Archives For April 2009

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.

A Few Game Two Thoughts

Kurt —  April 22, 2009

NBA 2009: Lakers Beat Jazz 119-109
I think we know this about Utah — this is too good a team to roll over, and they are not going to quit when you get up 20 on them. D-Will doesn’t know how to quit. This isn’t some lottery-bound team without the talent or pride to make a push back, this is a quality team in the playoffs. They are going to give the effort.

What would be nice is not to help them, to not make sloppy turnovers (Kobe, I’m looking at you with your poor imitation of a Kevin Love three-quarters court outlet pass). It would be nice to crash the boards hard on the defensive end, body people up rather than expect our length to carry the day, and just grab the ball.

But I’m not complaining about the wins. If I were on the coaching staff I would be, if I were a player I would not be satisfied; but we fans have the luxury of looking at a bigger picture and seeing a comfortable first round win coming.

• Kobe had 26 points last night, but he had assists that led to 22 other Lakers points. Overall, Kobe accounted for 40.7% of the Lakers offense.

The biggest beneficiary of his passing was Andrew Bynum, who was 3-3 on Kobe assists.

• A few thoughts from Darius in the comments I thought worth repeating.

Tonight the Jazz showed that any team with a truly great player (like Williams obviously is) can hang in any given game and push any team to its limit. That’s especially true when the better team doesn’t play a complete game and has mental lapses and gives inconsistent effort as we did tonight. We continued to not do a good job on Jazz players not named Deron and it made this game closer than it should have been. Relaxed box outs, bad helping on screens, playing in between in help situations (where we’re not really helping on Deron but not guarding our man either), and just playing in a loose manner were all too prevalent in this game.

When you add those things to Andrew’s inability to catch and make a move without turning the ball over for the last three quarters, some questionable “playmaking” by every single ball handler at some point during the game, the over reliance on jumpshots when Pau was killing on the low block, and our lack of good screen setting to free up players for easier looks you end up with a game that should have been 15-20 points the entire game and turn it into a 9-11 point game that is stressful at the end. And even though I think Reggie Miller is Captain Obvious, one point he kept making was that when you allow a team with a player as good as Williams to keep it that close, the outcome *is not* guaranteed turned out to be true. I hate to say it again, but we must play better.

One thing I am looking forward to though is going to SLC to play. That may sound strange, but Kobe has always, especially in the playoffs, stepped up his game when we play on the road. I can recall game after game in San Antonio, Sacramento, Utah, etc that he has had ridiculous production and led us to wins. I want the rest of the team to follow his lead and also see big games from Pau, Bynum, and some of our bench players as well. We have it in us to sweep this team, but we must raise our execution level and play a more consistent game over a full 48 minutes.

On a side note, Odom was tremendous tonight. His defense and shot making were stellar throughout the entire night and I think he deserves some major credit for how he played. He’s always been a strong performer for us in the post-season and tonight he was at it again.

• Kwame a. added these thoughts:

Two things stood out: 1) Phil should (as he admitted) shorten the rotation a little bit (Trevor should get 30-35 mins in my opinion). 2) Bynum played very selfishly, each time he got the ball there was no survey of the defense, no pass out and re-post, just turn and shoot. If Gasol doesn’t do that, no way Bynum should be. I still think he’s working on getting back into form, but there is no reason for him to be the focal point of our offense. He needs to move the ball, he’s a good passer.

• I expect us to get one of the two in Utah, but it would be easier on my blood pressure if it was the first one.

• I’m going to miss Mutombo on the court. But I will keep following his more important work off it.

Lakers/Jazz Game Two Chat

Kurt —  April 21, 2009

NBA 2009: Lakers Beat Jazz 113-100
It’s a good sign that normally nervous Lakers fans biggest concerns yesterday were whether the fans at Staples should be doing the “We Want Tacos” or “Utah Sucks” chant and if they are in bad taste. (I personally think the second chant is in bad taste, while the tacos just taste bad.) It was a great game to be at.

In some ways it was a perfect game for the coaches — the outcome was never in doubt but there was plenty for the coaches to pick apart and push the team on after the game. For example, the play in the entire second half, particularly on defense. In the first half the Lakers were moving their feet and bigs were rotating well, in the second half they got lazy and that led to penetration by Utah’s guards, sloppy reach ins by Lakers players leading to fouls, and a horrid job keeping the Jazz off the offensive glass.

Darius talked a little about the fouling.

The Lakers kept on fouling and the Jazz benefited from it by going to the line and staying aggressive. And let’s forget about Crawford for a second and understand that the Jazz we bullying their way to the basket. If you’re defending those types of plays/players, you must play better position defense and cut off driving angles in order to make the offensive player stop, change directions, pass, etc. The Lakers didn’t do any of those things, rather they reached more and were late on rotations. And on a couple of occasions they just let the Jazz go right by them seemingly saying, “score or miss, I’m not going to foul right now”. This happened with Gasol letting AK47 get right to the basket and miss a layup and Odom letting Harpring do the same. Next game we must do better.

Expect the game not to be called as tight and a more physical contest. The Jazz are likely to try to ugly it up. Both teams need to adjust to that.

For Utah, Memhet Okur is a game-time decision, although reports in the morning papers out of Salt Lake call him unlikely. That really hurts Utah, they need him to pull Gasol or Bynum out to the three-point line, opening up the paint when D-Will drives the lane. There was very little pick-and-roll from the Jazz without him in the lineup.

The Lakers did a very good job in the first half of last game in inducing the Jazz into jumpshots (and they are not a good jumpshooting team). The Lakers again need to dare them, and to keep them out of the paint.

Bottom line tonight — I don’t care if there is a “We Want Tacos” chant or not, although you’d like to think in the playoffs fans would have more important things to care about. But I hope there is reason for the chant.