We’re Still Talking Adjustments

Darius Soriano —  April 23, 2010

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Following game 1, we talked a lot about adjustments.  How would Kevin Durant and the Thunder solve the riddle of Ron Artest’s defense?  How could the Lakers beat a fronting OKC defense?  What could the Lakers do to slow down Russell Westbrook’s onslaught of the paint?  Etc, etc, etc.  Well, I’m still waiting for answers to these questions.  On one sideline we have a 10 time NBA champion and on the other we have the freshly minted Coach of the Year (needless to say, two pretty smart guys) and I’m still seeing each team struggle with cracking the other team’s codes.  Durant, while getting his numbers is still shooting an awful percentage from the field (27-74 FGA’s, 5-20 from three), the Lakers still can’t consistently get the ball inside (31 threes attempted in game 2), and Westbrook is still getting to the rim quite frequently (sorry LO).  My point in all this?  It still comes down to executing the game plan on the court.  It’s naive to think that the coaches aren’t installing schemes to counteract what the other team is doing against them, but it’s still on the players to go out and do it.  In game 2 how many times did the Lakers look to the post, get discouraged from not seeing an opening, and then proceed to just pass the ball around – burning precious seconds off the shot clock – and then fire up a long jumper?  I’m pretty sure that’s not how it was drawn up in practice.  Again, it’s on the players to make the right reads and decisions that lead to success.  The coaches can only repeat what they want; they can’t suit up and play the game too.  But, that doesn’t mean that they coaches don’t keep tinkering.  So with that in mind, we look at more adjustments…

Last night, we saw the Thunder make a line up adjustment down the stretch.  In the first two games, Scott Brooks was searching for that one player that he could play next to Durant, Westbrook, Collison, and Ibaka that could score the ball.  He tried Thabo.  He tried Harden.  He tried Green.  None of them worked.  However, last night he went back to Harden (not a difficult choice considering the game he was having) and found that other offensive weapon that could be relied upon.  However, the consequence of playing Harden was that the Thunder really didn’t have a great option to guard Kobe.  Both Harden and Green have had limited success on Mr. Bean in this series so going back to them would have only been asking for trouble.  So, Brooks went with Durant.  At this point, I must give commenter Aaron some credit because he was touting Durant’s defensive ability before this series started (essentially saying the better player is typically better at everything) and I essentially said that Thabo was still the better defender.  And while last night didn’t necessarily change my mind, Durant did flash some very good defensive ability against Kobe.  But, I think where the Lakers got in trouble was in how they decided to attack the freakishly long Durantula.  Essentially, the Lakers went into an isolation heavy attack and asked Kobe to create against a long and quick defender.  Umm, that hasn’t worked for the majority of this season (think Batum, Thabo, Matt Barnes, etc).  Even when Kobe was able to get a half step on Durant, the Thunder’s bigs were in full help mode and quickly showed Kobe the second defender (this is one of the reasons that Kobe was settling for pull up jumpers against KD).  What I would have preferred the Lakers do was go into an attack where Kobe played off the ball and could make his catches coming off screens and flashes rather than in isolation on the wing against a locked in defense.  If we see this match up in the next game, I have a feeling this is exactly what we’ll see.

But freeing up Kobe is only one aspect of more successful offense.  At this point, I think it’s obvious that the Thunder have a knack for denying the Lakers direct post entries.  You can blame the bigs’ lack of fighting for position or the guards’ general lack of patience, but the Thunder’s defense deserves the bulk of the blame (from LA’s perspective).  The Thunder are either effectively fronting or just plain moving our bigs off the block to disrupt the spacing that makes feeding the post easier.  So, rather than calling for a high-low game that has been absent for most of the season or for the Lakers to use a pass to the corner that they don’t seem comfortable making (lest it initiate our scissor cut/sideline P&R action) like I did after game 1, what I’m now looking for is better timing on the flashes from our weakside big/wing.  On several occasions last night, the Lakers were in their Triangle set on the strong side and when the post entry wasn’t there, the ball handler then looked for the weakside big or guard to flash and that player was no where to be found.  There was even a sequence where Kobe (as the top side guard on the strong side) had picked up his dribble, was pressured into turning his back, and then in desperation just through the ball away as neither the weakside guard nor big flashed to make themselves available to receive the pass.  On the following possession, Kobe hit one of his three consecutive three pointers (with a sly grin for Harden after), but that is beside the point.  If the Lakers are to actually open up passing angles to the post, they have to reverse the ball (a point Doug Collins made repeatedly during the telecast).  But, if the Lakers are to swing the ball, they need for their weakside players to flash in rhythm and with timing to create the passing opportunity.  Without that action, the Lakers are not going to be any more effective than they currently are.

And this leads me to Lamar Odom.  Odom is our best flashing big man and our second best passing big.  He’s a player that has a good feel for angles, spacing, and timing.  However, few of those traits have been on display in the first three games.  If stating that Lamar needs to play better was a reasonable adjustment, I’d leave it at that.  However, things aren’t that simple (that’s like saying Fisher, Ron make shots).  In order to get Odom going, I’m hoping to see a couple of different options.  One is a greater emphasis on the two man game between Odom and Pau.  Whatever issues that Odom has had in the past, he’s often been excellent when paired with Gasol on the weakside.  And one play in particular is the weakside screen and roll action that is used primarily to get Pau a post up look.  As you can see in this breakdown from NBA Playbook, LO and Pau run this set to get Pau an easy catch on the mid block.  After the catch, Pau goes to work against his defender and gets an easy lay up.  However, this is a set in which Odom can also thrive as a cutter due to Pau’s ability to score on the block.  As Pau holds the ball, the instinct of the player that is guarding Odom is to help down on Gasol, and it’s when that defender helps that Odom can take advantage by cutting/slashing to the basket or into open space.  Second is to get Odom on the move more and coming to the ball on offense.  Similar to what I’ve described for Kobe above, those same sets can work for LO.  Have him curl into the paint for easy jump hooks.  Have him screen on the weakside and then open up to the ball handler to receive passes.  These are all tiny adjustments that can be used to get LO more active and more into the flow of the game.

We’re now at the point where adjustments and counters are going to be even more important.  Brooks’ adjustment to ride Harden’s hot hand and then switch Durant on to Kobe probably won the Thunder the game.  If Phil or the Lakers can make similar adjustments (in the form of the few I mentioned or others) the Lakers can take game 4 and be in command of the series.  However, if the Thunder are the ones that can make the changes that lead to more sustained success, they’ll have a great chance of returning to Staples with the series tied.  Which coach can do the better job and which players can follow through on the court is something that will determine the winner of game 4.  I’m hoping that Phil is the one that has the Thunder second guessing after the next game.

Darius Soriano

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36 responses to We’re Still Talking Adjustments

  1. Excellent analysis as always. Thank you! :)

  2. It’s a lot harder for Jackson to make adjustments, because of the injuries and the generally poor bench play.

  3. Good post. I, however, am going to continue to call for the high-low with Gasol high post. The Lakers need to do something to clear out the paint. I know they don’t use it all that much, but I think they need to show OKC some new looks. I agree that Odom and Gasol should work some two-man stuff when they are in there and that everybody needs to move without the ball more. That is a basic of the game from middle school to the NBA: when you are struggling on O, move without the ball–cut, flash, etc.

    Westbrook will continue to get to the rim; there is no “adjustment” to be made there, other than just having Fisher and Farmar stay about 6-8 feet away from him.

    Kobe’s USG in this series is 35.8 and his ORTG is 99. I think the team needs his USG at around 31 or 32–that means he is drawing enough attention to keep the D honest, but is not forcing as many long 3s and Js.

  4. I haven’t read the whole thing yet (actually, just the first paragraph) but I have been saying the same thing since a couple of posts back when we lost the game last night and people started blaming Phil Jackson for not making adjustments. I completely agree that it is up to the players to follow the game plan. I am 100% sure PJ has been trying to get his team to stop chucking contested jumpers and 3pointers and get the ball in to Pau and Bynum, but he isn’t going to suit up and do it for them (although maybe B Shaw can).

  5. From SS&R:

    The Lakers were scrambling all over the place, had literally no idea what they were doing, and once again categorically and completely failed to recognise their advantage in the post. The player with the ball had eyes only for the hoop (or, more likely, about half a foot off it, considering how bad they were missing), and failed to see their teammates. Their teammates did not help things by running around like headless chickens, completely blurring the lines of the offense to the point they were unrecognisable.

    Harsh.

  6. I totally agree with the analysis from SS&R. If the primary adjustment the Lakers are working on is to get Lamar Odom more involved, then this series is going to be hard to get out of. Odom has a far worse matchup than Bynum, and Odom is a much weaker finisher in the paint, which is why so many of his shots are getting blocked.

    With much respect, the idea that we can’t assign blame to the Lakers for their failure to get the ball inside is just ludicrous. They have started each of the three games with a clear message from the coaching staff, and a willingness to implement that message. The result is that the Lakers pound the ball down low to start the game and get off to nice leads. From there, it all falls apart, and I cannot attribute that to the Thunder only realizing they need to play strong post defense in the second quarter of each game No, the reason is that the Laker players, starting most notably with Kobe, utterly disregard their advantage in the post starting the very moment Bynum goes to the bench.

    I strongly disagree with the notion that the Lakers are helpless to fix this problem. As it is most of the time with this group, it is about attitude rather than ability. Charles Barkley says it every time the Lakers play, and he is right: this team just makes it harder than it needs to be. Kobe Bryant shot more shots that Bynum, Gasol and Fisher combined. That’s horrendous, and that is on Kobe. Worse, his shooting has been as terrible as it has been voluminous. I mean, 29 shots is one thing if you are making 15 of them, but his percentage in this series and for most of the second half of the season is all the more reason he should be looking to pass the ball first.

    I don’t see a team that CAN’T get the ball inside; I see a team that WON’T send the ball inside, and for that I think you can find plenty of people on the Laker side to blame rather than just suggest that it is out of their hands due to the dominating defense of a team with no seven footers on its roster….

  7. Darius (Brought over from the previous thread)

    I hear your argument regarding the refs, believe me. As a former NBA writer, I know that it’s a waste of time worrying about the refs when you’re trying to analyze the game, the players, and the x’s and o’s.

    Worrying about the refs only makes you crazy – I realize this.

    I definitely don’t believe the league is “rigged,” in the sense that Darth Stern commands that team X win a certain game.

    However, refs are human beings. Human beings who, in many cases, have been in this league for a long, LONG time. They come into the league with certain biases (Mark Cuban once pointed out to me that the majority of the refs in the league are from the east coast), and during their time around certain players and coaches, they’ve developed additional biases.

    They don’t go into a game thinking “I’m going to totally screw over Team X” (though, in his podcast, John Salley said Steve Javie once said to Phil Jackson before a game, “If you even look at me tonight, Phil, I’m giving you a T. Don’t test me!”), but when certain situations come up, or certain players or coaches push certain buttons, the refs are going to respond negatively.

    The length of time in the league for a lot of these guys has also lead them to start relying on “short cuts” when making calls (which, actually, lends some credence to your “quicker team gets the benefit of the doubt” theory). If they see a player actually reach out his arm on defense, they’re going to automatically call a foul, even if there is no contact (just ask VladRad, Luke Walton, Sasha, Fish, etc). If a player, however, is quick enough to stay chest to chest with a guy, they can literally grab the wrist/arm of the guy they’re defending (as many players do to Kobe), because it’s not as easy to see.

    One of the “official evaluators” at a game once explained the above point to me. Slower players do get penalized, because their movements are easier to see.

    HOWEVER, if a player comes up to you and says, “Player X is grabbing me by the arm every time I try to break free” (as Kobe does game after game), would you maybe look for it next time, or would you continue to ignore it?

    That brings me to my next point:

    In general, most NBA refs do not like Kobe Bryant.

    This is not an opinion.

    There is a reason Kobe never gets any calls, and part of that is his fault.

    Kobe came into the league cocky and arrogant, and complaining. CONSTANTLY. In fact, he’s still complaining, CONSTANTLY.

    Do you think that’s going to make the refs want to give him those 50/50 calls that LeBron, Wade, & Durant get?

    It cracked me up, because Bill Simmons recently wrote that “Kobe is terrific at working the refs,” when nothing could be further from the truth.

    Kobe is horrible at working the refs. That’s why he never gets any calls.

    Now, all of the above gives context, but the meaning is still the same:

    The Lakers were not fairly officiated last night.

    Was the game “rigged?”

    No.

    Did the officiating in the game have an effect in the Thunder’s favor?

    ABSOLUTELY.

  8. Phil now taking on Stern head on:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/news/story?id=5130534

    I don’t think this is going to end well.

  9. I think that Jackson did a good job of putting Stern and the refs in a tough spot. If the Thunder get the benefit of a disproportionate number of the borderline calls (even if it’s just coincidence, or if it’s due to the normal benefit that goes to home teams) it will appear that Jackson was correct. So now, human nature will make them try to make extra sure that they aren’t being unfair.

    It’s just like the Andy Griffith episode where Andy was asked to umpire the Little League game between Mayberry and Mt Pilot. He didn’t want to, but he was the only person that people trusted. And he ended up making a bad call and calling Opie out at home plate.

    There – you heard it here first!!

  10. @9, exhelodrvr – I love that episode!

    This, however, I don’t so much love:

    http://nba.fanhouse.com/2010/04/23/death-by-substitution-on-the-lakers-awful-bench/

  11. I’m starting to wonder if the team is paying too high a price for holding Durant to his 30 points a game. I really love the effort and energy Artest is putting into his defense, but he seems to have nothing left for offense. He’s limiting Durant, but last night OKC capitalized by substituting Hardin, trading offense for defense since they didn’t have to worry about guarding Artest.

    More that that, and this is what really kills me, the guy still doesn’t get the triangle. There were several times last night when he not only ended up standing right next to another Laker. The players on the court are constantly having to worry about where he is, and moving him around. (I’m willing to bet they aren’t all telling him exactly the same things, which isn’t helping.)

    We talk about various coaching adjustments, but if the team can barely handle the basic stuff, then Jackson is handcuffed. And now the team is losing a major advantage. (Though injuries were the major problem, I think this was a significant disadvantage for the Payton-Malone team in ’05.)

    I’m not sure what the alternatives are. With Vujacic out, it’s harder to move Kobe to the 3. Odom isn’t playing well, but it’s not like they’ve ever gotten the Gasol-Bynum-Odom line-up to work even when everybody was healthy, and for the time being they still need to limit Bynum’s minutes.

  12. Darius,
    Re: Durant’s Defense
    Haha… thanks for the shout-out. I also called that Brooks was going to put Durant on Kobe when and if the Thunder needed stops down the stretch because he also knows that Durant is OKC’s best one on one perimeter defender. Let me know when you officially come around to the fact that Durant is a better defender (when he wants to be) then Thabo.

    Re: Fisher’s Positives
    At this point I want to reiterate something I touched upon last year during my initial Fisher bashing tour. The one great quality Fisher has is his aggressiveness. Everyone here rags on Fisher for his shot selection. I have never complained about that. I love the sometimes bad shots he takes. Most players playing with Kobe turn into midgets on the court next to his alpha male dominating ways (Gasol, Artest, Lamar). It doesn’t help to have the only coach in the NBA who is going to yell at you for every “bad shot” you take. This makes most Lakers tentative… especially if they are not playing well. That is what I loved about Sasha… he would just keep jacking them up without a thought. When Derek takes and misses a “bad shot” then next time he touches that ball he is going to rise up when open even with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. You have to admire a player like that.

  13. Darius,
    Re: Durant’s Defense
    Haha… thanks for the shout-out. I also called that Brooks was going to put Durant on Kobe when and if the Thunder needed stops down the stretch because he also knows that Durant is OKC’s best one on one perimeter defender. Let me know when you officially come around to the fact that Durant is a better defender (when he wants to be) then Thabo.

    Re: Fisher’s Positives
    At this point I want to reiterate something I touched upon last year during my initial Fisher bashing tour. The one great quality Fisher has is his aggressiveness. Everyone here rags on Fisher for his shot selection. I have never complained about that. I love that sometimes he takes bad shots. Most players playing with Kobe turn into emotional midgets on the court next to his alpha male dominating ways i.e. Gasol, Artest, and Lamar. It doesn’t help to have the only coach in the NBA who is going to yell at you for every “bad shot” you take. This makes most Lakers tentative… especially if they are not playing well. That is what I loved about Sasha… he would just keep jacking them up without a thought. When Derek takes and misses a “bad shot” the next time he touches that ball he is going to rise up when open even with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. You have to admire a player like that. I always have. That has and will always be the only attribute Derek Fisher has/had that is better than above average.

  14. I asked it before but wanna ask it again: What is the league policy in fining people for talking about stuff that Stern doesn’t like? Does Stern decide whatever the hell he wants? Can he fine 100k? how about 500k?

  15. #14. Kenny,
    I do believe that fines are at the discretion of the commissioner. I think there is an idea of past transgressions, so you have to have said or done something in the past to deserve a bigger fine. The best example that I can think of is when Cuban had been railing on and on about the refs for a while and then after a few too many negative statements, the NBA fined Cuban 250K a few years back. Now that Stern has said that he’s not going to take it anymore, I would only assume that someone like Phil is skating on thin ice.

    #13. Aaron,
    I’m nothing if not gracious. However, I think we still need to understand that Brooks went to Durant as a last resort. Harden and Green have both been burned by Kobe and after Sefolosha, that would leave Durant as the only guy that Brooks hadn’t tried. Do you honestly believe that when Kobe was killing OKC in the 4th quarter of game 2 that Brooks didn’t go to Durant because he was saving him as some sort of secret for a later game? And despite your inflated sense of self in these matters, I’m pretty sure that I’ll trust the coaches that watch these players every day when judging their abilities. Also, with players Durant’s age, I don’t buy the “when they want to be” argument. When Kobe was Durant’s age he was all league defense because he was a great defender. There wasn’t the “conserving engergy” that we see from him now that he’s aged. It was the same with Jordan and now it’s the same with Lebron (who actually did have to learn how to play D over his first few seasons). Do I think that Durant will be an impact defender at some point? Yes, and I believe that I said the same thing to you. Is he there right now? Not consistently, like Thabo is. So, to speak to your statement, I’ll say that I’m there when I’m there. I’m sure I’ll be there some day, so it’s not a question of if, only when.

  16. darius, you think scott will keep durant on kobe or save him for closing moments? if not, does he gamble on sefolosha on kobe while getting offense?

    we need lamar’s numbers back. i recall impact games we had last year playoffs time was when lamar had a notable to spectacular game. still, i think we had a tougher first round matchup last year. we ought to take game 4. OUGHT and send in the real thunder.

    man sas-dal is a good matchup.

    btw, are we getting the winner of the uta-den series for the second round?

    GO LAKERS!

  17. Kobe will adjust and the next time Durant is put on him, Kobe will simply put Durant through a PNR with Gasol and the Thunder will be screwed.

  18. Zephid may have a point, drop the triangle, since we have no spacing or off the ball movement anyway, and the Thunder will be screwed. Yeah, I like that idea and result.

    Go Lakers…

  19. sa won…

    utah winning…

    nice…..

  20. Why I like the way Avery Johnson talks:

    “Miami outscored the Celtics’ bench.” –> In Avery-speak, this comes out:

    “Miami outscored the Celtics, bitch.”

    Worth watching ESPN just for this guy.

    Darius – I’ll tell you why this post worries me a little. You’re exactly right – I’m willing to bet Phil is making the exact same adjustments – but this team is having a very tough time executing. They can’t execute their offense, and right now they can’t execute the adjustments the coaching staff wants.

    That’s what worries me the most. This is a neophyte team (albeit a very good defensive one). If/when we face more veteran defensive clubs, how on earth are we suddenly going to pull off complex offensive adjustments?

    On the other side of the coin, we had trouble with Houston fronting last year too (if memory serves) and that turned out fine. I have confidence in my team, but I’m becoming more and more concerned.

  21. 16 – I think it’s unlikely Durant plays Kobe except in stretches; he expends enough energy fighting off Artest.

    Thabo’s still a better defender than Durant. He’s an offensive non-entity and Brooks couldn’t possibly keep him on the floor (yes, he finally hit a couple threes in Game 3 but Harden was playing much better). Of the perimeter players he had in, Durant was the best defender. Also, word is Durant asked for Kobe, so we don’t even know what Brooks would have done otherwise.

    Saying Durant is better than Thabo defensively is somewhat analogous to saying Manu (was) better than Bowen defensively. They’re both great, but Manu being the better overall player doesn’t make him better defensively than the specialist.

  22. Sorry for the triple post, but Stern really annihilated Stan Van Gundy. I mean just flat-out tore into him. I couldn’t resist not posting this:

    Stern had particularly pointed comments Friday for Van Gundy’s stance on the schedule.

    “My response is that he’s speaking like he’s in high school,” Stern said. “He should grow up. We’ve got a business here that feeds a lot of people who make a fair living at it, engages America and I’m really very tired of hearing coaches who think that because they have a postgame platform that anything that comes into their minds is a good thing to say.

    I see Stern’s point on this one. SVG (who I love) gripes like he thinks every employee of every company in America is 100% satisfied. These guys are making more money than most people with professional or graduate degrees. They should be able to deal with spaced-apart games.

  23. As for the refs I think Barkley said it best “The Lakers are arrogent”. he of course was talking about Kobe and Phil who must be considered along with Garnet as the most arrogant in the league.

    The NBA wants new blood not dynastes. You put arrogance with the NEW cool OKC and you get odd calls aganist the Lakers.

    Now throw Stern’s henchman Joey Crawford into the mix and you get 3 to 1 in fouls.

    For us Laker fans its no harm no foul because even with the refs doing their best we still beat this team. The problem will come later when Stern new mans love child King James is in the picture. Only a miracle can save the Lakers then. As in injury or a meteor hitting the Staples Center.

    Anyone who dosen’t think the NBA, TNT and ABC is only about the money dosen’t understand Corp America. And the money means extend the games and get the biggest stars in the finals.

    Its simple and is what it will

  24. Just a random thought, do you guys think the Spurs are the dark horse to the finals?

  25. I said many times at the end of the season that I worry about the Lakers meeting them in the 1st round more then any team.

    The best coach in the league with 3 very good players makes for a very tough team.

    I see the Lakers and spurs in the finals going 7 games.

  26. shout out and thanks to snoop and sT.

    right now am not so confident kobe would win in a showdown with kd if they did guard each other…

  27. zephid–

    i like your PNR idea, but to play devil’s advocate, has there ever been a team in the history of the NBA that’s gotten less off of high screens than the lakers? the screens they set are so weak (I’m looking at you, Drew and Gasol, but also Lamar), plus the player with the ball uses them so rarely and then ineffectively, it’s almost a joke– it’s a rare Lakers screen in which the screener actually makes contact with the defender, or even causes him to break his stride for that matter!

    add to that our guard screwups such as in the portland game when shannon and LO miraculously got LaM Ald. to switch on the PNR which led to LO posting up Batum (I think it was Batum, but maybe it was Blake), only for Shannon to shoot a contested 3 over LMA (!) while Lamar just stared at him, incredulous, and one wonders if the Lakers have any hope of successfully running such a basic play.

    I love the Lakers, but this team is driving me frickin’ crazy!

  28. Seid From Ethiopia April 24, 2010 at 1:33 am

    all of our problems start with Kobe. why is he shooting 29 times. Is there any body gonna say enough is enough. I think extending his contract was a big mistake. Instead signing wade in the offseason would’ve been good. his ego isn’t as big as kobe. I feel sorry for Buss. he thought we would be repeating. If he knew what he knows now, I think The lakers would’ve keep ariza and let go odom. that means no artest.

  29. Darius,
    Game 3 was the first game that the Thunder were really in with 5-10 minutes to go. In the 4th quarter if it is a tight game he will keep putting Durant on Kobe because he is their best defender on him (If Thabo was as good as Durant, Brooks would live with his offensive limitations ala Bruce Bowen). I never said all better players were always the better defenders. But most of the time it is very much true when talking about athletic better players.

    And as far as Kobe not saving energy earlier in his career… that is true and not true. Kobe would go onto the likes of Alan Iverson etc. (Fisher even then wasn’t a good defender) but only for stretches. And Kobe also wasn’t the Lakers 1st option, so Phil was OK with Kobe expending more energy on defense.

    Does Thabo work harder on defense than Durant? Of course he does and for many obvious reasons. and that might make him a better defender on Cat Mobley where KD won’t be paying him much attention… but against a guy like Kobe Bryant Durant will always be a better option than Thabo. Can you really tell me that you would rather have Kobe go one on one with Durant over Thabo with 8 seconds left in the game tonight?

    I just got done watching “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas.” If you haven’t seen it… go and netflix it. I haven’t cried so much since Kobe first knee surgery.

  30. Just a random thought, do you guys think the Spurs are the dark horse to the finals?

    Not a dark horse at all. Their problem is that they will have to win every series w/o HCA–tough to do.

  31. 27, I’m speaking specifically at the end of the game when Durant starts guarding Kobe. Kobe was a little shell-shocked when he got Durant on him, so he wasn’t sure if he should try and shoot over him or try to get past him. Either way, Durant wasn’t put through a single PNR; it was all Kobe-Iso, which was probably the worst thing we could do with Durant guarding Kobe. Once Kobe has that 2-3 feet of space, I expect him to start breaking down Durant and start drawing fouls.

  32. Outstanding analysis.

    I noticed your reference to Doug Collins’ commentary. So you also watch the TNT/ESPN feeds instead of the Laker feeds. After you have seen a few of the Laker broadcasts there is really nothing new in their analysis. They are not deep, they follow the company line, and they are repetitive to the point of distraction. I just have to go elsewhere if I want any real basketball critique of what is going on in the series.

    These guys may be under orders to keep the pablum coming, but they are boring me to death.

  33. #29. Aaron,
    Game 3 was the first game that was close in the last 5-10 minutes? Did you watch game 2? At the 10 minute mark of game 2 the score was tied. At the 5 minute mark the Lakers were up by 1 point. This is also the game where Kobe scored 15 points in the quarter and was the difference maker in a Lakers win. You’re seeing what you want to see here and having a foggy memory to try and boost your argument. As I mentioned, Brooks has tried everyone else on Kobe and nothing really worked (except Thabo). And coming into this series, Kwame A. broke it down that Brooks has often stayed with Thabo in close games late but it’s been to the detriment of his team; that the Thunder didn’t execute on offense because they didn’t have that extra scorer on the floor. In this series Brooks has tried to rectify that and gone to Harden or Green late, but those guys haven’t done well on Kobe. In game three he Finally tried Durant. Not because it was some sort of secret weapon, but because he was out of options.

  34. hey, a rare moment of optimism from me: this series feels a lot like last year’s first round against utah. i look for the same game 4 – and game 5 – result.

  35. Darius,
    My bad… for some reason I remember the Thunder coming back late to make it close… but you are right. I was in SF drunk at a business conference for Game 2. But I won’t make anymore excuses. What Brooks did however might be similar to what Jackson does. He often waits till the series switches courts to fire his big bullet. Anyways… I don’t think you can even compare Thabo’s Kobe defense to Durant’s Kobe defense. Kobe was 0-6 on Durant during the time of the game where Kobe usually takes over (Kobe’s one make was a transition lay up).

    Re: Artest
    I think its time to give credit where credit is due. KD is the games 2nd best offensive player behind Lebron… and RonRon is shutting him down. Not containing him or bothering him… but shutting him down. Its sad that Artest won’t get the credit he deserves, no matter how much he does in fact get, because I don’t think people realize how great KD. Did anyone notice how efficient/dominant Kevin became when he started guarding Kobe and the cross matchup forced Kobe to try and check Durant? Kobe is no slouch on defense and Kevin just lit him up. Holding KD to ice cold shooting numbers through the first 3 games of this series is in my opinion the most surprising happening of the NBA playoffs thus far. Now if only Kobe would sacrifice some offense and offer to defend Westbrook! Its not like Kobe is even our 2nd best offensive player in this series.