Well, That Went Well

Kurt —  June 4, 2009

I think after the game Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson seemed to almost express surprise at the outcome of the game — not the win but the ease of it. How much they were able to dominate the second and third quarters. Frankly, I sort of was too.

But even in the early going of this game, when things were tight, I just liked the fundamentals of how things were shaking out. I liked the things the Lakers were doing.

First, there was the defense on Dwight Howard. The Lakers defensive strategy on Howard was largely to force him out as far as they could, then when he caught the ball take a step back and let him make a faceup move. It worked well because Bynum and Gasol moved their feet and stayed in front of him, contesting shots. That was at first anyway, but the Lakers threw a lot of different looks at Howard (some doubles, some fronting by Pau Gasol). The end result of all this was that he never got comfortable.

They also did a very good job limiting the transition opportunities, and particularly the transition threes, that Orlando loves. Darius noticed that the Lakers laid off the three and those two strategies may have been tied:

I think we’ve made a conscious decision to not shoot too many threes. Kobe has missed Ariza on a couple of open plays, but it was too try to get a look in the paint. I understand if Trevor is frustrated, but this may be something that the coaches have drilled into the team as misses off of threes fuel the Magic’s break going the other way. Also, in the last thread I talked about Orlando running very similar sets to Phoenix – and Phil used this same exact “pound it inside” strategy against the Suns when we played them in the playoffs. Remember, Orlando is at its best when they get out and run in order to get Howard running post sprints and their shooters running to the three point line for transition threes. I like how we’re executing this (potential) game plan so far.

Then there was Kobe. Again Darius nailed it – he said in the comments that Orlando was used to seeing LeBron come off that pick, lower his head and linebacker to the hole. But Kobe’s game is more diverse, and he loves the midrange. Starting in the second quarter he came off that pick from Gasol and was consistently able to get to the spot he loves on the elbow, where they gave him the jumper. Next game Orlando is going to show out on that, they are going to body up Kobe, and he has to be ready for his counter to that (pass back to cutting Gasol, kickouts, there are options.

Phil said after the game he was not comfortable with how much the Lakers ran the pick and roll, but you run things until they can stop it.

One well the Lakers will go back to is posting up people, particularly anyone Courtney Lee is covering. One more for Darius, since he is on a roll:

Our ability to post up with five different players completely disrupted the Magic’s ability to get the ball upcourt as they were consistently either taking the ball out of the hoop or made them stay around the paint to secure rebounds or help on the interior. Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Walton – all these guys had good games on the block and the Magic didn’t have an answer.

Game one has little bearing on game two — the Lakers do not get to start with a 25 point lead.

But that one sure felt good.