Lakers/Magic: When The Magic Have The Ball

Kurt —  June 3, 2009

NBA: JAN 16 Magic at Lakers
First a note, I am podcast boy today. You can hear me in a battle of the bloggers on the ESPN daily NBA Podcast and you can catch me, Will Brinson and Brett Pollakoff (a big Lakers fan) talking about the series and taking swipes at the Cavs over at Fanhouse in their Roundcast.

Orlando is an interesting mix. On one hand it’s a team that’s fundamentally built like the championship Houston Rockets teams of Hakeem Olajuwon — a powerhouse center surrounded by a bunch of guys who can drain the three (although Hakeem had roughly 3,756 more post moves than Howard). But in some ways the team reminds me of a European team because of the all their tall forwards are more comfortable out by the three point line than in the paint.

There’s a lot of talk about the Lakers needing to defend the three to win the series. There is validity to that but this is something the Lakers can do — they have the lowest three-point field goal against percentage in the playoffs.

But when the Orlando Magic have the ball there are two real actions the Lakers need to stop.

One is the pick-and-roll (and I suspect this is the one we’ll see the most of). Kwame a. breaks down their favorite version of this and what the Lakers have to do.

I think there most dangerous play is when Rashard Lewis ends up at the top of the key on the ball reversal. The play starts with Turkoglu (or Alston) receiving a high screen from Howard. As Turkoglu comes off the screen and goes left or right Howard dives to the hole and Lewis fills the top of the key. Here is where the Magic have their best three players as their 3 primary options. Turkoglu can penetrate or shoot, Howard is always an option on either the pass from Turkoglu on the screen action, or after the ball is swung up to Lewis on the deep seal from the top of the key. Lastly, and arguably most important, Lewis has the catch and shoot option, and because his man has to help on the dive, Lewis has the option of attacking the whole when his man is sprinting back to recover. To defend we will have to keep Turkoglu from turning the corner and attacking the lane. We must also be able to help prevent the deep seal. I really don’t know how to prevent that, so maybe a better option is preventing the pass into the post. I think that Lewis’ man should stick on Lewis hip and we should help on Howard from one of the weakside players (either Lee or Alston).

Orlando runs the same play but with Lewis in the corner. This time Darius breaks it down and offers suggestions on how the Lakers defend it.

The first key is getting a good show on the ball handler. Our big must step out high/hard and be prepared to defend that ball handler until the original defender recovers. That means getting low enough to deter penetration while also being ready to contest the jumper (especially from Hedo). Second is the recovering man – he must chase hard and recover as quickly as possible. He must also be aware of the backside skip pass back to the corner/wing (meaning a pass back to the side where the dribbler came from). Essentially – chase hard and with his hands active. Third is the PF that is going to be in a bit of no mans land. Let me explain – when Howard sets the screen, he always dives. So, with Howard’s man showing on the ball handler and the ball handler’s man chasing to recover, someone needs to pick up a rolling Howard. That player is going to be the PF who is on the backside and marking Lewis in the corner (this is also why I said that the man recovering to the ball handler must be aware of that backside skip pass – that pass is going to Lewis). Essentially, our PF needs to be able to show on a diving Howard (until the man showing on the ball handler recovers to Dwight) and then be able to get back to the corner to cover Lewis. This will be a difficult task, but if our show man and recovery man do their jobs, this tough task can be mitigated by pristine positioning due to the length of our PF’s. Basically, I think Pau and/or LO can do the job of cutting off that dive lane for Howard while also being in position to recover under control to Lewis. However, and this must be said, we are going to give up some open shots. It’s inevitable. But if we can recover well enough on most shots and if their shooters miss some (it is a long jumpshot – an efficient one, but still a long one) we’ll be okay.

One way to make the P&R less effective is something endorsed by Darius, Kwame and myself — pressure the guy brining the ball up the court so Orlando gets into its offensive sets later in the clock. That ballhandler is usually Alston, and Darius even suggested putting Kobe on him (Fish would be on Lee, not a bad matchup for him). This is something the Lakers did a lot this season, particularly early in the year. The goal is not to gamble and get steals (and fouls) but rather just to harass. If Orlando doesn’t start to run its set until there are 12 seconds left on the shot clock, the extra pass can become rushed as can the shooters. Darius adds:

Orlando often runs the P&R only to get the defense into the scramble mode and then they proceed to make one or two extra passes to get a wide-open shot. Well, if Orlando isn’t getting into their P&R set (with Hedo or even Alston after he’s hounded) until 15 seconds are left on the clock and then we stymie that or we rotate well or we get a deflection or it breaks down and they go to Howard (etc), then they will be taking shots with the clock running down. This fits into our MO as well, as the Lakers are one of the teams that really makes teams use clock in order to get a shot

While the P&R is one action, the other thing the Lakers need to do is defend Howard in the post and the kickouts from there.

The Lakers cannot — and from what Phil Jackson has said will not — double Howard in the post. That is when the kickouts to the three point line, then quick ball rotation to the weakside, get them the good looks they love. I would rather have Howard score 25+ and keep the perimeter guys in check every time. Basically, little or no strongside zone when Howard is in the game.

Defending Howard in the post starts with not letting him get position in deep — you want him at least 10 feet out. Father out if you can. Doing that without fouling is hard, but Darius can explain the advantages:

I’d rather have Dwight attack off the dribble than bang into us and back us down. I say that because Drew has enough size and length to contest Dwight’s running hook or counter moves. And Gasol has enough speed, size, and length to do the same. I also like Pau’s ability to poke the ball away when Dwight puts the ball on the ground from a face up move. But if we’re getting backed down, we’re just absorbing the hit and inviting our perimeter defenders to look and watch and lose their man behind the three point line. Basically, make Dwight use his limited arsenal to score. Don’t double and allow him to pass out to open shooters.

The other thing Howard does better than anybody in the league is rebound. The Lakers must be big defensive rebounders, and be ready for the long rebounds that can come with long shots. The Lakers have huge rebounding advantages at every position save center and they need to put that to use.

Then there is the part that scares me — the Lakers must stay home on their man at the tree point line. Now wandering into the lane to help. As Reed points out — Odom, this means you!

He’s our best help defender and his instinct is to track the ball, as opposed to his man. That works great against someone like Martin, Scola, Hayes, or Milsap, but he’s going to have to track Lewis and Turkoglu through screens and watch them as they set up off the ball. I think there will be several o-dumb moments where we in unison scream at the TV after odom overhelps and leaves open the corner 3. Maybe I’m wrong, and he’ll make up for it in other ways, but something to look out for.

If he doesn’t do it much, and the same for the other Lakers, they can slow down the Orlando attack.

Kurt

Posts

79 responses to Lakers/Magic: When The Magic Have The Ball

  1. As I’ve said before transition D will be a big key. If the Lakers can get back in transition, and prevent transition 3′s, and deep position by Howard, I feel confident in their ability to slow the Magic’s half court offense down enough to win the series.

  2. L.O. post up on rashard lewis all day. that is the key, even if Bill Simmons said it…biggest laker hater of all time.

  3. 1. Ryan, that is a great point I left out because, well, I forgot and this post was already getting long. But that will matter, they do need to find spot up three guys in transition. A good way to avoid that is to make sure Orlando keeps taking the ball out of the basket :-)

  4. The next 32 hours just can’t go by fast enough… Can’t wait to see Staples rocking!

  5. Gasol/Bynum setting up outside the paint for their jump shots will take Howard away from rebounds. That gives Gasol/Odom a good shot at an offensive rebounder, and they are both better rebounders than anyone not named Howard.

  6. I think the key in the series will be to semi contain Howard without a double team. If the Lakers can keep himout of the paint on transistion deep posts, then they should be ok. Force him into running hooks will be fine all day.

    http://therookiecontract.com/

  7. If we run the triangle well, we will be in position to slow down transition plays from Orlando. If we don’t, we won’t.

  8. Here’s a link to a really good story in my opinion showing how Kobe has in fact has been better than Lebron in this post-season. It’s a really good read for us Laker fans and sorry if it’s already been posted.

    http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2009/6/3/897279/kobe-bryant-at-the-top-of-his-game

  9. Coffee is For Closers June 3, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Besides Lamar, Kobe also has to be careful with his tendency to roam on defense. He frequently left some of the nuggets shooters in the last series, giving up open 3′s. I like the idea of kobe on alston.

    I’m wondering if this long lay-off hurts the magic in a couple of ways. They’ve shot the ball unbelievably the last 2 series, and a layoff certainly doesn’t help keep that mojo going. Also, all the hype going into a final is something they’re all experiencing for the first time. I’m sure these guys were ready to get out there yesterday. Doesn’t the tension have to start building on a young team going into its first finals? Oh, and they have the ‘master of panic’ at the helm. ;-)

  10. Great analysis. Running down the clock with a press and pushing entry passes to Howard away from the basket will allow us to 1) keep defensive pressure on the perimeter, 2) ruin the quality of Orlando’s shot selection, and 3) pull Howard away from the basket for put-backs, etc.

    Also, I am shocked at how seldom Orlando utilizes the PnR to feed Howard–he’s more of a decoy on these plays. And if Howard fails to establish himself deep in the post, Orlando’s perimeter players forget about him.

    This is why doubling Howard is such a mistake. Keeping him from establishing position is a one man job. The worst that can happen in man-to-man on Dwight are foul trouble for our bigs. But frequent trips to the line for Howard, does play into LA’s hands with Howard’s 60% FT%. I’m happy if Dwight gets 40/gm but we stay home on Orlando’s shooters. Don’t double!

  11. From JA’s article:

    “This was Kobe Bryant as I’ve never seen him before, so intense that he almost came off as subdued, the flames gone, leaving the glowing white briquettes.”

    As we’ve seen, Kobe has learned to reconcile his passion with a calming influence. He knows how to dominate games by passing as well as scoring at the same time. A less mature Kobe might have been disposed to trying to shoot his team back into games, with adverse consequences. He can now tame the fire at the right moments, which leads to a transcendent level beyond just “playing” basketball.

    This reminds me a great deal of Lance Armstrong, whose competitive fire was in the same vein. He recounted, in his earlier years, always having the physical tools but coming up short because he would attack prematurely – his fire taking over. Later, after cancer, he would sense the right moments to attack. And it paid, ostensibly, great dividends.

  12. Coffee is For Closers June 3, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I’m also wondering about Howard’s emergence in the last series. Where do bynum/gasol fit in with what he saw in the last 2 series? They aren’t as physcial as kendrick perkins, but they certainly have more agility than Big Z, and much more length than Side Show Bob. Again, the keys will be limiting the amount of double teaming needed to contain him. The bigs just need to keep him from blowing by them for the dunk, because if he’s got to make something outside of 5 ft, his post moves are very limited. Easier said than done with his size and quickness however.

  13. Against the Cavs, I believe the Magic also had an action where they set up a pick and pop with Hedo and Lewis, where Lewis after setting the screen would pop over to the baseline and receive the pass just in time for the uncontested jumper. It looked like that play completely abused Varejao and I’m surprised they didn’t run it more often.

  14. #9, Rich,
    I was just about to post that link! Keeping in mind that the author is biased on Kobe’s favor, I still think he makes a very valid point: Lebron is getting a lot more praise than he deserves for his performance, and Kobe deserves more praise than he has been receiving for what he’s done.

    Most importantly though, when all is said and done: Kobe’s team won, and Lebron’s didn’t. In a team sport, that should be enough to show Kobe as the better player, not to mention the better leader.

    One of Kobe’s most impressive qualities, that he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for either, is that he will do whatever it takes, to help the team win. It doesn’t matter if that means letting Pau run the offense and letting Trevor Ariza get all the assists, if it means taking over on the offensive end or if it means slowing down and guarding the other team’s best scoring weapon and leave the shooting to his team mates, then he will do just that, and he will keep doing it, if that formula works. No matter what it takes.

    That is one of the reasons I feel fairly good about this series against the Magic: They might have “the most dominant center in the league”, but we have Kobe. :)

  15. I’d also shade Dwight toward the baseline when he has the ball. He always catches the ball in the same position on the block and loves to drive across the lane for a sweeping hook shot. In addition, an opening to the middle gives him more vision for the kickout pass to a shooter. If Dwight is forced to dribble in the opposite direction, I’m not confident in his ability to 1) go to his left hand or 2) find a shooter across the floor.

  16. We’re doomed. The sports guy picked Lakers in 6.

  17. RE: 16

    Normally, I’d agree with you…but he picked Boston in 7 last year…

  18. 17. Wait, didn’t he do his “reverse-jinx” last year by picking the Lakers in 6?

  19. I believe you guys did a very fair analysis of the Magic offense, and as you’ve said many different time, stopping Dwight one on one is much easier said then done, and I think is the ultimate key to the series. If he can dominate the game like he did in game 1 and game 6 against the Cavs I think the Magic have a much better chance of winning this series than most people think. But the Lakers are a great team lead by a great player and a great coach. It should be an amazing series, I can’t wait!!!

  20. Yes he picked Lakers in 6 last year as well.

  21. He did the reverse-jinx pick of Lakers in 6 last year, and then in his next column admitted it and said his real pick was the Celtics in 7.

    So the question is, was this a reverse-jinx pick or not? And can you even do a reverse-jinx pick when your team isn’t in play? The answer to both questions is, I think not.

  22. Why do we care about Simmons and his stupid jinxs? There’s a series to be won, and nothing he writes means a thing in terms of who wins or loses.

    I haven’t read his latest yet, but does he own up to his “Cleveland will win the 2009 NBA title” and “Orlando has no shot against Cleveland” claims from recent weeks? Or does he just pretend like those never came from his keyboard?

  23. Yes, there is good reason to put Pau on the elbow for his jumper to bring Dwight out while the other big cuts towards the basket. But that will tend to spare Dwight the chance to collect fouls.

    It seems to me it’s another good option to send a big right up against Dwight into his body, with the other big hitting the boards weakside for putbacks (against Lewis, who probably is a bit worse than Pau on the boards and much worse than LO).

  24. The thing with Simmons is: I enjoy is writing for entertainment value, but as a sports analyst he is absolutely horrible.

  25. 72 Kurt Helin, Forum Blue and Gold

    Good job Kurt. You will win leaderboard if Lakers win.

  26. Simmons, Simmers and Paschke: Not worth the read. Ever.

  27. In regards to the silver screen and roll piece – it’s very well written, but it seemed to me that the point of his article shifted from proving that kobe was playing at the top of his game as compared to years past to proving that kobe was better than lebron in the conf finals. Just a bit misleading.

  28. … on the slip side why don’t the Lakers run a pick and roll with Gasol or Bynum (whoever Howard is gaurding at the time), opening up the middle. If you can bring Howard out of the paint on defense there is really nobody else on the Magic who can defend inside the paint, opening up the inside for the likes of Kobe and Lamar.
    vr, Xei

  29. also, can someone who lives in LA enlighten me as to what the deal is with T.J. Simers? I’m in NY but it seems to me like he’s just a cranky old curmudgeon who enjoys picking fights with Phil for no good reason. Was he ever a good writer / Lakers fan / optimist of any sort? Why is he still employed by a major LA newspaper?

  30. TJ Simers insults people instead of actually writing about sports. Not funny. Ignore him.

    In terms of this series (can’t wait, really can’t), the Lakers really have to go hard and attack the basket if they’re gonna win. Jump hooks and finger rolls ain’t gonna cut it against Dwight Howard.

    On D, they should play Howard straight up and foul hard if he spins, double him if he tries to dribble.

  31. Coffee is For Closers June 3, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Simers is from the “look at me! look at me!” school of journalism. He couldn’t hold Jim Murray’s pencil shavings.

  32. Here’s some good insight as to the line between whether the Lakers will be battle-tested or worn out come the Finals:

    http://www.ocregister.com/video/index.php?bcpid=1127694947&bclid=1127690720&bctid=25059137001

  33. so he was always this annoying, even from the start?

    i mean obviously i don’t care what he says, it’s just mind-boggling to me as a non-Angeleno that he still has a job given what I’m sure is a large pool of qualified candidates.

  34. Listen, I’m a huge Laker fan and Kobe Bryant has and always will be my favorite player, but please can’t everyone realize that what LeBron James did was absolutely remarkable against the Magic and that he is in fact the best player (just as Jerry West said) over Kobe.

    He really is just a freak of nature: Bigger than whoever is guarding him, faster than whoever is guarding him and stronger than whoever is guarding him. I understand sticking up for our player Kobe, but even me (the biggest Kobe fan) can agree that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA right now.

    Also, people always try to say Kobe plays better defense than LeBron which puts him over the top, but I have to agree with Jeff Van Gundy in that I think Kobe is an overrated defender at this point in his career. He doesn’t even guard the best players anymore. Round 1against the Utah Jazz, game 3 4th quarter tie game everyone knows Deron Williams is getting the ball and who was on him, Derrick Fisher. You all know what happened. Why didn’t Kobe demand to guard Deron Williams in that instance? He in my opinion has really become just an average defender and I don’t think the All Defensive Teams he keeps getting voted on are warranted. I think they are reputation based.

    Yes I love Kobe and he really is offensively so gifted, but lets all agree that LeBron James at this point in their careers is better than Kobe.

  35. wiseolgoat,
    T.J. Simers follows several others in this market, all of whom have the Don Rickles insult the customer style of reporting. There appears to be a market for that here – I can’t for the life of me understand why.

    Like Coffee is For Closers was talking about, I think it all started with Jim Murray and his discussion of Cincinnati. However, Jim was a master of giving you information, along with excellent writing, and the writers since then just seem bitter.

  36. I hope drew can stay out if foul trouble but i dont expect him to. He fouls constantly and now being asked to fight for position with Dwight will make it that much worse. He wont be allowed to treat dwight the way perkins did because of his rep. Its basically a given that he gets 2 fouls midway thru the first. If he can use his fouls well (no and 1′s, fouls away from the ball) and gives us 20-28 minutes and box out dwight I wud say his first finals is a success

  37. Ryan- You made a great point. Besides controlling the P&R game of the Magic, the Lakers next biggest task may be stopping the transition 3′s. To do this the Lakers, as Craig mentioned, must run their offense. Also, they must limit turnovers and find a healthy balance of how to attack the offensive glass while maintaining defensive integrity on the break.

  38. Coffee is For Closers June 3, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    I’m wondering how much play farmar gets in this series. I think he’s shown in these playoffs he’ll be ready whenever his number gets called, and alston reallys seems like his kind of matchup. Plus, if fish isn’t knocking down his open 3′s, I’d really be looking for jordan and brown to get lots of minutes. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I like our 3 point guards over the alston/johnson combo.

  39. Since this is such a pivotal series for both Kobe and Phil, I expect Phil to be much more pragmatic in how he substitutes. This argues for more use of Farmar and Walton. They can help keep the offense moving and match up ok on defense. What I hope is that Phil will reduce the use of wholesale substitution. That tactic seems to generate runs for the opposition.

  40. 39-I guess Nelson is the wildcard as far as the PG matchup. I agree with you, sans Nelson, I like us to at least play the Magic PG’s even, if not outplay them. If Nelson plays and gets spot duty off the bench I would say that Brown or even Kobe should guard him instead of Jordan.

  41. Has anyone noticed that the medias obsession with the Kobe/Lebron puppets Is annoying not once In the 3 commercials have the puppets said those two players would meet In the finals but let the pundits tell it thats what those commercials are all about. It’s really dumb and shows how people jump to conclusions

  42. Rudy whats your point?

  43. Yusuf- I am with you bro, I wish Bynum could show and contest on shots in the paint without fouling, he just hasn’t figured that out yet, if and when he ever does, he would be one of the better interior defenders. Hope he can get better at that this series.

  44. Kurt – great post, and good comments by Darius & Kwame as always.

    The one pnr that wasn’t mentioned but somebody brought up in comments was a Turk/Lewis combo that would have us with Ariza and Odom/Gasol defending. In this case, is it fair to switch on the screens or should we fight through while giving Lewis that limited daylight to get a shot off? I think we have enough versatility to switch but we’ll see.

    I also like the idea of Kobe guarding Alston, at least for a quarter or two. He doesn’t demand too much defensive energy, but Kobe’s length and wit will be enough to distract/delay their offense.

    Rudy, I know what you are saying when it comes to Kobe/Lebron. I will say Lebron does more from a volume standpoint to help his team. At his age, with his talents I think that the idea is valid. But when we hear “I’ll take Lebron, but I like Kobe to close the game” or anything along that line, it goes to answer your question – who you want when it matters most is who you want…right? And Kobe’s unparalleled ability to read, react and finish a game are in my mind what separate him right now from anyone in the league. And also why he is the best

  45. Also, an excellent read by John Krolik regarding the NBA’s current “image issues”:

    http://www.slamonline.com/online/blogs/fedora/2009/06/the-nbas-much-improved-image-problem/

  46. #27 etc., Simers does serve a purpose, which can be likened to that of the fellows at Jackass, one of which, in the first full-length movie of that name, shoved a matchbox car all the way up his rectum and then went to a doctor and pretended to be flabbergasted by the x-rays.

    Just because you are not one of the select group for whom the spectacle of morons hurting themselves in public is a deep need which often rectumfies the exigencies of daily life, doesn’t mean I’m not.

    Same goes for Simmons, except he’s the cool Johnny Knoxville of Jackass, and is more creative and brave.

    I’ve never been to a game in the Staples Center. Home court advantage is advantageous for a lot of obvious reasons (no jet-lag or hotels, crowd is friendly, you get some calls, etc.), but jet-lag and hotels a few biased calls are mere irritants to a professional player; and so is the crowd’s merely being friendly to its home team.

    The crowd’s unfriendliness, on the other hand, to him personally: its maniacal, shrieking, catcalling, cruel unfriendliness; it seems that would get to anybody. And so you have places where players are afraid to play, such as Utah etc. Denver and HOUSTON had that affect on the Lakers.

    Is this a factor at Staples? The Magic is a young team, in an new and awesome (in the old sense, Milton awesome) situation. Seems that a howling hell-pit of a Staples Center would play hugely to our advantage, and we need all the advantages, huge and un, that we can get, clearly. If the S.C. isn’t such a hell-pit, is there a way to encourage it thus by Thursday?

  47. Not sure if this has been discussed (although I’ve been going back to a few threads back and only J-man’s post comes to mind), but how do you think our bench will do? Who do you think will get the most burn? Who will Phil quickly yank out?

  48. nice article in the NY Times today about Kobe not having a true rival-
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/sports/basketball/03kobe.html

  49. lei,
    By the time you get to the finals, the bench length is less important to most teams. Phil has determined who he is going to play – Lamar mostly, Farmar next, Shannon a bit, Walton a bit. He will play Mbenga only if Howard draws a large number of fouls against our front line. Perhaps some Sasha.

    The question, really, is how he is going to put those players on the floor – integration or mass substitution (Farmar, Sahsa, Walton).

  50. what’s all this talk about Orlando in their FIRST finals?
    didn’t they go to the final with Shaq and get beat by Houston?

  51. http://freedarko.blogspot.com/2009/06/toothpicks-do-not-add-up-to-salvation.html

    What do folks think about Mike Breen?Apparently FreeDarko isn’t too fond.

  52. Since I tend to value developed skills more than innate features, the one standard I continue to use, both consciously and subconsciously, is this: If the two switched bodies, will we have this conversation?

    Imagine Kobe playing with LeBron’s skillset and experience.

    Then imagine LeBron playing with Kobe’s skillset and experience.

    Then compare the two.

    Of course this isn’t right or fair, but that’s the way I see things; and partially also why I would have a hard time considering 4s and 5s to be the best basketball players.

  53. Lewis

    I made the comments based on people on this forum tend letting the fact that we’re such Laker fans blind us to the fact that Kobe may not actually be the best player.

    I’ve seen many posts on this forum about LeBron that people may tend to view as “hating on LeBron”. I just don’t think it’s necessary. They’re both great players, but nobody on this forum can honestly disagree with the fact that at this point in their careers if you were starting a team you would rather Lebron over Kobe.

  54. Rudy,

    Kobe’s going on to 31 with 13 years on his legs and Lebron’s 24.

    I don’t think
    ” at this point in their careers if you were starting a team you would rather Lebron over Kobe”
    is a relevant point. I’d rather start a team with Dwight Howard because he’s a center and even younger. Does that make Dwight a better overall player than Lebron?

    Not to be disrespectful but it just seems that you come out of nowhere to raise wrinkles. I haven’t seen a single message on this board that would make you be so defensive of Lebron being the best.

    We all pay our respects to great players.

  55. Just watched that ESPN “Ultimate Kobe” highlight reel … holy crap. Sometimes I forget how good Kobe is. Whenever he shoots I just expect it to go in, no matter how difficult the shot – then I get impatient if it doesn’t. We get spoiled, I think – he is totally incredible. I love seeing all those creative moves to get his jumper off: the spin on his left foot when the defender shades his right hand; baiting and waiting for J.R. Smith to reach for the ball before launching the three; shooting the rainbow fadeaway over LeBron; changing his dribbling style to get separation from Battier and Artest. What a player.

  56. I, like most all true Laker fans, have waited for this Finals since last June 17th when our season ended in Boston. I don’t know how this will turn out, but I am at peace with this team. Amidst all the criticism, hype and hyperbole, they have risen to the task at hand. I expect the Finals to be no different. We will be challenged and we will challenge. Each player knows their role and will do their best to fill this role ably. Only time will tell, but the last step of this season’s voyage is before us. Stay steady, strong and steeled for the task at hand.

    Play hard. Play well. Play together.

    Win.

  57. kwame,
    I don’t mind Breen, but I wish they’d have someone better call the games. To me he’s the other side of the same coin that Joe Buck is on. While Buck is a bland, never excited commentator that get’s on his high horse way too often, Breen is a bland, non excited commentator that never finds the nerve to take a stance on anything – or at least when he does, it has nothing to do with what actually just happened, but rather some sort of sidetracked remark that tries to speak on the moment but ultimately just shows that he’s not truly invested in that moment that we all just observed. I distinctly remember when Dhantay Jones tripped Kobe and Jackson/JVG immediately said that it was a purposeful, dirty play. Meanwhile, Breen basically said that he didn’t think it was on purpose and wasn’t going to judge Jones and went on to not say anything of substance in relation to a play that to pretty much everyone who saw it thought the same thing. Take a stand Breen, and do so with the intent to give true insight to the moment. Not everyone or everything is to be interpreted as so vanilla that it can’t be commented on in either a overly negative or positive light or without the feeling that engrosses the fans that are your viewers. I mean, even the most fantastic play isn’t given it’s due with Breen. For a color guy, he just brings too much gray to the equation for me.

  58. nobody on this forum can honestly disagree with the fact that at this point in their careers if you were starting a team you would rather Lebron over Kobe

    Well, then I must be a nobody. I still think Kobe is a better team player than Lebron, and better at winning games than Lebron is.

    You have every right to your opinion, but please, stop trying to pass it off as fact. It’s condescending and arrogant, and it’s starting to bother me. Don’t try to speak for me or anyone other than yourself either. That’s even more arrogant.

  59. Well said, Gr8 Scott, well said.

  60. (52) I think Breen is a terrible announcer. He doesn’t seem to have much understanding of the game but that doesn’t stop him from spouting off. My two “favorite” moments from the Denver series.
    1) After Dahntay Jones intentionally trips Kobe, his second bush league flagrant foul in two games, he asserts that Jones “is not a dirty player. Huh? JVG correctly notes “You are what you do.”
    2) In game 6 he says that Denver needs Billups to be more of a scorer than he was in Detroit. Uhhhh? No, they need him to distribute the ball, that’s why they’re a better team with him in place of AI. Do you actually follow basketball?

  61. @57 – Excellent articulation of just one other thing that made Chick the greatest.

  62. Breen’s alright. I like him better than Kevin Harlan any day, with that phony annunciation and gravelly voice. I’m old school, though – give me Dick Stockton any day of the week.

    Since Darko put us on the subject of broadcasters, has anyone else found an appreciation for Doris Burke as a sideline reporter? All in all I think in-game reports are overrated, but at least she seems to ask good basketball-related questions. That’s much better than the trypical, “Kobe, you played a nice game out there” crap we get from the likes of Craig “Look at my ugly suit” Sager or Reggie In Drag Miller.

  63. Chris- I like Doris Burke. She seems to actually really love basketball and also know the game. She isn’t condescending and she isn’t self-promoting, so basically she is better than any other sideline reporter.

    I like Kevin Calaboro(?) for the play-by-play call.

  64. Also, I’ve really enjoyed the radio broadcasts of Hubie and Tirico. I wish they could do the Finals.

  65. I’m a bit disappointed that the preview didn’t cover this: http://i.a.cnn.net/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0603/gallery.coverjinx/images/030606.jpg

    Vanilla is a good way to describe Breen, but other than that issue he’s amazing. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have calling the games other than Marv Albert. Tirico annoys me, Hubie’s great but his dry style is a turn-off to some, Harlan’s entertaining but sometimes doesn’t seem to be well-versed in what’s going on.

    This is some good stuff in the original post from kwame and Darius. This is what I was really wondering for days – how to handle this PnR.

    I have to ask – is it possible to defend the PnR without bringing in a third defender? I just don’t think it’s possible for our PF to show on Dwight and get back to a shooter as quick as Rashard. One way to do so would be to have our 5 not show as hard on Hedo. It’s riskier, but Hedo’s not a speed demon like Aaron Brooks. It’s possible to show him down a step (allowing Ariza to catch up) but still get back to Dwight comfortably, isn’t it?
    I just really want to avoid leaving their perimeter shooters at all costs.

  66. Craig, thanks for that. So let’s say we get some of our tried and tested bench players on the floor (Walton, Candyman, WOW), what problems do we foresee our bench having? Will they be relatively consistent since they’ll be playing with the starters?

    And just to take us all back in time when Kobe was a 17-year old senior announcing he was going straight to the NBA:
    http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1008078/1/index.htm

    As a ten year old, I remember being all googly-eyed when Kobe showed up in a Lakers uniform. My life has never been the same since then. (thank you silver screen and roll for that link)

  67. I agree, I like Doris Burke a lot. I can’t tell you how many sad comments I see (from people like Simmons) along the line of, ‘No matter how good she is, still…a girl!’ She does her job, doesn’t fall in love with a shtick, and knows the game. Dick Stockton’s dropped off a lot in recent years, IMO.

    We should be thankful, I guess. We could have a Finals team of Mark Jackson and Reggie Miller, led by Stuart Scott, with Bill Simmons sitting in the stands behind the crew and throwing in random pop culture references in between beers.

  68. 56 – Gr8 Scott – Wow, well said indeed!
    If the Laker’s play is as inspired as your writing, they will win.

  69. A pessimistic stat: 11 out of 11 times this postseason, the team that had a winning record against their opponent in the regular season went on to win the playoff round as well. (There were 3 playoff contests featuring teams that tied in the regular season).

    The Lakers have broken big streaks all season– this would be a nice one for them to break as well…

    (That said, other than the possible absence of Nelson and the emergence of Ariza and Brown, I’m grasping for reasons why the Lakers are fundamentally better than they were the first time around… I must add that it’s hard for me to forget last year’s horror when we were manhandled by Bos in the regular season, then were heavy favorites in the playoffs, only to….)

    18 1/2 hours to go!

  70. 56: Amen, brother.

  71. Also, “bang!” is not only lame but a transparent ripoff of “yes!”. My first choice would be Marv or even Kevin Calabro, but I’m not sure who they would pair with them (can’t have Reggie doing the finals after all). You have to admit Breen’s blandness makes a pretty good foil to JVG.

  72. Good luck tonight fellas! I’m hoping Magic in 5(sweep is not a possibility) as I’ve got tickets to Games 3, 4 and 5:)

    I just hope both teams show up as if they do, this will be a terrific series!

  73. Lil pau – IMO the regular season 0-2 record means little in this series because of the big changes.

    - Nelsons health (He was a huge reason the Magic won those games)
    - No Shannon
    - No Farmar

    And this is all at the pg position.
    Not to mention the lakers were slumping going into the 2nd game of a back to back.

    This has been said many times but I believe to be true. The lakers have won all their “must-win” games. They didnt respect the magic the way they did cleveland and boston but they wont overlook them now. That being said the magic do give the lakers legitimate mismatch problems but I dont think they can exploit them well enough to win 4 games

  74. I also thought the FD takedown of Breen was a little OTT as well – he’s not great at all and occasionally terrible, but he is certainly adequate and is a clear foil to JVG.I just don’t understand what Jackson’s doing in that unit, he speaks before thinking and won’t back down when he gets it wrong but goes for the coverup.

    Any game that Hubie calls is a game I’ll watch – he’s the best color in the game. I enjoyed Doris on color as well most of the few games I saw her – unfortunately it looks like most of the audience aren’t really up for a woman analyst. She is by far the best sideline reporter of course, but I think she’s sold a bit short there. Though I think the fact that Phil gives fairly straight answers to her questions shows that she has respect.

    Great analysis from Kwame and Darius in the OP. My feeling is that most of the Laker nation are overrating Drew’s ability to guard Howard and underrating his offense which has picked up substantially. I like the idea of staying home on the shooters but it may not be possible all the time. And both Kobe and LO can be ill disciplined on the defensive end. I think the key factor is Howard’s mind set – he is still young and often makes poor decisions when he gets the ball in the post. The lakers could force some issues here if he gets some pressure on a late double after he has started his dribble. I am also OK to live or die with Alston shooting jump shots. Maybe Fish can sneak in to draw some charges on Howard’s roll to the hoop sometimes? DH’s body control could be a key factor.

  75. FreeDarko does point out some of Breen’s annoying tendencies. As Darius says, he’s way too ‘vanilla’ and is afraid to say anything remotely controversial. He’s also prone to spouting clichés and harping on technicalities. With that being said, he is a very good announcer who rarely makes factual mistakes (unlike say, Kevin Harlan) and he does try to add some excitement to the game in his own way. I don’t have a problem with him.

    Burke has a tendency to be overly verbose (similar to Doug Collins), but her commentary is miles more insightful than many of the guys who normally occupy the booth. She’s probably the only sideline reporter who doesn’t make me cringe during those annoying end-of-quarter interviews.

  76. so it’s going to be Breen, JVG, and Jackson time and time again? feh. Can we bring back Dick Stockton and Hubie Brown for that 80s feeling?

    I kind of miss Walton and Jones. They’re entertaining in their hyperbolic/deflating way (“_____ is absolutely magnificient, what can _____ do? what CAN they do?” Bill, they’re up by 5!)

  77. Coming into this series, the Lakers have earned a slight edge, mostly tied to home court advantage. Should Orlando win game one, that advantage reverses.

    The focus of the entire series and the NBA championship for the Lakers must be on game one. Should we make it to game one in our thinking, we must further focus down to the first quarter of game 1–and the Lakers need to be ahead.

    Orlando tends to start a game with emphasis on the inside game, mixing in more and more three point shooting as the game goes on. They are surging forward the most by the fourth quarter. They can come back down 20 points–as we’ve seen against the Cavs.

    When the Lakers fail to score, Orlando has opportunities for unguarded 3 point plays and Howard may be able to beat his defender down court and set up deep. This can build on itself, and Orlando can score in cycles.

    When Orlando fails to score, especially from 3 point attempts, they are vulnerable to scoring bursts against them.

    Scoring runs are to be expected both ways. The Lakers obviously need to find ways to minimize such runs by scoring themselves. Executing the triangle and not falling into the three point shot mentality is critical for the Lakers.

    Winning this first game is key. We really don’t need to talk about anything else.