Opportunity Knocks, Lakers Don’t Open Door

Kurt —  May 15, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets NBA Game 5 Western Conference semifinals in Los Angeles
What was disappointing and frustrating about the game six loss is that the Lakers had their chances. This never felt like game four, in the first half the Lakers simply were not hitting their shots (and not working to get them from good spots on the floor), they were not creating the turnovers that have fueled them all series. For one 8-minute stretch they did, but when the Rockets pushed back with the desperation of a team not wanting to get eliminated, the Lakers went back to not making plays. Sloppy entry passes (hello Kobe), missed open looks. Meanwhile the Rockets made plays. Credit to them. But that is one that just feels like the Lakers could have had.

• Reed actually drove from Dallas to Houston for this one, and I’m going to do something I don’t normally and steal a little from his personal email to me for the blog:

I think the fundamental problem was our discomfort on the road. I’ve been to many basketball games, but that was the loudest I’ve experienced. From beginning to end the crowd was charged (usually they lose steam, but they had a lot to cheer about last night…). I thought it really affected us on offense. After Houston made a few shots and grabbed a lead in the first few minutes, Kobe and Fisher decided to play hero and throw up multiple tough threes or long twos to quiet the crowd. They missed and abandoned the offense in the process, totally going away from our goal to pound it inside and work the offense.

He and I are on the same page about this — the problem has been the Lakers offense in this series, not the defense. The Rockets hit hard shots to get to 95 points. But the Lakers shot 38.5% (eFG%), just 21.7% from three and only Kobe was getting to the free throw line. Which goes back to the discomfort on the road idea.

• From Darius:

Game 6 reminded me much more of Game 1 than the blowout in Game 4. Forget the big lead or the lackluster start. By the 3rd quarter we were right back in this game and we just couldn’t get over that hump – like Game 1. We didn’t get the stops we needed as Houston made some tough shots (Landry’s spinning shot right into Odom’s contest, Brooks’ layup when Pau challenged him and the ball just seemed to slip out of his hands and into the hoop, Ron’s jumper at the top where Pau closed hard and damn near high fived him – I could go on and on) and then we made too many mistakes in that same period.

• I’ve been the defender of Phil, but he added to all of our frustration levels last night. I’ll let Kwame a. take it from there:

I had to mention my frustration with Phil. Bynum was finally providing the Laker defense with an interior anchor and the Lakers subsequently were able to play solid 3rd quarter defense, getting more steals, defensive boards/stops and run-outs than any other quarter. Why go to an ineffective LO the whole 4th quarter? LO got torched by Landry (and Scola) ALL game long, and was a non-factor on offense. Also-sad to see D-Fish’s swan song go like this, each time he shoots I still feel its gonna drop so maybe I’m insane.

• One thing I keep reading variations of in Lakersland is “Gasol/Odom are making Scola look good.” No, Scola is good. Very good. He has a gold medal with Argentina as a key player. He was one of the best players in Europe before coming here. He is savvy on the court and is one of those guys who knows how to get his shot off in traffic. He is dogged on rebounds. He demands extra attention, it’s just on a team with Yao he often gets overlooked. He shouldn’t. And he doesn’t need the Lakers to make him look good.

• Just how big a game is this for Kobe? Big.

• RIP Wayman Tisdale. Wherever he is, the Jazz band just got a little better.

Kurt

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158 responses to Opportunity Knocks, Lakers Don’t Open Door

  1. i know whats going on! with the recession and all the lakers front office have instructed the team to dump a few games so they can inflate ticket sales..

    its the only explanation for kobe n phils ultra cool attitude.. lose games on the road.. bring it back home for ticket sales and blow out the rockets for the fans..

    devious aye?

  2. As I’ve mentioned before, Houston is matchup hell. We’re literally not going to face a team that plays defense this well and has good matchups against us for the rest of the playoffs. For as good a defensive team Cleveland is, we have basically a better matchup at every position besides the three (Williams is still a bad defender, West can’t guard Kobe, Odom and Gasol have been successful against Varajeo and Big Z in the regular season). I think this series is good for us largely because 1) Kobe is going to feel liberated next round against Dahntay Jones 2) Farmar has come back from captivity 3) Bynum has shown more flashes of the potential he demonstrated in January.

    I think the Lakers come out with a sense of purpose on Sunday. This is, like Game 5, a game in which they have something to prove.

  3. The most maddening thing with the Lakers right now is lack of discipline on offense. Give Rockets credit for disrupting, but they have not been patient in the games they have lost, not worked through the low post, and completely abandoned the triangle for long chunks of time. Part of that may be Hayes preventing Pau from getting good position so unsure how much this is a case of Pau not doing his job, and how much is a product of Lakers as a team not committing to the offensive plan. One key note with Pau that the commentators have pointed out again and again is that when he fronts Hayes (or whoever is covering him), he is unstoppable but when he back him, his percentages go way down, as Hayes doesn’t give.

    The other side comment is that whereas a hallmark of the Lakers this year has been anaconda like periods where they completely shut down the opponent and squeeze life out of them, this has been much less present in playoffs, and particularly disturbing to see Lakers basically unable to get stops down the stretch, although again, credit the Rockets for better ball rotation and dribble penetration.

  4. As much as this game could’ve been won, it’s ok because I can tell most of the players last night were very nervous and uncomfortable. Lets not forget that the crowds are very different on the road from the regular season to the playoffs. Most of our players haven’t had this much pressure on them, like Ariza or Bynum and etc. However, I am fed up with Fish right now and extremely proud of Farmar for stepping up.

    There is no doubt in my mind that we will win on Sunday, but before everyone starts commenting on how the lakers suck, remember this is matchup hell for us. Never have the Lakers faced a team as resilient and hard-working as the Rockets, qualities that they should pick up for themselves. Yes, we could have closed it out last night, but it didn’t happen and now we have a chance on Sunday to play in front of our home crowd and win.

    Game 7′s are what sports are all about. Just please don’t doubt your team when times are rough because it is really sad. The only time you should doubt your team is when they get eliminated. The only good part about last night was that it wasn’t really a blowout because the Lakers made a good run. One stupid turnover switched up all the momentum.

  5. I’m really sad seeing Fisher struggling as bad as he is. I know a lot of the commenters in the game threads have been killing him, and I want to be able to point to something to prove them wrong, but I really can’t. I would say that he should get more PT because of his defense vs. Farmar, but he isn’t contributing much there as well.

  6. Lakers fans i know the team Is frustrating but Sunday we need to let that all, go and bring the energy and passion that will propel our team to victory, just like the rockets fans did for them last night. Sometimes I feel like the fans on this board are more energized than the crowd at Staples but the team needs the whole city to get behind them from the start of the game!! Let’s just don’t assume the guys will win, Let’s help them win!! We are facing elimination guys lets not forget that!!

  7. I just feel so frustrated and was numb watching the game yesterday. Agree that it had a different feel and shots just weren’t falling. Despite Mark Jax and JVG moaning and whining about Laker’s opening quarter the fact is, Kobe was slicing to the lane and missed three in the paint early that he made in G6.

    Pau missed a couple of elbow jumpers also early in that opening stretch. He looked hesitant. To Reed’s point, sure looked liked he was affected by the crowd. Disappointed in that, thought he’d gotten past that.

    For all the talk about how deep and talented this team is, they really are still a one man team lots of times. There’s no one next to Kobe that can be counted on to give them consistent production. If Kobe isn’t going strong, the rest of the team goes flat. He can feed them but if they’re hesitant or shot isn’t falling, last night happens.

    Early in the year, Kurt talked about enjoying the journey and it’s not just about the destination. Well this journey is blowing chunks.

  8. I’m very concerned about this team. As mentined above, our offense stinks.

    I don’t want to single out players or the coaching staff because the problem is team-wide, but I’m most concerned over Fish and Sasha. Fish is ice cold. As a team-leader, he should recognize that he is hurting the flow of the game and either ask Phil to let Farmar or Brown start or ask Phil to give more minutes to those two guys as they appear more effective against this Rockets squad. Phil should also recognize this, but Phil has always relied on his veterans to play through their issues. I really think its time for Fish to recognize that in certain situations, he needs to take a step back for the benefit of the team.

    With regard to Sasha, I just don’t get why he keeps putting up shot, after shot, after shot, when he is not making a single one. Dude brings a lot of energy off the bench, but his minutes should be going to Brown. The playoffs are not the proper venue to try and get yoru grove back. Either you are in-grove or you are not – and Sasha is out of it.

    Sadly, last night was the first time I went to bed with serious doubts about whether this team can pull it off this year. Denver is playing like a champion right now, and it is going to take crisp execution offensively and defensively to beat them. Even if the Lakers are able to somehow pull themselves together and make it to the finals, to beat Cleveland you got to be able to walk into the Q with a strut to take one away from them on the road – and this Laker squad appears to trip every time they should be strutting.

  9. Kurt,

    You are 100% right.

    I also think the defense we played was fairly good (except for Pau’s weak sauce). We must’ve had 15 stops we made then failed to convert on the offensive end. We had plenty of chances.

    I know Pau isn’t a defender, but it kills me to see 6′ guards walk to the rim, and he NEVER moves his feet.

    Here’ a thought I posted on SS & R:

    While everyone want to jump on the Lakers (rightfully so), give the Rockets some credit. They’re a good team. Anyone familiar with my thoughts knows I think these Rockets play better without Yao. I agree with Slam’s Vincent Thomas; this would have been an easier series without Yao.

    So while the Media slams PJ, Kobe and the Lakers for being arrogant; thinking they can just turn it on. It is also arrogant to think that all of these games should be gimmes. The Rockets are a good team.

  10. *** I meant “groove”, not “grove”

  11. Not Charlie Rosen May 15, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Why do I feel like I’m watching Good Will Hunting, and Matt Damon’s just passed on the job offers, broken up with his girlfriend and gone back to working in construction? Can we get Ben Affleck to show up at practice on Saturday with a beer and a speech about how much of a waste it would be if the Lakers are still sitting around waiting for someone else to pick them up come Sunday morning?

  12. I too, am frustrated like every other Lakers fan out there, but I hesitate to bash them merely to make myself feel better. If we were held to the same lofty goals of our athlete-heroes, I think we’d all be a little bit more compassionate.

    We’ve got an entire off-season to address our deficiencies and needs. What this team needs now is our undivided support and encouragement. Maybe Fish is one game away from finally busting through. Maybe Pau and Andrew will be energized by the cheers of the hometown crowds. Who knows what will happen on Sunday afternoon. Regardless, win or lose I’m displaying my Lakers pride proudly.

  13. #4, jac,
    If the crowd pressure is having that effect on our players, we may well have a problem. The crowds in Denver and Cleveland are not exactly going to be either tame or quiet.

  14. I think my biggest concern is Phil, and the lack of in game adjustments he makes.

    Of course, we can never know if any of the following would have changed the game, but I wish that he had:

    1) Called a timeout in the first quarter earlier. With 9:59 left in the quarter, and Scola having just hit his second jumper and we are down 6-0. Starting the first 2 minutes of a game with no good looks, and Scola getting hot, really hurt us. Phil called the TO at 13-1 (7:33 left) after Brooks hit the three. Spotting up a 12 point head start, and all that energy and momentum for the home crowd, really hurt us.

    2) Subbing Fisher out sooner, and bringing Farmar in. At this point speculation is rampant about what Farmar must have done to get in the doghouse, and also what he has to do to get out of it. Certainly his play has been much more productive than Fisher, both offensively and defensively.

    3) Not giving Bynum more burn. You tell him, over and over, that we are looking for Defense and Rebounds. He provides that. And, he sits on the bench after good minutes… Maybe he is too hurt/oout of condition to play for more than 10 minutes at a time, or 20 minutes overall, but even so, how is he not in the game late, once we get within single digits in the third?

    4) Motivating Pau. Just a thought, but when Pau is playing with that little energy and force, and is being out-worked to the degree he was in the first half, bring in Mbenja and put some bruises on the Rockets, and Pau’s Ego. We would benefit from both those things.

    5) In the 4th, have Kobe play the entire quarter. If you gamble and lose, he rests until Sunday. If you gamble and win, you win. Either way, our best closer, our assassin, must be in the game at that point.

    Anyway, I hope for good things on Sunday, but nothing would surprise me at this point.

    The Rockets have done very, very well, and I am honestly scared of them.

  15. The reason that this series is close, at this point, is strictly because
    the Lakers have not played intelligently or taken their opponent seriously
    in the games they have lost.

    Starting with the latter point first: If you consider the situations that
    preceded those games, I think it’s pretty clear that it is, as many people
    have been saying, because the Lakers expected to show up and have the
    Rockets cave.

    + They lose Game 1 because Houston — shockingly to the Lakers — actually
    shows up to play, and plays well.
    + They lose Game 4 because they think Houston, having lost Yao, will
    simply roll over.
    + They lose Game 6 because they think Houston, having lost by 40 in the
    previous game and looking at a return trip to LA even if they win, will
    simply roll over.

    The truth of the matter is that in every game where the Lakers saw that
    they needed to get the job done, they have. I know that runs contrary to
    how it “should be” in terms of what we associate with champions — namely,
    that they should bring the same degree of intensity to every performance
    – but it’s an indisputable fact. When they have needed to win — to tie
    the series, to take the series lead — they have every time.

    Getting back to my first point — that in losses, the Lakers have played
    really dumbly, they have, but obviously, that seems related to taking your
    opponent lightly. If you think you’re going to win no matter how much
    effort you put in, then you step back and take a long jumper (Pao, Kobe,
    etc.) because you’re thinking, who cares if I miss, we’ll get the next
    one, and besides, my opponent is going to give in at any moment. You play
    with less focus on each possession. My guess is that Pau will take close
    to 20 shots in this next game, and that they’ll simply keep going into the
    post, which will likely get people like Landry and Scola into foul
    trouble. I also think that Kobe will do everything he can to get to the
    basket and will spend a ton of time at the line.

    There have been a lot of questions about Phil’s coaching over the course
    of the series, and many of them seem legitimate to me, but I also think
    that his approach to coaching simply runs contrary to the way that most
    people think. It is meant to empower his players and help them function as
    part of system by building their confidence and letting them work through
    situations. The fear that the majority of fans and media members have is
    that Lakers are going to lose because the lack of intensity and
    intelligence in the losses indicates a troubling inconsistency, and Phil’s
    seeming nonchalance after those defeats makes it seem like he’s fiddling
    while Rome is burning. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening. I think
    Phil and the players really buy what he’s selling, and that their
    confidence in what they have to do is real. I don’t think that they feel
    the same fear of losing that pretty much everyone else thinks they should.

    I do think that the Lakers will win on Sunday, though I do think that it
    will be a tight game for most of the game. In the end, though, LA will
    prove simply too big for Houston and the Rockets run out of
    steam/personnel. I also think that Aaron Brooks will find himself defended
    in a more physical fashion because this game is for all the marbles.

  16. BCR – when you say the Cavs have an advantage at the 3 spot, you are forgetting how colossal the advantage is. That advantage will likely cost Lakers the series, if they get there.

  17. I still think the Lakers will win it all this year, but I have to agree with J Sparks comments the strangest part to me is with the exception of Ariza (who was injured last year), everyone had a slightly to much worse season then they did last year, here’s the breakdown. It’s amazing this team won 65 games this year.

    Kobe: Kobe still great, but can’t quite get to the hole as consistently as in the past. I think he’s going to have to bump up his three point percentage to the high 30′s low 40′s to still be a dynamic scorer the next few years.

    Odom: I like Odom more than most Laker fans, and I can’t say Odom was worse this year, but can’t say he’s much better

    Gasol: Ditto

    Fisher: Has become a huge liability on both ends. I think the fact that Farmar was playing so poorly and Fisher had to play more minutes have caught up to him.

    Bynum: I’ll give him an incomplete, although those four games at the end of the regular season was definitely fool’s gold

    Sasha: Remember when Darin Erstad out of the blue hit .350 one year…Exactly

    Farmar: I just don’t think he’s a great fit with the team, but needless to say he’s nowhere near where he was last year

    Walton: Teams don’t even bother to guard him anymore. Is making a crisp bounce pass that important?

    Powell: I like Powell’s game as a 9-10 man but is he better than Rony Turiaf?

    Like I said I think the will win it all this year, but it’s going to be a dogfight.

  18. @BCR
    What positional matchup advantage do the rockets have over the Lakers on paper? PG? Where else?
    The one thing you’re for getting about in your matchup analysis is the mythical 6th man known as “execution”.
    The Cavs and Nuggets are firing on all cylinders now- and playing like a well oiled machines… the Lake-show? Well not so much. Game 5 they were at least…

    My only point is that it is foolish to think that the problem with the Rockets is one of matchups and not lack of execution from the Lakers. If the Laker’s play at this same level against Denver or the Cavs- they will lose- no matter how you want to look at the matchups. The Cavs play just as good team defense as the Rockets.

  19. Kurt – I agree Scola’s a tremendously skilled player, but there’s absolutely no excuse for letting a big dribble 5-6 times in order to back down our bigs to within 4 feet of the basket. Either you show from the weakside and make him pick up his dribble or your big has to be able to hold his ground (see: Hayes, Chuck). It was an embarrassing 1st quarter to see one guy abuse Pau w/o any change in defensive philosophy.

  20. The Cavs shoot the three better than the Rockets. .. Hold their opponents to lower field goal percentages than the Rockets… Allow less points per game than the rockets… Get more offensive and defensive rebounds than the rockets, avg. more steals, blocks, assists and less turnovers than the rockets.

    Actually have go-to scorers- and don’t have Artest jacking up bad shots.

    It’s not matchups that are going to save the Lakers. They’ve got to save themselves.

  21. If the Lakers are really rattled that easily, that’s a problem. It doesn’t get quieter or easier as the playoffs go on.

    Also, all the more reason not to be lackadaisical and give up game 1 at home.

    If the guys are rattled, it’s up to Kobe, the leader, to boost them, and Phil to make adjustments. I’m not in those huddles, but I don’t see that happening.

    Credit to the Rockets for showing what effort and smart ball can accomplish. The Lakers really need to learn from this, but given what happened last year, they seem slow to take lessons to heart.

  22. From a lakers fans perspective, what really disappoints me about this team is the inability of our two most veteran players to use their knowledge to their advantage and take shots that help our team.

    Kobe, for all of his idolization of Michael, has not learned against a team such as this or the celtics last year that he has to go to the basket relentlessly from the moment the game starts. Yes, he won’t make every shot, nor get every foul call, but he will set the tone with the referee’s. It will also shake up the interior defense of the Rockets and allow for possible offensive rebounds as players are forced to help and adjust to his drives. The more jumpshots he shoots, the better it is for the Rockets because their bigs can focus on rebounding and not helping off his drives. D-Wade figured this out a got a championship out of it and maybe he is paying for it now, but Kobe really doesn’t have that much time left.

    The second veteran is Fish. I can accept that he can’t guard the quick points any more, but what really bothers me is he is dribbling more and shooting pull up, contested 3’s with more regularity. Case in point, he hits his first jumper last night on a semi-break, he was about 18 feet away from the hoop and in perfect control. Then next possession, on the break he pulls up for a contested 3 that was not even close. He should know how to manage a game at this point and not go for the “heat” check shot when we are down by 15. The main reason he is shooting so much worse is because of shots like the second one, out of the context of the offense and with the defense hanging all over him.

    Finally, Gasol needs to take some lessons from Scola. He is being guarded by two players that are 6’9 or less. Granted their center of gravity is lower, but all he needs to do is get good low post position and turn and shoot his hooks shots right over them. They are not going to challenge his shot. Instead he dribbles twice and passes it away or fades for a jumpshot at the free throw line.

    As has been said many times recently, I honestly don’t know what to expect on Sunday, but to win we are going to need someone besides Kobe to look in the mirror and decide to be that guy. Until them the deepest team in the league is still just a one man operation looking for a prayer.

  23. I hate to say this, but I have almost no confidence that we can beat Cleveland in a series right now. We are going to have to win at least one game on the road, and sure, we were the only team to win there (at least when it counted) during the regular season, but we seem to have lost all of our road mojo. We were without the best road team in the NBA this season, but for whatever reason this team has become a shell of its former self.

    We will win Game 7 on Sunday, and we will beat Denver in a hard-fought series that may go 7 if we continue our road shooting woes, but we won’t have that luxury against Cleveland.

    Before the playoffs started I wasn’t worried about not having HCA against Cleveland. Now, I’m pretty sure it’s going to cost us a title.

    Ugh.

  24. typo: without *a doubt* the best road team.

  25. alright Kurt,

    you win,
    it’s your forum.
    do what you want.
    i’m not coming back.

  26. Joe Sparks, if all you write is a one-paragraph rant against everyone using one word descriptions and not using some thought and examples in your venting, then yes, I will keep deleting them. Notice the other posts question the Lakers but don’t just rant, and they stay. If you just want to rail against the team take it somewhere else.

  27. DARIUS,

    You act as if Fisher has only been struggling with his shot just this series. He hasn’t been able to shoot for over 3 months now. And his defense has been awful of course the whole year. If Fisher was really a team player like Luke Walton is he would ask to have Farmar start in game 7 and request for Brown to start in the Denver series. After all, it was Luke Walton who asked Jackson to start Ariza after Luke came to the realization that Ariza was a better player and would help the team more by starting. At a certain point if Fisher was such a “team” guy, or that “smart” a player he would tell Phil to do what was best for the team.

  28. At this point, I believe the problem is not complacency. They really wanted to win last night. They ran hard and played with energy. The problem is that they let pressure, fear, the crowd get into their heads and sidetrack them from playing smart basketball. Their execution breaks down, especially offensively, and they stop pounding the ball inside, cutting sharply , spacing the court, swinging the ball from side to side, etc. Instead everyone either tries to do too much or stand around and watch Kobe. We’ll be better at home not because we suddenly try hard, but because we’ll be comfortable and thus execute smartly. I do worry, however, that some of our players just aren’t ready to handle pressure and play with the kind of intelligence and sharpness that you need to win big games against great teams on the road.

  29. Also… Why is it so hard to put Bynum on Scola so Gasol and Lamar don’t keep making him look like Shaq in the low post?

  30. In response to No. 28, I’m sure that the Lakers wanted to win in the strictest sense of the word, but they didn’t bring the same focus and intensity that they did in the games that they won in this series, and that was evident right from the get go, when they fell behind by that ridiculous deficit, and throughout the game, when they settled for lazy shots/execution, etc. The crowd can have an impact on a road team at pivotal moments, but to suggest that a team can be undone by a crowd for 48 minutes seems to be overstating things a bit. What is more likely is that they weren’t focused from the get go, and pretty much everything in all three losses suggests that.

  31. RE: 27

    YES.

    Fisher has become such a glaring liability that the Lakers would almost be better starting 4 guys and leaving Fish on the bench.

    Let’s see…he’s getting torched on defense, he’s not working the ball inside, he’s forcing layups and missing badly, he’s jacking up contested jumpers (and missing), and he can’t even hit his open looks.

    Didn’t Farmar get benched for the very same transgressions?

    I’m just saying…

  32. A. I’m embarressed. The Lakers better be embarressed, too.

    B. We don’t make Scola look good, he is very good, you’re right. Could you make that same argument about Brooks and Landry? Or are they good players we’re making look very good?

    C. how about a friggin back pick on gasol’s man, so he can get position closer to the hoop? He can’t out-muscle his defender, that much is obvious, but help the guy out! Have him cut across the key to get a pass, rather than post him up – you can pick his man off and give Pau better position.

    D. did anyone else catch Aaron Brooks’s post-game interview, saying they didn’t expect to win Sunday, and he was all smiles and happy? They’re playing loose like they have nothing to lose.

  33. What about if we put Kobe on Brooks and let Fisher/Farmar/Brown guard Battier (or Lowry if they go w/ the Brooks/Lowry combo at guard). I guess a risk is that that Kobe gets into foul trouble or wears himself out, but I think he’d make life a lot more difficult for Brooks with his aggressiveness and quickness. I realize we’d have a size mismatch on Battier w/ the smaller guard, but Battier isn’t necessarily a player who will be creating his own shots. It will mainly be contesting his 3 balls (which might work better with Kobe’s tendency to roam on D). Houston could always counterpoint with bringing in Von Wafer at the 2 and moving Battier to 3, but then you’re going to have to put Artest at 4 and that leaves you without one of your bigs (probably Hayes).

  34. Kurt, Reed and all,

    I, too, drove over last night from San Antonio (as I did for games 3 & 4) and the crowd shouldn’t have been that big of a factor – great teams win tough games on the road. Yes it was noisy, but not any louder than other road LA playoff games against Utah, Phx, SA or other teams. I can tell you that it was extremely loud at the end of the 3rd quarter in game 4 (after Brooks alley oop layup). That said, last night’s 3rd quarter at least showed that we weren’t a collection of Tin Men searching for heart. The 4th quarter was a 10 minute 7-9 point tease. Yes, there were lucky plays that went Houston’s way, but for some reason we couldn’t find anyone who could consistently score. I kept waiting for our FG% to rise near 40, but it didn’t. What was encouraging was more consistent play from Farmar and some strong inside play (aside from scoring) from Bynum. It would help if Trevor didn’t hesitate so much on the open 3s. Most teams have decided he is the man they will leave and he has to make them pay. This series has shown us that we can’t overlook any single play for any game. We may not have fully learned this lesson, but I think we take game 7 running away. Should we win – when would game 1 of the WCF be?

  35. I’m sorry if this has all been fleshed out before…
    I wonder if some of what we’re seeing is that PJ’s coaching method requires a high level of savvy- intelligence- widsom, if you will- from his players. He’s not a hand holder as we all know. Very very few young players start out with this. Some manage to build it over time spent in the league. Some never get it.
    The Lakers roleplayers are lacking in it (Vis-a-vis the demands of PJ’s coaching style moreso than when compared to the average team).
    When many of us look at the role players on the Lakers, we can tend to evaluate them based on athleticism or raw talent, rather than savvy (Bynum anyone?).
    The rockets have savvy (Scola, Battier, Hayes).
    If you could replace one or two key roleplayers on the Lakers with a less talented but more savvy vet, the impact could be exponential.
    For example, if you could switch Odom and Battier, I think the Lakers would actually get better- although Odom is far more talented. Now if you could keep Odom, but switch a roleplayer like Ariza for Battier, the team would be unstoppable.

    I think PJ is aware of this, and that’s why he’s playing Fish so much. With Fish on the floor, the Lakers lose a little of their talent edge- but replace Fish with Farmar, and the Lakers fall even farther behind on savvy.

    Am I crazy?

  36. If the Lakers beat Houston, they’ll honestly handle the Nuggets better than they are the Rockets because the Nuggets are a more Offensive minded team than Defensive minded. Rockets hang their hat on their defense, that is their identity. We’ll see what happens though this Sunday.

  37. … to condense my long ramble-

    Maybe it’s just that the Lakers need some wily vets? That’s why Fish is getting run from Phil. Most of the Lakers role players are young. Is it possible that this is a critical weakness for the Lakers come playoff time?

    The Nuggets got Billups, and K-Mart fianlly started acting like a vet- and they improved leaps and bounds.

    A big part of the cavs success is Wally, J Smith, Wallace, and their poise/ this pressure ain’t nothing newness- despite their physical limitations.

    The Rockets play like a more veteran team because they have a lot of savvy players- to the credit of Morey.

  38. I agree with that’s been said about the road game. We were down early because the Rockets were making shots they usually miss, and we were missing shots we usually make. Then we panicked and went into Kobe-only mode, Fish took some bad shots, and everything went downhill. ‘Composure’ becomes a matter of a little more discipline in shot selection and the momentum would’ve been right back in our favor. The panic may have in fact been residual from the horrific reminders of the bruising in game 4.

    So against the Nuggets or Cavs, with a fresh new series and new matchups, I don’t think this idea of composure will play as big a role.

    Having said that, I still think we could’ve found a way to win. Now we’re in a very very dangerous position. If a few loose balls and calls don’t go our way, and momentum swings as heavily as it’s been doing in games all series, we may not even make it to the WCF. I think I am subconsciously preparing myself for that right now.

    I am not liking the PT for Bynum and Farmar. They get yanked and benched for extended periods of time because Fisher and Odom are player better and they made some dumb mistakes. And now that the latter two are not playing well in the same situation, they still don’t get their PT back. How are they supposed to get out of their slumps?

    PJ always likes to talk about whether players are ‘ready’ for certain situations. It seems to arbitrary and in his own head. I say take the empirical evidence instead. They’re playing well, put them on the floor and keep them there.

  39. I agree that the Lakers should not have been phased by the crowd in a pretty typical road game, but they nevertheless were. Great teams aren’t phased like that, but for whatever reason we aren’t playing like a great team right now. When things get tough our execution is breaking down and we revert to undisciplined and inefficient offense.

    It’s really not that wild of a phenomenon, of course. I’m a young lawyer. If you threw me into a high stakes trial tomorrow with everyone I cared about watching, I’d freeze up, defer to others, be tentative, stumble, etc. — no matter how badly I wanted to win and how hard I had prepared. The pressure would simply affect my execution. I think that’s happening to many of our players. The same thing happened against Boston last year.

  40. Mimsy,

    The main difference between Houston/Denver/Cleveland is that no one expected the Rockets to be as good as they are right now. The lakers know that those other 2 teams are really good and will need to execute perfectly to win a game .

    This rockets team has caught everyone in surprise, including the fans. I mean, do you think people would be so upset if Cleveland won one game over LA? Of course not, because we expect Cleveland to be good.

    The pressure is much more intense at this stage because the Lakers are doubting themselves because of the fans and letting it get to their heads. Then, they go on the road and the fans are crazy and I think the Lakers don’t play that well because they are scared. That is the only way to describe it . I would be scared too if someone random had the ability to knock me off from something I’ve been trying to accomplish all year. For example, everyone is hyping up Denver and we clearly know that they are good. The lakers probably expect their fans to be loud and etc. It’s just that, no one expected the Rockets to be like this, which makes it more nerve-wrecking. No one said it’s going to be easy.

  41. I’m also one of those people who think that if the Lakers get through the Rockets, Denver will be a much better match-up for us.

  42. One point I want to make about creating turnovers is that despite everyone saying it’s a key for us in the game, it’s also fools gold. We seem to gamble and reach and subsequently get out of position easily. We also double Rockets players when they are not in threatening positions. SB, Ariza, Farmar, and even Kobe all do this. If a steal leads to an easy layup, and a gamble leads to a layup or wide open three, wouldn’t we have really not gained very much. We need to be smart about our defense, play the right way, don’t reach or gamble, and let the TO’s come to us. Like how quarterbacks talk about waiting and taking what the defense gives, we need to wait and take what Artest, Brooks, and the Rockets will easily give because they are very turnover prone.

  43. Gee whiz. Don’t the Lakers look like a team with minimal playoff experience. Don’t they look like a team that hasn’t done this before? Could it be because that’s pretty much who we are? You could argue that we got past San Antonio last year because Ginobli’s ankle. Did we really earn our stripes on the way to the finals? Where was the adversity, the pain, the drama that forges a championship team? Didn’t really have much of that until the Finals did we? Thank goodness we earned homecourt this season. So as we get our first big test, at least it’s in our gym.
    Much like Phil, I’m not worried and I believe we’ll be okay.

  44. Mimsy, i totally agree with Hollinger on number 1. I wondered out loud on why Kobe was still on the bench. My reasoning was why rest him for 4-5mins just to play another game. There was no sense of desperation by Phil. Is he trying to give the team enough “in game practice” before the championship round? One of the experts here made a point about Kobe being tired and having lapses on both end of the court and i somewhat agree. But if we are going to loose shouldnt we at least go down fighting?

  45. I don’t think that the Lakers are lacking in intensity; in fact, they may be too intense at the moment. I think that a number of them are being tentative (feeling the pressure?) which then causes others to overcorrect.

  46. lakergirl
    Not just going down fighting…. when you are down you keep fighting. When you are down, you’re in a great position to bite at ankles and hammer away at knee caps. Ask the Rockets, they know how to do this.

    I hate to say it, but I am more and more starting to think that we will win this series despite Phil, not thanks to him. I don’t care if he’s worried or not, he doesn’t act as if he cares about the outcome of the games, and when you are the leader, your demeanor influences the ones who follow you a lot more than your words.

  47. 42. Don W, I don’t want the Lakers gambling for steals. But, ball pressure on any Rocket not named Brooks or Lowrey will lead to turnovers, they do not have a lot of guys with great handles. I think the lack of turnovers tends to be indicative of defensive pressure.

  48. Interesting to see who gets the blame for Laker woes now….

    http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/9576958/Coach's-Zen-approach-not-helping-Lakers

  49. Perhaps a better word than intensity since it seems to be misinterpreted by a number of people on here is focus. In the losses, the Lakers haven’t been focused and that’s evident from their execution. Hollinger makes a great point about this in his article today using Kobe — namely that he keeps settling for jump shots instead of getting to the rim. That isn’t the Lakers offense when it’s working, and that’s been the case in all three of the losses.

    Honestly, it doesn’t seem much more complicated than:

    a) Pounding the ball inside relentlessly to Pau, and forcing Scola and Landry to defend him. The more times he gets the ball, the more fouls they’ll pick up, which will effectively neutralize Scola at the other end of the floor as well. Going to Pau often will also create better shot opportunities for Kobe and everyone else.
    b) Putting the fastest guards on Brooks, and playing him more physically on help defense in Game 7. There is no excuse for Brooks getting to the basket without paying a price for it. That’s what Josh Powell and Mbenga are for. No more uncontested layups. Putting a body on him will pay dividends over the course of a game.

    If the Lakers do both of those things and play with focus from start to finish, it’s really difficult to see how they could lose Game 7 to an undersized Houston team.

  50. I am probably in the minority, but I just don’t think the Lakers’ talent level is as deep as many people seem to think. Outside of Pau and Kobe, who on this team is capable of playing at a high level on a consistent basis?

    I think the Lakers are a better regular season team where more of the emphasis is on coaching than they are a post season team a premium is placed on talent. This being said, I still think the Lakers win pretty easily on Sunday.

  51. “If the Lakers do both of those things and play with focus from start to finish, it’s really difficult to see how they could lose Game 7 to an undersized Houston team.”

    I just don’t understand why they haven’t been taking advantage of Yao’s absence on the offensive end. With Pau and Drew’s height advantage, one would have thought that the series would be over by now.

  52. The problems starts after the post entry pass. Rockets double team Pau, Pau looks to pass to the open man, unfortunately there are 4 lakers standing around the perimeter and nobody is cutting to the basket. Maximum 3 outside shooters are needed to space the floor. The 4th guy, Bynum or Odom or Walton, should be cutting to the basket to relieve pressure and disrupt the double.

  53. A lot of the comments here seem to be grouping Fish and Sasha as suffering from the same malady. I for one see them as having two different problems with two different solutions.

    Fish is in a huge shooting slump… nevertheless, he still forces up early 3s and PUJITS, seemingly motivated more by notions of momentum (taking the crowd out of it) than a clear-minded view of the offense. Or maybe he thinks making a few early 3s will open up the middle, which is true, but missing those threes pretty much guarantees that Hou will bottle up the paint for the rest of the game. SOLUTION: Fish, only take those kinds of shots late in the offense and, ideally, when they come from the inside out from Pau (it’s a dream to think Bynum will ever kick out to the right man). In the interim, feed the post, move the ball, and play smart– be Luke Walton and make sure Kobe and Pau and ideally ‘Drew get going early. I remember Rick Fox used to do the same thing– start out shooting like crazy. When it worked, it was beautiful, like handing Kobe a golden ticket to the rim, but when it failed, it failed big.

    Sasha’s shots are also horrible, but I see that more as a function of the fact that he seems to have changed the kind of shots he’s taking, specifically forcing the action off the dribble. SOLUTION: Yo, Machine– if you have to take a single step to get your shot off, or (worse) put the ball on the floor, pass the damn ball! Personally, I’m still willing to take my chances with Sasha shooting the kinds of shots that Trevor gets, but I really think he’s somehow trying to reinvent himself with all these awkward midrange shots, teardrops, & off-balance runners, like he’s the Slovenian Tony Parker or something… Get to your position, stay there, and shoot in rhythm.

    My two cents.

    Finally, thumb’s up to those who give credit to Scola rather than blame to Pau for Scola’s blistering start last night– I thought he showed a really incredible series of moves and counters. The guy can play…. and looks so comfortable in both the high and low post. Can you imagine him in the triangle?

  54. Best quote of the day:

    “At some point you have to consider the possibility that the Lakers just are who they are now, not what we thought they were. Right now at least, they are not the dominating team that steamrolled the Western Conference and conjured up visions of 70 wins earlier this season. Nor are they the offensive powerhouse that blasted Cleveland and Boston on their home courts back in February. After Thursday’s 95-80 loss to the hobbling but still bobbing-and-weaving Rockets here at the Toyota Center, the Lakers are a team just trying to get by. “

  55. Not Charlie Rosen May 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    “I think the Lakers are a better regular season team where more of the emphasis is on coaching than they are a post season team a premium is placed on talent.”

    I actually think it’s somewhat the reverse–in the regular season, you don’t get too much chance to scout or gameplan opponents, you often just lace ‘em up and see what happens (with one or two key bullet points of focus)…thus our season-long frustration that our talent+intensity/focus can beat a good team like Cleveland on the road, but lose to the talented (but not very good) Bobcats at home.

    In the playoffs, there are no surprises, everyone has a chance to prepare…it all comes down to gameplan, execution of gameplan, and the subtle tweaks that the coaches make to those plans throughout a series…it’s almost always the last team to make a positive tweak to their gameplan that wins the series (something PJ was brilliant at during our 3-peat with Kobe/Shaq).

    And thus the concern with PJ…other than slightly changing our p/r defense in game 2 (which led to more comforting game 2 and 3 wins), we haven’t made any real adjustments…and this is with the other team’s gameplan–and actual lineup–changing quite a bit in the last 10 days. And while the best possible gameplan is pretty obvious to everyone who watches–Pau inside, every possession–we still get sequences like:

    Fisher–lazy lob entry pass to Ariza in the post; stolen, missed layup, or kick out to Odom for a long jumper
    Pass to Pau…at the top of the key, leading to a p/r with Fisher and Ariza on the wing, in which both of them look like they’ve heard about this p/r thing before, but never actually done it.

    And then PJ calls a timeout, you think to get them re-focused…and the next 10 sets look exactly the same.

    Either our current play is exactly his gameplan–which would be odd, to say the least–or he can’t seem to convince the guys to properly execute it, no matter how many different ways he approaches it.

    And that’s all a coach has to do: come up with a gameplan, and convince the guys to actually do it. They can yell, or cajole, or buddy-buddy, or zen-trust…the method doesn’t matter too much (clear since both Riley and PJ have rings with very opposite styles), but the results do. And right now we’re not getting the expected/hoped-for results from what PJ is doing.

  56. how different do the lakers look in the second round versus the first? do the same mistakes appear? i understand the jazz and rox are completely different teams that require different approaches, but there are certainly common threads (inconsistent play, subpar defense, no outward display/desire to win – outside of kobe, faint bench play…) yet it’s the same team that won 65 games this year.

  57. krolik’s article is off base on several points. i’ll let the sharper minds here take it apart. if the lakers do lose sunday, it will reflect kobe’s leadership and affect his legacy, but not to this degree. krolik sounds like plaschke.

  58. “I actually think it’s somewhat the reverse–in the regular season, you don’t get too much chance to scout or gameplan opponents, you often just lace ‘em up and see what happens (with one or two key bullet points of focus)…thus our season-long frustration that our talent+intensity/focus can beat a good team like Cleveland on the road, but lose to the talented (but not very good) Bobcats at home.”

    Just take a look at Wilkens and Sloan, two great coaches with no rings. They would typically have a great regular seasons but would usually lose in the playoffs because of their team’s talent disparity. Also consider last years’ Finals: did Boston win because Rivers, considered by many to be a horrible head coach, outcoach PJ, or was it simply because Boston had more talent?

  59. While I agree with the frustration of most Laker fans at this time, but this context of the series is eerily similar to the Bos/Atl series last year.

    Boston was a 65+ wins team with an air tight defensive scheme, a young and savvy PG, a couple of wily vets, and three HOF/All Star caliber players who could take over a game against a horrible defensive team with a star (not a superstar), a solid rookie and cast of wholly inconsistent players.

    Based on those facts, it appears that the Boston probably should have swept the Hawks, but we all know what happened. People questioned KG’s leadership, Ray Allen’s clutchness and whether the Celts vets were strong enough to carry their youngsters over the hump. Ray Allen played a horrible series, and if not for Paul Pierce, James Posey, Leon Powe, and the Boston crowd, they likely would have lost that series. Some people even praised Mike Woodson, who’s one of the worst coaches in the league IMO; and the Hawks were just playing for the moment and had absolutely nothing to lose. I think this Houston team is way more talented than the Hawks team. And I think this Lakers team is slightly better than the Celts team of last year. It’s no surprise that this series was going to be tough. I didn’t expect it to be this ugly (i.e. Game 4 and Game 6). But hopefully the Lakers can use this ugliness as a character-building moment.

    As Kobe said, it’s just up to the Lakers to tough it out. If they win Game 7 and go on to be the Nugs in 4 or 5 no one will remember this series.

  60. Well Truehoop really went hardcore on the Kobe vs Lebron debate. I haven’t finished reading through, but I have to say I’m a little disappointed. Too much is being made of whether the “average fan” can relate to Kobe’s fundamentals and is turned off by the sheer “majesty” of Lebron’s game. To me that’s a moot point that is nearly impossible to resolve, and doesn’t hold any great weight on the debate of greatness. We’re not debating who’s the most popular, we’re debating basketball games.

    So far at least, Arnovitz with the best line of the debate:

    “In some sense, we’re not really debating the greatness of Kobe v. the greatness of LeBron. We’re debating how we measure greatness.”

    I think that’s fairly accurate. Lebron and Kobe are great in different ways (what matters more – statistics or a complete basketball repertoire?).

  61. One little thing I thought was important or rather missing: even though the box score doesn’t really tell this story, I was very frustrated with the effort on the offensive boards. There just seemed to be way too many shots where no Laker was even in position to contend for an offensive rebound. Part of that was different players taking jumpers early in the possession without realizing there was nobody around the basket to rebound. But several times guys were already drifting back when the shots went up. Houston did just the opposite.

    Also, Kobe failed to box out on some very key possessions in the second half, giving up offensive rebounds. I know he already has to do a lot for this team to work well but I remember two crucial rebounds he let the Rockets convert into easy baskets where he only watched the ball and never even looked for a man to box out. It all starts with the leader.

  62. AFB – You pretty much nailed it. Game 7, if we win, will look like a great blessing, a real way of quickly toughening our players. But with every Game 7, there’s that pre-game fear. What if we don’t make it? Our entire season could end here. Win, and Game 7′s just add flavor to a championship run. The 2002 championship was that much sweeter because of the classic series with the Kings.

    I agree with a lot of 3ThreeIII posted early on. Last night I really started to question Phil’s decisions (not Phil himself, just his decisions for that game) for the first time ever. He definitely needed to call a timeout earlier to stem the tide. His entire philosophy is not calling time-outs so that his players learn to play through it. But after having seen so many utter collapses by this group, he should realize that the time for “teaching” is over. If the lesson isn’t sinking in, you step in. Last night we needed him to stop the game, make a quick adjustment on Scola, and maybe call a play or two to get some quick scores and cut into the deficit. After coming out flat we turned it on, but it’s so very difficult to come back while spotting a team that many points.

  63. Kaifa – I agree. You hate to criticize the backbone of any success this team’s had for the last few years, but right when we were making our push, I thought Kobe’s 1) lazy pass that resulted in a TO and then 2) failing to box out Battier for what should have been an easy board really turned the momentum. We had the momentum and were making our push, and Kobe’s TO really shifted that. And then he just got lazy watching the ball and Battier snuck in easily behind him for the putback.

    Kobe prides himself on being such a great help defender like Pippen (and he certainly is), but Pippen helped without losing track of his man, and that was what defined his defensive greatness. Kobe loses track of Battier too often (albeit less in Game 6 than he normally does) and it costs us.

  64. The problem for the Lakers last night was partly early intensity and partly PJ being outcoached. Adleman and the Rockets surprised them by getting Scola involved early and the Lakers didn’t have a solution. They were expecting the perimeter passing and drives, but didn’t foresee the post play.

    They dug themselves into too big of a whole to come back from. The Rockets played well and made some tough shots, and were not giving that game back. I think that Laker fans should chalk this game up to being outplayed and outcoached by the Rockets, and not how heartless your team is. The Rockets are a good team capable of winning on their home court. The Lakers will more than likely do the same thing on Sunday and move on to play Denver. If they do, I would favor them over Denver, and root for them also.

    If somehow the Rockets do manage to win game 7, I actually like our chances against Denver. Carmelo and J.R. will be living in a nightmare against our defenders, and they don’t have the inside game of the Lakers. Scola will be a much different cover for Martin. Billups and Brooks would be an interesting match-up at the point.

  65. One problem is that Kobe hasn’t “figured out” Battier. People who look at the results and say “Well look here, Kobe scored a ton of points efficiently” are off. Kobe hasn’t gotten to the rim consistently all series long. In some games (e.g. Game 2), because of Kobe’s sheer skill, those contested mid-range jumpers go down. But those shots don’t get other players involved, and even with Kobe, have the least chance of going in. Battier is still doing a consummate job on Kobe, because he knows that it’s unlikely Kobe can stay that hot every single minute of every single game. Last night, Kobe started off missing the same shots he hit in Game 2, and it put us down quickly and exposed us – the other Lakers were getting used to Kobe starting us off strong and carrying the team early on. I do think Kobe’s shot will come back for Game 7, but it’s a poor way to play – living and dying by Kobe’s midrange game.

    Somebody mentioned it already, but Hollinger’s Per Diem for today is top-notch. I’ve defended Phil as hard as anyone, but that was to blanket statements like “Phil doesn’t know how to win big games.” I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Phil has made some very questionable decisions this series.

    Sometimes the best coaching moves are the most obvious. Hollinger, despite what many Lakers fans think, is not a “hater.” He just worships numbers, and so it can lead him to making some dumb statements sometimes. That said, he’s pretty dead on in the piece that he just wrote.

    We also can’t underestimate the loss of Tex. Tex was the one guy who truly had Phil’s ear, who would openly call Phil out. I refuse to believe Tex, the man who mastered the triangle offense, has no answers to solve the execution problems we’re having.

    I do think one unfair criticism of Jackson is that he’s too nonchalant in his interviews. Does any intelligent person think Phil is honestly going into practice sessions and telling the team “We’ll be fine, just play.” I’m sure he’s lit into his team. It just seems that he’s made the decision that this team is mentally fragile (unlike his veteran teams) and doesn’t want to criticize them to the media. But I do agree that he doesn’t seem to be able to motivate this Lakers team very well.

  66. 48. Kurt, I think we essentially agree. We need to create turnovers but we need to be smart doing it.

  67. its hard to get in an offensive rhythm when the opposing team is holding the ball for so damn long. its like when you’re playing one on one, and you’re down by just two scores, and the other guy is just dribbling for the longest time. by the time you get the ball you throw up a fustrated shot, miss it, and the anger just snowballs, as the other guy starts his eternally long dribbling fest again. i’m looking at you, aaron brooks and ron artest.

  68. I remember we were debating James Harden on this site a while back, so here’s a better look at him:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/draft2009/columns/story?columnist=ford_chad&page=PreDraftTour-090515

    I’m in the camp of those who believe in Harden. He’s crafty, like Roy, and I think his wingspan is an underrated physical tool.

  69. Not to harp on the Phil issue (and by that, I mean I plan on harping), but I think maybe – and this borders on blasphemous – Phil is as enamored with his legacy as we are.

    I don’t mean he sleeps with his 9 rings. What I mean is that Phil has done things a certain way for a long time, and he believes they work (the rings don’t lie). As such, he seems less willing to be as flexible as perhaps other coaches would. The SST is an example of flexibility, but it took a humiliating flameout for Phil to listen to Rambis. I’m not saying he’s inflexible, but less flexible than perhaps he should be.

    The issue that comes to mind are the timeouts and substitution patterns. He’s sat on his timeouts for so long, and started Fisher for so long, and rested Kobe for so long, that he expects them to work when they clearly aren’t.
    (And in “The Show”, Lazenby and Winter make it clear that Phil definitely has a huge go, so this idea isn’t completely off the wall).

  70. Hollinger really ripped Phil Jackson today on espn.com. Take a look…

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2009/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=PERDiem-090515

    Its hard to argue with anything he writes.

  71. Great wall!

    awesome post! Finally a Rocket fan who is able to have a meaningful convo with laker fans!

    btw I’ve always liked the Rockets, kudos.

  72. btw kurt, this blog is much better than the LA times blog lol, seems like stupid people go on that site most of the time.

  73. For anyone who didn’t see this, the league rescinded Kobe’s technical.

  74. 74. There is a lot of difference in how I can handle commenters and how they can, because of the goals of the site and who they work for. Brian and Andrew know the game and are good bloggers (and people). It’s about the situation.

  75. #75,
    I didn’t see that yet, that’s good news! :)

  76. I’m wondering for as great as PJ’s record is- is it possible he’s just a system coach? He’s on the level of a Nelson or Dantoni- someone who has a great system and gets the most out of it that they can- but isn’t the kind of coach that’s going to be able to necessarily create the best game plan for the players he has?

    The difference being of course- PJ’s system allows him to win championships (with the right personnel) . Nelson and Dantoni’s systems are best at making sup-bar (from an elite perspective) talent work better than they should- but it won’t make them elite.

    The knock on PJ is that he can’t do it without great players- but I’m almost starting to believe he’s even more limited than that. He just has a system (- and it needs elite players and very specific personnel to function).

    He’s like a lamborghini mechanic. It sounds really impressive- he can work on million dollar cars- but the really good mechanic is the guy that can fix any of the other 99% of cars that come to him.

    The problem here is that he’s trying to work on a lamborghini with a corvette engine in it. (Sorry- I couldn’t resist forcing the metaphor)

  77. The Lakers have not been in synch during the playoffs. I wonder how much of that is due to Bynum’s return? Trying to make significant changes to the lineups while in the playoffs makes it hard for everyone to get in a rhythm. Combine that with the fact that Bynum is not producing much, and it’s asking for trouble. (I am not faulting Jackson for doing this; I think probably every other coach would have tried, too.)

  78. WE WILL PREVAILL!!!!

    THAT’s IT..im not listening to any more criticism! Im sick and tired of people criticizing the Lakers becaue they are going to a game 7!

    SO ARE THE CELTICS AND THE MAGIC.

    ARE WE SO QUICK TO FORGET THAT LAST YEARS CHAMPIONS WENT TO TWO GAME 7′s?!

    I will never give up on my team! no matter what!

    counting down the hours till sunday!

  79. My take, tough game tough crowd, we got down early didnt have enough to dig us out. We can back seat coach, but let’s give the rockets and houston some credit here they did what they needed to do. they exploited our glaring weaknesses. lack of speed defensively at PG and weak interior man to man defense. Houston spaced perfectly and moved the ball. Drew Pau and Lamar (being hurt) lack lateral quickness. The guards can double because brooks blows right by them with dribble penetration. trevor isnt strong enough to defend artest and we simply dont play well from behind we press. Now Pau looked tired intimidated and uninterested last night. It looked as though the long last season and olympics have caught up with him, ditto for Kobe. But on the serious plus side. We worked hard all year for home court advantage, which simply means you get the first game and game 7 at home. The Lakers are a beast at Staples. As a previous post said lets all get behind them. do you see rocket fans beating up their team, no they are liftiong them higher, we can do better. Championships are won as your team overcomes obstacles and realizes you have to win 4 out of 7. Boston played 3 7 game series last year. It prepared them for the finals. lets not get it twisted, we will be fine

  80. Yea I know I enjoy their blog a lot they are very smart. They are not the problem, it is most of the people who post!

  81. As a Rockets fan I’m enjoying the ride.

    But there was an inexcusable play early in Game 6 that makes me really doubt the Lakers.
    Artest steals a lazy pass and heads off downcourt. Now Ron dribbles in slow-motion,it’s possible most here could catch him. NOT 1 LAKER tried to chase him down. They quit on the play. Ron made the lay-up,landed,turned and took two steps back before the first Laker even crossed the 3pt line.

    Once I saw the replays later that night of the play and confirmed I saw what I thought I saw,I have become convinced that the Lakers will not win the title this yr.

  82. An article from the vault, that I found somewhat relevant because it at least contained some examples of old Phil adjustments: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2003/story?id=1553965

    On a completely different note, I’d forgotten what pre-Game 7 nervousness feels like as a fan. It’s exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. (Game 7′s where we’re legit contenders, not the 06 debacle).

    What was the last time we were contenders and pushed to a Game 7? Was it really 2002?

  83. I find it somewhat puzzling how people think we are a better team on the run. True in most instances, but if you consider the fact that we have the three tallest guys on the floor, aren’t we better off setting up and have people fight for offensive rebounds? There really shouldn’t be much of a contest there, and it’s not like Bynum, Pau and Odom are bad rebounders for their size.

    Also, Kobe vs. Battier/Artest: why even bother? Contrary to Pau’s belief, Pau CAN create for himself and others, and he doesn’t have a matchup on that side of the floor. Pau should be demanding the ball at all times, and given the kind of leeway Kobe gets; that is, shoot 30 times.

    The true frustration about this team is that our team is incredibly undisciplined. We revert to pick-up game mentality at the first sign of adversity, and that’s partially why Phil is seen ‘missing’ time outs. Honestly, a team with two 12 year vets cannot be this undisciplined, especially if those two demand such respect as Kobe and Fisher… except that in this series, those are the most undisciplined of the guys out there.

    The other frustrating fact, that compounds the problem above is that the two are also most often the most consistent in giving their best effort. You know the age old axiom: The worst type of a leader is a dumb leader that works hard, and the best is a smart leader who is lazy (and thus gets the most efficient ways to achieve the same goal).

    We were in the 2nd best category: Smart leaders who work hard. Now we have fallen beneath Dumb leaders who are lazy (at least damage can be controlled) and landed on Dumb leaders who work hard (tailspin).

  84. Good point exhelodrvr. I agree that trying to incorporate Bynum after his injury has thrown off our rhythm and thus far has not been very successful. However I believe it must be done and we must try harder to get it done. Especially in the 4th quarter of games

    This series takes me back to the Laker/Celtic series last year. During the fourth quarter of those games it was easy to see that the strength and defensive skill of the Celtics front line somewhat neutralized Gasol and Odom. On offense they were pushed off of their low post positions and were thus not effective. On defense they were both pushed out of good rebounding position and they were very slow and ineffective help defenders.

    This is not to say that either is a bad player. But it should be clear to all that if the team that they are playing has a strong and physical front line, the Lakers must counter this with a player with enough weight and strength to hold his position in the lane. If not we will lose control of the paint (offensively and defensively) the way we did against the Celtics last year and the Rockets this year. In addition, Bynum is our only hope at having an effective help defender since Odum is hurt and Gasol has never been effective in this role.

    Even though Bynum is young and inexperienced he still has the potential to be our biggest difference maker against physical team compared to last year. I want to see PJ go with him in the fourth quarter on Sunday. I would even like to see Phil try Odom, Bynum and Gasol on the court at the same time. Why not? Odom can guard Artest. However, if it is just Odom and Gasol Im sure we are going to get pushed around

  85. 78/exhelodrvr – I was just thinking the same thing, particularly in how Pau and Bynum work to cover the paint. Bynum particularly looks lost and tentative, when it seems like he could make a big impact just grabbing every ball he can reach.

  86. #61 AFB

    Amen brother. I’ve been saying that over and over to anyone that could hear me. And as everyone else here knows Boston had 2 seven game series last year while we ran through the west. and we were favored over the Celtics in the finals; what happened there? (much like I suppose Denver and Cleveland will be in the next rounds)

    I know that this seems like a simplistic analysis (or analogy) and there are deep issues to contend with. But i think we are good enough to win the Championship with the team as constituted, with Phil coaching. Obviously we have to “make adjustments”, “hit shots”, “play defense” and “pass the ball”…if we do these things we win, simple.

    And for the better part of the season we have done these things to the tune of 65 wins. So i’ll take those averages, John Hollinger be damned, and bet this team to win it all.

  87. Basketball can be like a big game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. In the paint, many times strength (Houston/Boston) trumps skill (Lakers). We must counter strength with strength and not skill. We must keep our biggest body in the paint and let Pau and Lamar work from the elbows on offense.

  88. One of the things mentioned was that Luke gave us absolutely nothing. Ariza didn’t fare much better. Now, Ariza needs PT because he’s a large part of our defense forcing turnovers. But 15 minutes for Luke, and only 9 for Shannon, makes very, very little sense.

    I’d like to see a lot more of Farmar and Brown with Kobe at the 3. It’s a bit sad that Shannon is our best 3-point threat right now, but he is. Defensively, this puts Brown on Battier (he’ll pay more attention to him than Kobe), and Kobe on Artest. Requires more effort from Kobe’s part, but he did a solid job on Artest than before.

  89. khjohn,
    The problem is that Bynum has played poorly about 80% of the time in the playoffs. They can’t afford to give him more time with that level of production, or they will end up not advancing.

  90. Two thoughts: first, this year’s Rockets remind me of the fun I had rooting for the overachieving, always hustling Lakers of the immediate post-Magic era. Nothing was expected of them. It was bliss to see them make the playoffs and work hard while they were at it. Good on ya’, Rockets fans… enjoy the ride.

    Second, I really really liked Fish posting on Brooks in G5. Huge advantage Lakers, because it forced Brooks into a role in which he fared very poorly. Posting Fish doesn’t always fit into the flow of the game, but it strikes me as yet another weapon that PJ doesn’t seem to have implemented consistently…

  91. kurt i hope to hear your thoughts at some point on “Kobe doin’ work” on espn tomorrow night…so please set your dvr accordingly. see you all sunday afternoon

  92. Exelodrvr/Alex- Bynum was our best interior defender last night, and it wasn’t even close. WIth him in the game at least we dont have to watch Brooks stroll in the lane and score over 7’1 Pau Gasol. Bynum forced the Rox into deeper, tougher shots and allowed Kobe and Ariza to extend their defense. He hasn’t had a great playoffs, but Game 6 he showed how he can make an impact on D.

  93. Let me run this by people – how’s this for a starting line-up?

    PG – Fisher (should be Farmar, but I doubt Phil will come around)
    SG – Shannon Brown
    SF – Kobe
    PF – Lamar
    C – Pau

    I thought it over, and I think this provides us with the best matchups unless Bynum gets going again. Here’s why:

    -Brown can be “hidden” on Battier and will actually stick to Battier more than Kobe, and prevent the corner open 3
    -Kobe has proven to be effective guarding Artest
    -The biggest advantage: this line-up forces Adelman to guard Lamar with Scola. Artest/Battier must guard Kobe/Brown, because there’s no way in hell Scola can guard Kobe or Brown. Now Artest can no longer cross-match on Odom.

    The downside is that Artest could take Kobe into the post and draw fouls on Kobe early. Also, this would work best if Lamar was at 100% so he could exploit Scola.

    This line-up is most potent as a starting lineup. Later in the game, Hayes or Scola may be out, and Artest can be put in at the 4. This works best as a starting lineup.

    I probably missed some key point, and hopefully sure someone on this thread will point it out. But as of now, that lineup makes the most sense to me.

  94. kwame sees what I saw. If Bynum just plays the way he played in game 6 our defense would be much improved. At home, our offense will automatically be much better on Sunday. And if you add Farmar to the starting line up I bet he can get Bynum going on offense (Dont forget that Bynum and Farmar have always had great chemistry when our second unit was strong).

  95. Great Wall great post bro!! It’s great to have a Houston fan that’s not a laker hater!!

  96. Snoopy2006-The way I see it, Lamar and Pau are at the heart of our problems on defense. I know he is young and will make some mistakes. But at home and with favorable officiating I would stick to Andrew and our currently starters (minus fisher). Also I have noticed that Lamar is more aggressive offensively when he comes in with the second unit. We desperately need him as a scorer and not just a rebounder in this series.

  97. In the end, its gotta rest on Phil. Injuries or not, a coach should be able to find a rotation. Houston, which has wayyy more injured players/new guys in new roles than we do is able to find and stick with a lineup. And when playing someone doesn’t work (see Cook, Brian) they adjust and keep the non-contributor off the court. Phil has not been able to figure out a rotation that works, and he also hasn’t made the proper in-game adjustments.

    Craig W. defended Phil the other day, and I agree that Phil has a proven method, but the question must be asked, does this method still win titles? 2004 he was clearly outschemed against a Detroit team (whether right or wrong) was a heavy underdog. Last year (again right or wrong) we were favored going into the championship and he got outschemed by Doc.

    Bottom line, Phil is gonna have to be willing to change some of his methods if he wants to win another title.

  98. 89)Kwame – The Lakers biggest problem was offensive, not defensive. And so far, what Bynum is giving up there overcomes what he gives them on defense.

  99. 99 – Very true. There’s no doubt we owe Phil a lot of respect for what he’s accomplished. But the NBA is an ever-changing landscape, and if Phil sticks to what got him wins in the 90s, that doesn’t guarantee wins here and now. Phil himself realized that after last year, when he finally relented and allowed Kurt to install the new defense. But I think he’s still not flexible enough, making adjustments in this series.

    khjohn – That’s a good point. We do need that interior D from Bynum. But I agree with exhelodrvr and others in that our offense is our main problem right now. Phil even took Bynum out after a short while in the last game and didn’t play him much; if he’s going to restrict Bynum’s minutes, I’d rather see Brown inserted into the starting lineup to give us an offensive boost.

  100. exhelodrvr. One of the reasons that the Lakers can’t overcome leads in this post-season is that we can’t consistently get defensive stops when we need them.

    The reason that we keep blowing leads in the playoffs (and the regular season) is that we can’t consistently get defensive stops.

    Houston is not even a strong offensive team and they are getting to the rim and scoring at will on our team.

    If you look at all of the remaining teams in the playoffs. They are all (except Denver) primarily defense focused teams and even Denver’s defense is markedly improved.

    The Lakers are the last remaining offensively focused team in the playoffs because the others have already been eliminated. The Lakers will also be eliminated if their defense isn’t better from this point on.

    The Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and our Lakers (last year) have tried to win offensively in recent years and they have always lost to defensive teams. Offense is always up and down its defense wins championships.

  101. Losing brings on every sort of malady; Winning cures all ails.

  102. khjohn – To steal a Dwyer favorite: Offense and defense both win championships.

    I understand what you’re saying, but talk to Spurs fans about last year. They were a strong defensive team that had trouble mustering up enough points. The Mavericks hardly lost to a defensive juggernaut in the Heat, and the Warriors were a chaotic version of the Suns. The Celtics were more of a bad matchup for us, and their physical style of play gave us fits.

    Our defense is predicated on playing the passing lanes and forcing turnovers more than grinding out stops, so it’s inevitable that we won’t be able to ‘lock’ a team down.

    The reason we fell in a hole quickly had to do with both offense and defense, as everything in basketball does. Yes, Scola was scoring at will. But if instead of taking contested jumpshots we had gotten higher percentage shots and scored, we wouldn’t have spotted them 15 points and tried to battle uphill all night.

    Trust me, I know how you feel. I wish our team could play phenomenal grind-it-out D like the Celtics or Spurs of old. But our defense flows from our offense, so it’s imperative that we get our shots down.

  103. Zephid – lol very true, although I think it’s more accurate that winning hides all ails. Anybody would feel fairly stupid criticizing a substitution pattern after a win, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t flaws.

    Plus, a 2-day layoff + Game 7 in the wings = tons of nervous energy for most of us. There will be a lot of nervous, frenetic posts over the next day or so.

  104. Aaron,
    I’m not going to defend Fish – he’s playing quite poorly. Terrible, in fact. We all see that. However, you don’t need to falsify facts to try and bolster your argument. When you say “Fish hasn’t been able to shoot for over 3 months now”, that’s just not true. Fish had a poor shooting April going 8-40 from 3 point territory and shooting 36% from 2 point range (although if you look at his numbers against the Jazz from two point range he shot 44%). And against the Rockets, he’s stunk on offense, so Iike I said I’m not going to defend him. But in March Fish was very good – 46% from the field 42% from 3 (and in Feb he was 45% FG 38% from 3 – not great, but not awful). In the end, I agree that Fish has been bad – we all see that. But his recent performance has not been going on forever (it just seems like it because of the drawn out nature of the playoffs and the importance of the games – which is still a reasonable point, but not the one that you made). I actually agree with an earlier point that he may now be showing the wear from playing all those extended minutes when Farmar was hurt and playing 2400 minutes again this season (avg over 30 min again this season). Again though, I’m not defending him.

  105. Great discussion and posts by everyone.

    I agree with #102, if we place our emphasis on the Triangle offense, and how brilliant and un-stoppable it is, instead of improving our defense, then we will undoubtedly experience failure again in the playoffs

    In regards to Bynum: as much as he’s struggling to find a place for himself out there, we are going to need him down the road. When healthy and confident, he can provide significant upgrade in our interior defense. Laker fans hope that things will get better for Bynum not worse as we go on.

  106. kjohn,
    The Lakers allowed 95 points yesterday. That is not bad. They scored 80. That is very poor. The problem yesterday was about 80% offense, 20% defense.

  107. j. d. hastings May 15, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    I saw someone who looks like Aaron Brooks in the supermarket tonight

    I considered putting a body on him as a matter of general principle, yelling, “YOU DON’T COME IN MY LANE!”

    But before I could act he got around me and made his way to the peach basket.

    Typical…

  108. Looks like there may be some lineup changes.

    PJ – “We’re going to have to play guys on Sunday that earn the minutes rather than just our regular rotation, so there may be a change.”

    http://my.nba.com/thread.jspa?threadID=5800024794

  109. exhelodrvr,
    I agree with you regarding last nights game. But overall the Lakers are the weakest defensive team remaining in the playoffs right now. They are soft inside and not disciplined (they gamble too much trying to get steals). I am confident that even without adjustments the Lakers offense will be much better at home. I fully expect the Lakers to win on Sunday. In fact , even with their flaws on defense I think they will take Denver. However, If they hit Boston, Cleveland or Orlando with this defense we will once again be denied. If they have not incorporated Bynum as a defender to limit penetration we will get the same results that we got last year.

  110. khjohn,
    I agree with you to a point, but not entirely. The only one of those teams that will give you a run if you get to the finals is Cleveland. Boston is not the Boston of last year without KG, and Orlando is not really that much of a threat. I think that Denver is a bigger threat to the Lakers than Orlando or this year’s Boston. And I think that your biggest threat until Cleveland is coming on Sunday.

  111. It’s do or die now. No more second chances. No more excuses. You put all your marbles. Leave everything out on the court.

    If every player on our team does that, there is no way we can lose. They need to see if there was ever a game we needed to win – this is the game.

  112. 111- Boston is a threat simply because they are … Boston.

    I’m so very uneasy that they are still hanging around.

  113. Great Wall,
    I think Laker v Boston series would be just like our current series with Houston. Boston’s bigs are physically strong and good interior defenders. Pau and Odum would get pushed out of position on defense and offense just like last year. I fear that only with an active interior defender (with muscles) like Andrew would we be able to command space in the paint and effectively compete on the boards and on defense. On the Offensive end, Boston would be much more difficult to stop compared to Houston.

    Against Orlando our lack of discipline on defense (excessive steal attempts) and our overuse of double teams would play right into the three point shooting Magic. Without Andrew’s muscles to challenge Howard we would be hard pressed to win.

    I actually feel that this Laker team matches up better with Cleveland than the other 2. Cleveland’s interior defenders while tall are not as physically strong (unless Big Ben gets more play) as compared to Boston/Orlando.
    The Achilles heal of this Lakers team is fast point-guards and muscular/physical inside players because they neutralize some of our offensive skills inside. Assuming that the Kobe/Lebron thing cancels itself out I do think we would win that one.

  114. R, I understand your uneasiness, but think that it is unnecessary. You have a better current team than Boston, they just need to play with passion. I don’t see much chance of Boston beating Cleveland anyway, but didn’t expect the Rockets to push LA quite this far either so what do I know?

  115. I agree that it’s our offense that needs to be sharper. We can talk about our defense (guarding Brooks better, containing Scola on the block, rotating and rebounding better) as that side of the court is obviously important. But all season we have been an elite offensive team and it’s time for us to be more consistent on that end. So, a couple of things I’d like to see on offense in game 7:

    1). Our big men changing ends better. The best way to use our size advantage is not by backing down stronger players, it’s by establishing deep post position. And the easiest way to earn that position is to sprint up court, get to the paint, and the turn for the ball. The only game we really did this well was in game 5. More please.

    2). More cross screens for our bigs. The Triangle is an offense with many variables and actions. However, an under utilized intiation is to start the ball on the weakside with an empty post. This allows the three strong side players opposite of the ball to bunch at the pinch post and set a screen for a big that comes across the lane to form the Triangle on the ball side. This will get our bigs moving towards the ball which gets them in an advantageous position without all the banging.

    3). More Pau at the FT line but with less settling for the jumper. Pau needs to attack Hayes off the dribble, but he needs to do it from the middle of the floor where his counter move is easily available. When Pau turns and faces from the wing, Hayes can use the sideline against him and also funnel Pau towards help. This positioning limits Pau’s ability to reverse course and pivot into open space. But if Pau attacks from the middle (especially when paired with LO) he can change direction much easier and have more of the court open to him while also making his reads on passes easier. And when paired with Drew (and at the FT line), Pau and Bynum need to work in tandem to better create high/low situations. Bynum needs to recognize when Pau is drawing extra eyes and initiate quick post position against his defender to create a passing angle. We used this on the first play of game 5, but have seen this action less than five times all series. Like I said earlier, deep post position will kill the shorter Rockets and when we have the chance to work these types of actions to get that position we must take advantage.

  116. My offensive adjustment for game 7

    Leave the guards that are making outside shots in longer. Only take them out if they are tired or in foul trouble. Shorten your guard rotation. Make a better attempts to involve Andrew early. But don’t bench him unless he is not rebounding and defending. Tell Lamar to be offensively aggressive when he comes in off the bench. Remind him to take the open 15-footer sometimes to keep defenders honest. Tell Kobe to try to get into the paint as much as possible. This will only work if PJ keep a couple of hot shooters on the floor with him at all times.

  117. Darius,
    I think those are great ideas, especially number 2. I just haven’t seen much cross screening with our bigs. If we can get the ball to Pau, Andrew or Odum on the move it will be lights out. If we can hit a few more outside shoots this should be open all day.

    Number 1 may be more difficult because our post players are having allot of trouble even holding low post position against the stronger and shorter (with a lower center of gravity) Rockets. Plus they usually get back pretty fast on D.

    I also think #3 will work just fine as long as we get decent outside shooting on Sunday.

  118. khjohn,
    The action described in #2 is often used to get Kobe into the Hub of the Triangle. (For example) Fish is the ball handler and Ariza is in the corner (on the “weak”side but with the ball) with Pau, LO, and Kobe on the opposite side of the floor forming the typical Triangle we see in most of our typical offensive initiations (Pau in the hub, Odom up high in the guard postion, and Kobe in the opposite corner). So, when Fish is bringing the ball up, Odom dives to where Gasol is and Kobe (moving in from the corner) comes off a double screen across the lane to create a Triangle on the ball side. So, in #2, what I’m saying is have Kobe in the hub, LO still up high, and Gasol in the opposite corner. Then we’ll set that same double for Gasol.

    Or we could start with an empty post on the ball side (with Fish and Ariza on the ball side). We can then still have Kobe in the opposite corner, Gasol in the hub of the Triangle (opposite the ball), and LO in the high position in the guard spot. Fish can then pass to Ariza in the corner, LO can replace Fish by sliding across the top of the key, Kobe can replace LO by sliding up the sideline, and Fish can go set a cross screen for Pau to come across the lane (and Fish would then slide to the opposite corner where Kobe started). As I stated earlier, we have a myriad of ways to create the types of movement and post initiations that can be very effective against Houston (and many other teams) but for too long this season we’ve relied on our talent to score rather than executing all the variations in our sets. I’d like to see a little more of that (too often lacking) variety in game 7.

  119. For once, I would like to see the Laker bigs to force Scola to his left. Has he shot a left handed hook or a layup? Does he have a counter to his right hook move? Stop biting on his fake to his left, after which he comes quick to his right hook. If he does have a counter move to his right, I would like to see one because I haven’t seen one, yet!

  120. So they’ve put Hollinger’s article on the front page of espn.com with a big spotlight on PJ. I wonder how much attention the players and coaches give to the talking heads (or to blogs like this, for that matter). Part of me thinks they wouldn’t bother, as they’ve heard it all and have better things to focus on. But I’m sure some of them can’t resist the temptation – I for one am addicted to this blog. I’m sure they love playing as themselves in NBA Live, but I wonder if they sweat over media criticism. Could Hollinger in any way influence Phil with that article? I wouldn’t mind…

    I’ll be waking up at 3:30am on Monday morning (China time) to watch the game. I hope the fans in Staples are as rowdy as I’m gonna be in my tiny room!

  121. Renato Afonso May 16, 2009 at 5:12 am

    I really don’t know what is happening… But iremember hearing one truth… The Lakers will go as far as Odom takes them. How healthy is he? How well can he recover? Even we get by Houston, can we give the Nuggets a suitable challenge (and maybe the Cavs?) without him at 100%?

    I really don’t know…

  122. i have to admit that i am dissapointed as well right now, but it still feels as if this would be the toughest tast for us until the finals. dont get me wrong, the nuggets are playing amazing ball, especially at home, but i am sure that they will have psychological issues in a series against us just as we have vs the rockets.

    i really think it is a big factor that the rockets have nothing to lose, while losing for the lakers would mean a desaster. things work out easier for you if you are not stressed, and the rockets have all the excuses in the world to lose this series, which is why they play more than they think. when i watch fish i can almost feel that he knows that this might be his last chance to be productive in the playoffs and play a important role. he probably thinks about it every time he puts up a shot.

    we swept the nuggets last year, and im sure they havent forgot that. after the series against the rockets we are basically underdogs which should help us. i really dont think that billups can change melos and smiths character in just about 6 months. they havent been testet yet, as they had a easy start against chris paul and 4 ghosts that shall not be named. we all know that a lucky call saved them against a longer series vs the injured mavs. trust me, if they lose a couple of games on the road they will melt down. this is almost the same team as last year, with billups being the only major difference. as soon as things wont go the way they want it you will see the melo from last year. you cant change who you are in such a short time, billups is not god :) .

    game 7 will be not as much about effort and skill, we just need to stay calm and stop thinking “what if” on every posession. im sure phil is the right coach for a game like this.

  123. I’ve stayed away until now, but will not be silenced any longer (and I’ve got nothing else to do on a Sat night in Oz!).

    Lets start with the Head Coach. Phil loves to play his veterans during playoffs. Always has, always will. His philosophy of veterans in playoffs is legendary, especially at the Point. His Bulls assistants don’t help the in proving this is ill-advised in this series. Jordan and ShanWoW have proved to be more than sufficient during this series. DFish (as much as I love the man) is starting to show his age, getting burnt constantly by quicker, smaller guards.

    Kobe is not enough to pull us out of this. He has moments, more than most, but can you gamble on him in a G7? Yeah, the odds are short, but I honestly don’t see him pulling out a 63 or 81 point game against Battier or Artest.

    But am I worried, no. Can they afford the lack of effort against the Nuggest? No. Will they bring this lack of effort against the Nuggets? I would’ve thought not, but trying to pick the Lakers this playoffs is like trying to pick Lotto numbers.

    Bottom line: The Lakers will go as far as the Lakers players feel like going. It’s not on Phil, because he puts them in a position to do what is needed, its up to the players to put themselves in a position to win it all.

  124. This has to be the most frustrating playoffs we’ve gone through, ever. The talent is there, we have a lot of pieces to work with to handle various matchups, but it seems like every game is a crapshoot in terms of effort and execution. Just once I’d like to see Phil throw out the substitution patterns we normally use and ride the players that have been playing well. Farmar is making a case to start and playing longer minutes. Kobe obviously should be out there. I’d play Shannon before Fisher and Sasha. Gasol needs to be out there, but if he is giving up points to Scola consistently maybe we need to look at Bynum more. Odom does so many things that is would be hard to take him off the floor, even if he is only at half-speed. I’d even consider him at SF, going big with Bynum and Gasol, since Ariza is either totally off or on. I’d be hesitant to put Luke on the floor. Regardless, I just want to see a group that consistently plays defense, rebounds, takes care of the basketball and most importantly acts like they care. We seemingly go through the motions way too much.

  125. Can anyone say we’d win the title with Pau and LO as our bigs? We couldn’t do it last year, and I they haven’t shown they can do it this year. Whatever Bynum’s shortcomings are on O, he has something those players just don’t have. We can’t just hope Pau and LO play better on O against comp (Hayes and Artest repsectivley) that they have clearly shown they can’t handle (especially LO). I’d let Bynum play and take the improved D.

    Zephid-These aren’t new questions, this Lakers team hasn’t won anything and several people will have questions to answer if they don’t this year, starting with Phil.

    I think we blow out the Rox on Sunday. But we will be in series where Pau and LO are pushed 15 feet out of their comfort zone, and we will need Bynum again- will Phil trust him?

  126. Fans are like flags blowing in the wind; they fly in whichever direction the gusts blow.

  127. 116 – Well, if the Rockets advance, let’s hope they go all the way.

    (Especially if they meet Boston.)

  128. Zephid- i disagree. There is no reason a person can’t be a fan and have concerns and questions. Especially if they are valid. I never tell anyone how to be a “fan”.

  129. Got to admit that I am skimming through posts in this thread – a function of the number of days between games and the fact that we have discussed all this endlessly during the season.

    However, for the first time I see pressure building on Phil – he used to be as much a teflon man as Ronald Regan. I have had some criticism of Phil over the last couple of years, but he has proved he can manage and develop younger players. Now the problem becomes how to integrate them into his lineups with varying frequency. He seems a bit set in his ways and appears to feel they timing he developed during the season must be followed.

    After saying all that, what I get from most posters, is almost a Perry Mason type of approach – meaning, with one or two adjustments we should be back in business. Our issues are not that simple. A number of our parts are either not functioning well, have learning problems, do not adjust to varying situations (supposedly a strength of the triangle), or are players who do not have a strategic sense of the game.

    My criticism of Phil is that he doesn’t seem to be able to handle all of these problems in concert. Since we have the talent – and since the season ends soon one way or the other – what exactly is he now trying to teach by remaining rigidly attached to his rotation system? He changes only for injury or suspension and the changes seem to work – why not repeat some of them? – afraid to injure egos?

    Most of our players have been in Phil’s system for two or more years now. They should be able to run our offensive sets by now or they should be replaced on the floor. There are times when LO shouldn’t be in the game – well take him out at those times!

    I do agree with the post(s) that talk about the loss of Tex Winter. He has been with Phil from the beginning of Phil’s NBA coaching and is really an irascible old genius.

  130. I had along post about Phil at another blog, but basically, I thnk his style may not be the best fit for this group.

    I agree about the cross screens–and I think getting Bynum and Gasol working together low/high is a winning strategy in this matchup.

    Phil should start Farmar, IMO.

  131. If you haven’t seen it, this is about the best post-practice recap I saw:

    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-40-87/The-Lakers-Seek-Michael-Jordan-Mentality.html

    The two things of note. One is that Phil says he is going to go with the hot hand this game not the regular rotations. That would be nice. Second, Kobe lit into the Lakers at halftime of game six. Also good.

    As always, the Brothers K do a great recap as well:

    http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2009/05/kobe-bryant-technical-foul-houston-offense-lakers-.html

  132. Plans for Sunday afternoon?

    If the lakers win, I’m going to watch the game over and over again at different speeds.

    If the lakers… uh… do the opposite thing… I’m going to fly to China and beat up Smush.

    I don’t know why, but for some reason I think it will make me feel better.

  133. the other Stephen May 16, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Stephen, I’m also a strong Rockets fan, and I don’t see how you can bear to watch this series.

  134. To be quite honest, I don’t have a problem with any of the posts I’ve seen on here. There’s a lot of criticism, but all of it is valid, well-reasoned, and supported. No off-the-wall irrational rants that we sometimes see. Criticism after losses is completely normal, I don’t understand how anyone would see otherwise. If you lost, it means there are things to fix. The same usually is true when you win, but most people feel stupid make criticisms after a great victory and would be labeled pessimistic and jumped on.

    Kobe takes a mini-van to practice? Has Ferrari started a soccer mom line?

    It’s interesting that Phil’s message was “create and don’t wait.” If you look at the Robert Horry interview on ESPN (taken with a grain of salt), Horry similarly says that the Lakers aren’t aggressive enough and wait for Houston to attack them. Seems like Horry and Phil at least agree that much.

  135. Houston makes tough shots at home (contested 3s, off-balance scoops in the lane). They don’t make those shots on the road. If the Lakers go inside early and often, Game 7 will be a cakewalk just like 5 was.

    Bring on Denver. The Nugs (and Barkley) think they’re title contenders because they beat up on injured, soft opponents. Rude awakening coming for that squad. Can’t wait to see Dahntay Jones try and check Kobe.

  136. http://probasketballnews.com/story/?storyid=455

    Great story, if only for the sentence that, when taken out of context, reads:

    Phil Jackson: “So [Kobe's teammates] are challenged to put out.”

  137. 128- That just sounds like a silly proverb.

  138. For the first time in almost a year (except maybe some of those Portland games), the Lakers are getting beat. This isn’t a matter of the Lakers not bothering to show up and play their game (well, maybe in game 4) — the Rockets are doing what is necessary to take us out of what we do, and beat us. Excepting the first half of the first quarter, we generally played good defense in Game 6, and we limited our turnovers (10) and their offensive rebounds (7), two markers of a team mailing it in and two things that tend to happen in games where the Lake show just doesn’t show up. No, this is on the other team this time. It took losing two superstars for the Rockets to begin deploying an all-Universe defensive team, and they’re giving the Lakers fits. For the first time in a while, and this is something Phil hates, we have to react to the opponent, instead of vice versa.

    Mostly, they’re taking away our two favorite methods of initiating the Triangle:

    Initiating through an entry pass to Pau — Chuck Hayes is playing the same sort of defense that Kendrick Perkins did on Pau — using his strength, good footwork, and low center of gravity to push Pau off the block. Pau should be able to face up and shoot over the top of Hayes, but his jump shot has been consistently short all series, making me wonder if he’s bothered by how close Hayes is playing him. The Lakers should make Luke Walton do his best Chuck Hayes imitation on Pau during practice to help him figure out how to beat him.

    Initiating through Kobe dribble penetration — Every time Kobe makes a move towards the basket, either from the top of the key or the wing, he’s got Shane Battier forcing him baseline and a help defender taking away his passing options, leaving him stranded on the wing or in the corner, and completely breaking the play. Reminiscent of the way Posey and Pierce hounded him during last year’s finals.

    If it seems like I’m making a lot of Boston comparisons, I am. That is going to remain the blueprint on how to destroy the Lakers’ offense until we prove otherwise, but very few teams can follow that blueprint because very few teams in the league have the combination of both strength and quickness in both the wings and the post to be able to do pull it off. Houston, without Yao or T-Mac, is one such team. When you combine that with a general stinginess with the ball (10 Houston turnovers in game 6, only 6 Laker steals) to keep our transition game from clicking, all of a sudden the best offensive team in the league is struggling to score points.

    So, what we need to do to win Game 7 is to find our offense from other sources. 1) The Kobe/Gasol and Odom/Gasol high screen and rolls are beautiful and ridiculously efficient plays, and we need to run them more as a first option. 2) Our bigs need to run the floor better to get the early offensive opportunities they saw in game 5, and put Houston’s “bigs” on their heels and in foul trouble. 3) When we go small, Pau needs to pull his man away from the basket and allow Jordan, Shannon, and Trevor to attack the rim. 4) We should run more traps to try and force turnovers. 5) More than anything, we need to initiate our offense through our one big who they can’t physically push off the block — Drew. I don’t think he received a single entry pass in game 6 — this in response to how effective he was in game 5. Even if his offensive moves have been lacking (a very ugly 0-3 in game 6), getting the ball down low opens up too many options for our offense — he was a Laker-high in +/- last game with -1 in 19 minutes played. Drew isn’t the passer Pau is, but he’s good enough and we need to look for him on the offensive side of the court and tell him to be patient.

    Doing any of these 5 things enough should open up the rest of our offense, and when our offense is clicking, well, that’s when this Laker team can’t be beat.

  139. in game 6 the intensity was there but being down so much in the 1st quarter really hurt us. if you were to take out the 1st we played pretty even the rest of the way.

    tomorrow is a big game to say the least

  140. Blog bulletin board material: ;-)

    I voted in the poll at “Pick Axe and Roll”, the Nuggets blog Kurt has linked in the sidebar. According to the readers there, by a 57%-43% margin, the Lakers lose Game 7.

  141. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWsgkauZb-U

    everyone watch this

    this is the video Phil showed the team

    notice how SIMILAR the two situations are, meaning that clip and what the lakers find themselves in now.

  142. It is my opinion that the trouble the Lakers find themselves in can be traced back to last summer. Can you explain to me why they did not attempt to go after Artest this past off-season? Was it that Sacramento did not want to trade to a rival, and hiked up the trade demand for the Lakers? Artest would have provided them with the toughness and enforcer they need. What is lacking in this lineup is an enforcer. Plan and simple you must have someone that is an enforcer, a person the other teams fear when they go into the hole. The Lakers lack this inside presence and Bynum is too much of a Sensitive Green-Pea to be a solution. Will Bynum grow Stones? Only time will tell. But as of right now he’s more Benoit Benjamin than anything else.

    Why don’t they add an enforcer to their roster? Someone like a Charles Oakley, Maurice Lucas type? They are surrounded by Euro Softies. They need a Pit Bull like a Kendrick Perkins or even Big Baby. Why do they continue to draft and sign soft Euro Players like Sun Yue, Sasha, Vlad Rad (Borat) Chris Mihm. They need a Brad Miller, a Leon Powe, a Ben Wallace type.

    Even the showtime Lakers had a Jim Chones, AC Green, Mitch Kupchak, Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper, someone that wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work and be an enforcer.

    This summer the Lakers could’ve signed Artest and Posey, and rid themselves of dead weight (Walton, Sasha, Mihm and the rest)

    In Chicago Phil surrounded Michael with Thugs like Rodman, and the rest. What is wrong with this franchise that they are missing this important ingredient, Ray Charles can see this. I am of the opinion they will not win unless they get some Pit Bulls. I’d appreciate some insight into this if possible. Thanks

  143. This blog doesn’t really discuss trades too much. We have, however, often talked about what type of person to add – and the finances to go along with it. We keep coming back to the personality of the team. Mbenga and Powell haven’t worked out as added toughness so I suggest we all just ride this one out.

  144. ansari,

    The Lakers were definitely interested in Artest, but the cost was too high. Sacramento wanted Odom in exchange for Artest and Kenny Thomas’ awful contract. Wasn’t worth losing Odom, and while Artest is fantastic if his head is screwed on straight and he plays within the system, he’s too much of a loose cannon and doesn’t bring as much to the table that Odom does.

    The Lakers originally wanted Artest to opt out of his contract so they could throw the full midlevel at him, but Artest didn’t want to lose about $2-3 million that he would have gotten from his current contract.

    I assure you that there will be plenty of offseason speculation here as soon as this postseason ends (and greatly influenced by how it ends), but now isn’t a great time to throw around ideas. We have to deal with what we have now.

  145. kwame a. wrote on May 16, 2009 at 7:51 am

    (name redacted for irrelevance) – i disagree. There is no reason a person can’t be a fan and have concerns and questions. Especially if they are valid. I never tell anyone how to be a “fan”.

    + 1 freakin’ zillion. If this or something similar could be automatically generated here every 20 or so comments, it would be fantastic.

  146. 144. Re: Artest, I’m letting this slide because I knew somebody would bring it up this series, and because it’s a pet peeve of mine and I have a strong opinion on this one.

    Artest would have been a horrible, horrible choice and the Lakers would have been worse with him. What is the one thing we have all hoped the Rockets to do this series? Give the ball to Artest to shoot. We beat them in the regular season because he decided to take the team out of the set offense and take over the game. He plays horribly within a very structured system and the Lakers run a very structured system. As for the “toughness” thing, I’ve said before many times that I think that just the easy fallback for poor execution. And if there is one guy who would not have helped our execution, it is Artest.

    As strong a personality as Kobe is, I don’t think for a second he could have kept Artest in line because I don’t think anyone could. I truly believe if Artest payed with MJ, Artest would have demanded the ball at the end of games. I would rather have Ariza than Artest, I wouldn’t trade them for each other, because one works on his weaknesses and figured out how to fit in the system. That simple. And with Odom, it is not even close.

    Throw in the ridiculous Kenny Thomas contract and that made saying no easier.

  147. Isn’t this just going to be a super duper great game tomorrow. The Lakers playing in a game 7 of a Playoff elimination game!, against an opponent who has just the same chance as us to win the game. I’m not sure why I say that because the Rockets seem to be winning with role players, but I do not care, it is going to be an exciting game to watch. clutch824, here, here…

    I will be wearing my gold FB&G Dribble Driving through the Blogosphere T for extra good luck. Hopefully I will wear the shirt out this year with all the games to be played.

  148. Kurt,

    I agree with you that Artest would have been a poor addition to the Lakers, but he has been a very solid one to the Rockets. We are a defensive team and he’s an excellent defender. He does stop the offensive flow sometimes, but his defense and attitude far outweighs that for our team. As far as not trading Ariza straight up for Artest, I’m afraid that you are on an island on that one. He may be a better fit for the Lakers because he will defer to Kobe, Pau, and Odom, but nearly any other team would take Artest (Bad tendencies and all) over Ariza in a heartbeat.

  149. Great Wall,
    I am not sure I agree with you that nearly any other team would prefer Artest to Ariza – talk to the Indiana Pacers about that one. Ariza has shown real ability to fit within a team concept and function well defensively.

    I agree Artest was a good fit with Houston, but a key reason is that your team is a defensive one first and only accents offense as a corollary to defensive sets. Therefore you could accept Artest’s offensive failures because he could lock up so many positions defensively.

    Most NBA teams are offense first and Artest just would be too much of a liability. I know everyone talks about defense, but most measures in the NBA are about offense.

  150. as Eminem said..

    I just can seem to get out this slump
    If I could just get over this hump
    But I need something to pull me out this dump
    I took my bruises, took my lumps
    Fell down and I got right back up
    But I need that spark to get psyched back up
    And the right thing for me to pick that mic back up
    I don’t know how I pry away
    And I ended up in this position I’m in
    I starting to feel distant again
    So I decided just to beat this pain
    Up and tried to make an attempt to vent
    But I just can’t admit
    Or come to grips, with the fact that
    I may be done with rap
    I need a new outlet
    I know some shits so hard to swallow
    And I just can’t sit back and wallow
    In my own sorrow
    But I know one fact
    I’ll be one tough act to follow
    One tough act to follow
    Copy
    One tough act to follow
    Here today, gone tomorrow
    But you have to walk a thousand miles

  151. And also, when was Ron tough? When he flopped trying to get a technical? When he got tossed in another game?

    Also, this tough guy is shooting 40% for the playoffs, 28.6% in the playoffs from three.

    I really can’t emphasize enough how much I think he would be a bad fit in LA.

  152. Great Wall, I would agree that in the right system, on the right team Artest can be a good fit, and he seems to be doing that as well as could be expected in Houston. He has some skills. But I think his fit in LA would have been bad.

  153. For anyone interested, Spike Lee’s Kobe documentary is just about to start on ESPN.

  154. Just started a new thread to talk Kobe Doin’ Work.

  155. the other Stephen,
    After watching McGrady limp thru the start and never getting better,I wrote off this season. Figured the Rockets would make the Playoffs and give a good effort. This is gravy.
    While I continue to believe the Rockets are a badly-flawed team,I’m enjoying the developement of Brooks,the suprising play of Lowry,the pure passion of Scola and the revival of Landry’s high-wire act. I cannot say enough what a great job Adelman has done these past 2 yrs.
    The Rockets are starting to put the pieces together-and I just hope it’s not too late for the McGrady-Yao combo.
    The 22 and the Playoff run this yr have reminded me why I love this game-and the Rockets in particular!

  156. Artest fitting in the Lakers system at this point is conjecture, no one knows how he would’ve fit. I know this, he’s played great since he’s been in Houston. What he adds you cannot put in the box score. Intensity, Passion, and yes he is crazy as Bat Bleep. But what he brings is exactly what the Lakers lack and that’s why Kobe begged the front office to sign him. For that same reason I know Kobe misses Caron Butler. Artest would give the ball up to Kobe at the end of games he’s not stupid. He’s crazy not stupid big difference.

    The point I am trying to make is that what the Lakers are missing is that person to step up with Intensity with Passion and a willingness to Intimidate. Maybe Bynum can grow some stones, but I doubt it. He seems more interested in Video Games and counting his 60 Million Dollars, adn chasing skirt.

    Maybe Mbenga can provide something, I don’t know. But I do know this, that when your 6 Foot Point Guard has to rub out an opponent because your Bigs lack the testicular fortitude that is a PROBLEM! The way to solve this problem is to bring in a Michael Cooper type a AC Green type a Charles Oakley type. A player that will do the dirty work and be the enforcer that the opponent respects on the floor. I am not talking about fighting, but someone that does not back down from a challenge. These players from the NBA 90% grew up playing in the park, street ball, and there is no way you can allow yourself to get punked and at the same time hold onto your self-respect. And right now people around the league figure you can punk the Lakers and their Bigs will do nothing.