Preview & Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

Kurt —  March 29, 2009

NBA: MAR 23 Timberwolves at Hawks
Records: Lakers 58-14 (1st in the West) Hawks 42-31 (4th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.5 (2nd in league) Hawks 109.5 (10th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.1 (6th in league) Hawks 107.4 (12th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Hawks Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia

Lakers Coming In: Kobe Bryant will be a game time decision. I am not a doctor and I’m not going to play one on the Web, Kobe knows how he feels and if he can go. This is not something where he is risking long-term damage, so it’s a matter of pain management. It’s his call. That said, it would be nice to have a game where he can sit the fourth if he does play.

Also, since the Lakers are playing the Hawks, it seems a good time to revisit this:

The Hawks Coming In: The Hawks are pretty locked into the four seed in the East — nobody is catching any of the top three and they are three games up on Miami in the five spot. (If there was one team I’d like to avoid in the first round in the East it is Miami, Wade is playing that well, Atlanta better start planning now.)

Joe Johnson continues to be the leading scorer and offensive focal point for the Hawks, scoring 26.6 a game in the last 10. One thing you have to watch on him — Johnson is red hot from three lately hitting 47.8% from deep in the last 10. Have to close out on him, open threes will fall.

The guy playing well is backup point guard Flip Murray. The only NBA player ever out of Shaw University is averaging 15 points a game and shooting 41% from three in his last 10, and he is up to playing nearly 27 minutes a game. Farmar has his defensive challenge.

Keys To The Game:Two things from the meeting last month the Lakers need to repeat. First, the Lakers dominated the glass — Odom and Gasol had their way inside. Despite the length and athleticism the Hawks have on the front line they don’t defend the paint well and the Lakers need to exploit that.

Second, last time these two met the Lakers starters played the Hawks even until the Lakers started to pull away thanks to a run from the bench. Ahhh, remember those days. Lately I’ve been trying to think of a new nickname for the bench and have been leaning toward Decaf — because coffee is for closers.

Everything with the Hawks offense starts with Joe Johnson. He is the one Atlanta player most capable of beating you in the half court, so the Lakers need to focus on taking him away and not letting him get the hot hand. What the Hawks do on offense in the half court is simple, basically iso and some high screens for Johnson and Murray, with those guys trying to create for everyone. It is very defendable IF you play as a team.

What can get the Lakers into trouble in this game is not protecting the ball — the Hawks thrive when they can get turnovers and turn those into easy baskets in transition. They have great open court finishers. So they play an aggressive defense, they try to deny passes out on the wings and go for steals. They gamble all over the court. If the Lakers start the offense through Gasol flashing into the high post he should have opportunities to hit cutters who get open as their man overplays going for a steal an leaving the cut to the basket open. Player movement in the half court and few turnovers will be key.

Make Josh Smith shoot jumpers, don’t let him get to the rim.

Where you can watch: 12:30 matinee out here in the West. KCAL 9 in LA.



160 responses to Preview & Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

  1. I think you mean Josh Smith, not Joe Smith.

  2. Thanks, change made. This is why I should have coffee then post.

  3. How come Pachulia is starting? Is Mo Evans hurt?

  4. That was the starting lineup for the last game against Boston and Mo Evans came off the bench. I didn’t see the game so not sure why.

  5. did horford play last time we played the hawks?

  6. I think that Hawks are better off starting Pachulia and moving Horforf to PF and Josh Smith to SF. That way they can better match up against our lenth (although I guess Zaza can not handle Pau)

    However, this means that the Hawks second unit is completely messed up, our mob should be able to take advantage of that

  7. im thinking.. cleveland is the only team that has a better record than us.. w/boston and orlando 4 games behind w/10 less.. we need 6 to beat boston n 7 orlando (they have the tie breaker).. thats quite a buffer.. n the cavs aren’t exactly a lock to make the finals.. (altho i wudn’t bet against it..)

    so would it be worth it to forgo the nba’s best record and let pau/kobe/fish get more rest till the playoffs? those 40 mins/game pau are gonna take their toll on him eventually.. not to mention more playing time for the bench.. playing time usually breeds confidence and giving them that boost might allow them to play their way out of their slump..

    whats the point of homecourt when ur players have no legs? esp given the 2-3-2 format of the finals and the tough road from the west.. i’d definitely go w/the rest.. thoughts?

  8. How bout this for a poorly playing bench: Deadwood

  9. tried to cheer for Mavs today:(

  10. agreed Mike,

    I am not for the starters sitting out – but limit their minutes and let the chips fall.

    I trust the coaches know a lot more than we do about what kind of shape the players are in – but from my seat on the couch, it seems like it wold be wise to start limiting minutes for starters and getting the bench more time. As I have been saying for a while – Pau is the one I am most concerned about.

  11. re: name for the bench of today..
    “the little bench that could”…
    (cause they’ve got to believe they can, and they will, self fulfilling prophecy)
    re; stopping Joe Johnson, think we’ll see Ariza on him today? he seems to be pretty effective on those quick PG/SG’s with his own quickness and added length.
    re: resting the starters, I have to trust the coaching staff who are well aware of the burn placed these days on our key guys, and the need to have it at the end, and the knowledge that they have a place more or less guaranteed in the final standings, so while I agree it’s a good discussion, I defer to the brass on this one, gotta trust them.

  12. deadwood loooooool good one . Mavs gave the game back to the cavs. Were gonna have to wait another game for a cavs loss

  13. in our last game it was a blowout because the starters got a lead and then our bench extended the lead.

    thats probably not happening tonight especially with how the bench has been playing as of late

  14. The Bench Mob becomes The Bench Facade?
    Eh, probably needs some work.

    It’s folly to plot out the remaining weeks of the regular season on the assumption that we’ll meet any one particular team in the Finals, BUT … as long as we remain only one game back from the Cavs, it seems prudent to keep pushing for the best overall record. Those guys are absolute murder at home this season, and that’s a potential advantage I wouldn’t want to just hand over without a fight (I feel good the we’ve been the only team to defeat them in their arena and all, but still).

    If we don’t finish the regular season with the most wins, I might find myself in the uncomfortable position of rooting for the Celtics to come out of the East (shudder to think).

  15. We should definitely exploit D-Fish on Mike Bibby. Eventhough Bibby is historically a Laker killer, at this point he can not guard anyone. It would be weird to see Fish post him up, or perhaps play Sasha at the point to exploit the matchup

  16. When talking about Kobe, Dominique just proclaimed:
    “Make his supporting cast beat you”.

    Funny since there’s more or less a negative correlation between the amount of shots Kobe has to take and the Lakers’ success.

    I’d love to get one of those color commentator jobs. Seems like you can say whatever you want, withot anyone ever questioning your bad research;)

  17. any links for the game?

  18. 16

    “I’d love to get one of those color commentator jobs. Seems like you can say whatever you want, withot anyone ever questioning your bad research;)”

    It helps when you’re a HOFer and Hawks icon…

  19. hey folks,
    remember, we want our bench to SUCCEED.
    so monikers about being lame, etc, doesn’t help.
    it’s all in the mind, just like our current economic situation, perception in KEY.
    let’s not be like Rush Limberger and root for our team to fail (the second unit anyway).

  20. any other links guys?

  21. Joel: True that…I’m just saying;)

  22. Kobe and Fish BOTH on the bench with 2 fouls each.

    At least Kobe’s thunderous dunk showed that his ankle is fine

  23. lets see some more gasol please, too many jumpers

  24. man were ice cold

  25. Wow. Re-calibrate the Machine, please.

  26. Machine is broken. Machine’s shots are long. Machine needs to pass to Pau.

  27. Is there anyone out there, capable of explaining why the only guy shooting above 50% is the one not shooting right now???????

  28. that last airball was painfull to watch…

  29. Hawks are pretty much playing the same defensive schemes that Lakers use. They completely shut down the inside and dare us to beat them from outside. Pau can not even get a position to receive the ball. Hopefully things will improve when Kobe and Fish come back

  30. Thirteen points, huh? At least the West is clinched, I guess. I like that the Lakers are sitting Kobe to start the second, now they just need to get Pau some more touches, they took wayyyyyy too many threes in the first.

  31. Maybe if they went inside they would shoot better than 22%.

  32. Thanks guys but those justin sites never seem to work for me

  33. This game is really frustrating. And Mbenga just came on.

    Farmar, Vujacic, Walton, Powell and Mbenga line-up is simply asking for trouble

  34. I apologize to everybody for defending Jordan for a couple weeks now, he’s looked completely out of control today…

  35. things go pot when fish and kobe go out

  36. I missed the first quarter. Slept in 🙂
    Yikes. Thats all I can say so far. And now our bench is playin like crap again. Sigh. As long as they get this kind of nonsense out of there system for the playoffs.

  37. I wish we had a backup veteran guard for the playoffs in case kobe or fish get into foul trouble. We could have even brought back Eddie Jones.

  38. I get a kick out of Payton saying that Kobe talks the most trash in the league just now. Not exactly the first guy that would spring to mind.

  39. Luke Walton is sleeping

  40. Fish showing better moves down low than Powell!

  41. thank god for fish

  42. Fisher’s stroke is really a thing of beauty. Perfect arch every single time – no wonder he knocks down all those open jumpers.

  43. At least we are learning now that Mbenga and Powell are not worth resigning next year, and Farmar is should not get the kind of money (6-7 million per year) that we thought he would be commanding a year ago.

  44. It’s games like this that truly show me that we don’t run our offense well enough. The Triangle is a read and react offense where all five players should be seeing the same thing and acting accordingly. Whenever you see a ball denial or the ball pausing for too long it’s because the players aren’t moving when they’re supposed to be. There are pressure releases built into this offense all over the court, but if we aren’t moving (and doing it full out) then ball denials are going to bother us. Plus our spacing was extremely poor on several possessions. Two guys standing five feet from each other? Come on guys…

  45. 47 agreed
    ans why do we keep leaving the three point line open?

  46. Threse announcers have called the game fairly well so far. Not big homers.

  47. Kobe with the PUJIT

  48. lol ariza made sure to foul this time

  49. 48

    How many players on this Lakers roster would you say have a high basketball IQ? Most of them are in the starting lineup. I think that is root of the problem the bench has in running the offense properly.

  50. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I would have to disagree about re-signing Mbenga and Powell. Both these guys are third stringers, and will come cheap. They both have particular skills, Powell as a face-up jump shooter and offensive rebounder, and Mbenga as a shotblocker and open jump shooter. For third stringers, that’s all you can ask for, and you want guys who already know the triangle. One more thing: DJ has improved by leaps and bounds from last season. He probably won’t make a similar improvement next season, but he will likely be a better, more useful player than this season just because of all the playing time he’s had recently and greater experience in the triangle.

  51. 53. Players with high IQ (ranked in order)

    1. Kobe
    2. Gasol
    3. Walton
    4. Odom
    5. Fish
    6. Ariza

    From here on, I am not really sure. Farmar makes too many stupid mistakes in half-court offense, Sasha picks up a lot of stupid fouls far away from the basket, Powell clogs the lane and Mbenga is out of space

  52. Please gaurd the 3 point line

  53. Can someone explain why everyone says we have the deepest/greatest bench in the league. I just don’t understand…

  54. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Umm….guys? Feed Pau? Pretty please?

  55. 57. Because we did when Ariza and Odom were on it. They have slumped lately but that is a combination of factors. Frustrating but lets not lose all perspective.

    Of course if we lose this game I expect a few to lose it.

  56. 57, we dont. Sasha, Farmar, and Walton are all overrated. They aint bad players, but they are all too inconsistent.

  57. farmar has got to up with that not try and get kobe to bail u out

  58. Wow that was ugly.

  59. farmar sucks enough said

  60. haha….what a horrible game. That fast break sums up the game for the Lakers

  61. Wow Farmar thinks he is playing hockey or something game Pachuila a shoulder check.

  62. Farmar is playing retarded basketball

  63. an ugly game by the Lakers. Getting out hustled, not moving the ball on offense, not rotating on Defense. Just kind of ugly.

  64. The Bench guys have just lost it completely. Farmars over confidence is killing him. I doubt he can see how terrible he is playing right now. Powell just doesnt seem to be into it today.

  65. I guarentee you the Lakers will make a run and cut the lead to at least 5, but i dont think they can get over the hump, they dont want this game enough

  66. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Don’t these guys do three-on-one drills? Give the ball to Kobe in the middle, then run out to the left wing, Jordan! Powell on the right wing. Simple three-on-one break. Makes me pine for the Showtime teams. Those were the best fast breaks in the history of the NBA.

  67. 59. Kurt – This is true, there was also Radmonovic getting burn every night. That being said, there are very few bench squads in the NBA that I would rather have than ours even now.

    On the subject of keeping perspective I have this to say; the goal coming into this stretch was to hit 60 wins on the road, even if the Lakers go on to lose (which is looking possible) that is still a goal that they can reach. 6-1 across a seven game road trip is nothing to hang your head about. Even if LA gets dumped here, the focus needs to be not letting down in Charlotte.

  68. I don’t think the Lakers can pull out this game unless they start playing some average defense. Win/lose/or draw this game – when tied into the last two games – gives me the willies. I think we better draft a PG in this draft, regardless of who may fall to us. We will need one in the future.

    The bench is proving why they are not starters, but why do they all have to do it at the same time?

    If Phil wants to claim his team runs the triangle offense they have to prove they actually know what the triangle is. Certainly it is not just dribbling around the perimeter of the court.

  69. Its safe to say we have given up the run for HCA right? There is no hunger in our guys….maybe Phil needs to play game 6 of the finals for them for 3 straight days.

  70. Hey guys,
    Listening to the game, and Mychal keeps wondering why they’re not going to Pau more. Sounds like Kobe has been taking some dumb a$$ shots, while Pau is getting more and more pissed he’s not getting the ball.

  71. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Pau scores in the low post. Whaddya know?

  72. This may sound “different”, but why not bring in DJ, move Pau to PF. Sounds like Odom and Powell aren’t playing well at all. Gotta try something different….

  73. i swear powell has dropped the ball everytime he gets it, this is the kind of game which reminds me that we only have 6 good players, 5 with bynum out

  74. 57

    The Lakers have the deepest frontcourt in the league: Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Ariza, Walton, Powell, and Mbenga. Unfortunately this is in stark contrast to the backcourt which is heavily dependent on Kobe and Fisher – even more so with the poor performances from Farmar and Vujacic this season.

  75. The only bright side. No Farmar to start the 4th.

  76. this game is so frustrating

  77. i can understand losing, and i dont think anyone thought the lakers would go 7-0 on the road trip, but this is just a pathetic effort, especially after Cleveleand winning again. We have the right to be frustrated with this team. Homecourt is slipping away

  78. With the way Cleveland is playing.. assuming we lose here, I wonder if it might not just be better strategy to play our stars less and get some rest for the playoffs. This will put us two games behind Cleveland and Cleveland could easily win out, but going 8-1 is totally believable, too. What are the odds they drop two more games than we do? Not good, not good…

    The only good news, I think, is that we have a better chance to beat Cleveland in a 7 game series when they have HCA than Boston (assuming KG is healthy).

  79. We only have two players in double digits, uhh.

  80. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    76. True, but the fumbled catch turnover gets awarded to the passer 95% of the time. It’s why Kwame Brown’s turnover rate, while being among the highest in the NBA, isn’t astronomically high. His four or five fumbled catches per game in the old days didn’t count as his turnovers.

    That fumbled catch by Powell on the pass from Luke? That was a Luke turnover/Mo Evans steal in the box score.

  81. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Oops. My last post was in reply to a post that just got deleted.

  82. This is pretty much the last chance for a Laker run. A patented Kobe outburst would be useful right now.

  83. And right as I type that, 31% 3-point shooter Odom kills the run by jacking one up. Great stuff.

  84. I told ya the Lakers were gonna make a run….but just too much to overcome

  85. a nice little run and the odom shoots a stupid 3

  86. Is it too late in the season to give Shannon a little run and some experience just in case Farmar totally falls apart in the playoffs? Bench Farmar for a game? It could be a good psychological play on Phil’s part to let Farmar know that he needs to seriously get it together.

  87. He was wide open, it was a good choice, he just missed it

  88. Bibby would have just dominated HORSE…

  89. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    OK, that was officially the luckiest bounce in NBA history.

  90. OK, that Bibby shot proves this win is not gonna happen… 🙁

  91. Lakers cannot get open J’s to fall today. They should’ve had the presence of mind to bang inside more after that was proving to be the case though…

  92. Apparently Phil was saying before the game, “We don’t need home court to win the championship”.
    Well, I guess that doesn’t really help give the players a reason to win tonight…..

  93. kobes missed two wide open 3;s

  94. 3 layups in a row lamars missed

  95. Besides Mbenga with a +1, everyone other Laker is in the negative and Fish with an 0. Pathetic.

  96. make that 4

  97. When Lamar is taking all your shots at the end of a game you are in real trouble.

  98. 94. Ozlaker – People forget that the Lakers will have homecourt all through the West, and if anybody except the Cavs gets to the finals, they’ll probably have homecourt there, too. The good news? They’re the only team to beat the Cavs at home.

    I personally am more concerned with shoring up defensive intensity, getting the bench firing again, and getting ‘Drew healthy by playoff time.

    All of this being said, it was a disappointing showing tonight on the offensive side of the court. Aside from the third, things were pretty good on D tonight actually…

  99. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    OK Phil, time to take everyone out.

  100. Lakers looked tired and disinterested. Shots were not falling, players were not moving with out the ball, the ball was not moving, they were out hustled for lose balls, and did not rotate well on defense.

  101. I really can’t understand Odom’s 5 or 6 shot attempts that quarter. Just kinda chucked it up there over and over, used glass when he shouldn’t have, didn’t use glass when he should have, tried to finish with the left hand on the right side, getting smith back in the play…

    Honestly I don’t like some of Kobe’s shots but tonight, no complaints there, they just didn’t go in. I’d rather have Kobe take hard jumpers, since at least then I know he’s got a plan.

  102. 100. Nick, hey, I’m fully aware of that, hence why I don’t know why all the fuss about home court. If Drew is back, I think we can handle the Cavs ok on their court as we’ve shown.

    I honestly believe the Lakers are as good as the Lakers want to be. As Kurt keeps saying in his previews, play inside – out, but we continually ignore Pau for extended periods which is a worry.

    Won’t mention the bench, which will be disturbed slightly when Drew is back, but hopefully he helps settle things down.

  103. PS Bibby’s two threes in the 4th absolutely deflated us. Phil calling a timeout after the first one when we’d played good d for 6 possessions, I don’t know about that either.

    But when we came back and he hit that ridiculous long prayer off the top of the backboard. Wow. Before this game I thought Miami would kill the Hawks, but they stayed tough and clearly play well at home (and they’ll have HCA over Miami)… that will be a good series.

  104. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    That bemused look from Kobe on the bench says it all.

  105. i was frustrated before lol but i’m calm now and bah, whatever, it was a bad game for everyone so there really isn’t anyone you can point at who played worse than the others. No one’s shot was falling, luckily this only happens 2-3 times a year where the lakers arent playing well offensively. At least they were well on defense, and honestly this isn’t a loss people should really over react about. Atlanta is a good team too, and most home teams have more energy, momentum, and luck(BIBBY’s SHOT). Anyways cleveland having home court really doesn’t scare me for that matter. I really don’t think the lakers are even scared of the Cavs, at least we have HCA throughout the west which is probably tougher, and we have a lead over the Celtics.

  106. KOBE and PAU 14/29 FG (Specially Pau 7/10)

    Rest of the team 14/51 FG

    NUFF SAID¡¡¡¡¡¡

  107. I know everybody played bad today, the bench has yet to step up in any of these games. I hope our bench can get their act together by playoff time. Watching them play is like watching Cheney give an interview. It’s torture.

  108. I really don’t think Kobe should be included in that. Kobe was 7-19 from the field and 2-4 from the line.

  109. To Magic 111

    7/10 FG 7/10 FT 11 REB 2 BLK

    What do you mean with “EVERYBODY played bad today”???

  110. I mean Pau, of course.

  111. I am not sure which one stings more. The fact that the Cavs won and we lost, or that we didn’t set an all time record and go 7-0.

  112. This is really uncharacteristic of PJ teams. Usually they get a good head of steam going into the playoffs. The Lakers really need some time to recharge.

  113. the fact we didnt go 7-0..

  114. important thing is we have a better record than the celtics who I think will surprise cleveland in the playoffs, they just need to win ONE road game in cleveland..

  115. Eh, we had a poor shooting game, what else is there to say? Keep in mind, the Hawks are one of the best home-teams in the league, at 29-9 now after today’s win. Just a few things to point out…

    1.) We were 28-80 today, 4-20 from three. You can’t get much worse than that. And it wasn’t just the bench either. No one other than Gasol had an good game.

    2.) Much as I would love to join in the chorus of “GET THE BALL INSIDE YOU DUMMIES,” or something along those lines, I think we should all take a step back and look at how the Hawks play defense. They were blocking off the entry passes from our wings, hanging off Kobe/Trevor/Luke knowing that they weren’t 3-point threats. Also, if teams hedge off their men on the wings, the triangle enables teams to crowd the entry pass, so getting the ball to Pau in good spots is more difficult than it appears. Still, that’s no excuse for getting him only 10 shot attempts on a night when nobody else was hitting.

    3.) I take back the nobody had a good game other than Gasol comment. Luke was 3-4 with 3 boards and an assist, so he had a good game as well. In fact, Luke has played pretty well despite the rest of the bench’s struggles over the past week or so. Over the past 6 games, Luke is 17-25, with about 2 boards and 2 assists per game.

    4.) That being said, even a centrist like myself has to admit that the bench has been struggling as a whole for a while. Josh Powell really struggles when he has to go against athletic wings like Josh Smith, and neither he nor DJ want to leave the paint, which leaves lots of shooters open due to how our SSZ works. I’ll reiterate what I said in the last post, saying that I really believe Lamar is the cog that makes our defense work. His versatility to both defend the post and also close out on the wing makes him invaluable in the SSZ which is predicated on a lot of switching and covering, the same way KG makes Boston’s defense tick. Our defense just isn’t the same when he leaves the floor.

    update: mid-post, I went to check the stats on Turns out, Lamar is a team high -8.4 in points allowed per 100 possessions, meaning that the team gives up 8.4 points more per 100 possessions when Lamar is off the floor. This is much, much higher than any member of our team, even Bynum.

  116. Cavs look strong….Lakers not so much. This is a bad sign.

    The bench is too inconsistent, but I believe the bench doesn’t play as big a role in the playoffs due to the longer timeouts for TV, no back to back games, and tighter games all around.

    Plus, Bynum will be back for the playoffs.

  117. The Dude Abides March 29, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    OK, I posted a lot about this a couple weeks ago after we lost to Philly, but kept quiet about it since. There’s no way we’re getting HCA against the Craboliers. Cleveland isn’t going to lose again at home, and they still have an easier remaining schedule than the Lakers. It’s time to reduce the minutes for our two Olympians. We’ll have HCA against everyone in the West and everyone except CLE in the East. Let’s make sure that Pau and Kobe have enough in reserve to win the last playoff series they play.

  118. ^ Agreed.

  119. cleveland still faces boston, magic, and san antonio…someone needs to break their streak haha..we’re not 4 games behind or so

  120. How many games ahead of the Celts are we?

  121. 113. Ok, except for Pau. Geez. Either way it still equals a loss.

  122. we are ahead of the celtics by I believe 4 games

  123. Once my above post gets beyond moderation, this’ll make more sense, but I just went to to look up some more on/off court stats on our guys.

    Of course, league-wide, the top guys in terms of net points scored per 100 possessions are Lebron, Chris Paul, Kobe, Wade, Stojakovic (wtf?!), Brandon Roy, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom, in that order. Amazing that Derek is above Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Chauncey Billups, among many other elite PG’s.

    However, if you check net point allowed per 100 possesions, it goes Marcus Camby, Lebron (which is why he’s the leading MVP candidate), Andrei Kirilenko, then Lamar Odom, in that order. The next highest Laker? Andrew Bynum somewhere in the 50s, with Trevor Ariza some 10 or so spots behind. I think this shows quite adequately how important Lamar is to our defense, let alone our offense.

    In terms of net points per 100 possessions, Lamar is behind only Lebron and Chris Paul, and is ahead of Dwyane Wade, Jason Kidd, and Kobe in that order.

    Considering that Lamar’s numbers are this good despite the fact that he played with the reserves for half the year really gives us insight as to why our bench was so good in the beginning of the year and why they’ve been so bad lately: It doesn’t have anything to do with them, and everything to do with Lamar. Amazing

  124. ok, I think I’m on board the rest kobe and pau bandwagon.

    the main thing now is to get the bench to play with some semblance of a clue and confidence.

  125. We want to stay ahead of the Celtics as far as HCA is concerned, but I am not to worried about it with Cleveland, especially now that we may not have it over them anyway. There are still 9 games left to play for the Lakers so who knows what will happen.

  126. so if lamar is so great with the bench why doesnt PJ play odom with the bench now instead of gasol.

    with the 2nd unit lamar’s better at demanding the ball, plus he can bring the ball upcourt which helps because hes the one initiating the offense.

    there are two things i want before this season to end

    1. for bynum to get back
    2. the bench to start stepping up which would mean not letting leads go and getting the ball to gasol

  127. I’m not that high on HCA honestly. For the first three rounds, it’s obviously an advantage, but it’s almost a disadvantage to have HCA in the Finals. Lose one game on your home floor in the first two games and then you have a brutal trek of three road games you have to survive before going back to your building. Now, for us, I don’t really think it will make a difference given how well we play on the road, but it’s something to think about.

    Our bench though is getting extremely disappointing. We either can’t wait for Bynum to come back or for the playoffs to start, but they at least should bring the energy night after night. The only bench player who has played decently is Walton. These playoffs will be a make-or-break proposal for Farmar and Vujacic though. If they struggle, Kupchak’s offseason searches might consist primarily of finding help for our backcourt (Vasquez anyone?).

  128. This was a game where the Lakers actually played decent defense, but the offense let them down. They didn’t execute it well, they didn’t shoot it well. I’m not all that bothered by the loss because the defense was good — the offense being off is not going to be a regular problem.

  129. I agree with Kurt. The defense was good for most of the game (minus the beginning of the third quarter). The Lakers just could not hit any shots today. They looked tired to me. A seven game road trip at the end of an 82 game season is not going to be easy.

  130. 131. Well, with all respect, I’m bothered by it. Look at the box score– Gasol plays the most minutes, has the only decent shooting percentage among the starters (70 percent!), and yet somehow takes the FEWEST SHOTS of all of them! How many games must we watch Kobe jacking up 3s in the 4th to be the man when Gasol has been destroying the other team all game?! Give him the F’n ball!!!!

    It’s worst when the team is slightly behind– it’s like a license for Kobe to freelance.
    How bad is it? I’m starting to feel sorry for shaq and his incessant whining over touches…

  131. I’m tired of saying it… more balls to Gasol for god sake!!!

    He’s the only Laker who’s doing good shooting percentage.

    Why the Lakers can’t see this? it’s very frustrating… looks like they prefer to lose games instead of givin Pau more balls… really sad…

  132. Lil pau, I’m not sure if we were watching the same game. Kobe’s shot selection in the second half was totally fine.

    I think your point is right many nights: the offense runs best through Pau againt most team. But Kobe definitely was not jacking up 3s in the second half for kicks tonight.

  133. This may be Cleveland’s year. They are hotter than a 5 dollar pistol, dominant at home, and setting themselves up for HCA throughout.

  134. I think The Lakers still have a chance to catch the cavs. The Cavs have a few upcoming games on the road that will be tough against the wizard with agent zero, and against the Magic so HCA advantage Is still within reach all we need to do Is continue to run the offense thru Pau and continue the type of effort on defense that I saw tonight against the Hawks and everything Is gonna be alright I expect to lose at least 2 more rd games and 1 more home game this year mark my word.

  135. I meant I expect the cavs rto lose 2 more rd games and a home game my bad on the typo

  136. guys, us not having HCA against one team is totally fine with me. i am more concerned with the gas left on our starters (gasol’s facial expressions really give away his present level of energy) and the level of play our bench has been giving in and out. no panic needed. this can still be very much our year and as far as number 1 teams are concerned, they are must subject to the rule of “if not go up, you can still go down.”

    besides, i am hoping and praying bynum does a number on ilgauskas if they do meet. hoping and praying. our frontline holds a large edge against cleveland’s bigs and i’d still rather have kobe take the last shot in a tight game than lebron. we have a potential dominant player/wildcard in odom if he chooses to. not to overstate things, we have a good chance. we have a more defined system we are willing to stick to. though i wish our bench shot 3s like cleveland’s own. GO LAKERS!

  137. *most subject

  138. Well, with Phoenix choking against Sacramento, it looks like Dallas will probably be the team we face in the first round barring Utah having a full-scale collapse on their road games against decent teams.

  139. we’re 4 ahead of the celts/magic.. we need 6/7 the rest of the way for hca if they make the finals.. cleveland’s 1 home loss came agnst the lakers but they didn’t have big Z.. its like the lakers not having bynum.. okay thats not true but it has a big impact.. of course is BigBen doesn’t comeback thats a big factor anyway..

    overall i think because of injuries n what not our 2-0 record against cleveland doesn’t stand for much..

  140. Late comment, but Darius made this point earlier: “It’s games like this that truly show me that we don’t run our offense well enough. The Triangle is a read and react offense where all five players should be seeing the same thing and acting accordingly.”

    Pau made similar comments after the game: “It was just a weird game, not recognizing how to attack them when they were switching.”

    As talented as we are, that might be the key difference between us and the 3-peat Lakers. The key difference? Veterans. Players with very high basketball IQ, who knew how to run the offense to perfection. Ron Harper, Shaw, Fox, Horry, etc. That was a much more disciplined team, because we were a half-court team that relied solely on the offense.

    The problem now is that we play a much faster pace and Phil allows us to freelance a lot more. Undoubtedly a major reason is the personnel he has – no young players with a very high bball IQ. But the freelancing has also fueled the inefficiency at running the offense, because the players aren’t forced to learn the offense in as much depth and learn to read and react as much as the old Lakers team did. It’s a vicious circle. They can get by with a weaker understanding of the triangle. In simpler terms, we don’t have quite as well defined a system as we used to, and we don’t execute that system well enough.

    I realize it’s not a regular problem, normally our offense is good enough. But it’s another case where our talent disguises some blemishes. Against top level defenses, I’d feel much more confident with the 3-peat veterans who will run the system properly regardless of the defense, than our young guns who don’t run the offense well enough to execute regularly in the face of a killer defense. It’s not just the bench. In the 3-peat days Shaq (for the most part) kept Kobe in line and although Kobe would burst out at times, for the most part he ran the offense. Now Kobe will freelance for major stretches at a time, even when it’s not working, and no one really reins him in.

    Bottom line: I’m a firm believer in the triangle, and we’ve known all year that our team (esp our bench) doesn’t run the triangle quite as well as its supposed to be run. Normally, not a problem. Against top level defenses, it often is. Can’t really change our team’s identity at this point, we just have to live with it and hope it’s good enough.

  141. mike,

    We beat Cleveland at home when they had Big Z. Only person who wasn’t there was West, who is a big defensive liability against Kobe or Ariza. Us not having Bynum was a much bigger difference than Cleveland not having West. If there’s any reason I worry about Cleveland less than Boston, it’s because our frontcourt matches up much better. Asking Wallace or Varajeo to guard Odom or Gasol is too much.

  142. 145 – As much as I hate Varejao (and I DO despise him, I find him more annoying than anyone else in the league), you have to give him his due as a defensive player. He irritates the heck out of even KG; he’s probably as good a defensive big man option as there is in this league.

    Wallace is definitely a mismatch for Odom, Odom’s quickness is too much. I’m actually hoping Wallace is healthy and gets major minutes if we play them, we can exploit him on both ends of the floor. Our SST is especially great when we’re allowed to truly ignore one of the offensive players, which doesn’t happen too often.

  143. I believe the smartest strategy now would be to rest the starters as much as possible, while staying ahead of Boston/Orlando for homecourt advantage.

    What’s not smart, is playing the starters for practically the entire 4th quarter.

    However, Kobe has said that achieving the best record in the league is a challenge, and we all know how Kobe deals with challenges. I’m just not sure if tiring our players for a goal that continues to pull away is the best idea.

  144. Kobe needs to stop worrying about setting the best record and worry about the only challenge that matters – best preparing for a title. That involves rest. Kobe and Pau may not be old like the Spurs, but they’re banged up (well Kobe is) and Pau at times looks like he’s been worn down a little bit. Doesn’t seem like Phil’s on board with that, saying he wants to keep putting pressure on Cleveland. I won’t question the wisdom of a man with 9 rings, but I’m not sure I agree with that.

  145. Snoopy,

    True, he’s definitely a good defensive player, but asking him to guard Gasol shooting midrange shots or in the post is a bit much. Odom a bit less, but Odom’s quickness is a big edge there. It’s a bit of a moot point that we have a stronger frontcourt, especially when Bynum comes back.

    When playoffs come, Powell is going to get marginalized as we return to the Gasol-Bynum-Odom rotation with Powell receiving minutes on the pine and Mbenga being pushed out of the rotation. So we should see an increase in offensive and defensive efficiency with Powell and Mbenga getting their minutes cut. Only problem I see is that how many minutes Phil is going to delegate to Farmar and Vujacic in the postseason if they keep playing this poorly. Yes, he’ll have to play them, but it will be interesting to see how many minutes he gives them down the stretch.

  146. Lakers offense might not be a problem, but their bench sure is!

  147. The bench is definitely a problem.

    Lakers cannot win the championship with the bench playing like that.

  148. The other thing to remember, the playoffs really are an entire other season. They are long. Last season, the Celtics of the first six games did not remind anyone of a championship team. Really, through the first two rounds, so there will be a lot more time for adjustment.

  149. Even though Phil recently downplayed the importance of HCA, I think the Lakers would like to have it. But as someone posted above, it’s more beneficial for the Lakers to keep the pressure on the Craboliers, if only to tire them out.

    Playoffs in the East are going to be more competitive for Cleveland. Orlando or Boston in the ECF is not going to be an easy matchup. And depending on the seedings, an athletic Atlanta team could also present a tiring series.

    On the other hand the Lakers most likely will sweep the first round, and maybe the second.

    So while the Lakers definitely aren’t performing at a high level right now, Cleveland might be prematurely peaking, and stands a good chance of feeling the effects later on in the playoffs.

  150. What is most sobering about this loss is that it reflects fundamental problems that are likely to persist into the playoffs.

    1. Bad foul shooting.

    Farmar is less than 60%. Maybe that is the worst in the NBA for guards. Still the rest of the team is less than stellar. Odom’s free throws have been scary mysteries for years, and even Pau Gasol and Kobe have stumbled at times recently. When one considers that Villanova as a team went 22-23 to barely edge Pitt in the NCAA tournament, one sees how critical free throws could become in the playoffs.

    2. Bad judgment.

    Lamar managed to exhibit almost all of his lengendary tendencies in Atlanta yesterday during his 9/9/4 triple single outing: 3 of his patented “Oh no! Dumb” three point shots (Sasha only missed 2); numerous errant passes or incorrect decisions on the fast break; having defensive rebounds pulled away from him and put back for easy baskets; frustration failures on layup after layup gone awry. He was not alone. Kobe had four turnovers, was 1-6 on heavily contested threes, and improvised away from the offensive and defensive plans unnecessarily. Farmar only played 11 minutes, but he managed to rack up a minus 15 during his short stay on the court. It would be too easy to add in examples from Sasha or Josh. Only Luke seems to have remembered how to play basketball recently.

    3. Responding to physical play.

    It hasn’t been just Atlanta. Portland, Charlotte, and Utah have also had success with pressure defenses that included physical fouls on attempted layups. Other teams have had major runs in the fourth quarter by “going physical.”

  151. drrayeye, thanks so much. I didn’t see the game, just the highlights. You’re synopsis is what I expected. Now I can get back to business without wasting anymore thought about it.

    152 – Kurt, you sound like a worried fan that can’t admit he’s worried. Now we’re going to use the 1st 2 rounds for adjustment purposes? That Boston team played way down to teams they were clearly better than. They started being themselves game 2 against the Pistons. We’re just lucky that none of the western comp can guard Kobe…

  152. Why would Kurt be worried? H is level headed and not going to get worked up about a team that has won eight of its last ten (six of them on the road) and is 58-15 overall because it dropped a game (third in four nights). Everyone needs to just relax a little bit. People aren’t enjoying this season as much as they should.

  153. New post up, Fast Break thoughts.

    Drrayeye, if you want you or I can paste your well thought-out comment over to the new thread so it isn’t missed.

  154. Hi Kurt (157),

    Thanks, and please feel free.


  155. the hawks made me sick last night they were week slow and pitafull

  156. did any one see lebron look at the hawks bench after a cavs run and tell them to call time out