Tonight could be one of the best and most entertaining games of the playoffs — I just have that feeling.
Coming back home, the Spurs opened up the motion in their offense — that got some role players like Brent Barry open looks. They also had a fantastic game from Manu Ginobili, one that must have Phil Jackson thinking of giving Kobe some key moments on him defensively if it happens again (I’d be worried about all game only because Manu could get Kobe in foul trouble).
To counter, the Lakers have to stick with their men and be smart and quick in their rotations. The Lakers did a reasonable job on the big three last game (Manu was just hot) but they did a less impressive job on the role guys. Those guys can score with open looks — even Oberto. Darius had thoughts on this:
Tonight, we’ll need better off ball defense on the Spurs role players in order to get them out of rhythm. We can’t let guys like Barry, Finley, Udoka, or even Oberto get the type of wide open looks they got in game 3. These guys will make these shots at home. I know that they didn’t kill us in game 3, but they did hit some daggers and really had some shots that shut down potential rallies. (Note, I’m not even going to mention Ginobili or Parker. Those guys played the way they were supposed to play. Sure we can limit them more….I actually think we should give Ginobili the AI treatment and deny him entry passes all over the court and out to the 3pt. line where if he back cuts it’s into the teeth of the defense, but besides that just don’t let him touch it if you can.)
But as we said the night of the game, the problem was not the Lakers defense but really that the offense. Here, friend of the site KD is right — the Lakers need to get into the offense early, get the motion going rather than becoming a more stagnant team.
Tonight, that particularly means getting Odom and Gasol the ball in places they can succeed and players can work off of them. Bill Bridges had some ideas about this:
1. After 10 plus years competing against Phil, Pop has devised an anti-triangle defense that worked well in the last game. Play Pau straight-up, let Lamar shoot and use his man to give support to Bowen. Every body else stays with his man to prevent an open 3. Basically, the triangle’s weakness is that once that balls goes into the post, there is not much off-the-ball picks to free up shooters. Against other teams, Pau was doubled, resulting in a collapsing defense for either easy 3’s or cuts by Lamar. Played straight-up, Pau was looking for teammates who for the most part were standing around. This is the reason no outside shooter could get his shot off except for Kobe.
Only one sequence had the Lakers execute the last sequences of the triangle which call for sharp cuts to the basket by wing players with the ball in the low post. Kobe cut, received a bounce pass from Pau and dunked easily. Look for more of this especially from Lamar and Kobe. The issue is that to beat this defense will require advanced triangle. Not simple triangle. I bet Pau picks it up quickly.
2. Make Lamar an outside shooter. One of the primary sequences of the triangle is a pass out from the post to the weakside wing for a 15 footer from the PF. Think Horace Grant. The Spurs are daring Lamar to shoot this. Instead of giving the ball up and flashing to the hole, Lamar is trying to take it in himself against congestion resulting in a missed shot or charge. The Lakers need to consider switching hi-lo with Pau and Lamar and make Lamar work from the right low block as the primary (instead of Pau on the left low block) and either swing in for his hook or pass out to Pau (who hopefully can hit the 15 footer).
I had said after the last game I wanted to see Pau be more aggressive going to the hoop, but the more I think about it the more I think it is a mix of what Drrayeye and Darius thought as well — driving into a crowd isn’t the answer. The Lakers need to get Odom the ball in a better position for him to exploit mismatches, but when Odom gets in that spot he needs to attack with more aggression. Same is true of Gasol. Part of that could be on plays in transition or early in the clock before the Spurs defense sets, when mismatches can occur. Push the pace.
Along those same lines, the Lakers bench needs to come in, push the pace and get some easy buckets in transition (or in mismatches early in the clock). The Spurs bench players were energized at home, they played far more comfortably, and that seemed to make our bench guys recoil a little. Tonight they need to attack.