Lakers/Raptors: Kobe Does It Again

Darius Soriano —  March 9, 2010

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Kobe. Bean. Bryant.

Simply put, the man is amazing.  With 9.5 seconds left on the clock and the game tied, Kobe received the inbounds pass on the right sideline, paused, escape dribbled to the right, rose up and nailed a ridiculously tough fading baseline twenty footer to sink the Raptors.  In what has now become a habbit, Kobe was king of the clutch and won another game with another shot that defies critics and amazes even those that have come to expect as much.

But there was so much more to this game besides the Kobe game winner.  This game was both frustrating and entertaining.  It had me cursing my television and yelling in excitement.  It was a great, great game that included many good things for the Lakers and a lot of bad too.

First, the good – Andew Bynum was a beast tonight.  Maybe the Raptors bring out the best in our young Center, but once again when he saw a front line of Bosh and Bargnani, Bynum went to work on the inside and made his presence felt on both ends of the court.  22 points, 6 rebounds (seemed like more, though), 2 blocks (with at least 6 additional shots altered) for Bynum as he controlled the paint and really made an impact.  I really can’t say enough about his effort on defense and his willingness to step out on the court against Bosh and Bargnani to contest shots and still recover to the paint to rebound and body up players that were seeking the offensive carom.  Just a fantastic push by Bynum, especially in the 4th quarter when this team needed him most.  I also must give credit to both Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom.  Not because their numbers were great, but because of the leadership and heart that they showed down the stretch of the game to make plays that truly made a difference.  Though Fish and LO only combined for 17 points, 9 boards, and 6 assists it didn’t matter as they too raised their games in the final frame.  Odom scored 7 points in the 4th quarter and Fisher had a huge steal with only thirty seconds remaining and subsequently sunk two FT’s after gaining possession that ultimately kept the Lakers up by 4 points and were (nearly) as much a contribution to this win as Kobe’s game winning shot.

But, in order for Kobe to hit a game winner the game has to be close at the end and this is where things weren’t as positive.  In an ugly 2nd quarter, the Raptors outscored the Lakers 34-21 as we could not convert on shots and couldn’t stop Toronto either.  The Lakers struggled with Toronto’s various P&R sets and allowed the Raptors to get a lot of open shots.  Shots that Toronto happily knocked down as Lakers defenders were either slow to rotate to the perimeter or caught in no man’s land confused as to whether they should recover to the paint or find a shooter.  Granted, Toronto has the ability to put a shooter at every position on the floor and that leads to tremendous spacing that is difficult to cover, but there were still long stretches where defensive struggles were more the norm over strong execution and it was a problem against the Raps.  What is most frustrating about the Lakers defense, though, is how they saved their worst defensive lapses for late in the game.  When up by 4 with just under thirty seconds to play, the Lakers allowed a quick inbounds and layup to cut the lead to 2.  Then, after Lamar made one of two FT’s, the Lakers didn’t effectively switch on defense on a high P&R that allowed Chris Bosh (who I already respected a great deal but gain more and more respect for as a PF every game) to shake loose and nail a game tying three pointer.  It really was some poor defensive execution in those closing possessions.

And on offense, the Lakers, in what is now par for the course, could not consistently hit outside shots as they went 3-15 from three point range.  And in another recurring theme, Pau Gasol could not get it going on the inside as he missed some easy ones in the paint and was visibly frustrated by the contact he was taking on the interior – at one point arguing with the refs and earning a technical foul.  Now, on the play in question Pau did have his shorts pulled on his offensive rebound and did seemingly take a hit on his lay in attempt.  However, the flip side on that play is that Pau double clutched his shot attempt and that is a sure fire way to show the refs that you were avoiding contact rather than seeking it – and seeking it is what earns you the trip to the foul line.  I don’t want to harp too much on Pau as he is finding ways to contribute to the game besides being fully effective with his offense.  I mean, he did have 9 rebounds, a block, while going 9-11 from the foul line.  But on another night where he missed more shots than he made, he’s obviously not playing his best ball and it showed as Phil went with Bynum for most of the 4th quarter and only put Pau back in the game when Bynum started to show signs of fatigue.

So, this game really was a mixed bag that while amazing to watch at the end, doesn’t inspire much confidence that the team is over the stretch of poor-ish play that they’ve suffered through recently.  Give me a win every day of the week and treat me to a Kobe game winner on top of that but I’m not sold that anything is truly different than what it was yesterday or the day before that.  The Lakers still have issues to work on and problems to address.  But all that said, it sure feels damn good to have #24 on our side.  And with that, I bring you back to the beginning.  Enjoy:

Darius Soriano

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26 responses to Lakers/Raptors: Kobe Does It Again

  1. Nice wrap. Couple things you missed.. Artest’s bad shooting continues and is hurting the team as they are wide open gimme shots, Also Pau and Phil had a disagreement late in the 4th when Pau said put me in. Phil said sit down.

    This is becoming a recurring thing with Pau, playing below par and questioning authority.

  2. By the way, when I say that “I’m not sold that anything is truly different than what it was yesterday or the day before that.” I mean that this team can still play better and that this win is neither proof of struggles being over nor an indictment that they’re not as good as fans think they should be. I also mean that I still believe that this team is a contender, the same way I did after the Denver win and the Bobcats loss. This team will prove it’s ultimate worth in the playoffs. That may mean a title, it may not. But I’m along for the ride and enjoying the journey.

  3. Ken, all players want to play. Phil’s sat Kobe for extended stretches too and dodged looks of “put me in coach” even from #24. All players at this level “question authority” – Kobe does it multiple times a game by going against the play call that Phil signals from the sidelines and going with the play that he (Kobe) thinks will work. It’s the game that professionals play when they have confidence in their abilities. And believe me, I want Pau asking back in – I want that more than him sulking on the bench and being content with not being in the game that’s for sure.

    Also, I pointed out Pau’s play not being up to standard. But, I also think that 17 and 9 while still helping the team matters. I too have high expectations for Pau, but he’s not as bad as fans are currently making him out to be. He’s struggling, but he’s not awful that’s for sure.

  4. Agreed. I am glad he is showing some passion as is Bynam. Losses actually might do some good in the long run.

    You do a great job Darius and I respect your knowledge a great deal. We may not always agree but I never question your understanding of the game.

  5. You might mention that in this game, there was much better balance in shots attempted. Kobe made more points on fewer shots, and he minimzed 3 point attempts.

    In addition to his heroic effort near the end, Derek Fisher had a very good game overall. By contrast, Jordan Farmer seemed especially out of place on defense, and Shannon Brown seemed especially out of place on offense. Sasha made only a cameo appearance, and Artest seems to be showing signs of battle fatigue. The need for Luke was never more evident.

    This team still does not feel fully integrated at either end. The only truly dominating quarter was the second quarter–and the Raptors did the dominating. It appears that the Lakers need to gut out every game, quarter by quarter–which makes them like just about everyone else except Cleveland and possibly Dallas right now.

  6. The game was too late for us europeans, but I recorded it, so I’ll provide some analysis on that later today…

  7. cameo for sasha is fine. i wrote in this blog we will return to winning ways when sasha comes back.

    sasha’s the lucky charm of this team. :p

  8. Pau is still really struggling. I think it is time to let Bynum have more crunch time moments. He will play invigorated and it will send a signal to Pau. Although Andrew had a better game, the team gave up too many points in the paint and way too many rebounds. Our front line is letting us down still. People harp on Kobe with his shots! Please, Andrew played better so he got more touches. It is simple, if people are playing well and Kobe is jacking up shots then bitch. But when people are missing left and right and he is the only one showing any success then please shoot the ball Kobe. The onus is not completely on Kobe the other guys have to come to play and match his intensity something that Phil has said time and time again this season.

  9. from the game thread: Playoffs are a completely different animal than the regular season. When you have 7 game series where you are able to seriously game plan and practice for a team, that changes things significantly. During the regular season, teams do not have the luxury of several days of practice or spending days creating a game plan to counteract the schemes of other teams.

    it seems to me that this gives all credit to the Lakers and no credit to other teams. let me ask Darius (and others) this question:
    what do you suppose that other teams may have learned from playing the Ls this season that will stand them in good stead for the playoffs? I think this topic could make a good post on its own merits.

    (without wanting to be too obvious about this, the answer could range from ‘nothing, those regular season games mean nothing,’ to ‘boy, howdy, there is so much to take from those regular season games that I see nothing but trouble.’)

  10. Our major weakness, and it remains major, is poor outside shooting.

    This allows defenders to pack-it-in and makes life more difficult for anyone in or driving into the middle.

    Secondly, Pau and Lamar seem to have a preference for passing to shorter people in the lane. With our #1 problem, this is going to continually result in blocked shoots – see Ron Artest.

    Darius, while I too am along for the ride, I think our outside shooting can really hurt us in a 7 game series.

  11. The thing that was really annoying me last night was all the times that Jerrod Jack took the ball the whole length of the court and no one stopped him leading to an easy lay up for him or someone else.

  12. Drew Andrekopoulos March 10, 2010 at 7:30 am

    I agree with giving Andrew more PT in crunch time. Better now as they will need him bigtime come playoffs. Gasol has not been right since the All Star Game. Especially his D! If u noticed last night in the 4th when he was on the bench they built a lead with great D, especially from Andrew. When Pau entered back in, easy buckets for Toronto and they let them back in. Pau needs to step it up!!!

  13. Joey Jo-Jo Shabadoo March 10, 2010 at 7:35 am

    I’m so spoiled. As soon as Kobe got the ball on the wing, my worries faded. He was not going to miss. When he shot the ball, I started thinking that there would still be time left on the clock so the Lakers better be ready on defense. When the ball went in, I literally thought to myself “ho-hum.” I had to stop and think “this is wrong…” Amazing.

    And yeah, improved outside shooting would be nice…

  14. Last night was my first visit at the staples center. I came all the way from Taiwan to watch this game live. Kobe made it totally worthwhile. Go lakers! I really enjoy this blog too.

  15. ESPN is trying to start rumors of a Kobe – Phil Jackson rift this morning based on Phil’s after the game comments last night. I took Phil’s rather cool reaction as being upset that his team NEEDED last second heroics again- that simply won’t get it done long term.

  16. We’ve discussed our outside shooting problems since the beginning of the season. It is what it is…..Not like we’re gonna pick anyone up NOW who’s gonna solve that problem.

    I’m really down on Pau Gasol. I am annoyed at how he complains about not getting touches, but if you really examine the game you would see that he does get touches but doesn’t always do anything with it. Teams are not allowing him to catch the ball in the paint and it forces him to take 10 seconds just to make a move to the basket.

    When was the last time the Lakers starting out the game having built a lead, then maintained it throughout the game? I believe it was against Utah right before the All-Star break. I bring this up because I think Lamar Odom needs to be starting to help us get out to better starts. What do you all think of that?

  17. RE Pau and “touches”: I think fans need to understand the distinction between “touches” and “shots”. Brian Kamenetzky made this point quite well after attending the Lakers practice on Monday:

    “Again, Pau implies the ball isn’t moving enough. One thing fans have to remember- he’s not simply talking about shots. It’s not a question of him saying “Get me 20 hoists a night.” He’s talking about moving the ball, keeping lots of hands on it, and working to use the totality of the team’s skill. “Touches” and “shot distribution” aren’t necessarily the same thing, yet are often used interchangeably.

    It’s a hard point to argue. If Gasol simply meant “I want more shots,” his position would be far less compelling.”
    Now, I understand that when Pau is getting the ball, he could (seemingly) be doing more with it. However, Pau is not a selfish player and (sometimes to his detriment) can be quite the opposite and too unselfish. The ball needs to move and change sides of the court and all players (not just him) need to be involved and a part of the action. So, while I understand being frustrated with Pau’s effectivness, let’s not allow that frustration to disregard the truth that he speaks about the overall flow of our offense. Pau is not off base there.

  18. Darius – Your point is well taken, and in a perfect triangle offense sense we would have the ball moving from one side of the floor to the other. But unfortunately our guards aren’t great passers and often don’t move well without the ball. This is why Pau does need to be more aggressive and more decisive with the ball.

    On another note, I don’t think good defensive teams will just let us move the ball fluidly from one end to the other. If you see, the good defensive teams tend to play the passing lanes well making it difficult to pass multiple times in a possession. Lets face it, this Lakers team does not run the triangle well which is why we see a lot of isolations and pick-n-rolls. Maybe someone needs to get in Pau’s ear and tell him he needs to be more aggressive.

  19. Pau is very much like Phil with his subtle jabs:

    “Well, good defenses, they’ll try to take away your first and second options, forcing you to go to your third and fourth one. That’s what we need to understand. They might force Kobe into double teams and tougher shots and might force me to get rid of the ball in the post and make the extra pass, and that’s what we need to do. Understand that’s how we’re going to free ourselves up, too.”

    Basically, he’s just pointing out how he doesn’t force shots like Kobe. I have a bit of a problem with that, because one of the problems on offense has to do with his lack of aggression in taking advantage of advantages. He WAITS for double teams, or lets it affect him when he CAN score. Teams *want* him to kick it out, because our shooters just haven’t gotten it done consistently. Pau needs to realize this as well.

    Another thing I want to mention is the *re-branding* of this team as a defensive team. I could care less if our offense isn’t as good as long as the collective and consistent effort on defense is there. I truly believe that this team can be a great defensive team once they all get on the same page and all play well and communicate. There have been many times where there might be 3-4 players playing well, and 2 guys killing us. That goes for every one on the team. Once that happens, we won’t care if our offense if just top 10 or top 15. I’m all for that.

    I think that was the goal coming into this year. The powers that be have to know that Pau and Drew just won’t have the same fluidity, and they are willing to accept that. We need Bynuum and Pau to both have good games on defense. Then the offense won;t matter. Teams wont score. That’s why I think it seems Phil (and sometimes Kobe) stress the problems on defense more than offense.

  20. Darius,

    Rudy and Wondahdap have hit the proverbial nail on the head.

    1. Our guards aren’t the greatest at passing the ball.

    2. Good defensive teams aren’t going to let us just do what we want on offense.

    3. Pau is still concentrating on the wrong side of the ball. Defensively we’re not getting after it.

    4. The offense is not the problem, our defense is.

    Until Pau gets his head out of his butt about the offense and starts to be tougher on the defensive side of the ball, the Lakers will continue to struggle.

    In my honest opinion, Pau is attempting to prove his point to the detriment of the team. Not cool. He continues to have the same complaint. Does he really not see that teams aren’t making it easy for the Lakers to pass the ball into the interior in addition to our not having great passers, is he really that blind or just that stubborn about making what he thinks is his point.

    Offense will not win championships, ask Phoenix about that, defense wins championships.

  21. Julien,
    The Lakers have been one of the top 2-3 teams in defense all season. Until recently, they were #1 in defensive efficiency and trail Boston by a tenth of a point. Defense, as a whole, is not a problem for this team. Was it a problem against the Raptors? Yes. But on the season, I’ve been perfectly happy with the way the Lakers have played on D.

    Where you see a drop off is on offense. And while I agree with the statements that our guards aren’t the best passers, that argument isn’t bullet proof. These guards are the same guards we had last year and the ball moved just fine. These guards are the same ones that executed the offense well when Kobe was out earlier this year. Their passing in those games was fine.

    In order for the ball to be able to move, players have to cut and screen harder and pass with more decisiveness. Too often, it looks to me like the Lakers players have already determined what they want to get out of a possession rather than playing the offense the way it’s been designed and taught. The Triangle is a read and react system where players must be moving together and seeing the same things on the court as a unit. That is what’s missing. So people can blame Pau or our guards, but in the end this is a team game and the players need to start playing, and executing, like it.

  22. Darius,

    Regardless of the current defensive ranking, which can be attributed more to our great start than our current play, we’re not a great defensive team over the last 10 games. Check the field goal percentages and field goal attempts of our opponents.

    The only team we did a great defensive job on was the Denver Nuggets and that was only in the 2nd half. All other teams have shot 41% or better against our defense and many have more field goal attempts than we do. And I watched those games, those teams missed alot of shots just like we missed, it wasn’t because we played great defense.

    There are no bullet proof arguments that’s why I don’t give a lot of credence to those 4 games we won without Kobe. They were against teams that were without key players or teams we beat anyway. As soon as we met the Boston Celtics at home no less, we saw what we could expect from good to great teams without Kobe in line-up.

    We’ll never know, but I wonder what that record would have been had we played Cleveland, Boston, Denver, Miami, Phoenix and Orlando during that stretch, instead of Golden State, a slumping Spurs team, a Portland team with 3 of it’s best players out, and Utah.

    By the way our shooting can be atrocious for long stretches over the last 10 games. And everybody is at fault for that.

  23. Julien,
    You lost me when you say “in the last 10 games”, when I’m talking about the entire season. Also, 41% shooting is quite low. The League average is 46% and the team with the lowest % (the Nets) are at 42.6% for the season. So, I don’t see much value in saying that every team has shot better than a number that is lower than the worst team’s performance for the entire year. As for the claim of more shot attempts, that is also a result of poor offense as the Lakers just went through a horrible stretch of committing turnovers. When you give the ball away more, it’s likely to lead to more shots for the opponent (though, to be fair, some of that also has to do with defensive rebounding).

    All year the Lakers have been one of the better defensive teams, ranking in the top 3 in Def. Efficiency pretty consistently. On offense, they have not been. They’ve hovererd around 10th in Off. Efficiency all season and currently sit at 11th. I don’t see anything fluky with either of these stats (off. or def. efficiency), so unless you’re saying that these numbers don’t mean much and that there is no correlation between how the team is playing and the statistics that play generates, then I’m not exactly sure what your argument is besides “the other team missed a lot of shots” with some sort of implication that our defense really isn’t good, it’s just that the other team misses.

  24. Darius,

    I’ll make it plain for you. Regardless of our defensive rating, we haven’t been that good defensively over the last 10 games.

    We haven’t played a good defensive half, forget an entire game, against any team other than Denver in the last 10 games.

    Kobe, Fish, Lamar, Phil and even Bynum are concerned more about the team’s defensive intensity not their offensive intensity.

  25. Julien,
    I understand what you’re saying. My only response to your last point would be that there is a relationship between how our offense performs and how our defense performs. What I mean is that when our offense struggles it often leads to defensive issues as well. For example, when we have poor floor balance, or have our shots blocked inside, or aren’t patient by moving the ball and instead settle for long jumpers that it often triggers the other team’s offense and compromises our transition defense.

    Now, does that mean that our defense can’t improve? Of course not. Against Toronto we did not play a good defensive game overall and I mentioned that in the game wrap up. And against Orlando, there were specific areas that we struggled in (penetration by Jameer and Carter). The same could be said of the Bobcats game. There will usually be one or two aspects of defense that any team can perform better in each game.

    That said, I fully believe that this teams struggles this season are mostly on the offense side of the ball. And just as you reference what your eyes tell you about this, I see our struggles on offense and they’re much more consistent (with recurring themes) than what is going on with our defense.