Archives For November 2008

I’ll Take 7-1

Kurt —  November 16, 2008


I don’t think this can be stressed enough — starting 7-1 means there is little going wrong with the Lakers. That is a 72-10 pace if you can keep it up for a season, so let’s not overreact to one game.

Along those overreaction lines, the simplistic media meme out of the Lakers first loss of the season was “they are still not tough enough.” But I don’t see how you get to that conclusion, unless you went in looking for that answer. The Brothers K at the LA Times Lakers blog summed up the toughness thing well:

…but the Lakers were hurt equally, perhaps more, by (Detroit’s) small, nearly postless lineup that relied on penetration on the perimeter and excellent ball and player movement to take advantage of defensive breakdowns. LA dominated the battle for second chance points (16-9) and points in the paint (52-30). They had 16 offensive rebounds, besting their season average.

To me, the apparent lack of toughness was a symptom of a poor night of defense. The Lakers did not keep the helpline where they wanted it, they were not aggressive with their traps.

That was one the things seen by one of this site’s best known posters, Kwame a., when he was at the game Friday:

1. The Pistons spread us out well. They ran the high screen and roll with AI and either Sheed or Kwame. What I was impressed with is how they got the ball into the middle of our defense. This was the first game a team consistently compromised our defense in that way.

2. The Pistons made lots of shots, I was amazed at some of the ones Tayshaun and AI hit over our defenders. They did get a fair share of open looks off penetration, but they made shots too, credit to them.

3. Darius touched on this after a different game, but it was really evident last night- the ball dies too much in the halfcourt with the starting unit. Not only Kobe, but with Pau as well. We need to move the ball more in the halfcourt. A big part of the problem was simply not making shots.

4. I was a little disappointed in Drew Bynum’s lack of discipline and focus on defense. He floated over to a position where he was slowly attempting to double prince on the strong side. This let Kwame gain deep position and get easy hoops on ball reversals. This was partly Bynum’s fault, but the team as a whole did not rotate well. Of course, rotations look slower when the other team is making its shots, and spreading out our D.

Darius added to that:

I noticed Drew not being in good position on the baseline as well. Our traps simply were not there against the Pistons. Part of that was that the initial defender was not doing a good job of shading the offensive player and directing him to the trap, but the second part of that was the strong side big not closing down the baseline effectively and shutting down the penetrator. I remember one play in particular where Prince went baseline and Bynum didn’t step up effectively, letting Prince get all the way to the basket and do that reverse two handed jam on the other side of the basket. Needless to say, our defense was not sharp against the relentless dribble attack of the Pistons. Sure, Detroit hit a lot of shots (and I know that can lead to more frantic close outs and the want to crowd the ball handler more; both of which lead to easier penetration) but we still need to play with more discipline and energy on defense. Last night it just wasn’t there.

But, it was one loss in eight games. The Lakers have a few days off to absorb that loss before they try to start a new streak against Chicago. Kwame a. said the same thing after the Detroit game.

The Lakers will be alright. This will be good tape to show them to keep them from getting to hight on themselves.

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.