Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

Darius Soriano —  April 11, 2010

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Records: Lakers 56-23 (#1 seed in West; 2nd in NBA), Trailblazers 48-31 (8th in West, .5 games back of Spurs)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 108.9 (10th in NBA), Trailblazers 110.7 (8th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.5 (5th in NBA), Trailblazers 106.9 (15th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Trailblazers: Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, Lamarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby

The Lakers Coming in:  Now that the Lakers have clinched the number one seed in the West, the focus can completely shift to getting ready for the playoffs.  In most years that would mean playing the best basketball possible in order to find that rhythm that can catapult the team to a long post season run.  But with this team – one that has not been able to truly find that groove, even after 79 games – is it really possible?  With only three games left, it looks like they’re certainly going to try.  Even though Phil told Kobe that it would be okay for him to sit out the Lakers’ remaining games in the regular season to continue to rest his knee (and finger), that offer has seemingly been declined.  Because after sitting out the past two games, it looks like Kobe has decided that he will suit up against the Trailblazers and try to play.  Kobe’s mentality is also shared by Pau who, after the T’Wolves game, also said that he would prefer to play in these last few games after missing as much time as he already has this season.  And while it’s tough to think that the Lakers will find that magical elixir this late in the season, it’s also nice to see that the team’s best players are stepping up to the plate and trying to get on the right track even if there are only three games left before the playoffs start.

The Trailblazers Coming in:  With the playoffs approaching, the Blazers find themselves in a tough predicament.  They currently sit in the eighth seed and are a half game back of the Spurs.  And not only are the Spurs one of the hotter teams at this stage of the season, but in their two remaining games they face Minnesota in San Antonio (surely a win) and Dallas on the road (a toss up, but with the way the Spurs are playing you can’t count them out).  Meanwhile in Portland’s three remaining games they face us, the Thunder (no pushover and also fighting to stay out of eighth) and the Warriors (should be a win, but the Dubs would love to play spoiler and have that unique style and some talent).  I’m not saying Portland can’t move up and ahead of either the Spurs and/or the Thunder, but at this point it’s not looking good for them.  They really need a two more wins to close the season and they definitely need to beat the Thunder when they visit the Rose Garden.  The Blazers could have saved themselves some worry if they could have beaten the Mavs on Friday evening, but in a game that was marred by bad officiating and even worse behavior by the Portland crowd, the Blazers fell to Dallas.  Now, they find themselves in a position of possibly having to face the Lakers in the first round.  And while Portland is the team that I’d least like to face in an opening series, I’m pretty sure that feeling is mutual amongst the Blazers and their fanbase.

Trailblazers Blogs:  Go check out the fine work that Dave is doing over at Bl*zers Edge (you’ll understand the * when you click the link). He’s one of the best and has been for a long time.  Also give a visit to Portland Roundball Society.

Keys to game:  For the Lakers, playing the Blazers is like playing a slightly less talented version of themselves.  They have the star shooting guard in Roy, the finesse big man in Aldridge, and the defensive stopper at small foward in Batum (they even have the injured center with all that promise).  You add those guys to Andre Miller (who like Fisher is a veteran leader that relies on intangibles) and Marcus Camby (a player that does what his team needs of him and doesn’t always need the ball to impact a game), and you have a very well constructed team that has a lot of similar traits to ours.  So it’s no wonder why Portland is a tough match up for the Lakers and why a playoff series with them is not the most favorable outcome when the regular season ends.

So with similar types of players populating their roster, slowing their team should sound familiar.  On defense the Lakers must clamp down on both Roy and Aldridge and get them out of their comfort zones.  Both of these players are fantastic half court players and are the engine and the reason behind the Blazers very effective offense even though the team plays at such a slow pace.  Their half court sets revolve around getting Roy isolated on the wing or Aldridge at the mid post and letting those guys go to work.  Roy especially loves to operate at the top of the key where he can go in either direction just as effectively and use his deadly crossover and unrivaled hesitation moves to get into the lane or to create space for his mid range jumper.  So, Artest will need to shade Roy and try to keep him to one side of the floor so as to not give Roy too many options in which to attack.  Give him one thing – like a pull up jumper going to his right hand – and try to bother him as much as possible within that choice that you’re offering.  As for Aldridge, slowing him will likely fall on Odom, though I would not doubt if Pau got some time on him as well.  Whichever defender is on him needs to understand that he is a player that doesn’t care where he makes the catch because his jumpshot is so feathery that he’ll take it from anywhere.  So while you can try to push him to 15-18 feet on the catch, understand that it doesn’t neutralize him to catch the ball that far out and that he will still turn and face to shoot the ball or back you down one or two dribbles and shoot his turnaround J.  All you can do is contest his shot and close out on him hard and make him think twice before putting the ball up.  The good thing about Aldridge is that his biggest strength (his shooting touch) is probably his greatest weakness as well because he’s likely to settle for the jumpshot more often than he should considering his size and his ability to finish at the rim.

The other Blazers present their problems as well.  Andre Miller is a strong guard with size and will look to post up Fisher (or whatever other one of our guards that is defending him).  And while Miller is not traditionally a dominant scorer, he is quite capable of putting up points as he is only one of three players that has had a 50 point game this season.  Marcus Camby is a very good role player on offense and will only take the shots that he knows he can make while also being quite the deft passer from the top of the key.  Then there is Batum who, at times this season, has flashed a more well rounded offensive game than many thought he had by being able to knock down the long jumper and also create off the dribble for himself and for others.  Combine these players with guys like Bayless, Fernandez, and Webster off their bench and they have a lot of fire power that can put up points within their schemes.  Stopping all these weapons will be a difficult task, but if the Lakers rotate well on defense and make a this team take contested jumpers they will struggle to score.  They don’t have a traditional post player that they can just dump the ball into and that means that they will rely on their outside shooting to win.  The Lakers defensive rotations will be tested today, but if they respond they will be in a good position to win the game.

On offense the Lakers do have that excellent post up threat and they need to feed him the ball.  In his last 4 games, Pau is averaging 25 points on 58% shooting and has grabbed almost 13 rebounds (including 2, 2, 6, & 7 offensive rebounds) in those contests.  The man has been a beast on offense and you have to feed the beast.  Neither Aldridge or Camby have the strength to keep Pau from getting to the positions on the floor that he likes and Pau should be able to get off his jump hooks against both players.  Plus with Pau feeling much more comfortable with his mid range jumper, we should also see him use that weapon more to keep the defender honest to the point that he can use his quick first step to attack the rim.  So, get the ball to Pau and run the offense through the big Spaniard and good things will happen.

We’ll also see how Kobe plays upon his return.  The Blazers have several players to throw at Kobe defensively and both Batum and Webster are especially built to guard #24.  They’re long and strong defenders on the wing that can’t be easily posted up nor blown by on the perimeter.  If Kobe is going to be effective on offense he will need to knock down the available jumpshots and use them as the lynchpin for his attack.  If he can bury some of his 18-22 foot J’s, it will loosen up the D and allow him more freedom to move where he wants.  Another key for Kobe, especially against these defenders, is to work well off the ball and to put in his effort away from the rock in order to make his catches easier and his looks cleaner.  Use the motions of our sets to free him up and let our bigs set some screens on his defenders to help him shake free.

In the end, this should be a hard fought game.  Nate McMillan is the only coach that has a winning record against  Phil Jackson that has faced him more than ten times (Nate is 17-16 overall*).  Also, Portland has one of the better records in the league when on the road and facing a team that has a winning percentage of over .600 (they’re 6-9 in those games*).  Plus, there’s always the familiarity factor and the playoff seeding implications that I mentioned earlier.  Portland has a lot to play for and they will be ready for this contest.  However, this is a Sunday home game for the Lakers and they always perform well in these situations.  They’re (likely) welcoming Kobe back and are looking to notch a few more victories before the playoffs start.  This should be a hard fought game and one where both sides really show how much they want the win.  I can’t wait. (*stats provided by the Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN)

Where you can watch:  12:30pm start in the west on ABC.  Also on ESPN radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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123 responses to Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

  1. I was rehearsing at SIR in Hollywood yesterday and Rage Against The Machine was in the studio next to us. It got me thinking: I wonder if that’s Brian Shaw’s favorite band?

    Would really like to see the Lakers go 3-0 to close the regular season.

  2. I’d like the Blazers’ playoff chances a bit more if Aldridge were more of a low-post presence.

    As constructed, they ought to hold their own against any team without a low-post scorer. How far they advance, I believe, depends on the quality of their post defense and post scoring.

    I wonder if the Lakers will just play to win the 1st half, so as to give Kobe some exercise and a bit of rest.

  3. Sorry for the double-post.

    Byron Scott thinks Dallas are playing the best basketball. They’re 5-5 in their last 10, Marion is out with an oblique abdominal sprain, and Haywood just tweaked an ankle. What a weird, silly take.

  4. Chibi, I thought that was a strange take as well. But, this is what playing poorly has done to the perception of how good the Lakers are. Many in the media are now off the bandwagon. What I thought was funny about that entire exchange was Barry being the guy that was defending the Lakers as a contender. Both the Barry boys (Jon and Brent) never seem to be supporters of the Lakers (wonder why? ha).

  5. thisisweaksauce April 11, 2010 at 10:00 am

    When was this? NBA on TNT? ESPN?

  6. #5. It was this morning on the ABC pre-game show. Byron and Wilbon were a bit down on the Lakers and Barry was the guy that said the Lakers are still the class of the West and that when Bynum returns they still have the advantage over the 2-8 seeds.

  7. Darius in your preview you said you fear Portland the most. I don’t understand that.

    Spurs very smart team with a very smart coach who knows our offense better then some of our players. Throw in Parker aganist Fisher and a out of shape Andrew and this is the team to fear by fAR.

    If they finish 7th I give them a 50% chance of upsetting Dallas and so does Dallas media. They don’t want the Spurs and nor do I.

    from another poster
    Lets recap the spurs big wins the past 3 weeks…

    April 10 @ Den
    Win 104 – 85 on a b2b

    April 4 @ LAL
    Win 100 – 81

    April 2 vs Orl
    Win 112 – 100

    March 28 @ Bos
    Win 94 – 73

    March 26 vs Cle
    Win 102 – 97

    March 22 @OKC
    Win 99 – 96

    The Spurs are definitely peaking at the right t

  8. @jodial
    wrong blog

    sorry for not much insight, but kobe should sit.

  9. #7. Ken,
    Every team is dangerous to me. The west is a mine field. So, really it’s a matter of degrees. All of the teams are close, I’d just rather avoid Portland. But if we face them, I’d be fine. Just like with OKC or the Spurs. The Lakers will and should be favored and should win a series against all of those teams. When the match ups shake out, we’ll have plenty of stuff on who the Lakers face.

  10. A coincidence tonight: I was watching a Lebanese team Sporting Al Riyadi , and a recent Laker face CJ Giles plays center/PF for them, as does Joe Vogel (previously of the Seattle Supersonics). Weird, weird stuff.

    Giles is really unpolished. The guy is an athlete, but it doesn’t seem like he’s worked on his game. He had several inches and a lot of weight on his defender, but he really couldn’t take advantage. My friend on the team said he’s not much of a pure scorer. Still, if you’ve got size, you gotta use it!

  11. The Lakers are looking sharp – though it’s early. Portland is sloppy with the ball and the Lakers are taking advantage. Also nice to see the ball movement leading to open jumpers and then the team knocking them down.

    Also interesting, whoever guards Miller can leave him to double team because he’s not an outside shooting threat. That makes Roy’s penetration tougher and squeezes Aldridge’s post game.

  12. White Guys and Ron Artest Can’t Jump

  13. I liked the quarter offensively first time in awhile I’ve been satisfied with selection and accuracy.

  14. Do these guys even know how to draw a triangle? Bynum really is key to our bench, especially if Gasol is out of commission. There needs to be an inside threat other than Congo Cash (great name, btw).

  15. LOL. The story about why Sasha was not played is pretty funny.

  16. looks like kobe is gonna miss a game in the in the playoffs from techs

  17. the shannon green light continues to baffle

  18. The lakers are setting themselves up for disaster. Too many second chance points, there has been quite a few defensive lapses in the second quarter, two consecutive bad shots by brown. This is just all to familiar.

  19. Much better. and that timeout by Phil paid off.

  20. Unless the lakers pick up their game, portland is going to win. Just like the other west teams, they got no fear of the lakers

  21. #16. The technicals total reset when the playoffs begin. Even if Kobe got his 16th in the final game of the season, he wouldn’t miss a playoff game.

    As for the game, I think Gasol’s foul trouble hurt us. Portland’s defenders bother Kobe and unless his jumpshot is on it’s going to be tough for him to be efficient. So, we need Pau to be the fulcrum of our offense and if he sits we don’t have the post up player to run our sets through.

  22. Oh no.. Artest picking up his fourth..

  23. forget bynun we need kobe back to 100%

  24. If we cant beat this team without their star player, then we have more serious issues then i thought…

  25. Even without Roy, the Blazers have attack players and today those guys are playing well. Miller is getting into the lane and Aldridge has been on fire. The Lakers need to adjust on those two guys and rebound better against a team that loves to crash the O-glass. This game is going to be fine, I think.

  26. I just don’t understand this Laker team. They just can’t play well for a sustained period of time throughout a game. They started out fast in the first few minutes of the game went up 11-2, since they’ve been outscored 64-52. Do the lakers think that all they need is a few good minutes here and there to win games now a days.

  27. A little late to the party, LO coast to coast is a thing of beauty and I always expect Kobe 3′s to go in, one of two since I am watching is not bad. We need to show Portland that they will not win in our house and if they meet us in the 1st round that we will take them down and out of the Playoffs. ShanWOW just took it to the hole with ease.

  28. Great that LO has shown up.

    But Miller is playing alone. Fisher is just letting him go where ever he want. My god he is bad.

    How can we win playing 4 on 5. Every team know to go at Fisher.

    Its sad. I think we will come back now that Fish is on the bench.

  29. This team is not going to make it out of the Western Conference.

    No bench and no ability to run their triangle offensive system means they are at the mercy of the opponents hot shooting and some team is going to get hot 4 times out of 7.

    Sorry, but we might as well start to plan for next year. We have the horses, just not the discipline nor the bench ability.

  30. Just joined in. What happened to Roy?

  31. SASHA JUMP

  32. OMG Sasha!

  33. What a poster on Camby!

  34. HOOOO boy sasha!

  35. And it was Legler that said the Blazers struggle to score besides Roy, maybe not

  36. Again I repeat we don’t want Spurs. Orlando has won and could beat Cavs in finals.

    Need to go all out to beat Portland and that means Spurs can play Dallas in first round.

  37. Craig W., do not forget that we are without our 285lb, 7 foot starting Center at the moment. I will admit though, that Roy against Fisher will not be very pretty to watch as a Laker fan.

  38. boy our bench stinks. Now 18 rated in the NBA.

    Brown, Sasha, Farmer are just bad shooter and low Bb IQ’s. At this point of the season they look like they are new to the offense.

    Is that coaching or lack of talent?

  39. still amazed by farmar and brown’s disdain for the traingle

  40. still amazed at Phil’s lack of ability to make farmer and brown not disdain the triangle.

    our guards are just bad shooters. Here is an idea. Give the ball to Pau and Kobe and stop shooting guards.

  41. I don’t get it why does Bryan keep shooting sooooo much when he is at the 30% mark for whatever reason?
    Is he selfish?
    Does he think the team wont make without him making 15 shoots?
    If he and an” unefficient at best” Fisher are the Team leaders then I understand why this team has execution issues.

  42. #39

    and net.

  43. a shooter! a shooter! my country for a shooter!

  44. 41. You may be right.

    And ken as well as Odom has played, he still settled for way to many jumpers. He’s 1-6 on the perimeter and 7-8 inside. And many of his jumpers were early in the shot clock. But i’m just losing so much faith in this team.

  45. The lakers are running zero offense, no efficency whatsoever. The Blazers are running their offense beautifully.

  46. If we can’t beat Portland without Roy then who can the Lakers beat?

    Maybe nobody in the West.

    This may be the a long palyoffs.

  47. Yeah, the announcers are talking about Kobe’s percentages and how the Lakers will not go anywhere without him being GREAT, which his shooting has not been lately.

  48. It all comes down to making shots. Period. Someone make a damn shot! Especially when you’re wide open!!!!

  49. Shaking my head lakers go down by 7. They just need to hang it up for the season sit Gasol, Odom, Kobe.

  50. Man…if Kobe’s shooting woes continue in the playoffs, this team is going to be DOA.

  51. I have been saying all year as long as the Lakers best 5 players are healthy they will win a championship. Well… its officially panic time. One week till the playoffs and Kobe can’t run or jump. Phil was once known for standing up to his best players… but playing Kobe so many minutes this season and not resting him this final week of the regular season might lead to a disastrous ending to a once promising season.

    And I wonder why glacier paced Andre Miller is looking like Aaron Brooks today?

  52. Hahaha, I think even you super positive laker faithful have to start to reallllyyy worry about this team going into the playoffs. Do you really think this team is just going to “turn it on?” They werent even close to this bad last season. And this goes way beyond Bynum being hurt. We are about to lose to a team who were without their star player the whole half!!

  53. Wow…..what was Gasol doing during Miller’s drive there???? Jeez.

  54. Lakers remain a .500 team aganist the top teams in the NBA.

    This is a vastly overated team. Vastly!

    What the hell is Phil doing Ron out the the worst shooter besides Fisher Sasha is in.

    Fisher again with crap defense. He is just the worst defender I have ever seen.

    Stupid coacing Phil is trying to lose.

  55. It’ll be a short playoffs if the lakers keep playing like this.

  56. I still haven’t lost faith in that guy though.

  57. To think I was actually starting to doubt that man…

  58. … possibly winning this game is almost meaningless with the way Kobe is moving. I hope he takes a trip up to a doctor in Canada this week.

  59. KB24 is now playing GREAT BB, a three then a two to tie it up, really cool stuff… I will not worry about my Lakers for today. Now Kobe with a foul at 6.9 seconds remaining. Kobe misses two FT’s and Fisher missies his first, wow!

  60. LOL…..the Blazers are trying to give us this game….

  61. Omg..I hate to be a portland fan right now…

  62. stunned kobe missed those

  63. HUGE rebound¡

  64. The next time someone tells me that Fisher and Bryant are the most cold-blooded backcourt combination in the NBA…

  65. Ok now we know who the Lakers want to play. The Spurs because they must be throwing this game. What chokers

  66. The lakers just don’t deserve to win. This is pathetic. They’ve been giving up offensive rounds and second chance points all game.

  67. What happened to Mamba : (

  68. I can’t believe Kobe was short on both of those…Phil should sit him until the Playoffs. We already have homecourt for the west. Who cares about the season record from here?

    And UGGHHHH 3 foul shots…

  69. well that sums up kobe’s night

  70. I mean Portland tried to let us win…we cant blame them…lmao…

  71. The dumbest I have ever seen. This team will NEVER make it out of the West.

    Never It will never happen. Artest on the bench and worthless Sasha in the game. Another nice play call from Phil. This team plays like there is no coach and like a 2nd tier team which is what they have become.

    4 wins and 6 loses the last 10. What a joke. What a joke.

  72. dont worry about kobe. he is the only one you shouldnt be worried about

  73. terrible terrible game, if fish and kobe cant make clutch free throws then you start to worry

  74. that s awful coaching….

  75. I just had to laugh….Gasol for 3??? Imagine if he’d banked that in…

  76. The Lakers deserved this one. This is a thin, thin team – with no belief in their offensive system; therefore they don’t get back on defense.

  77. Please tell me that wasn’t the play Phil drew up. Oh wait, he doesn’t actually have any inbound plays…

  78. Maybe thats why Phil doesnt like to take timeouts at the end of games lol. This team will not make it out of the West, today made that apparent. They should be ashamed of themselves

  79. Was that not the most exiting ending to a regular season game yet, this season. Aaron, you are absolutely correct in your comment about the Lakers health and what will happen to them, depending on that, a healthy starting 5.

  80. ReignOnParades April 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    What can you even say?

    We have chemistry and health and shooting issues

    Chemistry can only be solved through practice and reps and that would make the health issues worse

    Health can be only be solved through rest and that makes chemistry worse

    Shooting issues can’t be solved

    Oh, and there’s no time left to even try anything

    THE SKY IS FALLING LADIES AND GENTS, THE SKY IS FALLING.

    Just gotta buckle up and hope for the best. That’s really all that fans can do anyways, but now that applies to the team.

  81. I thought that was a brilliant play. Not that I can prove it, but every time (including this time) the Lakers end up with a do-or-die possession at the end of the game, I was always wondering when Phil would turn to Gasol for a three-pointer.

    We know that Gasol can shoot; he’s known to outshoot Sasha in practice (note, practice Sasha consistent outperforms Bryant) from long distance. After all the times that Kobe’s been given the game-winning limelight, I figured that Phil was waiting until the playoffs to use him (a la Popovich & Duncan).

    But this is actually better. Show that he’s not afraid to use Gasol at the end. And, as a bonus, if Pau makes it, it forces other teams to really think about hounding Kobe by sagging off other players in end-of-the-game situations. Either way now, Phil’s just given Kobe more space to operate for his potential game winners coming up in the playoffs.

  82. Be prepared Laker fans this 95 million team with its 12 million coach are just no longer a quality team the 2nd have of the season. Poor play, poor bench,poor coach, zero point guards and Kobe has become a 30% shooter.

    No way we get out of the West. Roy was out and at home we still lose.

    Who can this team beat in the playoffs?
    Name one series you would be willing to bet money on the Lakers.

  83. Ken,

    I’ll take the lakers over :
    okc
    por
    phx
    SA
    den
    dal
    Utah.

    The rest of the west isn’t streaking to the finish line either. But I’m glad u r being positive.

  84. Now the Lakers will destroy the Kings (a bad team) on Tuesday and everything will be ok for the super positive laker faithful.

  85. The lakers are pathetic. It’s not fatigue, it’s not health, its not other teams playing up to the competition. The lakers just aren’t a good team. They’ve been barely above average since the all star break. They don’t trust each other. They don’t help each other. They almost never play fundamentally sound basket and make way too many mental mistakes to be a championship teams. Its not like teams are playing lights out and beating the lakers. Its just the lakers playing like complete (expletive). You can’t rationalize this Darius. This team has serious, serious issues that can’t and won’t disappear because its the playoffs and they are the lakers.

    Fisher, Fisher, Fisher. He actually played a good game but completely negated that with the dumbest play reaching in on a shooter at the 3 point line.

    The only way this team will have a chance to advance in the playoff is if Bynum, Kobe and Gasol dominate offenisively and Artest dominates the game defensively. Otherwise we may very well see a first or second round exit.

    82. That wasn’t a good play. That was terrible. He should’ve put in Josh Powell and Artest in the game. Why would you run a play, even if he is the 3rd option on that play for a guy who doesn’t shoot 3 pointers.

    And they were out rebounded AGIAN.

  86. I got it!
    The Lakers can win!
    Phil will just take them to the Orange Clockwork’s Cinema and force ‘em to watch all their lack-of-execution, selfness and lack of desire-effort.
    After that they will trump every team on their way.
    I see tha light! Now I belive!

  87. Yea Sorry. Got killing back pain that is making me more negative. It is tough to except a 4 and 6 record last 10.

    Don’t play Kobe till playoffs. He should not have played today. That was not smart. His last 3 games he is shooting 22% He need rest.

  88. 84: Any of them, in the playoffs. It’s a different animal from the regular season and it’s not a matter of the Lakers “turning it on”, it’s a matter of the Lakers having more winning experience than any other team they will encounter in the west besides SA, who they routinely beat in the playoffs anyway.

    It was obvious to me that the Lakers weren’t too concerned about this game– Kobe was laughing, not pissed, and same for Fish.

    Also, have we all forgotten how incredibly LAZY the Shaq/Kobe teams were during the season? This team right now is finishing with about the same amount of regular season victories-in two of those title seasons, the Lakers put up season records of 56-26 and 58-24. Granted that in the 58-24 season they played against a totally inferior team in the Nets, and in the 56-26 season it was the 76ers but the point remains– that team had loads of talent, and just played around in the regular season. Things don’t look great, but this is a frustrating team and always has been. The Sky is not falling until the Lakers are down 3-1 in a playoff series.

    Until then, prognosticating is for Weathermen.

  89. Simonoid – That’s a really interesting take on the play. After you mentioned that, I just went back and rewatched the final possession several times, and I think you’re right.

    If you watch Kobe, he didn’t fight nearly as hard to get free as he normally does. He actually made a beeline for the paint and seemed to set a half-hearted block for Pau, and then began a half-hearted run to the perimeter without really pushing or moving his defender the way he normally does to get free. Fisher, too, didn’t really come to the ball.

    If you watch Pau, however, the play actually looks designed for Pau – instead of him setting screens for our perimeter shooters, he’s freed up and runs immediately to the three-point line. Odom doesn’t look off Pau for Fisher or Bryant, but makes the pass immediately.

    I could be reading too much into it, but after watching that several times, I agree – I think Phil designed that play for Pau. And while the shot didn’t go in, it was a clean look and barely missed. I agree with Simonoid’s interpretation, I think Phil – in a game that didn’t matter as much as most – pulled a sly move that may pay dividends in the playoffs.

  90. Negative to say Ken that the Lakers cant beat any team in the West. But very realistic to say they probably wont make it out of the West.

  91. Kobe was 8–23, that worries me. Never was worried before bc he never had this many bad shooting nights in a row. But when he misses clutch free throws, both short, that appears to be tired legs.

    Fisher needs to play just the way he did today. Nothing too crazy. He was 6-11.

    I agree with Aaron (so odd to say that) that bynum back is really important. I know that’s obvious, but getting an extra 15 pts and 7-8 boards will be helpful.

    Odd that fisher and Bryant played that last defensive play so poorly.

  92. Also, I’m in favor of no post-game wrap up from Darius on this one. We all saw what happened. No need to beat a dead horse.

  93. So when will we start to talk about trading Bryant, eh?

  94. Ray… if you agreed with me more often you would be right more often. You might want to think about it. And its not just the numbers, its actually having a legitimate Center and the positive trickle down throughout the lineup and into the bench that results. Besides the fact that he probably is the 2nd best Center in the NBA.

  95. why do people get all negative on ken – he is the only one who is being realistic. This team stinks and they are not getting to the finals.

  96. #87. I’m not trying to rationalize anything. The Lakers lost. They played poorly in some very specific areas and it hurt them. Again.

    That said, what is interesting to me are all the fans that expected it to be different (thinking this team was going to roll in the regular season). And now those same fans are the ones that are expecting something else when the playoffs happen (that the Lakers are not going to get out of the West). Fans are entitled to their expectations but it doesn’t make them smart and it doesn’t make them right in their mindset.

    This season was always going to be tough. Repeating was always going to be harder. Those that either didn’t want to admit that or were unwilling to acknowledge that are the ones that are hit the hardest right now. I still have confidence in this team – not because I expect them to turn it on or play so much better – but because when the playoffs do come we’ll see get to see the same team over and over again. Where tendencies (ours and theirs) come to the forefront and the other team has to win 4 games in 7 tries. Will the other team have confidence? Surely. This Lakers team does not have a mystique and does not strike fear into the opponent. But, if you were hoping that the other team was just going to tremble in fear and lie down for the Lakers you probably shouldn’t be watching the games anyway.

  97. @Aaron. Not sure if I’d be right more often, but I’ve always agreed with you on bynum. And about health.

    Things I didn’t like about this game that appear to be the reasons for the loss:
    Kobe 8-23
    bench – did they make less than 5 shots again (though it was hilarious that one of those baskets was a Sasha slam.)
    Kobe and fish’s missed free throws.
    Kobe and fish fouling someone with 3 seconds left (and yes, Kobe fouled him too, watch it again).

    Interior defense was terrible. Not having bynum back there really hurts.

    I know a lot of us watch laker games more than other teams, but no one wants to play us for 7 games. Though they aren’t terrified, they would rather play anyone else.

    just remember that all 8 teams in the playoffs are 50 wins plus. They aren’t bad.

  98. But Darius, the point we are trying to make is, that this Laker team is overrated and no where near as good as last years team. Thats all and there are still too many people saying that this team will be ok in the playoffs and will just turn it on, even Pau said that in an interview a week or two ago. So, its more then just winning a championship is tough to repeat, this team has too many issues right now to make it out of the West. The Lakers lost 2 weeks in a row at home on ABC, and both games they played horribly and they werent even fun games to watch.

  99. Darius, I think you miss that reality that this team can’t do what we’ve been accustomed to see them to do in pass seasons. They can’t score. They don’t defend with any consistency and most importantly that haven’t been winning. Other teams have absolutely exposed this teams.

    You stated they’ve played poorly in specific areas and loss as a consequence. That is absolutely true, but I would like to add they played poorly in the areas they’ve played poorly in for almost the entire season. They were out rebounded. They gave up lay-ups in the clutch. They missed clutch freethrows. They made a bunch bone headed mistakes. There were quite a few defensive breakdowns as I typed this Phil just stated the same thing. This team just has too many holes and Laker fans just aren’t sure if Kobe can dominate enough to overcome all those weaknesses. Mind you this is a game versus a team without their best player. This team just doesn’t compete at a high level anymore.

  100. Since when did the other western conference playoff bound teams become so flawless?
    I still have confidence in the Lakers since its hard to see any team beat them 4 out of 7 times. All of this just makes the playoffs more exciting this year.

  101. Snoopy you’re back! Any clue where Mimsy’s gone?

    And Joel I too disagree with Mark Jackson – the Lakers have a better chance if it’s not just Kobe dominating. Phil (and Kobe) knows that to be successful for the entire stretch, the whole team must be contributing. One player dominating may be great for a game or two, but sooner or later, his performance will regress back to the mean (even Kobe). And no, this 30%-shooting Kobe is not the mean. He’ll regress back too.

    I understand that there’s been ongoing criticism of Phil handing the team the fish instead of teaching them how to fish, but heck – over a 7-game series, I’d still trust our veteran coach and team to figure it out; I’d still say that we have fewer weaknesses to exploit and a larger margin of error than any other Western Conference team out there.

  102. You’re not going to get an argument from me on how this team is playing. You’ll read the same thing in the recap. And I’ve argued against a “switch” existing for some time now.

    But, my point is, okay this team has flaws and we all see them. It’s many people’s opinion that those flaws will leave this team as losers early-ish in the playoffs. I just don’t see that. Even after a loss like this. I have reasons for thinking that – ones I won’t get into now – but it’s what I think. I’m not saying I’m right, nor am I saying that anyone that says different is wrong. What I don’t understand is the positivity behind the statements. If you’re so sure, are you still going to watch? Not to sound sarcastic, but if you have the crystal ball then why does it matter if the games are even played? Give the trophy to the Cavs or to Orlando and call it a day. I’m just not there.

  103. Joe – I agree. This team was touted as the next dynasty – what a joke! 70+ wins?! Ha!! Now they don’t even have HCA over orlando. (at this point)

    In comments made by Laker players they still act like they are going to change into another team once the playoffs begin…they are all – don’t worry LA fans – we’re going to be ok. well – why don’t you show us a few (even one) dam game that you can dominate a high caliber team for 48 minutes.

    As Darius pointed out – probably shouldn’t be watching at this point because it will just make me more pissed when they get bounced in the first round and the players STILL claim that they are ok. (yea – with your million dollar mansions!)

    I know this may be made out of utter frustration but at this point I think EVERY member of this team is up for trades – even Kobe!! Well, I know he just extended so that aint going to happen – and I’ve absolutey admired kobe for years. But the way he is playing now is just destroying this team. If he can’t play team ball then I’d rather have lbj.

  104. I only have one question… If the shots are not falling in, why do you keep shooting? 8-23? We can rationalize whatever we want, but the main reason is that line…

  105. maybe there’s a silver lining, the opposition will start getting it in their heads that they can beat the lakers, that we are vulnerable, and weak, and this would lead to the opponents coming in a bit too overconfident, taking the lakers for granted, like they are going to steamroll us.

    then, we are able to slowly beat these teams who are coming in overconfident, and we start believing in our team again, and beating them down until we get back to the finals.

    having come from here, where it is an uphill battle to get to the finals, well, kind of reminds me of the C’s in their year, they had a couple 7 games series, and by the finals were a tough old bunch.

    maybe this is better than coming in on a strong finish, on a roll, and we are the team that’s overconfident…

    reminds me of the year we lost to houston on sampson’s last second tip in.
    no one thought we would lose that early that year…
    still remember the look on Coopers face as he laid out on the floor, looking up in disbelief.

    our team seems to respond/play better when the opposition is better, and when we are written off.
    or at least that’s what I want to believe right now.

  106. I actually thought we played a strong game – crisp rotations lots of ball movement, LO & Pau dominating. Of course I’m concerned about Kobe’s health. But he doesn’t just magically fall off a cliff after showing what a healthy Kobe can do early on in the season. I don’t think it’s a drop-off, I think it’s an injury that he can recover from.
    This is a process righting the ship. Things just didn’t fall into place for us this game. I saw some great things from Fisher – hitting shots, playing pesky defense on Miller. Yes Sasha missed a wide open shot but he took that critical charge on Miller that reflected his impact throughout the game. It looks like PJ has elected to go without Luke.

    It was a playoffs atmosphere game and the Blazers were playing very well – probably better than they can sustain. I’d take Kobe and Fish at the line in that situation any time of day. Lastly, on the Pau shot, I think LO just gave a bad pass, it was a good play – one that I’ve been hoping for – and Pau got separation but LO’s pass was too low.

    I’m actually very happy with this game.

  107. Not suggesting anything but if I were going to throw a game to control who I played in the playoffs. I would shoot two freethrows short and the come down a make a stupid 3 point foul.

    Lakers are 19 and 18 the last month and a half. Your best defensive player who would have guarded Webster on that last play with Roy out artest is on the bench and are Sasha is in the game instead.

    Please someone explain that to me.

  108. Don, you better wake up a smell the roses, or should i say thorns.
    this Laker team has been down in the dumps for quite awhile now

  109. Darius – I do want to thank you for your insight into basketball and continuing to do a great job on this blog. I realize that you (and Kurt) did not appreciate the recent negativity on this blog.

    I just want to state that I appreciate all you do to keep this going and also thank you for allowing our negative sentiments to be posted. It is somewhat cathartic to at least be able to express our frustrations about a team that I believe can actually dominate nearly every team if they executed properly. That is the most exasperating part of rooting for this team. We all know the potential but we rarely get to see it – only bits and pieces here and there. This team could steamroll over the entire west if they collectively played as a team and executed the fundamentals such as boxing out, rebounding, playing good team d, etc… I don’t think I could say that about other teams even if they executed at their full potential.

    Anyways – thanks for what you do here. Me personally, I’d like to see more explanations of the triangle offense in videos and snapshots of what players are doing right and wrong.

    Thank you!

  110. Jay, thanks for the kind words. Look, I understand the frustration. If people think that I’m sitting back and enjoying watching the losses, they’re wrong. But, to these eyes, things are never as bad as some make them out to be nor are they perfect just because we play great and win. I ride the middle ground as a fan and I hope to continue to express that as long as I run this site.

    It should also be said again – I enjoy the ride and hope other fans do to. Not the losses, mind you, but the ride. There will be ups and downs and losing is never fun, but this team is once again in the post season and they will be competing for a title. How well they do that or for how long are things that are out of our control. All I’m trying to do is give the insight that I see, game in and game out and hope that we can be on this ride together. Win or lose. Joy and pain. Do I wish that fans wouldn’t go postal because the Lakers don’t play well or when the team doesn’t live up to “expectations” – of course I wish that weren’t the case. It makes following the team less fun because the wins aren’t appreciated and the losses are over valued. I’ve seen too many lean years to be that way, personally.

  111. Do thorns smell?

    Simon – Haha no idea, Mimsy might have gotten chased off by the constant negativity around these parts lately (which, I’ll admit, is somewhat understandable given the awful play as of late).

    I second jay’s notion. Darius’s knowledge of the triangle surpasses most bloggers on the web, and I really enjoy the posts that show me key facets of the offense that I didn’t pick up on before. (The best time for general offense posts is probably during the grind of the regular season rather than the playoff-centric posts we’ll be seeing now, but next year I’d love to see more of those posts).

    Keep your heads up, Lakers Nation. We’ve played a nice all-around game of Suck in the last few weeks, but there’s not much any of us can do about it. Last year, Odom and Ariza’s sudden hot streak was a mini-miracle in itself. Let’s hope for a similar change of fate this year, because there’s no doubt we’ll need it.

  112. I understand your thought Darius but thus team has the highest payroll, the highest paid coach and sells out every game. They are champs yet the past month and a half they play like a .500 team.

    How can you not be concerned?

    Spurs can beat this team they way they have been playing. Saying they are old dosen’t work. Fish is old. Kobe has been playing old and our GM gave us a below par bench.

    I look at things as they are and as they are is a under achiving team that does not apper to listen to their coach and run anything close to their offense.

    That’s real. And I am concerned. Polyana has left the building for now.

  113. 106, the only time you fail is when you stop trying to succeed.

  114. 115 – Not in the academic world, sadly.

  115. No other team in the League would want to play the Lakers if they do not have to, period. I am OK with this loss, believe it or not and I am looking forward to Sacrametnto, it will be good shooting practice, right?

  116. Kobe just isnt right… Hurts to see him play the way he is right now.. The World games shouldnt even be an option right now.. he needs rest

  117. #114. Did I ever say I wasn’t concerned? What I have said, is that concerns must be balanced with what the team is doing well. In the end, you win games by making less mistakes than the other team and by doing more right than them as well. Lately, the Lakers haven’t been doing enough of either but that doesn’t mean that they’re only making mistakes or that they’re not doing anything well. The ratios need to change some. Not much, but some. Today, the Lakers lost by 3. Against Denver they lost by 2. Early in March they lost to Orlando by 2. Now, there have been plenty of other bad losses lately and I’m not trying to gloss over those at all. But those games aren’t as close as they are unless the Lakers are doing some things right. It’s not all roses and rainbows. But it’s not all ditches and dumpsters either.

  118. [Pointing to each poster as he repeats the line] “I love you… I love you… I love you… I love you… I love you, and I love you”. [exit stage right].

    Damn I love me some GoldiFox.

  119. 116, sure, in an institutionalized sense. But if you fail a vector calculus course, then really put your mind to it and finally learn the subject, who’s to say that you didn’t succeed? And I’d respect someone more who failed the first time, then tried again and got it the second time.

  120. Ray,
    I know buddy… was just trying to be funny