Last year, the Boston Celtics came in to Christmas Day as the defending champs and a team with just a couple losses — they came in the best team in the NBA. And the Lakers thumped them in crunch time. Thumped them good.
The Celtics went on to lose six of their next eight. They were never quite the same team after that (although clearly injuries added to this). They were never really a title threat.
The Lakers are the defending champs. They had the best record in the Association. They got thumped by a contender on Christmas day.
I don’t care about the one game. One game in December will not matter five and six months from now, when the games do matter. What I want to see is how they respond to this loss the next couple of weeks. Does it shake their confidence or to do they shake it off? This is the biggest test so far this season. Let’s see if they respond like real champions, the kind that repeats.
The Lakers actually got to the rim more than the Cavs — the Cavs had 24 shots at the rim, the Lakers 31. The difference is the Cavs shot 79% at the rim, the Lakers 52%. Close out the easy ones, something the Lakers have struggled with for a couple games now.
Regarding the referees, what bothered me more than the calls was how the Lakers dealt with it. And how poorly they dealt with it. Very un-champion like.
Zephid added this about the game:
1.) Off the ball movement
I’m pretty sure the Triangle offense is predicated on off-ball movement and spacing, and our team sure didn’t have a lot of it today. I saw a lot of trying to force the ball into the post; this led to a number of easy turnovers when guys like Delonte West and Jamario Moon just jumped up and intercepted the entry pass into the post. The triangle has built-in releases in case the post pass is not there, but our guys just held onto the ball way too long, eating up the shot clock, and then forced way too many bad passes.
Similarly, the Cavs off ball movement was superb, which got a lot of open dunks for Lebron, Hickson, Moon, and Varejao. Guys like Artest, Kobe, Brown, and Farmar got killed on off ball screens and back door screens. Then, our bigs were either too slow on the rotation or weren’t in the proper position to help. Pretty sure it wasn’t Mike Brown, but somebody on the Cavs coaching staff deserves some credit, because the Lakers seemed genuinely unable to adapt to these off ball movements.
2.) Post Play
On defense, Shaq really punished Andrew. Out of anyone in the league outside of Kendrick “Babies for Breakfast” Perkins, I think Andrew has the best chance of taking on Shaq 1v1. But, Shaq repeatedly got good position in the post and made Andrew pay with a plethora of dunks. And as always, the activity of Varejao was difficult for Gasol and Odom to handle.
On offense, both Bynum and Gasol got manhandled by Shaq, Varejao, and Big Z. Andrew was definitely not aggressive in his post moves, which given his ineptitudes with passing, made his post game very inefficient. Part of the blame goes to the perimeter guys for not properly spacing the floor, but when Andrew gets the ball, he needs to show Shaq he’s the boss now.
Pau, on the other hand, seemed really bothered by Big Z. A number of his shots were blocked/altered near the rim, and his mid-range shot looked even worse. This is a game where we really needed Odom to bring some energy (much like the game in Cleveland last year in February), but he just didn’t bring it on the boards or on defense.
The Lakers played way too slow. Our front court is somewhere between 4 and 500 times faster than the Cavs front court, and we didn’t take advantage of this. The only guy who had a couple of good post positions was Artest, and that was when he was pissed for not getting fouls called for him. However, our backup guards, like Farmar and Brown, forgot that when you push the pace, that doesn’t mean you should take the first open look you get. Farmar and Brown both put up some pretty awful shots in semi-transition, where I would’ve preferred for them to wait for help and get it into the post.
4.) The Triangle
To the Lakers: Run it. Through Pau. A lot.
That’s all that needs to be said.