bent an ear to grasp at the pearls of wisdom he was dispensing.

He was asked about a pivotal moment in his life, and he immediately began to talk about his “wonderful father”.

It was his father that gave him a small card at age 12 that contained the basic philosophy that has now become The Wooden Pledge and The Pyramid of Success. One point on the card was “Be true to yourself.” My thoughts immediately turned to Polonius’ quote from Hamlet, and before I knew it, he was reciting the passage…

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

He was asked how he bridged the gap between his so-called star players and his role players. His answer spoke to his greatest asset as a man, his profound decency.

“I loved them as people, not just as basketball players.”

Returning him to his wheel chair, he pumped his arm to the UCLA fight song as we passed the pep band. Once he was safely back inside the car that would take him away, I leaned in and thanked him. He replied with a thank you of his own, a smile, and a handshake.

“Thanks for all your help today.”

No, Coach. Thank you.

-Scott A. Thompson aka Gatinho

44 Shots

Rob L. —  January 15, 2008

44. That’s how many shots Kobe took to score 48 points in the circus ring known as Key Arena Monday night.

Was it too many? Is the sky falling? Has my agent called me back?

Here are the Lakers individual offensive stats from the contest:

EFG% factors in 3-pointers, TS% factors in free throws, ORTG is points per 100 possessions, POS% is the percentage of team possessions a player uses

PLAYER	        EFG%	TS%	ORTG	POS%
D. Fisher	60.00%	60.00%	117.57	7.15%
K. Bryant	50.00%	50.98%	100.74	35.98%
L. Odom	        20.00%	20.00%	67.5	15.66%
L. Walton	16.67%	29.07%	108.8	7.44%
K. Brown	75.00%	75.30%	118.19	7.49%
R. Turiaf	60.00%	78.13%	132.73	9.46%
T. Ariza	58.33%	65.41%	121.67	6.65%
J. Farmar	100.00%	100.00%	199.27	4.84%
J. Crittenton	50.00%	58.14%	122.37	5.33%

Here is Kobe’s season average going into Seattle:

PLAYER	        EFG%	TS%	ORTG	POS%
K. Bryant  	48.57%	56.08%	110.48	24.48%

Just for a fun comparison, here is the season average for another run-of-the-mill NBA player:

PLAYER	        EFG%	TS%	ORTG	POS%
L. James  	50.94%	55.98%	113.18	23.94%

First, notice that Kobe wasn’t taking all those shots because his teammates were letting him down. Far from it. Only Lamar Odom had an off night offensively. (The whole team had an off night defensively.) Even Luke, who had a terrible shooting night, had a respectable ORtg due to his 7 assists.

Kobe also stayed pretty efficient. His ORtg was down roughly 10 points, but that was accompanied by a roughly 10% increase in possession usage. Your average player does not come close to trading a point of efficiency for a percentage point of usage at that end of the scale. Most players slide into oblivion if they try to go above their optimal norm. Lamar would be a great example. His season average is an ORtg of 104.77 with a POS% of 11.60%. Check his line above against that.

Kobe only had 7 FTA and made 4. That is plain ridiculous. Usually when Kobe puts up 48 or so, a good chunk of that will come at the line. Tonight, only a paltry 4 points.

So when I look at these numbers, I can conclude that Kobe rocks the casbah. He may have taken a lot of shots, but they were for the most part good ones/he was having one of those nights. He just couldn’t have kept up his efficiency levels if he was taking a lot of ill-advised shots. (Though to be fair, for most players every other shot Kobe takes would be ill-advised.) His teammates stayed involved and ran the offense well. Furthermore, while watching the game I never felt that Kobe was trying to do too much. It all seemed to flow fairly naturally, though I wouldn’t argue too hard over the final two minutes and OT. But that’s why the man gets paid.

Oh, that and having the Lakers on top of the Western Conference.

-Rob L.

Sonics Preview

Gatinho —  January 14, 2008

Pretty scary, it felt like my knee twisted all the way around…I didn’t hear any pops…I’m fine, I can put weight on it…not as bad as I thought…they put ice on it, and it felt better right away.”

Seattle: PG Earl Watson, Sg Kevin Durant, SF Jeff Green, PF Nick Collison (game time decision), C Kurt Thomas
Offense: 96.2
Defense: 103.6

Ridnour and Wilcox have been out and both return tonight.

Lakers: G Derek Fisher, G Kobe Bryant, SF Luke Walton, PF Lamar Odom, C Kwame Brown
Offense: 107.4
Defense: 100.8

Last time they met: …Rookie Kevin Durant had 25 points for Seattle, 12 of them in the final 6:05. But it wasn’t enough to overcome a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit… After this ragged game, Phil Jackson commented on the “unbridled and still undisciplined” aspects of this still developing team.

The Popcorn Machine: if you are not familiar with this site, give it a look. Game flows offer a unique comprehensive view of the ebb and flow of games, along with +/- and Help Value hv=Reb+Ast+Blk+Stl-TO. See the last time the Sonics and Lakers played here.

About last night…

With everyone’s mind on the health of Andrew Bynum, the Lakers lost their defensive focus and allowed a 13-0 4th quarter run. Gutting out an ugly win (with the help of a favorable no call) shows that this team is fighting to be included in discussions about upper echelon clubs. This was a game that they would (and did) lose last year. After letting the Grizzlies score 29 1st quarter points, look for the defense to be sharper tonight.

Missing Bynum: Assuming Bynum doesn’t play. With Kwame starting and Turiaf coming off the bench (or vice versa depending on the whims of one Phil Jackson). Jackson will get his wish of having Brown start, get more minutes, and hopefully get him in a groove.

“Right now, we’re trying to get Kwame going, get him back in basketball shape,” Jackson said. “If he can’t do it, Ronny (Turiaf) is going to have to take his spot. If coming off the bench is that difficult for him, we’ll have to move on without him.”

In a perfect world, Jackson would rather start Brown and keep Bynum as a productive backup. Bynum’s standout play while Brown was injured earlier this season had made Jackson’s plan impossible to carry out, however.

Bynum had won the starter’s spot until he was injured Sunday.

“Andrew seems to be sustaining his conditioning and his energy pretty well right now,” Jackson said. “He’s able to play 35 minutes now. His productivity, you just can’t turn away from it as a coach. He’s just too productive to not have him on the floor.”

Update per ESPN: Bynum out 8 weeks. Hat tip to 33.

-Gatinho