What Needs To Change

Kurt —  June 7, 2008

I agree with the assessment of many on this board — the Lakers played one of their weaker games of the playoffs. They can play much better. But the Celtics did not play their best, I would say (from my somewhat-limited knowledge of the Cs) slightly above average for them. (You could make the average argument, I wouldn’t fight it.)

In game two we are going to learn a more about the makeup of this year’s Lakers than we have all playoffs. If they can bounce back with an above-average to good performance, they will win. An average performance, or another like we saw Thursday would mean a loss (and have us seriously considering that it is the Celtics winning and not the Lakers losing). The big question from game one: Were the Lakers off or was it because of the Celtics defense? If it is somewhere in the middle, is it far enough over for the Lakers to win one in Boston? We shall see.

A few other thoughts:

• We (and many others) going in said the benches would be the difference, and it game one that battle went to the Celtics. Yes, the points were almost identical and neither bench shot a high percentage, but the Celtics bench did grab five more boards, got a boost at one point from Cassell and generally played better on defense. More importantly, you could argue that the benches battled each other to a standoff, but that still doesn’t help the Lakers who should win that battle. It’s a concern to me that the young Lakers bench seems to thrive at home but struggle at times on the road. Some adjustments need to be made, but this may be a mental thing those players need to get over. Fast.

• Crash the boards. Not only would that cut down on the second-chance points the Celtics got it gives the Lakers a chance to get out and run, to get some easy baskets in transition. When things were humming in the second quarter the Lakers had a few times where in the rush down the court the Celtics were forced into defensive mismatches that the Lakers took advantage of. We need to see more of that, but it starts on the glass.

• Ball movement, quick touch passes, with the offense working from the post out. That can be high post, mid-post or on the block, but the Lakers need to get the ball into the paint first and then move fast — be aggressive toward the hole and move without the ball. A lot of help came off Lamar Odom’s man, we knew it would, he must step up, play better, and be more aggressive. We need better than average games from him.

• I think commenter DTC had some good points:

1. Fewer long 2s, like other posters pointed out. Those are the most inefficient shots available, and he can have them any time – so it’s a fall back option
2. More patience on his drives. The Celtics rotate really well, with the objective of taking charges. That means you don’t go bulldoze into the defense – you drive but maintain your dribble, then look for midrange J, floater and runners as well as kick-outs. In Atlanta, Joe Johnson KILLED the Celtics D this way
3. More drives into the middle of the paint – and better if it comes from picks or post up situations. When he gets into the heart of the Celtics D, he becomes the ultimate decoy. And the C’s slap and grab like crazy, it increases the chances of him going to the line

• At the last practice Kobe was working from the post. Good. The offense works well that way (and back in the Jordan era Chicago had a tad bit of success with Jordan in the post — and by tad I mean post-panamax cargo ships of success).

• Side note to Kobe: The Celtic defenders were not biting on the pump fakes. Don’t expect them to start, you need to take it into their body to get the fouls. But you probably knew that already.

• This series is going to be physical. That’s fine, but the Lakers seem to take time adjusting to that (this is similar to Utah, where the Lakers did not really adjust to the style in their first game on the road, the difference was they won on their home court). The Lakers need to get into that mindset fast.