Lakers/Magic: Lakers Fall In Familiar Fashion

Darius Soriano —  March 7, 2010

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In what has been an all too familiar theme of late, the Lakers fought back from a deficit, had a chance to win a game, and came up just short.  The Lakers just didn’t have enough plays in them at the end of this contest to make up for the plays they gave away in earlier portions of the game.  And so, for the first time since acquiring Pau Gasol a bit over two full season’s worth of games ago, the Lakers have lost three straight and find themselves in a position where there are a lot of questions and not a lot of easy answers.  In a way, this game was a microcosm of the Lakers entire season.  The Lakers played well in spurts, and despite facing deficits as large as twelve, they were effectively in this game for most of the contest.  They have the talent and the fight to come back in any game and they showed that fight in the 4th quarter today.  But the issues that have plagued this team for most of the season were present throughout the game.

The Lakers weren’t able to keep Orlando’s perimeter defense honest by making outside shots and finished just 5-17 from behind the three point line.  And because the Lakers weren’t making the long ball, our bigs found themselves either not able to receive viable entry passes due to sagging defenders or had to deal with helping perimeter defenders when they did get the ball.  And having helping defenders in the lap of the Lakers’ bigs then bothered and pestered them when going into their offensive moves.  Understand, that a key component to the  Triangle offense is spacing.  And without that spacing, passing angles get shut down, our post play suffers, and our offense becomes stagnant.   A stagnant offense means less ball movement and more individual play.  And while the Lakers have great talent, not every player on the team is talented as an individual scorer.  Obviously Kobe, Pau, and Bynum have proven themselves capable of scoring in one on one situations.  And Odom and Artest also have a history of being players that can capably create their own offense.  However, the rest of this team relies on (or is best served relying on) the movement of the offense to get good shots.  And when they can’t rely on that movement, they’re put in situations where they’re working harder for diminished results.  This leads to team wide inefficiency on offense.  We saw it today like we’ve seen it for too many games this season.

On defense, the Lakers couldn’t contain dribble penetration by Orlando’s guards/wings and didn’t rebound as well as they needed to on the defensive glass.  Again, familiar themes.  On Orlando’s P&R, Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter were able to get into the paint and either draw fouls or finish at the rim.  And when they didn’t get the whistle or the bucket, they compromised our interior defense and created easy offensive rebounding opportunities.  Orlando had 15 offensive boards and those rebounds often led to finishes in the paint or more fouls that resulted in FT’s for the Magic.  But it didn’t even take the P&R for the Lakers to give up angles to the rim off the dribble as Nelson and Carter were getting into the lane even without the aid of a Lewis or Howard screen.  And even though Bynum and Gasol finished with a combined six blocked shots, Orlando still got into the paint far too frequently which compromised our team defense, got Bynum in foul trouble that plagued him the entire game, and got our help defenders into scramble mode.  Overall, this wasn’t a poor defensive game for the Lakers as they held the Magic to an offensive efficiency a full 4 points below their season average, but it was a performance that was eerily familiar to us that watch the Lakers play on a nightly basis.

But, this game was not all bad.  Despite the criticisms just offered against the Lakers defense, the Lakers did do some things well on that end of the floor.  Bynum and Gasol did an admirable job on Dwight Howard and held him 15 points on 14 shots.  Rashard Lewis, despite hitting a couple of big jumpers, was also held down for long stretches of this game and only shot 4-13 on his way to a 12 point outing.  The Lakers also forced 19 turnovers, by fighting through screens, having active hands in both the passing lanes and in helping on penetration, and also had those aforementioned six blocked shots.  This grittiness on defense is also a season long theme and I think the Lakers deserve credit for being a tough team to score on in most of the ways that teams try to attack them.  And, as I mentioned earlier, the Lakers also showed that they have heart and fight to come back in a game where all is seemingly lost.  Down ten points heading into the 4th quarter the Lakers pushed forward, hit shots, attacked the basket, played tough D, and made a game of it.  Kobe played his tail off down the stretch and even though he had some misses, when the pressure was on he also hit some unbelievable (for most players anyway) jumpers that kept the Lakers close and gave them a chance to tie the game at the end.  When he rose up to shoot that final 21 footer from the top of the circle, I had a good feeling that it would fall – like so many others have fallen this season – but it was not to be.  As I’ve been saying a lot this season, Kobe in full on come back mode is something special to see and I am continually impressed by his ability to hit shots that few other players could even get at the basket if attempted, much less bury.

But, this praise does not ignore the fact that this team has its issues right now.  I consistently try to find the good in this team and that is not a difficult thing to do as you scan the line up, see the talent, and inevitably notice all the good that they accomplish every game.  But the bad is there as well and it’s been there for long stretches this season.  As I mentioned earlier, the outside shooting is a real problem.  The Lakers’ lack of perimeter (especially three point) shooting creates a domino effect on offense that is difficult to overcome.  Those struggles are matched by the inconsistency of our guard play.  Many harp on Fisher, and after another 4-12 night, I don’t (really) blame them.  But Farmar also had another lackluster night with zeroes in the shooting and scoring department and lapses on defense that allowed his man into the paint more often than a player of his athleticism should allow.  And Shannon, though a spark in the open court, is still flashing his lack of true PG instincts in both the half court and in fast break situations that show again why the coaches have played him almost exclusively at shooting guard this season.  Without consistent guard play it will be difficult for this team to win games in the comfortable manner that their top end should allow (I don’t think it’s coincidence that the Lakers best performances this season weren’t because Kobe went crazy but because our guards made shots and had a real impact on the game).

Just two three quick other notes to this game:

*This game was the chippy affair that you would expect between the two teams that squared off in the Finals last season.  Both teams were aggressive and physical and it led to double technicals, double fouls, and this.  Based off that video, you can see that Matt Barnes was in the middle of a lot of this stuff.  He is a player that has an edge to him and he definitely played with that edge tonight.

*For all the harping on Gasol’s physicality, I thought he did a good job of fighting through a lot of pushing and holding that was being implored against him.  Some may say that Gasol’s attempts to push back were a bit whiny, but I didn’t see it that way.  Understand that Gasol, fair or not, is viewed as a soft player that will succumb to physical play.  That inspires the players that guard him to try and be even more physical with him in order to make him wilt.  Now, put yourself in his shoes – how would you respond if almost every player that guarded you took every liberty within (and some outside) the rule book in terms of physical play and did that to you on almost every possession.  I don’t want to make excuses for Pau, but he faces some sort of dirty play almost nightly and I’m sure he’s tiring of it right now.  Last season, I know that Phil played Pau heavy minutes and rode him the entire season to get him mentally and physically prepared for the type of play that he was going to face.  I wonder, if the injuries that Pau had this year cost Phil his chance to put Pau through the proverbial wringer again this season to get his big man ready.

*Bynum didn’t have a great offensive night, but I was impressed with his activity on defense.  While he could have done somewhat of a better job on the P&R as a helper, he was good on the glass and had 4 blocks.  The next step in his evolution as a defender is to play without fouling and if he can get to that point he will be a special, special defender.  Andrew, admittedly in limited minutes, was +10 on the night and it was obvious why.  He gave Howard real problems when he contested Dwight’s rolling hook and drop step moves and was just solid on D.  Like I said, if he could have played without fouling, I think his presence could have meant a few more stops and a securing of a few more defensive rebounds over the course of the game.

Darius Soriano

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55 responses to Lakers/Magic: Lakers Fall In Familiar Fashion

  1. All in all, not the post All-Star-break surge I was hoping for.

    This postseason will be a fun one. Not nearly as clear-cut as we thought it would be back in November. While there are things we can do better in terms of offensive and defensive execution, I have a feeling more than one game (likely a whole series) will come down to if anyone can get hot from beyond the arc.

  2. Darius, great point about Pau’s toughness/softness. I remember an article from several years ago (during the three peat) about Kobe. They talked about his fight with Reggie Miller and attributed Kobe’s aggression to escalating frustration. The frustration, as noted by one of Kobe’s teammates (I think it was Rick Fox, don’t remember), was due to “people trying to test him”.

    The same thing is happening with Pau this year. He has a target on his back – as a champion, a highly renowned big man (widely considered to be the “most skilled”), and as a “softie”. As a result, everyone is trying to test him. That’s a lot of pressure to deal with at once, particularly for a guy who just a couple years ago had never won a playoff game.

    Hence, let’s give him some breathing room. Let him deal with it however he deems necessary, whether it’s dunks or flagrant fouls. I’m comfortable with Pau fighting his way through this – and it’s going to be a difficult learning process – during the regular season. You can always become more battle-tested, so this could be good for Pau come playoff time.

  3. Pau looked rattled. That guy has no chance at guarding Howard. Barnes got under Kobe’s skin. Kobe likes to trash-talk inferior players to psyche them out, something he did successfully to Pietrus last year in the Finals. However, this year, Barnes is not the kind of player that’s going to allow Bryant to freely trash-talk as is his style. The Lakers should be concerned.

  4. Fisher played the best defense of all our guards. When Farmar came in, Nelson just blew by him 3 times in a row early in the 4th which got Farmar yanked back to the bench. Brown was pretty much invisible, because he’s caught in that awkward “combo guard” space between a true PG and a true SG; he’s not fast enough to guard PG’s like Nelson, but he’s not big enough to guard SG’s like Vince Carter. It was Fisher that came in in the 4th and played some great defense, drew 3 offensive fouls, and successfully funneled Nelson into help (leading to a couple blocks by Gasol and Bynum).

    The worst thing about the Bynum fouls was because they came off penetration, not off Howard. Bynum did such an amazing job holding off Howard one-on-one that Howard was pretty much neutralized when Bynum was on the court. However, when Bynum went to the bench, Howard took advantage and just used his size to overpower Gasol.

    Ron Artest did a solid job on VC after the 1st quarter, but he guarded Carter way too tight in the 1st. Carter just blew by him, leading to his 10-10 from the free throw line in the 1st. The key is to turn Carter into a jump shooter, because his love affair with threes is quite frankly, one-sided.

  5. This is a very sobering piece from DexFish’s great recap:

    “As a team the Lakers had an Effective Field-Goal Percentage of 40%. That’s poisonously bad. Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Jordan Farmar – four of their key perimeter shooters – combined to shoot 14 for 41 (34%) on two point shots and 4 for 15 (27%) on threes…For the three-game road trip, the Lakers shot 14 of 58 (24%) on three-point attempts.

    This is not aberrant. The Lakers aren’t a good shooting team. They’re an average shooting team that’s worse than average on threes. And this, to me, is where the “flip the switch” hypothesis starts to wobble. I get you can summon greater effort and intensity in the playoffs. You can defend harder, you can shorten your rotations, you can fight for rebounding position with more verve than you bring on an afternoon in early March. But how do you just decide to start making shots? Outside shooting isn’t a function of effort. It’s a function of being good at shooting.”

    Very true, and that’s what scares me the most. Someone getting hot will be a result of luck more than anything else.

  6. I was thinking about something the other day, can’t remember if I posted it. What if the Machine comes back from his hiatus suddenly fixed? What if he actually sprained his right shoulder back into alignment? What if the time off is good for him psychologically? He’s always in the gym, shooting so many jumpers it’s unhealthy. What if this time off helps calm down his neuroticism and helps him perform in games?

    If it happens, I called it first right here.

  7. Gasol’s defense all night long was bad. Andrew was much better guarding Dwight and in my opinion, deserved the minutes during crunch time over Pau. Pau wasn’t being that second line of help and he wasn’t putting a body on the man he was supposed to be defending either.

    When the Lakers went on that run in the 4th quarter it was with Pau on the bench. When Pau re-entered after Bynum picked up his 5th foul, the atmosphere of the game changed and once again the Magic started hitting shots, getting into the paint, penetrating, and Dwight got dunks. For all the praise he gets for “responding” and trying his best, there was someone more serviceable and he should have been in. Maybe Pau did a good job “responding” but clearly that wasn’t good enough as his defense was horrible. He did not play well at all and he doesn’t receive enough of the blame by anyone when, in actuality, the onus should be on him. (At least for this game)

    This seasons Pau has not been as good as last seasons, nor as efficient. This is the major difference between this season and lasts for the Lakers. Pau has to get it together or the Lakers will have an even harder uphill battle to fight during the playoffs.

  8. The offense is going to be inconsistent for the rest of the year/playoffs. Its funny because this roster is so offensively gifted.

    The Lakers are just going to have to learn how to win with mental consistency, rebounding and tough defense. The offense is what it is.

  9. kevin ding in his latest article:
    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/bryant-238005-lakers-gasol.html

    i think i agree with kevin.
    we know lakers’ play of the last 3 games are probably a valid cause for us – fans – to be concerned (if not frustrated).

    but i think for us – fans – not to have full confident in 10-championships-best-coach-ever (read: PJ), 8-combined-championships co-captain (read: KB24 & Fisher) is also unreasonable.

    the problem is now.. the real challenge is in the 16 games during the the playoff.
    i think it is pretty reasonable to think that by the time, we’re in the playoff, we should be more ready.

  10. Watching Denver winning again makes me wish the Lakers had a player that worked as hard on the rebounds and defense as Birdman.

    We are missing that hard nosed player off the bench and our bench just can’t shoot very well either.

    Speaking of shooting Artest is 3 for 19 last 2 games.

  11. This team needs to strive to play defense like the Celtics team of 2008 as much as I hate to say that, because they basically have to.

    And comment #3, KOBE BRYANT IS AFRAID OF NO ONE, especially an average player at best in Matt Barnes, you saw Kobe Bryant nail jumper after jumper and hand it too that little punks behind for getting in the face of the best player in the world.

    Kobe Bryant has stared into the depths of the abyss and he has not nor will he ever flinch.

    And also Gasol shut down Dwight Howard in the Finals last year by himself, so anyone says he can’t didn’t watch the Lakers last year.

  12. As reporters asked Ron Artest what he thought of Barnes, Lamar Odom yelled out from across the room, calling Barnes a “monkey” who “picked the right game to act tough.”

  13. “Pau looked rattled. That guy has no chance at guarding Howard.”

    Um, no kidding, he gives up 20 pounds! Ron-ron would have a better chance. I don’t think he did that bad a job in the Lakers’ scheme of things, compared to any other non-bruising seven footers that most people have to guard Howard with.

    As Darius noted, we are not stopping guard penetration and this is leading to fouls and collapsing defenses. I’m not sure why everyone is so keen to put the blame at Gasol’s feet when we are getting a three-headed zero out of the PG slot (with Fisher being the best option, yet obviously a liability).

    Artest has also been in a slump, and the team just shows no ability to find a median between running the offense or deferring to Kobe.

  14. Zephid,
    Couldn’t agree with you more. Fisher played a good defensive game and a brilliant defensive game for him.

    Cinz,
    Spot on analysis. Bynum was the difference. He is the reason we can beat powerful teams like Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando. It was a shame he got called for some borderline fouls and Phil didn’t play him more. That probably would have been the difference.

    Lakers8884,
    If you watched the Finals last year you would know Gasol didn’t play Howard one on one like Bynum did today. We trapped, doubled, and swarmed Dwight when Gasol was covering him. And that isn’t a knock on Gasol. Howard is a powerful center and Pau is a finesse PF.

  15. Nice that Odom called Barnes a name considering he and Artest stunk. Another no-show for Lamar and another 2 for 10 for Rodman wish he could be. Now you know why teams gun for the Lakers because they are the most arrogent team in the league. They get it from their coach.

    Play the game Lakers before you fall to 3rd in the West!

  16. I’m finally resigned, I think, to Yusuf’s point: the offense is what it is.

    For whatever reason (well, for various reasons, some of which we know, like outside shooting) this Lakers team, for all its talent and potential, can’t seem to put it together on the offensive end. I’m not saying this is fatal, but it’s a wound — and it hurts.

  17. 11 You’re kidding right Ken? Defense and rebounding? I’d never give up LO in a million years for Birdman.

  18. Don of course not. What I meant was we need a roll player to come off the bench to bang people around. I think LO should start. Birdman is the 8th man for Denver and does make a difference when he is on the court.

  19. Snoopy makes an interesting point on Sasha that I want to turn tangetial – we miss our guard/small forward depth right now. Artest has been playing a ton of minutes lately. Though he was under 30 minutes against the ‘Cats and the Pacers, he’s been pushing 40 minutes in almost every other game including today against Orlando. And Kobe’s been right at or above 40 minutes in every game since his return from injury save for the Indy game. We miss the 8-12 minutes a game that Luke and Sasha give this team even if they’re only average in those minutes. And if those players play well in those minutes, we really are a much better team because the things that they (supposedly) do well (shooting – Sasha, passing – Walton) are things that are lacking in our line up right now.

    I don’t get into the blame game much and I rarely if ever blame individuals for losses. But players have bad games and that’s why a bench exists. But on nights where Ron (a starter) or Shannon (a key bench player) don’t play well, we don’t have anyone to step in for them except Kobe. And, despite Kobe’s greatness, it’s a problem if this team becomes overly reliant on him because his game is the one that inspires his mates to watch the most. So, when Kobe gets hot or is forced to take on a bigger burden, our other guys seem content to just let him do his thing and “lead” us to victory. But, what we really need is each team member stepping up and doing more in those instances, not less. It’s a tricky path to walk for our guys but they must do it successfully or we become a one man show. One man shows don’t win titles.

  20. I actually think LO should start he is much more effective when he starts.

  21. Darius, nice balanced write up. I appreciate that you are finally discussing what is wrong with this team. Yes, I know you like to keep a positive outlook on things but the Lakers have shown weakness the entire season and now most teams know the keys to beating them. Mostly, if you rough them up they will wilt. Kobe and Ron are the only ones on this team that will actually thrive on it.

    That is the hard part to accept because that is not something you can really teach players. Gasol is supremely talented but he will never be a dirty player or have the mindset to play through extremely physical games – when the refs aren’t calling anything. Then he gets frustrated and wilts and becomes a non-factor. LO is always going to be LO. Fisher – I won’t even comment as it’s been rehashed all over the internet. Bynum – weak mindset….or lazy or unmotivated.

    Lakers are faltering as the season winds down – the exact opposite of what they need to do. There is no switch to turn on and they know it.

    I’m looking forward to some big trades this off season – Mitch, please get us a reliable outside shooter and a younger/quicker guard who can play some d. To me everyone but Kobe and Ron are expendable.

  22. The lack of an outside shooter has plagued this team all season, and barring an unexpected turnaround from Sasha there’s just no help on the horizon.

    I’ve said all season, when Artest and Fisher are on the floor, aside from the very few games when they’ve been able to score, teams only need to guard two of the five Laker players: Kobe, and whichever of the Pau/Bynum duo are on the box.

    You can double off of Fisher; at this point, teams want him to shoot. The same goes for Artest, who’s yet to find a groove in L.A. (on offense). Neither Bynum or this year’s Pau are effective shooters outside the paint, so that gives teams a ton of ways to double the post or send run-outs at Kobe.

    We didn’t see this last season because Trevor was always moving, getting good looks off of cuts or open looks from three, and also because Bynum’s time on the floor was limited down the stretch. Odom is a threat from more places on the floor than is Bynum; it’s just a matter of their style and size.

    I’m not saying Bynum’s the cause of the team’s troubles; anything but. But I am saying we’re 75 percent through this year and the Lakers great core of offensive talent still hasn’t found a way to get it done, especially against the league’s better teams or in tough situations.

    At this point, nothing would shock me in the playoffs, whether it’s a first round upset loss or a loss to the Mavs/Nuggets/Cavs, or even if they get their act right and win the whole damn thing.

    But time’s growing short to fix the situation, and these guys have yet to show me that their championship material as presently constituted. Let’s hope Phil can once again work his playoff magic.

    There were many times when I was convinced the PJ-coached Bulls had no shot to repeat, yet he found a way to glue things up come April. Here’s hoping for another turnaround from the Zen Master.

  23. JJ, I hope you’re not implying that I haven’t been discussing this team’s issues before now. If you think that’s the case, you haven’t been reading.

    And, everyone but Kobe and Ron expendable? Really? This team has issues, sure, but it’s best players aren’t the problem. It’s finding the players that compliment those guys that are needed most. If we’re really going to discuss where our personnel issues are, they’re at PG (which we’ve discussed at this site for months) and our SF depth being shaken by Walton being out or ineffective when he’s played. That’s it. In a dream scenario (and without getting into specific players) this team would have as backups/complimentary players a PG that is disciplined on offense, plays good defense, can shoot the long ball, and can organize our sets. And at SF we’d have an athletic player that can defend wing players, shoot the long ball, slash on offense, and be a capable enough ball handler to bring the ball up every once and a while. Right now, we don’t have either of those players and it’s hurting this team. Some of our players do some of these things well, but we don’t have players that do them all. That forces our starters to play more minutes and that changes our schemes because even those players aren’t making outside shots to give our big men space to operate.

  24. Darius you have correctly pointed out the Lakers biggest problems. If you and I can see this I wonder why Mitch dosen’t. He made no moves at the deadline while every other top 5 team did.

    There is the question.

  25. How awesome would it be to have Steph Curry punish teams with his sick jumper for doubling our bigs or kobe?

  26. btw, no bad blood between barnes and kobe, at least that’s what barnes said. He said he has the utmost respect for Kobe, he’s the best player, and when he starts throwing elbows, it could go both ways.

  27. Great article. Couple of points (several reiterating what others have stated):
    1. Kobe needs to trust his team mates more down the stretch.
    2. Gasol – Bynum has not worked so far and very well may not for the playoffs. Either one plays better with Odom than with the other person. Shockingly Odom has become just (or perhaps more reliable than Gasol and Bynum).
    3. Gasol holds the ball too long. He needs to vary his shot more after he gets the ball. It literally takes 2 or more seconds before he will make his move. At least 25% of the time he needs to move as soon as he gets the ball to keep the defense honest and to shoot prior to the double team coming.
    4. Lakers at times play very stupid basketball. I know Phil wants them to figure it out on their own, etc… but at least 2-3 times a game these guys need to have their heads screwed back on. This game it was when Howard went out due to 3 fouls. So what do the Lakers do? Next five shots are all 18 feet or longer. Fisher throws up two of them himself.
    5. Artest will help us with the more physical SF but will struggle with the guys who are very quick off the dribble.
    6. Shannon Brown is a great raw talent but a point guard he is not and may never be. Have him play shooting guard or in spots small forward more. Have him take up some of Artest’s minutes when a faster small forward is playing the Lakers.
    7. As stated by many (and by Darius’ great article) our Achilles heel probably will be outside shooting. Right now Farmar is pretty much our most reliable 3 pt shot. Pretty scary??? That said we have a great group of young front line talent. So why the hell don’t we push the pace more often? Make the other team run. Get deep position quicker so teams can’t collapse and double team as readily…
    8. Last but not least and would love to hear everyone’s feedback on this. I really do think there is some underlying issues with Kobe and Gasol. I do not know the cause (perhaps when Gasol and Fish called Kobe out after Memphis loss when in reality Kobe was the only guy who came to play and he got totally pissed off by it???). Their teamwork and demeanor is totally different than last year. And I think it has affected this team, and especially its offense.

  28. One word: execution. We haven’t really seen it since the All-Star break. We can hypothesize about all the reasons why the lack thereof; but we all know the bottom line is – at this point in the season, without execution, this team isn’t seeing the Finals for a 3rd straight year.

    As much as I hate to admit it – if you want to see what execution looks like right now (coupled with true effort for 4 full quarters), see Dallas (you know, the team that’s now only 3 games back for WCHC).

    We have roughly 20 games left to keep Dallas and Denver behind us, otherwise – we’re seeing both of them in the playoffs with potential game 7’s on the road.

    Sobering…Isn’t it?

  29. Ken,
    Mitch knows the lakers few weakness’ the same as we do. We don’t know how much Buss is holding Mitch back from making moves. We also don’t know who was available. I am making an educated guess though that the easiest way to improve the PG spot would have been to trade the expiring k’s of Morrison and Fisher at the deadline along with Farmar and a #1 pick. The MLE isn’t an easy way to get a quality PG. But we will see. I will give the Lakers front office the benefit of the doubt since we don’t know what is going on behind the scenes and we have a pretty good track record.

  30. Even though it was a loss, I really enjoyed the Lakers today. They played with heart. As much as I want to grimace at some of the stuff they did, the Lakers brought effort. Of course a championship is the goal, but man do I appreciate the effort both teams brought to the court today.

  31. Does no one remember the brand of basketball this team played without Kobe against Utah, Portland, San Antonio?

    It was offensive and defensive mastery. In my opinion, this beautiful, dominating ball was a direct result of Kobe’s (and Bynum’s to a certain degree) absence from the court. Instead of possession after possession of iso/pick and roll “Kobe Show” ball, the team ran the triangle offense as it is meant to be run.

    They key is enabling our offense to flow- which means allowing all of our talented players (Lamar, Pau, Ron, especially) to actually make plays on the court, rather than act as ball boys to Kobe’s one man act. When these players feel involved on offense and are allowed to create and make plays in the equal opportunity setting that is Tex Winter’s brilliant offense, their confidence grows and they own the game.

    Even Farmar, Shannon, etc. were playing great basketball during that stretch. But most obvious was the confident, dominant play of Pau, Lamar, and even Ron. This offensive team play then transfers to the defensive end, where each player on the court now feels more involved and responsible.

    Now, I have been a Kobe fan my whole life and revel in his astounding talent. However, I frankly enjoyed watching this team play more without him than I do with him. Instead of possessions wasted trying to enter the ball to Kobe for isos or continuous pick and rolls that end up in shot-clock beating iso pullups, the Lakers played an inspiring brand of basketball, utilizing the incredible talent of Lamar and Pau, especially, to exploit the myriad of options available within the triangle offense to create easy scoring opportunities.

    I know that Kobe can add his incredible talent to that equation and make this team unbeatable. It is simply a matter of not always needing the ball in his hands and not always demanding and dominating possession; instead, Kobe needs to allow this high powered offense to flow, letting the immensely talented trio of Lamar, Pau and Ron also make plays. If the Lakers, with Kobe, could play basketball like they did in Portland and Utah, this team would roll through the competition.

  32. Jon,
    I see your point. And to a certain extent when one man dominates the ball with such talent and aggression like Kobe it is only natural for the rest of the team to become a little passive. However, the Lakers great success (and it was nothing short of awesome) for that Kobe less stretch had more to do with the great talent on this Lakers roster and the sense of urgency/intensity that comes when playing without a mega star like a Kobe Bryant, than it had to do with Kobe holding the offense down. Remember that the offense was actually performing worse without Bryant… it was the defense that took a step forward. And defense has a lot to do with the heart and focus that I spoke of earlier.

  33. I, like everyone, very disappointed in this road trip. Even though I can waive off the Charlotte loss as “one of those games”, I can’t waive off the Miami game or this Orlando game.

    I really think our offense is the cause of our problems, not our defense. And i don’t agree with earlier comments that our offense is what it is. I hate to point out that just a few weeks ago, our offense was running pretty well. We had a good flow to the offense, and the passing was pretty good. Now, i only listened to the game on the radio (driving back from tahoe) but it seemed that there were a lot of one pass then shot attempt possessions by the lakers.

    The only difference I see is Kobe is now back in the offense, and since then, we really have gotten away from the triangle offense. I think our best chance at offensive efficiency is utilizing that offense that really utilizes our skill positions. I think using the offense, utilizing ball movement, and taking high quality shots, will keep the opposition from having so many possessions.

    My two cents, which mean absolutely nothing to the Lakers coaching staff. But we can’t rely on a 30 shot Kobe game after game. I heard a stat on the radio after the game: Lakers have lost the last 7 games where Kobe has taken 30+ shots. Not verified, but if that’s true, that says a lot about a one man team.

    Now, I am sure that there will be a lot of people saying that the whole team has to work harder to accomodate Kobe, but … I am not going to do that. I think the onus is on the captain of the team (and that includes Fisher) to play and make the team better. If that means more facilitating, or playing more in the post, he should definitely do that more. If it means force feeding the post, or force feeding the high post to Pau so pau can work the triangle.

    This is not our offense. I saw our offense a few weeks ago. I haven’t seen it since the Memphis game at Memphis, and that was sparingly.

    There’s one difference from those games to the games that have gone on lately.

  34. the lakers miss sasha. that’s it. catastrophe began when he was injured. but he’d be back. when he comes back; he’d bring good fortune and good times for us. :p

    worry not the machine will save the day.

  35. and jon… totally stole my thunder…

  36. feels good to be back home…can’t believe i typed that with a sense of urgency.

    and with toronto to meet, can think of any better way to get some swagger back.

    pau’s game post-contract renewal somewhat concerns me. is he deferring more or is his percentages down? or maybe both.

    not time to press panic. we’re the champs. sometimes that reason alone nullifies many others (just don’t let it get the best of you). GO LAKERS!

  37. I agree very much with the analysis by Darius, and also most of the contributions done (specially Jon).
    I do not agree with blaming Pau, who was the only laker player over 50% (exactly over 60%) (when bad shooting seems our biggest concern). Who had to deal with the best shooting PF in the league (after Dirk) and when Bynum got trouble with fouls had to deal with the most physical Center in the league (maybe after Shaq). And he did both things well. I believe his flagrant on Howard was deserved and got the work done. And I am really tired of the comments about being soft, man up and the kind. If you are able to stand in front of Howard’s face after fouling him, I think you do not need more proof.
    I really do not like blaming one individual for the losts. Team win as teams and lose as teams.

    Lakers as bad shooters?. Do not buy it. They have shown they can shoot much better (just refer to the games without Kobe). I am not blaming Kobe, but I think 30 shots is “way too much” for any player, and it hurts the team if there is not a high percentage (it is simple, it is easier to defend one player than 5).
    What I do not think is that the bad shooting is the root cause of the problem, but a consequence.
    I believe Lakers have bad shooting percentages when they take bad shoots (contested shots, with few seconds left, etc). And this happen beacuse lakers are not running the offense as they should. Too many isos, too many playmakes by Kobe,… And shooters they need confidence, even if they miss some open looks, the ball needs to go there again to shoot open again.
    I think we start every game with the plan to run the sets and the triangle, but if things do not go perfect, we are changing to Kobe mode, one on one basketball, isos. Sometimes this is working, sometimes is not. What is clear is that it is not the best way to win a championship. Things should be much easier for this team, if they have a plan and stick to it. That is play team basketball.

    Phil seems to prefer to let the players decide how to play. If they start running isos and going for Kobe (Kobe is demanding it) he seems OK. It said many times here, Phil wants the player to get to the right decisions by their own. Sometimes is not working, sometimes you lose games.
    Only issue (with Phil ways) is you do not create bad habits and you do not hurt the confidence of the players and the team. I trust Phil with that.

    But in playoffs, when you have time to study the other team and define clearly your strategy for offense and defense, I believe we will see a different team, less prone to lean on Kobe, running the sets more and having better percentages.
    I still do not see the Lakers loosing to any team in a series.

    For me the Lakers play some nights as if they do not have a plan (this leading to not running the triangle, their offense sets, Kobe time, bad shots taken, bad shooting). I am not worried about that because I know Phil has a PLAN.

    On the other hand, I really was happy with the way Bynum played Howard during the time he was on court. With that focus he is the more dominant center in the league, he can defend anyone. Hope he continues like that.

  38. @23 great sum-up.

    For me,the problem is offense rather then defense.Because the refs are not allowing our D anyway.So Ron,3-19 is not gonna cut it.Pau and Bynum you used to have adhesive hands,what happened?

  39. Well Jon, to be fair, Utah and Portland were not as “up” for the game as they would be with Kobe. Similar to how the Lakers would more than likely play the Cavs without LeBron. The fans aren’t as into it, which has an indirect effect on the players. Yes the ball movement was a lot better without Kobe, but it was 100% mental in the cases of those losing teams, as well as the other Lakers players (knowing they would have to step up).

  40. Renato Afonso March 8, 2010 at 4:32 am

    Darius already pointed out the absence of both Sasha (shooting) and Luke (passing) but, however, most of the people are simply not agnowledging it. Those 8-10 minutes are valuable because it allows the offense to keep its flow…

    The triangle is based on spacing, as it was stated before, and if we fail to create such spacing the help defenders will have to cover less ground, thus making every shot more difficult.

    Also, as the game goes on, you can see the opponents get more and more tired, since they’re always providing covering a lot of court each time they need to help.

    And for those who miss Ariza, do you honestly believe you could beat Denver this year without taking Carmelo out of the game? Ron was necessary, like it or not.

    About this game, we can say all we want about defense and such, but there’s only one statistic that clearly reflects this team’s current problem: Kobe’s 30FGA. And the blame is both on him and on the other players when Kobe’s on the floor. They automatically defer when the shot clock reaches 8 or so, instead of keeping the ball movement or feeding the post (which would demand a double team and a kickout for the wide open 3PT). We need to fix this fast, because the West is way harder than it was last year…

    PS: We should be glad if Denver and Dallas are 2 and 3, because I don’t believe we could take both of them out… One series, sure, two series, no way…

  41. 1 1/2 “.

    one inch, the difference between a 2 or 3 on Kobe’s shot. 1/2 inch the difference between a 2 or 3 on Fish’s shot. If not for 1 and 1/2 inches, we would be writing about how the Lakers gutted out a tough statement game win.

  42. the other stephen March 8, 2010 at 4:38 am

    how many kobe bailout plans have we needed this season? -_-

  43. “I thought he did a good job of fighting through a lot of pushing and holding that was being implored against him”

    ?

  44. I think outside the lack of jump shooting (which is a huge problem) someone made the good point that it seems this year we havent found the right balance between a kobe centric offense and a team-triangle centric offense, only a ballance of both will win the championship ala last year

  45. 38 – I genuinely hope you’re right, and no, I don’t think the Lakers are as bad shooting as they were last night. But they’re, at best, an average shooting team, and below average from 3-point distance. The level of difficulty on the shots and the point in the clock when they’re taken is all relevant, but even if you consider just open 3’s – who do we trust to make 40% of those? Standstill, set shots? Kobe is the only one I consider a great 3-point shooter, but most of his 3-point shots are high difficulty. We need people spacing for Kobe, not the other way around.

    Yusuf’s dead on. It’s sadly ironic that a team with so much offensive talent is going to struggle offensively until someone gets hot from deep.

    Bill – I think you’re completely right, and that our fickleness is always a product of the final outcome. That said, these criticisms (which are fairly mild) are warranted over the course of a season; it would be more inaccurate to laud our team as gutsy (if we had won) given the way this team has played over a large sample of games.

  46. Kobe played his tail off down the stretch and even though he had some misses, when the pressure was on he also hit some unbelievable (for most players anyway) jumpers that kept the Lakers close and gave them a chance to tie the game at the end.

    _______

    That’s true, but the long 3 early in the shot clock at 87-90, and the airball fallaway on an ensuing possession were inexcusable. He needs to play inside-out–sometimes–with Gasol in crunch time. I think chippy guys like Barnes get Kobe jacked and wanting to show them up. Gasol appeared to be PO’d at Bryant, and rightly so.

    Other notes:

    Neither Farmar nor Fisher could stay in front of Nelson down the stretch. Nothing new there.

    No reliable deep threat. Nothing new there, either.

    I have noted the effect of Walton’s absence a few times. Glad to see someone else mention it, too. Darius posted about it a couple of weeks back. They miss Vujacic in terms of spacing a little as well.

  47. Kurt had pointed out many times before, and Darius has continued to point out that our outside shooting has been our achilles heel.

    Even last year it was our problem area. We’re a good mid-range team, not a good 3-point team.

    In the last 2 Championship runs we’ve gotten lucky by having a wing player suddenly get hot from behind the arc.

    In 2008 it was Sasha (who unfortunately went ice cold in against Boston).

    In 2009 it was Ariza, who shot lights-out and WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY above his career average.

    This year no player has caught fire, and we can only hope that we’ll be able to add the “yet” to that statement when reflecting on this part of the season next year. Unless Sasha comes back hot or Artest/Fisher/Famar suddenly finds their stroke at a consistent rate, we’re going to have a really rough go of it.

    Someone asked why Mitch couldn’t see this as a problem, and I think the answer is simple. Mitch and Phil knew we got lucky with Ariza’s hot shooting last season. They upgraded the roster by adding Artest, who is a better 3-point shooter according to his track record, and better able to defend the bigger 3’s out there.

    Someone needs to start finding the net from 3 though or we’re going to be lucky to relive 2004’s disappointment.

  48. 11) I disagree with needing a hard nosed guy off the bench. A lot of people were saying that last year, that missing Turiaf was costing us. What we need is Pau to step up and play hard-nosed on a nightly basis, and right now he’s not doing that.

  49. that in bounds play by Barnes was bush, true bush, no doubt, and it was pretty amazing that Kobe didn’t flinch, at all, truely.
    so i have a question… what if at the farthest extent of that fake “jab” with the ball, what if Kobe had snatched it from his hands, (like the pebble in Kung fu)? could that be a legal “steal”? what if, with super slow-mo, we found that Barnes would be releasing it at the very split second Kobe was taking it away? could it be at least a jump ball? or then, Barnes would have been out of bounds, thus Laker ball?

  50. I agree with most people’s analysis. Compared to last year we are playing much, much better defense and teams have a hard time getting good looks against us. Our offense however has regressed over the past couple years. Nothing really seems easy for the Lakers on offense anymore, and the only answer I can come up with is that teams are prepared to sag down in the post and give up the 3, and we aren’t making teams pay. If someone doesn’t get hot from 3 in the playoffs we are going to have a tremendously tough and nerve racking playoffs.

  51. Renato Afonso March 8, 2010 at 9:06 am

    48. We wouldn’t be needing for anyone to catch fire if we ran the sets as they are supposed to. Remember that the first and main option of the triangle is the mid-range jumpshot.

    So, if we executed properly (obviously that’s not always possible) we would be taking less 3pt attempts and they would be better looks than they are right now. Even if the 3pt % didn’t go up, we would still gain from it, since we would be missing LESS shots.

    But the Lakers are who they are, and I guess that proper execution won’t come just by wishful thinking, so maybe Artest or Sasha will catch fire by playoff time…

  52. Hmm, let’s look at some numbers.

    Player A: 20%, 28%, 35%, 34%, 35%, 32%, 48%.
    Player B: 50%, 30%, 33%, 20%, 33%, 35%, 51%.

    These are the monthly splits for the 3 point shooting percentage of each player, with the last number in each row being that player’s percentage in the playoffs. Player A is Trevor Ariza; Player B is Lamar Odom.

    Moral is we were plagued by poor shooting all throughout the regular season last year, too, but these guys turned it on when it counted. Outside shooting is our Achilles’ Heel, but it is not a certainty that it will down us in the playoffs. I’m not saying I know for certain that these guys will turn it on come April, May, and hopefully June, but I am saying that it is a distinct possibility, one that shouldn’t be lost in all the “woe-is-me.”

    I think what we lose when Kobe and Bynum are in the game is activity off the ball. Kobe has never been a strong cutter, whether because he just doesn’t have the athleticism or the drive to do so, I’m not sure. But his off-ball work consists mostly of grinding in the post, not cuts to the basket. Similarly, most of Bynum’s work comes off working int the post, not through off-ball movement. If you take Kobe and Bynum and replace them with Brown and Odom, then you’ve got one of the most active off-ball teams in the league. Quietly, Artest has become arguably our best cutter, maybe next to Odom, but he just has trouble finishing at the rim due to his lead feet.

    I think the guys are just standing around waiting for Kobe to put up a shot, not because they don’t think he’ll pass, but because by the time they make their move, Kobe is already into his jab-jab-launch routine. More than anything, I feel as if the lack of movement when Kobe has the ball in the post is miscommunication between the other 4 players and Kobe. They’re out of sync between when to cut and when Kobe plans to shoot, and this causes people to be out of position when the shot goes up. Remember, Tex Winter always says that shooting is a form of penetration, and so long as we have people in position to rebound, Kobe launching isn’t really as bad as it seems.

  53. Couple of points on the way out the door.

    Gasol harping on ball movement in the media is not smart. How did that work for Shaq? He will find himself shipped out fast. This is Kobe’s world and without a signed contract he has even more control over the future of this team

    I have no trust in the outside shooting of Fisher and Artest. They are the ones being left open this year. Fish is 5% lower in shooting this year and if you look at Artest in the playoffs last year he was bad from three.

    Kobe does shoot to much but so would I. Gasol drops the ball, Odom just passes it back, Fish misses etc etc. If the ball can’t get in the post due to over crowding then Kobe has to shoot because there is no 2nd option.

    One thing for sure if Phil dosen’t solve this problem this will be his last year and the end of the triangle. You know that thinking mans offense that smart player excell with. Pippin, Harper, Kerr, Jordan, Shaw, Horry etc.

    You don’t see Bynam, Artest, Brown or Farmer’s name on the above list.

    When I watch Dallas or Cleveland run their offense and then compare to ours I have doubt in my mind. Even the crazy offense of Denver includes more sharing and passing. Why is that?

    We can only hope for the best but please don’t pretend the answer to our problems is the return of Sasha!!!!!!!!!!!!

  54. lack of penetration by the laker. laker offense is too simple and easy to read, either they go with bynum or paul posting move and kobe jump shot which a lot of them miss. triangle, pick n roll and specially attack the rim Is big ?? for them. now that kobe not attacking the rim that much, I think lamar should bring the ball instead of fisher. because he is faster, better passing and can go to the rim strongly. laker can’t just counting on kobe to make the last shot to win the game. this just my opinion..