Archives For January 2009

The Blueprint For Beating The Lakers

Kurt —  January 20, 2009
Texas News - January 14, 2009

The Lakers come out of a brutal four game stretch 2-2, and it could be 3-1 without a couple lucky shots by the Spurs (and a rare mental mistake from Fish). Lakers fans are feeling pretty good about their team’s chances right now — and we all should be. This is a contender.

But the other thing that has emerged, both in the last four games and over the course of the season, is the blueprint for beating the Lakers. And I don’t mean just one game in the middle of January, I mean over a seven-game series.

And there are teams that can do it. David Thorpe, ESPN.com analyst and Executive Director of the Pro Training Center at IMG thinks that the Spurs may be that team:

I still think San Antonio is the most dangerous threat to LA. First of all, they beat the Spurs 3 times in the playoffs last year by 4, 2, and 8 points. In those games, a severely disabled Manu scored 10, 7, and 9 points. Bigger picture — LA has an excellent defensive team because of the way they work together, but they have only 1 or two very good individual defenders. So a team like San Antonio, with 3 stars (when healthy), really puts a lot of pressure on that defense to move as a unit. Also, the Spurs are gritty tough (like Boston), forcing all of LA’s softness to the forefront. If they play with force, LA can win that series. But can they play with force, assuming all 3 of the Spurs stars are healthy?

The Spurs do match up well with the things that a team needs to do to more than just chant Beat LA.

Play Defense. Simply put, the Laker offense is too good for a team to win a shootout with the Lakers for seven games. There are too many weapons, too many guys who can hit the shots. Darius said it well in a recent email:

If teams really think that they can milk our defensive deficiencies into victories, I don’t think it will work. If the Finals taught me anything it’s that if you play tough enough D our Offense can stall and you’ve got a chance. But if you can’t stop our Offense, you’re not going to have enough firepower to beat us. And that was without Bynum.

What the Celtics did in the Finals last year is really still the model for stopping the Lakers. They pressured the ball, but what they maybe did best was stop the ball rotation to the weakside, something the Lakers had done well in getting through the Western Conference.

Thorpe chimes in on that:

Yes-forcing the triangle to stay on one side of the floor is always a smart plan defensively. It helps define help positions while allowing those helpers to stay more stationary, as opposed to moving from help to strong side positions. In short-it allows players to know with more alacrity that they are the helpers on a particular possession. So it ends up bottling Kobe and Pau on slashes/cuts to the paint, as helpers are already there.

If there is one thing we all — from myself and commenters — have wanted to see more of in the triangle offense is the ball to work from the inside out. When that happens, the cuts and weakside plays that the Celtics took away, opens up. Reed expands upon that:

(Teams should) do everything possible to get the ball out of the hands of Gasol and Bynum. If the offense isn’t running through them, the team is likely to either revert to Kobe ball or jack up too many difficult perimeter shots, many of them from people like Ariza and Odom. If Gasol and Bynum get the ball early in the clock they either get a high percentage shot or force the defense to collapse, freeing up open shots for others. The more Kobe shoots, the better chance you have.

On that last note — the Magic had Kobe doing a lot of that at the end of the game the other night, and it worked. The Cavaliers let Kobe get 12 assists and so at the end of the game he did not need to be the gunner.

Let’s talk about the bigs. A couple days ago Nomuskles had a great post on what Bynum is doing now. Thorpe had some thoughts about Bynum as well:

The guy he reminds me of the most right now is actually Rik Smits. Bynum, like Smits, is a huge man with an excellent shooting touch. Not elite level athletes, but inside forces that can score. At 21, there is still a long way for Bynum to grow, but he isn’t forced to do that because he already plays for such a good team that does not need him (at present) to develop into a 26 point per game beast.

Don’t turn the ball over. This really obvious statement is key to beating any team. But it is especially important against the Lakers, particularly when their bench players are on the floor because they want to get out and run and turnovers fuel that. Taking care of the ball is one of the best ways to slow the Lakers bench.

Be efficient on offense. While you need to focus on defense, your team still needs to put up 90+, and the Lakers defense can make that hard some nights. That said, there are ways to attack the Lakers.

One good way is to have bigs that can shoot from 17-feet or more out. The Lakers struggle with Sacramento because their bigs can do just that, pulling our zone apart and our shotblockers away from the basket. Cleveland could not do this last night without Big Z in the lineup and the Laker bigs at home slowed LeBron James, maybe the best dribble-penetration guy in the league.

One little thing a lot of teams have already started doing is to attack the Laker defense with penetration from the top of the key area (rather than the wings), taking away what the Lakers strong side zone. Notice this is something the Cavaliers did poorly with LeBron James (maybe the best dribble penetration guy in the game) — he started on the wings and the Lakers help was waiting for him.

Reed can take it from there:

The Lakers have several poor defenders in terms of knowing when and how to rotate, so getting into the lane from the top will almost always result in an open corner 3. Getting into the lane also will likely result in Bynum getting into foul trouble, and the more he sits the easier it is to get easy shots inside (see Boston in last year’s finals). Don’t be afraid to initiate your offense a little earlier in the shot clock than usual as LA’s length can make it difficult to score one on one when the clock is winding down.

Darius has a little something to add:

I’ve noticed that the Lakers really do a poor job of dealing with motion offenses. I noticed this against the Kings and the other night against the Pacers as well (I also remember Utah going to their Flex offense in the playoffs and it giving us problems). When there are back cuts that are built into the offense or when there are designed actions where the screener cuts hard after setting a pick off the ball, the Lakers really struggle with who they are covering and where they should go to compensate.

That’s the blueprint. The question is: What team could pull it off consistently in a seven-game series? What team has the matchups to do it? What about the mental toughness?

The TrueHoop Mothership Has Landed

Kurt —  January 20, 2009

I tend to join things about as often as Phil Jackson calls a timeout during an opponent’s run.

But sometimes there are offers you can’t say no to, like the Shamwow. Or the chance to join the TrueHoop basketball blogging network.

As of today Forum Blue & Gold is part of the TrueHoop Network, joining some of the best hoops bloggers on the planet — starting with Henry Abbott himself — under the umbrella of ESPN. Get the whole story from Henry himself. Check out the list of bloggers in the pulldown at the top of the page. That is an impressive group.

Regulars here will notice a handful of changes, like that banner at the top where as you can read this site is now an ESPN affiliate. The most obvious change is the video player to the right — you’ll have the chance to check out all of ESPN’s NBA videos (highlights, interviews and analysis) without ever leaving this site. There also is a new advertiser in StubHub, and if are looking for tickets to an upcoming Laker game at Staples just use the pulldown.

What is not changing is what his site is about — that is why I wanted to be part of the TrueHoop Network. It brings together top quality bloggers and what they have created then has them just keep dong what they do. No big changes, just a few little additions — which is the way I want it, I like this site as it is.

This site is a community, a group of smart hoops fans discussing their favorite sport, and it will stay that way. You are all a part of this. There will be no change in the content, no change in how things are run. We are not going to start speculating about trades or have polls about our favorite Laker girls.

Those of you that are new here, you’ll find we’re about basketball — Laker basketball, on the court. We don’t talk soap opera around the team, we break down the team and its past and future. To get an idea of some of the best stuff around here, check out the Kobe vs. LeBron part of this post from yesterday, or this breakdown of Andrew Bynum from the Orlando game.

And before you email and ask, there is a tab at the top explaining the name of the site (as well as the commenting guidelines and more about FB&G). We want to make you newcomers welcome — if we could get a wet bar in here, we would.

Now, on with the basketball and blogging. As you’ll see with the next post (coming in a few hours), the new affiliation does bring with it some big advantages.

Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavs

Reed —  January 19, 2009

(First, Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day. It seems to mean a bit more this year.)

Lakers: 31-8 (1st in West), Cleveland (1st in East, by % points over Orlando)
Offensive Rating: Lakers: 110.4 (1st), Cleveland: 110.0 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: Lakers: 102.0 (5th), Cleveland: 96.2 (1st)
Rebound Rate: Lakers: 51.6 (5th), Cleveland: 52.1 (3rd)
Pace: Lakers: 97.5 (4th), Cleveland: 91.8 (25th)
Projected Lineups: Lakers: Fisher, Kobe, Radman, Gasol, Bynum
Cleveland: Williams, Pavlovic, Lebron, Wallace, Varejao

Lakers Coming In:

When the schedule came out over the summer, a few stretches stuck out as extra important – in which the team would be tested and revealed as true title contenders or needing improvement. We are in the midst of one of those stretches right now, and it is not going particularly smoothly. This game finishes off a brutal four game gauntlet: at Houston and San Antonio back to back, followed by Orlando and the Cavs at home. I’m not particularly worried about the consecutive losses. We were missing key players in both, having to play unnatural lineups to compensate for the total lack of guard depth off the bench. The Spurs game was the second night of a back to back on the road against a team that was playing possessed. Despite having all three of their stars bring their “A” game (all had 20+ points), and shooting at a scorching rate (57% from the field and 50% from three), the Spurs needed a lucky last minute shot, foul, and non-foul to beat us by one. Sometimes that just happens. I’m confident that if we played them 10 times they’d only play that well once. The Orlando game also showed us how hard it is to beat a great team firing on all cylinders – Howard went off for 25/20, Nelson had 28/8, and all five starters scored in double figures. They couldn’t miss down the stretch and we couldn’t make. Again, sometimes this happens.

Yet, all of this begs the question: why are teams playing so well against us? There are some recurring red flags. Our last seven opponents all scored over 100 points (even with our increased pace, that’s a bad sign). Houston and SA both shot over 53%, an alarming rate. Houston and Orlando both destroyed us on the boards (Orlando by +14, with 15 offensive rebounds). SA and Orlando both made more than 10 threes at over 42%. Too often, our defense seems to be lost in its rotations – the slightest bit of penetration off a pick and roll or otherwise leads to massive over-help in the lane, with other teammates either not helping the helper, or doing so very slowly. The result is too many open three pointers and poor positioning on the rebounds when shots go up. I don’t think the loss of Farmar, Sasha, or Walton explains any of this. Or a fundamental weakness in our personnel. It’s simply a failure to execute our defensive schemes and play smartly. This must change.

Walton might play tonight, but I wouldn’t expect him to get many minutes with Lebron the opposing small forward. Ditto Radmanovic. When Lebron is at the 3, I suspect we’ll see a lot of Ariza, as Radmanovic and Walton simply have no chance against him (unless Kobe surprises me and guards him heavy minutes, which I don’t think would be good). When Lebron slides down to the 4, then we’ll probably put Odom on him. I look for many of our key players to have fresher legs given the two days off. Fisher has played 36+ minutes in seven straight games; Kobe has been over 40 the last three and over 37 in seven straight. Sasha is back to spell both. This could help as our guards really seemed worn down at the end of the Orlando game (Kobe just ran out of gas and started throwing up impossible threes).

Cleveland Coming In:

The Cavs are also banged up, but you wouldn’t know it from their play. Even though they lost to Chicago on Thursday, they rebounded the next night and throttled New Orleans. Last week, they destroyed Boston. That said, I do not think we will see their best side. First, Ilgauskas and Delonte West are both out, arguably their second and third best players (West is second in +/- and Z third; both figure in Cleveland’s most effective 5 man lineup by point differential). Despite the continued parade of victories in his absence, Z has been missed. He’s always been underrated and is having another solid season: 21st in PER (21.15, ahead of Garnett, Billups, Joe Johnson, David West, Alridge, Carter, Durant, etc.), spreads the floor for Lebron on offense with his perimeter shooting at the center position, and is part of perhaps the best rebounding front line in the league. Despite all the buzz about Mo Williams, West has been the better player, making more threes at a much higher %, playing better defense, and sporting almost double the assist to turnover ratio. Williams arrival has influenced the Cavs rise, but maybe not as much as West’s improvement. With him out, everyone slides up a notch: Pavlovic starts, and Wally and Gibson get more time. All can shoot lights out from distance, as well as Williams, so things are always set up for you to get drilled if you help too much on Lebron. Varejao and Wallace are first rate rebounders and defenders (both on and off the ball), so they will make life difficult for Drew and Pau. Really, the team has no discernable weakness: 2nd in offense, 1st in defense, 3rd in rebounding, guards who shoot lights out from 3, bigs who defend and rebound, and . . . some guy named Lebron.

Lebron vs. Kobe
:

Which, brings us to the subplot we care about most (or, better said, The Plot): Kobe vs. Lebron. They are widely recognized as the game’s best two players, they lead perhaps its two best teams, they spearheaded the Redeem Team to gold, they are the league’s preeminent marketing personalities. A favorite nba pastime is to debate this vs. that star’s merits. For the last season or two, that debate has often centered on Lebron and Kobe. A word about that.

First, I’m an unabashed Kobe homer. I have researched and argued the technicalities of certain provisions of the Colorado criminal code. Last week, I was teaching my two year old girl how to write letters for the first time and led with, “think of a word you really like, some person or thing you love and I’ll write that word.” Her immediate reply, unprovoked: “Kobe.” I’ve advocated for him endless times in mvp debates, his place among the greats of all time, his feud with Shaq, etc., etc. Yet, in this current debate, I must give way to clear reason and cry uncle. As a basketball player, Lebron is better. Than Kobe has ever been.

Random Lebron points:

• His PER this season is 32.0. That would be the best mark . . . ever. Jordan’s high was 31.7, Wilt’s 31.8, Magic’s 27.0, Bird’s 26.3, Kareem’s 29.9, Shaq’s 30.6, Duncan’s 27.1, and Kobe’s 28.0 (24.7 this year).
• To put his PER in perspective, Lebron uses 33.16 possessions a game. Those possessions result in 42.5 points. That means that if Lebron used all of his team’s possessions, they would end up with an offensive rating of 128.3 (LA leads the league at 110.4). Kobe uses 31.51 possessions a game and those result in 37.9 points, leading to an all Kobe offensive rating of 120.2. Both are off the charts, but the gap between the offense Lebron and Kobe create is huge.
• Lebron is more efficient in scoring the ball because he shoots a better percentage, which is primarily the result of both getting to the basket more and finishing at a higher rate when there. Lebron shoots 40% of his shots inside at a 74% clip; Kobe shoots 23% inside at 65%. Kobe shoots better on jump shots, but only by 5%.
• Lebron shoots 2.1% higher in true shooting %, assists on 5% more of his possessions, and rebounds at a 3% higher rate. He simply creates much more offense, more efficiently than Kobe, and uses the ball at about the same rate. And, remember, all of this comes in Kobe’s preeminent year in terms of scoring efficiency.
• Whatever the difference is between them on offense, it is bigger on defense. When Lebron is on the court, other teams score 97.9 points per 100 possessions; when he sits they score 105.9. When Kobe is on the court, other teams score 104.9 per 100; when he sits they score 104.2. Lebron makes his team 8.0 points per 100 better on defense; Kobe makes his team 0.7 worse. As a result, Lebron is 4th at individual defensive rating and second in defensive win shares. Lebron is the anchor of the league’s best defense. Kobe is a significant component of a strong, but far worse defense.

To me, these individual stats from Lebron reveal why Cleveland is so dominant as a team. When you first look at the team around Lebron, you see a lot of solid players, but nothing overwhelming. None of his teammates will be all stars this year, even in the weaker East; none will compete for all nba or all defensive honors; the bench is okay, but nothing like LA’s. Is Cleveland’s second best player (probably Ilgauskas) as good as LA or Boston’s fourth? Yet, Cleveland leads the league by a wide margin in both point and efficiency differential. They are having a historic season on both fronts. The reason is Lebron. Whatever you think of PER, he is having one of the single best seasons that any player has ever had – at both ends of the court – and is doing so in a way that directly translates to team dominance. And that’s not a point to glide past. He is putting up all time dominant individual numbers and helping all of his teammates have career years themselves. He is one part Michael and one part Magic. And he’s only 24.

Now, none of that is to discount Kobe. He will go down as one of the ten best players of all time, the second best shooting guard, perhaps the all time scoring leader, and owner of multiple rings. Beyond all of that, Kobe brings something to the table that Lebron does not. Kobe captures our attention and imagination in a way that Lebron has not, and probably could not. Lebron is like Shaq in the sense that his success is almost entirely physical – with Shaq an unparalleled combination of size and power, and Lebron adding speed and skill to the equation. As with Shaq, there has never been someone with Lebron’s physical gifts before, and there may never be again. He simply is bigger, faster, stronger, and jumps higher than everyone else. This is not the case with Kobe. There have been endless players with his physical traits that have not made it, or that have not made it like him. (Put another way: if Lebron had Kobe’s body would he still be a superstar? what if Kobe had Lebron’s body?).

Kobe’s success, much like Jordan’s, comes through mastery of detail, mental dominance, and unbounded intensity, will, and ambition. He is, and always has been, obsessed with the nuances of the game. His entire focus and energy has always been directed at one thing – basketball excellence (whatever you think of how he balances personal and team success). Kobe’s “faults,” his “dark side,” all stem from this mad desire to be the best at the game. This is a two sided coin, with “heads” producing possibly unmatched clutch performance and spurts of brilliance, and “tails” leading to destructive interactions with underperforming teammates or team officials. The result, ironically, is a personality that transcends the game. Kobe, perhaps more than any present athlete, commands interest, passion, love, hate – he forces you to take a side, and to do so zealously. We marvel at Lebron’s almost unfair physical abilities and accomplishments, but he does not move us like Kobe. Everyone is happy when he succeeds; no one cares when he fails. Lebron makes us wonder at his physicality; we marvel at his dunks, his leaping ability, his strength. Kobe draws deeper reactions; we wonder at his mystique, will, and spurts of godliness. We won’t care about Lebron’s day to day life when he retires, like we do with Jordan, and like we will with Kobe. If someone wrote a tell all biography of Lebron’s non-basketball activities, it would be greeted with a shrug and a yawn; such a book about Kobe would be impossible to put down.

In a sense, both players are deep contradictions. Kobe grew up the son of a professional basketball player, living in Italy or affluent suburbs. He didn’t need basketball to make it in life. Yet, we have perhaps never seen an athlete so driven, both mind and body. He has the work ethic of someone who fears life is on the verge of collapsing, but he’s always had everything. He is that strange rich kid with a chip on his shoulder, who goes on to rule the world, but does so coldheartedly. He grew up on the basketball court, with his father’s teams, but has always found being part of a team unnatural. He plays as if the embodiment of the American Dream, but grew up to riches and the finest of Europe. Despite unbounded personal ambition, he hasn’t overly “branded” or “corporate-ized” himself, letting (whether by choice or Colorado) his focus extend first to the game. We are left confused, but always captured. We care not only what Kobe does, but why, and what he thinks, and what he’ll do next.

Lebron is also a mystery. He is the kid from nowhere that speaks of himself in the third person, and has open (and realistic) dreams of being the Global Icon. Despite goals that clearly far transcend on the court success, and that are purely individualistic, he is perhaps the consummate “team” superstar, playing in a way that unites individual and team success, making others better, always preferring the easy pass to one on one play. His is the face of Nike; branding personified. He is openly willing to turn his back on his hometown and the throngs that worship him there for a higher corporate platform; but he plays with uncanny unselfishness. He also confuses us, but our interest only runs basketball deep, despite his broader pursuits. Sometimes his antics get old.

If I had to choose which player to start a team with today, I would pick Lebron. If I had to choose a player’s career to follow, from cradle to grave, it would be Kobe. I have had the good fortune of fulfilling the latter, watching most of his games since he was a rookie, and I doubt any future athlete will so completely be worth my time and emotion. We should be grateful for these days when gods again grace the court.

Keys to the Game:

Back to the game at hand. Both teams need this game. Cleveland needs to continue to prove that they are legitimate cream of the crop contenders. LA needs to prove that the last two games were bumps in the road and not indicative of deeper problems. It appears as if every game will count in the race for home advantage, which is so crucial in the bizarre 2-3-2 finals setup. I think the Lakers win this game by over-neutralizing Lebron. Double and triple teams, traps as soon as he gets the ball, etc. This won’t always work given his ballhandling, speed, and incredible passing ability. But without Z and West, he will more often be surrounded by unskilled bigs clogging the lane and shooters that can’t create offense if chased off their spots. As the numbers above reveal, when Lebron “uses” a possession (by shooting or assisting), Cleveland’s offense is off the charts. Make others beat you, especially as his teammates are banged up and might be less sharp on the road. On offense, run the offense inside-out. Wallace is a great defender, but he gives up significant length to both Pau and Drew. Put those guys on the block and let them shoot over him. Force Cleveland to collapse in and work the ball weakside to open shooters or Kobe for a pick and roll. Don’t, under any circumstances, let Kobe get sucked into a duel, especially if Lebron is guarding him.

This is a game to care about. Put on your Lakers (or Forum Blue and Gold) gear, give the kids cough syrup and send them to bed early, fire up the grill, and enjoy basketball at its best – two elite teams trying to prove themselves, and, above all, a battle of two very different basketball gods.

–Reed

I owe Mr. Andrew Bynum a half-hearted apology. Half-hearted because he contributes more than I thought, but still has some glaring deficiencies. After the past few games, and really the entire season, I have been a little bit down on the young’n. I believed that his lack of fitness and tenacity have been hurting the Lakers all season. I was disappointed that many of the problems the Lakers faced against Boston in the finals, including inconsistent effort, seemed to still be present. The comments around here have been pointing out Andrew’s lack of results on the boards and last night’s game hardly disagrees with those sentiments. He has not been garnering rebounds at anything nearing a respectable rate. Why is that? Was it laziness? Was it lack of fitness? Something else entirely?

I re-watched the game against the Magic and how Andrew faired when pitted against his supposed future rival in Dwight Howard. Instead of watching the ball, all I did was watch Bynum (and some of Howard for comparison). After closely examining Bynum, my overall opinion of him has not changed, but I understand his strengths and weaknesses different than before. While it’d be hasty to judge Andrew on just one game, especially against a force like Howard, it’s what I’ve got so we we’ll go with that. (The frustration of losing another one has driven me to look at the details a lot more closely.)

Andrew was not a terrific rebounder last night mainly due to lack of positioning and effort. Being focused on the negatives of the game due to the loss, I already had a hunch this was the case. Watching more attentively to Bynum opened up my eyes to a couple of other tendencies I hadn’t noticed before. Andrew takes a lot of offensive possessions off. He often sits on the lane opposite the side of the ball and does nothing to demand the ball. When he does catch it, he’s often like an archer at 1000 meters: too far out of his range to be effective. Another trend I noticed was Bynum is far more effective on the defensive end than I give him credit for. Many plays finish without Bynum earning a stat in the box score, but he actually contributed greatly to the success of the defense.

Observations

Rebounding: First and foremost, I considered his rebounding. If you read the notes below from the first half, you’ll notice, as I did, that Bynum doesn’t set himself up to be in good position to rebound at the defensive end, nor does he chase down rebounds. And on at least one play Bynum was too tired to reach up and grab a rebound that went straight over his shoulder to Howard. I’d say, without a doubt, Andrew’s lack of interest (or ability?) in rebounding is his single-most frustrating attribute. Andrew has two major habits that contribute to his shortcomings in rebounding. On defense, he doesn’t always block out a person. Sometimes he just puts a hand on a player from the other team, not getting a seal (more often) and sometimes he just stands around under the basket (occasionally). A lot of times, he relies on his height to cover up his lack of effort to establish position. Andrew’s teammates also cover-up for his disinterest by hustling after the rebounds themselves. Kobe, Lamar, and Ariza hustle for rebounds and often snag ones that seem Bynum’s for the taking. I might be remembering it wrong, but I believe Bynum was much more interested in skying for rebounds last year. 

The other habit I noticed was Bynum will go to the basket during offensive penetration looking for an offensive rebound (until he gets tired). His height was good for a couple of offensive rebounds, especially when Howard left Bynum to help his teammates. That being said, he does not go after rebounds (offensive or defensive) fiercely. He only grabs the ones that fall in his hands. Last night, Andrew did not hunger for loose balls; he passively collected rebounds that came his way. The bad news is this indicates a lack of desire. The good news is, he’s young and maybe he’ll figure out how to go after rebounds as time goes on. Cross your fingers Lakers nation, this is one of the main factors that will effect how high Bynum’s ceiling really is.

Offense: I hadn’t noticed before, how many possessions Bynum is just a non-factor. He touches the ball infrequently and when he does, it’s often in the midpost or further, where he doesn’t have as many moves. I realize that his defender was usually Dwight Howard and that it can be intimidating and fruitless to force it. However, Bynum received so few touches in the framework of the offense that it didn’t matter what kind of moves he could try against Howard, he never got a chance to show them off. You would like to blame the guards for not getting Bynum enough touches, but if you watch Bynum closely, he doesn’t work to establish position the way Shaq used to. He doesn’t make himself a big enough target where a post entry pass will be successful so the ball goes away from him. If he learns how to establish deeper position, he’ll be much more effective. It should be noted that Bynum has a more polished offensive game than Howard. Bynum has learned how to recognize and counter different defensive postures in the low post. Howard rushes himself and doesn’t have anything resembling a reliable midrange game. Howard doesn’t do a great job feeling his defender and exploiting the weakness. When you’re as athletic as he is, maybe you don’t have to. Low post offensive moves is the only place where Bynum has some advantage over Howard, and yet, he never showed off his full capabilities because he couldn’t receive the ball in scoring position.

Defense: Bynum’s defense is where I was surprised the most. Bynum was involved in countless pick and rolls and performed admirably on most of them. He was aided in this game by Howard’s low skill-level with the midrange game. Andrew could just sink down off the pick and allow his teammate to get around the screen while he slowed the dribbler and kept tabs on Howard. His presence discouraged Nelson and Hedo from attacking the basket time after time. There were a few times where Nelson exploited the PnR but for as many times as the PnR was run, the Lakers really didn’t suffer a lot due to Bynum. If Shaq or Kwame was in there I’d bet on at least twice the success rate. Bynum was also there a few times to alter shots that would end up missing as he better understands how to rotate in help situations. Early in the year, he frequently showed up late and got into a lot of foul trouble. Bynum’s presence in the game was definitely a positive defensively but he didn’t earn many stats in doing so. This is where I owe Bynum the biggest apology because he really expends quite a bit of energy trying to stay in a strong position. There are lapses, but much more often he’s doing the right thing. Howard is also good on the defensive end, although he plays a lot more by feel. Like Bynum, he changes shots and provides support for his guards. Lakers didn’t run pick and roll too many times with Howard as a defender, but at least on one occasion they exploited him for Bynum’s alley-oop lay-in.

Conditioning: Some folks will never been endurance runners, but Bynum would benefit greatly from more conditioning. Because he’s sucking wind, Bynum picks his spots to give bursts of energy. He plays hard when he’s involved in Pick and Roll and he plays hard when he’s got the ball. Those are the only two times he turns it into high gear. Setting screens, going after rebounds, and boxing out are not where he spends his energy. Better conditioning would improve all aspects of his game and it’s probably the crux of most of his weaknesses. You’ll notice that he mostly disappears on the court in the second half of the second quarter when he gets fatigued.

Conclusion

At 21, Bynum still has more years to grow, but he will only do so if he shows the willingness to do so. Based on this season and last night, I’d say the magic 8-ball is “not enough information.” If Bynum can correct some of his lazier habits he can be a cornerstone for the team in the future. But if he cannot, he will be merely good, not great. Conditioning is one of those things that NBA players should have in spades and Bynum is frankly lagging in that department. I consider that to be a lack of effort on his part to get in shape, which does not bode well for him putting in the effort to become a great player and improve all aspects of his game. Contradictorily, if you read the LA Times recently, they did a spotlight on Bynum and Kareem’s work together. They review tape at Bynum’s house going over specific ways in which Bynum can improve. Kareem mentions that Bynum will be aided by seeing how he can move without the ball, especially when Kobe is double-teamed. This is something Pau does well and Bynum would do well to learn. Beyond that and conditioning, Bynum needs to work on displaying tenacity in chasing down rebounds and establishing himself on offense BEFORE he has the ball. If he can do that, his contributions to the team will be much more significant. I am greatly encouraged by his defensive presence and hope that he continues to develop into a much smarter and effective defender as the year progresses. We all hope that Bynum turns into an all-star but he’s got a few obstacles to conquer before he does. 
———————————–

Below is the Delayed Blog I put together. After three hours and only finishing the first half, I gave up taking detailed notes.
Positive plays by Bynum in bold.

1st Quarter

Tipoff: Dwight Howard employs the Shaq-like quick tip into his own backcourt.
11:40 – Defense: Bynum forces a pass on screen and roll with Dwight Howard and Hedo Torkoglu. Magic earn a good look from the corner that misses and Bynum faces Howard outside the restricted area to prevent Howard from getting the rebound. The lack of good position forces Howard to concede the rebound to Kobe who hustled for the ugly rebound.

11:34 – Offense: Quick bucket in semi-transition for the Lakers as Kobe took the ball all the way and as Bynum was jogging (not running) trailing the play, kobe found him. Only then did Bynum kick it into gear and finished with a strong slam. It was basically uncontested as Howard came over to help against Kobe.

11:15 – Defense: Andrew gets stuck on Jameer Nelson on a pick and roll play at the top of the circle. Bynum gives him to two steps of cushion to prevent penetration and then provides a late challenge to Nelson’s shot which splashes in. The key to the play is actually Dwight Howard using his size and his hands to make sure Fisher can’t get back to Nelson by taking Fisher down into the paint. In my opinion, it was an illegal screen (which is rarely called in the NBA). Since it isn’t called, it’s a very effective move. Bynum hasn’t shown an ability to provide that kind of screen consistently and should be on his list of things to add to his repertoire. Besides the mismatch of Bynum on Nelson, the Magic actually have Rashard Lewis moderately open as Pau is shading in to help Bynum against penetration and Hedo Turkoglu is wide open in the corner as his defender is Radmanovic and he goes into the paint to help Fisher guard Howard. The effective screen and roll compromised the defense. It’s not necessarily Bynum’s fault, but he was involved in the initial breakdown.

11:08 – Offense: Another quick hit from the Lakers who show much more energy early in the game. Kobe fed Andrew with deep post position against Howard. He had beaten Howard down the floor and earns himself a slightly contested layup. 4 points so far for Bynum. Great job on this play of hustling down the floor in transition.

10:55 – Defense: The Magic try another pick and roll on the side with Nelson and Howard but Nelson goes away from the pick and Fisher deflects the pass. Bynum did a good job discouraging Nelson from penetrating while guarding Howard at the same time. Result is a turnover. Bynum is already starting to get winded. His defensive position is too upright.

10:50 – Offense: Bynum lags behind the play as fisher brings the ball up. Bynum is the pressure release out high at the free throw line. With Dwight Howard sagging off him to guard against Gasol’s presence in the low post, Bynum decides to shoot an uncontested 15-footer. Not a bad decision, as no one else had a better scoring opportunity, but it’s off the mark. I have to believe Andrew’s conditioning played a part in that one. Pau’s work down low earned Bynum that shot. Lakers fans would hope bynum could repay him with a bucket.

10:28 – Defense: The Magic don’t bring the ball near Bynum and Howard doesn’t go for the offensive rebound. Then again, neither does Bynum. Kobe shows more tenacity going after the rebound and corrals it. We’ll call that a rebound Bynum was in position to grab but didn’t find it necessary to chase. That’s the first laction from Bynum so far. Many more to come.

10:20 – Offense: Bynum sets the laziest screen in history doesn’t get in position to set a screen and Kobe doesn’t get any space because of it. Bynum doesn’t roll with any kind of authority and Kobe passes the ball to the other side of the floor. Pau has a mismatch against Rashard Lewis on the block. Pau shoots a turnaround that Howad goes over to challenge. Andrew floated into the paint and grabs the rebound and gets an easy putback. +1 for being in the right place at the right time, -1 for providing nothing early in the possession.

10:10 – Transition: The camera stays on Bynum and shows how low his lower jaw is hanging as he’s sucking in oxygen. Dwight is clearly not dragging as much on his close up.

10:00 – Defense: Courtney Lee and Dwight Howard pick and roll. Drew had actually fallen down, tripping over Radmanovic and was thus out of position. Kobe goes underneath the Howard screen so completely that Courtney Lee has a wide open shot from 19 feet. Bynum is bent over at the waist (fatigue) while the shot is going up and only stick one arm on Dwight Howard to see if he’s going to go after the rebound. When he doesn’t, Bynum is content to let Pau get the rebound. -1 on the whole team. No one boxed out their man. Seriously? Two minutes into the game and Bynum already wants to put his hands on his knees?

9:42 – Offense: Bynum takes the play off. A tipped rebound is gathered by Jameer Nelson and Bynum provides matador pressure. All five magic players beat him and Fisher to the other end of the floor.

9:36 – Defense: Four lakers in the paint in transition. Two Magic players in the paint and three on the perimeter. Sounds like a recipe for success? Rashard takes a three that misses. Guess who couldn’t get off the ground to get a rebound that goes over his shoulder to Dwight Howard? Mr. Andrew Bynum. He doesn’t put any effort into boxing howard out while the shot goes up, and then is surprised by the fairly hard bounce. His lack of fitness is killing his effort right now. When Howard gets the ball, Bynum walks to cover the space between him and Howard. Luckily for Bynum, Howard lost the ball starting his post move. +1 for being a big enough body that Howard can’t just bowl him over. -3 for lagging in transition, not boxing out, and giving up an offensive rebound.

9:14 – Offense: Another lazy screen for Kobe. Pau goes to work on the block and shoots a running jump hook. Bynum walks the entire possession. Howard’s lack of discipline in going after a blocked shot means Bynum is again free to try and snag an offensive rebound. He is fouled in the process. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the opportunity was a result of work. It was a result of drifting and height.

9:01 – Offense: Bynum does an okay job making himself available to teammates, but he does not try and back Howard into the paint to establish good position when he’s on the block. Instead, The Space Cadet splashes one home from three. Bynum makes no attempt at a rebound.

8:36 – Defense: Howard receives the ball against Bynum in the post but is a little bit outside the paint. He turns and faces. Bynum, in all his wisdom, gives Howard about four feet of space in a good defensive stance. Howard decides to shoot the Tim Duncan bank shot from 8 feet but misses ugly. +1 to Bynum for knowing Howard isn’t a great shooter.

8:23 – Offense: Bynum expends a good amount of energy. Pau finds him in the low post and Bynum feels he has a chance to score. Great footwork getting closer to the basket with one dribble, faking the drop step baseline and then coming back into the lane with a jump hook. The only problem is Howard. Scary athletic play. Howard swiped down to try and stop Bynum’s shot from going up. When he missed, he had time to gather himself and leap (from about two feet away) and reject Bynum’s jump hook. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone make a play on Bynum’s jump hook like that before because he releases it from above the rim. Bynum perhaps should’ve tried to go more into Howard’s body. +1 to Bynum for making that happen. +a little more to Howard for being who we thought he was.

8:12 – Defense: Bynum is providing baseline support against penetration with his arms close down by his sides. Turkoglu takes a dribble to the baseline getting around Gasol. This brings bynum over a little bit further to stop the penetration. Hedo makes the pass to a cutting Howard. Bynum reaches and draws a foul. Bynum’s mistake was only at the end when he reached. He was playing the penetration perfectly but Pau needed to recover more quickly to stop the pass from splitting him and Bynum.

8:10 – As Howard shoots free throws, Bynum has his hands on his knees and is in no mood to go after a rebound.

7:46 – Offense: Bynum isn’t involved in the play but drifts toward the rim to see if he could get another rebound. There isn’t need as Kobe hits that difficult left handed shot. +1 for putting himself in a satisfactory position.

7:39 – Defense: Pick and Roll with Nelson and Howard. Because Howard isn’t a threat from outside, Bynum just sags off and guards the paint. This might be due to laziness, but it’s a good strategy against Howard. He’s much more dangerous rolling to he basket than popping out for a shot. PnR doesn’t result in much for the Magic and they reset. They actually run the triangle offense to get Howard an isolation against Bynum in the post, but outside the paint. Bynum stays at home against Howard and Fisher comes over to help and Howard’s spinning jump hook with his right hand is off the mark.

7:12 – Defense: more pick and roll, this time with Hedo and Howard. Bynum plays it well, again, by sagging into the paint to prevent penetration and the roll. Hedo passes it back out to the perimeter. Rashard Lewis takes it into bynum’s body and throws up a shot hoping to draw a foul. Bynum didn’t go for a shot block, just kind of stood there. No whistle and the shot drops in anyway. Bynum was in no position to get the rebound if there was one. Perhaps due to the contact and thinking he was going to get a foul call, he found himself down by the L of Lakers on the baseline. +1 for providing a resistance to the penetrating Lewis. -1 for then disappearing from the play. SVG is annoyed that no foul was called.

6:49 – offense: bynum is on the weak side with Kobe who shoots the ball from 20 feet. Bynum makes no effort to go after the rebound while Pau actually has inside position against rashard Lewis. -1 for effort. Ariza would’ve gone after it, which is why I <3 Ariza.

6:40 – Defense: Nelson and Howard run pick and roll again. This time Nelson figures it out and dribbles all the way to the bucket. Bynum initially shows but Nelson keeps going and as Howard rolls, Bynum goes back to Howard. Nelson gets a free layup. Kobe was the help man but he was reluctant to leave Courtney Lee all alone on the three point line in the corner. He actually got frozen and guarded neither. Not really Bynum’s fault as Howard is such a threat and he had to make a decision on who to guard.

6:34 – Offense: lakers play 4 on 5 as bynum doesn’t get into offensive end before Derek jacks up a three.

6:11 – Offense: Bynum expends zero energy as Kobe has an iso on the other side. Kobe settles for the jumper that won’t go.

6:09 – Defense: Bynum does a great job racing with Howard down the floor in transition. He actually beats Howard down the floor. Dwight gets the ball in the low post, again outside the paint (Bynum fronted Howard nicely while he was in the paint to prevent him receiving it there). Dwight throws it out to the perimeter because he’s too far away. He and Hedo run pick and roll. Andrew and radman switch. Hedo shoots a jumper that is lightly contested by Bynum. Howard pushes Rad out of bounds and slams home the putback. -1 to the refs.

5:37 – Offense: Bynum facilitated the offense from the high post well, but doesn’t go towards the basket to exploit the Magic rotation. Pau goes up for a shot and Bynum is already retreating even though no one is guarding him. -1 for effort and/or awareness. Howard gets away with a foul on Pau that isn’t whistled. Lakers lead by 3. 13-10.

5:29 – Offense: Bynum isn’t part of the offense and Fisher’s airball is caught by Howard. Howard did a good job keeping the non-effort Bynum on his back. Good job by Howard executing the fundamentals.

5:20 – Defense: Howard isn’t involved in the offense and Bynum does a good job staying with him. Pau provides help on penetration and gets called for a foul. During the second free throw, Pau and Bynum both block out well.

5:04 – Offense: Bynum makes himself available in the low post, but doesn’t work to get good position and receives it too far from the basket. He passes it out and the ball won’t come back to him. Howard makes sure to block him out as the shot goes up.

4:42 – Defense – Excellent play by Bynum here (and all the Lakers). Turkoglu and Howard run pick and roll on the wing. Radman gets caught on the pick so Bynum slides over to stop Hedo’s penetration. Hedo drives baseline but Hedo runs out of real estate as Bynum moves his feet extremely well. Pau slid off Battie to take away Howard’s roll (Kobe then comes off Nelson to take Battie at the top of the circle) and radman and Bynum trap Hedo. Hedo ends up throwing it wildly into the backcourt to get a violation. That was textbook defense by the Lakers and it was due to Drew being able to cut off the penetration, something he has not been skilled at this year. +2 for moving feet brilliantly against a faster man.

4:14 – Offense: Bynum isn’t involved in the offense. He stays on the weak side not doing much of anything, which is sort of what he’s apparently supposed to do (keeps spacing optimal). However, Rad gets stuck at one point at the elbow with his back to the basket – not his forte. Bynum could’ve curled to the basket and put the Magic defense in a compromising position. Instead he just hangs out on his side of the lane. A long jumper goes up and Bynum doesn’t go after the rebound. Turns out okay as the Space Cadet drills it.

3:58 – Defense: Bynum gets caught out of position as Dwight Howard acted like he was going to receive in the post but instead spun around Bynum and goes for the alley-oop. Bynum was caught severely flat footed. Not only that, the pass is off the mark so Howard can’t convert, but because Bynum has given up, he is nowhere to provide any help and Battie gets an uncontested dunk. -1, but it should be pointed out that every big has probably been beaten at some point by Howard’s quickness. It’s the lack of effort to get back into the play that earns him the minus.

3:44 –Offense: Kobe is double teamed and Bynum does not make himself available at all.

3:34 – Defense: In transition, Bynum does a great job preventing Howard from establishing good position and boxes him out. Unfortunately, the magic get a three to fall.

3:20 – Offense: Quick offense this possession as pau receives it down low and Howard goes over to help. Bynum moves quickly to the basket but isn’t in a position to receive a pass, which is fine. He’s there to get the offensive rebound or get an interior pass should the defense get out of position. A slight problem with him going to the basket is that Hedo came over to help and clogged the lane for Pau. Unfortunately Pau gets the ball slapped out of his hands by Howard. That’s not really Bynum’s fault, that means Hedo’s man is open now if Pau could’ve found him. Bynum gets subbed out for Odom.

The couple games of “rest” for Lamar seem to have done him well. He is hustling on defense and making sure to box out his man when the shot goes up. He’s also much more active on pick and roll defense then Bynum.

2nd Quarter

12:00 – Offense: Bynum is back in as Pau and Kobe get to rest. Bynum immediately goes to work against the smaller Gortat. (Howard is still on the bench.) Bynum misses the jump hook in the lane and misses the put back when the rebound falls to him. He doesn’t convert but good energy to start the second.

11:38 – Defense: Gortat smokes Bynum down the floor which Stu makes note of. Then on pick and roll on the wing, Gortat and Anthony Johnson play it to perfection. Bynum shows on Johnson on the sideline and Johnson finds the rolling Gortat who shoots left-handed over Lamar. Nice bucket for the undersized center.

11:15 – Offense: Bynum goes to work on the same spot in the post (still a little too far from the basket). He sets up the drop step and goes to it. The turnaround jumper from 10 feet over Gortat splashes home. +1. 8 points for Bynum so far.

10:55 – Defense: Bynum is guarding Gortat on the interior who never receives the ball. Bynum is playing lazy defense, standing straight up and down. Fisher intercepts a pass on the play.

10:43 – Offense: Bynum on the weak side is content to watch the rebound go to the Magic.

10:37 – Defense: Magic in quick transition. Lakers completely go to sleep. Ariza gets beat off the dribble by Hedo. Sasha reaches in without moving his feat. Lamar is there to challenge the layup but Hedo feeds Rashard who is wide open for three in the corner and he nails it. Fisher tried to get to him but was super late. Bynum didn’t box out anyone even though Gortat was standing right next to him. -1 for not boxing out.

10:20 – Offense: Ariza drives and dunks over Gortat and gets the foul. Spectacular play. Andrew not involved.

10:10 – Defense: After a foul. Magic run late into the clock. Hedo takes it strong to the hoop and Bynum is super late on the help. Hedo draws a small amount of body contact (Bynum was trying to jump sideways). The foul goes against Bynum. Questionable call but fairly common. Bynum reacts demonstrably.

9:49 – Offense: drew isn’t in view. Lamar gets called for a moving pick.

9:35 – Defense: Bynum lets Gortat roll to the bucket on the high pick and roll. Gortat doesn’t get the ball and Drew is lost. He’s running around not guarding anyone. The shot goes up and because he’s got such a height advantage, he manages to take the rebound away from Gortat. Good job trying to recover, but he shouldn’t have needed to recover on that one.

9:20 – Offense: Ariza and Bynum run a weak side pick and roll. Bynum sets a good enough screen to earn Ariza an open jumper from 19 feet that he drains. +1 for Bynum’s screen.

D 9:10 – Pick and roll. Gortat gets a moving pick call. Bynum was in good position to stop penetration by Johnson.

O9:00 – sasha shoots a three that doesn’t go. Bynum uninvolved.

D8:40 – bynum does a great job blocking Gortat out. The ball goes to his side but he just lets Fisher get the rebound. He never takes a step towards it.

O8:44 – PnR mismatch at the elbow with Fisher. Andrew slips the screen perfectly and his height allows him to receive the alley-oop pass from Fisher. Magic read it, but couldn’t do anything about it. Bynum is fouled and misses the dunk. +1 on footwork to get open. Jason Lezak interview. Free throws: Bynum gets the first and the second.

D8:38 – howard is back in. Andrew shows well on a pick and roll with Nelson. He’s in a great defensive stance and forces Nelson to pass. No one has picked up Howard who found his way into the paint and bynum is far away and tries to recover. Luckily, the Lakers deflect a pass that goes out of bounds. Good sequence by the Lakers. To force the Magic to operate with only 10 seconds on the shot clock. More PnR with Nelson. Andrew contests Nelson’s shot that misses. Lakers can’t get the rebound (Howard’s activity caused it) and it goes out of bounds back to the Magic. +2 for Bynum so far. Magic get a jumper and Bynum actively boxes out Howard. No one boxed out Hedo, but Hedo doesn’t catch the rebound and it goes out of bounds. Lakers catch a break. +1 more on effort from Bynum.

O7:55 – Bynum not involved in the offense. Fisher draws a shooting foul.

D7:40 – Bynum involved in PnR with Howard and Hedo. Howard gets away with a questionable screen. Hedo takes the jumper and makes it over Bynum.

O7:15 – Bynum isnot’ involved as Kobe has a mismatch iso against JJ Redick.

D7:10 – Howard/Nelson PnR. Bynum rejects Nelson’s runner. Hedo tracks down the ball. Bynum holds his ground against Hedo’s layup and causes him to miss. Howard picks up the rebound and is fouled by Fisher and Bynum. Bynum lucky not to pick up his second. Bynum is alert on the free throws. +1.

O6:53 – Lakers run the triangle. Weak side screen and roll Bynum and Kobe. Bynum rolls and help is late so kobe lobs it over the top for Andrew to drop it in. easy deuce. Great pass by kobe. SVG calls timeout.

D6:38 – Bynum and Howard have tea together at the weakside elbow and after a while, the Magic turn the ball over on a traveling call without either big man moving more than a foot in any direction.

O6:22 – Bynum’s size shields Hedo from getting to Ariza who shoots the three. It misses. I’m fairly sure Bynum meant to do that, so +1.

D6:15 – Howard establishes DEEP position in the middle of the paint with Bynum on his back. Jump hook good for two. Bynum didn’t fight for position at all. -1 for letting Howard get so deep. (Again, to be fair, no one is able to keep Howard out on every possession.)

O6:06 – Drew does not establish himself as a target in the post—standing with his knees locked. And then he just floats around the lane like a piece of bark floating in a river. However, when Fisher drives and Howard goes to help, Drew does go towards the basket for the possible rebound. Fisher makes a reverse layup.

D5:45 – Magic go early in the shot clock with a Redick three. Bynum boxed out Howard and Ariza gets the long rebound. Ariza misses the contested layup on the one-man fast break. Bynum didn’t get above a light jog and when he got to the free throw line he saw what was happening and turned around the other way.

O5:30 – Howard/nelson PnR again. Kobe holds Nelson going around the pick. Bynum still plays his sagging defense. Kobe picks up the foul. Drew will sit for Pau. Howard immediately goes to work against Pau and draws a foul in the lane. Bynum 12 points, 3 rebound. 5/9 from the field. 16 minutes. Not bad so far.

Pau and Howard are both active. Pau does well during this stint. Howard struggles a little bit. He might need a breather too. He goes out at 2:28. Bynum comes back.

O2:23 – Bynum uninvolved.

D2:03 – Bynum involved in Gortat/Nelson PnR. Nelson gets a jumper to fall.

O1:50 – bynum uninvolved.

D1:33 – Bynum boxes out no one.

O1:25 – Bynum runs the floor well but doesn’t’ get it right away. He then disappears from the play.

D1:15 – Bynum barely boxes out Gortat. Lakers get the rebound.

O0:54 – Bynum just kind of leans on his man when Pau’s fadeaway in the lane goes up.

D0:35 – Bynum does okay defending the paint. But doesn’t do a good job boxing out, or going after a rebound. Magic get a second chance and convert it. Drew did force Nelson to kick it out on the penetration, but Courtney Lee nails it from three. It was a great pass and nothing anyone could do about it. The Lakers were in scramble mode.

O0:10 – Last try for the Lakers. Bynum is momentarily matched up against Nelson but Fisher takes the three instead. Bynum isn’t in the mindset to go after the rebound as Gortat puts a body on him.

D0:05 – Orlando’s last second look is way too good. Point the finger on this one at Kobe who left Courtney Lee wide open and decided to guard no one in the paint. I was livid when I saw this the first time around. The Lakers give up way too many good looks due to laziness because they think the clock will run out. Lakers lead 44-52.

Dwight Howard has 9 points, 7 boards, and 2/7 FGs. Not exactly lighting it up. Bynum’s size has bothered Howard enough that he’s a little bit off his game.

3rd quarter

Bynum has a good start the third quarter. Showing good hustle. A few nice offensive moves. He is in a bad defensive positions a couple times and is forced to foul Howard. Still shows no nose for how to get himself in position to get rebounds (offensive or defensive). Howard struggles a little bit but does good work as well. When Bynum goes to the bench, Howard shows more activity and picks up a few rebounds. He’s also more aggressive offensively.

4th Quarter

Defensively Bynum struggles. He doesn’t rotate well, doesn’t play the PnR well, and has mixed results one on one with Howard. At 6:15 – Bynum let’s Dwight get an offensive rebound (no box out) and then Dwight gets an alley-oop because Bynum is flat footed.

Offensively, he draws more attention from Howard, which allows others to have just a little more space. One of Bynum’s habits that comes out is that Bynum floats towards the basket when the shot goes up if no one guards him, but he doesn’t go to the rim with purpose.

During Drew’s second stint after a quick breather, Drew never touched the ball on the offensive end. It’s a result of him being on the opposite side of the ball and not making himself a big target in the post. Drew doesn’t get into the game for meaningful minutes in crunch time.

Preview & Chat: Orlando Magic

kwame a —  January 16, 2009

Spurs-Magic

Records:

Lakers 31-7 (1st in West), Orlando 31-8 (2nd in East)
Offensive Rating: Lakers: 110.7 (1st), Orlando: 108.1 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Lakers: 101.8 (5th), Orlando: 97.7 (3rd) (Orlando is the only team in the top 5 of both stats besides the Cavs and the Lakers)
Projected Lineups: Lakers- D. Fish, Kobe (Big Cajones) Bryant, Vlad, Pau, Drew Bynum; Orlando- Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard.

Lakers Coming In: Laker fans love to argue about 1) whether Vlad should start, 2) do we need Lamar, and 3) when will Andrew be the player he was evolving into pre-injury. Well, I think Vlad should start because when he is on we don’t lose. In games in which he has 10 points or more, we are cool 10-0. I definitely think we need Lamarski because he does things that help this team win. This is evidenced by his team high +311 for the season (Kobe is second with +281), and since he as come back from injury he has 7 assists and 1 turnover in nearly 60 minutes of action. Last, I see signs of Drew becoming an elite offensive player. In his last 5 games he is averaging 18.2 points on only about 12 shots a game. However, for Drew to be the player he wants to be (a 20-10 guy) and the kind of player the Lakers need to win a title (a defensive anchor), he is going to have to improve his rebounding (only 5.2 per game in those same last 5 games). There have always been whispers about Drew’s motor, so I want everyone tonight to look at Drew’s effort on the boards, not the total number of boards he grabs, but just the effort he puts up against Dwight, it should be telling.

Why Isn’t Orlando On Our Minds:
Good friend of the site (and the best thing about the Clippers) Kevin Arnovitz kindly sent along some stats and tidbits about Orlando and our upcoming matchup with them. Looking at those stats and thinking about how well Orlando is playing got me to thinking, we may be worried about the wrong team(s). For the first part of the year we saw many comments about Boston, and lately the comments have been about Cleveland. But how can we leave Orlando out of our waayyyyyy to premature list of fantasy finals opponents. The Magic are making an astounding 10.44 three-pointers per game. Orlando is on pace to set a new NBA record for most made three-pointers in a season. And its not just like the Magic have a good offense, they are in the top 4 in opponent points per game (93.6), opponent field goal % (42.8) and opponent 3pt field goal % (33.7) (the only other teams in the top 4 of these 3 categories is Cleveland).

Three Guys You May Not Hear Much About: 1. Marcin Gortat, leads the NBA in offensive rebound rate at 17.1, he is a guy to keep an eye in the future, as the Magic have the option to put him and Howard into the game at the same time. 2. Courtney Lee (a rookie from Western Kentucky) and 3. JJ Reddick (finally finding his groove), over the last 5 games these two have hit a combined 21-33 from the 3pt line (damn near 64%).

How Did Dwight Howard Get To Take Shaq’s Nickname, While Shaq Is STILL Active:
A testament to the great young center’s likeable personality, Shaq has not made any public complaints about Howard getting the moniker of Superman before he retires. Just as the Magic have been overlooked by the mainstream media, Dwight Howard’s individual exploits seem to be slightly ignored. There seems to be a consensus (since freaking early December) that Lebron James is the MVP of the 08-09 season. Besides Kobe and D-Wade, Howard has a claim to be in the argument. He satisfies the Hollinger crowd (3rd in overall rebound rate with a 21.4, 4th in PER with a 26.29), the Nightly Highlights crowd (leading the league in dunks) and makes it easy for the box score lookers to appreciate him with an aesthetically pleasing 20 and 14 a game.

Last Time We Played: The Magic beat the Lakers 106-103 earlier this season on Dec. 20 in Orlando. Kobe Bryant had his season high of 41 points in that game. Sasha got tapped on a late 3pt shot that would have put us up by 2, and we got tagged with our only back-to-back losses of the season. Our backcourt was really all we had going for us last time, as Kobe and Fish combined to drop 68 pts (23-47). However, the rest of the team contributed only 35 pts (13-40). For the Magic, Jameer Nelson had a strong game with 27 points, and Howard anchored them with 18 and 12.

Keys To The Game:
Stop Dwight Howard. How does a team do this? Get him away from the hoop. From 5 feet and closer the dude shoots about 65%, but from 6-10 feet he drops all the way down to 42%. This is a big task for Drew and Pau, and they have had to deal with some good/tall/physical bigs this week (Yao and Duncan). Drew will have to fight and use his base to keep Howard from establishing deep post position, especially in transition. Even when Howard gets the ball, the Lakers should not double, at least not in a predicable fashion. Double teaming, combined with the Magic’s great spacing is what creates opportunities for their ridiculously accurate 3pt attempts. Also, the Magic will run a lot of pick and roll/pop, down-screens and baseline screens, all to create open 3’s. We may want to try to go over the top of some of these screens in an effort to chase their shooters off the 3pt line and contest shots. This will require disciplined close-outs, something we have had trouble with in the past. Moreover, Nelson is a deadly 51+% on 2pt jumpers. When Nelson is involved in the pick and roll, we cannot go underneath, but we can’t help off other people, because he will find them. I guess that means we try to give him the CP3 treatment and force him into the teeth of our defense, but we must always be leery of the lob to Howard. When we are on offense we should obviously try to get Howard into foul trouble. Drew has been playing really well of late, and this could be a big game for him on both ends of the court. Also, Pau should have an advantage against Lewis on the offensive end (although Lewis is a matchup problem on the other end, so we may see a lot of LO tonight), we should really make the effort to use our bigs on offense this game. One other thing the Lakers may want to keep in mind is that Howard is a bad free-throw shooter. He takes the most in the league (10.9 per game) but only makes 58.1% of them. Will Phil go to a Hack-a-Howard if we are involved in a close game in the 4th quarter? What do you guys think about such a tactic?

When/Where To Watch: 7:30 pst, 10:30 est, 3:30 a.m. (Sat.) for long-time FBG’er Renato in Spain; ESPN (national), FSN West (local), Palms Sports Book with a margarita (Kurt).

Update: Luke and Sasha are probable for tonight’s game, hopefully giving the Lakers the type of depth they enjoyed earlier in the season.
- Kwame A.