While I still have an almost unshakable confidence that the Lakers are going to win this series (and I know they are 6-0 after a playoff loss this year), at no point do I think this is going to be easy. Orlando is not here because nobody else wanted it, they earned it.
And unlike bouncing back some of the losses earlier this season and in the playoffs, the answer to getting a win tonight is not simply “they need to be more focused” because the Lakers actually played with good energy and effort.
But there are things they can execute better. The most obvious step is to keep exploiting Gasol on the offensive end, no matter who is covering him. He has shown he can score on Howard or whomever is guarding him. But as Kwame a. has been saying since before the series started, it should especially happen when Lewis is on him — make Rashard work at both ends. Make the jumpshooter use his legs a lot of defense.
And the Lakers need to establish points in the paint — the Magic have made a point of not allowing Kobe to score on drives after game one, and he is 4 of 13 in the paint the last two games. Gasol on the other hand is 17 of 26 in the paint this series.
Darius adds some other points.
*On defense, recognize where the Magic initiate the P&R. On several occasions Hedo started the P&R more than two feet outside the 3pt. line – this created better spacing around the perimeter and forced the Lakers defense into help situations further away from the hoop than they’d like. In those instances, Ariza must give space and go under the screen. This will disrupt what Orlando wants to get out of the play – Hedo getting that open space with room to drive and shoot and Howard getting a dive to the hole with Odom/Pau helping off Lewis – as now Ariza is there to meet Hedo coming around the pick, Bynum/Pau can just stick with Howard on the dive, and Pau/LO can stick closer to Lewis as he floats to the top for the return pass. Plus this will force the Magic to reset and run more clock.
*A more controlled offensive game from Trevor. As the defensive player that gets attacked most often, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to go back at the player that’s attacking him. In the last couple of games, Ariza has done just that and tried too often to make Hedo respect his offense. Trevor needs to move the ball and cut away from the action more often and play to his most valuable asset to the team – his defense. I understand that Trevor is going to have to shoot the ball. But do so judiciously. Get the ball to the post, swing the ball to the corner, reverse the ball to the wing player replacing to the top from our weakside screen action. I want some controlled aggression from Ariza. I don’t mind if he’s taking 8-10 shots, but I’d prefer 6-8 with one or two of those being dunks in the open court. (On a sidenote, I don’t want this point to be misconstrued as me throwing Trevor under the bus for his poor offensive showing in Game 3. However, just as we want Pau to make Lewis work on defense to disrupt ‘Shard’s offense, Hedo is making Ariza work and it’s disrupting Trevor’s flow on offense.)
*I want smarter defense on Orlando’s role players. We allowed Alston, Pietrus, Lee, and Battie get the shots that they want to take (save for a couple of forced looks that still went in) and really find their confidence. We must do a better job of limiting these looks. For example, we went under screens on Rafer when he was receiving screens at 18 feet and allowed him to take 16 footers with no pressure. We also let Rafer drive to his right hand and finish right at the basket. We let Pietrus take shots in rhythm, find his groove, and then he rode the wave to an outstanding performance. We let Battie take uncontested jumpers from the top of the key – which he made and ultimately opened up their high/low game with Howard. No more of any of this type of lax defense on these guys. I know part of our scheme is to allow certain players to shoot and most of the time we’ll want Orlando’s role players to be those guys. However, those looks don’t have to be the ones that they’re most comfortable taking. Force Alston to his left hand on drives. Force Pietrus to take multiple dribbles and pull up for the mid-range jumper. Make Battie put the ball on the floor before he shoots or passes. Make them uncomfortable and put even more pressure on Howard, Lewis, and Hedo to perform at their peak (especially late in the clock). Also, please stop fouling anyone but Howard. Even though Dwight has been pretty good at the line, I don’t want to see 80%+ FT shooters at the line – that’s like a guaranteed two points.
*More post sprints from our bigs. Make Dwight defend his own game. We’ve got two seven footers and Dwight is taking turns on both. Make him run on both ends and try to bury him under the basket the same way he does our guys. This will lead to easy buckets from our guys and fouls on Howard. We’ve been successful all season playing this way, why not keep it up?
Andrew Bynum has taken some heat for his playoff performance, even though he is basically doing it on one leg. There has been a lot of “how much is he making?” type comments. But I thought commenter Travis makes a good point:
But think about (the Lakers’) needs for a true center, and look around the league. You could argue that Bynum is a top 5 center in the league, even with his playoff performance thus far. Name a starting C in the playoffs you’d rather have besides Dwight, Nene, or Yao. Perkins? Maybe. Chandler? No. Noah? Dalembert? Atlanta doesn’t even have a C. Jermaine Oneal? No. (Thank god we didn’t make that trade.) Rasheed/McDyess? Played awful. Ilgauskus? No.
If you don’t pay Bynum, Your other options for a true center are: 1) trade for someone like Kaman, Shaq, Camby, or Dampier. Those guys are old and have equally terrible contracts. 2) Draft someone: Oden wasn’t available (and that’s a good thing). The next best thing to come through the draft was Marc Gasol who we gave away for Pau (another good thing). 3) We could try the free agent market, where the options there are Darko, or resigning Kwame Brown.
Giving Bynum his money was a no-brainer.