Lakers/Rockets: When The Lakers Have The Ball

Kurt —  May 4, 2009

Sports News - November 10, 2008
For part two of our preview of this series, try to speed-read it.

Because what the Lakers need to do in this series starts with pushing the tempo and getting the Rockets to run. It’s one of the big lessons we can take away from the Portland series.

Let’s be clear — the Rockets are a very good defensive team. Their overall philosophy is a good one — funnel all penetration into the middle of the lane and Yao, then contest the good jumpshooters with good defenders in Ron Artest and Shane Battier. Scola is a solid defender as well.

But be clear about this, too — good offense will still score on good defense in this league. And the Lakers have a very good offense. But the first key is to get some baskets before the Rockets get set. Portland (another great offense) let them get set, did not wear down Yao, and the result was they had trouble scoring. The Lakers need to run and push early offense, drag screens and secondary break points. Go at the Rockets BEFORE they get set. Our resident Rockets fan Stephen gives us another reasons to run:

Our resident Rockets fan Stephen gives us another reasons:

Other than Yao the Rockets are a small team that doesn’t jump very well. You can shoot over them, high passes are an option as are lobs. Long or high rebounds are problematic for the Rockets. They have shown a bad tendency of not getting big rebounds late in close games. The Rockets don’t block a lot of shots, so it’s even more imperative to push the pace against them, as fast breaks can only be stopped by Rockets trying to draw charges or fouling. Usual result is FTs for the offense.

Another way to get Yao out of the paint is going is going with a “smaller” lineup that has Pau Gasol at center and Odom at power forward. Force Yao to come out and defend out of the paint. Reed is a big fan of this matchup for the Lakers:

Houston’s defense is built around Yao protecting the paint and forcing the other team to take perimeter shots. He is so big that when matched up against a non-perimeter threat (Pryzbilla, Oden, Bynum), he can just occupy the lane and effectively take away penetration and effective cuts. He has the length and lower body strength to control a low post player through positional denial and contesting the shot up top. In the pick and roll, he can sag into the lane when the other center can’t pick and pop.

Kobe Bryant had big games against the Rockets this season — in the four games he averaged 28.3 points shooting 58.3% (eFG%), 53% from three and getting to the line six times a game. But as Darius points out, we want to see smart play from Kobe:

Kobe needs to play the same game he played against Utah. He needs to read the defense and give the team what it needs. I don’t mind if he’s aggressive, but I don’t want him to get caught up in attacking in a manner that plays into Houston’s scheme. Houston will want to force him left and want him to take jumpshots (like that article suggested). Kobe can get off regardless, but he’ll need to continue to play smart ball (which I expect he will) and use the offense to get his shots and not settle. Kobe should try to get into the paint and create for himself and also try to get Yao in foul trouble. I also think we need to go P&R and put Yao in positions where he’s in between on helping on the ball handler and recovering to his man. This should not only help Kobe create for himself and create for the screener (who either pops or rolls), but it should also collapse the defense and allow Kobe to hit our shooters on the weakside or in the strong side corner. Houston, like Boston or San Antonio, is a strong help team, so when Kobe has the ball he will draw a lot of attention (especially if he’s putting their D in positions where they don’t want to be). Sounds simplistic, I know, but it’s the truth. BTW, I’m not that concerned with Hero Kobe or Go at Artest/Battier Kobe. This is playoff time and he’s repeatedly shown that he’ll play the smart game that is needed of him in the post season. This is even more true in the past two seasons where his teammates have been more aggressive in their own right. Will he go off? Sure, and probably in multiple games. But I don’t see it being forced.

Kwame a. adds something on why he thinks Battier will get the primary Kobe assignment.

Who guards Kobe: I think that Battier will get the primary assignment on Kobe. He matches up better than Artest does because he is faster than Ron and he does a better job of staying on his feet and contesting Kobe’s jump shot. Last series we saw Kobe get it going when he initiated his offense from the mid-post ala MJ. To get quality shots, Kobe needs to focus on catching the ball either on the block or the pinch-post so he is in an attacking position and can get closer shots or draw defenders to kick out to Fish, Shannon, Sasha, etc.

One other matchup to attack is whomever Scola is guarding. Again, he is a solid player but both Gasol and Odom are too long and quick for him to stop. Again, Darius:

Scola will battle, but he’s over matched. Pau’s got a size, length, and quickness advantage against Scola and is as strong, but not the bruiser that can give Pau problems. So, Pau should be able to dictate this matchup if Houston plays him in single coverage. If they double team Pau, we all know he’s a willing passer and he will hit the open man. Ultimately we need to go to Pau early and often. He is our biggest matchup advantage and can create offense for everyone.

As we did last time, I’ll give the finals words of summation to Kwame a.

On Offense: 1) Initiate through Pau, whether Pau is playing Center or PF. 2) The Lakers must set Kobe screens off the ball and Kobe must move well away from the ball. Everything Kobe does cannot come from Kobe facing the defense, ball in hand. 3) Push the pace, here LO can be the catalyst when he grabs a rebound and ignites the break. Also, because the Rockets are such a good defensive team when they are set, pushing the ball will result in more secondary offensive opportunities which the Lakers cannot be afraid to take. Shots in the first 10-12 seconds of the clock (good shots) are going to be important for the Lakers to take and make. 4) Everytime Yao is out of the game we need to post either Pau, Drew or LO, Chuck Hayes ain’t stopping them!

to Lakers/Rockets: When The Lakers Have The Ball

  1. Should see a lot of Pau, Bynum and Odom in the post. Other than Yao we have a huge size advantage against the Rockets. I also like the match up of Yao guarding Gasol. Gasol should get the ball in the mid post where he can either drive or take the 12 footer to make Yao work on defense. Bynum hitting a few pick and pops (which he can do sometimes) would be nice as well.


  2. Following Stephen’s comments on rebounding, I would like to see some sequences w/ Bynum and Gasol grabbing a series of offensive boards that makes it look like they’re playing volleyball. These plays are very deflating for the other team and can set the tone early on. We saw a lot of that with a healthy Bynum, but not as much recently. To do this, we must use our quickness to get around guys as Yao and Scola both box out very well if you just push right into them.


  3. Chuck Hayes is actually a much more capable defender than people would give him credit for. If he couldn’t D up the guy wouldn’t be in the league. Houston has quality defenders at every single position including on the bench up front with Landry and Hayes. I think that Landry is an important player in this series. I think he matches up better against us than the rest of their front court players.


  4. odom != oden


  5. Nice job. I agree with everything mentioned above, especially Kwame.

    But the real question is how will Bynum affect the offense?

    I also feel everything should run through Pau. He must abuse whoever is guarding him, because Yao’s most likely going to pack it in while covering Bynum. Make Yao help out, then get easy buckets for Bynum, off of feeds from Pau. Bynum must live on easy buckets this series, either from too much help on Pau, beating Yao down the floor, or abusing the Rockets 2nd Unit.


  6. i’m hoping maybe this series we can get two non-factors in the previous series, farmar and bynum, back into groove so they can gain their confidence and get that swagger back. we haven’t seen it from jordan in a while, but hopefully because we have to push the pace phil will utilize farmar’s quickness and ability to push the ball up the floor. as for bynum, i’m not as worried because he hasn’t been off rhythm for nearly as long as jordan. im sure if the lakers find him and continue to look for him hustling up teh floor, they’ll get him easy buckets. plus he can jump higher than most of the houston bigs and longer arms than all but yao.

    check out my lakers blog


  7. Why is Bynum going to start when the Gasol is so effective against Yao?

    If you put yourself into Phil’s mind for a moment. You might think this: I know I can always go to Gasol/Odom at any time – especially crunch time. Gasol defends Yao as well as anyone (poking the incoming post pass is a favorite tactic). But Bynum might create problems for Yao that might make the games easier to win.

    As effective as Pau is, he doesn’t get Yao into foul trouble. Bynum’s length, athleticism plus the fact that Yao is not a flopper creates the possibility of Yao working on defense and possibly getting in foul trouble. Unlike Collins and Okur, Yao is not a flopper (credit to him) and is unlikely to draw charges against Bynum.

    A Rockets team with Yao in foul trouble is cooked.

    If Bynum is effective early and has the desired effect, great. If not, PJ knows what Gasol and Odom bring.


  8. You know what would be awesome: Derek Fisher post-up against Aaron Brooks, then Fisher kicks it out to Gasol for the three-pointer. The role-reversal would be simply amazing and ironic at the same time.

    I stand by my earlier pick of Lakers in 4, with the games at Staples being relatively easy and the games in Houston being tough, hard fought, 4th quarter victories. Realistically, the only way I see us dropping a game is if we get blown out of the water in the first 3 quarters. If the game is close in the 4th, I can’t see Houston winning simply because of their lack of closing power. So long as we keep Battier and Wafer off the three-point line, we should have no problems closing out the 4th.

    Keep in mind, the Rockets were able to shut down the Blazers because the entire Blazers offense is predicated on Brandon Roy’s penetration. When they were able to take away his dribbling lanes and passing lanes, Roy was stuck in no man’s land and had to throw up a few horrendous shots against the 7’6″ Chinese man. Our offense is totally different, considering we have almost no dribble penetration in our offense. When we run the PNR, no one, including Kobe, goes to the basket. Everyone is looking for cutters, passing lanes, and open jump shots. This is why all the mention of Houston’s great defense means a lot less against us, because their defense is predicated on stopping penetration, and our offense literally has none.


  9. Too many offensive weapons. Too much size. Too much playoff experience. And a scorned Kobe Bryant in the MVP voting. Look for tonight to be a Lakers blowout.


  10. Bill- I agree with you. Also, playing Bynum against Yao will keep Pau fresher later in the game when Phil goes to LO/Pau.


  11. #7. Bill,
    One thing that also makes sense in starting Drew is his mentality. In a way, Bynum is similar to Kobe in that he really gets up mentally for the better players at his position (another discussion is why is Bynum not 100% motivated against every opponent? Kobe has the skins on the wall and mileage on his legs to use such a strategy…Bynum, not so much. But that’s a talk for another day). Traditionally, Bynum has always looked forward to matchups with Shaq, Howard, Amare, and Yao. I don’t have any numbers to speak to his effectiveness against these players, but his mentality when going into these matchups is something that has been mentioned in the media since that first matchup he had with Shaq (with the infamous up and under dunk that he pulled off against the Diesel). So, Phil may be going to Bynum not only to get him into a rhythm earlier or take advantage of any potential foul trouble that Bynum can draw on Yao, but also because Phil may be banking on the notion that Bynum will be as mentally prepared and amped up emotionally to give his best effort. We’ve all seen that a hungry and focussed Bynum is a dangerous player – a real difference maker. If we can get that player, even if it’s only for stretches to start each half, it will make a huge difference for the team. Just a thought.


  12. Folks: I love my Lakers, but I disagree with those of you that seem to expect a little too much of our young center Bynum and the upcoming matchup with Yao. In my opinion, I don’t think we will get much from Bynum. While Bynum showed great promise prior to his injury, his cardio and his defense are no where near where they need to be for the playoffs and, seeing how foul prone he has been in the last five games, I just don’t see him being a “game changer” in this series.

    Sorry, but I can’t ignore the fact that Yao poses a very difficult challenge for Bynum. Yao is at least 6 inches taller than Andrew, outweighs him by almost 40 pounds, is a seasoned NBA veteran (7+ years), All-Star, and has played way more playoff games (25 vs 5) and playoff minutes (over 880 minutes to 137). He has also faced some of the best centers in the league, while they were in their prime and in the playoffs. Additionally, he is coming from an ego-boosting great defensive and offensive series. Young Bynum, on the other hand, is not.

    I know this sounds harsh, but the reality is that all we can hope from Bynum this round is that he is aggressive on the defensive glass, forces Yao to make fouls, and gives Pau a break from having to defend Yao by playing smart and avoiding foul trouble.

    If Andrew can do that for this Laker team, then I think we have a strong case for making Yao ineffective in this series. However, if Andrew goes back to making silly fouls, then this series is going to become a long and tired affair for this Laker squad.


  13. yao doesn’t flop because it’s too far down to the floor for him and he’ll get hurt.


  14. I want to see Bynum hustle after a change of possession from defense to offense, beat Yao down the floor and force Scola to cover him, establish deep post position and dunk on him for an and-one. Can’t you see this happening? Will Andy run?


  15. Any gameday updates on either Kobe or Luke?

    Seven hours to go!!!


  16. All I want Bynum to do is rebound on the defensive end and lean on Yao as much as possible. I think Bynum can bother Yao a little with his length (he’s a legit 7-1 with long arms, so Yao doesn’t have “at least 6 inches” on him like Manny claims) but let’s not go overboard and think AB has any chance of stopping or even controlling Yao.

    But the more Andrew can lean on Yao and make Yao work to get position on O and hold his ground D, the harder it is going to be for Yao to chase the Stork upcourt when we go to lineup 1B, and the faster he tires out.


  17. I agree with Manny. I do’t expect too much from Bynum. There will be a lot of pressure for him to step up and I think his conditioning and tentativeness with his knee (& kneebrace issues) will prevent him from having a great offensive game. I simply want him to defend Yao, keep him away from the low block and get rebounds.

    I would say that Bynum has done his job and contribute greatly to the series if he can just get rebounds and get Yao into foul trouble. Without the engine that is Yao, the Rockets have difficulty getting their cylinders to fire and the Rockets will fail to launch.


  18. Lil Pau,

    I think Luke is a game time decision.

    Here is a link to a bunch of links:


  19. If the Lakers play smart and look for the right matchups — and that’s always a big if with this roster — they’ll find plenty of good ways to attack Houston.

    Brooks and Wafer are the wild cards because they can get hot and set streaky offense in motion. They way to counter that is to go right at them on the other end, ideally working some guard-based screen and rolls that seek to get a larger Laker on the box with Brooks or Wafer. Those guys can’t match up with Kobe down there.

    I wish I knew if Shannon has any low-post game; if so he’s not been asked to showcase them yet in L.A. But if he does, I like his size and athletic ability down there vs. Brooks and Wafer, as well.

    I’d also hope to see some nice two-man games between Pau and Bynum/or Odom. A good high-low attack will draw Yao away from the ballhandler, freeing up some good looks underneath. Ariza may get some dives too if Battier or Ron Ron cheat off of him toward Kobe.

    Phil’s said he intends to start Bynum, but hopefully (if he’s not in that same Utah funk) he’ll get some run against the Rockets’ second unit, which is going to miss Mutombo in this series if L.A. plays its lineups right.

    Run when Yao’s on the floor, and pound the ball inside when he’s not. I see L.A. winning in five if they play the game the right way.


  20. 12, Manny, keep in mind that one’s actual height doesn’t matter so much as one’s effective height, which would be the height from one’s toes to the tip of one’s outstretched arm. A good couple inches of Yao Ming’s height actually comes from his enormous head, which is no knock against the guy, but simply the truth. Given their arm lengths, i would say the difference is much less than 6 inches, something closer to 1 or 2. Couple this with the fact that Andrew can actually jump, whereas Yao simply cannot or does not, and I don’t see the enormous size advantage that you see.

    I agree that expecting Bynum to go toe-to-toe with Yao is too much. However, I don’t think it’s too much to expect 8 pts, 8 boards, and some solid one-on-one defense.


  21. Pau can score with ease no matter who’s defending him in this series. If anyone watched Spain vs China in the Olympics, you saw that Pau absolutely destroyed Yao (granted Pau is an even better player under international rules, but still). And whenever they’ve put Scola on Pau during the regular season – Scola hasn’t been able to do anything but to foul.


  22. Kurt,
    Thank for representing Lakers fans right and being 1st.

    A Blazer’s blogger is last. Nice.


  23. I’m not too worried about Bynum, what worries me is guys like Brooks and Von Wafer going off from the perimeter and in transition. If Houston doesn’t get easy scores how can they win?

    Farmar should gets minutes against Brooks.


  24. X’s and O’s aside, subplots that interest me:

    1. Yao’s psyche. The jury is still out on whether he has a sufficient killer instinct and drive to carry a title team. Can he be a #1, or does he need to be a #2 (or 1b) to really succeed? Will he just be happy to be past the first round? I haven’t made up my mind, but I lean towards the latter. I like him, so I would be happy to be proven wrong, but hopefully not this year.

    2. Bynum’s psyche. Like Yao, I don’t question his desire to win or improve himself. I do, however, wonder if he yet has the mental ability to thrive under intense playoff pressure. It seems as if he is prone to giving up when things don’t go his way, which is concerning. There’s really no other explanation for how poorly he played last series. Rust is one thing, but totally mailing it in and being a nonfactor is another. Unless, of course, Phil and Kobe don’t want this crucial next ring to be cheapened by allegations that they stole Pau, and therefore convinced Drew to play like a 14 year old Kwame Brown throughout the playoffs (does that demean the 14 year old Kwame?). Suffice it to say I am dissatisfied with Drew and watching him anxiously.

    3. Our point guards. I have this lingering and growing doubt that our PGs are not just flawed, but a fatal flaw, and will ultimately be our undoing. Fisher looks a step slow and is overcompensating with poor shot selection. Farmar has turned into some odd mix of Kwame’s psysche and Smush’s production. Shanwow was brilliant last round, but do we really believe that is who he is, as opposed to the afterthought that bounced around the league? But part of me also believes that Fisher has one last heroic run in him and that Shanwow just needed Phil and Kobe (none of me believes in Farmar at this point). So I’m interested to see what happens here. Brooks and Lowry are fast enough to exploit our usually poor PG defense and just average enough to make it very, very frustrating in the process.

    4. Kobe vs. Pau. I believe that one key to us beating the elite teams this year, and perhaps even Houston (who I’m still unclear about), is a transition of responsibility from Kobe to Pau. This has been beaten to death, but things just work better and more smoothly when Pau is the focal point of the offense. Things are more consistent (because the things he does are easier to replicate than the things Kobe does against people like Battier and Artest). I also think that Gasol’s speed and versatility on offense can really wear out Yao, causing his offense to suffer and Houston to unravel. If Yao is a spectator in the paint on defense, then we are very vulnerable (which is why I think Houston’s best chance is to convince Artest to trap Kobe into a pride war).


  25. Yao hasn’t shown he can dominate a full NBA playoff game. He is like Pau in that he is better as the #2 man, but he has no Kobe.

    Kareem will get Bynum’s head back on straight.

    Farmar has matched up pretty good against Brooks in the past. I think Jordan might suprise some people this series.


  26. Lebron accepting mvp right now


  27. My favorite line from today:

    “A good couple inches of Yao Ming’s height actually comes from his enormous head…”

    Hilarious! And true!


  28. Reed,
    Bynum’s psyche — the Utah series was a really bad matchup for him to have his first real playoff competition. Smaller, but strong and quicker personnel really play to Andrew’s weaknesses and inexperience. Combine this with his returning from injury and you have a perfect storm to destroy his confidence.

    I think Yao’s slower moving game will play into Andrew’s strengths. If he succeeds in the 1st qtr then I think he will be out of his Utah funk. I suspect this was part of Phil’s decision to start him.

    Once Andrew gets his confidence and movement back, I think he will either give Pau a lot of rest or destroy Houston’s 2nd unit.


  29. So we all know the official word: “LeBron James has won the 2008-09 Most Valuable Player presented by Kia Motors.”

    Here’s my question: Does he get a Kia with that? Would LeBron even want or keep a Kia?


  30. I’m curious, how does that TrueHoop picks scoring system work. I wonder how I’m doing against those guys, considering I picked seven out of the 8 series winners with 3 perfects (come on, Dallas is supposed to suck and everyone knows it). That being said, for the second round, I have Lakers in 4, Denver in 7, Cleveland in 5, and Orlando in 6. You can check out some of my “logic” on my blog linked in my name.

    29, btw Manny, I just realized that that statement sounds kinda idiotic if taken out of context. My bad. I think you understood what I meant, but I guess I should’ve clarified that having a large head is not so useful in basketball, unless you’re Shane Battier and your head is the source of your telekinesis, but that’s another story…


  31. Re Bynum–

    I actually think Utah was a fine matchup, but Bynum just blew it (whether b/c of rust or lack of confidence). Collins started half of the games. The rest of the time Utah did throw out smaller, quicker centers — but going in we believed Drew would destroy them with his size and strength advantage. While he could reasonably expect to struggle defending them on the perimeter, the fact he couldn’t overpower them offensively on the block was concerning. A healthy confident drew would make life hell for someone like Boozer or Milsapp.


  32. Zephid the scoring is: Each correctly picked series is worth five points. Correctly predicting the number of games is worth two additional points.


  33. I wonder if ShanWOW has been adequately prepped and understands how much Lowry likes to crash the glass. It sounds strange saying this about the backup PG matchup, but Brown needs to watch and keep a body on Lowry.


  34. As soon as I read my comment I realized how asinine that sounded. I wasn’t questioning the coaching staff’s preparedness, more wondering if Brown will do what he needs to, and can stick to a gameplan.


  35. No, it made sense.

    Brown has not had alot of playing time in his career so he might need extra preparation from the coaches.


  36. The problem in the Utah series, for Bynum, was that we didn’t really need/want scoring from him – we wanted defense. Scoring touch is often slow to come back after injury and we have enough of it. Bynum kept trying to score and didn’t concentrate on the defense.

    Incidentally, we also need the defense much more than the offense in this series too – regardless how we fans measure things. Hopefully, Andrew now understands this.


  37. Kurt tearing up not just the blogosphere, but also keeping pace with ESPN’s Sheridan and others:


  38. Ok guys, you are going to think I’m crazy, and maybe I am. I think that tonights game is the Rockets’ best chance to take a game in LA. Keep in mind that I haven’t been declaring a series victory for the Rockets, just a longer series than most think with the chances of a Rockets victory growing as the series extends.

    My reasoning:

    1. Yao. This is the freshest that he will be during this series.

    2. Health. The ankle injuries will only improve as the series progresses, and although I knew that Kobe would be ready to play tonight…..maybe he will be off his game just enough.

    3. Lakers layoff. I’m hoping that the Lakers will come out lethargic and stake the Rockets to an early lead. It remains to be answered if the Rockets could hold on.

    It may not happen, but if it did wouldn’t it be interesting?


  39. 40. Jeffrey Ma will be my bitch. He is going down harder than he did in the casinos.


  40. Let me get this straight… In 2000-09 Wade carries a bad team to the playoffs, scores 30.2 ppg, 5 rebounds and 7.5 assists, and gets more first-place MVP votes than anyone not named LeBron.

    Yet in 2005-06, Kobe scored 35.4 ppg, grabbed 5.3 boards and averaged 4.5 assists as a forward while also leading a bad team to the playoffs and somehow came in fourth place in that year’s voting?

    What, exactly, did Wade do this season that Kobe didn’t do three years ago?

    A joke, yet again… Kobe will never get the respect he deserves. Let’s just hope he gets the respect no one can ever take away come June, the kind you wear on your finger.


  41. new game chat thread up.


  42. 42 – lmao, for the ignorant among us, who exactly is Jeffrey Ma?

    43 – Chris J – The only thing Kobe never managed to do was get the media on his side. It’s all perception. That, as well as the fact that the simplistic media doesn’t understand in the triangle offense, Kobe’s assists are naturally going to be lower than Wade, who is essentially a big PG.

    I like Kobe better when he doesn’t get respect, it might give him an extra edge (not that he needed it).


  43. 41, I agree with you, but also for an additional reason which you may not like so much: while I respect Adelman, Phil is a MASTER at adjustments both within the game but in particular from game to game. If Hou has some kind of surprise that works tonight, it may not work quite so well in the future.

    I know it’s weird, but I’m mostly worried about brooks and wafer– who knows, maybe I still have Deron Williams on my mind….

    Winners of game 1 win the series 80 percent of the time. I wish our friends from Houston good luck and I look forward to a healthy dialogue over the next week or two, but with all pleasantries aside: GO LAKERS!


  44. 45. Straight from the ESPN bio:

    Jeff Ma is co-founder of Citizen Sports Network in 2004. He was the protagonist, under the name Kevin Lewis, in the bestseller “Bringing Down the House,” the story of the MIT blackjack team and the basis of the movie “21.”


  45. lakers will get swept, this is the same team that showed up against boston.


  46. Chuck Hayes ain’t stopping LO and Pau??? Hayes is one of the best post defenders in the league.

    Yes, he is small, and he doesn’t have any offense, but he is hardly a bad defender! Houston would lave that matchup all day long.