Archives For January 2009

1st Quarter

The Space Cadet is starting tonight instead of Ariza or Luke (injured).

12:00 – And we’re off an auspicious start! The jump ball is whistled dead and goes the Lakers way, although I have no idea why and Joel doesn’t bother to tell us why. That’s great. Something confusing happens and neither announcer deems it necessary to clarify the situation.

11:45 – First possession the Lakers go to the oft used Fisher-in-the-low-post set. Fisher gets two point-blank tries and blows them both. Shocked, I say.

11:27 – The Hornets will throw up their initial shot with a David West jumper over Pau. Nope.

11:02 – Too close. Peja’s fake the three, one dribble to the midrange pull-up shot is short.

10:33 – David West draws first blood. Same pull-up jumper over The Spaniard this time goes in. 2-0 Hornets.

9:49 – Disjointed offensive possession by the Lakers. Kobe got stopped and Fisher ends up trying to penetrate from the corner. Bynum gets the feed inside and draws a foul. The Lakers bench is still standing and wishing they didn’t promise to stand until the first field goal is made. Bynum misses the first makes the second.

9:20 – Radmanovic throws his easy layup off the backboard like a young man meeting Scarlett Johansson. that is to say, it was spastic and overeager. Speaking of Ms. Johansson, she is not not not ugly. Yeah, that’s right. I busted out the rarely used triple negative.

8:57 – Double team on Pau and Fisher benefits with a wide open three. The Bench Mob can finally sit down. I was starting to feel bad for them. If they made it 4 minutes without a field goal, does Sun Yue just say, “aww forget it. I’m sitting. You guys are professional basketball players and can’t score. That’s pathetic.” 4-4

7:50 – Lakers look like they could use a Garmin Nuvi. They are lost. And then Kobe bails them out with a behind the back dribble that frees him for a jumper over Rasual Butler. Bucket. 6-6.

7:11 – Chris Paul has been relatively quiet. I feel it’s time for him to show his stuff. I’m psychic. It’s official. He gets a good screen and hits a 17 foot jumper.

6:19 – CP3 to TC6 (doesn’t quite have the same ring to it) alley-oop. 12-9 Hornets “stinging” the Lakers. Bad Pun Alert #1

5:50 – Pau’s turnaround hookshot comes up shorter than the Federal Budget.

5:03 – Kobe runs through a gauntlet of teal-clad defenders, draws a foul, and hits the running tear drop to spite his face. I’m pretty sure that cliché doesn’t apply here. Oh well. You can write your own live blog. Kobe converts the three point play 16-12 Hornets still lead.

3:04 – Lamar uses his own “crab dribble” (Lebron clearly traveled, btw) and picks up a couple free throws. FSW shows a great slo-mo of a chris paul tear drop on a prior possession. The ball never rotated more than a couple degrees. Great demonstration of the difficulty and skill of that shot.

2:35 – Sasha subs into the game and takes about three seconds to decide to shoot. THE MACHINE WILL STOP AT NOTHING! NOTHING! He drills the short corner three. Lakers still trail 24-18.

1:50-James Posey says, “BUT MOOOOOOOOM” Except in this case, Mom is Joey Crawford. I’m not sure he’s going to win this argument. Just sayin’. Kobe gets fouled out at the top of the circle (whistle sounds) and then when Kobe runs past, Posey fouled Kobe again as Kobe went up for the shot. Crawford whistles Posey for a technical and Posey can’t believe it. I’m okay with the call (Posey’s second foul was fairly late) but I also understand his confusion. If players can go for a second or two and still get continuation, defenders should be able to go for a second or two and still foul. New rule: a player can earn TWO fouls on the same play. Write that down. I’m a genius. After the free throw situation, Kobe’s Lakers are still down 27-20.

1:40 – Flopper award goes to: Chris Paul. Sasha hits him on the arm as he shoots and Chris acts like he got hit by Brian Urlacher. Sorry dude, that was too much.

1:13 – Sasha picks up a second foul going around a screen and he tells Phil not to take him out. Phil plays genie and grants his wish.

0:46 – Sasha wants to get embarrassed. He’s on an island against Chris Paul. The instectoids don’t take advantage.

0:15 – CP3 again on an island against Sasha. Chris bangs into Sasha 35 feet from the bucket and gets another foul. That call was questionable at best. Questionable or not, that was Sasha’s third and we’ll not be seeing him again for a long while.

0:10 – Lakers will try and get the last shot of the possession.

0:03 – Lamar gets a lefty scoop to fall.

0:00 – Peja has a wide open shot to end the quarter that is too long. Radmanovich puts on his Chevy Chase impersonation and falls down face first into the lap of the first row ticket holder. I’m not sure what happened there. Maybe he wanted some popcorn. The result was Peja had too much space to shoot and the ensuing vacuum screwed up his usually text book form.

2nd Quarter

11:11 – Posey shows off his Olajuwon moves and hits a running hook over Radman. The Space Cadet’s a stout defender, to be sure. ::throws shoe at tv::

10:13 – Bynum shows some “energy” and dunks the ball around Hilton Armstrong. I’m not sure why this play isn’t run every time. David only beat Goliath once. The other 99 times Goliath would’ve eaten David as an h’ordeuvre.

8:51 – Lakers force a 24-second violation. It wasn’t great defense so much as disjointed offense. Without Chris Paul directing traffic, the Hornets had a little difficulty getting the ball into threatening position.

Whoa. Vlade Divac must have found some wonderful eateries in Europe. He’s carrying a lot of extra baggage. And, no, a psychiatrist would not be the right person to see about it.

8:15 – I <3 Ariza. He forces a steal at half court and then hustles for the ball. Sitting down he throws it to a streaking Radmanovich who finishes the layup with Posey fouling him hard. Beautiful sequence if you’re a Lakers fan. Lakers closing the gap, 35-36.

7:15 – Maybe it wasn’t CP3’s absence before that caused problems. They have a careless turnover even with him on the floor. Chandler felt the relentless pressure of Lamar and threw it into the backcourt.

7:03 – Lamar does his patented make one, miss one routine. Any other imitators will need to pay him royalties. 38-36 Hornets.

Kobe and Pau are back in. and of course, the right shot is a Lamar 3 pointer. What bizarro world are we living in? even more bizarre, Lamar nails it. First lead for the Lakers.

Hornets don’t let them keep it.

5:43 – Perhaps it’d be a good idea to pretend to guard David West from 18 feet. Just a thought. The Lakers can’t even manage to look like they are guarding him. 43-39 Hornets.

Lamar ignores PJ’s wish for a timeout and drives hard to the rim earning a bucket and a foul. Lamar converts it. Phew. 43-42 Lakers behind again.

5:00 – Hilton Armstrong is a beast on the boards. Well, that’s what LO is going to say, anyway. Armstrong gets an offensive rebound and a nice running hookshot to go. ::currently shoeless::

4:18 – The Lakers fans dust off the AIRBALL chant for Peja. That was muy feo. Where’s Pau??? He has been a virtual no-show.

3:59 – Fisher gets creamed drawing a charging foul on a 3 on 1 break. That’s going to leave a mark.

3:44 – Kobe has just turned the ball over for the second time on a sideline trap. Stu tells us that Kobe needs to avoid going to the sideline. Ya think? It would also help if the rest of the Lakers didn’t stand and punch their time cards on the other side of the court waiting for a Jesus and Lazarus moment.

3:14 – Kobe tries his hand at a three. It was pure all the way. Devin Brown, you got served.

3:03 – Lamar hyperextends his knee on a weird defensive play. He goes back to the locker room. He might not be back for a while.

2:22 – BYNUM! Hello young fella. He’s showing some energy again as he follows his own miss and gets fouled on the putback. Great stuff. Let’s see more of that! 50-48 going into a timeout with free throws coming. Bynum hits both and we’re tied.

2:11 – That was the fastest defensive two second call ever. Oh you’ve never heard of the defensive two second call? Me either. But Joey Crawford has. What a bald-headed ninny.

1:40 – Kobe is doing the right thing, passing when he’s double/triple teamed and his teammates aren’t hitting squat. Fisher misses so badly it leads to a NO fast break.

0:54 – I think that’s three or four straight turnovers by the Lakers. Yikes. 57-50 Hornets.

0:34 – Paul shows off his unstoppable teardrop again. This time it’s a cross-cultural learning project as he takes the Spaniard a la escuela.

0:01 – Paul hits a ridiculous shot over a couple defenders on the inside.

0:00 – Kobe gets the last shot on a great inbounds pass to half court and drills it as the lights come on. I’m not even going to mention Devin Brown is a knucklehead and fouled Kobe right before he took that shot. 61-56 Hornets take the lead into the intermission.

3rd Quarter

Lamar’s status is unknown. Officially it’s a hyperextension of the right knee. Pau is 0-4 with 0 points.

11:13 – Kobe matches david West as both of them hit three pointers. 63-58 Hornets.

10:50 – Maybe Kobe will just score another 81 points tonight. He seems to be the only Laker willing to make a bucket. Lamar will not return with an MRI coming tomorrow.

10:32 – Tyson Chandler has a beautiful free throw technique. It’s a little bit like a break dancer at the charity stripe.

10:01 – Six Pac! CP3 tries to find chandler rolling for the alley-oop and bynum spikes the pass into the first row of spectators.

9:30 – David West. How about we guard him? kthxbye. 69-65 Hornets.

8:57 – Pau doubles his scoring total with two free throws. 71-67 Hornets.

8:35 – West showed up to play tonight. He puts some man sauce on that one. A nice jump hook over the outstretched hands of Gasol.

So far Paul has 23 points and 10 assists with 0 turnovers. That’s some nice contribution.

8:01 – The Kobes score again. I’m calling them the Kobes because he’s the only one who seems to be able to score. David West answers back.

7:22 – david West is human after all. He misses.

7:10 – Rainbowwwwwwww. Kobe nails it from long distance. 77-72 Lakers trailing.

6:22 – mistmatch? Chris Paul vs. Andrew bynum at the arc. Awkward. Hornets don’t make them pay.

6:00 – Kobe’s rain dance paid off. His long three rattles home after almost bouncing out.

5:35 – chris Paul gets a three point play. Kobe just goes down and hits another three. 80-78 Hornets. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!! (zoolander fans?)

5:04 – Lakers tie it up. Not for long. Peja burns them with the corner three.

4:27 – Kobe isn’t playing against David West but he is taking the challenge personally. He drills another jumper. 83-82 Hornets.

3:48 – The crowd is ready to erupt as The Spaceman has a wide open three and he decides that it’s too early for histrionics. Brick.

3:17 – Fisher drains his three attempt. Lakers take the lead

2:52 – All of Staples Center breathes a sigh of relief as Peja’s wide open three (radman, I’m looking at you) misses. A Chris Paul foul takes us to a timeout. I’ll remember to breathe now.

2:06 – This game has long since turned into a defense-optional affair. It’s like all this talk about the effect of 7SOL has somehow made these teams want to shoot threes all over the place.

1:33 – Great hustle by Bynum to track down a long rebound, get it ahead to Kobe, who passed up a three to feed Pau under the rim for an easy dunk. Great play.

1:04 – Lakers prove to be bullet-dodgers as Peja misses what seems like his umpteenth open three.

0:35 – Kobe and Bynum two man game. Kobe drills a long three.

0:30 – Chris Paul whirling dervish shot in the post against fisher. Money. 87-92 Lakers up.

0:00 – Lakers finish the 3rd up by 3. 92-89.

4th Quarter

It’d be nice if the Lakers played better defense on their penetration. Whoever is defending West and Peja need to not sag in. they should just stay on their man.

11:30 – Hornets strike first with two Rasual Butler fouls.

Josh Powell sighting. He has two negative plays to start the quarter. He doesn’t stop West from getting an offensive rebound and he gets called for a traveling.

10:21 – Great hustle. Ariza tries to get his miss and it gets tapped out towards the New Orleans bench. Pau saves it. Kobe wastes the possession and throws up a prayer hoping to get fouled. The zebras (outdated moniker) don’t bail him out.

9:52 – david West needs more muscles. He clearly doesn’t work out enough. Yikes. He and Derek go to the same body sculptor.

9:51 – I learned something new. You can’t closed-fist contact the basketball. Hilton Armstrong is guilty of this little-known infraction.

9:10 – Kobe does the righty scoop in honor of Lamar and gets it to go.

8:50 – David West answers with a nice 15 footer of his own.

8:31 – If at first you don’t succeed… Ariza takes his billionth shot from downtown and finally hits it. 94-99 Lakers lead.

8:10 – David West gets his 30th point.

7:39 – Rasual Butler ties the game at 99 with his short corner three. Kobe’s on the bench and the Lakers will need to figure out how to score without him setting the court aflame.

7:10 – Or not. Kobe will check back in.

6:38 – A weak chant of “defense” breaks out. Lakers follow suit and allow david west to get his 34th point.

5:58 – Ariza gets a great steal and Fisher has himself a contested layup. He feels there is contact but the refs don’t see it that way. He is unable to convince them of the error of their ways and earns a technical. Wasted opportunity. 104-99 Hornets up after the T.

5:52 – The majestic Bynum has checked back in to re-ignite the twin towers. Posey beats them with a three from the corner. 107-99.

4:48 – Mr. West is going to win this one by himself. He raises up over The Spaniard to put the Hornets up 109-99.

4:07 – Ariza is left all alone…again. And he misses. Again. ::smacks forehead:: Did someone order a Coors Light? The Lakers are ice cold.

3:02 – David West might have gone to Xavier. I’m not sure. The big ‘X’ tattoo seems to indicate the possibility. He is now sitting on 39 points. 1 shy of his career high. 111-102.

2:29 – Lakers get a much-needed stop. Bynum bulls his way into an offensive foul. That should pretty much do it.

1:53 – 24 second shot clock violation on the teal marauders. No big deal for them.

1:22 – You know what’s awesome? Watching Chris Paul being guarded by a big and the big looking around like someone played a practical joke on him. Senor Gasol, I raise my glass to your befuddled bewilderment.

0:45 – Kobe saves some dignity by taking Rasual Butler’s. Kobe two-hand blocks Butler’s breakaway layup. Sick play. If Kobe did that at the park, Butler wouldn’t be allowed back on the court till Friday. Too bad it doesn’t mean anything. Hornets are too far ahead. Fisher hits a three off the turnover.

0:30 – That’ll do it. What a sad fourth quarter that was.

0:00 – 116-105 is your final count here. Man, I would love to thump David West on the ear right now. He killed the Lakers tonight. I guess that is a back-handed way of tipping my hat to him. Lakers fans go home disappointed. Hopefully they’ll make it up tomorrow night in Alameda County where we’ll be treated to the sweet sounds of Nellie Ball.

Things the Lakers did well:

  • Limited the Pick and Roll leading to an alley-oop
  • got open looks

Things the Lakers could’ve done more awesomely:

  • stopped the Juggernaut that was David West
  • hit a shot in the 4th.
Olympics Day 16 - Basketball

Records: Lakers 27-5 (1st in the West) Hornets 20-10 (4th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.9 (2nd in league) Hornets 109.1 (8th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.4 (4th in league) Hornets 104.7 (8th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hornets Chris Paul, Rasual Butler, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Tyson Chandler.

PAU! The best Laker player over the last few weeks has been Pau Gasol, he has been insanely efficient, killing people with his jumper and playing smart at the rim. Rather than just another breakdown, in his honor — and in Spanish — here’s a little fun from the other night. VAMANOS!!

Lakers notes: I got an interesting email from Kevin Pelton talking about the Lakers defense during the latest winning streak. His perception is that the Lakers have toned down the aggressiveness some — they still double but have had fewer traps and such.

To me, it looks like the Lakers coaches got the team to gamble less — they are staying at home, picking their spots with pressure. Rather than try to get a turnover on every possession, they have packed it in some and decided to give up jumpers (one which they generally close out pretty well).

What are all of you seeing? It’s something to watch tonight and through the next run of games.

Last meetings: The first game was on Nov, 12 and it was a vintage early-season Lakers performance. They jumped out big on the Hornets early and crushed them. The Hornets end of the bench made a run but the game was never close.

Then the Lakers used a game — the second night of a back-to-back — to break out of their slump on Dec. 23. Again the Lakers played good defense, jumped out early and the game never was really in doubt.

The Hornets Coming In: What seems odd is that despite being a 20-10 team, this year’s Hornets just don’t strike fear into teams the way they did last year. At least it feels that way to me. What has changed? Well a little bit of everything.

When you look at the numbers, the Hornets offense is fine — eighth in the NBA in efficiency, down about two points per 100 possessions from last season. It’s not a big drop, this is still a very good offense that can score in transition or with the pick-and-roll in the half court, but it’s just been a little off. The key reason is that their turnovers are up slightly, last year they were second in the NBA in lowest turnover percentage per possession, this season they are 12th.

But the Hornets defense has taken a step back as well. The reason — they foul a lot more. Last season the Hornets fouled the lowest percentage of possessions of any team in the league, just about 18 fouls for 100 field goal attempts. This season it is more like 1 in four field goal attempts ends up in a foul. That is a lot of easy points for your opponent.

All the swings are not dramatic — the offense is just off a little and the defense is just a little worse. But combined, it is just enough to take a team from scary good to just good.

Keys To The Game: In the last two meetings, the Lakers jumped out early on the Hornets, and while there were fourth quarter runs against the bench the Lakers dominated those games. If they can jump out early today, that may demoralize the Hornets and lead to another easy win.

But that will not be easy. After the last two Lakers wins the Hornets may need this one for their own peace of mind, to know they can beat the Lakers. I expect them to treat this as a real statement game, to be especially focused and play particularly hard.

The Lakers length bothers the Hornets – it’s a bad match up for NO. But the Lakers defenders have to be active to take advantage of that. Particularly on the pick-and-roll. The Hornets use Tyson Chandler or West (Chandler rolls hard to the hoop, West pops out for a midrange jumper), and often they do both on the same play. Chris Paul uses those to probe the defense, and the Lakers need to use their length to take away his options.

One thing to key on defensively — if the ball goes to West or Posey it gets stuck. Those two shoot first and don’t pass much.

And, close out on Peja fast. The Lakers cannot let him get hot from the weak side three.

The Lakers dominated the glass during the last two wins, and that needs to continue tonight. Also, Gasol and Bynum should be able to get transition baskets if they get out and run.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples Center, with Fox Sports doing the local. National, NBA TV will have the game meaning those of you using League Pass broadband will be scrambling for a feed. Which sucks.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  January 5, 2009
Luke Walton #4

The other day the comments became a debate of the worst announcers in the NBA for those of us watching stuff on League Pass. (Congratulations Portland, you win!) But as was pointed out then, if that is all we have to worry about, things are pretty dang good.

I like the Lakers having the best record in the NBA better than I liked them being third. But, just as when the Lakers were third, being first in January and $4 will get you a latte. Play it one game at a time (this is a tough month on the schedule for the Lakers) and we’ll talk in March.

•Luke Walton is out with sesamoiditis, which you can read more about here. Basically, it’s tendonitis of the big toe area, and it hurts like a… well, this is a family blog. But you know the words, probably in several languages.

The cure for this is rest, and special shoe inserts. Walton will be wearing a boot for the next two weeks, followed by a re-evaluation. So, we wait at least that long. And, as this is January, no need to rush him back. This is the advantage of a deep team.

• Trevor “The Cobra” Ariza got the start in Walton’s place, over Ariza’s objections. (When was the last time a guy complained about starting? Even Marbury doesn’t try to talk the coach out of that.) He likes his role coming off the bench and closing out games, and with good reason as it has been so successful.

First things first — I don’t care who starts. Walton, RadMan, Ariza, Odom, Vic The Brick. Well, I’d care about the last one. But the point is that who finishes is who matters, not who starts. And Ariza finishes, something that is not going to change.

Ariza as a starter may or may not work out, but frankly nobody (not Phil let alone us fans) knows yet. Bad first quarter for that group, great third quarter. This is the time of the season to experiment, try out everyone but Vic as a starter. The rotation does not need to be set in stone yet by any means.

• LeBron James traveled. Well, in my world, but what I can get away with at the YMCA and guys can in the NBA are radically different. And I couldn’t pull off the “crab walk” anyway; I’d look more like the melted butter in the ramekin next to the crab legs. That said, whatever the rule is all the officials need to be consistent on it — I say if LeBron makes that same move 10 more times he gets away with it. I personally don’t really care one way or the other, just be consistent with the call.

• Pau Gasol really has adapted to playing with Andrew Bynum, and he has become insanely efficent. He has learned to use the space the big body on the block creates, and is finding holes in the offense to get his shots. And, with his offensive arsenal, when he can pick his shots he makes them.

Bynum is still spotty, but improving, particularly on the defensive end. Where he is needed the most. Last night during the Lakers third quarter run to take charge of the game, Bynum owned the glass. He made key plays, even smart fouls (stopping a possible momentum-changing dunk by Bantum) and basically filling his role beautifully.

I think what some people perceive as his problems was a case of him wanting to do a lot and pushing things when he got his big contract, rather than letting the game coming to him. But that has started to change. He is active on defense, he is moving his feet well and getting points in the rhythm of the offense. That is exactly how he earns his contract.

• In the last 10 games, Kobe is shooting 41.7% from three.

• For all my concerns about Derek Fisher and the PUJIT, he’s hitting a lot of them lately.

• I just started reading the latest from Sarah Vowel, The Wordy Shipmates, about the Pilgrims (it was a Christmas gift). I’ll send along a report in a couple weeks.

NBA: OCT 28 Trailblazers at Lakers
Records: Lakers 26-5 (1st in the West) Trailblazers 20-13 (7th in the West)

Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.7 (3rd in league) Trailblazers 113.4 (2nd in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.5 (4th in league) Trailblazers 109.5 (23rd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Trailblazers Rudy Fernandez, Blake, Bantum, Aldridge, Oden

Lakers notes: For fun today, from 82games.com, the win percentages of some common Lakers lineups (basically, how often they outplay the opposing fives on the floor):

Fisher-Bryant-Radmanovic-Gasol-Bynum: 47.1%
Fisher-Bryant-Walton-Gasol-Bynum: 46.1%
Farmar-Vujacic-Ariza-Odom-Bynum: 63.6%
Farmar-Vujacic-Ariza-Odom-Gasol: 52.9%
Fisher-Bryant-Ariza-Odom-Gasol: 70%

Bottom line, the starting fives the Lakers have are basically .500 against the opposing starters, but the key Lakers bench lineups win, and the closing group is very good. This points to a couple other things: How important that Laker depth is during the season and how much it matters who finishes games rather than who starts.

One other quick note: I have read Bynum taking some heat in some Lakers forums for not stepping up, not scoring enough lately. I think Craig W. summed up the Bynum situation well in the comments:

We all want Shaq to arrive this week and Phil wants Bynum to concentrate on defense and let his offense develop gradually. He already signed his contract so he should now do as the coach wants; not as the fans want. The all-star nomination may not arrive when he wants it, but the trophy might just be a good substitute.

The Trailblazers Coming In: Bad news for both the Blazers and all of us fans of good basketball — Brandon Roy is out tonight with a hamstring injury.

But it should be interesting because now Rudy Fernandez gets the start. And, according to Blazer homer Henry Abbott on TrueHoop, this will mean more minutes for Jerryd Bayless, the rookie out of Arizona, which Henry says is a good thing (despite the fact Bayless is shooting 27.4% eFG% and has a PER of 2.3 so far this season).

He said a big question for the Blazers tonight is which LaMarcus Aldridge shows up. For all of you that think Odom can be a mercurial player, he is loved in the locker room. Check out what Ric Bucher wrote about Aldridge in ESPN the Magazine:

BEING A Texan, Aldridge has a particular love of red meat. So it was especially wounding when he thought that Roy had left him out of a trip to a Brazilian barbecue joint in Memphis early last season. So that’s how it is, he thought, and steered clear of Roy everywhere but on the court. It wasn’t until the summer that Travis Outlaw convinced Aldridge that he had simply forgotten to tell him about the dinner. The issue is a memory now, but that kind of response to a perceived slight is what the Blazers work every day to avoid. They can’t afford not to…

Aldridge is shooting 50% from the floor and scoring nearly 20 points a game the last month. The key to stopping him, by the way, is to not let him get hot from the midrange. Easier said than done, if he is on it is very difficult to stop. I personally believe less in streaky shooting than most, but because of the confidence issue with Aldridge, you need to not let him get rolling.

One other thing, you should go read the preview (and basically everything) at Blazers Edge, which is one of my three favorite NBA blogs (even though I have no love for the Blazers).

Previous Meeting: In the first game of the season, the Lakers new aggressive defense overwhelmed the Blazers from the start, and the Lakers looked dominant and they cruised to a 96-76 win. It will be interesting to see how Fernandez and Bayless deal with the defense, now that it is the second time around.

Keys To The Game: Things are pretty straight forward against the Trailblazers — they can score in bunches but do not defend all that well. The Lakers will get their points in this one, how easy the win is depends on how focused they are on defense.

That has to start on the defensive glass — the Trailblazers are the best offensive rebounding team in the league, grabbing 32.9% of their misses. They grab one third of their missed shots, which is a crazy good number. The Lakers are a pretty pedestrian defensive rebounding team, but Bynum and Gasol need to come focused tonight (same with Odom and really the whole team).

Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have to be focused on defense on Aldridge, he is the one guy who can carry the Blazers if he gets hot. The Lakers have to keep him in check.

Along those same lines, Bynum has to outplay Greg Oden, he tends to get up for the other big centers in the league and he needs to tonight. Also, the Lakers cannot sleep on Joel Przybilla and Travis Outlaw. Particularly Outlaw — in crunch time they will go to him in isolation.

Where you can watch: Fox Sports in LA with a 6:30 tip off. Nationally, League Pass and thee other usual suspects.

Preview & Chat: The Utah Jazz

Kurt —  January 2, 2009
Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 5

Records: Lakers 25-5 (1st in the West) Jazz 19-14 (9th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.7 (3rd in league) Jazz 108.0 (12th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.5 (4th in league) Jazz 104.5 (9th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Jazz Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Milsap (maybe), Mehmet Okur

Lakers notes: Interesting Derek Fisher stats courtesy Mike Trudell over at the official Lakers Blog:

Pre Farmar Injury:
28.0 minutes; 10.5 points; 3.3 assists; 2.5 rebounds; 0.9 turnovers; 41.3% FGs

Post Farmar Injury:
36.2 minutes; 14.8 points; 4.0 assists; 2.8 rebounds; 1.0 turnovers; 49% FGs

Sure the minutes have gone up, but notice that the shooting percentage has as well, and he is not turning the ball over much more in those minutes. Basically, he is playing his best ball of the season.

If you want to look back at the year that was (by player), check out LA Ball Talk.

Celtics Considering Marbury? Rather than my thoughts, here are the thoughts of Dex 40 from the comments:

From the article linked here, “Marbury easily ranks as the most accomplished low-cost veteran that the Celtics can add to their bench in-season. Boston also knows it has the option to simply release Marbury without significant salary-cap consequences if he fails to click as a backup or proves unwilling to accept a secondary role.”

This is all true. Marbury is an accomplished low-cost veteran like Telly Savalas in The Dirty Dozen, whose only drawback is that he’s insane and has a tendency to fire his gun randomly in the air right at the moment when the slightest noise will compromise the mission. The slightest distraction may jeopardize everything, but what the heck, Telly doesn’t cost much and he’s been in a lot of wars.

It’s a relief to know that the Celtics won’t suffer significant salary-cap consequences if Marbury wreaks havoc on team chemistry and morale for a month or so. They can just release him!

Easy as Easy Cheese.

The Jazz Coming In: Welcome to the Western Conference, where the Jazz are on a 47 win pace but would miss the playoffs if they started today.

The Jazz have just not been able to get healthy. Tonight they will be without Carlos Boozer, who is in the unfortunate position of waiting for the swelling to go down in his knee so they can operate. Since he went down, the Jazz are 11-10, they miss what he brings in the paint.

Paul Millsap and Jerrod Collins may be back tonight, but both are coming off injury layoffs.

The Jazz still have Deron Williams, one of the best point guards in the game. The book on him lately has been to back off, make him beat you with a jumper but don’t let him get in the paint (the Lakers pack it in a lot anyway, so this should fit right in). The reason is his shooting is off, he shot 54.4% eFG% last year and just 47.8% this season, From three he dropped from a 39% shooting to a 32% shooting.

Just in time for the Lakers game, Williams may be breaking out of it., The 76ers followed the pack it in book recently and Williams went 11-18 from the floor, 4 of 6 from three and had 27 points as the Jazz cruised. If he is hot the Lakers need to adjust and get out on him.

A few other Jazz worth watching. The always hot and cold Andrei Kirilenko has been more hot than cold lately, and the team is a +13 per 48 when he is on the court. Mehmet Okur has picked up the scoring load with Boozer down, averaging 20 a game in the last 10, but he is not doing it efficiently. Okur is shooting 45.4% (eFG%) as well as just 31% from three in his last 10 games.

One guy to watch off the bench is rookie Kosta Koufos, who is getting just 15 minutes or so a game but has looked good the couple times I have caught a Jazz game, particularly on offense where he is very polished. Check out what ESPN’s David Thorpe said about him:

Want to get an idea of how diversified Koufos’ offensive game is? Here’s how he scored his buckets in the Jazz’s big win over Dallas: Offensive-rebound putback, layup off a dive in low-high action, step-through off a loose ball, race to the rim from the left-hand side, left-hand dribble and right-hand layup over Erick Dampier, rim-to-rim sprint and dunk, pick-and-roll left-hand finish, dive-to-the-rim dunk in low-high action, right-hand hook (and 1!) off a pick-and-roll.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers need to have the offense working tonight — the Jazz struggle to keep up with teams that can score a lot. The Lakers can score a lot, when they run the offense and are focused.

With Boozer out and Milsap just back from an injury, the Lakers should try to take advantage inside. AK-47 will help Utah there, but as Reed pointed out in his review post of a couple days ago the Lakers just have advantages inside against everyone and they need to exploit that more. If AK-47 is helping out inside, Luke and Ariza need to make him pay with points, Radmanovic can help here as well.

The Jazz are a team that protects the paint on defense — they pack it in. The Lakers need to hit some outside shots to loosen that up. Sasha could have a good night, but basically someone from the Lakers will have to be hot from outside. That Kobe fellow can do that as well.

On defense, you have to make Deron Williams a shooter, not a passer. Yes, he can shoot and he hurt the 76ers that way a few nights back, but like Nash and CP3 you don’t want Williams with 15 points and 12 assists, you’d rather make him score, and do it with the jumper. That will put a lot of pressure on Fisher tonight, who has to step up, as well as Bynum and Gasol in the paint to take away layups but recover to their man as well. Also, watch the Jazz try to post Williams on Fisher, they did that in the playoffs in hopes of getting fouls and getting Farmar on the floor (Williams destroyed Farmar). Fish has to be smart and get help.

Also, the Lakers need to be ready to bang, and they need to hit their free throws. Utah just wears on teams physically, the hold and push, frustrate and foul. The Lakers answered that just fine in the playoffs, they have to do it again tonight.

Where you can watch: Fox Sports in LA with a 7:30 tip off. Nationally, League Pass and thee other usual suspects.

First of all, I just want to say Happy New Year!  And, Thank you to Kurt, the other contributors, and all the faithful commentors that make this site the daily (multiple times) read that it is.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

The recent post by Kurt that focussed on Lamar Odom and the post by Reed on our team after 30 games got me thinking a lot about the make up of the team, our best lineups, and our roster in general.  As Reed pointed out, we are a top 5 team in both Offensive and Defensive efficiency.  Despite some inconsistent effort and some spotty and sloppy play, the Lakers have been a truly dominant team.  And up to this point, in this forum, we’ve focussed a lot on our Strong Side Zone and how that change in philosophy (when executed properly) is a challenge for teams that face us, especially when they see the defense for the first time.  However, one thing that we have not really discussed in depth is what we’re doing on offense, why it’s working, and who is doing what in making our offensive attack remain one of the best in the NBA.  And in the last 10 games, we’ve seen a change in the lineup that I think has helped us execute on offense and will continue to help us execute on offense for the rest of the season.

For the last 10 games, Luke Walton has been put back into the starting lineup.  And if we go back to the recent past, this is not a new concept.  Two seasons ago, Luke was a mainstay at Small Forward.  But for the first 20 games of this season, Luke had been relegated to mop up time in blowouts or spot duty due to foul trouble to our other SF’s.  But now that he is back starting, we can once again appreciate the things that Bill’s son brings to the table and how that is helping this Laker’s team on offense. 

First off, Luke is a fantastic fit for this offense.  His ability to handle the ball, see the floor, execute the simple and complex pass, post up, penetrate, and shoot the ball is the exact skill set required for a wing player in this offense.  Sure, he could shoot the ball better (an understatement, I know).  And sure, he is not the quickest person whose first step scares defenders.  However, the combination of a good enough jumper, his repetoire of hesitation moves, knowledge of angles, and know how to use his frame to create space for himself to get his shot off are traits that make him an underrated offensive player.  Add to the fact that he has (as mentioned frequently, but bears repeating) a tremendous basketball IQ and he is the type of player that can be a glue player for any motion offense as he knows what to do with the ball.  He is unselfish enough to pass to the open player while also being smart enough to know when to shoot.

X’s and O’s wise, the most important thing that Luke brings to the offense is his want to execute the Triangle in all phases.  What this means is Luke focusses just as hard on making the right pass or making the shot that he takes as he is on moving/cutting off the ball and setting screens to free up his teammates.  If you watch Luke in any given game on any given possesion, you’ll see a player that is doing what he is supposed to be doing on almost every single play.  This level of execution is what makes the Triangle offense one of (if not the) most difficult offenses to defend (especially when every other player is acting in this same manner).  For example, Luke often finds himself as the initiator of the offense from the strong side guard postion.  And when Luke makes an entry pass either to the wing or to the post, he cuts hard and then executes the motion in the offense superbly.  By cutting hard and setting the screens that he’s supposed to with the proper timing and at the proper angle, Luke is consistenly getting his teammates the half step they need to get open.  I mean, how many times have you seen Luke pass to the post from the strong side, cut to the weakside low block and set a good screen that either frees up Gasol/Bynum to roll to the basket?  How many times does he set this same screen for Kobe?  And then when the defense reacts to this and tries to cheat into the lane to defend the curl play, how many times have you seen Luke seal the man that he screens to free himself up for an easy lay up or draw a foul?  These are plays that Luke executes with great frequency that other players that play SF just don’t do on a consistent basis.

Earlier, I also mentioned Luke’s ability to handle the ball.  In our starting lineup, having a third ball handler that can run the fast break or initiate the offense is a key to the offense running smoothly.  When you think back to last season, Odom was that third player.  But this year, with Bynum and Gasol in the lineup together, and Radman starting, we really didn’t have that third player.  But now that Luke is in the starting lineup, he’s getting outlet passes and running the fast break, he’s initiating offense as a primary ball handler, and he’s setting up his teamates for scores.  Once Luke got back to getting minutes consistently, we’ve seen an increase in easy layups and dunks for teammates in the half court, on the fast break, and on the delayed break/early offense.  Luke is masterful at hitting cutters at the right time and at identifying the trailing big man and hitting him in stride to finish at the basket without having to dribble.  When watching the game, these may seem like simple, fundamental plays.  But how often were we seeing them before Luke began getting consistent minutes?

Overall, I understand that Luke is not the perfect player.  As I said earlier, his jumper is not reliable and his lack of quickness (on offense and defense) is obvious.  But, in the end, I like the fact that he’s starting again.  I like that players are running and cutting harder because they know that he’s looking for them.  I like that players are getting open off his screens.  I like that we have another post up option in our half court sets.  I like that Kobe and Fisher don’t always have to bring the ball up and initiate the offense with the first unit.  But most of all, I just like that we’re back to running our sets with more consistency.  Earlier in the season, I commented for a week straight that we were running too much Pick and Roll and isolations (from the wing and the post) in our half court offense.  We were running these types of sets so often that I just stopped saying it.  But for the past ten games, it’s been different.  It’s not all because of Luke, but I do know that before he started playing, it just wasn’t happening.  But I’m not the only guy watching.  What do you guys see?

-Darius