Archives For March 2009

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
Records: Lakers 50-12 (1st in the West) Trailblazers 39-23 (7th in the West)
Offensive ratings: 114.0 (1st in league) Trailblazers 113.3 (2nd in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.3 (6th in league) Trailblazers 109.0 (18th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Trailblazers Brandon Roy, Steve Blake, Nicolas Batum, Lamarcus Aldridge, Joel Przybilla

Real Women Don’t Wear Green: You asked for it and the shirt is here.

Lakers notes: So do the people here who thought Lamar Odom had turned the corner a few months back still feel that way? He’s had three games that have been down a little. I’ll go back to what I’ve always said about him — you need to accept Odom as Odom, the moments of brilliance and the moments he disappears. It’s all a function of just who he is. He is going to forever be inconsistent. He is going to be up and down in the regular season, but he tends to rise up in the playoffs. And he still provides a versatility that fits what the Lakers do very well. If you live and die with Odom night to night it is a roller coaster, but when you step back you see a picture of quality.

On another note Su Yue had 11 points on 4 of 15 shooting, with seven assists, in his first game for the D-Fenders. The reports are that he played pretty well, but his shot didn’t fall. The next game he had 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting.

What I thought was interesting was the report (couldn’t find the link) saying that the Lakers spent a lot of time debating sending Sun down and negotiating/talking with Chinese officials to make sure that this move was not seen as a demotion or an insult. As is very important in his culture, Sun needed to be able to save face, so a lot of time and effort was put into the timing and the wording of the press release that sent him down. I think everyone involved knew him getting some burn was a good thing, but it was all in the presentation.

The Trailblazers Coming In: I attended the Spurs/Clippers game this week (the infamous “the beatings will continue until morale improves” game) with a number of Pomona College grads. They were there because Greg Popovich used to coach at Pomona, and he recruited his now top assistant Mike Budenholzer to play for him there (but left before Mike arrived).

Budenholzer spoke to the group afterward, and he was asked about Brandon Roy, who the night before had dropped 26 on the Spurs in a Trailblazers win. The first thing he talked about was just how strong Roy is, how he may be the most physical PG in the league and that allows him to get into positions to get the shots he wants. That kind of PG (think D-Will) has really given the Lakers trouble in the past. Blazers Edge had a great line that Roy tends to “lullaby and waltz” his way to the rim, he changes speed beautifully and that with his strength makes it very hard to stop him.

He has led a Portland team playing very well now, they are 7-3 in their last 10 including that big win against the Spurs. Roy is shooting 56.8% (eFG%) in those last 10. Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez have been playing great off the bench.

All that said, they barely beat the Pacers the other night. Every team at this time of year has clunker games. Here is what Nate McMillan said about the Lakers game right after the Pacers game:

“They know that we’ve beaten them up here so they’ll be ready for the game. We go into this game, what I wanted us to do was have a good rhythm going into this game. I wanted us to basically play really sharp to go into that game. We get this game but we gotta play much better than we did tonight to get that game because they are looking forward to it and for us it’s at home and we want to continue to protect home court.”

Keys To The Game: These are the two top offenses in the NBA (per possession, which is what matters). This is going to be a high-scoring game. That said, whichever team plays the best defense is going to get the win.

For the Lakers, that means protecting the rim. The Blazers are good on offense because they have guys that get to and finish at the rim.

The Lakers defense is predicated on stopping penetration, that is the reason for bringing the help line over so far (bringing the big over to essentially zone off the strong side), but that will be put to a real test with Roy. He is going to get past Fisher (and Farmar), Roy will kill you with layups, and while he hits jumpers it is at a lower percentage, so you have to get the ball out of his hands and to the other shooters. Against the Pacers, take Roy out of the equation and the team shot 37%. This is one case where the Nash/CP3 system is not the goal — you want to get the ball out of his hands and make someone else beat you.

Protecting the rim is also the key to Lamarcus Aldridge, who can only score at the rim and the left elbow (I have no idea why there, other than he worked on that spot because it is key to the offense, and he shoots 52% from there.

While the Lakers need to help on defense, you do not leave Steve Blake at the three point line to help.

The other key — and this is where Odom needs to break out of his slump — the Lakers have to crash the defensive glass. The Blazers grab 32.4% of their missed shots, the highest percentage in the league. Aldridge and Przybilla are good on the glass, and this is an athletic and long team. Teams that beat the Lakers tend to do it because they got a lot of easy buckets, often on fast breaks, but another way is offensive rebounds and put backs. The Lakers have to limit those.

Where you can watch: KCAL9 in LA with a 7 pm tip off. Nationally, League Pass and thee other usual suspects.

NBA: NOV 09 Rockets at Lakers

Records: Lakers 49-12 (1st in the West) T-Wolves 18-42 (11th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.9 (1st in league) T-Wolves 106.2 (23rd in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.4 (6th in league) T-Wolves 111.2 (26th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
T-Wolves Randy Foye, Sebasian Telfair (game time decision), Ryan Gomes, Mike Miller, Kevin Love

Forum Blue and Gold: Now on Twitter: At the urging of Nomuskles, there is now an official FB&G twitter account —forumbluegold.

(Yes, there is no “and” or “&”, talk to the twitter people who wouldn’t let me use those.)

This will be filled with random observations about the Lakers, the NBA, Top Chef, Sasha’s hair and what Bill Simmons thinks about it, why Bill Simmons thinks so much about it, LOST, what was the best Van Halen album and whatever else pops into my mind (or a few of the other regulars around here). Obviously, this is tweeting not serious analysis, so we are going to have some fun.

Let me know who you are and we’ll follow you, too. This is one big happy family. (Well, except after a loss we are not that happy.)

New FB&G Shirt, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day: We all remember the idiocy of the NBA or Adidas or whoever came up with the Lakers St. Patrick’s Day shirt. Well, The 81 Witness had a good counter to that, hence the new FB&G shirt:

Real Men Don’t Wear Green

The front has the logo of the site and the forum, the back has just those words. If nothing else, I expect Sasha to buy one.

Sun Now Rises For D-Fenders: The Lakers announced today that Sun Yue is headed down to the D-Fenders for a while. For him, this is probably a bit of an ego hit, but if he can get past that it is a good thing. The way he is going to get better is to get some run. From here on out, with the team trying to get into playoff mode, there is not going to be a lot of run for the guys at the end of the bench.

Better to let him go play (in the triangle, that’s why Jerry Buss bought the team) than to sit there staring at the Laker Girls. Yea, he’s going to miss that, too. But he needs to play.

The T-Wolves Coming In: They may be the worst team in the NBA of late, having won just one of their last nine games. They got just destroyed by Golden State a few nights ago.

Mike Miller had not shooting enough (4 fewer shots per game than last year) and he for the season is off from three (down to 36.5% from 43% last season). But in the last 10 games, he is back to being the Miller that kills the Lakers, shooting, 46% from three. Maybe it is because they have a good interior passer like Kevin Love down low who can get him the ball inside out (as he tends to prefer his catch and shoots). Jefferson never really did that well.

Maybe the best player of late has been Randy Foye (and he has a twitter account. Just sayin). He’s averaging 21 a game in the last 10, and if he is putting up a three the Lakers need to close out fast as he is shooting 41.7% from deep in the last 10.

Keys To The Game: Remember the last game a couple weeks ago — the Lakers were in control but never pulled away. The bench kept giving leads back. The Lakers picked up one of their ugly wins. That’s what happens if you don’t respect a team (and you have the talent of the Lakers, often other teams just lose those games). The Lakers need to come out tonight with the intent of going all Bachman Turner Overdrive.

Basically in that game the Lakers let Foye and anyone else that wanted to right into the middle of the paint. The Lakers defense not is based on protecting the paint, but nobody was doing that. The result was not only easy baskets but also kick-outs for open corner threes. The Wolves did almost all that damage off the pick-and-roll, tonight the Lakers need to defend that better, have bigs show out a little and take away the drives and the paint. (This is where we really miss Bynum.)

Get out and run, particularly the second unit, the Lakers should get a few easy buckets tonight.

Where you can watch: 7:30 on Fox Sports out here. We all may miss the start of this to watch the end of Celtics/Cavs anyway.

You Do the Math

Darius Soriano —  March 5, 2009

Acquiring players and building a roster can be a tricky equation.  Teams are constantly trying to balance the draft, free agency, and trades all while dealing with the salary cap.  Teams are always looking for an edge in how to acquire more talent.  And in recent seasons, quality organizations have found a way to add this talent and do it cheaply.  Their method is the practice of signing players that have been let go by their respective teams late in the season.  Seemingly every year, there are a few veteran players that are bought out of their contracts or released and sent packing by their team.  And every year those players are tabbed and snatched up by a contending team looking for that one extra piece that can help them get over the top.  The attraction between these players and teams occurs for obvious reasons.  These newly freed players are normally veteran guys that are looking for a chance to win a championship after rarely playing for more than a different slot in the lottery.   And the contending team is usually one or two veterans short in their rotation and looking to fill that void with a player that can come in, play smart basketball, and not need his hand held through every detail of their team and system.  Sometimes it works to perfection (the obvious example is the Celtics signing Sam Cassell and with PJ Brown and winning the title with the help of their contributions) and sometimes it doesn’t (like last season when the Spurs picked up Damon Stoudamire and he had little impact in the post season).  This year the trend continues as several teams either already have or are looking to add some pretty good players that have been released and become free agents.  

So far, this is what we’ve seen and also what we’re hearing from the media:  Boston has already added Mikki Moore as the tall/long, back up big man they’ve been looking for since PJ Brown rode off into the sunset with his championship ring.  The Celtics have also added (right off the bus stop bench, apparently) former Knick, Stephon Marbury.  Marbury has his faults (obviously) but he should also provide back court insurance for injured Tony Allen and an extra ball handler/scorer to play behind/with Rondo and House.  Like the Celtics, the Cavs have also upgraded their front court by adding Joe Smith.  Smith is a familiar face to the Cavs, so even without the injury to Ben Wallace, Cleveland probably would have pursued Joe as he’s the type of steady veteran that every contender would want.  The fact that the Cavs have a real need for him with Wallace out made this signing almost inevitable.  The other name that fits the bill as a veteran player that could help a contender is the recently bought out Drew Gooden.  As for his destination, sources are putting him on a plane to San Antonio to sign with the Spurs at some point this week.  The Spurs are in need of another big man that can contribute and Gooden may fit that bill.  Even though he’s been slowed by a groin injury, Drew is a talented player that is a good rebounder and a solid mid-range shooter.

The Celtics, the Cavs, and the Spurs.  If you look at any set of NBA Power Rankings, these teams are at or near the top.  So, the signings by these teams look to greatly impact the eventual champion for this season.  But how will they, exactly?  

Before we look at any potential trip to or match up in the Finals, the playoffs come first.  Let’s start in the East.  All season long, the East has been a three team race with the aforementioned Cavs and Celtics, plus the Orlando Magic.  The race for the top spot is crucial in the East because in the second round of the playoffs the 2nd and 3rd seeds will face off (assuming they both win in the first round) and that will be brutal match up for the team that doesn’t gain the top spot.  I mean, if you were Cleveland, do you want to face Orlando in the second round or would you prefer facing Atlanta (the current 4th seed) or Miami (the current 5th seed)?  Even though I respect both the Hawks and the Heat, I think I’d rather face them than the team with the best Center in the league and shooters flanked all around him.  So, Boston’s signings of Moore and Marbury and Cleveland’s of Smith are directly tied to trying to continue the fantastic seasons that these teams have had and not take a step back in the pursuit of HCA in the East.  And I think this pursuit of home court (and the subsequent addition of any reinforcements) matters most for the Cavs and for several reasons.  First is the fact that they are the best home team in the league.  If they earn HCA they will have the inside track to an ECF appearance and a trip to the Finals.  Second is that the Celtics are the defending champs and with that comes a real belief in their ability to win on the road.  This being a Lakers blog, and us devout Lakers fans, makes it easy for us to knock the Celtics or take pot shots (like pointing to them struggling on the road in the playoffs last season even though it really didn’t matter in the end).  However, if you look back to recent history, championship teams always end up with a mental edge that carries them beyond the mental barriers that other teams who don’t have that history of winning struggle with.  Essentially, I think Boston believes it can win anywhere, even a game 7 on the road with a Finals trip on the line.  Getting back to Cleveland, I think they need the home court and their move to get Smith only bolsters their chance of getting it.  Smith will instantly either start next to Big Z or be the first big man off the bench and let the Cavs return to their normal rotations.  When the Lakers beat the Cavs in Cleveland, JJ Hickson received playing time that would have gone to other players (Big Z, mainly) had they not been injured.  Now, with Smith in the fold everyone can play a role that fits their skills.  (As for Orlando, I’m not sure they’re ready yet.  Yes they’ve beaten us, but they still struggle with Boston and have taken a step back with Jameer Nelson injured.  Sure, they’ve added Alston, but Jameer was an All-Star level player this season, Skip to my Lou is not.)

In the West, even though the Lakers are a virtual lock for the top seed, the conference really is a two team race that also includes the Spurs.  If last year’s playoff series against the Lakers showed the Spurs anything, it’s that they needed more talent to compete for a Finals trip.  Sure they didn’t have a healthy Ginobili, but they were also depending on Brent Barry and Ime Udoka for key stretches on the wing and Kurt Thomas, Bonner, and Oberto as front line support to Duncan.  They’ve solved their wing issues by having a healthy Ginobili (though he is banged up again), by bringing in Roger Mason Jr. as a free agent, and drafting George Hill.  However, their shaky front court is still a problem when matching up with the Lakers’ long and athletic front line (think they’re missing Scola and Spillter?).  This is where Gooden comes in.  Gooden may not have the height, but he hustles, is tough, and has more than a fair amount of talent.  Don’t let the fact that he’s played for a lot of teams mask the fact that he’s contributed everywhere he’s been.  And while injuries have set him back this season, his ability to post up AND hit the mid range jumper make his game a very good compliment to Duncan’s.  Not to mention he’s always been a good rebounder, especially on the offensive glass where he’s corralled over two and a half a game for his career (a real problem for us considering we have not been strong in controlling our defensive glass this season).  If the reports are true, and the Spurs do end up with Gooden, they just got a lot tougher.  If you don’t believe me, Dwyer is saying the same thing.   As for our Lakers, we’re looking at our own type of late season pick up.  By all accounts Andrew Bynum is recovering on schedule from his knee injury and is hopefully well on his way to a late season return.  We’ve talked at length about what his presence in our lineup means, so I won’t go into that now.  However, just know that we’ll be looking for him to provide a big lift to our team and that these other teams are also looking for a lift from their recent (or pending) signings.

Like I said earlier, these late in the year additions are all the rave now for contenders.  Our chief rivals in both conferences have added players that sure up weaknesses and make them stronger not only for the playoffs, but in their pursuit of maintaining their stellar records to earn prime playoff seedings.  Last season, Boston does not win a title without their pickups of Cassell and Brown.  This season they’re banking on Moore/Marbury, the Cavs have added Smith, and the Spurs have added (or will soon add) Gooden.  Meanwhile our Lakers are hoping to get Bynum back and restore the team that started the season as a favorite for the title.  As the season enters it’s final six weeks and we start the countdown to the playoffs all these contending teams hope that their additions will equal a Larry O’Brien Trophy.  They’ve all added variables and tweaked their equations.  How does it add up to you?

-Darius

 

Records: Lakers 48-12 (1st in the West) Grizzlies 15-43 (13th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.9 (1st in league) Grizzlies 102.4 (29th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (6th in league) Grizzlies 109.4 (20th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Grizzlies Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur, Marc Gasol.

The Lakers Coming In: Phil Jackson said what pretty much everyone had seen lately — the Lakers are a tired team. A week of home games with some long breaks should help them recover a little this week, but they also just have to fight through it. Every team gets this.

But the question is are we just talking about tired with our guard play of late, where every guard not named Kobe has struggled. Kwame a. weighed in on this in the comments.

One thing that I am concerned about is D-Fish and his shot. It is kind of reminiscent of last year when he got off to a great start, kind of leveled off in the middle of the season and struggled late. I fully trust Fish to be productive in crunch time and play hard-nosed defense, but he was really giving us a boost earlier in the year with his early offense. We need him to be a weapon and that is why it is so important that Jordan (or Sasha) be able to EFFECTIVLEY spell Fish so Fish only plays about 28-30 minutes a game. If not, he may be too tired when we really need him. It’s a delicate balance for Sasha and Jordan because both guys are confident dudes and this has translated into them feeling confident in their abilities and a willingness to take some questionable shots and passes. The coaching staff has to find a way to encourage them to play with confidence, but more importantly to play smart and efficiently. These next two games should help with that process, but they must be able to translate that on the road (like they have shown already this season, i.e. at the Cavs).

Darius added to this:

I am concerned though with Farmar and Sasha and the point you’ve made before about them not playing as well together. You’re spot on that Sasha’s numbers were best when Jordan was injured and I’m wondering how Sasha can get on track with the consistency that he showed last season. One thing I can say about this whole situation that I also feel is affecting Sasha is Ariza. Again not that these guys have issues with each other, but their roles on the team are in direct competition. First, unlike Sasha, Ariza has tremendous chemistry with Farmar. Those guys look for each other constantly and usually hook up for one highlight play per game (as a matter of fact, that turnover the Kurt illustrated in the body of this post was Farmar looking for a slightly trailing Ariza). Second, Ariza is now our closer at SF. Last season, that was Sasha’s role (not at SF, but at SG with Kobe playing SF). Now, it’s really rare for Sasha to close a game. Phil has seemingly decided that Ariza’s contributions on defense and decent shooting trump Sasha’s decent defense and (supposed) stronger shooting. Although with Sasha shooting so poorly this season, you really can’t blame Phil for going this route.

One other guy that has gone ice cold is Luke Walton, who in his last three games has averaged 5.3 points on 36.8% shooting. He needs a couple easy baskets to get going.

The Grizzlies Coming In: Memphis is really not playing well, having lost seven games in a row and driving fans nuts. Here’s a recent quote from Three Shades of Blue:

Memphis is struggling and struggling in a big way. Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick don’t seem to be pleased with Lionel Hollins or the Grizzlies front office and you can’t help but suspect this has something to do with Kyle Lowry being traded. That is a huge part of the Grizzlies attack. Defensively the youngsters are routinely getting beaten to the paint and that is especially noticeable at the point where Mike Conley seems unable to stop dribble penetration despite his incredible speed and his backup, Marco Jaric, can’t throw the ball in the Mississippi River since getting married to Adriana Lima. It is still too early in the season to contemplate the team throwing games so they must really be this bad. That isn’t encouraging.

OJ Mayo seems to have hit a wall — in his last 10 games he is shooting 41% eFG% and 31% from three (he is getting to the line about 1 more time per contest).

Marco Jaric has not made one shot since he eloped with a supermodel. Not one shot. On a basketball court.

Chris Mihm will not play tonight, he continues to have ankle pain after getting increased minutes since the trade to Memphis. I just feel bad for the guy. But it shows why keeping him would not have helped our front line out.

Keys To The Game: Keep Andrew Bynum healthy. No, he is not playing tonight, but any time Memphis is the opponent that will be my top concern.

The Lakers need to re-establish some focused intensity in their game, not looking tired but looking like a team that can take care of business. The next two games against struggling teams are a chance to do that and get some rest before heading out on the road. What I hope to see is not a Lakers team playing to the level of the competition, but one that is focused and ready to get to work.

This is a game where the Lakers more aggressive defense can really work — Mayo and Gay are great off the dribble but not great (yet, at least) at setting up teammates. The Grizzlies offense is about isolations and pick-and-rolls, ones often with little passing. The Lakers need to be smart and contest the shots those two put up and not let them just get into the lane.

Fun matchup in the paint with the Gasol brothers going at one another. Marc is a solid player, but Pau is far more skilled and should be able to get his points. How much Pau scores though is not really the point, with his passing the Lakers triangle offense looks better when the ball goes through Pau.

Remember a year ago when we were talking about all the great young point guards Memphis was stockpiling? Not so much now. Fisher should be able to control Conley and get into the paint on drives. I rarely say run the pick and roll with Fish, but this might be a night to try it.

The Lakers cannot turn the ball over, that leads to breaks and easy points for an athletic team. Smart passes and good ball handling will lead Memphis to be over-aggressive in going for steals, opening up cuts and kick-outs for good looks. Just take care of the ball.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start on Fox Sports and all the usual places.

Thoughts From Two Losses

Kurt —  March 2, 2009
San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 5

Right about now, every game the Lakers play is a statement game. Not for the Lakers, but for whomever suits up against them. The Lakers are the measuring stick, the favorites out West, and teams that could possibly see them in the playoffs want to make a statement.

Denver wanted to make a statement and did it with a scheduled loss. I can see why Poppovich, when faced with the LA-to-Denver back-to-back, sat Duncan, Parker and Manu. He makes a statement to the league and gets his guys some rest. The Suns needed Sunday’s game for their ego — and credit their role guys who stepped up and had their best games.

The Lakers bench has lost its way a little, and I think we can see some of why (and what can go right) in a stretch that includes part of the third and the start of the fourth quarter from yesterday’s game.

4:25 3rd. 78-75 Suns: Derek Fisher is dribbling on the wing waiting for Kobe to get free but credit Matt Barnes for good denial defense that makes Fisher’s wishes moot. This is one point — the Suns role guys wanted this win bad, the Lakers role guys were lethargic, to use Kobe’s words. And it was both mental and physical laziness.

Back to the game: With six on the shot clock Fisher doesn’t even wait for the Josh Powell screen to set and goes away from it and into the lane, Grant Hill leaves Walton to get in Fisher’s path. Walton is now all alone in the corner while every other player from both teams is in the paint or within a step of it. Fisher though has his head down and shoots, and Hill rejects it then catches it.

Fisher drove past Barbosa to get into he lane and when Barbosa got burned rather than recover he just leaked out for a potential fast break. Since every Laker is in the paint or a step off the baseline, Hill’s lead pass is to a wide-open and alone Barbosa. The only question is if the Brazilian can dunk. Apparently not, but a lay-up still counts as two.

4:06 3rd, 80-75. Kobe and Gasol are the only Lakers playing well, so why not just go to those two in the pick and roll? This is what stars do; when everyone else is taking the night off they just try to take more on. The problem is, sometimes that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So P&R it is, Kobe makes a nice play using the screen then spinning off back behind it and attacking the rim. He drives the lane but both Shaq and Hill are there as help defenders and the result is a short shot and Kobe complaining to the ref.

The Suns are forced to run the half court set — this is what you want. After a few passes Barnes attacks off a Shaq pick, and Gasol shows out to stop the drive (it may have been a switch, but the communication was bad on defense). Meanwhile Shaq rolled into the lane, gets the feed from Barnes and goes up for the dunk. Powell did not rotate in time so he makes up for it by fouling. It’s a compounded mental mistake, missing a rotation then arm fouling the one guy you pretty much to tackle to make sure he doesn’t get the and-1. So Shaq gets the and-1.

3:24 3rd, 83-75. Kobe comes off the Gasol screen but this time gives it to Ariza, who is wide open for the catch-and-shoot. Instead, when Hill starts to come at him, Ariza does a fake jab step that gives him a little more room but not much, then he goes up. While he has worked on the shot and is much better at it, there are moments it is clear Ariza is still not comfortable as a jump shooter and that can lead to indecisiveness. Ariza should only shoot a three if he is insanely wide open. Otherwise, attack the rim. He is not Kobe, he doesn’t get to do jab-step pull-ups. He misses too many. He misses this one.

Kobe, picks up the rebound and uses his momentum to get to the basket, Shaq has to slide over and help and that leaves Gasol open, he gets a jump pass from Kobe and dunks. Again, those were the two Lakers that came to play.

3:12, 83-77: Shaq is out to set the wing screen for Barbosa, but he slips it and Gasol somehow loses track of a 7 foot, 300 pound man. Hard to do. Shaq gets the pass from Barbosa and quickly makes a great bounce pass to Louis Amundson (from here on out known as pony tail boy), who does his Kwame Brown imitation and drops the pass and creates a turnover.

The Lakers want to push the ball and Gasol races down court to get deep position. Credit Kobe for noticing and rewarding Gasol with the swift pass right on the money that allows Gasol to score easily.

2:53, 83-79: After a little play where the ball goes out of bounds off Powell, the Suns inbound to Hill about 15 feet out on the left baseline with Kobe right on him and Powell there for help. Trevor Ariza ball watches and turns his back on the best UCLA football player in the NBA (Barnes), who slides into a better spot, gets a pass from Hill and drains a three over the late-closing Ariza. The Lakers did this all night, just falling asleep on defensive assignments and losing track of their man.

Still, this is one of those things about the NBA, if Matt Barnes beats you draining threes, you live with that. He is shooting 33% this year, up from his career 32% number, so this is not his forte. You let him take it. Then again, when a guy is hot for the night, it’s time to adjust a little and not turn your back on him.

2:25, 86-79. Kobe/Gasol, this time Kobe goes away from the pick and takes Barnes and Shaq with him, and near the baseline he makes the rare jump skip-pass to Jordan Farmar, who has a wide open three, but he instantly makes the extra pass to Ariza in the corner. A guy shooting 35.7% from three passed up the wide-open three to get it to a guy shooting 32.6% for the season. Farmar needs to take that. Ponytail boy makes a nice closeout on Ariza, who puts the ball on the floor then off his foot out of bounds.

For fun, let’s skip ahead to the start of the fourth, where the Lakers make another little run. Pretend you saw a Flomax and Taco Bell commercial here.

12:00 4th, 91-81 Suns: Just to make everything I’ve said in this breakdown look bad, the Lakers work the ball around to Ariza at the three point line, who does the jab step then pulls back and goes for the corner three, and makes it. I think Kwame a. said it well in the comments:

Trevor, he needs to re-establish his minimalistic approach to offense. Lately he has been using his dribble for no apparent purpose and has been far to willing to fire up the 3 ball. I think he must make a concerted effort to attacking the rim, or moving the ball and cutting. This maximizes his abilities.

Then Darius added this:

I think what we’re seeing with the performance of Trevor has a lot to do with Bynum being out. It’s not so much that those two played so well together, but it’s the player groupings that Trevor now finds himself with. Trevor used to play almost all his minutes with Kobe, Odom, and usually Gasol. Now he’s playing less and less with those players and playing more and more with Sasha and Powell. Kobe and Gasol (and Odom somewhat) create shots for players. Sasha and Powell do not. Ariza is at his best when he’s cutting from the weakside and finishing at the rim. Now, more and more frequently no one is drawing the defense away from Trevor (or our other players) that enables them to play in more space or get the types of looks that they excel at. Getting Bynum back will help not only because of his production, but because it will reestablish our player rotations and put our old player groupings together.

11:30, 91-84. While Goran Dragic and ponytail boy run a rather sad two-man game on the perimeter, Robin Lopez sets up camp in the paint. Bad news for him, the ref was counting, so the three-second call and the turnover.

Sasha and Gasol play the two-man game and Sasha uses the screen to put up a three, that falls. Sasha took a lot of heat from Lakers fans in that game, but he was one of only three Lakers that was a + for the night (+2) and was 2-4 from three. And he hasn’t forgotten how to shoot, but he right now is not getting himself in position to take the shots he is good at. He hit this three off the dribble, but I would love to see his shooting stats when he is off the dribble versus spot up. I have a suspicion one is a lot higher than the other.

91-87, 11:06: Jordan Farmar does a good job stopping a screenless Dragic from driving, but Sasha cheated off Jared Dudley in the corner to be part of the not needed help. So Sasha left a guy shooting 40% from three since joining the Suns to help on Dragic? Another mental defensive error for the Lakers. Sasha did recover fairly well but it wasn’t enough.

94-87: 10:55: Farmar to Ariza early in the shot clock and Ariza just goes up with it from three, draining it over Barnes. Ariza is feeling it, but again is this the shot we want Ariza taking? Quick jump shots early in the clock against the Suns is a long-term disaster.

94-90: 10:44: The Suns try to run on a make, but Sasha and the helper Gasol did a good job in transition on Dudley, who misses and Ariza gets the board.

Ariza brings it up and gives it to Farmar, who is blowing by Dragic and into the heart of the lane, and the help comes from everywhere. Farmar sees it and gets it to Powell for a clean 18-foot jumper. That was good play all round from LA and makes it an 11-3 run.

94-92, 10:25: Dragic and Lopez with a little two-man game at the elbow — the fact those two guys are playing together is a sign of the kind of year the Suns have had — but the ball is kicked out to Barnes who misses the three. On the rebound, Dudley pushed off and got called for it, so Shaq comes in.

Gasol gets the ball on the right side, about 8 feet out, with Shaq on him, so he faces up and looks for an opening, but hesitates driving the lane. Instead he passes to Ariza, who hesitates until his defender gets there, so Ariza puts the ball on he floor and drives but pony tail boy stays with him and gets the block. More indecisiveness from Ariza, who seems to struggle at times with when to shoot and when to drive.

Ball out of bounds to the Lakers, and Pau thinks there is too much time on the shot clock so he lets a Sun player knock the ball out of his hand with just one second on the clock. That leads to an ugly running leaner from Sasha, who can’t be blamed for that miss because he had to shoot.

Ball into Shaq on the low block, and Ariza comes to help but from the baseline side. Darius talked about this in the comment — you do not want to double Shaq so that his move is to spin into the paint, where he prefers to shoot. You want to force him baseline (the 2000 version of Shaq could make you pay either way, the 2009 version is less a baseline threat and not as quick).

Despite the mistake, Shaq decides to pass out to the wing and repost and call for the ball. But apparently Barbosa does not believe in the repost and tries to got to work on Farmer, credit Jordan for sticking with him. So now Barbosa does go back to Shaq about three feet from the hoop. Now, 2000 Shaq would have dunked this, instead he goes for the three foot shot and a Powell comes in and blocks it.

On the break, Farmar misreads a passing lane and turns it over. Suns ball and shockingly Shaq is not running, so he is close to the basket and can get the pass and go up fast. Powell has no choice but to foul.

This is the free throws where nobody boxes out the shooter so when Shaq misses he takes a couple steps into the lane, grabs his own miss and dunks it with authority. At that point you knew it was over, or at least I did. The Lakers had stopped doing the little things, like putting a body on the free throw shooter.

A lot of the second unit’s confidence will come back with Bynum, putting the big man or Odom back in the second unit rotation. The confidence will start to come back because they will feel there are better half court options.

But that is still a month away, at least, and it would help if these guys could welcome Bynum back an already more cohesive and comfortable unit.