Lakers/Kings: Winning On The Inside

Darius Soriano —  March 16, 2010

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Coming into this game the plan was the same simple one that exists for the Lakers against almost every opponent that they face: get the ball inside and let our big men work.  Tonight, was proof positive as to why that plan is put in place.  Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol were dominant in this game and the Kings just had to watch as Pau executed a clinic on big man skill and Bynum reminded everyone why he was a pre-season pick to make an appearance on this years western all-star team.  Our two bigs combined to score 49 points (on only 28 shots) and grabbed 24 rebounds (including 6 offensive – with 5 by Bynum alone) to eat the Kings alive inside.

But the numbers for our bigs don’t even really tell the story.  They were just too big, too strong, and too skilled for any player on Sacramento to really contend with.  In the first quarter alone, Bynum would have four dunks and an “and one” lay in off an offensive rebound.  Spencer Hawes literally had no chance against big ‘Drew as Bynum just moved him to the side to establish the post and consistently made himself a big target for post entry passes.  And when just moving Hawes aside didn’t work, Bynum used his superior length to tip offensive rebounds to himself and the corral them to earn the Lakers an extra possession.  And then there was Gasol.  He of the multitude of post moves and returning mid-range game.  Many have been down on Gasol lately and I can understand why with his penchant for flipping shots at the rim and laying the ball up instead of throwing the ball through the hoop like we expect our 7 footers to do.  But tonight, we saw the return of the player that many have been calling the most skilled big man in the game.  A lefty jump hook on one possession would be followed by a 17 foot jumper which would be followed by a drop step spin move and reverse lay up which would be followed by…you get the picture.

But our inside play wouldn’t be limited to our big men.  Kobe would also get into the act by harassing the interior of the Sacto defense with strong post ups of his own and dribble drive attacks to the rim.  During a personal run of 13 straight Lakers points at the end of the first quarter, Kobe would score 5 baskets from within six feet of the hoop and tack on 3 free throws for good measure.  And it’s a good thing that Kobe had his inside game working because his outside shot was spotty for most of this contest.  To my eyes, Kobe was obviously suffering from some tired legs brought on by 40 minutes of high octane play against the Warriors on Monday evening.  His jumper was consistently short and his free throw shooting was also poor as he only connected on 8 of his 14 attempts.  Even on some of his drives, his explosion and body control was missing as he had several of his shots blocked and was unable to pull of some of the spectacular moves that we’ve come accustomed to when just trying to get a shot off against a bruising defense.  But that would matter little in the larger picture of what this game was – a exertion of force by our big men and a return of some solid execution on offense.

Though it came against a poor defensive team, the Lakers did show that they’re making strides on the offensive side of the ball.  Passes were more crisp and the player movement was more exact.  We strung together several good offensive possessions in a row – a nice sight considering that type of execution has not been the norm for long stretches this season.  In the comments of the game thread, Zephid described one such sequence:

Lakers just had a sequence of 3 very good offensive sets after Kobe and Fisher went to the bench.  The first had Gasol on the block in good position, spun baseline and finished over Nocioni.  The second led to a wide open Sasha jumper from 20 feet, coming off the down screen from Artest in the pinch post, classic triangle.  The last had Shannon Brown score off the dive from the top of the key, receiving the pass from Gasol in the post.  Three absolutely perfect offensive possessions in a row. And notice that the common theme was the ball going into the post.

And while this level of execution was not the norm throughout the entire game, it was nice to see this level of ball movement and focus on executing our sets.

However, not everything was positive about this game.  As was the case against the Warriors, the Lakers played a poor second period that allowed the Kings to make a run and come back.  An eleven point first quarter lead would be cut to one point by half as the Lakers bench could not seem to get their heads on straight about how to attack the Kings defense.  And the major culprits were, again, our back up guards.  For running a read and react offensive system,  Jordan and Shannon seem to make their minds up early in possessions about what they want to do with the ball.  Rather than allowing the defense’s actions dictate where the ball should go or where the point of attack should be, both of these guys race up the court and try to force the action.  This leads questionable shot taking and just poor decision making overall.  This time, I’ll let commenter Kostas explain from the game thread:

Even if those shots are falling it is not what our team needs from them. You just can’t have Pau and Lamar running up and down the floor 4 straight possessions without touching the ball. (Brown and Farmar) are doing the exact opposite from what is required of them. Guards in our system are supposed to stabilize the offense.

The only saving grace for our back up guards was an effective and oiled up Machine and a saving grace, late game stint from Shannon.  When they made an appearance in the fourth quarter, these guys played under control, made the right reads with their passes and their cuts, and made the shots that were there for them to take.  They didn’t force the action and they reminded fans of what guard play should look like in our sets.

Overall, a nice win for the Lakers and one that got them to the 50 win mark for the 3rd straight season.  During the telecast, the Kings announcers commented that the really good teams make goals of “50 before 20″ (meaning 50 wins before 20 losses), and the Lakers were able to do that against Sacramento with this win.  It wasn’t always pretty, but when you’re the champion and taking every team’s best shot it won’t be.  Especially a young and hungry team like Sacramento.  At this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Kings’ rookie Tyreke Evans.  He is everything he’s billed to be.  Explosive and strong with the ball, Evans has a knack for finding creases in the defense and slashing his way to the rim.  He had several nice finishes in the paint, narrowly missed some others, and drew plenty of fouls on a bunch of other plays.  He finished the night just one assist shy of a triple double and if his mates would have made some of the wide open looks he set them up for, he would have gotten it easily.  But, tonight was not his night and his team fell to the defending champs.  No shame in that.  Plus, I have a feeling he’ll be putting the hurt on the Lakers (and pretty much every other team in the league) for years to come.

Darius Soriano

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16 responses to Lakers/Kings: Winning On The Inside

  1. From the previous thread, answering the question of whether Ammo saw playing time:

    91. Ammo played about 2 1/2 minutes in the first half and was part of Sacramento’s three-pronged attack (along with Jordan and Shannon) in the 2nd quarter when the Kings went from down eleven to go up by three. The three Sacramento secret weapons forced up a slew of bad shots, let their men penetrate, didn’t close out on any shooters, and continuously tried to force one-on-three or two-on-four fast breaks.

    Unfortunately for the Kings, Phil kept Jordan and Ammo on the bench for the entire second half, and gave Sasha a lot of minutes (Sasha played well).

  2. Sasha and (especially) Brown played well and under control in the 4th when Kobe was on the floor with them.I noticed on at least 2 possessions after a defensive rebound that both of them tried to run the floor while nobody was on a set offensive position only to run into Kobe at midcourt to calm them down and have them run the offense. I hope they would do that also when Kobe is resting.We can’t have him play so many minutes leading up to the playoffs.

  3. Missed the game, but this review of it answers what happened. Good to see our bigs take control, also very good that Sasha seems to be doing just fine now days. I guess Fisher will be the man, again for us in the Playoffs and Finals, right?

  4. @4:

    i got a feeling that sasha will be The Man come playoff time.
    he’s starting to peak toward the playoff.

    regarding playing through the post, i think the problem is affected by roles of our perimeter players are not well-defined.
    they are still trying to prove themselves which makes them more likely to try beat opponents when it’s not the time to do so (bad decision making)

    even kobe, i think in a way, is sometimes too engaged in his own battle against his defenders. although most of the time i don’t have a problem, since he can be effective anyway.

    with the risk of looking too far ahead, i think this offseason, lakers need to make a decision to define our guard’s role better.
    and rather than signing new free agents, i prefer if we maximize sasha.
    which i think has the right combination to play as our leading pg.

  5. Uhm, about the part that kobe was just tired. Well, we can say he’s just getting old. Good thing he has mastered every move availbale and with perfect fundamentals, he is still able to dominate games. But his athletism and explosiveness, speed.. is down to about 60% of what it used to be. Tell me people, when was the last time you saw kobe dunk over somebody????, I have been a laker fan since I was 7 back in ’97, I just wish we could get that kobe’s legs and place them to the worn out tires of our man. Kobe still rules though:)

  6. It was nice to see Pau hit a few of those 15-footers from the elbow that we saw so often last year. I think that shot, if made consistently, can be the difference between a dominating and struggling playoff series for both he and Bynum. Every team has the same game plan to pack it inside and make the Lakers beat them from outside. If Pau’s man has to step out and defend that all Bynum or Lamar has to do is slide to the front of the rim and catch the dump pass – beautiful.

    It does piss me off how they keep blowing leads going into the half. When they got up 13 my girlfriend said she was going to go start a load of laundry. When she sat back on the couch it was a tie ball game. My dad said it perfectly this morning, “They are playing just hard enough to win games.” When they were up 13 they let the Kings back into it by having crappy possessions or turning the ball over. I don’t remember the last time the Lakers were up by 20 on anybody. I would have liked to see them try to push that lead to 20 last night in the 2nd quarter or at least slow the game down and make the Kings work on defense.

    A win is a win. It will be interesting to see how the bigs play when there are legit big men matching up against them. The last 3 teams they have beaten are poor defensively and don’t have any frontcourt players worth speaking of.

  7. Sasha may be our PG next year with the 1st unit because Kobe, sometimes Ron and Pau can handle the ball in his stead. The real problem is a PG for the 2nd unit – this is a problem every other team would like to be their major weakness. I hate to say Luke will be bringing up the ball (he will certainly be distributing it in half court), but we really need a backup PG. Someone fast, but patient with the ball.

  8. 8, I’d be willing to bet that our back up PG next year will be Derek Fisher.

  9. I seriously can’t believe how people are calling for Sasah Vujacic to be our starting point guard. He’s not a PG!!!!! We either get someone in free agency or in the draft (Sherron Collins from Kansas is my hope)

    As for the game last night I thought Zephid hit on the most important aspect of the game toward the end of the 3rd quarter when we had a lineup of Pau, Odom, Artest, Shannon, and Sasha. They spaced the floor beautifully and ran the offense to perfection. How can that be? Throughout the season people have been saying Artest’s lack of knowledge of the triangle has slowed our offense down, but in my opinion it has been because of the Bynum/Gasol lineup. Having 2 post players in the game just crowds the paint and there isn’t enough room to drive and cut. When Lamar is in the game with Gasol, Odom doesn’t play down low which opens up driving lanes for everyone. I guess my point is, other than to start off the game, we shouldn’t have that Bynum/Gasol lineup in the game for too long as our offense tends to get stagnant with both post players in the game at the same time.

  10. Rudy,
    You made my point for me. The triangle doesn’t need a traditional PG – in fact it runs better without one. That is the only reason some of us are saying Sasha will start out next year with a real chance to start games at the PG spot.

    I do think Fish will be an inexpensive option for the 2nd unit – and he may shoot less with that group. My guess is that we try to draft/sign a taller PG for defense and speed, like we drafted Crit.

  11. I could see sasha starting at PG next year, if something better does not come along. He plays more in control when he is playing with the starters. As long as he can shoot close to 40% from 3 and doesn’t try to force the action than it could work.

    The problem with drafting a PG, is that we don’t have a first round pick so anyone we get will have to be in the 2nd round. There are likely to be some PGs available when we pick in the second round (we have to picks). Not likely to get a lot of talent in the second, though it does happen periodically. Maybe a combo guard type player will be available. Someone that is not a traditional PG but too short to play SG so is overlooked by other teams.

  12. Rudy, why question Sasha at PG and then say how beautifully the offense ran with him and Shannon? Certainly you’re not saying Shannon is more a PG than Sasha?

  13. Yay for playing time for Sasha. I would have liked to see Farmar and Sasha in the backcourt together last night, Shannon was making some bad decisions and bad passes until late.

    Serious question: aside from forcing a bad pass, why can’t Phil just make it mandatory that the ball must go inside every possession? Even if the big kicks it back out right after. And if they can’t make the entry pass without turning it over, swing it around the perimeter to the other big on the other block?

    Luke can keep a tally on the bench of when they don’t feed it inside and the 3 perimeter players on the floor at the time have to do some extra 3 point shooting practice.

    It’s a win win

  14. Craig,

    I understand that a “true” pg is not needed in the triangle, but there are still traits in which a pg must possess in order for any offense to be successful. Sasha is not a good ball handler and doesn’t make good decisions. He is best in a spot up roll or coming off the bench to give us an energy boost. Also, we harp on Fisher’s defense, but what about Sasha’s. If he started we would be in the penalty the first 5 minutes of the game.

    Don,

    I am with you in regards to Shannon Brown not being much more of a point guard than Sasha is, but my whole point was that you really feel like Sasha is going to be the best option we have come next season? You would rather start Sasha than bring in a quality guy in free agency or draft someone who can shoot and stay in front of guys?

  15. Sasha’s shot is nowhere near where it needs to be, but frankly he plays A LOT more under control than Farmar and Brown, which is what we need from our PG right now.