Archives For April 2009

NBA 2009: Lakers Beat Jazz 119-109
Since a disproportionate number of Lakers fast breaks end up in pull up jumpers, I thought today I would rename my usual Fast Break Thought collocation of notes to honor the PUJUT.

• With all this time off, Andrew Bynum is getting plenty of special attention regarding his lackluster performance in the Utah series. I, for one, am not that concerned about what will happen in the next series (be it Houston or Portland).

There are two reasons. First is the matchups are better for him. Utah often went small and didn’t have guys he could bang with down on the block — both Boozer and Okur are comfortable away from the paint. The Jazz also tried to counter the Lakers size advantage by going small, so even if he had been playing well this was not a series where Bynum was going to see as many minutes. But that will not be the case in the next round, he will be down low banging with Yao or Oden. And if either of those guys step out high, you know it’s to set a pick.

The other reason is focus and confidence. Bynum still plays like a young kid — when things are going right he plays bigger and stronger, when he hits a rough patch he loses focus and effort. By the end of the Utah series, his mind appeared to be off with Cedric Ceballos on a Jet Ski. But in the next round he starts again, he has a very clearly defined task, and he wants to prove himself. I have confidence he can.

All that said, Phil Jackson cannot be afraid to use the hook early if he isn’t hacking it (or is hacking Yao).

• Check out the interview over at Hoops Addict with Kim Hidalgo, who just filmed the movie version of Ball Don’t Lie based on Matt de la Pena’s book and is a huge Lakers fan. That’s a good combo.

• I think the guys at The Painted Area hit the nail on the head:

The ridiculousness of the flagrant-foul interpretation is that, in practice, it is determined almost entirely by whether the fouled player hits the floor in an awkward, scary-looking manner, and Miller ultimately did not hit the floor that hard. Many times, you’ll see a guy go for a legitimate blocked shot on a breakaway, and get called for a ridiculous flagrant ONLY b/c of the way the fouled player falls.

• While we’re on the Rondo foul on Miller, there have been people suggesting that the Bulls seek revenge with a hard foul on Rondo tonight, the eye for an eye theory. But the smart move is to take a page out of the hockey playbook here: On the ice in the playoffs, if someone cheap shots a teammate (and nobody can start a fight that second) you don’t take the revenge in the next playoff game — that could turn the course of a series against you. However, the next season, first home game against said player and team, expect the revenge with interest. I’m not advocating that, I’m just saying….

Chick Hearn Raps

Kurt —  April 29, 2009

Looks like we have a little time on our hands — the NBA has announced that whatever happens in the Portland/Houston series, the second round starts Monday in Los Angeles. Only Andrew Bynum’s knee and Luke Walton’s ankle are happy about that decision.

Rather than pick apart flaws, I figure we can relax for a little bit and talk about other games in this thread. For something else to do, here is Chick Hearn rapping (with iffy audio, sorry about that).

Who’s Next?

Kurt —  April 28, 2009

NBA 2009: Lakers Beat Jazz 119-109
Not everything was pretty about how the Lakers beat the Jazz — unless you enjoy giving up leads just to live dangerously — but in the end just about everybody on the planet said the Lakers in five and the Lakers won in five. They looked dominant at times doing it, and the bench was alternately fantastic and frustrating.

But the Jazz are gone. Who’s got next?

Well, either the Rockets or Portland. The Rockets are up 3-1 on the Blazers, next game on Tuesday night (NBA TV, 7 pm). The Rockets have big matchup advantages in this series that they are exploiting better than I thought they would. The Blazers have nobody who can slow Yao, forcing a lot of double teams that is opening things up for others on offense. On defense, the Blazers are a jumpshooting team and with Battier and Artest the Rockets have some quality perimeter defenders.

We’ll get into more of an Xs and Os breakdown against the Lakers later, but Zephid has laid out the case quite well (and I agree with him) that the Lakers easier path is through Houston.

On Offense Against The Rockets

Without Mt. Mutombo, the Rockets have no legitimate big man to back up Yao, so either he’s going to be handling the brunt of our Gasol/Bynum two headed seven foot monster, or they’re going to have Landry or Chuck Hayes guarding them. Needless to say, I like our chances, and that doesn’t even touch on the mismatch that Odom brings against Scola. So long as Kobe doesn’t have another few cold games when deciding to destroy Artest single-handedly, we should have a deadly efficient series against the Rockets.

On Offense Against The Blazers

The Blazers, on the other hand, have two legitimate seven-footers in Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden. Both of those guys are true bangers, and as we’ve seen in the past, they could easily outmuscle our guys underneath and get a ton of offensive rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge and Channing Frye also have good size to use against Odom, so that match-up loses it’s luster. On the perimeter, Nicolas Batum has been very aggressive against Kobe, doing fairly well at taking him out of his comfort zone, while Travis Outlaw is long and tall enough to bother a lot of Kobe’s shots. Overall, all the beautiful mismatches we have against the Rockets we simply do not have against the Blazers.

On Defense Against The Rockets

As Portland has shown, if you are going to double team Yao, you’re going to have to cover Scola and Landry at the free throw line if you want it to be effective. That being said, we have the advantage of choosing to do either. Both Bynum and Gasol will be able to at least bother some of Yao’s shots with their length, so I doubt he’ll have the ridiculous efficiency that he’s had against the Blazers. We can also bring Odom across the lane in the SSZ, which should serve us well if we can cover the passing lanes adequately on the weak side. On the perimeter, I like the idea of Aaron Brooks charging into a forest of seven-footers, so I’m betting Fish will play up on him and force him into the SSZ and a few bad decisions to boot.

On Defense Against The Blazers

While the Blazers have similar models to our team, the one difference is they are a jump-shooting team. The Rockets are able to contain them so well because they have a lot of great individual defenders. Lowry, Battier, Artest, Landry, Hayes, and even Scola and Yao to some extent are very good individual defenders who don’t require help. This way, Portland isn’t getting any uncontested jumpers unless it’s off Roy’s penetration. Compare this to our defense, which has a penchant for giving up open jumpers, and is especially weak against sweet-shooting bigs, and you can see why we’ve lost 2 games to them this season.

Lakers/Jazz Game 5 Chat

Kurt —  April 27, 2009

Jazz vs. Lakers
The toughest win to get is the last one. Doesn’t matter where the game is played, what happened before, teams pick it up a notch when their season is on the line.

No Luke Walton tonight (and maybe through the first couple games of the next round), which means more minutes and a bigger game is needed from Ariza.

Kobe was on fire early last game pulling up for the midrange jumper — the Jazz never really adjusted to that. They were willing to let him beat them that way so he did. I expect some kind of adjustment to that this game, Utah can’t risk the same outcome, but whether it is the early double team or ball denial defense, that should open things up for the ball to get inside. The Jazz still don’t have an answer for everything Gasol can do. And they don’t seem to care when Odom drives to the left, although they should.

On defense the Lakers probably had their best half in the second half of game four. They were much better and smarter at doubling Boozer before he started his move, and they did a much better job being aware of the cutters when help came on D-Will, Those things need to continue.

But by this point in the series, there are not a lot of secrets. Everyone knows what is supposed to happen, it’s a matter of exaction.

I know a lot of people want to see more Andrew Bynum tonight, to see him get in a rhythm before he gets a boost in responsibility next series (either Houston or Portland). The problem is, the Jazz have tried to counter the Lakers size advantage by going small at times. Putting Bynum out there in that situation — with his knee not 100% — could lead to bad outings and confidence issues. He needs to be in when he is in a place where he can succeed. Also, closing it out tonight means more rest for him (not likely the next round starts before the weekend).

For us fans, it’s hard not to look forward a little to the next series — and if you want to win tickets to game one of the next round check out the Lakers Nation Twitter contest. But we are going to hold off on that in the formal posts.

Hopefully for just one day.

Game Four Thoughts

Kurt —  April 26, 2009

Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles
First, a few thoughts from our resident historian Gatinho on the stroke suffered by Tex Winter:

Tex played at USC, coached against Wilt at KSU, coached the Houston Rockets for 2 years and his offense has been the chosen offense of 9 NBA championship teams. His “overload” offense, kerned from Sam Barry at USC, was designed to break zone defenses. It’s uniqueness lies in its myriad of options that the offense can use to counteract defenses. When run correctly the defense is in a constant react mode. These options make it impossible for the other team to “jump” your play with their defense because their is no play call, only the decision as to who will be in post on the string side.

The familiar shadow over Phil Jasckson’s shoulder, Tex has been on then final ballot several times for the hall of Fame, but sadly he has yet to be inducted. in an exchange I had with Roland Lazenby, he called Tex, “The most direct man you will ever meet.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Tex and his family. Get well Tex, we want to hear your speech when you finally and deservedly get inducted into the Hall.

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It’s good to have Kobe on your team.

There are games like this one where he does what only a handful of players who have ever played the game can do — completely impart his will on the game. Will his team to win. And he took his anger out on Ronnie Brewer, hitting his first 11 shots while Brewer was on him.

Kobe’s effort gave confidence to his teammates and suddenly everything started going right. By the second quarter the Lakers were moving the ball inside then kicking it out for open threes by Sasha and Shannon. Lakers not named Kobe shot 10 of 15 in the second quarter as the Lakers started to pull away.

The energy Kobe brought to the team carried over to the second half, and in that half the Lakers did a much better job of forcing D-Will and Boozer into the shots they are not comfortable with — the pair went 3 of 12 in the second half. The Lakers forced a lot more jump shots and the Jazz as a team were 11 of 37 on jump shots for the game.

Also, there has been lot’s of talk about the limited Andrew Bynum minutes, but Darius makes a great point about how important the depth the Lakers have is in instances like this

I think we need to understand that Phil is trying to win a series. That means that we can’t afford poor play from a major rotation player and if we have the depth to limit that guys minutes, Phil is going to do just that. Jordan Farmar can attest to how this works. I’m not down on Bynum per se, but I am upset that he’s not doing the things that he’s seemingly capable of even in his current physical state. In the end, he is young and this is his first playoff action, but he’s not even catching the ball cleanly right now. And while we can attribute slow rotations or missed rebounds to timing issues due to his recent return or being hampered by a sore knee, I think he should be fairly comfortable catching the ball. So that’s a little disconcerting to me. However, I do think he’ll get better when we return to LA and as the playoffs progress.

Lakers/Jazz Game Four Chat

Kurt —  April 25, 2009

NBA 2009: Lakers Beat Jazz 119-109

UPDATE: Tex Winter, the Laker consultant who is the inventor of the triangle offense, has suffered a stroke.

Jackson, talking after a morning shootaround in Salt Lake City, said Winter was in Manhattan, Kan., for a reunion of Kansas State basketball team members when he became ill and fell in the shower.

Winter was taken to a hospital, Jackson said, and had made slight progress Saturday.

“I’ve been in touch with the family and they feel relatively at ease with the situation, as difficult as it could have been,” Jackson said. “I’m happy to say that, and they’ve basically said, ‘Take your mind off of this and put it where it belongs right now.’ “

This is certainly sad news, he and his family are in all our thoughts.

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There’s not a lot of panic after the ugly play of the Lakers in game 3, in part because we know that teams ahead 2-1 in a series win it 81.9% of the time. Phil Jackson doesn’t looked panicked in this video interview (the video also includes the Morrison/Sasha little verbal skirmish.)

There’s also not a lot of panic because the things the Lakers were able to do well in the first two games they suddenly did poorly in game three, and we like to think that game three was the anomaly. For example, when Ronnie Brewer was on Kobe in the first two games, he was 7 of 12 (58.3%), but in game three he was 3 of 16 (18.8%). When you look back over history, Kobe traditionally does well on Brewer at Staples but struggles more at the toxic waste dump, er, Energy Solutions Arena. I expect Kobe to be better, although maybe not great.

I don’t expect a blowout today (remember game four against Utah last playoffs went to overtime and Utah pulled away in the extra period). In part that is because Okur is expected back and he creates some matchup problems for the Lakers on the defensive end — Okur is a big who can shoot the three and that pulls one of the Lakers better rebounders and shot blockers away from the basket. Phil Jackson has hinted he may try Odom on Okur, keeping a guy more comfortable out on the wings with him. But that puts more pressure on Gasol to push back and hang with Boozer on the boards inside.

The Lakers need to get back to scoring in the paint — that means a heavy dose of Pau but it also means the Lakers need to attack the rim and not settle for jump shots. That starts with Kobe but includes LO and others. Darius said he also wants to see the Lakers give the Jazz some of their own medicine by running the pick and roll.

In our normal P&R sets, we use Kobe and Pau. This is the best pairing because of Kobe’s decision making and Pau’s versatility in being able to pop or dive and after receiving the ball shoot or pass with equal effectiveness. However, recently (and normally this works, so I understand the tactic) we’ve seen Pau pop more and Kobe use his dribble to probe the defense and shoot the midrange jumper more. However, I’d really like to see some other options explored on this play in order to get the Jazz on their heels. Basically, I’d really like to see Kobe drive hard off the screen and try to get into the lane and score at the basket and/or I’d really like to see Pau roll/dive to the basket more in order to get closer looks at the basket for himself or to collapse the defense to free up other players on the weakside as defenders help. In the last game, especially in the closing minutes (and I believe zephid mentioned this), when we ran the Kobe/Pau P&R, the Jazz essentially put a soft double team on Kobe which simultaneously took away Kobe’s midrange jumpshot and took away passing angles to a popping Pau. Also, because Kobe was going to the sideline on the P&R, the soft double also took away the LO flash to the FT line as the topside defender (Brewer) as well as LO’s man were taking away the angle for Kobe to make the pressure release pass in that direction. It’s the main reason why we consistently ended up with Kobe forcing long jumpers with a bigger defender (the soft doubling Boozer) contesting the shot. I think if Kobe comes off that screen hard in an attack mindset at Boozer (or any other big that uses this tactic) we’ll see him draw more fouls against players who lack footspeed and we’ll also see him get into the lane to either score or find open teammates (Ariza, Fisher, ShanWOW, Sasha) on the weakside in position to shoot open jumpers. Or if Pau dives/rolls, we’ll see the same effect. This may be a minor adjustment, and one that exists on a play that is not *the* staple of our offense, but it’s a go to play in key scoring situations and I think we do need to mix it up some.

What was troubling about Andrew Bynum’s fouls was the uselessness of them. Fouls trying to block sure baskets because he was late getting there in the first place. Backing down a known flopper like Collins, which is exactly what he wants you to do. Bynum just needs to play smarter. If not, he’ll be back on the bench.

The Lakers need to close out on Williams and Korver beyond the three point line, combined they are shooting 39.4% from three, the rest of the team is at 16.7%. Again, it’s about being smart and recognizing who you are matched up with on the floor.

Basically, the Lakers just need to play smarter and they will be fine.

Lakers Lose Playing Jazz’s Game

Kurt —  April 24, 2009

Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles
The Lakers played the game in the exact style the Jazz wanted to play it, that is why they lost Game 3.

There were just 88 possessions. There were fouls galore. The Lakers strayed away from their offense because of the physicality. Bynum got in foul trouble and had a horrible game, so when they needed him to grab boards at the end Phil had him planted on the bench.

There were a lot of people in comments here and around Lakers nation that wanted to blame Kobe for not sharing the ball when he clearly was cold. And he should have passed more. But remember there are two parts to an assist — the other guy needs to make the shot, and there wasn’t a lot of that happening (the Lakers shot 40% eFG%) for the game. We saw this a lot a couple years ago, when the offense bogs down, Kobe will keep willingly taking on more of the load. You can complain that he was not sharing the ball, but it is a two-way street — how many guys were moving off the ball and putting themselves in good positions to score? Odom is the only one I can think of.

Through all of the ugliness, there are positives. Starting with the Lakers playing maybe their worst offensive game of the season and still only losing by two on the road. And the Lakers defense was pretty good overall — too many backdoor cuts given up (that is just being aware), The Lakers had maybe their best game of the series on D-Will.

Another good part was the start of the third quarter, which Nomuskles broke down with a live blog — notice that what the Lakers did during that stretch was not some magical formula; they just executed the game plan.

Start of the 3rd Quarter

11:40 – First possession of the half. Lakers start with the ball and run a play for Lamar. He loses it going up for a shot in the lane but it rolls to Ariza who finds Kobe in the corner for a three that he drills. Kobe almost never shoots that shot. Utah played good defense, but didn’t matchup quickly enough once the ball was recovered by Ariza. LAL 42, UTA 43

11:24 – Lakers play tough defense on screens away from the ball and limit AK-47 to a contested 20-foot jumper. Lakers are also lucky to come up with the rebound as Milsap is hustled for it. LAL 42, UTA 43

11:09 – Utah brings a hard double team on Kobe in the post. Lamar gave him a post entry pass and then when his man went to double, he went to the rim. No one rotates and Lamar gets an easy dunk. Lakers take the lead that will last them for a long time. Unfortunately not long enough. LAL 44, UTA 43.

11:00 – Deron turns on the afterburners and sprints to the rim early in the shot clock. Fisher can’t slow him down at all. Pau and Odom started the second half and both of them provide okay help, but neither one truly stops Williams. He slices through them and gets the foul as Odom blocks his shot. Questionable call but TNT doesn’t show a replay, so it’s hard to know. Gasol gets whistled for the foul but if anyone, it should have been Lamar. In my book, that’s a no-call. Either way, Williams gets to shoot two free throws. Williams misses the first and makes the second. LAL 44, UTA 44.

10:46 – Kobe and Pau run the sideline pick and roll. Kobe uses his dribble to weave through the trap and gets into the lane. A 10 foot jumper is uncontested and good. Boozer was guarding Gasol and needed to do a better job contesting Kobe’s shot after the pick and roll. LAL 46, UTA 44.

10:31 – Brewer fakes Kobe out of his shoes and takes it to the middle of the paint where Odom puts his arms straight up and brewer forces it. Brewer lost control and the ball goes to the Lakers. Not exactly awesome defense here from the Lakers, but they get the stop. LAL 46, UTA 44

10:20 – Kobe is matched up with Williams on the right block and backs him down. Kobe tries the turnaround jumper but Brewer comes over to help and blocks Kobe’s shot, a pretty rare occurrence on his jumpers. Great recognition and help by Brewer there. LAL 46, UTA 44

10:14 – Williams pushes the ball up court and the Lakers are lucky to escape unscathed. Williams through the ball too low and too hot for anyone to reach. It goes out of bounds. That’s a pass he’d want back. This isn’t good LA defense here. It’s just a bad pass. LAL 46, UTA 44.

9:52 – Kobe works the top of the key. Gives it up to Ariza and gets it back on the left pinch post. He shoots a standstill jumper over Brewer and it comes up short. Not a good use of the triangle offense or his teammates there. Neither team really in sync. LAL 46, UTA 44.

9:40 – Williams is again over the halfcourt line in three seconds. Williams and Boozer run a pick and pop at the top of the key. Boozer jacks up a contested jumper as Ariza flies at him and then runs past. Fisher grabs the long rebound and throws it up court to a streaking Ariza. Williams fouls him and Trevor will shoot two. Ariza makes the first one. Pau backtaps the missed second attempt. Ariza penetrates in traffic and finds odom inside for an easy layup. More of that kind of movement by the cutters can really help the Lakers beat the Jazz’s weak rotations. More of that energetic defense against the Jazz will also help. LAL 49, UTA 44.

9:05 – The Jazz give the ball to Boozer on the block against Pau. Pau holds his ground, contests, the shot and it’s a miss. One of the few times, the Lakers managed to keep in front of Boozer all night. Lamar is there to snag the tough rebound over Milsap.

8:42 – Lamar took an early three point shot that was pretty short. The rebound bounces long to Pau and the Lakers will reset the offense. Phil calls timeout to remind the team not to take those early jumpers. Kobe shoots a double teamed leaner from the left elbow and drains it. Impressive shot but not exactly high percentage. Pretty much sums up Kobe’s night. Lakers on a 16-2 run going back to the first half. LAL 51, UTA 44.

8:16 –Williams dribbles into the front court and shoots a runner drawing a foul on Kobe. Williams makes the first and misses the second. Lakers rebound. LAL 51, UTA 45.

7:58 – Some comments called for Kobe to be a distributor. He was an excellent one here. He split a double team off a sideline pick and roll. Weaved his way through a couple of players. And then made a nice jump pass to Ariza for the sideline three. Wet. LAL 54, UTA 45.

7:35 – Kobe and Pau dare Brewer to shoot from about 15 feet away and he takes them up on it. He nails it. Sagging off someone is one thing. Blatantly leaving them wide open is another. Lakers aren’t really doing anything super impressive yet. LAL 54, UTA 47.

7:08 – Kobe works at the top of the circle against Brewer and gets triple teamed. The ball goes around to the weak side and Gasol finds himself in the position of needing to shoot to beat the clock. He hits a 20 footer that is a bit outside his usual range. LAL 56, UTA 47.

6:57 – Boozer gets doubled in the post and he can choose to pass to Williams who’s camped out on the three point line on his side or Brewer on the opposite side. Option C was Kirilenko cutting to the basket down the middle of the lane. Either Ariza tipped it, or it was just too hot, because Kirilenko had it skip off his hands. Fisher makes a great play to get to the loose ball. Great play and indicative of the kinds of plays the Lakers need to be making more regularly. It’s a 4 on 1 break and Ariza gets the dunk. So far, that’s a 15 point swing in this quarter as the Lakers were down 4 to start the half. LAL 58, UTA 47.

6:28 – Two baseline screens for Utah’s shooter… Ronnie Brewer? Wouldn’t they much rather run that play for Korver (who’s not in)? Anyway. Brewer misses the jumper short. Lakers rebound because Fisher came back into the play to poke it towards Lamar. That’s two or three positive plays by Fisher in a row. The Lakers make a mess of it and Odom fumbles it. Jazz come back quickly on the other end but the Lakers recover. Jazz reset and run a pretty ugly play. The ball squirted free right to Boozer who laid it in. LAL 58, UTA 49.

Lakers/Jazz Game Three Chat

Kurt —  April 23, 2009

NBA 2009: Lakers Beat Jazz 113-100
We know that tonight is going to be tough — the Jazz have been taking some heat from their fans about the quality of their play and effort. Boozer, in particular and despite being injured, is getting a lot of flack.

The Lakers are going to have to play their best game yet, and here are a few areas I think they need to focus on to get the win.

1) Withstand the initial onslaught. The Jazz have had two terrible first quarters against the Lakers, that will not be the case tonight at home. They will be fired up. If the Lakers are close at the end of one and are not having to dig out of a hole, I’ll feel a lot better about this game.

2) Better defense. The Lakers have played great defense in spurts, followed by indifferent defense at other times. Tonight they have to be more consistent. Also, the Jazz started going to more pick-and-roll — the classic Malone/Stockton play — with D-Will and Boozer last game and had some success with it, so expect a much more heavy diet of it tonight. (No Okur again tonight, according to reports.) The Lakers bigs have to show out on Williams, then recover quick to Boozer, the Lakers defenders must take away his preferred driving lanes and steer him to the help defenders. He is going to get his, but make him work for it and don’t let anyone else go off.

UPDATE: Here’s a video of Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons talking pick-and-roll and the Jazz.

3) More Gasol and Bynum on the block. The Jazz tried to take away the Lakers biggest advantage in this series by doubling Bynum and doing some fronting and throwing more looks at Gasol. The problem is, when it got hard the Lakers have gotten away from exploiting their mismatches in this series. They need to be smart about the entry pass and quickly reversing the ball and setting up the post pass on the opposite side. Bottom line, tonight they will need to be more focused.

4) Keep hitting those threes. The Lakers are hitting from beyond the arc at a crazy 51.4% pace in this series. If the Jazz are going to make stopping the ball in the paint the priority, they have to give something up and the Lakers need to make them pay.

Last year the Lakers dropped games three and four in Utah. This is not last year’s Lakers team (or last year’s Jazz team, for that matter) but you don’t want to give them hope. Now is the time to crush their spirits.

If you’re looking for something to do while waiting for the 7:30 tip off (Channel 9 in LA and TNT here and nationally) check out this Roto Experts podcast, which for the playoffs is just some straight analysis. And some good playoff talk.