They were the best defensive team in the land in part because they did a good job of funneling penetration right into the NBA’s defensive player of the year in Dwight Howard. And that is one thing the Lakers need to counter by pulling Howard out of the paint —which is another reason I think Gasol can be successful against Howard, he has that 18 footer his man has to respect). It was something Spain did a lot to the USA in the Gold Medal game and the Lakers will use it some. But in that game it also showed that even in the block Gasol can score on Howard with some of his counter moves. Darius explains:
Besides Duncan and Yao, Gasol is probably the most skilled offensive post player in the game. He utilizes a face up game out to 16-18 feet (with the ability to drive and shoot from that distance), he has a power post up game where he can back you down, he has a turnaround jumpshot over both shoulders, jumphooks with both hands, and counter moves to both the middle and baseline – not to mention his supremely gifted passing. I’m not saying that Howard can’t defend Gasol, but he hasn’t had to deal with such a diverse post game for this entire post-season and he’ll have that challenge this series. You add to that Bynum (who has been looking better in the past several games) and he’ll have to work on defense in much different ways than he’s had to in a while. Plus, there is still the challenge of helping on drives from Kobe and Odom – that’s a lot of responsibility. Now take everything I said about Howard having to defend, and apply that to Rashard Lewis or Gortat or Battie and multiply their problems tenfold.
But when Bynum is in the game, the Lakers still need to get Howard out of the paint, and maybe the answer his bringing Bynum out for the high pick and roll. When Bynum and Gasol are both in, the Lakers should go to Gasol in his matchup with Rashard Lewis. Kwame a. explains:
Last series Lewis was able to get away without exerting too much energy on D. This enabled him to have enough energy to hit a couple crucial late-game 3 balls against the Cavs. In this series the Lakers can attack Lewis early often. This will have the effect of a. wearing him down so his shooting is worse late in games and b. possibly getting him into foul trouble. When he is guarding Gasol, the Lakers should attack him on the block, forcing the Magic to decide whether to double him (opening up Fish and Trevor) or single-cover him. When he is guarding LO, the Lakers should isolate LO and let him attack off the dribble.
Speaking of posting up — Kobe can post up Courtney Lee all day long, and command a double. He can do the same thing to Petrius, although that is less of an advantage. But I’d like to see the Lakers explore this. Force Orlando to double Kobe, that will open things up for everyone else – the Magic don’t want to do it, Kobe needs to play well enough to force them to (and that is more than just scoring).
Orlando likes to run on offense, specifically having guys spot up for transition threes. The Lakers need to get back and be aware of this but another counter is to go hard to the offensive glass. Kwame a. explains:
This may seem counter-intuitive because pounding the O boards always creates the potential for transition in 3’s. However, if the Lakers can get some early success attacking the glass (something they should be able to do with the size advantage we have when Lewis is at the 4) the Magic may be forced to forgo leaking out or risk the possibility we eat them up on 2nd chance points.
In the end, the Lakers need to run their offense, but more importantly really execute their offense. Darius can have the final words.
As I’ve been saying since the beginning of the season – move and pass with intent, screen hard, read the defense, and shoot when open. Whenever we’ve run our sets with consistency, we’ve gotten good looks. I think we can do the same thing against Orlando, but it won’t come easy. I do expect our offense to show it can score in one on one situations (with Kobe and Gasol – and to a lesser extent with Bynum and Odom) to loosen up the defense and allow our secondary players to get better looks. But I do think that once our guys show that they will score on single coverage, that our movement will prove to be even more beneficial and that our guys will get the types of looks that will allow them to thrive.