A Look At The Lakers Game 5 Offense

Phillip Barnett —  April 30, 2010

Orange County News - April 27, 2010

On Wednesday, Darius had a fantastic post about the re-emergence of the triangle offense in their Game 5 domination over the Thunder. In that post, he mentioned that he wished that he had visual examples. While he was able to paint the proverbial picture for those of us who are avid hoop fans, there are some of you who have mentioned that you are just learning the game or don’t have a firm grasp of the X’s and O’s aspect of the game. So, with the help of Darius’ descriptions and a couple of commenters, I hope that these following videos give you, visually, what Darius was able to do for some of us with the written word.

Darius’ post was broken up into three different parts, with the first being Spacing and Timing. I’ll let Darius introduce these first two videos. From his Wednesday post:

Last night, though, we saw a return of better spacing and much improved timing.  Why?  Several reasons, really, but mostly because of a better use of the dribble.  In game five, the Lakers wings used their dribble with purpose.  Nearly every time Kobe or Fisher or Ron put the ball on the floor it was get into a seam and make the defense react.  This action with the ball caused defenders to shift and slide with the result being better passing angles to the open perimeter players and post players that slid into the gaps when their defenders moved over to show help.  These open passing angles jump started ball movement.  Which in turn made the player movement that much more meaningful.

This first video gives an example of how the usage of dribble penetration, or dribbling with purpose, set up a wide open three-pointer. It begins with Kobe dribbling with no purpose whatsoever. He has the ball on the left wing, and dribbles between his legs six times, going nowhere. He gives the ball to Gasol at the top of the arch, and when he gets it back, he has a much more effective dribble. He drives to the middle forcing the whole Thunder team to collapse on him. When the ball is kicked out to the corner, pay attention to how many Thunder defenders are on the right side of the floor. It’s everyone except for James Harden, and he’s right near the middle of the floor. The ball is swung to Shannon Brown at the top of the arch. He brings a closing out defender to him, takes a dribble toward the defense, forcing them to commit to him, and makes the extra pass to a wide open Ron Artest.

This second video, we see Pau Gasol operating at what some of you guys called the pinch post. For this one, I’ll let commenter Burgundy take the podium:

Pau setting up at the pinch post completely screwed up the OKC spacing. For four games, it seemed like Pau was always operating in a sea of arms, but setting up where he did, he had time to scan and make smart/quick decisions – he completely picked the Thunder apart. It will be interesting to see how the Thunder adjust on Friday (my guess is they’ll try to double Pau immediately, rather than giving him space to operate – a tactic the Lakers need to be prepared for).

This video gives a beautiful example of what Burgundy wrote about. Gasol caught the ball on the right elbow, turned and faced and found a back cutting Kobe Bryant, who was able to get the bucket and the foul. What I can appreciate most about this play is it illustrates how well Gasol can pass (as you’ll see more of later). As soon as he saw that Kobe was shoulder-to-shoulder with Kevin Durant, he knew that Durant was beat and threw the pass. There are a lot of NFL quarterbacks who wouldn’t have the confidence to make that pass, or the ability to throw it exactly where it needed to be. I’m not saying that Gasol can start for the Raiders next season more than I’m trying to say that his confidence as a passer is a huge reason why he’s so affective passing the ball.

In Darius’ second section, he talked about Early Offense. Again, I’ll let Darius kick things off:

As I mentioned in the recap to game 5, the Lakers only allowed 14 offensive rebounds on the 53 missed shots of the Thunder.  On those possessions where the Lakers secured the ball, they pushed the ball up court and looked inside as early as possible.  And because the Lakers bigs were running the floor, this set up early offense opportunities for easier post entries and finishes at the basket.  After several successful possessions using this tactic, the Thunder were forced to collapse on defense and protect the paint even more than normal.  This then set up our second big man running in a trail position to receive passes on dives at the free throw line because once our first big had the ball all of the attention was on him.

This first video shows two clips that are a beautiful illustration on what Darius was talking about. The video shows two clips of the ball getting into Gasol early and Andrew Bynum directly benefiting because of it (and a couple more great passes from Gasol). The first of the two clips shows the bigs running the floor, in which I’ll use pictures to show why it works so well when you have bigs who can run the floor.

This first picture shows the location of where the bigs are right before Derek Fisher makes an entry pass to Gasol. And as commenter Ryan mentioned:

I thought the early offense played a huge role in last night game. The Lakers got into their offensive sets before OKC could pack it into the paint and front our bigs. As you mentioned this made entry passes so much easier, and this is what I felt lead to a lot of the better ball and player movement.

The Thunder, up until Game 5, had done a great job of fronting the Laker bigs, but when you get into offense this early (just three seconds into the 24), it’s hard to front the bigs. Gasol is getting position in the middle of the key and Bynum is trailing.


This second picture shows where Bynum is when Gasol receives the pass from Fisher. Gasol has great position to begin with. When he has the ball there, one-on-one, there really isn’t anything he can’t do. As you can see, his head is turned toward the middle of the floor and sees the cutting Bynum, who literally has no one in front of him. Look at how open the paint is. This shows exactly what Darius wrote on Wednesday: the trailing big man receiving the pass from the first one. Gasol drops a lovely pass to Bynum for an easy two. It happened so fast, I thought Fisher threw the pass the first time I saw it.


This final video gives us a glimpse of Ron Artest in the post, but also features one of the times Kobe moved into the post.

The video starts out with Artest catching the pall on the pinch post with James Harden on him. The reason this works so well is because, although a good player, Harden just isn’t strong enough to handle a guy like Ron Artest in the post yet. After Artest catches the ball, he turns, faces, and immediately attacks the rim. This time, Nick Collison comes over to help leaving Gasol wide open under the hoop. Again, we see great interior passing lead to easy shots.

The second clip in this video, we see Kobe catch the ball on the other side with Kevin Durant on him, and again, the defender just isn’t strong enough to handle him in the post. You see how well Kobe works in the post in this clip. When he receives the entry pass, he takes one strong dribble, backing up Durant. He steps back exactly the same way he takes his fall away jumpers knowing Durant would bite. After the pump fake, he steps through and takes an uncontested layup. Even 14 years later, I still get caught off guard when Kobe shows off this kind of footwork. It’s truly unparalleled by any other wing player in the NBA right now.

Game 6 is tonight. Both the Spurs and Suns were able to close out in their Game 6 matchups last night, I’m hoping the same can happen with the Lakers. As you’ve seen in the above video, and read from Darius on Wednesday, the Lakers really do have the ability to go into Oklahoma City and completely take over, but it’s a matter of proving they can do it on consecutive nights. I hope they have it in them.


Phillip Barnett