Preview and Chat: Houston Rockets

Kurt —  March 16, 2008

Records: Lakers 45-20 (1 seed — tie); Rockets 45-20 (1 seed – tie)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113 (3rd); Rockets 108.1 (16th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106 (5th); Rockets 102.2 (2nd)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Rockets: Rafer Alston, Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Dikembe Mutombo

How the Lakers do it: Normally, with so many injuries, you’d expect a heavy dose of Kobe today. However, with the very good man defender Battier on Kobe, it’s going to take more of a team effort to get things done.

Here are the two areas I think are key for the Lakers while Gasol remains out.

1) Defense in the paint. Gasol at times provided some solid defense inside, but it never looked like his heart was really in it. Ronny Turiaf may not have the same skill level, but all of his heart is in everything he does. Remember, back in training camp Turiaf was played as a starter because he was providing toughness inside (a role Bynum ultimately filled better than Ronny could). He has to do that now, block shots and dominate on the boards. He has to play at the top of his abilities. And, when he’s not in DJ Mbenga has to do those same things. The Laker offense is going to be less potent, the defense has to get better and it starts inside. And the rebounding must improve as well, the Lakers cannot afford to give up many second chances.

2) Get back to running. Drrayeye mentioned this yesterday — since Gasol’s arrival the Lakers have slowed the pace some. Today and for the rest of the trip they need to get back to running, to getting some of the easy baskets that come in transition. Farmar will be key with the second (and at times first) units, and I’d like to see Phil go small at times and try to run that way. The Lakers are a good running team when they do it.

The Rockets Coming In: Winning 21 in a row is an amazing streak.

And for the Rockets it starts on the defensive end — this has been a very good defensive. In the last 10 games opposing teams are shooting just 43.4% (eFG%, for comparison the Lakers are 46.7%). Regular commenter here and Rockets fan Stephen posted some comments yesterday along these lines:

They are playing outstanding team defense. It all begins w/Shane Battier. His non-stop shadowing of the other team’s top scorer not only sets the tone for the team, it also allows the rest of the team to concentrate on the rest of the opposition. His hard work allows the rest to make defensive rotations on the perimeter and protect the paint. Mutombo is giving 15-20min in 2-4 stretches where he is blocking everything.

On offense, there is Tracy McGrady – he is averaging 25.6 points per game shooting 52.2% (eFG%) and getting to the line six times a game. He’s getting balanced back up from Rafer Alston, Luis Scola, the surprising Carl Landry and even double-digit points per game from Shane Battier. They have balance, a number of guys who can score, and they don’t need to score a ton with their defense.

Keys To The Game: On defense, the Lakers have to make the Rockets uncomfortable, meaning beating them to the spots they like to get the ball. You, me, Kobe, the ball boy all know McGrady prefers to get the ball on the wing, try to deny that pass. It may mean a back door or two but don’t let him get comfortable.

The Lakers defense cannot collapse into the paint today. Rockets love to shoot the three – taking 26.6 a game in the last 10 games. And they are hitting 35.7% of those attempts. Alston, Battier, Head and McGrady can all hit the three (all above 33.3% in the last 10), the Lakers defenders cannot sag off them at the three-point line.

On offense, this cannot be the Kobe show, Battier is a good defender and will lower Kobe’s efficiency. Somebody – Odom? Fisher? Radmanovic? – has to step up and take on a role of second scorer. I think Odom can have some effectiveness on Scola, and whoever has Radmanovic will be smaller than him I look to those two. There needs to be some balance to the offense today.

The Rockets have won 21 in a row in part because this is one of the hardest working teams in the NBA. They play hard for a full 48, and if the Lakers start to coast at all they will pay a steep price.

Where you can watch: The game is at 12:30 pm. (Pacific) on ABC where you pray we get Van Gundy as an announcer because he’s the only good guy they have. In LA, the game also is on KCAL (9).

Kurt

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114 responses to Preview and Chat: Houston Rockets

  1. By the way, I know we’ve discussed this some before, but as I’m going to be throwing my 2 cents in on another site on this topic I’d love more input: What teams do the Lakers want to see the playoffs, and not want to see if possible?

  2. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Odom has to be the man today if LA expects to get a W. Kobe will have his normal Kobe show. Role players must do their job….(Fish, Vujacic, Farmar,Rad Man with 3’s)(Roni, Dj, LO, Walton to rebound and move the basketball) and Lamar to be the second best player on the court and shut down T-Mac. Better shot selection today will keep this game close. The biggest key is turnovers! The key to winning on the road is taking care of the basketball and limit the other team from having too much easy transition buckets.
    Even though they dont have Gasol, LA needs to have the confidence and swagger that they still are the best team in the West. Who wouldnt wanna stop the second longest winning streak in the history of the NBA?

  3. Would want to face
    1.Phoenix
    2.Golden State
    3.Utah

    All 3 of those teams will try to outscore us, and we will win that battle over the course of a 7 game series.

    Would not want to face
    1.New Orleans
    2.San Antonio
    3.Dallas

    All 3 of those teams play defense with purpose and are physical at each position.

  4. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Want to face:
    1. Phoenix- Just for the ratings!
    2. Golden State- Absolutely no inside help to defend bynum and gasol
    3. Denver- Cant defend our bigs, and no answer to stop kobe
    4. Dallas – Age, No inside presence to defend our bigs after Dampier.
    Not to face
    1. Utah(not because they can outscore us, but a good pg like Williams and Coach Jerry Sloan will be tough plus they can play half court and are very good at home).
    2. San Antonio- Defending champs, nuff said.
    3. New Orleans -Athletic, young, and with a great pg

  5. Lately Adelman has been putting on the floor Alston,Jackson,Head,McGrady and Hayes/Scola for several minutes. An effective counter might be Fisher,Farmar,Kobe,Walton and Lamar/Radmanavich.
    This is going to be fun.

    For the good ship Rockets,they have to stay in the eye of the oncoming Kobe-cane. They must remain calm while Kobe’s tremendous skill,energy and will rages around them and not let any of the other Lakers hurt them.
    For the Lakers,they have to stay mentally tough.The Rockets will grind,grind,grind and contest everything. Rebounds that you think are yours,Scola and Hayes will still fight for.The team swipes at every ball in their vicinity and come up w/the loose ones way too often.Not only do the players have to stay focused,so does the coaching staff.The staff can’t get caught up in screaming at the refs,yelling at their players to hustle more,to work harder. In what looks to be a rowdy atmosphere w/a poised team as the competition the coaches have to find the right balance between working the refs and motivating the team w/out going too far and getting the Lakers rattled and trying to do what they can’t.

    As to Lakers preferred foe in First Rd.,Dallas might just be the best match-up as they have no answer for Kobe,Kidd doesn’t score,the Lakers have players who can guard Dirk and I believe there’d be a huge coaching mis-match. But I’d venture to guess most Laker fans would prefer the satisfaction of beating the Suns in the First Rd over anything else.

  6. -Bring it on-
    1. Denver (not much to say, this team is a pro at collapsing)
    2. Phoenix (we finally have their number)
    3. Golden State (score, score as fast as you can)
    4. Dallas (even with Kidd, not enough spunk)

    -Not so much-
    1. New Orleans (Chris Paul is scary!)
    2. San Antonio (these guys are like those oldtimer ringers at the YMCA)
    3. Utah (Williams is not as scary as Paul, but Boozer is)
    4. Houston (lots of ‘mo’ going into the playoffs, but see #1 on other list)

    Overall, I’d say I’m only really scared of New Orleans and San Antonio. I think Chris Paul is the best player to come out since LeBron. Imagine if Steve Nash had start putting up the numbers he has the last few years when he was 22 instead of 32; now add 10 to his PPG and make him the uncontested steals champion (for probably the next 10 years) and you have Chris Paul. I said it up above already, but it bears repeating: This guy is scary! The only thing doesn’t have is size (which doesn’t matter much for his position anyways).

  7. Your prayers have been answered, Kurt. Van Gundy will be calling the game.

  8. You don’t like Hubie Brown, Kurt?

  9. want to face: Denver (we own them), Phoenix (as long as we’re healthy, we just have more good players), G-State (we pretty much own them too).

    worried to face, but confident: Dallas (a lot of world-class vets)

    don’t want: SAS, HOU, NOR, UTA (good point guards and/or suffocating defense)

    Give me http://www.pandora.com over any of those gasbags on ABC…

  10. The Lakers must avoid the Jazz and the Spurs.

    The Spurs because,well, they’re the Spurs. The Jazz because Sloan will abuse on the pick’n roll which is still a weakness for us…

    If healthy, we shouldn’t fear any other team, because:

    1 – GS has no inside presence… We’d lose a couple of games (if their shots are falling) but that’s it
    2 – Phoenix can’t play serious defense and we have plenty of bodies to throw inside… Let Amare have 40 and 20 and they will still lose to a healthy Lakers squad
    3 – Dallas plays isolation basketball. If our perimeter defense shows up, we can win it on defense and transition. Plus, if they pick’n roll with Kidd, you can go under the screen, since Kidd can’t shoot to save his life.
    4 – The Hornets don’t have enough depth for us. Let CP3 score 40. Control West and Peja and we own the series.
    5 – Houston can be abused on the inside. Pound the ball in to our bigs, get Mutombo into foul trouble and afterwards attack Scola. I’ve been watching the international game for a while, and Scola is more dangerous on defense when on the weak side. He’s an excellent help defender, but not that outstanding when one-on-one with a skilled player. The thing is… Battier can make Kobe self-combust, which could potentially cost us a series. With smart play, they’re no match for us…

  11. Would love to face any team except SA, Dallas, and Utah. The Spurs for obvious reasons. Even though they’ve been playing sub-par ball (for their standards) recently, they are still extremely dangerous and the championship goes through the Alamo. Dallas, although most have disregarded them already, is still a really good defensive team. They are veterans and should not be taken lightly. Utah are monsters at home. They are iffy on the road. But if they can steal one on the road (which is not improbable), then it will be an uphill battle because they just don’t lose often at home.

    The other teams: Houston, Phoenix, Golden State, and New Orleans, I would love to face. Phoenix, although Amare proclaimed they “have the best of both worlds”, are declining on offense. With Shaq in there, their movement stalls. Without Shaq, they become free and run & gun. However, they lose lots of rebounding w/o Shaq. Against a team like Golden State, that would have been okay, but if they are going to run & gun when Bynum and Odom are in there, they need rebounds. New Orleans is too thin and fatigue will start to set in. Houston is w/o Yao and Golden State is just too crazy for me to pin down. They can be either extremely dangerous or just good.

    As for today’s game, I think one key has been overlooked. That is the passion and effort of KB24. Me and a couple other commenters have mentioned his lack of emotion play in the Hornets game, and if that continues through to today’s game, they will lose. Kobe needs to light that fire again and lock down T-Mac. Offense will come through the triangle but he needs to light that fire that will spread to the rest of the team. Without it, write the Lakers off. Houston will win #22.

  12. The difference between our game against NO and Detroit’s is that the Pistons are hitting their threes, particularly the unconscious Jarvis Hayes. Thing is, they’re taking so many threes because they’re making them, while our guys were taking ‘em because… because…

  13. Detriot whooping NO. Lakers will take all help they can get. I want SA to lose to Bos tommorow, and hey, maybe Portland can knock of Pho too.

    We must protect the perimeter, they need to hit 3’s for their offense to stay spread, we need to chase the Rockets of the 3 line.

  14. I would like to see an efficient game from the Lakers tonight. By that I mean if we are not hitting our 3 pointers stop shooting them. There have been several games that we are not shooting the ball well at all and we are still hucking them up. If you are not making them take a few steps in and hit a mid-range or for crying out loud take it to the whole and get contact or something. My beef with the Lakers D is the pick and roll. The big needs to show more and force their guard to go wide. Big Bynum did this great. His length did help but he got real low and aggressive on the guard which allowed the defense more time to rotate and get in better help position. It can’t all be blamed on the guards.
    For me the teams I wanna face differ on who is healthy for us but I will ASSume everyone is healthy. I want to see:
    1-Pheonix(we owe them payback)
    2-Denver(typical pickup basketball gone pro)
    3-Golden State(Biedrins on Gasol and Bynum, forgetaboutit)
    Don’t want:
    1-SA(good pg and bigs depth)
    2-NOH(we are too inconsistent vs them)
    3-Utah(D. Williams will be tough to handle)

    PS-Damn Gauchokes…..sigh

  15. Does anyone have a Windows Media Player link to the game? (I can’t use Sopcast or justintv…)

  16. Another key today:

    On offense, Ronny needs to be on the wing. He needs to pull DK away from the basket. This will also give Ronny some alley oops and dunk opportunities. Futher, DK will have to hustle to get to a spot where he can block. Make DK play our game, not his.

  17. Would want to face: Warriors, Rockets, and Pheonix.

    Would not want to face: Hornets, Spurs, and Jazz.

  18. To reiterate, we must chase their shooters off the 3 point line, and the help can’t come from another 3 point shooter.

  19. The Dude Abides March 16, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Wow…Alston really lighting up Fish in the first quarter. Eleven points in the first five or six minutes. Lakers hanging around, though.

  20. Who’s got Alston? Is Fisher even out there? Are we playing with 4?

  21. RONNY with the block! That was a momentum stopper-Toyota Center was about to get loud.

  22. Too many turn-and-fades from Kobe, great effort in the first quarter from both teams. Looks likes this game is going to be a great one.

  23. Vlad is playing some good d on T-Mac. Lamar is really our only rebounder, and he’s going after every single one.

  24. Why is Kobe NOT passing the ball? And the pick’n roll defense… This is not turning into anything good.

  25. The Rockets are collapsing inside, to protect the rim… Why can’t we just run the triangle? Why is everyone stopping when Kobe has the ball? Where are the picks and the cuts? Without a team effort on BOTH ends of the floor nothing good happens…

    I’m really sad, because I’m watching the 2006 Lakers all over again…

  26. @ Renato Something was bother me about the way the game was heading but you pinpointed it. So stagnant on offense and less than solid on defense.

  27. I think we should let Karl get some minutes, Sasha might need another jolt of fear.

  28. We are getting killed on the boards again especially when Lamar is challenging shots on the outside.

  29. Excellent team D from Rockets. Not giving us anything. Battier handling Kobe well.

  30. Im not seeing any of the usual cuts on defense or any slip screens or pic and roll in egneral we have been accustomed too. A lot of frustration on both ends. I also would not be opposed to going small and getting Karl some minutes.

  31. We are self destructing. It is just sickening to watch.

  32. Sometimes is the ball movement… sometimes Kobe justs starts shooting with a hand in his face…

    Also, this officiating is biased. This is a shame to the game of basketball. I said it before and I say it again. NBA referees are the worst part of the game in the US.

  33. This is ugly. Everyone just STOPS as soon as Kobe touches the ball, and Kobe insists on fading away on everything instead of taking it to the hole. The defense is atrocious–simple cuts are leaving people wide open, and pick and rolls obviously killing us. But the offense is whats really ugly to see–there was about one decent look all half: a wide open shot from Farmar where he thought about it for five minutes…..and missed.

  34. Kobe and The RadMan are doing decent on McGrady but our defensive rotation is horrible. Really, when is the last time the Lakers had a team capable of defending the pick-and-roll even decently?

  35. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Looks bad at halftime.
    Kobe needs to stop shooting jumpshots and attack the rim. Everybody else needs to stop looking around and standing there waiting for Kobe to bail them out. Silly foul there at the end of the half.
    Cut down the turnovers and PLEASE play some better D and MAYBE…MAYBE…we might stop the winning streak.

  36. Halftime…

    If we keep up like this, the Rockets are getting 20+ difference. Anyway, the lack of inside game is hurting us as well. The Rockets are not going far, and I would love for us to meet them in the playoffs with a full roster…

  37. Yeah, we need to spread the ball around, make that extra pass.

  38. Renato, the Lakers are committing the fouls because Scola is just beating his defenders to the ball and nobody’s putting a body on him. He’s also getting inside, while the Lakers are taking everything from the perimeter (some nice lefty hooks in the lane by Lamar, though).

    On the other end, Kobe is missing his shots against Battier, plain and simple. When they show the slow-mo replays, Battier’s not touching him. Outside of a call here or a call there, the Rockets are just the more active team, getting to the rim, and are the more mentally tough team right now.

    We’ve seen this coming for a few weeks now, with all the close calls with Portland and Sacramento. Unless the Lakers emerge from their collective outside shooting slump, or Kobe gets into one of his otherworldly zones, the only cure is effort and activity, without getting out-of-control.

  39. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    What a surprised that we’re getting killed by the pick and role. Maybe we should go with a zone since the Rockets are killing us with dribble penetration by tmac and alston. Make them shoot jumpshots and earn there way to the free throw line. If they knock down the jumpshots..then give them credit. But right now, we need a new strategy on defense cause we’ve been a terrible defensive team.

  40. The depth in the West and the playoff race is obscuring the fact that there are no great teams in the West this year. It’s to the point where the Rockets can dominate by simply playing good defense and not-awful offense. The west is completely up for grabs, but the Celtics look like a lock for the championship at this point.

  41. Poor play. I hate to see last year’s 42-40 team back in action again.

  42. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Lastly, we need to rebound the basketball and not let the Rockets have second chance opportunities.

  43. Farmar/Kobe/Vlad/Luke/Lamar. This may be the 5 that gets it done for us.

  44. What is up with Fish? He has been awful…

  45. as soon as I say that, he gets going!!

  46. uh, i meant fish/kobe/vlad/lo/dj. ha. we’re back in it. Lamar is really playing well, great overall play.

  47. It’s like the Lakers are playing with 4 guys on the offensive side of the ball with Mbenga out there. Dude is clueless on that side of the ball.

  48. Radmonovich made a cut when Kobe had the ball!!!!!!!

  49. stop passing to dj

  50. Man I miss Ariza. These are times when he is very helpful, unlike Walton who has the negative effect. Alston is on fire.

  51. bench farmar, play sasha at the point

  52. Lakers are playing much better now but Alston is having the best game of his career. Not much you can do about that.

  53. Outside if the two Alston threes, the Lakers basically erased the deficit in the third. The first of those two was all on Jordan, for going under the screen. The other was just Alston jacking it up as soon as McGrady got between him and Jordan.

  54. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Kobe is forcing shots. Needs to stay in control now that the team is within reach. Need better defense around Alston. Killin us with his 3s. Make someone else shoot besides him. Doin a great job around tmac.

  55. Wow, are we playing in staples center? Horrendous span of calls/no-calls by the refs there

  56. 49-I think Walton is having a good game. He’s taking advantage of the post

    50-I think Sasha has been slumping, and today he’s not giving us anything on o or d. play farmar and fish or put in Karl, but you never know, the machine can rev up with one make.

    Gotta get LO back in the game. Is kobe gonna go straight through?

  57. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Must not go underneath the pick and role. Stay on the guys getting the pick. They need to keep doing what there doing and attack the rim. Getting fouls when we do that. Anyone excited for selection sunday?…just a thought.

  58. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Rockets have no fouls to give. Need to keep attacking the basket like i said.

  59. Lets live at the line!

  60. Anyone else think it was terribly tasteless of ABC to show the guys with the signs that said “McGrady for President, Kobe for Governor of New York”? It took me a second to figure that out.

  61. Negative mass media bias against Kobe shouldn’t be surprising anymore.

  62. Kobe please post up low right block!

  63. 58, agreed, I think it was a mistake (maybe the cameraman saying hey look at this funny sign i found) and they weren’t supposed to air it

  64. Sagging off the 3 killing us again.

  65. pencil in another loss…

    Just terrible

  66. as much as rockets playing a great team basketball, what a perfect way to deflate any kind of momentum by lamar…

    missing two free throws when down by 4… geesh… just like that… now 5 min left in the game, we are down by 10 again.

  67. The score is 96-86 with 3 min left in the game. The Lakers deserve to lose this game. After the great 3rd quarter they resorted to being passive in the 4th. Their defense got them back in it in the 3rd but late rotations, bad help defense, etc was not in it in the 4th. Very disappointed in today’s showing, especially in Kobe’s performance.

  68. We don’t have guts, that’s the reality. With KB in a bad game we only have to pray… That’s not a kind of championship caliber team. All the teams (except the Suns) which can win the title beat us in the series, that’s what we should be afraid of.
    What a dissapointment.

  69. This is the 42-40 team. What did we expect?

  70. Are you kidding me?

    The Lakers don’t deserve to win any of these games. Forget the fact that we’re without two of our best players, it’s the lack of effort. Kobe/Farmar are jogging toward guys about to shoot the 3.

    We’re trading baskets, except they’re hitting 3’s while we’re hitting dueces, and the fact that we can’t consistenly knock down the free throws.

    Pick-and-Roll is the most basic offensive play in the game of basketball, and the Lakers, the team people think might get to the championships, cannot even guard it. Not even close to guarding it. How to beat the Lakers? Easy, just run the simplest play in basketball, and that’s game.

    Watching them is so frustrating, almost reminiscent of the Lakers in the past years. All we can hope for is Pau makes a speedy recovery, and Bynum comes back in good enough shape. And as much as I’d hate to admit it, Kobe cannot take over the game single-handedly as he did in past seasons, and especially not against a team as good defensively as the Rockets.

  71. Those 2 ft misses by Lamar kinda killed the momentum. We stopped doing the things that brought us back, namely the pick and roll and moving the ball after penetrating. Also, the lack of enery at the defensive end was disheartening.

  72. wonder what mbenga’s plus minus was, he seemed to help out the d.

  73. Lamar completely killed any chance of us coming back. 88-84 goin to the line to bring the game to 2…misses both in typical lamar fashion then battier and jackson hit back to back threes and were down by 10. I like that sasha didnt allow rafer to make him look like a fool right now though. If only he made more of a contribution in the box score.

  74. The harder working team won, not the better team. Lakers need to find the intensity they were playing with during the first half of the season.

  75. Ok, I’m extremely frustrated. The Lakers couldn’t keep up the effort necessary to win this type of game. The PGs couldn’t close out on 3pt shooters, sometimes because they were busy helping??? and sometimes because they couldn’t seem to go over screens.

    This defensive PG problem is going to have to be resolved by 1) and extreme amount of work by Farmar over the summer or 2) the draft or trade. In the trade scenario I see Lamar going to get a good PG + other stuff.

    While I love Lamar’s game, he just isn’t clutch and he periodically has a bone-headed brain during games. Next year is his last contract year and his value will probably never be higher.

  76. Can’t do much without three of our go-to players (# two and three on the offensive end and #1 of the defensive.

    So they can sing, dance and chant all day long it still doesn’t change the fact that this is the team we basically had in 2006 and no way indicative of ANYTHING. If you believe it is your a victim of the same short-sightedness the media employs.

  77. I think all the injuries have taken a toll on the players. We look really tired out there.

    We for the past couple of weeks there has been no hunger, the team has looked absolutely lackadaisical. It almost seems like we don’t care. That’s the vibe that I am getting from watching the games.

    Kobe is forcing too much, but at the same time everyone is just standing around and watching. Come on!!

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose 5 or 6 in a row with the way that we have been playing. Even when Pau was on the floor, we have been cheating disaster for last 5-8 games.

  78. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Guys, Lamar did kill the momentum when he missed the free throws, but it didnt kill the chance to win the game. They still had to play the game and were only down by 4. They lost it in the defensive end. They got down on themselves and got lost in the moment of a team having the 2nd longest winning streak. After that, they were all out of control, jacking up 3s and played poorly defensively. Look at the lakers stats defensively….out of all the 63 games they’ve played…how many of their opponents scored over 100pts. I would love to know because ive lost count that its getting ridiculous. Defense got them back in the game and thats what they need to work on practice.

  79. It’s almost as if the Lakers are holding on to the return of Ariza, Bynum, and now, Pau, as a crutch.

    Like James Worthy just said, the disappointment stems from the lack of effort, not necessarily the fact that they lost. On defense, you need effort and heart. You have to want to run hard around screens and close out shooters, not the lethargic jog Lakers have been doing recently.

    Overall, just a bad defensive game, specifically Farmar guarding Alston. And obviously, clutch free throw misses and Rocket 3-pointers killed us. Sure, Lakers are playing without Pau, but the Rockets are also playing without Yao. Who do you think is the more dominant center?

    Disheartening loss for the fans. I don’t know about you guys, I’m starting to doubt that the Lakers could get very far this year in playoffs. The talent is there, but I feel like there is no hunter and thirst for the win. It’s just, “Oh.. we got beat. Let’s just wait for all our players come back, and we’ll be solid.”

    #76, I disagree. Rockets are playing without Yao, did they play lethargically? No, they kept up their defensive intensity, which I cannot say the same of the Lakers.

  80. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA March 16, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Bynum really needs to come back to anchor this team on the defensive end. They need to do what is best for this team and thats is to run the basketball. Without Pau for the next 2 games, they need to create easy baskets since their only half court offense is to stand around and look at Kobe to shoot.

  81. The third quarter was great, but once the Rockets (esp. T-Mac) started hitting their shots again in the fourth, it was over. The Lakers reverted back to their “help on everything” D; Jackson and Battier hit their now-open-again shots; Kobe tried to do it all himself on the other end against Battier, and failed miserably.

    It’s too bad Bynum didn’t meet his best-case recovery estimate, because these Western conference games would have basically given him a season or two’s worth of playoff experience.

  82. Anybody who says NBA players coast thru their games should watch Kobe and T-Mac dive for a loose ball and fight for it.

    The Lakers offense stalled when Kobe dominated the ball in First Half. In the 3Q he was moving the ball,setting up others and the Lakers’ O started to roll. That will be the challenge for the next few games as I don’t think Kobe can do it for a full game on a consistant basis anymore-the rest of the team has to carry the load until the 4Q where a relatively fresh Kobe can take over.

  83. Did others notice that Lamar changed his FT motion? He’d been putting his right foot behind his left and going into a deep crouch. I didn’t like this motion because it is very different than his normal jump shot and the right foot behind the left create an unstable platform. Even his makes often rattled around the rim – the swishes were rare. During this game, he maintained a wide stance and had a shallower knee bend. He looked alot better at the line all game and swished it several times. On his last trip to the line, back to the old style, right foot behind the left, a deep crouch. Clang, clang. Maybe I was seeing things… must check the tape.

  84. At the rate the defense is going, you can pencil Deron Williams in for 40 and 20.

  85. 72–Mbenga was a +8 when on the floor. This was second only to Radman’s +10. They were the only two Lakers to have a positive +/-.

    Is it sad that I’m really missing Chris Mihm right now?

  86. I agree, Lamar’s free throws werent the reason we lost the game, but they did kill any momentum we had going down the stretch run. I don’t know what has happened to the defense though. I honestly can’t remember the last time we held an opponent under 100. Houston was on pace for 120 at the half and still finished with more than 10 points above their season average of 91. I was hoping we’d end the rockets streak, and they do got a great team in houston, but im still not buying the rockets. The best teams they have beaten during the streak were games in Cleveland and NO. They also beat dallas but that was the game dirk was suspended. Im not going to discredit what theyve done though, 22 in a row is very impressive regardless of the competition.

  87. Whenever the Lakers are on ABC, they should have a portable TV at the bench and listen to Van Gundy.

    1. Don’t make Mbenga your go to guy.
    2. Don’t go under the screen against Alston
    3. Switch on everything when the Rockets play small

    The Lakers playd dumb ball. Panicked for no reason. Should have had Vujacic in Alston’s grill, played the rest straight, staying with the shooters…Lakers were in the penalty with over 8 minutes to play and down by 4…The only time Kobe was successful was when he was in the low block and could drive to his right into the lane. Once we saw this in the fourth and never again after they were in the penalty. How can you lose to a team whose tallest player is McGrady?

  88. 83-Thanks. I would give him 20 minutes a game. As for Vlad, why did Phil sit him for basically the whole 4th, I think he was having a good game.

    The Spurs have to play Boston before us, so they may be coming in on a 4 game losing streak. We have to realize that with the talent depletion due to injury, we can’t play 2 good quarters of ball and win.

  89. The Lakers have reverted big time–or should we just talk about Kobe “upchuck” Bryant? 33 shots–with Battier in your face. Just because Kobe was playing where Rudy T used to coach, he didn’t have to revert that far back in his play. Two assists. Yes, he got 2.

    With Pau, we never lost–we just ran out of time. Without Pau, we’re lucky when we win. We’re completely out of balance because of one player.

    Lamar was Lamar–kicking the ball for a “t,” missing critical free throws–but his play was still way better than average! Mbenga came in and provided relief. Luke did what he does. Ronny was amazing. The role players were adequate in their roles.

    I’d rather lose playing team basketball than watch Mr. (so-called) MVP try to imitate Mr. James and impress the sports writers and get us humiliated.

  90. Battier was an absolute stud guarding Kobe in that game.

  91. Several commenters noted that the Lakers needed to run, with the loss of 3 centers and our #1 defensive forward. I watched for any run outs by the Lakers – nope, didn’t see any. Whenever Kobe got the ball he just sauntered up the court and began the offense. Even Farmar didn’t run up the court like he usually does, therefore, no early offense. Lamar getting the ball and racing up the court was also needed, but not observed.

  92. 87-I think there were three reasons we couldn’t force tempo. 1)We couldn’t control the glass (Lamar is our only rebounding force without Pau and Drew). 2)Houston gets back on defense bettter than most teams. 3)Kobe and Lamar have to play 40+ minutes, so they must find places to conserve energy.

  93. All in all, Lakers better get their act together soon or we’ll be sliding down the standings in no time.

  94. We were close but Houston was just too deep and they hit shots when they really needed to and we just didn’t. Kobe has to do something this team won’t win one game this road trip if things keep going like this. Kobe needs help and the Lakers need a defensive plan badly.

  95. drrayeye said what? A Lakers fan thinks James is what? Come on, Kobe isn’t playing his best and won’t until he thinks his team is ready for it. That’s his MO. Everyone loved it when he spiked his game when Bynum was hot, then Pau came and there he is at his best again. People forget that he needs a second player to feel his best effort is best utilized. And for the record, LeBron is as much an MVP as Kobe was two years ago. Get that nonsense off this page, man. Kobe is selfish and self serving and if we forget that we are forgetting that he doesn’t want anyone to win a championship that isn’t named Kobe. Or Coby :-)

  96. (95) Fanalyst,

    Kobe didn’t “upchuck” all the time against the Rockets. He only took 4 threes. In the third quarter, he was part of the great defense that brought the Lakers back. It seemed that when the team sat down with the coaches, they came back and played well for awhile–then regressed. Kobe was the BIGGEST factor in that regression.

    Even with Mbenga playing, Kobe showed flashes of being himself in an appropriate team role. It may be that his subconscious tells him that if there is no big man, and we fall behind, it’s time to “take over.” I guess “the devil” makes him do it.

    As recently as last summer with the all stars, Kobe proved that he could use his individual skills to better the team through defense, if that was what was needed to win. This entire season, Kobe has been very close to his teammates. He wants to be a part of a winning TEAM most of the time. His “taking over” reversions are almost like an alcoholic going on a binge.

    I don’t see Kobe as selfish and egotistical as you do–but one can’t deny his competitive spirit. You might remember the first game that Pau Gasol had as a Laker. The Lakers won with Pau’s fourth quarter play. Kobe scored 6. Kobe was deleriously HAPPY.

    Kobe wants to be on a Laker team that wins a championship this year. He’s probably already in withdrawal from his “taking over” binge.

  97. - Lamar had a GOOD Game. He’s been playing great ball recently. Just gotta get used to the occasional brain fart.

    – Um…. Vlad Radman – not worth $6 mil a year. Not even worth spelling his name out. The guy is inconsistent at best, turrrrible at worst.

    – Yes, Skip to my Lou had a career game. But it wasn’t some glitch in the matrix – he’s having a career YEAR.

    – I caught the game on ABC. Did you guys know the Rockets have a 22-game win streak going on?

    – Even as a Laker fan, I gotta admit – those homemade signs those 2 Rocket fans made were high comedy:
    “T-Mac for president…Kobe for Governor of NY”

    – One last thing, did you guys know that the Rockets currently have a 22 game win streak?

  98. Didn’t get a chance to see the game this afternoon, but reading all of your comments (thank you for pointing out the bad and good things) and seeing Kobe shot 11-33, I would like to cautiously come to the conclusion that Kobe was trying to be the MAN too much this game.
    According to the AP, he did play good defense on T-Mac, but still, when your shot is not falling, isn’t it the best player’s responsibility to get other teammates involved?
    This is the main problem I have with Kobe. I’m still not sure if he knows when to pick his spots in going iso, iso, iso. He has shown flashes of brilliance when he mixes his playmaking skills with his scoring skills, but I have yet to seen it on a consistent basis.
    And that’s why he will face the criticism until he can prove he can get out of the 1st round without Shaq. With the current state of the Lakers, I’m not so sure that’s a sure-fire thing to happen.

  99. chocomm, thanks for your insight on a game you did not watch. Your Kobe bashing is much appreciated on this forum.

  100. Chocom, the problem is who is Kobe going pass to? Odom was hanging out at the three point line (he was great in the paint, when he bothered to go there) and nobody else was that eager.

  101. Kurt,

    that’s not so much of a problem. He throws it to his big guy in the high post (and pretends it is Pau), just like before. and cuts. Both Ronny and Mbenga could have done more scoring and helped free up the outside shooters better. Then Phil might have used VladRad more. Kobe seems to use the loss of Pau as an excuse to revert to an obsolete game strategy that never made much sense.

  102. “Both Ronny and Mbenga could have done more scoring…”

    Now that’s funny. Heck, maybe we can even get Brian Shaw to give the Lakers some threes.

  103. Things I’d like to see in the next two games:

    1. Kobe on the lower left block (Pau’s usual spot). He could roll into the lane for his running hook or generally wreck havoc in the lane.

    2. Pick and pop w/ Kobe/Fish/Farmar and Rad (we never run this, why?)

    3. Sasha at the 1 guarding the opponent’s PG. He’s our most pesky perimeter defender and the best at getting over the screen. Don’t need this for JKidd but would like to test it on DWill

    4. Start out with Lamar on the right block and feed him 3 consecutive possessions to start the game (Like the Bulls used to do w/ Cartwright – to jump start an unagressive offensive player)

    5. No double-teams on D. If Boozer or Nowitzky beat you – so be it. But don’t sag off the 3 point shooters.

    6. (For the first time this season) Execute secondary rotation to help the man covering dribble penetration

    I don’t hold much hope for #6 as they try to execute this every game but mostly fail. However 1 -5 has never been tried. Why not?

  104. The Dude Abides March 17, 2008 at 7:49 am

    That Battier guy can really play D. Now THAT’S how excellent shutdown defense is played. Clean, fundamentally strong, and no sticking out the foot for the jump shooter to come down on, and no kicking the achilles tendon as someone goes up for a dunk. I have never seen someone put their hand in the face of the shooter so consistently.

    I was really disillusioned by the lack of movement on offense. I was in Asia for the past month, and this is the first game I’ve really seen a lot of. This can’t be the Lakers of the past. We need some ball movement, and if the guys are too tired to move their feet on D, then let’s get more minutes from the bench (and sign Newble).

  105. Disagree about this:

    2. Don’t go under the screen against Alston

    He had a good game, but if we were in a playoff series against them, I’d still say you give him the jumpshot. He’s shooting 40% for the season and 36% on 3-pointers, this game was an aberration.

  106. I have followed the travails of the Pass or not to Pass evaluation of Kobe since Eagle, CO – yes, that is when the media started focusing exclusively on this situation. Aside from the no-win elements of this saga, the other Laker players consistently stop moving when Kobe has the ball. There are only two Lakers who even seem to try to move with any consistency – Luke and Ronny – and even they are often stationary.

    Now the triangle is supposed to be a movement offense and I don’t see much movement with Kobe handling the ball. I have given up trying to figure out the on-court ideas going through the players heads because when they move Kobe does pass the ball. The only thing I can fall back upon is the coaching not emphasizing the movement enough. Phil does seem to have his favorites and he does seem to go with them in crunch time a lot – not too surprising. However, the offense does break down if just one of the players stops moving as starts observing. Is there one player who is more guilty of this than any other? and is he one of Phil’s favorites? Yes on both counts – Lamar Odom. I am not going to say Lamar is at fault for all our ills as both Phil and Kobe have stubborn streaks the size of Texas and they seem to shoot themselves in the foot far too often. But for an offense based on movement, this one is far too stationary.

    I heard a comment about Byron Scott’s coaching that might be useful here. He fits a player into the rotation for about two weeks and if they can produce they stay, if they fail, they get replaced. Might we try that here, even with our favorite players?

  107. Chris. I think you are commenting about VanGundy’s points. I think he was talking about that game – not general strategy. Obviously if Alston is bricking, you let him shoot. But he was white hot and Farmar still went under the screen. I thought those 3’s near the end of the third gave them a big boost.

  108. 105-I know Farmar wasn’t playing Alston tight, but his problem was different than Fisher’s, who was unceccassarily helping, leaving his man open. Jordan was going under the screen, but there is no reason our bigs couldn’t come out and show, I think the burden is more on them. I agree with you about the momentum, but the last 3 Alston hit before the quarter ended, McGrady set a screen on Jordan, there’s no reason for Kobe not to have stepped out on the shot. I think our single biggest defensive deficiency is rotating as a team. One guy helps, the others dont rotate, two guys trap, the defense doesn’t adjust, people let their man go back-door, there’s no help. It is truly a problem of TEAM DEFENSE, no individual can be the culprit. Houston is playing tremendous team d, everyone is on the same page, us, not so much

  109. 105)
    “He’s shooting 40% for the season and 36% on 3-pointers, this game was an aberration.”

    36% on three pointers is the equivalent of 54% on 2 pointers; if the choice is between giving him an uncontested three, or giving him a more difficult 2, don’t give him the three!

  110. Kwame a

    You are absolutely right. I think the real problem is coaching. The truth is non of the current assistants are defensive gurus and this lack of coaching shows. Whereas both Boston and Houston’s defensive schemes were designed by Tom Thibodeau (Can an assistant win coach of the year? – being responsible for the best record in the league and partly responsible for the second longest winning streak surely qualifies him).

    When Van Gundy was fired and Thibodeau was looking for a home, I really wished the Lakers would hire him but didn’t think Phil would want a strong-minded coach in his midst.

  111. 101. I wish Kobe would have recognized who was on the block and made better decisions. But I wish Odom had planted himself down on the block.

  112. Found a pretty cool blog for basketball coaches. Current post is about Houston’s M2M defense on Kobe. Pretty instructive, talks about how Houston forced Kobe baseline as much as possible. Check it out:
    http://coachingbetterbball.blogspot.com/2008/03/rockets-team-defense-slows-kobe-bryant.html

  113. new post talking about the Rockets game is up.

  114. 107 and 109… Fair enough if you want them to play him as a jumpshooter based on the 35% (I forget what that conversion is called… is that eFG%).

    What I don’t support is changing your defense because someone is “hot” — in other words, changing the defense because he’s 8-11 or something ridiculous. Play your solid team defense and let him “regress to the mean”. I know the research isn’t fullyformed but I believe most people who’ve studied lean towards the “hot hand is a myth” side of things.

    I wasn’t worried about our perimeter defense, the Rockets were just hitting 3-pointers like crazy.

    What bothered me was when Houston stayed ahead in the 4th by shooting floaters in the lane. Turiaf letting a slasher go right by him, as Kobe watched instead of challenged the lay-up.