Around the World (Wide Web): Zones, Free Throws and ‘Drew

Phillip Barnett —  May 25, 2010

Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Western Conference finals

From C. A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: The Los Angeles Lakers have completed 13 contests in the 2010 postseason, with a fine record of 10-3.  They are undefeated at home and sport an even record of 3-3 on the road.  Those three losses happened in vastly different ways.  The Oklahoma City Thunder out-lasted the Lakers in a defensive struggle to take Game 3 of the 1st round many weeks ago, before tearing the Lakers apart limb by limb in Game 4.  Then, the Lakers rattled off 8 wins in succession (including 3 road wins) before that win streak finally came to a halt last night in Phoenix, where the Lakers couldn’t keep up with a strong offensive performance from Los Suns.  Beaten with offense, beaten with defense, beaten with a stick; 3 losses, 3 very different formulas for how those defeats were delivered.  Except for one glaring similarity. Huge free throw disparity.

From the K-Bros, Land O’ Lakers: By all rights, this 2004 Western Conference Semi-Finals game should have ended in the San Antonio Spurs’ favor and given them a 3-2 series advantage. Having chipped away at a 16-point Laker lead, the Spurs were down by a point with 11 seconds remaining and a big Kobe Bryant bucket still etched in their memories. Cue the improbable, as Tim Duncan received an inbound pass from Manu Ginobli at the elbow, with Shaquille O’Neal all over him and time ticking away. Forward motion blocked, Duncan drifted left across the lane, then flung an off-balance fadeaway just as Karl Malone closed in to double him.

From Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: Last night when I wrote my piece on Robin Lopez, I joked about how the Suns thought they’d be in trouble if they relied on Robin Lopez to be their savior. Well, after taking a look at Wayne Winston’s numbers, that isn’t so far from the truth. Amare had his 42 points, sure, but Lopez was the MVP of Game 3 by the numbers. He put up an astounding +32 adjusted +/- rating, a shocking figure that factors in Lopez playing many of his minutes against the Lakers’ elite starters.

From Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: Before anyone could tell Andrew Bynum late Sunday night that Phil Jackson said he’s giving consideration to sitting Bynum out, Bynum explained his own plan. “The next game on Tuesday, I expect to come out and be ultra aggressive,” Bynum said. “Run and just really be aggressive. I’m being too passive and getting fouls and just not playing the way I can.” Bynum produced such a lame start to Game 3 of the Western Conference finals that if a higher-profile player such as Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash were to play that way after being quoted the day before obviously looking ahead to the NBA Finals and the Boston Celtics (“It’s going to be great playing against those guys again”), it would be an all-time teaching point for coaches in the NBA playoffs.

From Kevin Ding, Orange Country Register: You aren’t going to get Kobe Bryant to talk about Lakers-Celtics yet. On Monday, he even chided his home fans for having chanted, “We want Boston!” in the early games of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center, saying: “Disrespectful to the team you’re playing. It makes no sense.” So with the Lakers (and presumably even Andrew Bynum) rightly occupied with preventing the Suns from tying this series, 2-2, on Tuesday night, Bryant isn’t immersed in the coming 2010 NBA Finals or the lost 2008 NBA Finals against Boston. But Bryant did share a bit of analysis regarding the current Celtics, and to hear it in his voice after his longtime struggles to climb out of sidekick status was illuminating:

From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: The chief topic at the Phoenix Suns’ practice Monday was the zone defense they used to stymie the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday. The Suns also found out that All-Star guard Steve Nash has a broken nose, though Nash still plans on playing in Game 4 Tuesday at US Airways Center. He practiced Monday morning before he had a procedure to repair his broken nose and displaced cartilage that he suffered in Game 3. Still, there was so much talk about the Suns’ 2-3 zone defense that Coach Alvin Gentry couldn’t help but laugh when he relayed a story about how someone in the media described it.

From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: It was the gimmick heard ’round the NBA, and it turned a potential wipeout into a series. The Lakers had just ripped through the Phoenix Suns again, passing 30 points in a quarter for the sixth time in nine tries, taking a 32-29 lead in Game 3 Sunday of the Western Conference finals. Then the game was changed, as were the Suns’ diminishing chances. Phoenix employed a zone defense with its reserves early in the second quarter, holding the Lakers to 15 points in 12 minutes and creating a crawl space of hope for the undersized Suns.

Practice report from Mike Trudell, NBA.com (with video): After nearly a month of solid basketball from L.A., which produced eight consecutive playoff victories and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers’ coaches were disappointed with the team’s play in Sunday evening’s 118-109 loss in Phoenix. L.A. struggled at times with a zone defense employed only because Phoenix couldn’t get stops playing straight up man-to-man, got only seven minutes and change from foul-plagued Andrew Bynum, and took a franchise-playoff-high 32 three-pointers while going away from their bread and butter low post game. “We played poorly, and I think their aggression at the start of the game helped us do that,” said Phil Jackson, referring to Phoenix setting the tone of the game by attacking the hoop and getting to the foul line.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: The Lakers’ length is the one dominant advantage they are supposed to have no matter which opponent they play. Kind of how Usain Bolt’s stride should allow him to beat anybody on the planet in a sprint. But in Sunday’s 118-109 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, which lessened the Lakers’ series lead to 2-1, there was significant shrinkage going on. The big letdown ended up being an accumulation of a myriad of miscues. “It was a bunch,” Ron Artest said. “We had foul trouble, we had some turnovers, some missed shots, some missed layups, a bunch of little things.”

From Johnny Ludden, Yahoo! Sports: Andrew Bynum didn’t want to hear about the Phoenix Suns’ zone defense or any adjustments his Los Angeles Lakers didn’t or did make. No, Bynum said as he stood in front of his locker Sunday evening. This was on him. The Lakers had gone eight games and a month without losing, and now they’d suddenly found themselves in a fight in the Western Conference finals. For that, Bynum saw only one person to blame: himself.

Lastly, I did an interview with Sam Holako of Raptors Republic about Chris Bosh wanting to be a Laker, the playoffs and Phil Jackson:

The next team on Bosh’s wish-list is the Los Angeles Lakers, who have the curse of needing to always field a contending team. Their current crop looks to be on path to get to the finals for the third straight year, having won the championship last season. With their core aging, they need to bring in players who can help compete for championships now, while building a solid core for the future. I checked in with Phillip Barnett of the ESPN TrueHoop Lakers blog Forum Blue and Gold to get his thoughts on the Lakers championship aspirations, Bosh rumours and Phil Jackson. Heeerreeeeeee we gooooooo! (sorry Steve, couldn’t resist):

Phillip Barnett

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22 responses to Around the World (Wide Web): Zones, Free Throws and ‘Drew

  1. Bringing this over from the last thread…

    For those of you not following the comments on CA’s statistical analysis of Laker free throws over at SS&R, he had a masterful response to a Suns fan with some interesting theories about how the Lakers can have only a 2 FT advantage per contest at home and a 16 FT disadvantage on the road:

    Players have a Pavlovian response with aggression. Early in the game, each team usually tries to be aggressive. If a team achieves success, either through made shots or fouls, they keep doing it. If, after a few aggressive acts, they don’t get any reward, they start settling for jump shots, because the refs aren’t making the calls. Is it still foolish for players to give up their aggression? Yes. But they do it based on the results (or lack thereof) of early attempts at aggression. The courage you speak of getting at home is the courage to continue to be aggressive even in the face of a lack of results. But to think that players give up on aggression before even giving it a shot seems foolish to me.

    Of course, I think it’s brilliant because CA and I seem to agree fully on this point.

  2. Brought this over from yesterday’s Thread. Regarding Phil’s Options this off season ….

    Can’t blame Phil X for being intrigued ’bout the opportunity of rejoining The Bulls. Especially if we try to Low Ball him. Just check out the POSSIBILITIES:

    1. An opportunity to set his own price.

    2. Rose: 6?3? & Only 21 yrs old. Definitely on the verge (if not already) of being one of the Best Point Guards in the league.

    3. Noah: 6?11? & Only 25 yrs old. An up and coming Center who competes with Passion/Effort on both ends of the court. Not afraid of the moment & is the type of player that Every Team would Love to have.

    4. LeBron: 6?8? & Only 25 yrs old (Definitely best SF in the game and arguably, best Player in the game) AND Bosh: 6?10? & Only 26 yrs old (Arguably, Best PF in the game). Several media reports have LeBron very interested in joining forces with Rose & Noah. There has also been reports within the media about Bosh tagging along with LeBron if LBJ decides on heading to the Bulls. I can recall, during the ‘08 Olympics, a reporter asking LeBron if he could choose anyone from that team to play along side with on an NBA roster, and the 1st name he mentioned was Bosh. No wonder there’s been rumblings about the Bulls trying to trade some form of package that would include Deng/Gibson/Hinrich (either in a sign & trade for Bosh or to just free up more cap space).

    5. Lets say, for instance, that they’re (Bulls) able to attain a roster with the 4 aformentioned players (LeBron, Rose, Bosh & Noah). Who in the East would be able to challenge them? Cleveland would be deceased, Atlanta are pretenders, Boston (even while looking good right now) are on their last legs due to the age of their Big 3 and Rasheed (and can’t forget the possibility of them losing Jesus Shuttlesworth to free agency) & Orlando (especially if they’re eliminated by Boston) would be in the midst of some form of re-arrangement to their roster (or coaching staff, for that matter).

    Bottom Line: Phil just letting Lakers management know that they’re going to have to Show Him The Money. Especially after we Repeat.

    Just Food For Thought.

  3. Anyone see this link on ESPN:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=5216961

    GREAT TIMING, PHIL! Sniff around the Chicago job when your team is only in the middle of the WCF!

    I have a bad feeling about this.

  4. That was a fine interview with Sam Phillip, glad you included in your post. I think this Suns series is a blessing in disquise, like Bill Bridges said, it is great practice on the SSZ for our next opponent (Celtics), and we better get it right, now in this series.

  5. I’m going to pull the plug on all this Phil talk right now. This is pulled right from the first two paragraphs of that article:

    There has been no direct contact between Bulls officials and Jackson, according to the sources, but people close to both parties have spoken and come away with the belief that Jackson would be open to a potential reunion in Chicago next season.” (empashis mine.)

    No one has talked to Phil. No one. This is rumor and innuendo at best. Earlier in the playoffs, when someone actually asked Phil, he said that he had no interest in going back to Chicago. That said, I take everything that anyone says about Phil’s future (including statements from Phil himself) with a grain of salt because no one knows. The Lakers are in the middle of a push for a repeat title and this is what fans want to talk about? Comments about Phil (especially those with no credence other than someone saying “sources close to”) are going the way of trade speculation comments. Be forewarned.

  6. @Burgundy

    The reason I didn’t link that ESPN story was because it is 100 percent speculation with no hard facts. Poor reporting in my opinion. With phrases like:

    “There has been no direct contact between Bulls officials and Jackson, according to the sources, but people close to both parties have spoken and come away with the belief that Jackson would be open to a potential reunion in Chicago next season.”

    and:

    “Jackson, who is in the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, would likely only be interested in coaching Chicago if James signed there.”

    There is no evidence that PJax has actually said anything about wanting the Bulls job. The story essentially said, “Some guy told some other guy that is supposedly close to both Jackson and the Bulls that Jackson may be interested in taking the Bulls job because Lebron might go there.”

    Until we actually hear Jackson say, “I’m interested in taking the Bulls job,” I don’t think there is any reason for concern.

  7. @ 4, * Sam, Phillip

  8. I obviously didn’t see Darius’ post right before mine. Sorry for saying the exact same thing in more words haha.

  9. 8 @Phillip & Darius

    haha you guys should disagree once just to keep things fresh.

  10. #9. Don,
    That was pretty funny. Phillip and I are locked in right now; we’re on the same page. Hahaha. Here’s hoping the Lakers are as focussed tonight when they face the Suns zone.

  11. Darius, Phillip,

    Thank you both. Speculations on Phil’s future is completely pointless right now. IF nothing else, I’m pretty sure that Phil himself is more focused on tonight’s game than on where he might be working next season.

    Speaking of tonight:

    There’s lots of speculation about whether Bynum will sit or not. If he doesn’t, he has not been very effective against the Suns, but in the past, when he has been sitting for too long means he has been very rusty for his first game back. If he plays, what can we expect? I’m hoping for a strong post presence that can slow down Stoudemire, of course, but I’m not sure how realistic that is with the knee problems right now.

    Also, if we’re going to keep jacking up 30+ three-point shots I’d really appreciate if our perimeter players could make them, but really, for tonight I want to see lots and lots of driving and post plays. We’re bigger and tougher and meaner. We have advantage in the paint, let’s exploit it!

  12. Yet you link a story about the trade for bosh with toronto? Talk about speculation.

  13. One of the biggest myths in this Lakers/Suns series is that the Lakers don’t need Bynum for this series. Well… if Bynum isn’t on the court the Suns are actually the biggest team. 7-0 Lopez and 6-10 Amare are the same height as Gasol and Odom and vastly more muscular. And weight means something in the low post.

  14. #12. Lou,
    Feel free to comment on that story at the site where it’s posted.

    Also, did you read Phillip’s answers? He spoke about how the Lakers are in a push for a title this season and that evaluations on what might happen in the off-season will be dealt with in the off-season. He evaluated Bosh as a player and how his skills may translate to this current Lakers team, but those were responses to questions that were asked at that site.

    I’m not sure why this is so difficult to grasp. We link to stories that we think are worth your while to read. If you want to comment on the specifics of that story, comment at the site where the story was posted.

  15. I think fans are being to shortsighted – myopically so – when they argue about sitting Andrew during this series. Andrew is a big body who has an impact on the game defensively and can rebound (less so when he is hurt).

    The Suns style of play often does not play to Andrew’s strengths. However, the Lakers have to play many different types of teams and most of them are more affected by a large center than are the Suns – like maybe the Celtics and Magic.

    Sure Andrew is hurt and we are frustrated. So what, we are so spoiled by Kobe Bryant that we really don’t see the forest for the trees. Most big, back-to-the basket centers do not play 82 games during most seasons of their careers. Most players, of any size, don’t play 82 games in any year of their careers. The big guys are going to be hurt more, that’s just a fact of physical structure.

    All that doesn’t mean we don’t need a big guy – and Andrew is one of the better big ones around.

  16. @15 Craig. Another point I also keep harping on is that Bynum’s never had the chance to learn how to play with pain vs injury. This is is first opportunity and it’s in the heat of playoff battle.

    This is a very good time to keep throwing him out there and force feeding him. He’s shown the ability and inclination to learn when he gets game time. I’m just hoping he learns quickly enough to help the team this year.

  17. I liked Ding’s assertion here, even though he is getting ahead of himself (sort of):

    “So in a sense, being forced to refocus on offensive execution here because of the Suns’ zone before moving on to meet Boston’s smothering team defense is a positive development for the Lakers.”

  18. The NBA playoffs prove the axiom, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

    The Magic didn’t really have much pushback in their 1st two series. Well, they may be experiencing payback for those easier opponents – they weren’t ready for the tough play.

  19. @Craig
    As well as, “what knocks you over will crush you if you don’t get back up fast enough”.

    Case in point: The Cavs. ;)

  20. Nothing much to say about today’s game other than I am very excited a bit nervous but either way I can’t wait. The series is some ways will be defined by what happens tonight

  21. So anybody read the top story on the espn nba page?

    “Tall Tale

    Would you believe us if we told you the Suns are winning the battle of bigs? Hollinger”

    For game 3, ok, but for the first 3 games overall? Enlighten me Hollinger, I’m intrigued enough to become an insider! jk