We all know the old fable of the tortoise vs. the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. Against the Sixers, the Lakers definitely looked slow. And while they weren’t that steady, they were stable enough to pull out a win against a game opponent. And for that, they deserve some credit.
But not too much. Because the Lakers didn’t play particularly well. As Phil Jackson would say after the game Lakers didn’t play with much urgency and didn’t play with a lot of smarts, but against an overmatched opponent it still proved to be enough. And even though Philly is not in the same league as the Lakers in terms of talent, they found ways to pester the Lakers for most of this drawn out affair. To many, it looked like the Lakers weren’t trying. However, what I saw was a Lakers team that found themselves matched up against an opponent that continued to use the one advantage it had over a bigger opponent, which was their speed. Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday, and Andre Iguodala pushed the ball at every opportunity against the Lakers and sprinted their way to transition baskets for themselves and for a hustling Sammy Dalembert. Dalembert was the recipient of a variety of nice passes and found himself in a clean up role for a lot of misses by his mates as the Lakers bigs had to help a lot on penetrating guards in both the half court and transition. The race was on and the Sixers were sprinting their way to a lead.
But that lead would be tentative all night as the Lakers advantage – their size – asserted itself. Both Gasol and Bynum were dominant inside for most of this evening and the Sixers just did not have an answer for them in the paint. Pau and Drew combined for 43 points and 24 rebounds (10 offensive) by using their incredible size and length advantage against the Philly frontline. And even though the Sixers continued to push the ball, sending waves of athletes at the Lakers (when it wasn’t the aforementioned trio of Iggy/Lou/Jrue it was Rodney Carney and Thad Young and Speights), the size of the Lakers proved to be too much as our bigs eventually found ways to clog the lane and contest shots. Ultimately turning misses into defensive rebounds and opportunities to go the other way and pound Philly inside again and again.
Over the course of the second half, the Lakers bigs stayed true to the old fable and won the race with their slow and steady approach and tonight it was enough. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, for most of the evening it was downright boring (save for a few alley oops in the first quarter and some intensity down the stretch where the crowd finally showed some life). But just as the tortoise always did in the story we read when we were kids, the Lakers (and their big men) pulled out this win.
A couple of other notes on this one:
*Kobe played an okay game in terms of stats (19 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds). He was definitely looking to pass the ball early in the game and I think that lead to the success that our big men had as he was actively seeking out our bigs – though at times to the detriment to the flow of our offense as he seemed to overpass in certain circumstances. I agree with what Phil said in his post game presser – Kobe still seems to be finding his way and is trying to strike the proper balance with his mates while still searching for all the facets of his game. Against Memphis, Kobe was hot with his jumper but did not have much success going to the hoop. Against Dallas, Kobe was out of rhythm in general for most of the night but tried to shoot his way out of it (eventually doing just that in the 3rd quarter, only to not have that final dagger in his bag). Against Philly, he seemed to try and let the offense come to him more early in the game while getting aggressive in the second half with drives to the cup. I think we’ll see him find his groove and strike that balance soon.
*Will we ever see a 40% night from behind the arc again? Another night with a 5-14 from three point range for this team. Sadly, this has been the Lakers season when shooting from distance and I think we’re all just going to have to hope that in key games the shooting reverts to past season’s success, even if there is no evidence shown this season that inspires fans to think that night is really going to come. Against a team that has no chance against us inside (like Philly) a night like this may not mean much, but against other teams we will need better shooting.
*I thought a lot of Philly’s run outs were because of poor floor balance by the Lakers, but upon further review I think it had more to do with the pure speed of the Sixers players. They were able to secure rebounds and just go and I think their running effort was aided a great deal by the fact that Iguodala secured nine defensive rebounds and was able to turn almost every single one of those boards into a running chance (similar to what we see from Odom on many nights). When you have a wing/ball handler that is rebounding well, it adds a dimension to your offense and I think Philly benefitted a great deal from that in this game.
*Even though I mentioned that Philly is not nearly as talented as the Lakers, they do have some nice players. They’re very athletic and their guys can finish in the paint. But like I said in the game preview, I think they’re mismatched for the style of offense that they run. Throughout the game, you saw Eddie Jordan furiously yelling at his guys to run the proper sets, when in reality – even for a young team – that shouldn’t be the case for a team that runs the Princeton offense. Like the Triangle, the Princeton set is a read and react system where players should be moving in unison, setting screens, and back dooring the opponent on overplays. Philly didn’t do much of this and instead had most of their success off isolation dribble penetration where cutters became open because their man was forced to help in the paint, not because of any built in actions of their sets. I worry for Eddie Jordan with this group because this roster is not a good match for what he wants to accomplish on offense.