I think fluid was the word of the night. For the first time this season the offense started to look fluid again (and the defense looked improved as well, in part just because of the size and length). Here are a few other thoughts.
• I asked Kobe about being out on the perimeter more and posting less with Gasol back, but he doesn’t see it that way. His answer (lost to the whims of my digital recorder, so this is a paraphrase) is that in the half court he has preferred to get his inside position on the rub action and some curls, that he really only went straight to the post early in the clock before the defense could set. He said even with Gasol in the post he can still get the actions and shots he wants through the offense and that this is not a dramatic change, adding he did that against the Bulls. In fact, it’s easier because you have to respect Gasol’s shot and he can pass so well, he said.
Kobe was 7 of 21 on the night overall. He was 3 of 12 from the short midrange and post areas (based on the shot chart). He got a lot of shots in the paint, at the elbows, that usually fall for him but just didn’t last night (he said afterward he just shot like, um, manure). I don’t think we should be worried about those falling in the future.
• Darius added this on the offense in the comments:
…the other name for the Triangle offense is the “Triple Post” offense. I’m speculating here, but aren’t we in fact seeing a Triple Post with Kobe, Pau, and Drew? I mean, last night we had Kobe on the weakside block, Pau at the high post (FT line area), and Drew on the opposite low block. Yes, at times the spacing could have been better, but this is a deadly offensive alignment. From this position (especially when Kobe has the ball), the team can either 1). Have Kobe shoot a turnaround jumper or create for himself with a spin move to the baseline 2). Kobe sees the help off Pau and he hits him for a FT line jumper or on a cut down the middle of the lane 3). Kobe can hit Bynum on a lob or Bynum can sneak under his man for a pass that puts him right under the basket. And last night, we saw all of these options play themselves out (Kobe did end the night with 9 assists). I mean, this is essentially the same alignment that we killed Denver with in the playoffs after Game 4. Kobe went to the block (or mid post) on the weakside and then he picked them apart by passing to Pau on the weakside block (where Drew is now) or passing to LO who was either flashing to the FT line or executing a dive cut from that area. As I mentioned before, the spacing could be a bit better, but we have the horses to play this way (no other team can, so it’s not like we see this alignment a lot from other teams) and it creates match up nightmares for our opponents.
• Drew was moving pretty well after the game, just a slight limp on a “jammed ankle” as they are calling it. I’d be surprised if he missed time (if this were a back-to-back, I’d feel differently).
• A good way to ease Gasol back is to have his matchup the first night against a 6’9” rookie (Taj Gibson).
• Of course, part of the beauty of Gasol is he gets a favorable matchup most nights.
• My favorite Kobe quote of the night, when asked about how Pau blended right back in and if that was a surprise, “He’s been playing basketball for four straight years, this was 17 days off.”
• I want to see, and I think we will see, a lot more games like this from Artest this season. First, he locked down Deng, who could make clean cuts and couldn’t get the ball where he liked. Then on offense he just filled a role. Drain the three, got some boards, got out in transition, just did a lot of little things. He will have some big offensive nights, but games like this from him make the Lakers so hard to beat.
• Great note from the Kamenetzky brothers at the LA Times: The Lakers have NEVER lost a regular game in which Pau Gasol and Ron Artest played as teammates.
• Sam Bowie has applied to become the first black member of one of Lexington’s exclusive golf clubs (via TrueHoop). However, the club members have learned from history and will be admitting Michael Jordan first.
• Derrick Rose is just not right. In the first quarter he would come around the high pick and rather than go to the basket he just settled for the jumper. He got more aggressive as the game wore on, but he wasn’t the explosive guy that finished against Boston last playoffs. Then with Ben Gordon gone, there was nobody else who could really just start creating and hitting shots to get the offense going. That team needs Rose to be the creator right now.
That said, I kept looking at the Bulls and seeing them as a team treading water this season but with a plan. They have the young franchise PG. They have some quality role guys (and guys who can be a little more than that like Deng). If they could land Bosh or another of the big free agents this coming summer (and they have the cap room) that becomes one very dangerous team. They are playing good defense and the effort is there. They have a very good foundation, they just need one more big piece.