About Last Night….

Kurt —  December 10, 2008

….Or, alternately titled, Sexual Perversity in Sacramento

I don’t think anybody who watched part of all of the last five Lakers games that would say this team is playing well right now. It’s still winning games because of the talent level, but the defense has gotten lax and the triangle offense is often ignored.

But, all of that is a far cry from the disaster some seem to think. The regular season is a process, a long grinding road where your mind and body are tested, where your team’s weaknesses are exposed and picked at. The best teams, especially ones like the Lakers trying to grow into a champion, do not spring fully formed like some sort of Venus. No, they are forged by the fire and hammer of Vulcan. The process makes them stronger.

In that way, the last five games can be a learning experience, if the team lets it (Phil will certainly try to make it such). Because, as Joel said in the comment below, things learned now (good and bad) are carried over.

The Lakers need to start developing good habits (executing the offense, playing solid contain defense, boxing out) and stop relying on their talent to win them games. When injuries, fatigue, and bad shooting nights become issues you need to be able to fall back on those habits. When you can’t, teams like Sacramento, Washington, and Indiana light you up for 100+ points.

The offensive side should be easier to fix. The Lakers need to run the triangle offense. They need to get the ball inside to their bigs more and get their jumpers on passes that go inside out. Bottom line, against Sacramento Gasol and Bynum combined to shoot 59% and get to the line 10 times. Good teams see that and go to that well over and over, not become an isolation team on the perimeter. The Kings tried to take the ball out of Kobe’s hand and he seemed to take it as a personal challenge. Just run the offense inside out and this team will thrive.

On defense, some have concerns with the scheme, the traps and aggression the Lakers have shown. I think at the NBA level, defense is more about desire, about who wants it worse, than it is about schemes and pure talent. Right now, the Lakers do not look like a team that cares about defense, and they get away with that bad habit because they can still win games that way. A lot of games. But not a title.

Friend of the site JonesontheNBA talks about why Sacramento gives the Lakers fits:

The Kings are a bad match up for the Lakers because their centers play a perimeter game that draws Bynum and Gasol out to the three point line and opens up the lane for drives and causes the Lakers defense to break down leading to easy lay ups or open three pointers. Same thing happened against the Pacers and their perimeter oriented bigs and Detroit and Rasheed’s three point shooting from the center position. Teams with quick penetrating guards and perimeter oriented bigs will continue to be a problem for the Lakers as Farmar and Fisher will never be ball stopping guards, so if Bynum and/or Pau are out on the perimeter those guards are going to have a field day and just chop up the Lakers on defense. Against teams like the Pacers and Kings the Lakers are usually able to make up for this match up issue by outscoring them. But when the Lakers shots aren’t falling, you’re going to have issues like this.

Come playoff time the only teams that could try and kill the Lakers with that strategy are Utah (With Okur…but disregarding pace, they are a terrible defensive team that the Lakers usually just outscore), Boston (if they go small and play KG at Center and sit Perkins…which I doubt), San Antonio if they go small with Duncan at Center (They aren’t really comfortable doing that, and Duncan is still reluctant to stay on the perimeter), and Detroit (On the long shot that they made the finals and Rasheed was playing at the top of his game like he was the last time the two teams played). But anyhow, expect the Lakers to struggle against teams that have perimeter oriented centers the rest of the year.

In the end, the Lakers are 17-3 after 20 games, but if they take that record as a sign that everything is good and they are fully formed, we are in for another playoff disappointment. But if they are still learning how to be a great team, how to win, we are in for a real treat as the team comes together.

I still think, as a Lakers fan, the best part of this team is ahead of it.

Kurt

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30 responses to About Last Night….

  1. The top 4 teams in point differential: Cavs, Lakers, Celtics, Magic.

    Top 4 Teams record wise: Celtics, Cavs, Lakers, Magic.

    Top 4 Teams in Hollinger’s defensive efficiency: Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Lakers

    Only two teams in the top 5 in both Hollinger’s offensive and defensive efficiency ratings: Cavs and the Lakers.

  2. Just to satiate the Chicken Littles..we also have the weakest SoS of the 4 teams as well

  3. Jones talked about SA and Boston going small with perimeter oriented centers… I disagree with that theory, since: a) Tim Duncan never was or will be perimeter oriented… b) Even if the Celtics go small, their bigs are not a threat from the 3pt line…

    Detroit is not reaching the Finals, so I guess we don’t need to worry about it. We do need to worry about execution on offense and desire on defense (and smarter rotations with better weakside help), as Kurt stated….

  4. Great post, the key being: “In that way, the last five games can be a learning experience, if the team lets it.”

    All depends on how they respond. It’s still early in the season so I’m not panicking, but concerned. Very few teams play great start to finish like Boston did last year. Most championship teams (Spurs) click after the All-Star break. That’s the crucial thing. But we have to start working on it now.

    The most concerning to me – the lack of desire on the defensive end. That kills me. Like it was said in the post, schemes will never work if the players don’t want to defend. In the interview with Hamblem and Cleamons, they talked about the desire of the Bulls players to lock their men down, that individual pride. Kobe has it, Fish certainly tries. Our young players don’t. They need to learn gambling for steals is not solid defense.

    It’s amazing to me how our players haven’t won anything, and relax anyway. Whereas the defending champs still seem hungrier than us. Sometimes I think one of the disadvantages of being a young, talented team is that the young players listen to their own hype. And that takes away from defensive desire, because they start believing how good they are.

  5. i cannot imagine the over reacting that would give that kings game 130 comments.

  6. As a diehard Laker fan it is difficult reading any post today. We simply are not as good as our record indicates period.

  7. I’m not too bothered about the record, but I would like to see the Lakers get to the point where they rarely if ever lose a game due to basic failings like poor defensive effort or aborting the triangle every time down. That’s what it will take to beat teams like Cleveland and Boston (and maybe San Antonio) who rely on their discipline and structure rather than just their talent. Of course there is plenty of time for that to happen so there is no reason to jump off the ledge just yet.

  8. As a life-long Lakers fan in Sacramento, thought about going to the game but glad I didn’t. The game was a microcosm of the recent slump – porous defense, poor ball movement, a team not as focused and together as they were earlier… I’m hoping this is just a bump in the road, that we’ll be thankful in June that the slump came early in the season and not late. But the ease in which teams can attack from the perimeter is a huge concern. It is especially obvious on plays in the center of the court. On the wings we do a better job of channeling toward the baseline and showing trap.

  9. someone correct me if i’m wrong, but i’m not too sure that the lakers’ high pick & roll defense can be traced back to the matchup problems with the opposing bigs. We were having trouble with P&R defense even with Mikki Moore was in the game, who isn’t exactly a long-range specialist.

    It seemed like mostly Bynum was taking bad angles when hedging out on the ball hander (it looked like Pau was doing a decent job of this), thus enabling the ball handler to split the double team with ease.

    I’m not sure how this problem can be fixed – maybe by giving the ball handler different looks each time around? Alternating jumping out with the big with going under the screen? Or maybe we just concede the midrange jump shot to the guy setting the screen and live with the results. All I know is that the Miller / Udrih P&R combo pales in comparison compared to the Chandler / Paul, Parker / Duncan, and Deron / Boozer P&R combos.

  10. The problem with our team is that any loss can be tagged to lack of effort.

    We have yet to see a night where we were just beaten fair-and-square.

    Which is a good thing, if you think about it.

    But as a fan, and as someone who forked over some precious time to watch them, nothing is more irritating and alarming than having a talented team lose only because they weren’t into it.

  11. #8 – Well said my friend. You hit the nail right on the head when you said “forked over some precious time to watch…” I agree w/ everything you said. I refuse to invest any more of my time today to read more excuses that will follow in todays post. I normally love all the comments but today I am just very frustraed and I will not loss any more time at work or sleep over the Lakers until they figure this thing out. I’ll be watching from the outside.

  12. Guys, it is time that we realize that Lakers are not perfect, far from it actually. This is team is not going to win every game, even if it is expected to. These Lakers are not some sort of a revelation and miracle, even if everyone wants them to be. This team is not clinical and deep, as it looks on the paper.

    Instead, the Lakers are a good offensive team with a lot of firepower, good coach and the best player in the game. Furthermore, they are a talented team that needs to 1) establish identity, 2) figure out rotations, 3) squash some egos, 4) entertain the crowd, 5) play consistent basketball, 6) straighten out its mantra and most importantly 7) win games. All of these thing are achievable considering that Lakers have the brains, bodies and talent to do so, but they are crumbling under pressure at the moment. It is our, as fans, fault that we want them to do all of the 7 things I mentioned above at the same time and maintain excellence.

    Instead of complaining a loss, that was really disgusting and unforgivable, we should concentrate on how we as fans should treat and enjoy this team instead of demanding and criticising all the time

  13. Phil Jackson is a master at not having his teams peak too early – but look out when the playoffs start. Yes, it is ugly and painful to watch right now, but the big picture is the only picture for Phil and Kobe.

  14. 10-
    Regarding Pn’R: give the PG the 20+ foot semi-contested look. This is how we kill players like CP3 and Nash: make them shooters and beat us 1-on-1.

    I want everyone to say this with me:
    D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E. This Laker Team has lacked any sense of discipline on both sides of the floor. The Lakers refuse to consistently work the triangle and get the ball into the post. We settle for 1-on-1 games, which lead to transition buckets.

    The defense takes stupid gambles to force turnovers instead of letting the turnovers come to them via length and intelligent trapping (Kobe and Vlad, pay attention?).

    End rant…

  15. Just want to announce this here first:

    Live chat tonight for the Suns game!

    Details to follow in the Suns preview, but just come back here at game time and we roll.

  16. Part of me is actually a little relieved. If the issues we’ve seen in 4th quarters and giving up leads start costing us near wire to wire losses, they can’t be ignored or put off with the assurance that the team won anyways.

    I just wish this wasn’t such a busy week so they could study film of what’s going wrong. But sometimes teams do better adjusting without practice time too.

    Tonight will be an interesting test of their will. Though I wonder how much of last night was A- looking past a weak team to the hated nemesis tonight and B- Sacramento always giving us fits in their gym (just like Portland).

    I’m hoping that those are the real culprits last night, but that the poor showing motivates them to get back on track.

  17. Crittendon was traded, as I expected. 3 team trade. Hornets get Antonio Daniels, and the Wizards get Critt and Mike James. Memphis gets a 1st rounder.

    Hornets get another guard. How does that help beat the Lakers?

  18. antonio daniels is a decent back-up pg that will help push the pace when cp3 is out i guess…

  19. 17

    Daniels is an upgrade over James as their backup PG. With him on board they can cut back on Paul’s minutes (and also play the 2 of them together at times with Daniels’ size). I think it’s a solid deal for NO.

  20. I know Daniels is an upgrade over Mike James. But it doesn’t help them, in what I feel is one of their biggest weaknesses. Front line depth. That’s all. I think they’ll try to make another trade if they can.

  21. Aw man, I’m torn between the live game chat here and the LA Times Lakersblog live chat.

    Life is tough.

  22. Pinky,

    That’s easy. FB&G is better, but if you really can’t decide, open 2 browsers, then minimize them so you can see both at the same time, and chat on both.

  23. the other Stephen December 10, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    so i suppose washington still expects gilbert to come back and play this season, instead of being a multi-million dollar blogger. that man is undoubtedly an amazing player, but with all his outspoken irrelevance, he’s still composed of more talk than actual substance.

    on the other hand, i do hope javaris does well and learns quickly.

  24. Like all of you, I hate seeing the Lakers lose. Especially an ugly loss like last night.

    But inwit is right, the big picture (where the team is in April/May/June) is more important.

    Hopefully, the team learns from this game because they still have a long way to grow.

  25. #10. i think detroit did just outright beat us. indy was a huge inexcusable lapse. sac, we just sucked.

    anyway, i think lakers were overvalued and now we’re having a correction. it’s all healthy in the long run — i hope

  26. Is there any point winning all these games, getting in the Finals and then losing to the Celts again? Didn’t think so – hope second place is good enough for your Laker fans.

  27. Prepare to be beaten down by the Lakers this year in the Finals Celts nation

  28. Thats assuming the Celts even make the finals. Cleveland is looking really really good right now. Certainly a lot better than last year and they almost beat the celts last year in the playoffs.

    A quick question about the Cavs. When did James learn to play Defense? I watched a couple of their games and he looked much improved on the defensive end. Maybe Kobe taught him a few things during the Olympics.

  29. I think LeBron’s defense had already gotten a lot better before the Olympics…

  30. Suns preview up.

    Don’t forget, live chat tonight.