Game Two Preview–The Elephant In The Room

Kurt —  April 22, 2008

We need to talk about Kobe Bryant. No, not the fact that he is staying in LA, that’s been painfully obvious since about December. Some members of the media apparently wanted to see him eat his words, so they didn’t let the issue die, but anyone with half a brain figured it out a long time ago.

No, I’m talking about his game one performance.

The Laker offense and passing was a thing of beauty in game one. The spacing, the flow was as good as the triangle has looked all year. The only time that flow stopped is when Kobe got the ball and decided to prove his manhood against Kenyon Martin. From Bill Bridges in the comments:

But the nature of the jump shots bothered me. It is one thing if he would take the jump shots in the context of the offense as a by-product of off the ball movement. Instead, the offense came to a screeching halt as he would hold the ball, jab step, etc etc before launching the J.

Martin stayed back on Kobe, plus (as Darius pointed out in the comments) he showed good lateral quickness and with his strength was able to really slow Kobe’s penetration. In the LA Times today Kobe called playing against K-Mart a “challenge.” The problem is, Kobe likes to take on those types of challenges head on, and in game one his ego got in the way of the offense, something that has not been a big problem the second half of the year. Kobe needs to pick his spots better.

Father of Coby’s decision to go with K-Mart on Kobe was an interesting one, but it came with a price — a mismatch of Anthony Carter or AI having to take one of the Laker bigs (Radman or Luke Walton). It was Walton that made them pay the price, although Radman has his moments. The Lakers were at their best in exploiting that mismatch, it forced Camby to run around trying to protect the paint. A couple quick passes and Gasol got lay-ups, as did other guys.

The only time that seemed to stop was when Kobe got the ball.

Kobe had his points, and got them late, but the Lakers need him to play within the offense. He needs to be efficent. If it means an 11-point night with 11 assists, good. The one dime in game one was a sign of how Kobe played (although he did get some “hockey assists”). When the defense adjusts to stop Pau and try to jump his passing lanes, Kobe’s chances will open up. Now, he should go at K-Mart a few times to keep him honest, but he needs to play within the offense. Do that and it is an easy win.

A few other thoughts:

• The Lakers transition defense needs to be better.

• Good read about the changes in Lamar Odom’s game from friend-of-the-site Nate Jones, check it out.

• Commenter Renato Afonso had a few suggestions for George Karl:

1 – Play mixed defenses, alternating a 2-3 zone with man-to-man. Throw the triangle out of synch by cutting the flow of the offense.

2 – Play Iverson, JR Smith, Kleiza, Martin and Camby as the core. Carmelo Anthony should not be playing for them.

3 – Switch K-Mart to Odom, stop Odom and let Kobe get his points.

Personally I don’t buy into the sitting Melo idea, they need his offense and they can cover his defensive deficiencies. But they do need to get Kleiza and Smith more time on the court (at Carter’s expense). But, as Afonso pointed out, the options Karl has are limited.

UPDATE: Not just seconds after I posted this, Heather sent me an email with a link from the Denver Post saying that Kleiza will start in place of Carter.

• The boys at Fire George Karl have had it with Lakers fans. Well, I can’t really argue point #7.

• A quick diversion: If Kobe and LeBron played a game of one-on-one, who do you got?

• Am I the only person on the Internet who thinks the Rockets problems do not fall on McGrady? Nobody else on that team is stepping up and they really miss Yao Ming. A team can focus its defense and take one guy out for a quarter or even a game (although McGrady settled for a lot of jumpers in the fourth quarter). The Nuggets tried to do the same thing to the Lakers in game one, but Gasol made them pay a price. Who else on Houston is making Utah pay?

• UPDATE: New stuff from the official Lakers blog worth checking out, including more Jim Cleamons video interviews and stuff from Sasha.