Archives For March 2008

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:


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.


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.

Records: Lakers 44-19 (1 seed); Raptors 34-28 (5 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.7 (3rd); Raptors 112.9 (6th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.8 (5th); Raptors 107.8 (11th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Raptors: Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Andrea Bargnani, Rasho Nesterovic.

Lakers Notes: I’ve already got one Lakers post up today, so not going to add a lot here. I will say I think we learn something about the Lakers tonight — how do they bounce back from a poor effort? Is this the kind of team that gets pissed at itself and takes it out on the next opponent? Or do they not take the loss to seriously and come out flat again? We shall see…..

Cuban Banning Bloggers: I’m not going to try and do more than Henry Abbot did today over at TrueHoop. He sums it up well.

I’ll throw in what I think this is about — trying to control the message. The upside of the Web is that teams can through their own sites get more information out to the fans. (The site is amazing for this.) However, the wide, wild world of the Web also makes it harder for teams to control the message that gets out, to spin it how they like. Bloggers like the Brothers K at the LA Times do a great job providing more information to we fans than the beat reporters have time to, they add to the coverage. But, it is information not controlled by the team. I find it very hard to think Cuban did not read the critical post by the Dallas Morning News blogger that triggered the new policy. I find it hard to believe that controlling the message the team wants out there did not spark this. Just my two cents.

The Raptors Coming In: Chris Bosh, the focal point of the Raptors attack, has missed the last week and a half of games, and is expected to miss tonight’s game as well.

The fact he is out figured prominently in answers to questions by Kinnon from Hoops Addict. Since the Raptors, like us, are looking forward to the playoffs, the questions focus on the future.

Right now Toronto is the five seed in the East. What are they going to have to do to win the first round of the playoffs? What are the expectations for the team along those lines?

The most important things for success this year are that the Raptors have Chris Bosh back to full strength, and that TJ Ford gets the second unit and his own game in the proper rhythm.

I can’t stress the importance of Chris Bosh returning to the lineup, and in a proper mindset and energy level. As we’ve seen in the past, his injuries are usually recoverable and in this case, he’s sitting out as a precautionary measure. However, he’s not going to be at his best upon his return. It’s going to take a few games for him to get into the proper rhythm, and proper mindset. When it comes to mindset, Bosh has a tendency to take a lot of outside shots as he can hit them with a high accuracy, and is part of his pick-and-roll game. However, his most effective plays are when he can get to the line consistently. This requires two things. The first is that Bosh has to drive the ball to the basket consistently and pick up fouls. The second is that Bosh needs to keep a good handle on the ball, as he’s been prone to turnovers on drives.

TJ Ford, on the other hand, has struggled upon his return. There are signs that he’s finding it within himself to play more like a team player rather than a very, very expensive Rafer Alston-type. TJ Ford’s mentality is such, that he believes that he can make any shot, and as a result, he tends to dribble himself into trouble and also make questionable decisions at times. When he’s on his game, this makes him an extremely effective and necessary player on the Raptors squad. However, the problem is that it’s inconsistent, and TJ has far more effective weapons playing on the floor at the same time as he is. At the beginning of the year, he made a commitment to play a more “team oriented” style, but with his injuries and the issues that have come up since his return, he hasn’t been able to find that sweet spot between being “the man” and being “the team man”.

What is needed for the Raptors to take the next step? A stronger presence inside to pair with Bosh? Time?

Time is going to be an important factor. The Raptors, being one of the youngest in the league, are going to need to develop the experience to play smarter basketball. However, there are definite needs that need to be addressed. The main two are for a stronger rebounding presence and for an effective wing player that can create a shot, play within the offense, and get to the line.

I’ll address the rebounding presence first. During the trade deadline, I suggested the Raptors needed to go after a Nick Collison-type of player, as he’s one of the few players that have a reasonable contract, with a strong rebounding presence and a high free throw percentage – things that Bryan Colangelo has publicly stated need to be addressed. However, I don’t believe this is going to be as urgently needed as previously thought. I believe Jorge Garbajosa can address these needs, and while Andrea Bargnani has had difficulties getting rebounds, he’s going to get better in the future. In addition, a lot of the times, the Raptors have difficulties rebounding due to the lineups that Sam Mitchell places on the floor. As he’s prone to do, he’ll often leave Bargnani on the floor with four smalls. This lineup, while usually replaced with Bosh, can be efficient at times, does nothing but exasperate the Raptors’ rebounding troubles.

The wing player, on the other hand, is something that can’t be developed internally. The Raptors have relied heavily on both Carlos Delfino and Jamario Moon to provide the needed defense and scoring punch from the wing positions, but there’s just no dancing around the issue. The Raptors definitely need a Corey Maggette-kind of player. A player that can get to the hoop, yet make his free throws will take pressure off of Bosh, and also play passable defense. If we look at the overall stats, the Raptors have one of the lowest Free Throws Attempted per game averages, and yet, they have one of the HIGHEST Free Throw percentages in the entire league. Even more important is the fact that Chris Bosh is one of the top free throw attempt players in the league, and yet the Raptors still don’t play up this inherit strength to the fullest because the team as a whole, doesn’t get to the line often enough. It’s a pressing issue that must be addressed in the off season.

The Last Time These Two Met: It was the day the Pau Gasol trade was announced, and the Lakers came out with incredible energy and just destroyed the Raptors, winning by 25.

Keys To The Game: While they miss Bosh, what Toronto wants to do — kill you on the perimeter with open jumpers — will not change. This is a drive and kick team and in the absence of Bosh Anthony Parker has taken on more scoring. The Lakers are going to be spread out and have to be smart about their help defense tonight (and they have to be good on defense in transition).

Among the things the Lakers have to do is not sag off the three-point shooters of the Raptors. Calderon, Parker, Bargnani, of course Kapono and Delfino all can drill the three. The Lakers can at time collapse as a defense in the paint when an opposing guard penetrates, do that tonight and they will pay a steep price. Also, better perimeter defense to stop that penetration in the first place would be a big help.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 pm (Pacific) with a broadcast on Fox Sports Net in LA and League Pass nationwide.

Thank You

Kurt —  March 11, 2008

If you hadn’t already noticed, today is Kobe Bryant Blogging day, a day where bloggers around the Web pay homage to the good things about Kobe. Hardwood Paroxysm put this together and if you head on over there is a list of all the posts already up, some great stuff.

Frankly, this left me in a quandary as virtually every day around here is Kobe Bryant Day. We’ve talked and marveled at 81. We’ve broken down his game and his amazing ability to do everything well, go left or right off the dribble, pull up or drive to the basket. As Bruce Bowen put it, Kobe has no tendencies to play on. Plus, when he can focus on it, he is one of the game’s best on-ball defenders.

We’ve done everything but talk about that questionable (at best) jacket he wore after his first Lakers title. What was left to say?

Thank You.

Thank you for the years of entertainment and excitement for us Laker fans. Thank you for the high-level of effort and the obvious love of the game that shines through.

Sometimes I think we take you for granted. We see the pull-up three over a defender so often we don’t think twice about it. Then we watch a game on League Pass and listen to other announcers and as they marvel at that shot we forget how uncommon it is that someone can do it consistently. We take for granted the passion and love you bring to the game, then we watch another NBA game from a mid-western city between two average teams and see listless, uninspired play and effort.

Kobe, his credit, is not wired that way. While is passion for the game and drive to win has driven us fans to frustration at times, we forget what a pleasure it is to see that night in night out. How amazing it is to have a player that still, after all these years, does something every game that makes my jaw hit the floor like I’m in some Tex Avery cartoon.

So, Kobe, thank you. Thank you for everything.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  March 10, 2008

• While we watch Phil Jackson’s lineup tinkering continue, one thing he does better than any coach in the league gets overlooked — he puts players in a position to succeed by playing to their strengths.

It’s one thing to do that with Kobe, who has a myriad of strengths. But look at what he did with Kwame Brown, who has been racking up DNPs in Memphis, and his already anemic offensive numbers are down even farther. Jackson tightly defined the role Kwame was to play for the Lakers — use your big body on defense and the boards. Don’t worry about everything else, if you do that some points will come to you. It drove Lakers fans nuts at times, but Phil got more out of Kwame than any other coach.

The same can be said of Smush Parker (just shoot the three), or many other guys through Phil’s career. It sounds like a simple thing — getting guys in position to do what they do well — but few coaches are very good at it.

• About Last Night (not Sexual Perversity in Chicago, but really last night)….

A few games after Pau Gasol became a Laker, I wrote that I was concerned about the Lakers defense. To their credit, the defense had been getting better. On the season, the Lakers have a defensive rating of 105.9 (points given up per 100 possessions), and coming into Sunday the three prior games the Lakers had held opponents below that number (100 for Dallas, 101.9 for Sacramento and 90.1 for the Clippers).

Yesterday, Sacramento was 111.8. The Lakers played Timberwolves caliber defense, and you can’t do that against a long team with some talent like the Kings. The Laker perimeter defense was weak and the Lakers really missed Bynum protecting the rim on defense.

That said, I think this was more an aberration, and Toronto may pay the price on Tuesday. The Lakers may have slipped into a “flip the switch” mode against lesser teams, and hopefully this will snap them out of it. They had better be focused for the challenging road trip starting Friday.

• The “soft” label is coming up a lot lately with the Lakers. Personally, I think Bynum in the paint on defense will change that perception (and reality, to a degree).

• Credit the Kings, they played hard and wanted that game.

• Gerald Green was released by the Rockets. That is a very athletic player, but it’s hard to stick in the league shooting 39% for the season as a guard. Plus, if Houston is willing to drop you this late for a D-League call up, what does that say about your work ethic? He didn’t get minutes of love in Minnesota or Boston, either. There must be some issue that negates the athleticism.

• In the same way I think the Lakers loss was a “one off,” I’m don’t think the Suns beating the Spurs means much long term. In a seven-game series, give me the Spurs in that matchup.

Records: Lakers 41-18 (1 seed); Kings 27-35 (11 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.5 (4th); Kings 108.1 (15th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.9 (6th); Kings 111.3 (26th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Kings: Beno Udrih, Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, Mikki Moore, Brad Miller

Lakers vs. Kings: Any time I feel a little sad, I just play this:

The Kobe for MVP debate. This easily is the topic I’m getting the most emails on, and most I’ve gotten on anything in a while (more than the Gasol trade). People are passionate about this. A lot of the emails are links to other people writing on the topic and there are some great discussion threads and posts out there on this, such as this one over at Lakersground. Personally, J.D. Hastings summed up my feelings on the whole award the other day:

The MVP race is a lot like the democratic primaries. Except with nothing but superdelegates.

The Kings Coming In: I said this a few days ago but it bears repeating: everything I know about the Kings I learned at Sactown Royalty.

On a positive note for the Kings — there’s been almost no talk of the Kings moving to Vegas this season. Which is good, because the fans in Sacramento have been loyal to a fault with the Kings, good for both the league and the team’s owners. Maybe the only “fault” is they wouldn’t tax themselves so their owners could build a stadium on the cheap. Which I think is what how any sensible person would vote. (Yes, Okalahoma City, I’m talking about you.) Since Stern works for the owners — and their interests are their pocketbooks — he’s not going to do the right thing for Sacramento or any other fan base that has stood by its team. I’m happy the moving talk is largely dead and the Kings (rumor is maybe with a remodeled arena) will be in Sacramento for years — so we can continue beating them regularly.

On the court, two nights ago Kevin Martin was allowed off the leash by Theus and the result was 48 points on 12 of 23 shooting and he got to the line for 24 shots. Problem is, the Kings still lost. To the Timberwolves. At home.

Artest is questionable for tonight’s game due to a sore foot. He missed the last two games.

Didn’t We Just Play These Guys: The Lakers played six minutes of quality basketball in Sacramento Tuesday. That was enough. Kobe had 34 and Pau had 31 on 10 of 15 shooting. It was an intense, physical game, expect more of that tonight.

Keys To The Game: Just a few days ago the Lakers got away with playing up to their potential for six minutes and still walking away with a win. I love wins, but that one was hardly well earned. Play better defense from the start and we can once again get plenty of Son of George entertainment.

In that late run last meeting, Kobe worked hard to deny Martin the ball, and the Kings went to a lot of Ron Artest isolation with Odom. Really, Artest took a lot of shots all game (and hit them despite some solid defense from Odom). If he plays tonight I’m good with a repeat of that, Artest is not normally that efficient and forcing the Kings into more isolation offense slows their effectiveness (like kick-outs to Brad Miller for the midrange when his defender collapses to protect the basket). What I think we will see is a lot of Martin early, so the Lakers need to be ready and throw different defensive looks at him.

Also, the Lakers should dominate when the benches are on the floor, but they didn’t last game (in fact the bench was outscored 24-9). The Lakers need a better night from the subs.

Where you can watch: The game is at 6:30 (Pacific) on Fox Sports in Los Angeles and League Pass nationally.

Records: Lakers 43-18 (2 seed); Clippers 20-39 (12 seed)

Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.5 (4th); Clippers 102.7 (28th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.9 (6th); Clippers 108.3 (14th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Clippers: Brevin Knight, Cutino Mobley, Corey Maggette, Josh Powell, Chris Kaman

Lakers Notes: In case you haven’t seen it, not great news reports on the injury front. Trevor Ariza still has his boot on and apparently will not be back until into the playoffs. Which, frankly, means we may not see much of him the rest of the season (coming back for the second-round of the Western Conference this season would be a very tough spot to walk into).

Bynum is still just training in a pool, he may start running on a treadmill next week. Reports now are early April. Yes, it all makes me a little nervous, I’ve said before I don’t think the Lakers can win it all this year without Bynum’s defense in the paint.

That said, he is expected to be back. And I don’t think the adjustment period will be that long, it’s more a matter of conditioning.

The Clippers Coming In: Let’s go with the positives for the Clips tonight. First, Al Thorton is a beast. Great get, he’s really developing into something. Second, Tim Thomas likely won’t play tonight, that should help the Clips on defense. Finally, Corey Maggette continues to be playing well, scoring 23 a game the last 10 and driving the Clippers offense.

Two other bright spots: ClipperBlog and ClipsNation.

Last Time They Met: Back on Feb. 23 Kobe was having an off-shooting night (and was doubled constantly), Fisher was off early and in foul trouble, and the result was a fairly even first half. In the second half the Lakers turned up the offense, Kobe was more decoy than shooter and the Lakers pulled away big by midway through the third and coasted the rest of the way.

Odom had 20 and 10, Gasol was high scorer with 23 and was able to get those points almost however he wanted.

One difference tonight, Kaman should play

Keys To The Game: Having Kaman back and on Gasol should make this an interesting contest — while playing with a sore back now Kaman is still having a breakout year and is the style of big who can get inside on Gasol and give him issues.

Lamar Odom had a big game last time with the defensively-useless Tim Thomas on him and should be able to do so against Josh Powell again. Also, the Clippers last time doubled Kobe nearly every time he touched the ball (especially on the pick-and-roll) and the Lakers spaced the floor well to make them pay for that. The Lakers should get buckets tonight.

The Clips are just not just much of an offensive team, put the clamps on early and this game is much simpler. Good defense = more Son of George. And we all want that.

Where you can watch: The game is at 7:30 (Pacific) on Fox Sports in Los Angeles and League Pass nationally.

The One Big Piece

Kurt —  March 5, 2008

For all the talk on this site about building the right way, getting players that fit your system and the like, the hardest part of building a championship team is getting at least one transcendent player.

You need The Man. MJ. Shaq. Detroit was the exception, but for the most part you need the unstoppable force and team leader. And those guys don’t grow on trees. Duncan. LeBron. Garnett.

And Kobe. Last night was one of a few games recently where he put the team on his back and won a game. When he had to do that for 82 games the last couple of years, the burden was too much. But this year, when he can pick those spots, you see how amazing he is.

Here are some thoughts from commenter 81Wittness, who was at the game in ARCO:

Some notes from the game, but first, what did I say yesterday?

“About the Kings: The Lakers can dominate if they take the ball to the cup early and consistently. While the Kings perimeter defense is good, their interior defense is terrible. I do not give much credit to Miller and Moore. They also get into foul trouble easily. I know Kobe has recently tried to get his teammates involved, but it would be nice for him to get to the rack early and often.”

Lakers won tonight because Kobe et al. took the ball to the rack with a serious mission in the 4th. Had they done it the hole game instead of these namby, pamby, passes, maybe they would have blown them out. More:

“Sometimes Artest will bring the ball up. Luke, Sasha, and Kobe need to give up space and let him shoot. This was how he destroyed the Kings under Musselman. However, do not let him take you to the interior as he will out-muscle most of the Lakers and draw a foul. Same thing goes for Salmons. He has been struggling from outside lately.”

Saw Artest thrown some clunkers down the stretch. As soon as he dribbled down the court and put them up, everyone knew it was a brick. Salmons played well, but did it on mostly interior plays. Terrible job by the machine, Kobe, and anybody else guarding him.

About the crowd:
It was 3:2 Kings vs. Lakers. Lots of Lakers fans in the crowd. I loved hearing the echo of Luke in the first. Also, when Martin shot up the airball, lots of airball from the crowd. Lots of chants of MVP down the stretch. This #24 might be an okay player.

My two cents on the game: The Lakers in the second half of the fourth quarter got back to doing what made them so impressive at the start of the year. They played aggressive pressure defense. Then they grabbed the rebound and ran, getting transition buckets or getting shots off before the defense really got set.

Here’s a little breakdown to show you what I mean — with just more than six minutes left the Lakers started their run. (And if Lawler’s Law were actually a law, the Lakers have just lost.)

6:14, 100-93 Kings. Kobe isolated on the wing against Salmons, and Salmons is having a nice season that is asking too much. Kobe blows past him, there is no rotation help and Salmons fouls. Kobe hits both.

5:56, 100-95 Kings. Beno does his best Curly Neal and never gives up the dribble — he takes the inbounds, comes up the court, watches the other Kings go through the offense for 10 seconds, decides he should just take Fisher and drives past him into the lane. Both Gasol and Odom collapse, forcing Beno to alter his shot then Gasol grabs the rebound on the miss.

This is the one time the Lakers don’t run off a miss, and look at the result. After going through a little two-man game between Kobe and Gasol that nets nothing promising, Kobe gets his isolation and goes to one of his standard moves — he swings the ball through and tries to draw the foul on a reaching opponent. Except this time he loses the handle out of bounds. Ah, but Kobe can sell it —- he says Artest touched it and the refs agree. Come on, it’s not like Kobe has a bum finger on one hand and would just lose control of the ball. On the inbounds the Lakers have little time so it’s a quick long three by Kobe that misses.

There are times the King’s offense just seems to have no focal point or direction. Like this possession, where the Kings run through some isolations and half-hearted picks until they just clear out for Artest (with Odom on him) and we get the 18-foot contested jumper that misses.

Kobe gets the rebound and the best way to run a break is to have the rebounder bring it up, so that’s what Kobe does. He blows by everyone except Artest, who fouls in the act. Kobe hits both free throws.

4:53, 100-97 Kings.
Salmons gets the ball in the high post with Luke on him, thinks to himself “if I can’t get by Luke I shouldn’t be in the league,” then proceeds to blow by Luke. Gasol rotates over and forces him to alter his layup, and the result is a miss.

Quick outlet pass and Kobe brings the ball up in transition but doesn’t have numbers so he stops on the wing. Gasol, running down the court, looks like he is going to set the “drag” high pick early in the clock, but slips it as Miller and Artest try to trap Kobe. What have we said about how well these Lakers can pass? Kobe splits the double with a pass to a wide-open Gasol who goes in for a little runner hook shot. Good.

4:28, 100-99 Kings. Sacramento wastes no time trying to isolate Artest with Odom on him. Artest starts on the wing, drives baseline, draws a nice little crowd of defenders, decides to shoot anyway and misses.

In the rush down court Kevin Martin (not Artest) picks up Kobe. He can’t cover Kobe in isolation. The result is a foul, two free throws and more points.

Time out Kings.

4:06 101-100 Lakers. The Kings again go through their set where Miller gets the ball out sort of high, tries to back in on Gasol and eventually picks up his dribble, looking to hand off to Martin. Except that Kobe plays good denial defense and has Martin blanketed. Miller decides to go with the up-and-under on Gasol from 8 feet out. Let’s just say that’s not Miller’s game.

Kobe with the rebound, and what did we say about rebounding and leading the break? Kobe goes down, puts on the crazy spin move at the free throw line, gets the layup. Damn he makes that look easy.

3:28, 103-100 Lakers. Beno has the ball and Artest has to come out past the three-point line to get it. Odom wisely plays a step back daring Artest to shoot the three. Artest like a dare, he takes the shot. No good.

It’s the Kobe show, he brings the ball up and the rest of the guys might as well go get something to drink because Kobe is not passing. He drives into the heart of the Kings defense. He is fouled in the act. Two shots. The crowd shots M-V-P while Kobe is at the line. Ziller throws up a little in his mouth.

3:13, 105-100 Lakers. The Kings want to get Artest the ball in a good spot, but Odom’s length is bothering Artest. So the ball swings out top and they try to get it to Martin off a screen, but Kobe is everywhere denying the pass. Ultimately Mikki Moore has to create his own shot, and he can’t do it before the shot clock expires.

The Lakers bring the ball up but just over half court, before the defense is set, Fisher sees Odom wide open in the corner. Odom drives but Moore makes a nice rotation to pick up the charge.

Kevin Martin gets a down-screen from Brad Miller and curls around at the free throw line where Beno feds him the ball. But Fisher slides down and knocks the ball out of Martin’s hands.

Fisher launches the long bounce outlet to Kobe, who grabs it for the 360-spinning dunk.

Time out Kings but the game is done. And it was pressure defense and running that get the Lakers the win.

UPDATE: Check out Sactown Royalty, where Ziller bribed ESPN’s David Thorpe with a free dinner (I’m guessing) to comment on the fourth quarter from last night.

Martin had 16 shots in 3 quarters, with just one in the 4th. Only 2 touches overall. I wonder if the Kings would have scored just 18 fourth quarter points if Martin was just as central to their attack as Kobe was to the Lakers. And I also wonder if Kobe would have been so effective as a scorer in the 4th if he had to chase Martin around screens and hand-offs and backdoor cuts the entire quarter. We don’t know if Martin can carry this team over the Lakers in crunch time. I’d like to find out. I’m sure Miller would love lots of 4th quarter touches.

Kobe was on Martin for a reason – Phil Jackson wanted the Kings to go to Artest. Had Artest started making shots, I’d guess Kobe would have switched onto him. The Kings did exactly what the Lakers’ hoped they would do.

Records: Lakers 42-18 (2 seed); Kings 27-32 (they will be drafting 12th)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.4 (3rd); Kings 108.3 (14th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.0 (6th); Kings 111.1 (25th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Kings: Beno Udrih, Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, Mikki Moore, Brad Miller

Lakers Notes: Good news — Vladimir Radmanovic will be back and dressed tonight. Note I don’t have him as a starter because: 1) It’s his first game back; 2) Luke Walton has played hard and well the last couple of games, so you don’t just yank him. But having Radman’s ability to space the floor should improve the offense again, it was really clicking with him as a starter before the injury.

Also, yesterday (in talking about the tying three-pointer against by Dallas at the end of regulation) I wrote: “Even if the guy is shooting the three, unless it is Steve Nash the chances of hitting three straight free throws are less than hitting an in-rhythm three.”

Exhelodrvr correctly pointed out, that’s not really right.

Not quite – say a 50% chance of hitting a three (which is probably an exaggeration).

An 80% free throw shooter has a 51% chance of hitting three in a row; an 86% FT shooter (like Nowitzki) has a 66% chance of hitting three in a row.

We can discuss how well people would shoot three consecutive free throws under pressure, but the point that an in-rhythm three is less likely to fall than three consecutive free throws is not something I can argue. I think we should have avoided the whole discussion by fouling Kidd the second he touched the ball inside the arc. Also, great comment you should read by Darius, on why Farmar should get some blame on that last play.

The Kings Coming In: Everything I know about the Kings I learned at Sactown Royalty.

I’ve said before that I think organizations that win have a plan from the top down — they know what kind of team they want to be, get a coach to execute said system, draft and get players who fit that system. While I often point to the Spurs or Lakers (since Phil came back) of being franchises that have done that, the Kings are the opposite. I really have no idea what the plan is or what kind of team they want to be.

That starts with how they are using their best player, Kevin Martin. From a great piece recently at Hoops World:

Kevin Martin is the fifth-leading scorer among two guards in the NBA – behind Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Dwayne Wade and Michael Redd.

Of these five players, Kevin Martin has the highest three-point field goal percentage and the highest free throw percentage. Only Iverson makes more free throws per game, and only Iverson and Wade get to the foul line more than Kevin Martin.

Kevin Martin also has the sixth-highest player efficiency rating of all NBA two guards….

What also separates Kevin Martin from those stars is that he plays fewer minutes and gets fewer shots than any of these other four players.

In fact, Martin plays fewer minutes and gets fewer shots per game than Vince Carter, Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford or Jason Richardson.

He gets fewer minutes per game than Ray Allen, Monta Ellis or Mike Miller.

He gets fewer shots per game than Tracy McGrady or Ben Gordon.

Can you imagine Kobe, A.I., D-Wade or Michael Redd sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter in a close game?

Theus (and Mussleman before him) is taking a lot of heat for his coaching. And he should take some. But really, what is the plan for the Kings? From where I sit it seems the owners and GM are on different pages in terms of a long-term plan, and the results on the court are in large part a fallout of that.

Keys To The Game: Sacramento is still one of the tougher home courts to win on — the Kings are 18-10 at home this year. If the Lakers expect a cakewalk they will get a surprise.

The Kings have a couple of players that will give the Lakers problems. One is Kevin Martin, who gives everyone problems because he is damn good. But then there is Beno Udrih, who is coming into his own as a PG and is the kind of quick guy who gives the Lakers issues. Then there is Ron Artest, who may be nuts but can still play the game.

With Udrih and Martin the Kings have two guys who can get into the lane, so the Lakers need to stop the penetration on the perimeter and make good rotations in the paint. They have to control the paint without fouling.

And, the Kings like the high pick and roll with Artest setting the pick (he can roll or pop) and the Lakers need to defend that more like they did against Dallas and not so much like against Portland.

And, according to the scouting report at, look for some zone tonight. The Lakers should be able to score — and Pau should abuse Brad Miller — but they have to recognize the zone and attack it in the middle and then shoot over the top when it collapses down.

Where you can watch: The game is at 7 (Pacific) on KCAL 9 in Los Angeles and League Pass nationally.