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


to A Look At The Lakers Game 5 Offense

  1. Great analysis. Thanks for posting.


  2. on that final clip, kobe posting, is just beautiful. the dream must be proud.


  3. I’m sorry to go off topic here, but I’m sad to see the Mavs succumb so easily to the Spurs. I really thought the addition of Butler made these guys a shoe-in for contending the WC Final. Who would have thought just six weeks ago that the battered and old Spurs still had a good fight left in them. Good for them.

    Also, LBJ is apparently the new MVP. First guy to repeat since Jordan, I think. While we all have our own personal MVP favorite, I will say that LBJ also deserves it. So, good for him too.


  4. #2 imposibol
    I could watch that Kobe clip over and over again. I’ve always been about fundamentals, and that footwork is just fantastic.

    #3 MannyP13
    LBJ is actually the first to repeat since Nash last decade. But I completely agree, LBJ had the best season this year and deserves the award. He has quite the career ahead of him.


  5. Wow, Phillip, your video/picture posts are really impressive. That’s what I love about FB&G – you guys actually take the time to properly break down the X’s and the O’s with clarity and insight.

    Great Job!

    As I said in the previous thread, I’m really interested to see how the Thunder react tonight. Brooks has a good defensive mind, and the Thunder are a good defensive team. They’re not going to just sit there and let themselves get picked apart like Tuesday.

    Still, the Lakers finally showed a pretty good feel for the Thunder’s defensive weakness (and it’s a significant one).

    The Thunder have all these long, rangy, wing defenders, so if you try to run a traditional offense (like the Lakers did the first 4 games), where a guard/wing tries to make an entry pass into the post, you’re going to have problems, because the Thunder do such a good job at taking away the passing angle.

    That’s why it wasn’t as simple as “get the ball in the post!” For the first 4 games, the Lakers guards/wings couldn’t, because the passing angles weren’t there.

    But that doesn’t change the fact, that once you DO get inside on the Thunder, they’re severely undersized (Ibaka) or slow (Collison).

    As you beautifully show above, you have to get inside in unconventional ways by:

    A) Setting up your bigs higher up (Gasol). It helps when you have maybe the best passing big in the league.

    B) Posting up your guards and wings (Kobe/Artest), forcing the Thunder to play inside.

    For the Lakers to win tonight, they need to do the following:

    A) Play through the whistles. The stuff the officials let go on Tuesday is going to get tooted tonight. Lakers get Ken Mauer tonight (I predicted Benny Salvatore, but Mauer never gives LA favorable whistles, even if they’re at home – see the Christmas day game against Cleveland as Exhibit A), so the Lakers need to be prepared for an OKC Thunder parade to the free throw line. They can’t lose their composure or start playing passive. If they’re going to get rung up, anyway, make it count (no And 1’s!).

    B) Be prepared for quick double teams off the passes to Pau in the pinch post. This means that whoever’s man runs to double Pau needs to be aware and cut to the basket to give him a quick target.

    C) In fact, I think there’s going to be a lot of doubles in the post, so the guys who set up there need to look for cutters immediately.

    D) NO THREE POINTERS. ESPECIALLY NO EARLY OFFENSE THREE POINTERS. Hopefully, the Lakers learned their lesson in Game 5: you beat the Thunder with constant body blows. Keep working the ball around until you get into the post, over and over, and eventually the Thunder wear down. They are not a power team, and you neutralize their quickness (and their fast breaks) by taking shots close to the rim.

    Here’s hoping the Lakers can execute the game plan like they did in Game 5!


  6. I love these video examples – great job Phillip!

    Is there anything more beutiful than crisp interior passing from one 7 footer to another?:D


  7. Great stuff– congratulations. Exactly why I love this site so much.

    Anyone else bummed that the Lakers game tonight conflicts with game 6 in Utah? That’s been a fantastic series and is anything sweeter than watching a Denver meltdown (technical fouls, cheap shots, players yelling at each other and the coach)? I have a bad feeling still that Den may pull this out and I really don’t want to face a Den team with that kind of swagger…

    Let’s go Lakers! Let’s go (gulp) Jazz! Get the win, get on the plane, and start preparing for a very quick turnaround for Sunday (Kobe on D-Will?).


  8. I love these analysis, I am able to learn so much into the game which i dont even notice when watching thanks.


  9. Anyone else bummed that the Lakers game tonight conflicts with game 6 in Utah?



  10. We will see tonight how badly the NBA needs a game 7 in Los Angeles


  11. What adjustments are the Thunder going to make?

    Defensively, I think they’re going to take a page out of the Lakers’ book and sacrifice offensive rebounds to get get back and set up their defense quicker.

    Offensively, I expect Westbrook & Co, to try to wear Kobe out with more off-the-ball movement, hard picks and cuts. It would be optimal if they could force Kobe and Fish to switch, but I’m not sure how that happens. Maybe have Westbrook try to to pick off Fish, and have Harden drive and kick it back to him on the switch.


  12. Darius or Phillip,
    I would like to know what other team’s fan sites think of Ken Mauer. If they all don’t like him and think his calls tend to favor the other team, then he must be an equal opportunity jerk and I don’t think we have room to complain. However, if a lot of them think he is a fair official, then I begin to wonder if he does have a bias that is affecting his work.

    Please let us know any results, if you do this survey.


  13. Lebron certainly deserved the MVP, but there is another topic about him that I haven’t seen discussed.

    Lebron is 25yrs old and has been in the league since high school. He started playing major minutes as soon as he arrived in the league – unlike Kobe. His game has always been one where he enjoyed delivering punishment in his direct line to the basket – this means he also has received a fair amount of punishment along the way.

    His odometer, like Kobe’s, is spiraling upward at a very fast rate and he is also playing summer basketball.

    All this means he may plateau out within a couple/three years and he will also decline sooner than a Jordan type player. This seems to be a topic the media would rather just forget exists, but it may affect his ability to reach some of the career records people are automatically granting him today.

    If he thinks about any of this stuff I bet it impacts how he makes his decision this summer – the time of his last contract before any decline starts to occur.


  14. I think that history will see Lebron as a Sandy Koufax type. An absurdly great peak, shortened by injuries and diminishing athleticism.

    Love the photo and video breakdown. Absolutely great work.

    Tonight will be fun to watch.

    Go Lakers!


  15. #13… you may be right about that, but Lebron is just so huge. He outweighs almost all of the big guys who theoretically contest his drives into the lane (I think Bynum only outweighs him by 10 or 20, and I think Lebron is heavier than Dwight Howard. Think about that), so I don’t really classify him as a Jordan/Kobe type player. His strength and size kind of put him in another category.

    But you do have a point – the legs wear out. Lebron’s speed at that size is what separates him from everyone else, and naturally he will lose that as time wears on.

    We’ll have to see – he really is unprecedented. Kind of like Wilt and Magic put together.

    He definitely deserves the MVP. I’m OK with crowning him the best individual player in the league – while Kobe leads the Lakers to another championship or two. Go Lakers!


  16. Props for the post… I would love to see even more fundamentals. Go into details about how the players pivot, take of, shoot. How they initiate their drives or pick up their dribles.

    Its what makes basketball fantastic. That there are so many layer to uncover.