Lakers/Rockets Game 4 Chat

Kurt —  May 10, 2009

Houston Rockets vs Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles
I think everyone with an emotional interest in this series is sad to see Yao Ming go down with the broken foot and be out. He had played with the heart of a lion, a real warrior, and he was just great to watch as a fan of the game of basketball.

In the preview for game three, Reed talked about the team dealing best with keeping their heads and executing their game plan in the wake of the emotional game two would win. That holds true for game four — if the Lakers now let up because there is no Yao, they will lose. This is a scrappy Rockets team, one that is not going to give up. Execution remains the key, the Lakers need to keep doing what they had done.

With Yao gone there is little need to double, they need to be smart man to man. The Lakers have forced an average of 18.3 turnovers per game this season (while giving up 10) and if you can force them sans Yao to create shots on their own we can force more of these. Also, they can get blocks — the Lakers have averaged seven a game in this series (compared to 2.7 for the Rockets). Energy on defense remains the key.

So now what for the Rockets? I would expect Landry to start, and for the Rockets to go with their small lineup. That group has given the Lakers fits and it will take away some (if not all) of the advantage the Lakers have had on the break (and for the playoffs the Rockets are 7.1 points per 100 possession better on offense when he is off the floor, and they are +14 in this series). The Lakers will need to execute better in the half court (even if that is more freelanced offense on the secondary break) than it has so far.

Look for Artest to start out strong, but his shooting has dropped off by quarter in this series dramatically (.550 in first quarter; .502 in second; .413 in third; .303 in fourth). No matter how mad he is at him, Adelman needs Von Wafer because he needs the guy who can create offense. Wafer can also make questionable decisions, and the Lakers can take advantage of it.

I also am curious to see what happens with the Rockets defense — last game when Kobe came off a Gasol screen Yao pulled back and Battier fought over the top then tried to funnel Kobe to Yao (this worked sporadically). Now, I bet you see a lot of showing out on the screen, meaning Gasol’s man is going to step out and they are going to if not outright trap Kobe they are going to try to cut off his driving lane and likely try to get the ball out of his hands.

Game three also saw a bit of a shift in how the Rockets dealt with Kobe philosophically — rather than being okay with him getting his but trying to make it hard and cut off the passing angles, they really just collapsed on him. That opened things up for everyone else, and the other Lakers made them pay. (Well, not Sasha, but he’s just ice right now shooting 23.5%.) Does that change?

For the Lakers defensively, they need to play smart man-to-man now, with very limited doubling (when Scola starts backing down Odom there should be help, for example). The Rockets don’t have starters that can create their own shot well, outside of Brooks (who would prefer to pass) so the Lakers want to essentially force them to do that. And hope that Artest feels he has to take this game over.

The Lakers get Fish back, and while there is a sudden vocal minority on this site that doesn’t think so, this is a good thing. Fish was the starter on 185 straight games for the Lakers (regular season and playoffs) and has in that recent time led the team to the NBA Finals and the second best record in the NBA. Since he returned the Fish/Bryant backcourt is 141-51. That is not an accident or in spite of him, and there has not been a dramatic drop-off . That said, I hope to see plenty of Farmar today, his effort earned him more minutes — but this is a good matchup for him. Fast but not physically strong point guards (like Brooks) play to Farmar’s strengths, so the Lakers should use him. (Next round, against Billups, we will be very thankful we have Fish and not just Farmar and Brown.)

Note to Shannon Brown — Kyle Lowry almost always fakes first on his perimeter shots. Please stop biting on that and fouling.

There are reasons to feel good — Phil Jackson is 22-1 in the playoffs when his team has led 2-1. And Adelman’s teams have never come back from that deficit. But we know this Laker team, they are fully capable of laying an egg.



332 responses to Lakers/Rockets Game 4 Chat

  1. sT, be glad you didn’t watch this whole debacle. It remained ugly. I still think Bynum will eventually be worth the money if he can stay healthy. I live in the South, so I don’t get the benefit of watching every game, but it just seems like we were more powerful with a healthy Bynum. He doesn’t get as many rebounds as he should, but he’s still young. Plus, I liked Lamar Odom coming off the bench and fueling the second unit. I read a post a couple of months ago that summed up Odom pretty well. He simply is who he is. One night he’ll go for 16 and 14, two days later he’ll go for 2 and 6. He simply is who he is. However, I hope we resign him because you can’t replace his talent. He’s worth the occasional off game where he literally disappears. I hope his back is ok because we really need him. Even if the back was the reason today, he still is who he is. I still want him on my team. Funny thing is, I don’t think it’s effort. I just don’t think he can harnass his amazing physical gifts consistently. As one of the experts said, he is who he is.

  2. Yes, I said “he is who he is” four times. That really sums him up for me, but I still love him and think we are a better team with him than without him.

  3. 11. Luke Walton just drives me nuts sometimes. His passing is his biggest strength — and weakness.

    12. Farmar has guts. I don’t give a damn what people say, at least he’s fiery.

    13. Lakers will still win in 6, but added travel and a talented and gritty DEN team awaits. Not looking forward to seeing B_B_Billups.

  4. As Iverson said “I would rather have more heart than talent any day” Where is the heart Lakers….

  5. The Bynum debate will be for the offseason, but this is who he is (in terms of recovery time). Remember how long it took him after last year’s injury? A full offseason, training camp, and several months into the season before he started clicking. I expect the same thing to happen this year. He’ll be fine, and over the long run I think he’ll be worth his contract (provided he stays injury-free). It just takes him a long time to get his timing and rhythm back after time off, and get integrated into the offense again.

  6. I thought the Lakers would have another let down game and figured it would be game 5 because they would think the series won and not give the effort. When Yao went down I started thinking game 4 would be the letdown seeing that their mentality is “we are up 2-1 and Yao is down. This should be a cake”. Instead it was a flying pie in our collective faces. Believe me, they will talk themselves into thinking this game doesn’t mean while pulling together for game 5. This is going to be over in 6.

    I agree that Fisher does not belong on the court for this series.

    The game was in the Lakers’ hands and proper concentration (and the accompanying execution) would have made this point moot but the refs did call too many touch fouls. Let them play. It’s not the Lakers’ fault that they are so much bigger then the Rockets right now.

    I hope LO is okay because we will need what he brings more and more as this postseason whittles the teams down to the last.

    The Lakers are fine and dang it, can we just let this team play the season out before firing up the trade machine. That is no flex capacitor in there and there is no way we fans can change the course of this season. Live the present and then lets see how we feel about our team when it’s all said and done.

  7. Why do people keep acting like Houston minus Yao is trash. This seems to be a case of not having enough knowledge of the players who are contributing to Houston. Hell, all year Wondahbap was noting that Yao slowed them down against us and were better with him off the floor. This type of loss was also predicted by Kurt. Yea the way it happened sucked, but it was not like they lost to the Grizz.

  8. I just hope the Lakers win this series and then beat the nuggets. I am so sick and tired of everyone treating the nuggets like they are this great team. With no inside game, its hard seeing them beat the Lakers. The Rockets are better than Denver for crying out loud.

  9. Btw, I hope in practice, they reteach Andrew how to catch a ball with 2 hands, it would be nice and a good start for Andrew 🙂

  10. Wow, a few letdowns and everyone but Kobe must go?


    4-2, even 4-3 is fine as long as we pull out. Panicking may start when we’re down 2-3 or tied at 3-3.

  11. The lakers against the Rockets without Yao are 0-4

  12. Clutch824,
    The SSZ is designed to stop elite wing players. Before the season started possible Playoff foes would have Mcgrady,Carmelo,Roy,Ginobili and either LeBron or Pierce out of East.

    Against the Yao Rockets it was/is effective because the help defenders against wing penetration are close enough to help out on Yao as well as being in position to prevent easy entry passes.
    The Yao-less Rockets are attacking the Lakers from the top of key where the SSZ is at it’s weakest. If the weak side defender helps he’s leaving 2 shooters open and the strong side defenders have to hustle hard if they’re going to help and they can’t reverse direction and close out hard.

  13. Ray Sharpe,
    “However, I hope we resign him because you can’t replace his talent.”

    You can’t replace his potential. You can replace his output.

  14. Stephen,
    I appreciate your detailed explanation of the SSZ in relation to this last game. However, you compartmentalized my comments to a single game when I was referring to the entire season. And for this entire season we’ve basically conceded jumpshots to teams, all teams. Admittedly, this may not really be a result of the SSZ, because as I mentioned we had the same issues last year.

    In either case, consistently going long stretches in any game allowing open jumpers is not a recipe for success. Not in the NBA. It just puts too much pressure on the offense. You can survive it in the reg season when teams can’t really prepare for you. But in a playoff setting, when teams can thoroughly assess your strengths and weaknesses and take things away, that’s a different story. That’s where we’re at now.

    When you play inconsistent D like we do and your offense isn’t working, you’re going to be up and down, just like we are. The question remains is there a team that can take advantage and win a series against us. I’m very interested in finding out the answer.

  15. some of those turnovers we are blaming on Luke, well we simply don’t know, or ever will, if it was on Luke, or where the other recipreiant of the pass was supposed to be moving to, so we can complain, (it’s a free country) but we are not experts on this, unless we sit in the team’s film room or are an insider.
    which, let’s face it, none of us are.

    for me, todays’ game, we’ll they just WANTED IT MORE THAN WE DID, period.
    I really only was cursing at 2 players, Bynum and Sasha, they are really hurting us. both lack confidence, and it particularly annoys me that they both just recently signed deals which really means they are set for life. the team saw potential, a world class team, and invested in them.
    it’s now time that they man up, and deliver. get their minds right.
    just find a way. $15 million (sasha) or $50 million (drew), sometimes I think sports professionals don’t understand what the real world is like.

  16. Point made, but who are we going to sign instead of him?

  17. I think we all expected the Rockets to come out with emotion, but I didn’t think they could keep it up for the whole game.

    I know this sounds weird, but this might be one of the best things to happen the Lakers. Everyone is ripping the Lakers a new one for their lack of emotion, intensity, and focus. With all this doubt, I think the Lakers will really step it up. It’s not like we’ve seen it before….remember that road trip where Bynum went down?

    And for anyone hitting the panic down, the playoffs is a long journey. It may be 2 months but it feels like 4 with the way everyone changes their opinions on teams on a day-to-day basis. Last year, the Celtics couldn’t win a road game for the first two rounds while the Lakers cruised through the tougher West. We all know how that ended…

  18. Glen Davis just hit a buzzer beater jumpshot to win the game.. sigh

  19. I really don’t understand all the panick. I realize we played poorly and most of that was (seemingly) effort based. But I happen to think that we just did a really poor job of adjusting to what type of team Houston is without Yao. Understand that there isn’t a team in the league that changes more than the Rockets when they go from having to Yao to not having him. With him they are a post first, inside out team. And that is the team that we’ve planned every thing for and had mapped out our plan to win against. Now, without Yao, we must adjust to a completely different team that plays an entirely different style. Both versions of this team are very good teams and it’s a different game when you’re facing one vs. facing the other. It’s how they could have the winning streak that they had last season with both version of this team winning at least 8 games in a row.

    Anyways, against this version of the Rockets we need to play a style that can take advantage of our strengths. Many are down on Bynum right now, but I actually think he’s a guy that needs to play more now, rather than less. I’d like to see us go to our Bynum/Gasol front court to pound the Rockets inside with post offense and with offensive rebounding while also defending the paint easier and allowing our perimeter defenders to stay home more. I’m not saying that Bynum should go back to starting, but I think we should go back to our early season rotation pattern, only LO can start and Bynum can sub in for him at the 7 or 6 minute mark. At that point, we can also bring in Farmar for Fisher or Luke for Ariza (depending on how those starters are playing). We can then start the 2nd quarter with Shannon, Sasha, Luke, LO, and Gasol. I think we can utilize our advantages with these types of substitution patterns and wear down a team that is lacking depth right now.

    Van Gundy may have been correct in that a lot of our late game stats were “fake”, but I do think we can use some of those same tactics that inspired that run to be effective in Game 5. Gasol can score pretty easily when he gets iso’d at the FT line against any Rockets defender that’s on him. We can have our Bigs roam on D in order to congest the middle of the court, as long as they recover to Hayes/Landry to secure defensive rebounds. We can get good looks in transition, especially with post sprints when Scola is guarding Pau. This series is still in our control – we have the home court and are the better, deeper team right now. I don’t get how one loss (no matter how bad it was) can inspire such overreaction (ie the comments about Phil, Bynum trade considerations, and how Odom is now very much replaceable).

  20. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention one thing

    Kobe NEEDS to get to the free throw line

  21. I understand how pumped Big Baby was after making the game-winner, but it didn’t seem necessary for him to fend off the little kid in the front row!

  22. Darius – if LO is unable to go in game 5, I assume you think we should start Bynum / Pau together instead of Pau and Powell?

    I only wonder if all this jerking him to and from the starting lineup is taking his toll on him – maybe we should just let him and the other players adjust to coming off the bench?

  23. Phil Jackson: “But you say as much as you can as a coach and then the players have to execute and do it on the floor.”

    Bingo. Anyone who thinks Phil played a part in encouraging lethargy and complacency is kidding themselves.

    To those who are calling for the firing of Rambis: you have to understand the reason we went to the SST. Our coaching staff much preferred a simpler defensive style (similar to the Celtics), but they realized one simple truth: our players just have awful defensive instincts. They don’t know when to help, how to switch and rotate, etc. If they did, we would have never needed a complex defense. The SST was instilled to give them a specific set of instructions, so they no longer had to make decisions defensively. What we saw today wasn’t all flaws in the SST necessarily, but in our execution of it. Our players do not have great defensive instincts and intelligence, and that leads to problems executing our defense too. Give Rambis personnel with high defensive IQs and he’ll look like a genius.

    Darius – You suggested something I was thinking about, but for different reasons. I have a high respect for Hayes, and I was trying to figure out how to exploit him. The advantage of the twin towers lineup is that at least one of our post players can take advantage of Scola. The problem is, Bynum is so much a shell of what he used to be, I’m not sure if he could score consistently on Scola. I hope I’m wrong, and in that case we can overwhelm the Rockets in the paint.

  24. Darius, thank you for bringing some levity to the discussion. I posted that I think the Lakers will still win in 6 and I didn’t knock Phil, Bynum or Lamar, but this game really made me angry. It’s nice to hear from someone with some perspective.

  25. Well looks like we may have no choice but to play more Bynum – Odom with back spasms. That is really bad news. Back spasms are often chronic. I hope this doesn’t bother him the rest of the playoffs.

  26. wiseolgoat,
    Yes, if LO can’t go, I think we need to start Bynum. IMO, I think we need to find a way to try to control the glass while being able to contain shooters. I also think having our two bigs on the floor helps our P&R D as the big who is hedging on the pick needs to stay a bit longer with the guard turning the corner and that second big can be the guy that is controlling the lane and (hopefully) working the glass against the backside big that is crashing. And call me cynical and/or naive, but I don’t like Powell doing that at this point, but can see Drew doing it.

  27. our SSZ is going to be far less potent without Lamar out there – his length and roaming ability really add an extra dimension to the defense.

  28. @330

    Throughout the last week, I have been calling for more Bynum, and with Yao gone and Odom hurting, the present situation seems to call for it even more.

    That said, given how quickly AB17 is picking up fouls, and how little confidence he seems to have in himself and PJ seems to have in him, I am not sure at this point–hence my earlier suggestion to counter small with small.

  29. No killer instinct whatsoever.

  30. lakers game 7

  31. I know I am a biast Laker fan but did we get the blunt end on alot of the calls last night? Kobe could not buy a whistle….On that note check out this article its pretty funny