I really am not worried about the Lakers focus or effort tonight. That may sound weird after the last two days where in all of Lakerdom, the team was bashed for its flat effort Sunday. But for anyone who followed the Lakers this season, that effort was almost predictable. Just as predictable, after a flat game the Lakers almost always come out with a very good effort.
Instead, let’s focus on what they have to do.
• Run the offense through Pau Gasol. In game four the Rockets came out with a new gameplan while the Lakers decided not to execute theirs. Entry passes to Gasol, if they happened at all, were sloppy. If you have watched the Lakers since the All Star break, you know that the triangle offense has run best when the ball ends up in the hands of the best passing big man in the game — Pau gets the ball and good things happen. The other guys need to move without the ball, Gasol will reward them, and that will open up ways for him to score.
• The Rockets are a lot more freewheeling and aggressive without Yao, and they have given the green light to shots earlier in the clock. Be ready for that, don’t expect them to run 15 seconds off the clock setting up. That was the old Rockets, not the new ones.
• The Lakers need to change how they defend the pick and roll with Brooks (insert you own joke here about defending it at all would be a change). Bigs have got to show out harder and use their length. The Lakers should even trap him on occasion — Brooks cannot be allowed to turn the corner. But part of that last game was the Laker guards did a crap job of fighting through the pick and recovering to their man, that opened up things as the bigs cannot hold Brooks off for that long. The guards have to help.
Brooks has preferred passing options and if he can’t get up a head of steam those become long passes that Ariza et al can steal, or Scola and teammates will need to come out farther to get the pass, pushing them away from the basket. Either is a better option than last game.
• Stick with your man if he can shoot the three. Kobe, I’m looking at you.
• Rebound like you mean it.
• Get back in transition defense and be aware of your man (the Lakers got caught in a ton of mismatches this way last game).
• Realize that even if you get a big lead, this Houston team will not quit and quietly accept their fate. You have to beat them. Again and again. No letting up.