Preview & Chat: The Cleveland Cavaliers

Kurt —  February 8, 2009

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball
Lakers: 40-9 (1st in West), Cleveland 39-9 (1st in East)
Offensive Rating: Lakers: 114.5 (1st in league), Cleveland: 113.2 (3rd in league)
Defensive Rating: Lakers: 105.7 (7th in league), Cleveland: 101.6 (2nd in league)
Projected Lineups: Lakers Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Cavaliers Mo Williams, Wally Szczerbiak, Lebron, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Episode VI: Return of the Odom: Bill Bridges thinks we have have seen the start of a different Lamar Odom:

In the 1984 finals, his team was bullied, his power forward literally clotheslined. The Lakers were Intimidated and then finally beaten by the Boston Celtics, a team the Lakers had never beaten since their move out west.

Fast forward a year. Pat Riley heard a year of talk about how his team was soft, good enough for show time but not tough enough to win. It was then. prior to the rematch that he told his team what his father had told him. “Just remember what I always taught you. Somewhere, someplace, sometime, you’re going to have to plant your feet, make a stand and kick some ass. And when that time comes, you do it.”

It was the spirit of Lee Riley that Lamar Odom channeled on February 5th 2008. “Sometimes you’ve just got to make a stand. Tonight, we made a stand.”

If history repeats itself it must do so on 24 year cycles. The finesse team from Los Angeles goes into Boston and kicked sand into the bully’s face. As it was in 1985, so it shall be in 2009.

“Cathartic? I don’t know what cathartic means. I didn’t go to college” Kobe Bryant may not know what cathartic means but Lamar Odom embodied it.

We might have witnessed the transformation of LO. For so long he has tantalized us with a unique combination of size, speed, and skills. Always disappointing instead with inconsistency and lack of focus and fortitude. Can a moment be so cathartic for an individual? Can transformation happen in an instant?

Stephen Jay Gould amended Darwin by showing that evolution happens in an instant (geologically speaking). Punctuated Equilibrium rather than a gradual crawl. Evolution is Revolution.

What are the traits keeping LO back from greatness. Not skills. Not size. Not athleticism. But focus, determination, concentration, will. Maybe he finally got it. Finally realized he has to let go to move forward. Phil started the process by having LO come off the bench for the first time in his life. Humility shatters the illusions of the ego that prevent growth. By letting go, maybe LO now can play in the moment. Present, focused, determined.

“Basketball is a humiliating sport, it can humble you right in the middle of the game,” Odom said. “But tonight I just left all that behind.”

Character is shaped not by success but reaction to failure. Evolution only occurs change in environmental stress favours a new variant of the species. Without stress no growth. Andrew Bynum’s injury, especially due to the deja vu nature, created cruel and violent stress. But also an opportunity for growth and evolution. How this team, on this trip, reprising the character of 1985 has responded to this stress been gratifying to us all. How LO, in this game matched the passion of KG, looked the bullies in the eye and, in the end, won the game, might be the true blessing arising from the misfortune in Memphis.

We sensed the change even during the game. Any other game, you would despair at seeing LO at the line with one free throw to tie and two the win. But for the first time since he became a Laker, somehow I knew he would sink both. And he did.

The last week in Lakers Land: From kwame a.:

Sat, Jan. 31: Humming along on the roadie, Drew goes down and is left screaming in pain. Can’t help but think the worst, even while drinking at a wedding reception, can’t stop thinking about Drew being out for the year.

Sun, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Sunday is a subdued affair, waiting for the word on Drew, only to hear the damn doctor couldn’t look at the MRI. Even while enjoying some delicious fat tire ale, and watching a great football game, I’m nervous as hell bad news is looming.

Mon, Feb. 2: Kobe comes out firing early at MSG and you knew he was in that mode. After a virtuoso performance, he ends up with 61, which tempers the earlier news that Drew is out for 8-12 weeks.

Tue, Feb. 3: A day to re-think just how amazing Kobe really is, the fact he has done it for a decade straight, all with the same cold-blooded determination. We are all lucky to be able to have seen his career.

Wed, Feb. 4: The team buckles down in the 4th after some rag-tag play, and led by Pau and Kobe beat the Raptors, 4-0 on the trip, but Gasol goes 45 minutes, how in the hell do we win in Boston tomorrow without AB?!?

Thurs, Feb. 5: Against all odds, and sometimes 3 zebras, the Lakers prevail in OT, showing the requisite “machismo” the mainstream media has lusted for all year. Fans and players know its only a regular season game, but the win felt like it could have important psychological ramifications for the team going forward.

Fri, Feb. 6: Talking heads and typing bloggers argue and debate the BOS/LA classic, arguing over whether the refs were at fault for the C’s loss, what the win meant for the Lakers and what the loss meant for the C’s. Such reaction to a regular season game is rare, even forcing Kurt to reaffirm FBG’s commitment to civil dialogue.

Sat, Feb. 7: While thinking this would be a slow day, I get a text message that we made a trade. I immediately doubt it, but then, there it, confirmed on FBG, Vlad for Morrison and Shanny.

For many teams this type of week would be the most memorable in franchise history. For the Lakers, it’s just another week. With a chance to break the Cavs perfect home record, I can’t wait to see what this next week brings.

Cleveland Coming In: Everyone talks about LeBron and what Mo Williams has brought to the table, but the reason Cleveland is one of the top teams in the NBA is defense.

They are second overall in defensive efficiency (lowest PPG because they play at a slow pace). They do it by limiting shooting percentages with solid perimeter defense and some long arms and big bodies in the paint that can block and alter shots.

Part of that is Ilgauskas, he is quietly the key to this team. They need his scoring as a big, his presence and length inside. With him in the lineup they score fore more points a game. With him they are 28-4, without him 11-5.

Last Time They Met: The Lakers handed the Cavs their worst start of the season back in January. We can take nothing much from that game, the Cavs were without Big Z. and Delonte West. As stated above, with Z in the lineup they are a different team.

Keys to the Game: One of the things that has been a problem for the Lakers this season is teams with a center who can step out and hit the jumper, pulling the help defender away from the basket. That is a basic tenent of the Cavs offense — Big Z lives in the corner as a spot-up guy on the three. The Lakers are going to have to defend the P&R without a simple backstop, they need to be smart about it.

On the other end, we seem to always talk about getting Gasol involved, and the Lakers need to because he is hot — in the last four games he is shooting 69.4%, scoring 27 per and adding 13 boards.

In the last meeting Kobe did a good job denying LeBron and making him work for his points. I expect to see that again, the goal is to force the other Cavs to beat you, the problem is that they can in this meeting far better than they did in the last meeting

Kobe Bryant has to play with his team, he cannot get sucked into a one-on-one deal with LeBron. It’s one thing to do that against the Knicks (and shooting 60% while doing it) but in this game it is not a winning strategy.

Where to watch: 12:30 on ABC, after a pretty interesting Spurc/Celtics game.

Kurt

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349 responses to Preview & Chat: The Cleveland Cavaliers

  1. By the way, it’s just homerism for my countryman, or Pau has a good chance of getting the Western conference Player of the Week?

  2. Thank you Kurt, the homerism was getting ridiculous.

  3. ahhhhh…
    what a week!
    savor this moment fellow fans, savor this week, it doesn’t get much better than this.
    don’t worry about tuesday and the thunder, stay in the now, and just enjoooooyyyyyyyyyyy!

  4. I felt a bit of the Ewing Theory with our game today. Kobe’s lack of energy out there seemed to spark the rest of the team into stepping up. With their increased intensity came better team production and a smoother offensive attack. I am starting to think this is going to be a trend with this team…

    As a post earlier this week (I think Reed’s) brought up, we have not quite “established our identity” as a team. When it comes to this, I think it starts at the top, and the killer focus that Kobe exhibits seems to be starting to wear off on the club. I don’t see us as a team that is going to take nights off. Assuming Bynum is back to good health for a playoff run, the injury ::gasp:: may be a blessing in disguise..It seems like everyone is finally getting it.

  5. When asked about the Lakers’ apparent lack of toughness early in the season, Kobe mentioned their 6 game Grammy road trip as a test to determine how the team would come together and how focused they were.

    On top of that, the injury to Bynum obviously adds to the stress of an extended road trip.

    If Lamar is able to continue his good play, should we consider leaving him in the starting lineup with Pau and bringing Andrew up off the bench when Andrew returns?

  6. Great win, and I love the rebounding and defense. Honestly, what has me more concerned right now is the Spurs, more than who will be coming out of the East. However, I do agree that these are the type of psychological pushes that Phil gets the team ready for, and will know how to leverage them when the time comes. Very encouraging..

  7. Great game. It made me think that Cavs will be more inclined to make some personal changes. I don’t think they could realistically hope to beat LA in seven games.

    Lakers lead NBA _and_ have left no games with Bos/Cle/Orl. Bos/Cle have, IIRC three or four games inside the Big 3. So Lakers have the easier road to the HCA during the p-o. I know, injuries happen, Jazz will be strong, nobody should underestimate Spurs, but for ow Lakers are clearly the team to beat.

  8. Obviously, this road trip was very encouraging.

    Fisher has been playing very well, with no Turnovers in the last 5 games. Odom was awesome tonight, and Pau is great.

    We have two players at the moment that can get us 15 Points-10 Rebounds a night, and a third who is hopefully going to be back in time for the playoffs. (knocking on wood for Andrew)

    What was most impressive to me was the number of ways the Lakers demonstrated they can beat you.

    Need a dominate performance against a match-up? Kobe hangs 60+ on you.

    Need a tough team game with poise? Ask the Celtics what we can do.

    Need a great effort from your big men in the paint when your superstar is down? Tonight was an outstanding example of that.

    This trip showed heart, poise, and toughness (both physical and mental). Other coaches around the league must be having nightmares about the Lakers.

    Who do you scheme for? What is the plan to beat them? So far, the only thing that seems to work is “Hit a ton of threes, and hope that the Lakers aren’t shooting well.”

    Will it be tough for the rest of the season? You bet.

    Do I think we are looking good? You bet.

    Everyone said that 4-2 would have been great for the road trip. 1-1 between Boston and Cleveland and we would have been happy. 2-0 with great performances? Sweet sweet sweet.

  9. Man, after a great game and a win, it’s actually pretty fun reading all of the comments and re-living the moments of the game, picturing and replaying the exact moves and memorable points of the game.

    Go Lakers!

  10. I really enjoyed seeing Odom chew up a whole front line like that. But I have trouble believing that he has finally found his stride and will be a 20-10 guy for the rest of his prime. What is so frustrating about Odom is that he has gone through these periods before with flashes of brilliance, but eventually it all dies down. In particular the post all-star game part of the 2006 season comes to mind. He was ridiculously solid, even hitting his 3pters, then in the Phoenix series he owned Marion, but the next year he fell back down to earth.

    Also these Lakers have to be one of the most impressive streak stoppers ever. Obviously the team that ended the Lakers 33 game winning streak takes the cake but 19-12-23 is pretty impressive.

  11. The Dude Abides February 8, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    @257-LJ, that’s a great point. That may be the best rim-denying game Gasol has played as a Laker. Besides Kobe, who had LeBron most of the time, you know who else took turns guarding LeBron? Trevor and…wait for it…Luke! I was amazed how well Luke guarded LeBron in the half court. I think we kept the right two SF.

  12. juan de la cruz February 8, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    do you guys know where i can find any laker game torrents?will be much appreciated.

  13. What does Lamar Odom mean to the Lakers? To me, this game was the answer to that question. No, it wasn’t the gaudy stats, with his 28 points on 13-19 shooting, with 17 rebounds and a block. It was all the little things that he can do that make him special.

    Yes, Lamar does not have nearly the statistical consistency of Gasol, the killer instinct of Kobe, the professionalism of Fish, the size of Bynum, or the energy of Ariza. But, there is one thing that Lamar does that no one else on this team can do: Be a vocal glue guy during the game.

    What does this mean? We’ve all heard of vocal leaders, and vocal supporters, but a vocal glue guy? The difference is, while vocal leaders are meant to push the team in a certain direction, and vocal supporters are meant to pump up teammates, a vocal glue guy is someone who holds the team together in a game, giving us a sense of unity and solidarity.

    During ABC telecasts, they always have a “WIRED” section, where they attach a mic to a player and randomly play snippets of audio from various times during the game. When the Lakers are on ABC, Lamar is always the guy to wear the mic. During today’s game, there were three snippets in particular that I found indispensable:

    1.) During pre-game, right before the game starts, the team makes a circle with Lamar standing in the middle, where Lamar orates a pseudo-sermon (one that particularly stands out is, “I know we all love road kill, but now it’s time for us to get some home cookin’,” referring to the Lakers being an excellent road team and now coming home to defend their home court). Most of the time, I can’t make out what Lamar says (maybe I’m too much of a hick), but is there any other Laker who would do that? My answer is no.

    2.) During the game, Lamar was constantly talking to his guards. “I got you, baby. I got you, baby,” he said, in reference to being behind a guard ready to slide over and help in case of penetration. Given Bynum, Gasol, and Powell’s reserved demeanors, I can’t imagine any of them doing this quite as well as Lamar. This type of communication, while somewhat mundane, makes our defense work, and Lamar is probably the best at it.

    3.) On several putbacks or dunks, Lamar roars at the end of them. There were at least three dunks today when after Lamar finished, he let out a primal scream as he turned to run back up the floor. I doubt we’ll ever see Kobe show that much emotion, and Gasol only screams when he thinks he got fouled. This energy, this passion, makes Lamar singular on this team.

    Most nights (excluding tonight) many of us are busy criticizing Lamar for his shortcomings, whether it be mental concentration, will-power, or drive to succeed. Most Lamar supporters counter with his versatility, his ability to defend 4 out of 5 positions, ball-handling, rebounding, cutting, and now improved jump shot. However, I think that Lamar’s true value lies in his holding this team together. He may not get the All-Star attention like Gasol or Bynum, and he may not be the face of the team like Kobe, but I contend that he may be more important than all of them, for we can win as a group of talented individuals without Lamar, but with Lamar, we become a team.

    PS: I’ve constantly said that there’s no way we’re going to be able to sign Lamar after this season, but with the VladRad deal, I think we have to now. Lamar is too skilled and too valuable as a glue guy to just let him walk. Let’s hope Mr. Buss has similar sentiments.

  14. 315: Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by Luke, unfortunately it destroyed my “Law of Luke,” which was that he could only guard other 6’8″, slow, white guys. I yelled that so many times that my roommate in college who doesn’t even care about the NBA, let alone the Lakers, knows who Luke Walton is, and can pick him out of a crowd.

  15. Between the 3 monsters in the east, the Cavs are the least impressive, at least against the Lakers. I think maybe a lot of that has to do with lots of matchup problems. Since we do not defend the 3 well, it is understandable why Orlando was the only team of those 3 that we couldnt solve.

  16. By the way, if you want a sick stat, the Lakers have scored 100 points or more in their last 20 out of 21 games, and the game they didnt score a 100, they scored 99….incredible.

  17. I don’t understand why people whine about LO even as he had a monster game and absolutely destroyed Cleveland at home.

    Uh , H-E-L-L-O he happens to be one of the best players on the squad – why not gratefully accept what he has to offer?

  18. Joel-I love to read through a thread and see “stop…kobe time”. Its always a great post, and always timely!

    How about Phil freaking Jackson. There’s always some sob story that gets a heavy push for coach of the year because he took a non-playoff team and made them a 6 seed, but what Phil has done, especially with guys like LO, Sasha, Luke, Jordan, is the essence of coaching. Finding roles for players and making them learn to carry out their responsibilities is the hardest thing for a coach to do, and Phil has been the best at that. When it is all said and done, his second tour with the Lakers will define Phil Jackson’s legacy. He is dispelling any myth (can’t win without talent already there, can’t coach young players) and is having fun.

  19. LO has been great, and the team has shown some real stones on this road trip. Now let’s just stay constant and grind out the rest of the season.

  20. Great, great win tonight. I want to bottle up how great I feel about the Lakers right now and save it. Looking ahead though, fresh off a grueling road trip and huge victories, I don’t feel very good about the game against OKC. First game back after a long road trip against a bad but feisty team that’s playing well seems like the perfect recipe for a let down game.

    Amazing piece on Lamar and he certainly delivered. Came up big for the biggest games of the season. Even if his play isn’t as good for the rest of the regular season, that’s big. Focus in big games and big moments is something I don’t think we’ve really ever had from Lamar but if he’s turned that corner that championship banner looks a lot closer.

  21. Interesting stat: During their long time on the bench at the start of the 4th quarter LO and Kobe cured cancer AND beat Big Blue in a speed chess match. After the game the team drafted a bailout bill that leaders of both parties in the senate were quoted as being, “Fair enough.”

    There’s been a lot of hyperbole here the last few games, but these have easily been the 2 biggest games of the season. We saw some of this during the playoffs last year. Yeah it’s not the playoffs, but there’s not much a fan can do about that. So if they feel enthusiasm now, they’re going to treat symbolic victories as significant victories. I don’t take it as a sign of anything too disturbing. It’s just a sign of the team’s increased popularity (a sign of good fortune), with the addition of the espn.com audience. I do appreciate Kurt’s pruning of the emptier posts though.

    I don’t think this guarantees anything in the playoffs, but that’s why these home-cort assisting victories are important. We can win in Boston, but we also know Boston can win in LA.

    More than anything else, I just love this team, man. They are easy to root for.

  22. Joe – good to see the positive comments. Long overdue, but glad you’re starting to see things through purple and gold lenses.

  23. Odom: “We’re playing for perfection.”

  24. (sorry for double post)

    323- Kwame A. I was thinking the same thing today. Whenever I see Trevor shooting with confidence, I think of PJ’s strengths just as you summarize. PJ has allowed Ariza to become the great player he always had in him. 2 other of the league’s darling coaches- Stan Van Gundy and Larry Brown- couldn’t find a place for him.

    To say nothing of PJ’s strategy to let the Cavs succeed shooting early in the game because they’d go cold later. Cleveland scored less than half as many points in the second as in the first.

  25. Why the need to feed K.Ding the stuff about Vlad wearing Vans to practice? No need to throw dirt on Vlad, I just don’t think there’s much to gain from that, and he did a lot of stuff for local charities, just let the guy leave.

  26. Hey, you hold any team to 30 points in a half…and anyone has to be impressed with that

  27. I remember when the Celtics were unbeatable. Then there was Christmas.

    I remember when Orlando was just killing everyone in their path, even our boys. Then Jameer went down.

    I remember everyone talking about the C’s getting their thing back and then we came into town and the Spurs followed.

    I remember when Cleveland was unbeatable at home. Then our boys rolled in.

    Last, I remember everyone thinking were were on a crazy roll, beating Utah and SA, before getting our buzz killed by Boston.

    Teams play great and seem unbeatable until they get beat. Lets all slip it back in and zip our pants. We have seen some serious growth and that is expected. We have a young team and Phil Jackson is one of the great coaches in all of sports. We can feel pretty good that the whole is really starting to be greater then the sum of its parts but lets actually see if this holds true through June.

  28. 302, Kurt – THANK YOU!

    Sorry for the caps. But I mean, come on people, I’m as ecstatic as anyone. Great win, Odom played fantastic. But what’s with all the championship declarations? There’s still a lot of season left to play.

    I really hate to say it, but after reading a lot of these comments, I can see why some Laker fans are so disliked. We get a bad rep because the loudest of us are usually heard. These bipolar reactions after one game are just….not FB&G.

    I’m a little saddened, the threads here are becoming just like on every other forum. Nonsensical homerism. I guess it was bound to happen, but I still miss the 50-post or less threads where every post added something worthwhile to the discussion.

  29. 332, P Ami – I’m applauding you right now.

  30. The win against the Cavs means NOTHING if Delonte West didn’t suit up. Not to mention the fact that Pavlovic wasn’t available after he tweaked his ankle. This win should have an asterick next to it. IMO.

  31. 335. You do realize that Bynum was out, right?

  32. Well, I feel more at home now that my mundane comments become more or less average with the flood of new comment-er(r)s ;)

    I was away from Thursday til Sunday, and wow, that’s some present I had waiting. 6-0 AD (Andrew Down) !

    The only thing nagging me is that our success really springs from NOT having drew. I mean, we were a very well-oiled machine offensively after we acquired Gasol, and I think this is just us going back to everyone’s comfort zones + Ariza – Vlad.

    The rise of Drew was promising because that meant we had one offense oriented, finesse lineup of Gasol-Odom-Kobe up front while also having one defense-oriented, long lineup with Bynum, Ariza and enough firepower up front to have Kobe focus on defense.

    And while I understand beating C’s is fun, we forget that we did that twice (nearly three times) last summer too.

  33. I’m really loving the way the team is playing right now. They’re playing with a mental edge that keeps them in every game (epitomized by the 11-0 run after the Cavs had taken that 12 point lead), they’re executing the offense, and turning up the defensive pressure in crucial parts of the game where stops are most important. I can’t say that this is the best we’ve played all year (we are 41-9 so there have been other parts of the season where we’ve looked extremely strong), but I can say that as we get deeper into the season it’s very promising that we’re still playing very well and that we seem to be finding our stride against the better teams in the league. It’s also very encouraging that while Andrew is out injured, that other players (like LO) have stepped up their game(s) and proven to be the capable players that we all thought they were.

    As far as this site goes, I think it’s a testament to the content and the many great contributors that there are 300+ posts on a single thread. I think many have come to FB&G to get high quality discussion on the team they love and look to Kurt, Reed, Kwame A., Bill Bridges, nomuskles, Drrayeye, and many, many others to provide thoughts and insight that give a perspective that can’t be found anywhere else on the web. So, I encourage all those that participate in the discussion to try and follow the lead of these guys and the many others who comment (I know that I left a lot of people out…there really are sooo many fantastic contributors) and try to bring a quality to this site that makes it (imo) unparalleled. I can say for certain that everyone is welcome here. But just like when you come into someone else’s house, please understand the rules of the house and try to keep the place clean. You can have free run of the liquor cabinet, but be responsible because if you puke on the floor you will get booted. Just my two cents.

  34. NBA Mythology in Disarray

    I believe that fans and pundits alike always subscribe to a mythical NBA scenario. In this most recent mythology, leading up to the most recent Laker road trip, the Lakers were to lose at least 2 games away–splitting home and home victories with Cleveland and Boston–and then try to develop or prove their toughness for an ultimate East/West showdown in the playoffs.

    Boston would ultimately become the East coast champions, Labron would become the NBA MVP as a consolation prize, and the NBA championship would hinge on who got home court advantage (probably the Leprechauns).

    When Bynum went down in game #1, the Lakers lost their chance to prove toughness through seasonal play-and their chance at home court advantage. Their only chance would be through an unlikely “Gasol style” Hail Mary trade. Many Laker fans who bought into this mythology actually gave up on the Lakers until next year.

    The Laker victories on the road, under extreme circumstances, successively at Boston and Cleveland have shaken the mythologists to the core. How could the Lakers be soft when Lamar pats KG on the butt and makes two rebounds and the Lakers squeak out a victory? How can Lebron be MVP when he has a stinker of a game at home while a sick Kobe makes an impossible “lights out” rainmker in his face? If the season is over without Andrew, how come the Lakers just went 6-0 on a road trip without him? Could reality be a bit more complex than the mythologists thought?

    Reality tells us that the Thunder could come into Staples on Tuesday and beat the Lakers by 30. Reality tells us that that a resurgent Jazz, Suns, Trailblazers, ??? could take out the #1 Lakers in the first round of the Western playoffs.

    Reality tells us that Duncan, Wade, Howard, or some other star may yet emerge as the top MVP candidate–as he leads his team to and through the playoffs.

    Reality tells us that teams like Miami, Atlanta, or even Larry’s Bobcats might somehow not only make it into the playoffs, but knock out the Leps and the Crabs in the process.

    The mythologists are scratching their heads, trying to decide whether or not to invent a new mythology.

    I subscribe to reality. I watch the games, speculate on trades, and appreciate Laker wins on a daily basis–never knowing for sure what will happen next.

    You know what? The mythologists don’t either.

  35. Correction to “NBA Mythology”:

    . . . .”when Lamar pats KG on the butt and makes two FREE THROWS”

    Sorry.

  36. I think you can go too far in squelching enthusiasm. If you are given a test and you score 100 on the test, that means something, doesn’t it? Or does it cease to be a test the moment you’ve passed it? Obviously it doesn’t mean that the Lakers are sure to win the championship. What we saw in both Celtic games was that the two teams are awfully close. What we saw in both Cavs games was that the two teams were awfully close until the fourth quarter, and you can’t quite believe that’s for real. But what it does mean is that the Lakers are legitimate favorites, the way the Celtics were last year (though an embarrassing number of people were favoring the Lakers despite all empirical evidence — which is why a lot of the TV analysts seem a little overly skeptical about them), and with the top teams so close every game seems to have home court advantage significance. That’s why a game like the Bobcat loss gets on your nerve.

    One thing I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet is the case Lamar is making for starting. He definitely seems to be more in the game that way. How that would work when Bynum comes back I don’t know.

  37. “You can’t believe that’s for real” meaning you can’t quite believe that the fourth quarter is a better reflection of reality than the first three, I should say.

  38. From Truehoop on Charlotte acquiring Spacecadet:

    ‘As long as he doesn’t go snowboarding, they’re good. Yeah, it’s six million. But it’s six million for one guy versus four million for several guys who will just frustrate you’

    Ooh just you wait…

  39. On a lighter note….

    Lamar Odom follows up his superb week of play by debuting on Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory this Sunday night on the MTV network. Laker fans across the globe must inquire:

    Is this the new Lamar Odom? Can he perform CONSISTENTLY day in and day out? Does he truly believe in molecular gastronomy and the so called Asian fusion? Is he taking over the world one small piece at a time?

    I for one am a believer.

    I salute you Lamar Odom as a gentleman and a mogul of industry(ies)….

  40. I wanted to say, Bill, that was awfully fine insight into LO.

    First, the genius of PJ is that he has the ability to facilitate transformation. The change in the Lakers from ’99 to ’00 can be attributed to natural growth and the players who were added to the mix. I don’t think there is anybody who would question that at least as important was PJ’s ability to transform cockiness into confidence. I just don’t think the Lakers win game 7 against Portland without PJ’s ability to tap into the spirit in his players.

    This obviously comes right back to LO because we can all see the ability LO embodies and he remains a mystery in spite of it. You just don’t know how much of that ability will come through in any given game. I don’t think there is another player who has inspired the phrase, “If he could only do that every game” to the level of cliche like Lamar has. It looks like LO doesn’t always tap into his spirit when playing ball and I’m guessing that Phil is enjoying the “mindgames” it is taking to help Lamar along in learning how to tap that reservoir of soul while on the court.

    I think this team has learned how to win with LO giving his average night of stats and the intangibles that his sort of enigma will contribute. This is also part of the genius of Phil. Now if LO has found that inner ground to stand up and be what we all see he can be on the court, to tap that soul he has shown in his real life, then this team is about to become one of the legendary collections of NBA talent. I’m not counting on it but whatever happens I remember just how big a spot I have in my heart for that man. It’s not just his talent and his being the spiritual center of the Lakers’ circle. Its also all the hurt he has suffered and seeing the man rise above it. I love him for it.

  41. the whole road-trip was a statement to the team.
    the purple guys gain a lot of confidence through those wins in boston and crabland. i´ve never seen lamar as active and agressive as he has been yesterday. he will not keep on playing like this every game, but if he can bring just 60% of that passsion and energy on a regular basis, we are a much better team. there will be issues bringing in andrew in the mix, but i doubt that bynum will be a good player of the bench. lamar has to lead the bench, and if he does that as driven as he played the last two games, he will be very valuable. lamar really matured alongside kobe and phil and i hope this will pay off now.

    the lakers are currently the best team in the league. boston has issues when they are challenged. the crabs are not quite there yet, if king crab is off, the whole team is.orlando lives and dies by the 3. the spurs are coming together but purple and gold have the squad to overmatch them.
    that said, it still is a long way to go. nobody will hand us the trophy for free. we will have to fight, be confident and slam our teeth in our opponents flesh to win it all.
    we will have to fight for home court advantage, for coming out of the west and for winning the cup.
    before this road trip, i thought chances were good, after andrew went down, i was frightend, but after the last to games, i think sky is the limit. we just have to live up to our potential.
    this will be maybe the biggest challenge for the team. but phil and kobe will lead them to play their best and even beyond.
    i belive that everything will come together, if the team keeps their head in the quest and stay focused on what they want to achieve.

    i would like to see kobe and pau taking a rest against the thunder. i highly doubt it, but i would be pleased if phil pulls out a popovic on this one. kobe needs to get some rest to stop the flu and gasol logged 40 + minutes the last couple of games.

    lets go lakers!

  42. 334

    Most NBA ‘experts’ don’t have time to think so deeply into the party lines they are propagating. They have no problem ignoring key information that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions. So the Lakers are the softest team of all time, despite beating the defensive-minded Spurs and ultra-physical Jazz fairly comfortably in the playoffs. And they have no chance a title without Bynum, despite coming within 2 games of doing so last season, with a worse team, in a tougher conference. Even the idea that Bynum was the man to provide all the necessary ‘toughness’ was way overblown – we’re talking about Andrew Bynum, not Charles Oakley. But saying the Lakers often lack defensive discipline against lesser teams or don’t run the offense crisply enough at times is not as catchy as saying they aren’t ‘tough enough’.

    Now that they’ve gone 6-0 on this road trip, we’re supposed to believe that they underwent a collective heart transplant right before boarding the plane to Minneapolis, and have suddenly gone from being ‘doughy soft’ (as one analyst I read puts it) to being ‘tough enough’ to beat Boston and Cleveland back-to-back on their home floors. This was all accomplished despite the fact that Kobe’s 61 points against New York showed he still hadn’t learned to ‘trust his teammates’ (another concept that is grossly exaggerated to attract readers).

    The good thing is, now that the Lakers have proven their ‘manhood’ the mythologists will probably focus their energies elsewhere.

  43. To get back to talking basketball. I want to bring up how Phil had Fish checking Bron a couple of times with about three minutes left and the game still there for Clev.

    At first I thought it was a bad switch and I was screaming in horror. But after it happened again, I realized it was by design and started wondering why.

    Was that Phil/coaching staff’s way of baiting Bron into taking the jumper? Fish is acknowledged as one of the stronger guys on the team and he’s savvy enough to understand the D scheme. I noticed he was backing off Bron and shading him. When Bron drove, Fish was strong enough to deny him certain lanes and funnel him to Pau who was always lurking behind Fish.

    Notice how Bron would have the ball at the top of the key and Fish was on him with Pau right behind. Thought it was an interesting wrinkle in how Bron was defended.

    Also when Bron would drive because of the funneling by Fish and Pau help, Bron never got a clean straight line to the basket like he often does. He ended up with a lot of diagonal angles to the basket which meant a tough shot or a much more predictable passing lane the D could anticipate, whether to jump it or rotate to the shooter.

    This happened a lot in the MLK day game too. And just like that game, Lakers gambled on shooters getting cold and only having the corner be open and rotating to most other shooter spaces on the floor when Bron was forced to take that diagonal angle to the basket.

    Essentially, Lakers are willing to bet Bron can’t win the entire game by taking jumpers all day.

    Can one of the more knowledgeable posters here expound on that or am I just seeing something that’s not really there?

  44. Robert Fiore,

    Pretty much.

    What else can people ask for? What else has to be proved to show that this team is seemingly ready? I understand some people are scarred from the Finals, but so far, this team has done exactly what we *needed* to see for us to believe, and people are still afraid to.

    This is a new year. Boston can have belief in themselves they they are the defending Champs, and all will be good, but what does that really mean? Nothing. That was last year. They are working towards the Chip, just as we are, and right now, we appear to be the better team.

    At the beginning of the season, Kurt had a post asking what should we expect? My response was that I expect a Championship. I *know* that the Lakers best ball is good enough to win It all. I’m enjoying this regular season (minus Bynum’s injury) because I’m seeing my team live up to the potential I *know* they have. I’m not afraid to believe.

    So, while some people want to not get ahead of themselves, I feel just the opposite. I’m seeing what I knew was true from the start. Our guys CAN do, and they KNOW it now. Darius had a great comment likening the Lakers to Neo at the end of “The Matrix,” and it’s so true. They believe in themselves. So should we.

  45. J,

    You’re right. The Lakers willingness to give LBJ the jumper was something the Celtics did in last year’s Playoffs. It worked (then LeBron decided to just be a beast), but I think with or without Bynum, the strategy works to our benefit more because our length is much greater than the Celtics is.

    Can you imagine the Cavs using this tactic and putting Mo Williams or Boobie on Kobe? Never. Kobe would shoot over them, or post them up. Repeatedly. LeBron has to be HOT to consistently make jumpers.

  46. J
    “Can one of the more knowledgeable posters here expound on that or am I just seeing something that’s not really there?”

    I don’t meet your criteria, but I saw the same thing. These upper level NBA teams are so good, that it is impossible to defend everything. Opponents have to “pick your poison;” the Lakers coaching staff is very good at that. Sometimes it will bite you, but you have to be willing to accept that.

  47. I have nothing of substance to add today. I just wanted to thank everyone who did, and who took the time to type out long and insightful comments. It’s a joy to read the post-game discussions on this blog.

  48. I can try to tackle the strategy that had Fisher sometimes covering Lebron in the final minutes. I think this strategy came down to two factors: 1). Kobe was obviously ill and did not have his typical energy level on offense OR defense. In our first meeting against the Cavs, Kobe worked maniacally to deny Lebron the ball but in this recent game he could not because of his energy level. Bringing this back to the question at hand, I think that on plays at the end of the game, rather than Kobe deny Lebron and then play our standard defense on P&R’s where Kobe would recover to battle James, we simply switched screens and let the new man cover Lebron. We did this throughout the game, actually as there were many possessions where LO was on Lebron or when the screen was set (and Lebron would turn the corner and attack the basket) our Big Man (usually Gasol) would retreat and try to contest shots at the rim. Luckily for us, Lebron was not finishing at the rim as well as normal, but at the same time we were doing a great job of contesting these shots and making them more difficult. And 2). I think this played into our overall strategy of trying to make Lebron a jumpshooter (as several commenters mentioned before me). By having our defender switch onto Lebron, but still use the same sag off tactic (while also showing help by our players in the lane) we invited Lebron to shoot jumpers because if he drove the help would be there. By the end of the game, the fact that the Cavs had gone cold from the outside made Lebron a little more eager than normal to shoot rather than try to force the drive and create for a teammate.

    These explanations aren’t perfect, but I think it’s what actually happened. Basically I think it was a combination of Kobe’s energy level and our overall tactic of wanting to show consistent help in the lane behind any defender that ended up on Lebron. It worked yesterday, for sure.