Learning Some Things

Kurt —  March 12, 2008

In Kobe’s post-game interview after last night’s win he touted the team’s defense in key spots against Toronto.

I really hope, after he watches the tape, he changes that opinion, because by any objective measure the Lakers defense stunk it up last night. — they had an offensive rating of 116.1 (points per 100 possessions) and grabbed 30% of their missed shots (numbers well above their season averages). Toronto didn’t shoot any better than they regularly do (they were right at their season average) but they got a lot more good looks in the paint than they are used to. The Lakers got the win by outscoring their opponents. Again.

That is not going to work in the playoffs, and it’s not going to work on the four-game road trip that starts Friday night in New Orleans. If the same Lakers perimeter defense from the Toronto game shows up against Chris Paul, it could be ugly.

It’s too early to be all doom-and-gloom — Bynum ran on a treadmill yesterday (a $75,000 treadmill that helps support the runner so not too much weight is put on the knee, by the way) and his return will be a defensive boost. And, in the playoffs it’s about matchups and Phil is a master at defense against one team for seven games.

But if the latest Lakers trend in defense continues, these playoffs could be a lot shorter for the Lakers than many predict. Here are some thoughts from some of the regular commenters and better game-analysis guys on this site:

Reed:

I would like to officially retract my post from a few weeks ago about Pau’s arrival potentially transforming our defense to something Spurs-esque. He’s really just lost on defense most the time unless he’s guarding someone with their back to the basket. He also just looks a little sluggish on defense — not a ton of activity. When Kobe’s in gambling mode, Pau is sucked out to the perimeter on pick and rolls, and our point guards face speed, we really struggle.

I worry about the defense because I think it’s a reflection of attitude and effort. Pau, Farmar, etc. could be really effective, smart defenders, but right now they’re putting tremendous strain on our team defense by constantly getting beat or being out of position.

Kwame a.

(Gasol’s) biggest problem seems to be pick-and-roll recovery, as you mentioned previously, it has really allowed teams to get layups. However, his helpside needs to do its job too, and for the most part that help has been late. All around, the D needs to improve, there is no sugar coating this, we are beating teams by outscoring them, and that aint gonna win titles.

Darius:

I honestly think that the players are a little intoxicated with their success. We have won games with lackluster performances, boosting our confidence but also creating a false sense of our overall quality. Players aren’t immune to that feeling of superiority that develops from everyone touting your virtues. And, c’mon, the Lakers are the betting favorite to win the title…no one can tell me players don’t know the betting lines and who the favorites are.

I could do a whole blog’s worth of bad defensive examples from last night, but here are just three to highlight a few things:

9:15 left second quarter, 27-27: After a Turiaf block the Raptors are taking the ball out under the basket. The ball is inbounded to Graham out on the wing (covered by Coby Karl) and Brezec comes over to set the pick. Ronny on Brezec shows out hard to stop the penetration so Graham quickly passes to Humphries out high at the top of the key. Now the Lakers have Ronny looking around to find his man, who had swung out to the wing then with the pass to Humphries makes a be-line for the basket. The help defender is Luke but he follows his man Kopono out of the key the other direction toward the three-point line. The result is a quick pass to Brezec who gets the dunk and gets fouled by the late Turiaf.

6:24 third quarter, Lakers 73-65:
Calderon is dribbling out high when Anthony Parker gets a down-screen that allows him to get the ball out at the three-point line straight away. He keeps his momentum going right and Nesterovic has come out for the high pick and roll. Gasol shows out hard to cut off the penetration, and it works. However Kobe never really takes away the passing lane to the now rolling to the hoop Rasho, and when Gasol turns around he is way too far away to recover. Odom is the help defender but he is a step slow and he can’t stop Rasho’s hook even if he was in the right spot.

4:20 third quarter, 78-71 Lakers. Thee Raptors spread the floor at the three-point line as TJ Ford brings the ball up and doesn’t bother to wait for Rasho to set a pick for him, something Fisher slides over easily, so TJ stops and goes back to his left at the top of the key with the now set Nesterovic in place. This time Fish slides under the pick while Gasol hangs back closer to the free throw line. All the while this is happening Radmanovic keeps watching TJ and cheating up off Moon who is in the corner three spot. Radman is so far up when TJ comes to his left, Vlad wants to stop the penetration so badly he left Moon all alone to cut baseline. Bounce pass and dunk. Really nice dunk.

Again, this is not the end of the Lakers season. There are 18 games to go, which is plenty of time to right the ship, and I truly believe getting Bynum back will be a part of that. But the effort and smart decisions should be there without Drew in the lineup, and right now they are not.

Off topic note: If you didn’t see it yesterday, Hoops Addict has a one-on-one with Turiaf.

Kurt

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