Losing On The Inside

Kurt —  January 21, 2010

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The Lakers are among the favorites to win a NBA title this season in large part because of their great front line (plus that Kobe guy). But as Darius pointed out in the comments, Cleveland beat the Lakers because they beat them inside.

The difference tonight was that the Cavs size was more effective than ours. Shaq, Varejao, and Z complimented each other perfectly and Hickson took advantage of our over helping on Lebron early in the game. It’s really that plain and simple. We can criticize Pau (for the missed FT’s and for that layup where LeBron had a nice contest from the weakside), but Bynum allowed Shaq to bully him and LO was absent from the paint (on offense) for most of evening. Last year our biggest strength was the advantage that our bigs gave us but tonight the Cavs had that advantage and it was the difference in the game. Yes Lebron was huge, but that is to be expected (he is a tremendous talent). But if Cleveland’s bigs are not only going nullify our bigs, but also play better than them, than we’re not going to be successful against the Cavs.

The Lakers got lazy on their defense on the re-post tonight. The Cavs showed excellent patience in passing to Shaq, Shaq then passing back to the perimeter, and then re-posting to get better position. He used his strength to his advantage and the Laker’s bigs were concerned with foul trouble. The plays where we attacked Shaq and/or contested shots he did poorly (only hitting that lucky bank on Pau in the 2nd quarter). But, for most of the night, and especially in the 2nd half, Bynum and Pau both allowed Shaq to set up in his sweet spot on the right block and shoot his little hook against the glass. Shaq would still get 20+ a game if he’s shooting all his shots from 5 feet and in the way he did for most of tonight….

Look, I’m not blaming anyone for this. Drew’s not to blame and neither is Pau. Neither is Kobe. But, when I watch the games, I see less of what made us successful last season and more of what we were in 2004 when we lost to the Pistons. Now, that 2004 team was pretty damned good – they got to the Finals. But that team was also more of an isolation team in the guise of a Triangle team. Almost all of our sets ended with an iso for Kobe or Shaq or Malone or Payton. When you have talent you can play like that and still be successful (and this current team does have talent). But to be transcendent, you have to have talent + teamwork. And so far this season, one where we’re ranked 12th in offensive efficiency, the teamwork has been too infrequent.

There are other factors, like LeBron made the shots when it counted. ESPN Stats and Information noted that he was 3 of 13 on jump shots through three quarters. He sat out nearly the first six minutes of the fourth quarter but when he came in hot and made 4 of 6 jumpers in the fourth. Meanwhile, Kobe tore up Anthony Parker — ESPN tracked it and Kobe was 9 of 16 for 21 points against him — but when Cleveland switched up Kobe was 3 of 15 the rest of the way.

Games in January do not determine the outcome of games in June. But Cleveland and its front line have now outplayed the Lakers both outings, and that has to catch your attention. The Lakers have been to the mountaintop, this loss should not impact them going forward (that is something to watch, how they play the rest of this road trip), but this was a confidence boost for Cleveland. Especially if there is a June series between these teams.

Kurt

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64 responses to Losing On The Inside

  1. Good night to skip the game thread. Did someone in the last thread actually use this game as a trigger to discount last year’s championship? Really? I wonder how many Boston fans put their head between their legs after XMas 08 and said “We’re not really the champions – the Lakers should have won last year! Send them our banner!” Have some pride, for God’s sake.

    Last year I was never truly worried about the Cavs. This year has made it clear that they now match up with us very well. Ron had a couple of brain farts in the 4th, but did a solid job early on. It mostly came down to Shaq and low production from our own frontline. I’d love to see Lamar bust loose for a 20+ board game like last year, but with their new bigs I don’t think he can.

    It’s concerning, no doubt. Not the end of the world, but it’ll be hard to win a 7-game series unless our frontline plays 4 much better games. I did think we did a better job of pushing the pace a little, and initiating our sets out of the triangle. Not to where it needs to be, but better than Christmas.

    Kobe is so supremely skilled that it’s hard to say this, but it’s very clear Kobe draws less attention on his drives than Lebron does. Just doesn’t have that kick anymore. When the D does collapse, he’s a more unwilling passer. Not a knock, just a fact. Mostly that mentality works, but against a long frontline sometimes it does bite us a bit. That said, our other guys need to shape up from the 3-point line if they want Kobe to swing the ball more.

    Also – there was a play in the 2nd half where Shannon brought up the ball up the court, and Lamar was running alongside him, yelling for the ball the entire length of the court. It was incredibly obvious. Shannon blew him off to come around a weak pick and throw up a J that got blocked. It was a horrendous offensive possession, and a microcosm of what Brown’s been doing lately – has started to pick up on string of out-of-triangle-bad-jumpshots. He had only 2 legit good looks, and he made one of them.

    Ironically, Shannon’s shots were similar to what we saw in the Magic game, but this time they didn’t fall. Everyone said it then, and it was true – not good shots, they just fell that night.

    What was Lebron rapping at the end? (What song was that?)

  2. Great point by Darius about the offense. In the first half – mainly the first quarter – we spaced nicely and Kobe was able to operate from the weakside elbow. We progressively started to move away from that, even though it was working. Eventually, it was all isolation plays and the guys didn’t move off the ball, even when Kobe had 2-3 guys around him.

  3. Its extremely upsetting when you KNOW you are better and can’t get it done. I know the Lakers are the better team, but for some reason Gasol, Bynum, and Odom disappear against the Cavs. Gasol looked timid tonight many times, and I just don;t understand why. If the Lakers can go out and crush Boston (hopefully this year too), you’d think their big men would show up for Cleveland too. However, I dont know just like everyone else, all I can hope is that the Lakers start playing better and maybe make a trade.

  4. At least we can say that the Cavs signing Shaq was at least partially successful.

    Now I need to go off and relax so I don’t dream of Shaq winning another championship with yet another team, and maybe this time over Kobe and with LeBron.

    Nightmare #1, really, even worse than the Celtics beating us again.

  5. I know we’re supposed to keep this game in perspective (January not June, etc.), but nothing strikes fear into my heart like Darius calling attention to the talent of this team minus the teamwork — and the parallels to ’04.

  6. 1 – Snoopy, the song was the “Forever” remix…he was obnoxiously rapping Eminem’s verse.

    Regarding Kobe drawing the defense’s attention, I think it happens much more frequently on the perimeter. The Cavs were repeatedly sending an extra defender at Kobe on the pick and roll. The Lakers weren’t able to swing the ball to the open man; as a result, there were a few possessions where we forced up bad looks at the end of the shot clock.

  7. Self inflicted were our wounds on the inside. Andrew Bynum was the only Laker tonight with a positive plus/minus. If only he played more. Some of that has to do with the refs calling some ticky tack fouls and some has to do with Phil Jackson just not realizing against bigger teams Andrew will just have to play more minutes. Pau Gasol against teams with size simply cannot play Center very often. The man is a PF who gets pushed around by legitimate Centers. I think we all remember the 08 Finals. I don’t wanna hear any Pau Gasoft jokes from this site. Of course he gets pushed around by bigger guys than him. I have seen Kobe get pushed around when he has to guard SF’s throughout the years. When you are playing out of possession these things happen.

  8. The bench went back to its old ways by just missing shots. Shannon played alright but he played outside of the offense and couldn’t get the ball to fall tonight. Farmar was rushing as usual and screwed the flow of the offense up which meant we had to go back to Fisher. For all of those who don’t think that we need Fish’s replacement now, you must be oblivious to the fact that SHAQ had as many points as Fish and Bynum combined (13).

    It’s not the end of the world. It’s the end of my happy dream. We need more soldiers on the bench in addition to someone who can be effective from the PG position. Too many PUJITs and 3 point shots (Ron Ron) and not enough free throws. Our bigs should have put Shaq and Big Z in foul trouble. Bynum has to understand his role and his importance. And Pau…..He needs to grow some.

    FREE JAVARIS CRITTENTON!!!

  9. Aaron, Can’t agree with you more. I was so pissed off when the TNT guys were saying that Pau should hit the gym and that he’s a 7ft’r so he shouldn’t let Shaq push him around. I challenge anyone, ANYONE to succeedingly defend a talented basketball player in the post that is at least 75lbs. heavier than you. I think an overlooked 1-2 punch the Cavs have is there ability to get you in foul trouble by their bigs or by Lebron attacking the basket (which I have dubbed a basketball anomaly). This will give young Andrew a hard time all the way through a seven game series.

  10. I read on AP’s recap that Bryant and Gasol had heated discussions on the bench late in the 4th? Seeing as I didn’t watch this game (silly me), can someone shed some light?

  11. Darius was right on on one main point in my opinion, too many sets end up with Kobe shooting, sometimes over double, triple teams, and we can’t keep expecting miracles like that.
    got to get back to triangle team ball, cuts, dives, run off picks, pass the ball, and of course, when the O stalls, pick it up on the D end.

  12. 8 – From jail?

    9 – I’m pretty sure that was Reggie Miller. If Miller has made one intelligent point in the last three years, I must have missed it.

    Payton, Miller, and Barkley need their own TV show. On a channel where no one will see it.

  13. Kobe got his points tonight (even if it took 31 shots), my question is, when does it finally catch up with him. I know he wants to play every game but he’s participated in over 200 games from 2007 till present along with the Olympics. Ya can’t tell me this won’t eventually come back to bite the Lakers.

  14. Not sure more Andrew Bynum would’ve helped. He was getting beasted by Shaq, same as Pau.

  15. Chron – this won’t eventually come back to bite the Lakers.

    Sorry, just had to do it.

  16. @Snoopy

    From Washington Wizards (same thing).

  17. I think the primary frustration comes from the small mental mistakes made throughout the game, such as Walton or Artest leaving their man to double Shaq, Pau not committing to the hard double on the LeBron help in the first quarter, or not continuing to push the pace against a set of bigs that would have no business running with ours up and down the court. If you factor out the fouling in the last part of the game, we lost by two to a very good home team. It’s not the end of the world.

    As Darius indicated, our biggest strength (the frontcourt) was turned into a disadvantage tonight, but that’s also where I believe we have the largest margin for improvement. Although I hate to rehash this argument that’s been said countless time, he and Pau really don’t have a lot of synergy playing off each other because they really haven’t had a lot of experience doing so. As we saw, we were most effective when we had both Gasol and Bynum out there (not Gasol and Odom for once) because we matched their size, we always gave Gasol a mismatch on a smaller player, Bynum plays Shaq far better than Gasol possibly can, and we contained their penetration much better. Bynum especially is probably key to this matchup, as there was one memorable sequence in which he absolutely overpowered Varajeo on a post-up, and I’d imagine he’d be much more effective against Illgauskas than Pau was.

    So yes, it highlighted some weaknesses in this team, but it also showed where there is room for improvement, in which we have ~40 games to do so.

    And yeah, to the people complaining about the comments that Gasol couldn’t stop Shaq, they were 1) from Reggie Miller who is a complete idiot and a hypocrite considering he was a toothpick for his entire career 2) completely obvious because you can name the players that are physically able to play Shaq that low in the post on two hands.

  18. Just ruins my night seeing Bynum getting schooled by a 37 year old Shaq we dumped 5 years ago

  19. @Adam.. nah, it’s cool, I just had to ask cause I was debating this with a friend of mine earlier this week

  20. Didn’t we pick up Artest to match up better against the big & bad Eastern front lines?

    How’s that working out so far?

    Oh, never mind. Not so well, it seems.

  21. Completely off-topic, but Chase Budinger is quite a player. He’s like everything people wished Ammo would be, but much more athletic. I question his lateral quickness, but otherwise he could be a great role player on a very good team. I can understand selling our 1st-round pick last year (and the guaranteed contract), but when guys like this are available in the 2nd round…2nd rounders are as cheap as they come, and a guy like Budinger is much better than Powell already.

    I harp on it a lot, but I just really hope someone like this falls to us next year. It seems little, but finding gems/role players like that could make a large difference when gunning for a title.

  22. Snoopy,

    Don’t we have a multitude of second-rounders for what looks like an absolutely stacked 2010 draft?

  23. R,

    I wouldn’t say he did a bad job. There isn’t a defender in the league that’s going to stop LeBron from scoring on contested jumpers from the top of the key. We also held one of the league’s best offenses to barely over 90 points. Our offense is the problem this year.

  24. does losing kurt rambis and not really getting a replacement affect more than we think? i know phil now focuses on the defense now. maybe our offense suffers because of it???

  25. We own Memphis’ 2nd rounder and our own, which right now would mean the 45th pick and the 59/60th pick.

    In 2011, we own the Knicks 2nd rounder by virtue of the 1st rounder we sold last draft (used to pick Toney Douglas).

    I still maintain that the cheapest way to get deep without getting over-committed is via the draft. Late 1st rounders are guaranteed 2 seasons and the 3rd and 4th seasons are team options. A late 1st has a starting salary of less than 1M or if its early 20s, less than 1.1M.

    The Lakers have been disregarding its picks since 08 when we traded everything in the Pau Gasol trade. Not to say that we regret that one bit, but the financial burden of maintaining a successful team is catching up with us esp if we don’t win.

    A friendly reminder from your in-house accountant.

    PS. JD, this loss is on you dude… the moment I saw you post that I knew it was game over.

  26. Its simple. Like Boston showed 2 years ago, play Gasol tough and he turns into a girl, play Bynam tough and he turns into a rookie and whats left is Kobe going 1 on 5. Also dosen’t look like a champ team when you miss 9-free throws. Don’t forget they lost 17 points between Williams being gone and tatoo boy replacing him with 3-points. This would have been another double degit loss for the Lakers.

  27. Well, we met a team in the finals that beat us both times last season, had a physical freak as their center-piece and had lost their starting point guard to a shoulder injury. That turned out okay. That said, giving that offensive rebound to Andy was bad, Pau failing to go up strong (twice) and then missing his FT was bad. Bynum getting outplayed by an old fat man was bad. In spite of Kobe;s shooting the team was right there at the end and blew it on a lack of focus. Remembering the frustrations from last seasons many brain-farts is not a bad thing considering the final outcome but damn, I guess we can’t expect the team to be anything other then what they have proven over the years.

  28. Hey Ken, how come Boston didn’t play Gasol tough last season? Too busy watching him lay the wood to them or was it something else?

  29. uh..did we watch the same game? That game was officiated horribly. Forget Lebron’s “I’m gonna barrel to the basket and get a call no matter what’ move- I see that as a cost of doing business.

    What was horrible was Pau’s awful no-call in the fourth quarter followed a horrible call on fisher after Lebron choked and missed the second free-throw.

    I’m sick just thinking about it. I need a break.

  30. So this post is basically saying that even if we had won, we really still would have lost, due to the play of our frontline, Cleveland schooling us all night long. You know, we would lose 4 out of 7 games in a series with the Cav’s. I missed this game and the thread, so I am not sure what happened, except what this post and commenters have stated.

    “Rebounding is not about size and strength; it is about timing and positioning.” – John Wooden

  31. Let’s all just be honest with ourselves, we cannot compare a loss last year to Orlando during the regular season because each one of the elites in the East improved themselves this offseason and well that was last year and this is 2010.

    Bynum has to figure out to stay in the game without fouling and playing better defense or we are going to go through the playoffs the same way we did last year, with him on the bench in foul trouble relying on Odom and Gasol primarily as our front line. He has proven himself virtually useless against the elites so far, but I hope he can show he can go toe to toe with Perkins in Boston.

    Gasol is much more capable of guarding Shaq than he showed in the 4th quarter, he was just cautious because of foul trouble thereby giving Shaq easy looks (along with Bynum) but Pau did a solid job guarding Shaq when he played for the Suns so it is possible, he just needs to get his head in the game.

    I will NOT excuse Pau going up soft on crucial layup attempts numerous times in the game. In this league you cant be afraid of contact because night in night out you know you are going to get it and against the Cavs he hasn’t shown he is mentally capable of shedding his soft reputation many have of him. I am very tired of seeing 7 footers go up soft and not dunk the ball, guys like Nene, Amare and Hakeem Warrick dunk almost everytime they are in the lane because they finish with fury and power, and look how skinny they are. He went up soft on that last crucial play we all watched and ruined a layup and nice pass by Fisher.

    I agree with what Darius has said about our offense because it essentially is just an isolation offense, we dont really have the talent to run the triangle effectively over long periods of time. Kobe has to go 1 on 5 because quite frankly nobody else has the ability to score when we really need it against good teams and it shows a lack of balance.

    If Mo williams had played that may have been a much uglier loss for us. But one thing is for sure I will cheer my lungs out for Boston and Orlando to beat the Cavs in the playoffs because I have zero confidence in the Lakers ability to beat them in a seven game series.

    Yes we do have a great team, probably still the best in the west but these 2 losses show there is a better team right now in the league. I want to see how this road trip goes and if we struggle and or lose to Boston, I hope Mitch gets on the phones to try to improve the roster in some way because I am beginning to question if currently constructed if we can win it again this year.

    Never thought I’d say this but we miss Ariza ALOT

  32. When’s the last time the Lakers won a big game? I’ve yet to see it happen this season.

    Best record or not, there’s a lot that needs fixing here. Phil was way more animated on the bench than usual tonight, so you know he wanted this one. But the players haven’t figured out what’s missing yet, and frankly, it’s getting late in the year to be this uneven.

    It’s easy to criticize Bynum for “disappearing,” but last I checked centers need to be given the ball before they can do much. Too often the Lakers seem to go to him early, then he never gets more than a handful of token touches again.

    The kid had six points in the first six minutes of the game; three baskets in as many shots, along with five rebounds. You can’t ask for more than that. They were up by three when he checked out.

    Yet in the next 21 minutes of floor time he only managed to get two shots? (Three if you count the time he was sent to the line, which isn’t an official shot.) How exactly does that happen? Hint – it’s not his fault when the ball never comes to his side of the floor.

    Kobe took more shots on his own (31) than the entire starting frontcourt combined (29), yet he shot less than 40 percent from the floor, mostly taking jumpers.

    If the Lakers had made any effort to work inside out, Shaq wouldn’t have been nearly as effective tonight. But he had to exert next to zero energy on defense because the Lakers weren’t even thinking about going inside after the first quarter.

    Work the ball through Drew or Pau, make Shaq play D, and I’d bet you anything he’s tired and ineffective late. Perhaps he’s in foul trouble too. But we won’t know because the Lakers continued to play outside the paint.

    It was the same story against Orlando on Monday. Bynum started off making four of his first five shots, then he only got two more shots off after the 7:13 mark in the second quarter. Huh?

    If he’s effective early — and not in foul trouble — why do they insist on shooting jumpers rather than work inside out, especially when Kobe’s been abysmal from the field of late?

    The same applies to Pau; he’s not getting the ball in the post nearly enough. This comes back on the guards, plain and simple.

    It’s frustrating watching this team play stupidly, win despite itself most nights, but ultimately come up short against good teams.

  33. since the loss is on me, can someone update me as to why “Warren” is a must in the first post, because I can swear its inclusion hasn’t precluded us from losing before.

  34. when i play basket ball at my local YMCA the one thing that i really hate is when everyone calls bull crap fouls when they drive in the lane jump into someone and call foul, if a defender has position and the offensive player jumps into you its either an offensive foul or no call.

    Lebron does this all the time, in one instance you just saw lamar backpeddling behind the basket yet lebron jumps into him and gets the call, stupid.

    Another thing that totally pissed me off if why we didnt attack Lebron’s dribble , his handle is not that good and had the ball stolen at least twice tonight and last year this was how Ariza was really able to bother him. If you give him all that space it wont be a problem for him to gain steam and run you over but force him to cover the ball and he cant do that.

  35. seems like we miss a slasher/good cutter like ariza since everyone wants to play in the post now, and ariza was hitting 3′s way better than fisher/bench by the end of the season

  36. Warren – thanks for that, I forgot we had NY’s next year. I agree completely, I do think drafting intelligently is the best way to get better at a cheap rate. It’s possible to find players who can fit a role without being projects. Even undrafted players like Morrow would have been great fits.

    Interesting note from Clark: Last year, Cleveland was one of the best teams in the league, even winning the most regular season games. Then, they ran into an Orlando Magic team that was just a bad match-up for them. They couldn’t beat the Magic, because they didn’t have the personnel to deal with Dwight Howard and the duo of tall, athletic forwards Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. Why am I bringing this up? Because I can’t fight the feeling that this describes the Cavs-Lakers this year…

    The rest at http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2010/1/21/1264372/lakers-worst-nightmare-realized-in

    It does seem poetically odd that we’ve played like last year’s Cavs in many ways, and now this matchup problem is arising. If neither of our bigs can play well enough to command a double, we will have a lot of trouble riding Kobe’s midrange offense.

    On a side note, I have a renewed appreciation for just how good Shaq was. I dislike him as much as anyone. But even at 37, he manhandles half the league. All these elite defenders – Perkins, Howard – would have looked like fools if they had been around in 2000.

    Imagine how scary Shaq would have been if he had Kobe’s heart and mentality.

  37. The Lakers need to raise their game, but I don’t feel all is lost. Despite all the moaning and groaning, the Lakers on the road had the ball with a tie game with a minute to go, that’s a good enough effort for me. I’m of course unhappy with the loss and a little concerned that Cleveland may indeed be better, but I’m not panicking, there’s still a long way to go in the season.

  38. Q,

    Even by the end of the regular season, Ariza wasn’t shooting threes well. People need to realize that his post-season shooting was a big outlier, as his current numbers in Houston (although heavily deflated) clearly indicate.

  39. People keep referring to Shaq as some 37 year old washed up player but they forget that he is still 7′ tall plus and close to 375 pounds. He is an immovable object. As long as he is allowed to root himself in the key he is still unstoppable. The only thing now is its only for a few spirts in a game. He can still be had on defense because he is big but can be subjected to the pick and roll and passed around. The Lakers did none of this and it contributed to the loss. Pau and Bynum also need to stop using their fouls on LeBron. They must just play tall and put their hands up in the air. It would be nice to see someone take a charge on this guy.

  40. At this point Id rather see Boston in the finals then Cleveland.

    I believe Artest will be more effective against Pierce than he would be against Lebron who’s too athletic.

    Shaq looks like too much for us to handle in the post, with him and Lebron drawing fouls Bynum wont make it past the first few minutes of the game without 2 fouls.

    We can still neglect Rondo and let him shoot open jumpers which is great

  41. i’m done watching the rest of the season guys. its over. lebron is king. crown him now.

    Kurt, how big is Farmar’s frustration right now? His facial expression after Phil jumped out of his chair to call a timeout showed how he really doesn’t want to play the system. A system he’s been in for a few years now. A system that won him a ring.

    Same thing with Shannon. Someone mentioned it earlier in the other thread where Shannon dribbles and lamar is just sidestepping down the court with hands up asking for the ball and shannon just takes a weak screen, looks back and shoots a jumper. Reminds me of NBA2k10 when I play my Player and im asking for the ball and no one passes it to me.

    Now I’m focused on the next game. The Knicks may not seem like a challenge tomorrow, but it’s the second night of back to backs. we just got beat in a high emotion game.

  42. just recalling how the game played out and i thought the biggest problem was on the defensive end really. you’ll have off-nights on offense, but there’s no such thing on D. i think the daggers were the three’s made by Parker and Z (not sure which quarters were those).

    it’s true Lebron will get his points, Shaq’s size will be a difference-maker. But leaving guys open for three’s — either because you want to gamble on the fact they’ll miss or you’ll just lazy to rotate — is such a mortal sin, especially against a Cavs team that is a serious threat from the outside. (remember how Mike Fratello kept bringing it up on the broadcast, “Z is a 53 percent shooter from 3-point territory.” — or something to that effect.)

  43. Hi guys,

    What kick to the crotch. Maybe keep Kobe´s numbers to 15 a game on this trip, and let the bigs figure it out while he heals…?

    Any postgame interviews published? Only found Cavs interviews on their website.

  44. From Wojnarowski´s column on Yahoo.com:

    “Jackson had dismissed the Cavaliers as legitimate rivals, even refused to treat this game as vital with his decision to keep Bryant out longer in the fourth than the Cavaliers did with James. When James hit a three-pointer with five and a half minutes left to push the Cavs out, 83-80, you could see Bryant barking down the bench to Jackson. The coach ignored him, and waited until they had lost the lead for good.”

    This makes me think that Phill might have played this as a mind game, he wants to push the team towards the edge, make the feel the urgency again.

  45. I didn’t see the game–but I’m very depressed.

    Looking at the box score, I see 6′s–Lakers take 6 more shots, Kobe taking 6 more shots than Labron, Labron scoring 6 more points than Kobe–6 point loss.

  46. 20 R- In the 4th, the cavs were sending Varejao to set a screen which lead to a switch off like 5 times and every time LO was the one letting uncontested J’s rain on him. In LO’s defense, when you are playing a guy with the talent and speed Lebron has on the wing, you know that if you put your hands up for a shot he can blow right past you so you have to decide on letting him have the J’ or letting him drive and get your team in foul trouble/convert layups.

  47. What did people think of PJ’s decision to use Gasol to constantly double LBJ no matter how well/poorly Artest was guarding LBJ? It seemed to rigid and LBJ killed us with his pinpoint passes to Hickson who had a dunkfest in the first half. I understand helping Artest with LBJ, but the weak “double-team” seemed to mechanical and predictable, and against LBJ, he’ll kill you for that.

    Also, let’s squash any trade rumors for other bigs. It’s clear we’ll need Bynum’s size inside after watching Gasol guard centers. I can’t imagine Gasol banging night in and out with centers.

    That being said, good to see Kobe reemerge in the first half. Artest made LBJ work for his in the first half as well. This will hopefully spark some fire and bode well for the rest of the trip. Remember, we were 0-2 versus Orlando last year.

  48. maybe a silver lining: with Mo out for a month, we still have a great shot to outpace the Cavs for homecourt.

  49. What worries me the most is the possibility of bad habits starting to form, if they haven’t already. Yes, even though bad habits can be corrected, you would think that an experiened championship team wouldn’t need to correct so many things. When the Lakers lose, or even when they win but don’t play well, it’s usually due to the intangibles of the game. Lack of intensity, lack of hustle, not playing smart, no focus, not wanting it bad enough, etc. These things should never be an issue! When was the last time the Lakers lost when they played a good to great game, but the other team simply was better that night? I can’t remember. In situations like that, it’s much easier to accept a rare loss and just tip your cap to the other team. But to lose because we keep making the same stupid mental mistakes over and over again is unacceptable!

    Kobe said after last night’s game that he thinks they were a little hungrier last season than they have been so far this season. How is that possible?! If someome gave me a million dollars this year and I had a chance to get another million next year, I’m not going to say “well, I already got my million last year, so I don’t want it as bad next year.” What?! Are you kidding me?! They should want it just as bad, if not more, because they know that other teams are going to be hungrier! You would think that they would understand these things by now. Who knows, maybe they’ll learn. I’m sure we all hope so. But then again, maybe it’s just who they are…

  50. I take solace in a few things

    A) The Lakers still aren’t clicking on offense, yet we were still a Pau layup away from being up 2 with less than a minute on their home court. On top of that, the entire game mirrored how we played in the first round of the playoffs last year. Get out early, then get lax, and try to turn it on late. A little consistent energy is all we needed to win the game. That will come when the stakes are highest.

    B) Kobe is going to go into murder mode the rest of the season. Any more soft games like that from Pau and Kobe might punch him.

  51. Is anyone concerned about Leon Powe coming off the Cav’s bench in the playoffs?

  52. I also think we have to take into account that teams/key players tend to play at a higher level immediately following the loss/injury of a key player (i.e. Kobe’s 61at MSG last year). The Cavs seemed to step up their game to rally around their loss of Mo Williams. Kudos to them, they played well and hard, and made no excuses.

  53. I’m not sure if someone pointed this out, but Ron Artest’s play, especially on offense, was highly disappointing to me. Even on defense he made some mistakes. I remember a specific play where he left Lebron who was only one pass away to run out on Z who had the ball about 18 ft from the basket and Pau Gasol close by. That meant Fisher covered Lebron and left a man wide open in the corner. Z found man and 3 points were scored. Artest needs to show more discipline on both offense and defense.

    The game overall, I’d say i feel depressed. The one game doesn’t mean anything long-term, but the Lakers clearly struggle with Lebron (what team doesn’t?). I’m not sure how any team is supposed to deal with his incredible skill-set.

    Bynum will need to step up and do a better job on Shaq defensively if there is a next time around. Offensively, he never got into a good flow. Hopefully Bynum can become a more consistent point of strength as the season wears on.

  54. 50 – I am also trying to take solace in tonight’s Knicks game. I’m scrambling on Craig’s List to pick up decently priced seats to watch Kobe and the Lakers unleash their anger.

  55. The scary thing about this game is that everyone is saying the Lakers didn’t play well and haven’t given Cleveland their best game, but in my opinion, CLEVLAND not LA has more room to grow as a team. Last night they were without Mo Williams and Jamario Moon (who both killed us on X-mas) and they will be getting Leon Powe back, who was a beast off the bench for Boston. Not only that, but everyone seems to think the Cavs are going to trade Z for someone like Jamison and then buy him out.

    Despite Kobe’s greatness, he’s never been a difference maker against the Cavs – they seem to guard wing players very well. Bigs and quick point guards have ALWAYS plagued the Cavs. We have no advantage over them at PG and so far this season, our biggest advantage, (Gasol/Bynum/Odom) has been completely neutralized. Everyone criticized the Cavs for getting Shaq – Danny Ferry looks like a genius right now. Cavs 3-0 vs us and Magic.

  56. When Lebron and Shaq are getting the calls, and Pau and Andrew are not, that will affect things.

    It should not, but it does.

    I would love to see Gasol or Bynum show a mean streak from time to time, especially when they are getting mugged on the post.

    Hit someone with a FOUL. Get your money’s worth out of it, make the game a bit more physical and force the referees to keep it in hand. That is the way to even out the whistles. Whining, complaining, pleading, pouting, none of that junk turns a referee around.

    Knocking Lebron, or Shaq, to the hardwood does.

    Gasol and Bynum are a bit soft at the moment, and should be encouraged to dominate physically. Not just skill, not just hustle, not just effort. Put that big body on someone hard, and be a big man.

    On the other hand, this is January, this is a Phil team, and the intensity will ratchet up as we get nearer to the summer.

  57. THAT was a Cleveland Cavaliers game. Lebron put his imprint and boosted the confidence and energy level of his team and they made the tough shots and made the hustle plays to turn the tide in their favor.

    Definitely agree with Kurt that this team is reminiscent of the 04′ squad. In the second it was essentially pass pass iso, jump shot. Then Cle boxes everyone out, and they just let Lebron bull doze his way to a bucket or a jumper.

    First things first, the Lakers need to get the bigs involved in the offense. Bynum was shackled by foul trouble but didn’t take the initiative to post up Shaq like that first Christmas game. Pau was hesitant, and settled for jumpers and didn’t bring the tenacity when he did drive the ball. HE WAS SOFT. By not having that post game established the Cavs didn’t have to double team outside of Kobe.

    The Cavs rebound the ball, box out, and seal very well. They finish their job on defense. The Lakers do not. This has been prevalent the entire season, the Lakers as a whole need to decide that they are going to muscle their men away from the ball and finish their defensive assignments. Too many times the Lakers give up an offensive rebound and those are the momentum changers.

    Finally, Lebron James is great fact. However, you still need to make him take tough shots. What in the world is Lamar doing not contesting shots. Yes he needs to protect the drive, but with his length he should have his hands up and make it uncomfortable for James to take his shots. He didn’t and James got in a groove in the 4th, game over. Granted Lamar finally got one good contest and that is the difference between an excellent look and a contested look.

    Hopefully this is the wake up call that the Lakers need. I love how the Lakers still haven’t reached their full potential, and wonder if they can dig in and show some heart and pride the rest of the season.

  58. You all are making very valid points. I too am very very concerned about playing Lebron and the Cavs in the Finals. At this rate our bigs are not ready for that battle. What I do know is that Denver, Houston and Portland are tough teams also and before getting to the Cavs or Celts…we have to first take care of these folks. Kareem can’t teach Big Arnold toughness and Fish really needs to shot 1000 3′s a day for us to compete.

  59. Kobe needs to shoot less and shoot more free throws. He is working way to hard before the all star break. Oh yeah…I miss ARIZA too!

  60. Many good points here…so far…

    I thought that the blame for the loss should go to everyone including Kobe, not just to our bigs though Pau’s mental mistakes (missed layups, FT’s, and failing to box out and get the rebound off LBJ’s missed FT) were huge.

    On defense, I don’t know why we are doubling LBJ early in the game. It only helped J.J. Hickson to get off to a good start with dunks and layups. Ron Artest might not stop LBJ, but we should let him play one-on-one, even if he goes off like Kobe did in the first quarter. On the other hand, Kobe needs to be in the facilitator mode early in the game to make sure he gets his teammates involved. I think he was determined to get out to a good start because he had such a bad shooting game against Orlando. That brings to the next point. We have too many post players right now (which is a luxury). Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Ron, Luke, and even Lamar are trying establish position in the post in this offense. Bulls used Jordan as a post option but his bigs were guys who liked to take 15-18 footers, Longley and Grant. In our offense Pau and Bynum should be our first option for post because they are most effective when they are down low. Pau can also play high when Bynum’s in, but when both Ron and Kobe tries to establish post position, often Bynum and Pau have no where to go because neither are know as cutters. That brings to my next point which is lack of cutters. When Ariza left, not only did we lose speed in transition game, but we lost a great cutter and offensive rebounder. How many Ariza highlights did we see last year when he flew in from the weakside to dunk after getting an offensive rebound? We don’t have that in Artest, whose leaping ability is very similar to Luke Walton’s. Not only that, he doesn’t make crisp cuts like Ariza did. When Farmar or Brown dives, we’ve had some success but that leaves us vulnerable to fastbreak for the other team since they’re not in position to get back on D.

    I hope that we make adjustments to make sure that Bynum is our #1 post option whenever he’s in the game until the 4th quarter when Kobe or Pau should be such. Artest should try to spot up on the wing or corner as much as possible and work on feeding the bigs. Too often, he just gives the ball to Kobe to please him. He is seriously infatuated with Kobe. When Bynum’s out, they need to establish Pau’s post game with Lamar, Farmar, and Brown making cuts. Pau will hit them for easy layups time and time again or he can score with his hook shots from either hand. Finally, Kobe needs to take a step back and use his bigs more. Lately, he is taking way too many shots. He is partially to blame for this loss because he failed in the second half. He is not managing game very well because he needed to involve his teammates early and take over down the stretch like Lebron did. Very rarely, Kobe stays hot from the first quarter till the fourth. He needs to be more selective when to take over the game.

    Defensively, I thought we did well except for losing the rebounding battle, but I’m not too disheartened because JJ Hickson will not go for 14 and 10 consistently. He has the talent but he is inconsistent. This was his first double-double of the season, and it was only possible because we paid too much attention to Lebron. We should treat Lebron like CP3 or Nash. Let him score with jumpers. Just don’t let him dunk or get And1s. I think if he scores 40 but gets only 4-5 assists, we can beat this team. But when he gets 37 points and 9 assists, it will be difficult to beat them.

  61. not a great game, but i thought the lakes played pretty well for most of it. there were plenty of mistakes on both sides, but that’s basketball. in the end, i think it just came down to the fact that the lakers are the defending champs and cleveland is the team that wants to be defending champs. at least that’s how it played out last night. we’ll see if they meet up again in the pos.

  62. 8) Busboy,
    “Shannon played alright but he played outside of the offense and couldn’t get the ball to fall tonight. Farmar was rushing as usual and screwed the flow of the offense up which meant we had to go back to Fisher.”

    And that’s why Fisher is still the starter. I don’t think management was planning on him still being the starter this year.

  63. Trevor Ariza is not walking through that door. Can we stop with the Trevor v. Artest comments already? Let Simmons have at it and move on to the team we do have.

    The game was close to the end. As is usually the case, what makes a man great is his downfall. This is the nature of tragedy and we sit watching a game where all the mortal foibles are made evident in a 48 minute run of a clock. If only Juliet had woken a moment earlier. If only Michael Corleone were willing to take his family and disappear. If only Wile E. Coyote had a yen for farm raised chicken.

    This team frustrates and elates in near equal parts. This has been it’s character since Phil came back. We know Gasol is capable of taking on and dishing out punishment. We saw it last year. We know PJ is a great coach and gets his players peaking for the playoffs. We know that both Kobe and Phil use the regular season to experiment and sometimes lose games in order to bring lessons closer to their target for the final goal. That is the team we have and wishing it to be different makes some sense if we were the Timberwolves, or the Wiz. These are the Lakers. Enjoy.

    If Kobe’s finger is healed by the playoffs, he’ll not shoot under 40% from the field and 70% from the line. How many points difference do those percentage points make up? I’d take the over on 6.

  64. New game thread post up.