Archives For November 2008

Our Lakers are about to face off against the Detroit Smurfs. I mean, the Detroit Pistons. The Lakers are back home on the Staples Center court and one of the side stories tonight is that Mamba will be moving past Larry Legend and possibly The Glove on the all-time scoring list. In my humble opinion, that accomplishment doesn’t really mean a whole lot because evidence suggests that hanging a lot of points on your opponent individually doesn’t necessarily lead to championships. Kobe has proven he can score, but Lakers fans should be looking for him to fill up the rest of the stats and improve on Hollinger’s beloved PER. As the late Marvin Gaye might say, Let’s Get It On.

1st Quarter

As expected, Stone Hands Kwame will be in the starting lineup for the Smurfs. Newly acquired Allen Iverson will also be making his first appearance in LA as a Piston. Does it ever bother anyone else that the jargon used to describe player movement is similar to the word choice used to describe the buying and selling of consumer goods?

11:15 – Stone Hands gets booed as he gets the ball in the post and he ends up coughing it up. I feel really bad about calling him stone hands since he totally proved me right.

11:04 – Bynum shows that he has anti-stone hands as he catches turns and lays it in. It wasn’t the most graceful move but it involved a lot of concentration and control.

9:30 – The Smurfs are a lot faster to shoot with AI in the lineup. They have caught the Lakers flat footed and the score is 10-2. AI hasn’t missed.

8:43 – Tayshaun drills a pull up jumper in Radman’s eye from above the free throw line. That was an intense bucket.

8:29 – Kobe gets stuck in the high post doing his up and down routine and RIP won’t go for the fakes. Kobe decides to jump into Hamilton and create contact and somehow draws the whistle and the bucket. If the refs are going to call it that way all night, RIP is in for a long night.

8:10 – Tayshaun Prince is the Smurfs point forward—he’s handling most of the point guard duties (heh, I just said, duties). He decides to dribble out the shot clock (in part due to the Space Cadet’s excellent defense. no really. I’ll wait while you roll on the floor with uncontrollable laughter) and then takes a low elevation fadeaway from about 18 feet. It’s the Smurfs’ first miss of the night.

7:48 – great two-man game between Bynum and Pau at the mid post and high post. Pau got Bynum an assist when Stone Hands went for the Bynum up-fake. Rasheed had to come over to guard bynum and Pau spaced to the left wing for the open jumper. Splash.

7:07 – great hustle play by stone Hands to get his team a second chance opportunity. Smurfs don’t convert.

6:48 – Bynum misses two in a row. One of them a gimme from 5 feet over Kwame’s stellar I’m-Not-going-to-jump defense.

6:13 – Bynum gets his team a second chance. And then a third chance. And then Kobe finds Bynum dashing toward the basket. Bynum keeps the ball high and lays it in off the window. With a couple stops and some buckets, the Lakers only trail by three. Stone Hands is no match for the mobility and activity of the young kid. 12-9 Smurfs lead.

5:33 – Out of a timeout, the Pistons had no idea what to do and the Lakers caused a 24-second violation. That’s not good coaching.

5:18 – Kobe spins around Rip and there is no one within 10 feet. Kobe gets a two handed slam. 12-11 Smurfs up.

4:58 – Kwame gets deep position against Bynum (Bynum probably should’ve worked harder before the catch) but blows the turnaround.

4:35 – Bynum goes after another offensive board. Stone Hands has got to be feeling a little silly. Pau will convert that possession into two free throw attempts. He gets one of them.

4:13 – On a semi-fast break, The Spaniard throws up a terrible alley-oop to the Mamba from the three point line and somehow Kobe is able to get the elevator to go one level higher. He throws it in with one hand without breaking his arm on the backboard. Unbelievable. Mamba had to throw it throw it back against the momentum of the ball to prevent it from bouncing off the glass. Kobe should do the Sam Cassell big balls dance right now. Lakers take the lead and the Smurfs take a timeout.

3:57 – Pau gets whistled for a foul on the post entry into Rasheed. Kobe was about to come from the weakside to get the blindside steal. That’s what we’ve been talking about with the willingness of the Lakers to leave one man open on the opposite side of the floor in order to force more pressure on the ball handlers.

3:18 – Smurfs figure out the defense on this possession. Rasheed runner in the lane off a nice feed.

2:44 – Wallace this time from outside drains the three. Don’t let that guy go off. 17-14 Smurfs take the lead.

1:45 – Lamar hits the long two. Nice stroke on that one. Remember last year when he couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn?

0:55 – Lakers bungle that possession and violate the 24-second limit.

0:50 – Ariza is guarding Stuckey (who really does look like 50 cent). Iverson drills the fadeaway from the right baseline over Farmar.

0:31 – Odom appears to get away with a feet shuffle on the wing and takes it strong the basket. He draws a foul on Stone Hands. Misses the first badly. Fabio err… Walter Hermann enters the game. Odom misses the second off the back iron.

0:00 – Kobe has the ball as the clock winds down. Stuckey’s defense causes him to rethink his shot attempt. He passes it but Iverson intercepts it and he sprints the other direction. AI somehow gets this funky running lob slash floater shotput to go as the buzzer sounds. Sick. 23-16 Smurfs withstand the Lakers run. Will they open up the lead or will the Lakers make the necessary adjustments?

2nd Quarter

11:35 – The Lakers use all of the 24 second shot clock to get a terrible shot out of Ariza from 25 feet.

10:57 – Iverson auditions in front of the Hollywood producers as he flops his way to a foul in defensive transition. Farmar is the victim of his acting skills.

10:32 – Farmar gets two points back from the Rasheed three that just dropped.

10:10 – Farmar throws a nice lob to Ariza in transition.

9:31 – Perhaps gasol should consider guarding Rasheed on the three point line. I think that’s Rasheed’s third from deep. 33-20.

8:53 – Odom takes it away from Fabio.

8:41 – Out of a timeout, the play is… for an Ariza pull up jumper? He drains it.

8:18 – tayshaun drains his straightaway three. Lakers have to be losing that stat category. 36-24 Smurfs.

7:39 – Machine make baskets. 36-27.

7:23 – Ariza gets hit in the man bits. Warren Sapp makes Stu look silly. Stu asks him about his baseball career in high school and Sapp tells him to stop reading Wikipedia because he never played baseball. He played basketball

7:07 – Gasol converts!

6:45 – Gasol trails the play and looks like he wants to dunk it but at the very last second, he drops it off to Odom for the finish. Beautiful. Odom gets the next one inside as well. 43-34 Smurfs.

5:57 – Jason Maxiell Boston Celtics Lamar and Pau. That is to say, he exploits their stand and wait rebounding technique. He dunks the miss with some attitude. Timeout golden warriors. 45-34.

5:29 – Ariza picks Maxiell’s pocket with some ninja surprise. Kobe converts a turnaround jumper from the elbow at the other end.

4:41 – Stuckey Cent takes Ninja Surprise off the dribble. To create space he lowers his shoulder and sends Ariza into the first row of photographers. The refs decide this is a move disallowed by the rules of the NBA. Stuckey goes to the bench.

4:18 – Ninja Surprise uses all of his activity to generate a second possession for the Lakers which Pau misses. Ninja Surprise says, “I got this.” And dunks the ball off the Gasol miss. 47-38 Detroit showing LA who’s boss.

3:45 – Phil allows Bynum to come back into the game. I think good things are going to happen.

2:22 – Some sloppy possessions by both sides. Pau gets marshmallowy and loses control of the ball. Kobe demonstrates the proper way to draw a foul. He’ll shoot two after the tv timeout. I got distracted and missed what happened with the free throws.

1:45 – Lakers (i.e. Super Kobe) miss the jumper. Lakers trail 51-40.

0:50 – Hamilton barrels into Fisher on the drive and kick. Fisher accepts the out-of-control call and it will go the other way.

0:30 – Kobe dribbles it away. Tayshaun gets three layup attempts and converts the last one.

0:01 – Kobe gets to his spot on the right side about 10 feet out and banks it off the glass as time expires. 53-44 Lakers trail the Smurfs.

Halftime

Billy Mac and Norm Nixon look a lot more comfortable outside than they did last week when they were fighting off the blustery wind.  Did anyone see Quantum of Solace yet? Should I go see it? Bond films aren’t usually my thing, but the trailers look good, if unrevealing.

3rd 25%

My prescription for a comeback: More Ariza and Bynum. Ariza is having his normal positive effect on both sides of the floor and Bynum makes the Smurfs pay for their small lineup. Hamblin says the Lakers adjustments will be to try and contain the guard penetration. Really? That’s it? Your plan is to try and stay in front of AI? Isn’t everyone’s? Isn’t the whole point of his career that you can’t stay in front of him? This is my definition of a flawed plan executed to perfection.

11:16 – Bynum erases Rasheed’s layup.

10:46 – Stone Hands watch: Kwame makes the dunk off the feed from Hamilton.

10:24 – RIP makes the short jumper.

10:06 – Dfish makes his first jumper of the night. He and Radman are 1-12 tonight combined according to Stu.

9:34 – Kobe hits the PUJIT over Wallace. 57-50 Smurfs up.

9:07 – Lakers are running a lopsided polygon offense. Poor shot results.

8:45 – AI’s jumper falls from inside the three point line off the dribble. On the plus side, he didn’t penetrate. ::rolls eyes::

8:00 – Kobe takes it left off the dribble and dunks it left-handed. Beautiful.

7:38 – Stone Hands bricks his free throw after getting the bucket against the Bynum foul. 61-54 Smurfs.

6:45 – Bynum now believes that Tayshaun is a magician. Prince beat Radman left and squeezed past Bynum on the baseline for the two hand jam. I’m not sure why the space cadet was shading Prince to his strong hand but maybe he believed that was the smart strategy. Hindsight is 20/20. 65-56 Pistons.

5:00 – Bynum swats Hamilton’s layup about 35 feet into the second row on the sideline. Rasheed hits the buzzer beater three ball over the outstretched arm of Gasol. The bank is late tonight! 70-58. Lakers are in trouble.

3:22 – Trevor slashes to the bucket and finishes in traffic. Nice, but you can’t rely on that all the time. 70-60.

2:40 – The band is playing the defense chant, about four fans are cheering along.

2:00 – Stone Hands Brown blocks Gasol’s turnaround set shot in the paint. The Spaniard might need to trim that caveman beard to help him get more lift on that shot.

1:33 – Lakers get a fast break layup off a turnover. Lamar converts the tough finish.

0:49 – The Machine breaks defense. He let’s Rip run back door for the easy flex cut feed.

0:15 – Pistons open up their biggest lead of 15.

0:01 – The Machine misses from deep. And the quarter ends 77-62. Pistons are just frustrating everything the Lakers are trying to do.

4th Quarter

11:43 – Stone Hands receives the love from the crowd. They boo him vociferously and he rattles both of his free throws home. One of them was an accidental bank.

11:15 – Stuckey Cent draws a foul on the Machine.

10:38 – Farmar’s stepback goes from the top of the key. 79-64.

9:48 – Smurfs run their end of quarter offense. Four down and the lakers get a steal. Farmar with the fast break layup at the other end.

9:25 – The Machine needs a firmware revision. He fouls again. Rip will get two free throws. He makes both.

8:55 – The nomuskles sister has called this one for the Pistons. Thought you should know.

8:07 – Lamar takes Prince on the block and converts the lefty jump hook and the ensuing free throw.

8:03 – Machine gets a jump ball surprising StuckeyCent in the backcourt. They’ll toss it up in the Lakers offensive end but Rasheed gets the tip.

7:28 – “At least they’re getting it inside now.” –Joel. I smell the declaration of a moral victory. Bynum converts his two freebies. 83-71.

6:45 – The Lakers got a great look for Bynum from Kobe under the bucket but Bynum missed the contested shot and in the disorganized transition, Prince hibachi’s the three ball. Timeout Zen Master. I still say, less Machine, more Ninja Surprise and Bynum. Also, where is Mamba? Are his legs tired from Beijing? Actually, it’s just the constant double teams that are giving him fits. The secondary defenders are cheating off their men early and cramming the lane. The Smurfs watched the game tape from last season’s Finals and learned a trick or two.

5:01 – Finally Mamba hits something. He hit’s a three from the left wing. 91-74.

4:30 – Odom gets the intentional foul to stop the clock and send the Pistons to the line. Unfortunately, that’s not what he was trying to do. He was just trying to get around Wallace in the backcourt after the rebound. Mental fatigue. Lamar sits down. I’d expect to see Chris Mihm and Josh Powell soon.

4:18 – Kobe hits a three ball from the Nokia theater.

4:03 – Kobe is going to just shoot three’s the rest of the way here. He misses another.

3:44 – Moral victory: Kobe stuffs Rip’s jumper back into Hamilton’s face. Anti Victory: Lakers still losing by a the square of four.

3:34 – Mamba fixes a broken play, splitting the double time and gets fouled on his layup. He misses the free throw short. 93-79.

3:08 – DFish hits his second three point attempt on the possession. Rasheed gets an easy dunk as the pistons break the trap. And this one is done folks. We’re going to go ahead and invoke the mercy rule for the live blog.

On a more positive note, I would highly recommend the Flight Path Museum for anyone in Southern California. The museum is on the LAX campus (you enter off of Imperial Highway past the end of the 105 West and pays tribute to aviation history of the Los Angeles area and the airport itself. I visited the small museum today and had a great experience with a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide. While not overwhelming, the museum is informative and contains many notable artifacts from commercial aviation history. Make sure you take a peek at the Spirit of Seventy-Six, a non-working DC-3. Admission is free but you can donate, if you wish. My visit happened to coincide with the departure of the USC football team and was fortunate enough to be invited onto their charter plane to check out the cockpit of a modern 757. More interesting to viewers of this site is that the tour guide said that the Lakers often leave from the same area of the airport. Check it out if you have a free hour or want to rent out the space for an organizational event.

Preview & Chat: The Detroit Pistons

Kurt —  November 14, 2008


Records: Lakers 7-0Pistons 6-2
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.2 Pistons 110.6
Defensive ratings: Lakers 91.3 Pistons 106.0
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Pistons: Allen Iverson, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Kwame Brown

Lakers notes: I think anyone who watches a lot of hoops doesn’t think of Pau Gasol as soft. I could get into a breakdown of why, but the guys at SportshubLA do a very good job of dispelling that myth.

The Lakers have seven wins, all by at least a seven point margin. No team in the history of the NBA has started eight games that way. So there’s your first chance to make a big mark this season.

One interesting note over at the Lakers.com blog, something to look for in the future:

As a visiting scout told me last night, one thing the Hornets started doing was running David West along the baseline, which was pretty effective.

Deeeetroit Bas-ket-ball The Pistons are starting to adjust to playing with Iverson in the lineup.

I watched one of the Piston games before he arrived and I thought they could give the Celtics a run this year — until, in the second half of the Raptors game, I was reminded the Boston had another gear. Can Iverson add another gear to a very deep and talented Pistons team? That remains to be seen.

Iverson’s scoring is downt but his shooting percentage and just about everything else has been nearly identical from Denver to Detroit, save for one key area — three point shooting. He shot 25% to start the year in Denver but has hit 50% in Detroit. That starts to make the notoriously inefficient Iverson a more efficient player.

For the first three games with Iverson, it was clear the Pistons were trying to adjust to the faster pace that Iverson prefers. It’s not that they don’t have the athletes to run — Hamilton, Prince, Johnson among others — but it was a dramatic change as a team. For the first three games with Iverson in the lineup, the Pistons were averaging just one more possession per game than they had before AI put on the jersey.

But that changed last night, with a 101-possession game (they had been averaging 90). Now, granted, that was against a Warriors team that likes to get out and go, but if you watched by the end of the game the Pistons seemed to find their flow with the tempo. Certainly the Lakers, particularly the reserves, will be another test of speed for the Pistons.

Also, two roster notes. First, after a few games off, Detroit should have Rodney Stuckey back tonight, which is a huge boost off the bench (the Pistons are a deep team these days with Stuckey, Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Arron Afflalo).

The other is that Detroit started Kwame Brown. The reason, according to the announcers at TNT, is that in a series of games where the Pistons will face Andrew Bynum, Shaq, Perkins, the Pistons needed some size.

Oh, and in case you forgot, Tayshaun Prince is really good.

Finally, for more on the Pistons, you really should check out Detroit Bad Boys and Need 4 Sheed.

Keys To The Game: With Rasheed and Kobe in the same game, what is the under/over on technical fouls tonight?

The pace of the game tonight is going to be interesting. Tonight is the Piston’s first back-to-back of the season. As was noted above, last night in the Bay Area was the first time the Iverson-led Pistons got over 100 possessions for a game. Doing that back-to-back nights on the road with travel in between can be hard (remember the fourth quarter in New Orleans a couple nights ago), so the Lakers need to push it and wear Detroit out. I wouldn’t be shocked if this is one of those games that is close for three quarters but the Lakers pull away late when the Pistons’ legs get heavy. (Also, Kobe is 3-3 in fourth quarter three point shots this year, just so you know.)

Do not leave Rasheed Wallace alone for a three from the top of the key area. That is his shot.

With Kwame Brown starting, we know his strengths and weaknesses. If the Lakers just throw the ball to Bynum on the block and let Kwame man defend him, Kwame will do a pretty good job. However, get Bynum rolling off picks and moving off the ball, running the floor and getting early offense, Kwame will never be able to keep up. Last night the very active Andris Biedrins destroyed Kwame off the ball. Movement will be key.

Iverson, when with the Nuggets, probably had better success than any PG over the course of a game at breaking down the Lakers defense (CP3 was great in the second half, I thought). He got past the shading Derek Fisher so fast he created some one-one-one with the help defender (not traps) and the results were some open back door looks. The Lakers need to not let this happen, because the Pistons are a team that can pass, can finish on the weak side, and will make the Lakers pay for those errors.

One final note, don’t think of this as the 2004 Pistons. This current team is pretty average on defense, but very good on offense. Once again, the Lakers defense will be key to the win.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start here out west, with both Fox Sports and ESPN as options for watching this one. Of course, Spero sounds good on 570 AM as well.

All Is Right With The World

Kurt —  November 13, 2008

We can nit-pick this team if we want (and we my a little bit), but we Lakers fans need to step back for a second and enjoy this moment. We need to savor watching this team play, the passing, the breaks, the dunks and the beauty of well-played basketball. Don’t just think about the next game with Detroit or ahead to Boston or anyone else. We should live in the moment, because this is a very good moment.

The Lakers are 7-0 and just beat the second best team in the Western Conference (in my opinion, even if it hasn’t translated that way in standings yet) on the road on the second night of a back-to-back with travel in between. Did it get a little sloppy in the fourth quarter? Yes. But last year’s Lakers team lost that game and probably gave back the lead by the end of the first half.

Another big game tomorrow, but fellow fans, we need to savor what is happening now.

• About that fourth quarter….

Here’s what I take away: Lurking under the surface of this new defense and disciplined offense the Lakers have been showing lives the beast that is the worst parts of last season. It comes out when they get tired. The defense falls apart, the Hornets (who were very good and to their credit showed a lot of desire and passion in the fourth) made a big push, Kobe reverted to “save the world” mode and suddenly this looks like an old Lakers movie where we didn’t like the ending. They survived it, this time.

The team, and the coaching staff, has to recognize this demon is still lurking and work hard to keep it in the shadows.

• Today is a good day to tune into AM 570 KLAC, the Lakers flagship. They are going without commercials in an effort to raise money for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. That is a very worthy cause.

• Reed was in the comments noting the lack of Drew with the game on the line:

Very frustrated by the lack of Bynum to close games (tonight and the weird late big subs last night). He was so obviously what we needed. Drew anchors our defense – Paul shredded us inside with him out. And look at the +/-. Does Phil feel pressure to close with Odom?

I think this was in part due to Bynum looking more tired and slower than any other Laker in the fourth. He had become a liability. But it does seem to be an interesting trend.

• There are things this team really needs to work on, like the chest bump:

(Thanks to the wonderful Heather and a few others for sending that in.)

• Good point about last night from the always smart Ryan at Hornets 24/7:

I may have found out Phil Jackson’s mystical power. Somehow, opponents of the Lakers are only shooting 67% from the free throw line this season. Tonight? Hornets well below their average at 65%, Lakers well above it with 82%. Could the pace of Lakers games impact this maybe? I don’t know. Just figured I’d bring it up.

• The other thing about the Hornets — they missed a lot of good-look threes last night. Not sure we can count on that in the future.

• That Dwight Howard guy is pretty good. Did you see the stat line from last night — 30 points, 19 boards and 10 blocks. Didn’t see the game, but damn.

• I am one of the people with the new Google/T-Mobile G1 phone, and because I can here is a brief review after having it for a couple weeks: It’s a lot of fun. Love the way it works and feels. Enjoying a lot of the apps. (The football tracker ones are getting some use, I think the ones that scan a barcode than shop for that item online and at other store sill get a lot of use with the holidays coming up.) I think you need to have a Google-centric life (I use gmail, even for the account on this site, as well as Google calendar); I’m not sure how well it works if you are using another email provider. I love the combo of the touch screen and the slide-out keyboard, I’m a slow texter but this has helped me pick up the pace. My only compliant so far is the browser seems to crash or not load pages a lot.

Basically, I recommend it. And with it being an open-source phone, people are building new apps for it all the time.

(If you’re about to ask “why didn’t you just get an iPhone?” I’ll tell you it’s because of AT&T. Used to have them, got terrible service in my home and had a lot of drops elsewhere. I wanted an iPhone but not enough to go through that again. And the G1 has met my needs in a lot of areas.)


Records: Lakers 6-0Hornets 4-2
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.3Hornets 110.4
Defensive ratings: Lakers 90.6 Hornets 104.7
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hornets: Chris Paul, Mo Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Tyson Chandler

Lakers notes: What hurt the Lakers last season? Inconsistent bench and defense. What won the Lakers another game this season in Dallas? The very good bench and defense.

That defense was terrible in the first quarter, when the Mavs shot 61.9% (eFG%). But in the third quarter the Lakers defense picked up, starting with Gasol who virtually sat on Dirk’s left hand in the second 24. For the quarter, the Lakers held the Mavs to 35% shooting. In the fourth quarter, Dallas shot 30% and 25% from three.

And the run to the win started with the bench. Not surprisingly, Trevor Ariza led the charge and the team for the night as a +16, with Odom and Sasha close behind at +13. And of course, there was Ariza’s impressive block on Stackhouse. (By the way, Stackhouse had more in the tank and played better than I expected from him.)

Ariza’s play has some Lakers fans thinking he should start. I’m not in that camp for two reasons (despite thinking he would be a good starter). First, the team is 6-0, you don’t jerk around lineups when the team is winning. Don’t fix what is working. Second, I think Phil is right that Ariza’s slashing and running game would be somewhat tied down by the larger and more methodical first unit. His game is best suited to the bust of energy, up-tempo change of pace the Lakers come in with off the bench.

Understand that some day, maybe next season, the starting lineup will include Ariza and Farmar. But there’s no reason to go there now.

The Hornets Coming In: This is the team in the West that scares me the most, at least so far, and to find more about them and how the season has started, I asked a few questions of the Hornets blog At The Hive (and if you head over there I answer some of their questions as well):

This team made the big leap forward last year, becoming a contender. Are their signs so far that they took the lessons of last season to heart and are ready to take the next step forward? Specifically, has the defense improved?

Last year, the Hornets’ biggest positive defensively was that they never fouled anyone. Inside, outside, it didn’t matter- Byron Scott had the guys extremely disciplined. It’s a really small sample size this season, but that defensive discipline simply hasn’t been there. Rotations have been slow, and as a result, the Hornets have been forced to foul to compensate. I expect that their FT/FG allowed rates will eventually regress to last year’s levels, but it’s been a slow start for sure.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hornets forced a lot more turnovers this year. Posey has excelled at getting his hands on loose balls, and Julian Wright- another active defender- figures to get way more minutes than last season.


David West is off to a slow start this season (shooting 44%, his rebounds rate down to an average number), what is going on there?

A quick glance says a few too many jump shots. However, his lack of assertiveness down low is more troubling. He’s had 21% of his inside shots blocked this season, a huge jump from 10% last year. He’s been too worried about drawing contact and finishing the play as soon as he feels contact; I think he needs to try and finish plays at all costs, and not let up when he feels there should be a whistle blown. Overall, I’m not worried about West. He should rebound from this stretch soon enough.

The Hornets beat the Heat in their last game, but had two ugly losses before that (including one to the Bobcats). What happened, and are they over that little spell?

It’s easy to blame at least some of it on Peja and Tyson returning from right ankle injuries. The biggest flaw in both those games was perimeter defense. The Hornets simply did not pressure shooters enough, and guys like Adam Morrison and Ronald Murray made them pay. Most players in this league- big names or no names- will knock down shots if you leave them open enough. New Orleans was definitely more impressive against Miami. I’m not ready to say they in mid-season form defensively, but I think it’s safe to say they are past that skid.

How is James Posey fitting in so far? Is he the key to the Hornets contending for big things this year?

Very well. I know many people weren’t too high on his man-defense skills, but he did a really impressive job against LeBron last week. I don’t expect that he can guard Kobe as well (way quicker, infinitely better jump shot), but he’ll be a huge upgrade over Peja. He has also grasped the Hornets’ offense much quicker than I anticipated, understanding floor spacing and where Chris Paul can get him the ball. I imagine he would be a key factor for a deep playoff run.

Link to Click: Ever wonder what it is like to hang out inside the Lakers locker room? Ask the equipment guy.

Keys To The Game: It may be the second game of a road back-to-back, but the Lakers need to get out and run. Despite all the athletes, the Hornets are a very deliberate team (the Lakers average seven more possessions a game than the Hornets). That said, Paul can push the offense if you don’t get back in transition.

Last night the Lakers packed it in and did not defend the three-point line well in the first half — do that tonight and they could pay. Paul, Peja, Peterson, Posey (that’s a lot of alliteration) along with West and Butler are all good three-point shooters. And the Hornets like the shot, they take a lot of them. The Lakers have to close out on those shooters.

In the past, the Lakers philosophy was to give Paul the “Steve Nash treatment” — let him score but don’t let him become a playmaker and set everyone else up. This season, the Lakers have focused more on stopping the leading scorers from other teams. Not sure what they will do tonight, but they can’t let Paul both score and dish out assists at will.

Read the Lakers scouting report and they note that in the two Hornets losses, the team turned the ball over a lot. The Lakers have been creating a lot of steals with their length, and if they can do that tonight they can steal the back end of a back to back.

Where you can watch: This is a 5pm Pacific start on KCAL 9 in Los Angeles, with no national broadcast. There is also 570 am radio here in LA and online.

2008-2009’s first nomuskles powered live blog is here!

Am I the only one surprised at how well Odom has tolerated his move to the bench?

1st Quarter

Annoying detail of no importance whatsover. The Lakers and Clippers have changed from Porter brand stanchions to Spalding brand stanchions. The Mavs have changed to Spalding this year as well. Is there a spalding conspiracy?

11:18 – Bynum shows what the Lakers were missing last year with his block on Jason Terry. Terry thought he had a clear lane to the basket and Bynum erased his attempt.

10:47 – J Kidd dusts of his jump shot over Bynum’s arm.

10:02 – Dirk is caught not guarding anyone in some zone defense and as a result, Pau gets the offensive rebound. Lakers convert the putback. Lack of concentration on Dirk’s part?

9:45 – Dirk gets called for a moving screen. More lack of concentration. I almost didn’t recognize the German without the Olympic rings shaved in his head.

9:28 – Pau shoots a high rainbow from the free throw line that somehow finds bottom.

9:02 – The Harlem Globetrotters are out there with all these turnovers and slipping on the court.

8:20 – the ref decides Kobe failed to establish his verticality as Dirk runs him over.

7:56 – Gerald Green takes a great three point set shot. Cupcake man seems to be working on his all-around game. Honestly it brings a tear to my eye.

6:41 – Bynum is really getting frustrated by the ugly defense of Dampier. Every time Bynum goes up for a shot under the bucket, Damp is pushing him down low and it’s really starting to get under Bynum’s (sizable amount of) skin.

6:01 – Cupcake man steam rolls fisher and somehow gets the foul call. Dubious.

5:35 – The Spaniard vs. the German. Pau looks a little rushed and throws up a premature jump hook. Brick city.

5:27 – Bynum picks up a phantom foul against Terry. The young buck is upset. He’ll go straight to the bench with his anger.

4:53 – Kobe finishes the break with the left hand and Kidd picks up a boneheaded foul. Three point play.

4:03 – Kobe is trying to teach Cupcake Man a lesson. The lesson would be, “you can’t guard me.” So far, it’s not really working out how Kobe hoped, but he’s going to get his tonight. Kurt’s right. 17-23 Dallas is leading after two Mamba free throws.

Ariza and Odom have checked in. Look for awesomeness to follow.

3:09 – Ariza’s tough defense leads to a bad Stackhouse three but Cupcake man comes up with the long rebound. That young man is trying to get paid. His epidermal integrity has apparently failed him though as his bleeding has caused the need for a stoppage in play.

2:56 – The Mavs are a little confused on offense. Three guys were hanging out by the weak-side elbow. Spacing was, shall we say, lacking. Ariza gets the baseline dribble.

1:59 – Kobe finishes a lob play with a quick layup. Great display of balance and strength by the Mamba.

1:24 – Kidd still drinking the fountain of splash. He gets a three to fall.

1:00 – terry finishes a fast break layup against the long arms of Odom. 31-23 Dallas.

0:46 – Terry gets a deep the corner two.

0:26 – Lakers give up a fast break layup. 35 – 23 Mavs. It might be time to re-examine that commitment to defense we’ve been hearing about.

0:09 – the Giraffe-like Spaniard gets a couple freebies and then Ariza picks Kidd’s pocket at halfcourt for the easy slam. The kid with the mop scampers out of his way with a quickness Chris Mihm would be hard-pressed to match. Ariza = good things happening. Brian Cook, it’s like we never knew ye. 35-26 Mavs up. That’s how the quarter will end.

 

2nd Quarter

Sasha’s sporting a leg sleeve on his southpaw leg.

10:27 – Great pick and roll for Lamar and Bynum results in an acrobatic layup.

10:13 – Bynum started putting down roots in the key and got caught. It gives us a chance to admire Phil Jackson’s flowing mane of silver hair.

10:10 – Stackhouse wants no part of Bynum’s shot blocking activity. He passes it to the German who throws up a contested 15 footer.

9:33 – The German gets bumped by Odom and somehow throws it in. Guys in the L will always amaze. No foul called.

9:01 – Ariza dusts off his “you can’t guard me” lesson for Gerald green. Must have been a pretty decent powerpoint presentation because the jump hook counts for two.

8:52 – Odom will have the chance to shoot two free throws after a great defensive sequence for Sasha who stole the ball and threw it to Farmar in one motion while falling out of bounds. HAHAHA. The coaches are showed on the bench with their knees in their chests. They look like they are sitting in chairs built for kindergarten kids. I’m not even sure what happened to those free throws.

8:15 – Lamar backs The German down in the post and gets the bucket.

7:46 – Lamar tries his lefty scoop and actually misses it. That’s usually money.

7:42 – Ariza draws a charge on Cupcake Man. Green does not like the call but he’ll have to not like the call on the bench for a bit.

7:01 – Diop roofs Farmar’s ill-advised interior shot but Vujacic picks up the rebound and drills the 17 footer.

6:11 – 44-39 Mavs still up. Just a score update. I keep meaning to update the score and falling behind. Timeout happens somewhere around here. This game is wild and entertaining. I’m not sure high level of skill is one of the adjectives I’d use, however.

5:43 – Kobe shoots the long jumper.

5:09 – Awesome. Kobe spots the secondary defender cheating and lasers a pass to Bynum underneath for the slam. Great great great vision.

4:29 – It might be an asset to be 7’0”. This thought occurs to me as Bynum doesn’t jump and still throws the ball downward into the hoop.

4;07 – Jason Terry is the recipient of a beautiful bounce pass backdoor from Kidd. 50-45 Mavs.

3:11 – How is that not a travel? The German practically packed his bags and cleared customs with that hop and skip! And then he holds his nose because the Spaniard decided his face needed a slight rearrangement during the middle of that ridiculous bucket. At the other end, the Big German returns the favor. Apparently the two big marshmallow men are unaware about the rich history of cooperation their two nations have dating back to the time of the Hapsburgs.

2:10 – Kidd busts out the 6-inch windmill layup with contact. He misses the free throw. 48-56 Mavs still up.

1:40 – I’m not sure if that was an alley-oop but it worked out that way. Lamar to Pau is a beautiful thing. 50-56 Mavs leading by a half dozen.

0:58 – Pau shows off some man sauce against Dampier and muscles his way into the middle of the paint for a three point play opportunity. At this point I should also note that the Space Cadet has not contributed much tonight in the way of anything. 56-53 Mavs after the free throw.

0:38 – Derek “point4” Fisher fouls terry on the sideline trap. Doh! With 5 seconds left on the shot clock and such little time left in the half, that’s not the play the coaching staff was looking for. On the plus side, this break in the action allows the writer to admire the circularity of JET’s dome.

0:30 – Kobe tries to go two for one taking some unknown Maverick off the dribble earning a shooting foul. He’ll get two free throws and blow one of them. 58-54 Mavs still up. Lakers should get one more shot.

0:10 – Dirk drills the two with Lamar’s paw in his grill. Kobe can’t convert at the other end. Lakers still trail by a half dozen. 60-54.

 

Halftime

I would donate a lot of blood to see James Worthy do the halftime show in his goggles.

 

3rd Quarter

11:50 – Kobe is guarding Kidd at the point and Kidd decides that Radman is the weak spot. He’s right. Cupcake Man gets up to blow out the candle and finish the alley-oop. Radman asks Pau if that was his man. Pau says, “obvi”

10:37 – The Space Cadet plays hot potato and throws it away. Kobe slumps over.

10:12 – The Lakers turned it over again and Dirk drills the three. 64-55 Mavs leading.

9:52 – The Mavs, not to be outdone, rifle a pass off the stanchion support. Dampier was the intended receiver. Intentional grounding was not called.

9:00 – After finding his athleticism matched by cupcake man, Kobe decides to find a much easier target. Kidd watches Kobe blow by him and has no choice but to grab his jersey.

8:22 – I wish I had voted for Ariza for President.

8:13 – Radman throws up a three pointer that goes about 14 inches too far. Air ball. Definitely a space cadet game.

Kobe is a little bit tired of this. He’s just going to take it to the rim and score. Then jack up a three but this one misses. Then Radman will try his luck and miss his three as well.

6:54 – Joel Myers is begging his producer to find him a thesaurus so he can find synonyms for “ugly.” At least I imagine him doing so. It’s so bad Luke is going to check in for the space cadet. Probably because it’s not second unit time and Phil doesn’t want to waste Ariza’s energy with this lax group.

6:17 – That decision immediately pays off when Luke Walton gets beat off the dribble and his man goes all the way to the bucket which misses but Dampier is left alone to get the putback slam. 61-70 Dallas leads. Tough spot for the son of bill to come in there; you know, against someone who can dribble and run at the same time. Phil has decided to not let the young team hang themselves yet. Time out called.

5:53 – Dallas whips out a tightly packed zone out of the timeout. Luke misses the three. I’m shocked.

4:45 – I [heart] Gasol. He gets a beastly putback slam. I’m just going to pretend the three-chance possession by the Mavs didn’t just happen before that.

4:37 – 63-72 Mavs up. score check.

3:35 – Cupcake man is not going to back down from the mamba. He takes Kobe to his left and hits the nice pull up bank shot. Well played cupcake man. Well played.

3:08 – 65-74 Mavs still holding that nine point lead.

2:55 – Cupcake man’s activity leads to a second chance and Diop is the beneficiary. He earns two free throws and converts one of them. 65-75.

2:19 – Ariza’s mishandle causes a turnover on offense but he hustles at the other end, causing a turnover by cupcake man. He then lays himself out to get the loose ball. Timeout called and Lakers retain possession.  Out of the timeout Sasha has a nice curl screen jumper. 67-75.

1:48 – Jason Kidd hits another shot. He’s definitely hooked up to the rejuvenation machine this year.

1:06 – Bynum grabs a rebound. The Lakers are battling. Lamar is putting up some effort to get the boards. This leads to a bucket. Then Farmar catches Kidd sleeping and gets a layup. Green answers at the other end.

0:03 – Farmar usually gets the green light at the end of the third. But as time winds down he penetrates and kicks to Lamar for a right corner three. Money! Lakers are only down 3. I was watching this and can’t tell you how they got that close.  They got a couple cheap ones and cut the lead down with some intensity. These are the garbage games they’ve got to win. It’s not pretty but if they can pull it out, it counts all the same. 76-79 Mavs.

 

4th Quarter

11:25 – Green puts those boosties to use. He posterizes Lamar on the break. That was sick. It’ll be on sports center. I promise.

10:42 – Sasha takes a quick three from the top of the key and drills it in transition. Stu calls it a bad shot. I’m okay with it.

10:14 – Lamar dribble drive to his right! Oh. But he finishes with his left. Diop’s gotta know that lamar has no right hand. Count the bucket. (sidenote, Stackhouse does not look spry.) Lamar misses. Ariza homes in on the rebound which squirts out to the corner. He Barry Sanders the German into next week and gets a two-handed slam. A huge fist pump while he’s about twelve feet off the ground. Timeout bad guys. 83-81 Lakers take the lead for now. I’m going to get a tattoo on my forehead dedicated to Ariza.

9:39 – The Mavs come out of the timeout with a rushed three pointer as the clock winds down. Cupcake man might want to stick with dunking.  Dirk crushes a photographer. In hockey, you’d say that guy was “rubbed out of the play.” I hope his skull was reinforced with adamantium.

8:46 – Kobe saw Ariza get it done and he can’t be outdone. He gets a one handed putback slam to go.  Cupcake Man was taking notes. That one will probably be on sportscenter as well.

7:57 – the Mavs need to fire the gimpy Stackhou…. I mean, Stackhouse nails a threeball. And then Stack gets a steal and converts the two point layup on the break against Lamar. I hate it when I eat my words.

6:56 – the game is finally starting to come together. Kobe nails a jumper. Lakers up by three. 89-86.

6:34 – redonkulous! Kobe is just a whirling dervish. Fake spin. Fake spin the other way. Rise up over Kidd (nailed to the floor). Cash money. Maybe two other guys in the league would try that shot. 91-86.

6:18 – Fisher hunts down the long rebound and it seems at this moment, the Lakers have the legs and energy to explode towards loose balls and rebounds. That’s going to be the difference; Who has the mental and physical energy to get to the loose balls and secure rebounds?

6:08 – Kobe just leaves Kidd at the three point line. Dirk’s help is late and Kobe gets the finger roll to fall while getting the favorable whistle. Personal foul: German. Highlight play: Mamba. Hypertension: Yours truly. 93-86 Lakers before the and free throw. Kobe converts.

5:53 – Pau plays some Jack Black and Kyle Gass (Tenacious D) which forces the German to throw it to the ref who is standing out of bounds.

5:00 – Jason Kidd doesn’t commit to the quarterback role just yet. He takes it all the way to the bucket without being stopped and draws the foul on LO7. He converts the three point play.

4:46 – Ariza spots a hole. And like Mashall Faulk in his heyday, Trevor knows what to do. Run through it. Two points and the foul. Converts the freebie. 97-89.

3:48 – Terry is fouled on the break. Trevor, who doesn’t quit, ran all the way back to block the shot as the secondary defender, even after the whistle had blown. He won’t get a blocked shot for that, but it’s just as good. He made sure that JET had to shoot two free throws. He makes both.

3:27 – Pau is determined to take it to the bucket. He gets hacked on his first attempt. No call. Gets it back. And in his wild way, he goes for another one. He draws the foul. And Dampier, for his trouble, rejects the Spaniard’s shot with quite a bit of menace. 99-94 after Pau’s free throws. lakers still up.

3:04 – No one touched the ball except Kobe on that possession. And Kobe didn’t go anywhere. Brick.

2:50 – This game is curiously reffed. Lots of phantom foul calls. Damp is the beneficiary this time around. He gets one of his free throws. Lakers up by 2. 99-97.

2:38 – Jump ball after the officials can’t tell what happened.

2:18 – Kobe is smashed on the arms and loses the ball. No call. Strange game folks. Refs are humans too.

1:41 – Is Kobe going to take too long here too? Nope. Ariza gets the pass on the wing. Can’t hit the three.

1:17 – The German pokes away the touchdown pass before it can get to gasol.

1:06 – this game is high on stress. Low on actual scoring in the past 10 minutes. On the bright side of things, the good people of Dallas will have no problem building houses with all the bricks these two teams have laid. Still 99-97 Lakers leading. Timeout Mavs.

0:45 – Ariza plays with fire and comes out a hero. He challenges Stackhouse’s corner three. As the shot clock winds down. Guess what? Ariza stuffs it out of bounds with one second left. On the inbounds, The German heaves it up left-handed. Not a positive sequence for the John Mccains.

0:23 – Pau gobbles up Fisher’s airball and throws it into the bucket as Dirk is called for a push in the back. The German fouls out with that one and the Spaniard and his glorious mane convert the three point play. 102-97 Lakers still positive.

0:15 – JET is too good. Floater in the lane over Gasol is silky smooth. 103-99.

0:12 – fisher sinks his two free throws on the intentional foul in the backcourt. Lakers would have to really stick their heads in the sand to lose this one as the John McCains just ran out of timeouts.

0:10 – How about Ariza? He stole the ball on the first inbounds try. And then his activity leads to a Lakers rebound on the Cupcake Man miss. Game over. I take it back about a team needing to get to the loose balls. The Lakers only needed Ariza to get to all the loose balls. Perhaps I’ve said loose balls one too many times in succession. I’ll stop now.

Final score is 106-99. Lawler’s Law holds up. More importantly, my ulcer will now have a full 21 hours to heal before the game tomorrow. What say you FB&G community? Was this a quality win?

Preview & Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  November 11, 2008


Records: Lakers 5-0 Mavericks 2-4
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112 Mavericks 104.8
Defensive ratings: Lakers 88.5 Mavericks 107.7
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Mavericks Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Gerald Green, Dirk Nowitzski, Erick Dampier

Veterans Day: I know that there are some current and former members of the military who read this blog, and I just want to take a quick moment to thank you for your service. It is what you do that make it possible for us to enjoy little diversions like the Lakers and this humble blog, and we are indebted to you for that.

Lakers notes: Lakers, first in defensive efficiency, first or second in offensive efficiency (Basketball-Reference.com says first, and those are the numbers I usually use, but Hollinger’s numbers say second). Either way, that is a very impressive start to the season.

But this week the tests keep coming. When I first saw the schedule with a Dallas/New Orleans road back-to-back I thought a split would be a good outcome. And it’s a lot easier to get that win on the front end.

Cuban, Please Save Newcastle. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is listed as one of four Americans rumored to be in the running to purchase my beloved Newcastle United. Frankly, any new owner would be better than Mike Ashley (I would rather have Donald Sterling, it is that bad), but having seen Cuban’s commitment to winning (remember what a laughing stock the Mavs were before he bought them?) and his business sense, this would be a great fit. I want this.

The Mavericks Coming In: The Mavs are 2-4, and just loss to the Clippers? There were plenty of people predicting the Mavs would take a step back this year, but not fall apart. However, before you pile on, remember that two years ago the Mavs were 0-4 to start the season, but went on to finish with 67 wins. Six games do not a season make.

In comments yesterday, Dirk Nowitzski said right now the team is not playing hard enough for 48 minutes, and new coach Rick Carlisle has said that the team needs a sense of urgency. Not really great things to hear six games into the season. Adding to their woes, Josh Howard is questionable for tonight due to a wrist injury.

I have seen little of the Mavs so far this season, but Dirk’s assessment fit what I saw of the team against the Clippers. Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie used the word “careless” to describe the Mavs play, and that pretty much hit it on the head. They are getting good overall numbers from Dirk and Kidd, as well as some role players, but as a team they are sloppy.

The Mavs are shooting just 47.1% (eFG%) and they are shooting just 30% from three. They are a jumpshooting team that doesn’t attack the paint, and they don’t get to the line much. On the other side of the court, to balance the scales, the Mavs foul almost as much as anyone in the league. They also are not creating many turnovers.

Don’t be quick to blame Kidd for this — he is shooting 59.7% True Shooting Percentage and has a PER so far of 21.8 (which would be his highest for the season since 2003, —those numbers are slightly higher than Devon Harris, who was traded for Kidd, of course Harris is just 25 years old). One other guy playing well, is Gerald Green, who has a TS% o 62.4%. and he is not the defensive liability everyone thought he would be.

Keys To The Game: New coach, some new players, but one thing remains the same in Dallas — they have nobody who matches up well with Kobe. He has torched them many times in the past, and with Josh Howard considered doubtful for tonight, another option is gone. I think the Mavs may start with Green on Kobe, but that is a raw young defender who may be learning some valuable lessons tonight. The hard way.

The Mavs have been a jumpshooting team, and that is a good thing — there may be a night they will be hot but you can’t win consistently from the perimeter. The Lakers need to keep them out of the paint tonight. But with that, they have to defend the three point line, the Mavs have not shot the three well this season as a team but Kidd and Dirk are above 40% and you can’t let them get good looks. (Green can shoot it, too, so stay with him.)

As for the Lakers, as was said in the last post on this site, they need to continue to get the ball in the paint. Dirk and Dampier make a big front line for the Mavs, but the Lakers have to attack that and not settle for shots on the perimeter. The Mavs foul a lot, attack the rim and you will get some freebies.

After the slow start, the Mavericks are back home and need a statement game. Expect a big effort out of them tonight. The Lakers should win if they stick to what they have done in previous games, with crisp backside rotations on defense and an improving offense.

Where you can watch: This game is on KCAL 9 here in Los Angeles and on NBATV nationally. And by the way, in case you hadn’t heard, KCAL is not going to tape delay any games this season, which is great news.

Shot Charting The Lakers

Kurt —  November 10, 2008


Since talking about the Lakers shooting — bad, maybe not that bad — is all the rage, I decided to shot chart the last two Lakers games. Here are some observations from that exercise:

• Like all teams, the Lakers are at their best when they get the ball in the paint. It seems obvious, but when you look at the tough quarters for the Lakers (the first half against the Clippers, the first quarter against the Rockets) the Lakers shot chart looks like it was done with a shotgun. Just all over the place. But when the Lakers are playing well, the shots are almost all in the paint, or threes off kick-outs. Some of that ties into the pace of the game, the Lakers get more shots in the paint when the tempo is up, either off traditional fast breaks or having Bynum or Gasol post up early and deep.

• The Lakers sharpshooters, Radmanovic in particular, get to the corner three (a good spot in the triangle) a lot. By my count the Lakers shot 45% on those corner threes the last two games (5 of 11).

• Kobe is getting his shots in spots that Michael Jordan used to get a lot of his. He can still shoot and hit from anywhere, but he is into the middle of the paint for shots, either off post plays or cutting off a screen, and he is getting a lot of looks from the free throw area. (It should be noted that while Kobe had about 8 shots from about five feet or in (not counting layups or dunks) he hit only two, but I think that is due to Yao Ming, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby being good interior defenders.)

• Gasol just knows how to score in the paint. He is using the 15-footer less than the first couple games this year, but is posting up opposing fours that can’t stop him on the block, and he has a wide variety of moves in the paint.

• Bynum — don’t try to lay the ball up, just dunk it.

• Fisher is great going hard to the rim or from three, but his midrange game seems off. I had him shooting just 25% from the midrange, which means he should take that shot only if wide open, not try to create it too much for himself. At least he has stopped with the PUJIT, for the most part.

• Farmar is sort of the same as Fisher, except he is making better decisions on when to shoot right now.

• Ariza has worked hard to develop an outside shot, and it’s better, but he is still at his best when he gets to the rim, either in transition or in the half court. The jumper is just keeping defenders honest now.

• The Lakers length is really bothering other teams at the rim. Combined the Rockets and Clippers shot just 55% at the rim (on dunks, layups and tip ins). This reminds me to say, if you didn’t read Gatinho’s post from last Friday about Phil Jackson and the Lakers organizational philosophy of getting length, go do that now.

• Most teams have a side they prefer to shoot from in the offense (the Rockets are on the extreme of this, really being a left-handed team as Bill Bridges put it) but the Lakers are much harder to read that way. Part of it is how much they are getting into the paint, but part is just how they are running the offense.

Preview & Chat: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  November 9, 2008


Records: Lakers 4-0 Rockets 4-2
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.7 Rockets 105.2
Defensive ratings: Lakers 88 Rockets 98.6
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Rockets Rafer Alston, Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest, Luis Scola, Yao Ming

The LA Times Misses the Point: We rarely get into what the beat writers say about the team here, mostly because they have a hard job and the guys following the Lakers do it really well. But today, the meme seems to be “the Lakers aren’t shooting well.”

This is where using traditional NBA stats is lacking. First and foremost, what really matters most is not points per game — that’s a stat where the pace a team plays at impacts that number dramatically. The Lakers play at one of the fastest paces in the league (third right now) so PPG is high for the Lakers. In any game, the two teams playing each other are going to have the same number of possessions — what matters is who uses those possessions most efficiently. Right now, the Lakers are sixth in the league at 109.7 points per 100 possessions. Maybe not what we expected, or where it will be at the end of the season, but not bad.

As for shooting, using straight FG% does not take into account the bonus the Lakers are getting from shooting threes. Part of what Fisher and Radmanovic bring to the table is that they spread the floor for Pau, Bynum and the slashing Kobe. Fisher and Radmanovic are both shooting 50% from three. If you use eFG% (created by Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, by the way) you get Fisher at a decent, but a bit low, 46%, while Radmanovic is at 64%. Overall, using eFG%, the Lakers are at 15th in the NBA in eFG%, a little low.

The other thing that makes up for that is how often the Lakers are getting to the free throw line, something else that traditional stats don’t capture well. The Lakers are fifth in the league in getting to the line, and as a team that shoots free throws well that gets them a lot of extra points.

The one stat that combines threes and free throws is True Shooting Percentage, which is really a points per shot attempt stat. Use that and the Lakers are at a solid 53.9%, which is 11th in the league. That’s a far cry from 21st.

Lakers notes: Let’s talk a little more about the Lakers defensive start to the season. Kevin Pelton over at Basketball Prospectus has an amazing discussion and breakdown of what the Lakers are doing:

The explanation of what the Lakers have done differently has focused on their borrowing concepts from the Boston Celtics. However, in closely scrutinizing the NBA.com League Pass replay of their game against the Nuggets, I didn’t see much similarity to what the Celtics do, which is relatively simple fundamentally. No, the Lakers are throwing out the most extreme defense we’ve seen in the league in some time. To find an analogy, I have to go back to the Seattle SuperSonics of the 1990s under George Karl, who utilized a version of the SOS Pressure Defense created by long-time assistant Bob Kloppenburg.

One thing not getting talked about is that the Lakers aren’t fouling much — their free throws to field goal ratio against is the lowest in the league. They weren’t bad last year (ninth in the league) but four games in they are on a pace for a number that would have been the lowest ratio since 2004. Put it this way, teams are averaging 20 free throws a game against the Lakers, when the league median is 26.8. (This will be put to the test tonight against a Rockets team that is very good at getting to the line.)

The other thing is rebounding — the Lakers have been the best defensive rebounding team in the NBA this year (just 19.8% of opponents misses lead to a second chance, the league median is 26.8%). Offensive rebounds often lead to easy put backs, and easy points. Also, rebounds help fuel the Lakers transition game.

Ever wonder if I sound like a Muppet? Rebounding is one of many topics that the brothers Kamentsky and I discussed when I was on their ESPN 710 radio podcast this week. (Others include cats in hats.) Give it a listen.

Just say no to McDyess. As tends to happen with any free agent, there are some Lakers fans who think picking him up is a good idea.

McDyess is a good player, no doubt. But I’m from the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” school. Right now the Lakers are so deep that guys getting the MLE are barely getting any playing time, and we already have a rotation right now along the front line (Gasol, Bynum and Odom) that works very well. Whose minutes are you going to cut back? Would he be better insurance than Powell? Sure, but McDyess wants to play, and if he comes here his minutes would be limited (plus he doesn’t know the system, which is why Phil is not traditionally a fan of mid-season additions.

Plus, this would not be cheap — the Lakers are in the luxury tax already (to the tune of $11 million). Whatever you pay McDyess would be doubled, because you’d have to pay the tax as well. Is McDyess a decent one-year rental for $5million is a very different question when you are talking $10 million. I just don’t think you run this big a risk at this price.

The Rockets Coming In: I have now watched about two-and-a-half Rockets games, and I’m still not sure what to make of this team. There are moments they have looked like a potential contender, and moments where they have looked pedestrian, a little lost and disinterested.

They are certainly a good team, and as you would expect that starts on the defensive end. Yao alters a lot of shots in the paint (being 7’6” will do that) and they have good perimeter defenders, particularly Artest when he is interested. However, they have not looked dominant on that end yet, with teams exploiting McGrady at times. Remember that they are without the very good defender Battier right now, when he gets back all that may change.

On offense, the box scores may say that McGrady, Yao and Artest are all scoring about the same per game, but the offense runs through McGrady. He gets the ball on the wing and that sets up just about everything they do. He is playing some very efficient ball (a team high PER of 23, he is assisting on 31% of his possessions used and getting to the line a lot. Regular commenter here Steven is a Rockets fan and was good enough to send in some very detailed thoughts, including reminding us that McGrady is still injured right now.

So why’s he playing? Because w/out his playmaking the Rockets are incredibly bad on offense. He is the only Rocket who can get Yao the ball when Yao gets into his sweet spot. He remains the only Rocket who can consistently get the ball to the Rocket mini-PFs when they’re open. What has been amazing is how easily McGrady has been getting past his defender and into the lane considering he’s playing on half a leg.

Steven is not as big a fan of Artest as some:

Very good 3pt shooter when his feet are set, overpowers other players when he drives towards basket and makes most of the FTs those barely controlled crashes earn. But, IMHO, his disadvantages far outweigh what he brings. He is a very good man-to-man defender who uses his long arms to knock away the ball, but is horrible on help defense.(Not all Ron, but w/Battier the Rockets were a top defensive unit, while w/Ron playing in Battier’s spot they are a sieve.) When he dribbles to set up a shot he usually misses-badly. When he drives he is just throwing up garbage and is relying on bail-out fouls.

All that said, this is a pretty stagnant Rockets offense, there is not a lot of off the ball movement. The spacing is pretty good (most of the time) but this is not going to be confused with Rick Adelman’s Sacramento teams in any way.

The other Rocket I’ve liked is Aaron Brooks, the backup PG that we West Coasters will remember from his days at Oregon. He brings a real burst of speed to an otherwise fairly deliberate team, and he is pesky on defense. Like Farmar off the Lakers bench, he gives the Rockets a real boost when he enters the game.

Here are the two things I don’t get.

1) They don’t play Luis Scola in the fourth quarter, and they limit his minutes. He has the second best PER on the team, has a very good true shooting percentage of 60.6%, scores almost as many points per minute as McGrady. He starts, but for some reason Adelman seems to bench him for the fourth. Not sure what the logic there is.

2) This is an average rebounding team. They shouldn’t be, but they are. They are 12th in the league in defensive rebounding, 23rd in grabbing offensive boards. The reason the Blazers won two nights ago, besides Roy’s amazing shot, was that Portland grabbed 34% of their missed shots for the game.

Keys To The Game: This game is going to be the first huge test of the Lakers new defensive scheme. One, because I don’t think we’ll see the disinterested Rockets at any point tonight, second they are a team that presents matchup problems.

Picture it: McGrady gets the ball on the wing, so the Lakers bring Gasol from the weak side to the strong side ready to zone. Except, to do that now on the backside Radmanovic is going to have to cover Scola — Camby kept leaving Scola and Landry two nights ago (because Camby loves to come from the weak side to block shots) and that pair combined for 34 and 16. Bynum can’t leave Yao alone. The Lakers rotations on the weak side of this defense and their aggressiveness will be tested tonight.

Steven thinks the Rockets offense, as they are playing it now, will play into the hands of the Lakers:

Normally an Adelman offense w/a big setting up in the FT area would create huge problems for the strong side zone. But this Rockets team doesn’t run anything close to a classic Adelman offense and the way the starters have been playing plays directly into the Laker Zone. The wild card is McGrady. If he can get into the lane Scola, Hayes, Landry and Yao should feast on open looks.

This game may be a challenge to watch if you like flow, the Lakers and Rockers are two of the top five teams in the league in getting to the line. If one team can get a big advantage in trips to the line it could decide the game.

Some other thoughts from Steven:

The faster the tempo the better for the Lakers. The Rockets have shown little inclination to hustle back on D and are giving up a lot of fast breaks.

Second Units. The Rocket Second Unit has to outplay the Laker Second Unit or the game will be over by half-time.

Rebounding. If the Lakers don’t dominate the glass there will be some very angry coaches after the game.

Rust. Can the Rockets take advantage if the Lakers start out misfiring from their time off?

Kobe vs Artest. Will the more mature Kobe get baited into a duel w/Artest? If he tries to score on Ron every time the Lakers could sputter to a halt and stand around and watch. Don’t think it will happen, but it could.

Brooks. He is starting to do a WOW! thing or two every game. Just enjoy.

Where you can watch: Remember this is a 6:30 (Pacific) start, and you can catch it on Fox Sports and League Pass everywhere else.