Now that was the Lakers Team I Remember

Kurt —  May 27, 2009

There was Sasha and Fisher hitting big shots. There was a couple thunderous dunks because the Lakers were the team that attacked the rim. There was aggressive defense extended out high and long arms in the passing lanes. There was a whole lot of Lamar Odom.

It was the complete team effort that Lakers fans had been asking for. Here are just a few collected thoughts from game five:

• One thing the Lakers did much better was handle the aggressive double teams and traps of Denver. Especially when it happened to Pau Gasol, he had been kicking it out for a three, which the Laker guards had been mostly missing. Tonight it was Kobe trapped in the corner passing to Gasol single-covered in the post. Or, if Gasol was doubled in the post he could hand off to the cutter going right by him. The Lakers moved without the ball when there was a double, and that led to layups.

And, that is something that can happen in Denver. That was not about friendly home rims, it was about effort and willingness to take the punishment to be the aggressor.

• Reed added these thoughts about Kobe:

When Denver went up 7 in the third, I expected (and wanted) Kobe to take over. But he just calmly made the right play, play after play, chipping away and putting immense pressure on Denver to defend our length inside while overdefending Kobe. And what an advantage length is – we controlled the paint at both ends with it in the fourth quarter.

Kobe continues to prove that he is the preeminent closer in the game. Every time down he knew the double was coming, but brilliantly let the full trap come as far out as possible – all to give the other 4 as long as possible to beat 3. A lesser player would have skipped the ball out as soon as the double started. But he is a Man, directing and inspiring his teammates as a true leader – telling Pau and Odom to make plays and putting them in a position to do so. He is everything Henry (Abbott) thinks that he is not.

Home court is the single biggest factor of the rest of the playoffs. Our role players just don’t play well on the road. It kills our execution and puts too much pressure on Kobe and Pau. But at home they do just enough. For that reason I want Orlando if they advance notwithstanding the matchup issues.

• Darius added these thoughts.

Tonight was a call to arms and our veterans answered. Fish came out early very aggressive and made some plays when it looked like this game could get away from us. Odom played his best game since the Utah series and showed why so many of us support him as a player and as a teammate (I mean, bad back and all – he banged on the block, stayed assertive even when things went against him, and played with real energy even though he played almost the entire 2nd half. Man I love that guy – and when he’s on his game he’s such a difference maker).

And Pau! Understated stat line for his impact on the game. The blocked shots, the great skip passes out of those P&R’s, his interior passing, his offense…just a very strong game. I distinctly remember a play where Pau was trying to get Kobe the ball with under 10 seconds on the clock and Kobe was denied well and then Kobe just told Pau “take it!”. Pau proceeded to attack off the dribble get bumped and flip up a shot that fell. That may have seemed lucky, but he was aggressive and he was rewarded. Which ultimately was the theme of the night — our aggression paid off.

The other key to me was Phil. Coached a great game and pulled all the right strings tonight as almost everything worked. Stayed with Odom and LO delivered. Went to WOW and he gave us a real spark. Didn’t extend the rotations in the 2nd half as Sasha and Farmar didn’t get off the pine (or at least I don’t remember them playing). He stayed with the guys that were performing and it got us the win.

Also, Denver is a tough, tough team. I give them credit. They play hard and have a truly explosive team. Melo has also elevated himself so much in my eyes. I already held him in high regard, but at this point he’s just as dominant as any other scorer in the league and his defense has really raised a level. He’s just supremely talented.

In the 4th quarter, we had a stretch where we forced 4 straight turnovers. In game 4, we only forced 9 total. Tonight, we extended our defense, were much more aggressive in extending our SSZ and our backline defenders were more aware of cutters behind them trying to sneak into the gaps. This led to deflections, forced passes right to us, and then Denver holding the ball and forcing shots against the shot clock. Tremendous effort on D in that closing quarter.

• These thoughts are from Snoopy 2006

When Nene went out with foul trouble, we did an amazing job of using the PnR to open up the floor for other players, doing a great job of swinging the ball across the floor and getting the Nuggets scrambling on D. (Also Pau/Lamar did a great job of getting deep post position on these plays). When Nene came back in, the effectiveness of the PnR dropped drastically (although he quickly left with 6 fouls). I loved Phil’s call (and Kobe’s) of abandoning the PnR when it wasn’t working as well, and running the ball through Pau in the post. Adaptability is a key.

• These final thoughts come from Scot:

Just got back from the game. All I can say is thank you ShanWOW. The building was nervously quiet for 2 1/2 quarters. After the WOW dunk, Staples was electrifying and LOUD for the rest of the game. Defensive energy ramped up exponentially. One play indeed can truly change the course of a game (a season?). And of course, props to the “good” Lamar, and to Kobe for playing a smart and unselfish game.