Archives For June 2009

NBA: MAY 25 Western Conference Finals - Lakers at Nuggets - Game 4
Talking, planning, Xs and Os are done — now is the time players make plays.

But fans, remember to stop and just enjoy being a fan tonight. We want a specific ending, a destination, but as fans we need to enjoy the journey or the destination will feel hollow. Enjoy the game tonight. (If you need to watch online, follow this link.)

Dex said it so well at his blog, I’ll let him have the last word:

“It will not be the same to read about Kobe Bryant ten years from now, and it will not be the same to watch ten years from now his top ten dunks or passes or jump shots for the win. So savor this moment, Lakers fans; Dostoevsky, the poet of sin and suffering and redemption, is at the top of his game. It does not get better than this; it cannot get better than this. Some things transcend the debatable, and it is a privilege, win or lose, to love them before they are gone.”

Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers
This should be an entertaining side of the ball – the Lakers high powered offense against the best defensive team in the NBA during the regular season.

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.

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.

Tale of the Tape

Reed —  June 2, 2009

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” – Twain

As we have four days to ponder, evaluate, fret, puff, antagonize, argue, morally lecture – and generally do the types of things fans do when they’ve been walking an emotional tightrope for six months and the end goal is within sight – let’s take the time to analyze the tale of the tape.

1. Big Picture Season Stats

Record: LA (65-17); Orlando (59-23)
Point differential: LA (+7.7); Orlando (+6.7)
Home/Road: LA (36/29 wins); Orlando (32/27 wins)

Offensive efficiency: LA (109.8 – third); Orlando (107.2 – eighth)
Defensive efficiency: LA (101.9 – fifth); Orlando (98.9 – first)

Pace: LA (96.9); Orlando (94.6)
Rebound rate: LA (51.5 – fifth); Orlando (50.7 – ninth)

I don’t think there’s much to take away from these big picture numbers. Based on past years, both teams have legitimate title level credentials. Orlando won more games and has a similar point differential to LA’s 2008 team. Both teams are strong on the road. There isn’t a significant difference in pace to suggest one style would help/hurt either team. The big difference is that Orlando is the elite defensive team in the league and we are an elite offensive team. Sound familiar? Hopefully we see a different conclusion this time around.

2. Nitty Gritty Season Stats

Points from 3s: LA (20.0, 36.1% – 17th); Orlando (29.9, 38.1% – 2nd)
Points from 3s given up: LA (21.4, 34.5% – 24th); Orlando (16.2, 34.2% – 2nd)

Interior points: LA (37.8 – 5th); Orlando (31.7 – 21st)
Interior points given up: LA (35.4 – 23rd); Orlando (28.8 – 2nd)

“Clutch” player (production per 48 in last 5 minutes of a close game):
• LA: Kobe (56.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 45.7% fg, 40% 3s, 92% ft)
• Orlando: Lewis (28.0, 7.0, 2.7, 51.1, 43.5, 84.0); Turkoglu (26.6, 9.3, 3.6, 35.7, 20.0, 88.0)

Bench (production per game):
• LA (29.5 points, 14.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, +449 on the year)
• Orlando (23.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, +199)

PER differential ranks by position:
• LA: PG (26th, -3.2), SG (2nd, +9.6), SF (12th, +0.9), PF (10th, +1.3), C (2nd, +6.6)
• Orlando: PG (7th, +2.5), SG (26th, -3.7), SF (11th, +1.6), PF (7th, +2.7), C (1st, +8.9)

Notes:

• Orlando’s use of the three as a weapon cannot be overstated. They not only use it offensively, but they defend it as well as anyone, ending the season second in both points scored and allowed from behind the arc. They force teams to shoot poorly from three, but also force them to shoot infrequently (which is as important). This results in a monstrous 13.7 point per game advantage from deep for Orlando. In possessions where Orlando attempts a three, their offensive rating is 114.5 (which would lead the league); in possessions where they attempt a two point field goal, their offensive rating is 98.8 (which would be last in the league).
• Orlando also does not give up points in the paint, finishing 2nd in interior points allowed. That means that they understand fundamental defensive principles – make teams shoot long 2s and limit threes and points in the paint. As a consequence, they give up the fourth most points in the league on two point jump shots, but that’s obviously a category you want to lead the league in (LA is actually third in the league in two point jump shooting percentage, so perhaps they are positioned well to counter Orlando’s defense). Think Boston all over again, but maybe better.
• On offense, Orlando applies the reverse of their defensive philosophy – its either a three or points in the paint every time. They finished last in the league in points from perimeter two’s. This is a well designed and coached team. No fool’s gold here.
• The PER differential stats tell us that these teams feature the two best center rotations (Howard/Gortat and Pau/Bynum), but that LA enjoys a massive advantage at SG. We’ll see if Pietrus can mitigate that to some degree. Orlando has a big edge at PG. While their stats may be inflated by Nelson’s early season performance, ours may not fully reflect how badly Fisher has slipped.
• LA has a huge advantage with Kobe at the end of games compared to Lewis and Turkoglu. Call me master of the obvious. That said, Lewis proved repeatedly through the playoffs that he has ice in his veins.

3. Playoff Stats

Laker individual playoff stats:
• Kobe is making a living at the line, averaging 8.5 attempts and making almost 90%. Everybody else is really struggling from the line.
• Gasol: 18.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.0 blocks, 57% shooting. Solid. But he needs to step up his game against Howard (21.7 points, 15.4 rebounds, and 62% shooting).
• Ariza is shooting 50% from three; Odom 52%; Brown 48%; Fisher 23%. None of those look right.

Orlando individual playoff stats:
• 5 players make 1.3 or more threes per game; all shoot over 35%.
• Turkoglu is the engine of their offense, but he’s only shooting 41% and commits 2.7 TO’s per game.
• As expected, it’s Howard or nothing on the boards. He’s averaging an insane 15.4 and the next closest (Lewis) averages 6.1.

Lakers in wins:
• Kobe: 30.8 points, 50.8 FG%, 20.8 FGA, 3.9 3FGA, 8.9 FTA
• Rebounds: +1.6
• Gasol: 17.6 points, 11.3 FGA
• Ariza + Odom: 26.0 points
• FTA: 30

Lakers in losses:
• Kobe: 27.2 points, 39.3 FG%, 24.2 FGA, 5.7 3FGA, 7.7 FTA
• Rebounds: -1.0
• Gasol: 19.3 points, 13.3 FGA
• Ariza+Odom: 18.2 points
• FTA: 25.5 points

Orlando in wins:
• 3s made/attempted: 9.4/24.0 (39.2%)
• Rebounds: +1.4
• Howard: 22.0 points and 16.0 rebounds
• Alston+Pietrus: 26.0 points

Orlando in losses:
• 3s made/attempted: 7.1/22.3 (32.1%)
• Rebounds: -3.1
• Howard: 21.1 points and 14.4 rebounds
• Alston+Pietrus: 18.5 points

Home/Road splits:
• LA: 106/99 points, 43.2/41.5 rebounds, 22.6/17.3 assists, 48.6/44.4 FG%
• Orlando: 99.7/97.4 points, 40.6/36.5 rebounds, 16.8/21.0 assists, 45.3/47.7 FG%

Notes:

• While we often (and rightly) maintain that a principal key to victory is getting Gasol the ball, the story is more complicated than that. He scores and shoots more often in losses than victories. Instead, if we are looking for simple trends, then three big things stand out in Laker wins vs. losses: (1) Kobe plays and shoots much better when they win; he also shoots less frequently; an efficient Kobe means victory; (2) Odom and Ariza are our wild cards; when they are firing on offense we have too much talent; and (3) we get 5.3 more assists when we win. All three things are related, obviously.
• The following things happen when Orlando wins: (1) they rebound; (2) they shoot and make more 3s; and (3) Alston and Pietrus play well. Howard’s production stays roughly the same either way.
• LA plays much, much better at home than the road, as the numbers show a wild swing in points, shooting, rebounds, and assists. We’ve seen this all spring. Orlando is much more steady, actually shooting and passing better on the road. This makes winning the first two all the more critical for LA.

4. Playoff Lineup Stats

Lakers:
+/-: Odom (+15.8), Kobe (+13.2), Pau (+5.6), Brown (+3.0), Walton (+2.6), Farmar (+2.5), Fisher (-5.1), Ariza (-5.3), Bynum (-6.1), Sasha (-7.6)
Best 5 man lineups: (1) Farmar, Kobe, Ariza, Odom, Gasol (+28 per 48); (2) Brown, Kobe, Walton, Odom, Gasol (+26); (3) Brown, Sasha, Kobe, Odom, Gasol (+22)
Worst 5 man: (1) Fisher, Kobe, Ariza, Pau, Bynum (-12); (2, 3) Farmar, Sasha, Walton, Odom, Pau/Bynum (both +1)

Orlando:
+/-: Lewis (+10.4), Gortat (+7.7), Pietrus (+2.2), Alston (+1.4), Turkoglu (-.1), Lee (-1.2), Johnson (-2.7), Howard (-8.3)
Best 5 man: (1) Alston, Lee, Pietrus, Lewis, Howard (+33); (2) Johnson, Pietrus, Turkoglu, Lewis, Gortat (+32), (3) Alston, Pietrus, Turkoglu, Lewis, Howard (+16)
Worst 5 man: (1) Johnson, Pietrus, Turkoglu, Lewis, Howard (-11); (2) Alston, Lee, Turkoglu, Lewis, Howard (-7); (3) Johnson, Lee, Pieturs, Lewis, Howard (+6)

Notes:

• Both teams start with one of their worst lineups; LA’s starting 5 is their single worst and Orlando’s is their 2nd worst. This encourages blogging fans to think they could run the rotations better…
• Fisher is a huge weak link; playing either Farmar or Brown makes LA much more productive (but it doesn’t seem to matter which one).
• Walton is sneaky good; Odom deserves the minutes over Bynum, both in terms of +/- and 5 man lineups.
• Puzzling numbers for Gortat, Howard, and Ariza. Not sure what to make of it, other than the inherent limitations of stats.

Final Thoughts:

These are two very evenly matched teams. Based on what we see in the stats, I think LA’s keys to the series are:

1. Chase Orlando off the three point line. Again, master of the obvious. I think everything they do offensively, including Howard to a large degree, operates to set up the 3. See if Howard and their drives can beat you before you overhelp off the shooters. This is counterintuitive, but they are a strange brew.
2. Ariza and Odom vs. Alston and Pietrus. The production of each pair is strongly tied to each team’s success. This is probably because you know what you will get from the principals on each team, and these are the role players capable of making more than modest contributions.
3. Rebounding. Orlando rebounds much more poorly when they lose than when they win; we rebound a little better when we win; on net, this points to controlling the boards as a key factor.
4. Kobe. If we get four more Teen Wolf Kobe games, we cannot be beat, notwithstanding what Orlando does (and that does not mean chucking Kobe, it means unrivaled master of his craft Kobe — see Denver games 5 and 6). Gasol is what he is – efficient, but he his production falls within a fairly narrow range. When Kobe shoots well from the perimeter, takes the ball to the basket, and gets to the line, he simply breaks down a defense and opens up opportunities for everyone. Thus, the better he plays, the more his teammates produce, and vice versa. We often overlook him because he’s always great, but there are degrees of greatness and we need Game 6 against Denver Kobe, and not 2008 Boston Kobe.

Prediction: LA in 7, but either team could win in 6 or 7. Orlando is better than Denver and LA could have easily been down 3-1 to them at one point. Ultimately, I see Kobe having four more “I refuse to lose” games in him, and he and Pau will get enough periodic help from Odom, Ariza, and others to secure victory. Pau plays Howard to a near draw, Ariza is the unsung hero, and LA wins a close, hard-fought, but not panic-less series.

–Reed

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball
For all the talk about Andrew Bynum on Dwight Howard and how important that is, there will be times in this series when Pau Gasol will have to cover him man-up. The Lakers don’t want to double in the post, and if Gasol is on Howard while Odom and Ariza are on Hedo and Lewis, the Lakers match up well (they can switch pick and rolls that way).

But could Gasol really hang with Howard one-on-one? I went back and looked at the USA/Spain Gold Medal game from the Beijing Olympics, when Gasol and Howard did square off as centers.

Gasol holds up well in this game — Howard slows but does not stop Gasol’s offense at all. Spain pulled Howard away from the basket because Dwight had to respect Pau’s 18 footer. They both got their points, but it was not an embarassment. And if Howard is getting his but the Lakers can better defend the perimeter, that may be a tradeoff worth taking.

Some words of caution — the offense Team USA ran is nothing like what Orlando did. Frankly, with wing options like Kobe, Lebron, Wade, Melo, CP3, the USA didn’t try very hard to start the offense from the post. Also, Spain played a fair amount of zone, so there are stretches when Gasol and Howard are on the court but not really matched up on one another.

That said, what follows is a breakdown of the possessions where they were matched up.

———————————————————————

First Spanish possession of the game: Howard has to stop the penetrator on a pick and roll and Gasol rolls uncontested to the hoop for a dunk (Wade made a half-hearted late rotation and foul for the and one).

First USA possession: Kobe Bryant drives the lane and Gasol has to rotate over to stop the penetration. Kobe shoots over Gasol and misses, but nobody rotates over to help on Howard, who easily grabs the offensive rebound and puts it back in.

8:27 First: Gasol scores on a break where he just flat out beats Howard down the floor to fill the lane on a 3 on 2.

6:30 First: Gasol misses a 17-footer over Howard. But as I said before, Spain set up similar motions a lot, using Gasol to pull Howard out away from the basket. Often he was just a decoy. It’s a strategy the Lakers could use.

9:22 Second: Jimenez has the ball on the right baseline and Gasol cuts from the high post to the low and Howard is caught watching the ball and letting Pau go. Gasol gets the pass under the basket and Howard recovers late and gets the unsportsmanlike foul for jumping on Gasol’s back.

8:15 Second: With the ball out very high on the right side, Gasol gets a pick and comes from weak to strong and he gets the ball on the wing 15 feet out and goes with the catch and shoot that misses. (However, with Howard away from the basket defending the shot Marc Gasol got the rebound and putback.)

6:20 Second: Pau Gasol is isolated on Howard 15 feet out left wing, drives deep on him baseline then spins back to the middle and gets off a hook that is too hard and misses, Howard rebounds.

5:58 Second: Reyes drives the lane but loses the ball, with it loose inside Gasol is quicker to it, grabs it and puts it in before Howard reacts.

First USA possession second half: The USA tries the lob into Howard but Gasol has fronted him and makes the steal.

8:41 Third: Howard does a good job poking away a lazy entry pass to Gasol and creates a turnover.

7:30 Third: Gasol gets the ball on the left block, tries to back in Howard, kicks it out and gets the instant repost with six on the shot clock. Gasol spins baseline and puts up a 5-foot jumphook with the left hand over an extended Howard and drains it.

Coming out of that Howard gives a little smack in the face to Gasol that goes unnoticed by the refs. Meanwhile the USA runs after that Gasol make and Howard beats Gasol down the court by a mile, gets the lob inside with just a bunch of guards around him and gets the foul going up.

6:26 Third: Howard comes out to the right wing to set the pick but slips it and catches Gasol off guard, a little lob in and Howard with the dunk.

6:45 Fourth: Kobe Bryant almost got the ball stripped by Rubio but holds on and drives the lane from the right wing, Gasol rotates over to take away the shot but nobody helps the helper, so Kobe passes to Howard under the basket for a dunk.

5:50 Fourth: Howard does a good job using his length and speed to try to take away the entry pass to Gasol in the post, and when Rubio makes one Howard knocks it away but out of bounds. On the inbound play Fernandez gets into the lane but misses the shot that Howard rotates over on. However, that leaves Gasol to get the weakside rebound, Howard comes over to defend and Gasol makes a nice move to go back under the rim and shoot from the otber side (using the rim so Howard can’t block the shot) but he misses it.

4:02 Fourth: In a scramble out of a Marc Gasol offensive rebound, Pau Gasol got deep position on the reset and got the feed very deep on the right block. Howard got called for the reach-in foul trying to stop him. Gasol hit the free throws.

At that point Coach K pulls Howard for Bosh.