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Lakers/76ers: The Tortoise & The Hare

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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.

Reader Interactions


  1. Tonight the bigs in the middle had a good night as was noted in the post. We do need that outside threat though to open up the middle for our front line. This hopefully will magically change, and maybe our shooters will make their shots at a decent clip during th later part of the season and the Playoffs to come.


  2. Nice observations on the Philly offense. I actually played that offense many years ago in Collage. It is a reaction offense based on pre-set options and not best suited for a young team made up of one and out collage players. More difficult to learn then triangle and as we know Ron, Shannon and Farmer still haven’t figured that one out. Doubt if jordan is back next year with the type of players they have.


  3. Jordan always struck me as an oddball hire for the personnel that this team had, and it’s pretty evident that his system isn’t working — Philly has the same offensive efficiency as last year (19th to 20th) while taking a big nosedive in defensive efficiency (14th to 20th). Defense and forcing turnovers that turn into easy transition baskets is what a large part of this team was based on, and it’s why they enjoyed a measure of success in the ’07-’08 season. Trying to force a system onto these players is simply counterproductive; it’s hamstrung their biggest advantage and simply exposed how mediocre they are in other areas.


  4. A little perspective! First off, someone in the other thread called it perfectly at half time. His name was like one tree hill or something, and the guy called it –he said no team can play 100% for 82 games per year. That a team as good as the Lakers should take it easy against the crappy teams and take it when it matters. That they would lead by 4 going into the 4th and win by 9 or so. He was perfectly on! And i agree with him.

    Let us remember a few things, the Lakers didn’t play great basketball all of last year either. Don’t you remember going to 7 games against Houston or how we sometimes lost to crappy teams during the regular season?

    The one alarming difference i see this year is our lack of winning against elite teams like Cleveland/Nuggets/etc. Last year we were winning against these elite teams. THis may simply be mental.

    Another issue is the offense is not the same. Luckily the defense is better.

    Now for the good news, we have the 2nd best record in the league and have the biggest point differential which most “experts” believe is the most telling sign of a potential champion. The Lakers aren’t playing that bad if they have the biggest point differential, are they?

    And i saw some great signs today. Our players were PASSING! Bynum was PASSING! He looked awesome out there. Kobe was facilitating! He did look a little old on offense which is a worry. He is still not back to form yet as his midrange game is gone and he is looking for fouls instead of composing himself before shooting. But the offense looked much better today.

    The defense with all those open layups, not so much. That was really bothering me.

    Overall, let’s not worry. This is the regular season. I expect it to be tough to win a back to back ring, but it can be done! This lakers team DOES have the tools to make it happen. They are still the most talented team.


  5. “The problem is we’re not focused all the time,” Bynum said. “We’re looking ahead to the playoffs.”

    i think this quote from Bynum after the game, sums up the mental state of the lakers.

    i’m just worried that they think they already deserve to be in the playoffs..


  6. Switch Reel

    Shawn Livingston just got picked up by Washington. I was always surprised that Phil didn’t go after him. He could be a good defender without a shot. I think his injury really ended what could have been a pretty good career.


  7. 13-31 i just hope that they can still turn it on when they have to. we all know they have what it takes, but it’s at times frustratingly all up to them. clearly they must be undermining their opponents if they think this will be much like last year. no it won’t. at last year’s rate of competition, we were on the edge of our seats. better not wait for anything worse.

    dallas warming up is a good thing for western conference competition. san antonio did not live up to expectations thus far and so the west big 3 pretty much are LAL, DEN and DAL which many predicted will be contenders from the get go. WE NEED to win against denver. sure it may help if they have overconfidence but what if they just had the right blend of confidence and play? we can’t allow them to think that. eminds me of a championship from not-so-long ago.

    j.r.’s encouraging observations is a good start because i don’t think kobe will stand pat with 14-16 shots next time.



  8. I didn’t comment on the game thread because it’s just utterly disgusting to look upon.
    Listen, I know we all want them to play hard and bring effort every game. That being given, yes, it’s a pain not to see it every game. So what? It’s not like we’re fighting for playoff position. We didn’t play 70% of our strength, heck, it’s not even 60%, but we still won. We. Still. Won. Now, I know it’s something to worry about, we question their efforts and them having no passion whatsoever. But who’s to blame? They haven’t played up to their expectations (in your standards, by the way), but still they are 1.5 games behind Cleveland. And here’s the shocker: We are 4.5 games ahead of Denver.
    Again, we are fans so that’s a given, but to question them and say things to them as if we really feed them (buying Lakers paraphernalia feeds the staff and respective assistants, except for Kobe’s), that’s another thing. I bet my life you won’t win when you play against one of them (maybe Fisher, that’s another story…..), so right now, we have to be patient.
    The road to the ring is still through us, so just enjoy the ride and have fun.
    We can complain then and there but don’t speak as if we’re out of the playoff picture, lottery-bound. The ride might not be pretty, but it’s not the ride that’s important, it’s the destination. And hey, maybe, we’re DESTINATION BACK-TO-BACK. (oops, i can’t turn off my caps-lock).


  9. Re: 40% from behind the arc

    Sorry, but we were one lucky bounce from 40%. 6/14 > 40%. We were 5/14. This isn’t an important difference.

    The league average is 35%. Lakers are shooting 34,5%. We are OK. Lakers weren’t constructed to winning from downtown.

    As long as Gasol/Bynum are 19/33 I accept even 0 for 0 from behind the arc.


  10. Hate to equate Phil to Eddie Jordan, but I guess I will anyway. Phil is so set on maintaining his continuity and not riding the hot hand that he sometimes handicaps his teams unnecessarily during parts of the games.

    In the 4th Andrew was in a groove – and against this team that means very good things – but Phil just couldn’t resist pulling him midway through. I thought that made the game closer than it had to be between the 6min mark and the 2min mark. Sort of like the time he told Tex he was going to pull Kobe and Tex said, “No, you can’t; he’s got 77 points”.


  11. 5 TRad: You’re right about our team not being built for living behind the 3 but the importance of efficient outside shooting directly effects our inside efficiency. If the defense knows that they can fade off of our guards from outside, than our inside players are practically playing 3 on 5. That would be really hard for our bigs to be efficient in that circumstance.

    Nobody is looking for this team to shoot 7/14 or 8/16 night in and night out but 5/13 or even 4/11 would be enough to make our guards’ presence felt for the defense. You need a well balanced team to truley be an offensive threat. The “front court juggernaut” everyone wants us to be is impossible without some backcourt subordination. (Didn’t deliberately refer to Pau in the group of juggernauts)


  12. jeremyLA24,
    I think you hit upon it. Andrew should have said we were playing 3 on 5, not 5 on 8, and he would have been able to get his cousin a Hyundai today.

    P.S. Sasha is looking better in his absense, isn’t he? Whoops! Now I started another group of comments.


  13. 10) – At halftime Norm Nixon made comments along the same lines. Basically he talked about how players are a little thrown off by Phil’s rotations.

    The last thing I am doing is questioning a guy that’s been to the summit 10 times. But it is worth noting.


  14. It sometimes seems that Phil isn’t following the game, but looking at the time left in the quarter. All part of the “letting them play” persona he likes to put out there, I guess.

    The old saw that Phil couldn’t coach young players is pretty much dead now, but this obsession with routine would seem harder on the youngsters, who feel they want to continue when they get in a groove – and have the stamina to do so.


  15. My god, I love that we have Ron Artest on our team because of gems like this:

    “In the course of conversation, Ron Ron noted he once had a goal of getting up to a solid 280.

    Da-yum, that’s big. I figured there must be a reason, right? “Why?” I asked. “What would you gain on the floor at that weight?”

    “Nothing,” he replied. “Just would have been a 280 (pound) small forward.”



  16. Another Laker game, another poor shooting night from Fisher. The man knows how to talk good game but doesn’t play that way.


  17. 8.
    “They haven’t played up to their expectations (in your standards, by the way)”
    actually, a few players wondered about beating chicago’s 72-10 single season record and only kobe commented on how hard it is breaking chicago’s record
    So, it’s not really JUST our standards, they had pretty bold expectations too


  18. Someone earlier posted about LA playing about 70 to 80 percent against sub .500’s and still winning. The problem is not with the sub .500 teams, its that LA seems to play with the same inconsistent, turnover prone ball when they are playing against the better teams in the league. Thats what is troubling me about the teams mindset.

    Playing the tortoise role has become a bad habit this year. It would be a perfect plan if LA had proved that they could hit that extra gear against stiffer competition. So far this season LA has not seperated their style of play from the bad teams to the good teams.

    I quess us fans will have to wait until the playoffs to actually see the real LA team stand up. Till then I think we should expect the worst and hope for the best when the ball goes up.