Fast Break Thoughts, Game 3 Edition

Darius Soriano —  June 9, 2010

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After last night’s win and Phillips superb recap, there’s still a few more things I wanted to touch on.  Obviously the story of last night was Fisher (and we’ll have more on him this afternoon) but after games like that, there’s always more to say right? (Or maybe we just don’t want the moment to end.  Either way, here you go…)

*Hero mode.  Shot selection.  Offensive balance.  Ten for twenty-nine.  These are phrases that you’re sure to read when people disect Kobe Bryant’s game 3 performance.  And, to a certain extent, it’s fair.  Kobe took some questionable shots last night (the one that stood out to me above all others was his PUJIT 3 pointer when Pierce – who just picked up his 4th foul – picked him up with Kobe having the ability to take it to him off the dribble and maybe draw his 5th foul, but instead settled for the long jumper).  However, Kobe was still pretty damned good last night.  It’s always easy to point at a player’s efficiency on offense, see a bad night and then say the player didn’t play well.  However, when you examine the rest of Kobe’s stat line, you see 8-8 from the foul line, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, and only 1 turnover in 44 minutes (which, is pretty impressive considering how often Kobe had the ball in his hands).  He was also a +10 last night (third on the team to LO’s +14 and Luke’s +13).  Yes, Kobe took some tough (and sometimes ill advised) shots.  However, I thought at least 5 or 6 of his FGA’s were taken late in the clock where everything had broken down (credit Boston’s D) and Kobe was put in a position of being the last guy with the ball.  Overall though, I thought Kobe played a strong all around game and even though his personal offensive efficiency wasn’t strong, I thought his presence made a difference.  Whenever he was on the court the team just seemed better off (whether it was because of the attention he was drawing or all the other little things he was doing to help the team).  Anyways, this was just a long way of saying, I think piling on Kobe for his game 3 performance is off base.

*I mentioned Walton’s +13 on the night and while that stat can sometimes be misleading, last night it wasn’t.  After Artest picked up two early fouls, Phil called Luke’s number and he responded with some very good play on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, I thought he did a really good job of helping the Lakers to settle down at a time of the game where they seemed off kilter and sloppy.  Me made the right reads with the ball, didn’t force anything, and was always in the right place.  He even hit a step back 20 footer right before the shot clock expired on his first shot attempt.  But, where Luke really impressed me was with his defense.  He’s not tenacious and dogged defender that Artest is, but Luke worked hard and executed the game plan against Pierce to help limit him while Ron was on the pine.  He played good position D and used his strength to battle him for position and deny him the spots he wanted on the floor.  Luke’s never going to be a “great” defender, but he’s better than given credit for – especially against guys like Pierce (who aren’t exceptionally quick and who rely on stength and savvy to get off shots rather than quickness and explosiveness).  I actually thought that when the C’s went small in the 3rd quarter (with Pierce out and with Tony Allen in) and the Lakers offense was stagnant, Luke should have gotten more time over a relatively ineffective Shannon Brown.  But Phil went with the more athletic WOW to match up better.  Overall though, I think Luke did a very good job in his 13 minutes.

*One key stat that I usually like to look at in road games is FT%.  When on the road, FT’s matter so much as they’re a way to get those easy points that can stop runs and quiet down the crowd.  They slow the game down and have a way of draining momentum from the home team.  At times these playoffs the Lakers haven’t shot their FT’s well on the road.  Last night was not one of those times.  In a game the Lakers won by 7 points, they made 21 of 24 from the line.  They calmly went to the stripe and knocked down their freebies and, to these eyes, those points were one of the big differences in this game.  And when you consider that the C’s got the same number of attempts (24) but only made 16, that’s a 5 point swing in a 7 point game.

*The other key stat was, obviously, rebounding.  The winning team has now won the rebounding battle in every single game.  It’s only been three games, but I’m convinced this is not a coincidence.  The Lakers were much better containing Rondo’s rebound chances and limited the C’s to only 8 offensive rebounds while grabbing 11 of their own. 

*At this point, I do not have any hard information on Bynum’s knee (UPDATE: Via the Lakers Twitter account, Bynum says that his knee was swollen after the game but that it’s returned to normal.  He’ll have another treatment today. It looks like he’ll be ready to go tomorrow).  We all saw him limp off the court last night after he seemingly had another flare up with his bad wheel.  However, I think it’s fair to say that if he was really hurt, he would not have come back into the game in the 4th (and play well in that short stint).  As an aside, last night was a tough night for Phil to decide what his big man rotation was going to be.  Bynum was obviously helping the Lakers’ interior defense and the rebounding.  But Odom was having a pretty good game as well and his presence on the floor gives the Lakers a different dynamic with his ability to initiate the offense, put Pau at the post, and move Kobe from a guard spot to the wing.  If LO wasn’t playing well, I have a feeling we would have seen more of ‘Drew down the stretch.  I also think that even if ‘Drew is a bit more limited, nothing is going to keep him out of these games.  The Lakers are too close and he seems intent on gutting it out.

*Lastly, there were many times last night where it looked like the C’s were going to push through and get over the hump.  But the Lakers continued to answer and make the plays they needed to fend off the home team.  Those are the plays that championship teams have to make and last night the Lakers were able to do just that.  I don’t think enough can be said about the Lakers’ resolve in the face of an inspired home team and its crowd.  The Lakers (and Fish especially) were rocks when they needed it most.  What a night.

UPDATE #2.  Just saw this spot and had to share.  Fish was the closer last night, but we all know that Kobe is the league’s preeminent closer right now.  Or should I kloser?

Darius Soriano

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37 responses to Fast Break Thoughts, Game 3 Edition

  1. One thing about the Lakers’ big men rotation. When Lamar and Pau are playing together I often see Lamar on the perimeter and Pau at the high post – nobody really fighting for low post position. This results in fewer rebounds going to the Lakers and more jumpshots going up. When Andrew is in there there is always one player fighting to get into deep post position. Against Boston this is a critical difference in how we play.

  2. Kobe deserves more love for his defense. He made the right reads on those double screens, harassed players in the lane with weakside help, and had a couple of those “all hustle, all heart” moments that win games (the save and pass to Bynum, the deflection off Garnett’s hands). This game was a win for the defense, and Kobe set the tone throughout.

  3. Is it just me or did it seemed that the Lakers sauntered over the half court line, often coming close to the 8 second violations (usually LO)? I don’t have access to Synergy or any other cool evaluative tool, but I wonder how many times in Game 3 the Lakers ate up 7 seconds of the clock by just walking the ball up, and thereby eating significant chunks of the shot clock?
    (Maybe Darius or Phillip have that tool…)

    But we can’t enough about Bynum’s toughness, he makes the Lakers much tougher than 2008 and actually makes Perkins look rather small. He also played better D on KG and Glen Davis. Hopefully he is well enough to finish what he started!

  4. Not to be the guy pointing out the black cloud through the silver lining, but…

    I hope the coaching staff reminds the Lakers that, so far, this series (from Bos’ perspective) is mirroring their series against the Cavs. Lost the first game on the road, won the next one on the road, then lost the first at home (only against Cleveland, it was a blowout). Bos wouldn’t lose again, taking 3 straight.

    This was a huge, huge win, but I think the Lakers still need to win 1 of the next 2 in Boston to win the series (I don’t see them coming home 2-3 and winning, and history supports this argument). Why not make it the next one, as I don’t see Bos having a chance in hell of coming back from 1-3?

    Fwiw, I’m still among those who thought Kobe’s shot selection down the stretch was terrible (then again, I thought that was true in Phx game 6 as well, but he was on fire so it turned out fine), but I agree that he did a great deal else to help us win, esp. his help D on KG. I really don’t understand why the Lakers go away from Gasol in the 4th Q. It’s not like the entry passes weren’t there. Seriously, I don’t care if Kobe shoots every possession so long as the ball starts inside and comes back out.

  5. Bynum has been excellent this series.

    I think the toughness he is showing is gaining him the respect of his team, the coaches, opponents, and the referees.

    If he can get past this injury streak he has been on (Hint: Just wear the braces, all the time, even when you are not hurting Andrew) he is going to be one of the Top 5 centers in the league for the next 6-8 years.

    He defends well, he finishes strong, and he hits free throws.

    Got to love our big man Bynum.

  6. DY,
    Fish, Kobe, and Lamar usually bring the ball up in saunter mode. This frustrates me no end against teams that don’t defend well because we lose so many fast-break chances. Against a team like Boston it almost eliminates our ability to get early offense scoring. It is like we are determined to rely on our bigs to get good position and then we, inexplicably, start passing the ball around the perimeter without going inside or driving — agggggh!

  7. I was a little surprised that Phil didn’t go to Bynum in crunch time becuase he seemed to be more effective against Garnett than Pau.

  8. Alright, everyont, let’s not give Aaron any more grief. :p He said some very positive things about Fisher after the game, and joined the Hallelujah chorus with the rest of us. That can not have been easy to do… let’s at least give him a nod for being willing to admit he was wrong, that’s hard to do.

    Though it probably helped that we had just won the first game in Boston and taken the lead in the series again… ;)

    Great news on Bynum’s knee! I love the mindset he is showing in the series so far. He seems immeasurably more mature both mentally and emotionally than I’ve ever seen him before. He’s fighting it out, playing through pain and still manages to contribute in a big way. The importance of having him on the court against this Celtics team can’t be over-stated, and I like seeing him willing to step up and do what’s needed, not matter what.

  9. SB. Yeah I was surprised too. Glenn Davis was abusing Odom, I would have liked to see him try to guard Bynum. Maybe he didn’t come back in because of his knee.

  10. Can an FB&Ger in the New England area see to it that a case of Mike & Ike’s finds its way to Lamar’s hotel room by tomorrow night?

  11. Anecdotally, I feel like our offense runs so much better when we bring the ball up court quickly rather than saunter it up.

  12. Put me on record that the Lakers CANNOT, under any circumstances, include Bynum in a trade, or sign-and-trade acquisition this off-season, as has been oft rumored.

    He may not run-and-gun with the Suns but he is an invaluable element against nearly every other team (esp. the Nuggets, Mavs, Celtics, Magic, LeBrons, i.e., the opponents that matter). He is outright dominating Perkins right now and has had his way with KG defensively (this from an offense-minded center).

    There isn’t a free agent out there that would be a better fit on this squad (not that we discuss that here anyway), given the way he is maturing. I’m more than happy to take my chances with his (still young) knees.

  13. Great post! I’m a huge Lakers fan and a regular reader albeit a rare commenter here at FB&G.

    Your comments about Luke Walton in part inspired my post that will go up tomorrow over at D-League Digest, which is a blog that focuses on D-League coverage and also happens to be part of the TrueHoop Network. Look for that Walton post tomorrow morning.

    P.S. This blog makes me proud to be Lakers fan. Keep up the good work and go Lakers!

  14. Watching Practice Reports on Lakers.com… Bynum claims that after having his knee treated the swelling has gone back down and the knee has gone back to “normal”. He also stated a couple of times, firmly, that he will play tomorrow. Said something about revenge for 2008… :)

  15. I have a few things to hit on that I didn’t want to bring up last night because I wanted all of my writing to be on Derek Fisher… thats the least he deserved. But we can’ttalk enough about Andrew Bynum either. Forget the fact that he is playing on one leg. The guy is a 22 year old kid stepping up on the games biggest stage. When he goes to the bench everything changes for us on defense. All of the sudden the Celtics get lay up after lay up.

    How things change… The Shaq/Kobe Lakers never had to play a team in the Finals as good as these Celtics. And even then if both of them had bad games on the road or even at home the Lakers were an automatic loss. This version of the Lakers is a real “team.” With Kobe and Gasol having bad games in Boston the Lakers were able to get one of their biggest Finals victories this franchise has ever seen.

  16. J.D. Hastings June 9, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    A good friend of mine who is a VERY casual basketball fan wrote to me this morning praising Fisher and bashing kobe in fairly generic terms. This is the email I wrote back to him not necessarily to defend Kobe so much as to contextualize it (the line about insurance at the end relates to something else we were talking about):

    Kobe is at his worst when he’s forcing things but more generally the Lakers are at their worst when they go to an offense that isolates kobe and doesn’t give him options other than forcing shots. That’s on him, but its also on the team and the coach for allowing that. If you give him the ball with an open dribble that attracts defenders so guys are open on the perimeter or can run to the basket, then that’s good. Much of game 1 that was the case. And the Utah and Phoenix series that you didn’t see were some of the best basketball he’s ever played.

    The Celtics are a historically good defensive team though. A lot of teams can make it look like they’re playing Kobe tight while providing him with exactly the type of shot he practices 500 times every day (with someone defending him). Start watching at 3:30 in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPwZX1dn380 That’s the game that put the Lakers into the finals and as good as the defense looks it did nothing to stop him. The Celtics are ACTUALLY great defenders and want to put him in a position to force shots. So they make it hard for him to find people to pass to, funnel him to the spots on the floor he practices less, and make sure he gets the ball with less time on the shot clock. If you are in an unideal place to shoot but there’s only 4 seconds to shoot you don’t have many options but to go up and hope they foul you.

    So what he and the team did late after forcing several of those shots was they went to an offense that exploited a Kobe-Centric defense. I wish I had a video of every possession from 7 minutes on but if you look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNlauL_YVqY At 2:45 you have one of Fisher’s first key plays. Why is he open to get that shot? Kobe sets a screen for him. Kobe’s man stays with him and Kobe slows down Rondo with a nice hip check and because Rondo is probably expecting the pass back to Kobe. That buys Fisher just enough time to get an open shot that helped him get it going. More of his shots came via similar plays. The biggest thing Kobe does here is let others handle the ball. The defense still pays attention to him which frees the ball to get to where its going to be most effective.

    Now go to the 2 shots kobe took in the last couple minutes. At 3:08 he makes one. He drives and gets to that spot right near the corner of the painted area. That’s one of his areas. He practices that shot enough that it’s a good shot no matter how contested it looks. Immediately after that they show him miss a similar shot where the defender forced him about 5 feet away and had his hand up earlier and closer. Bad miss.

    What aren’t in those highlights are plays to Pau and Odom where again Kobe’s best play is to let others handle the ball and act as a decoy. Typically this is out of character for him and the team. Even in the last minute when they knew the Celtics would foul someone he didn’t hold the ball to ensure he got the points. He continued to pass to Fisher and Vujacic to take time off the clock. That’s why, while Fisher and everybody else were heroes, this may have been the most unselfish kobe’s played.

    Yeah it only occurred from 7 minutes to go on, but part of that is also not tipping your hand until you have to. Fisher said in the postgame that you look for things that might work late in the game then you run them 3 times and if they work, the other team adjusts to take it away and then you need something else. That doesn’t mean you want to force bad shots until you choke away a 17 point lead (and Kobe is rightfully faulted for that) but it helps explain why they held the ace up their sleeve untuil that moment.

    So now having trusted his teammates effectively late in this game the Celtics have to reconsider their defensive philosophy on Kobe.

    This may result in worse looks for everybody else, and better looks for Kobe, which may mean he “forces” more shots but they go down in future games. But if I’m the Celtics I do exactly what I did last night and play the averages that Fisher won’t hit those shots, as well as dare Ron Artest to take more shots.

    Just like insurance and finance it’s a game of percentages and the Celtic’s philosophy is to trick Kobe into being that claim manager or trader taking risks trying to impress people while making his counter-options as low % as possible. Last night he played the system and it worked. I’m guessing next game the Celtic hope the same percentages swing in their direction.

  17. Definitely gotta love Bynum’s desire. Much respect.

  18. Matt, I’ll definitely be looking out for your post and will be sure to link it to the site for everyone else. I’m over at D-League DIgest from time to time as I live in Bakersfield and loosely follow the Jam.

  19. @4:

    I said the same thing in the other thread, comping 1988:

    This is a long, long way from over. If the Celtics can win the next 2, and they can, they still have the edge. I still think the Lakers need to win one of the next two. Recall 1988: after the Lakers split 2 with the Pistons in LA, they won a gutsy, memorable, ugly Game 3. But then they lost the next two in Detroit, coming home down 3-2. They did it get it done by winning Games 6 and 7 in LA–but it was a near, near thing. No one really talks about it much, but they were in far more danger of losing to the 1988 Pistons than of losing to the 1987 Celtics, in large part because they split the first two at home, rather than heading for the week-long war back east up 2-0.

  20. Kobe had a bad shooting night not an overall bad game,see what he brings to table,Doc knows this and acknowledged that right after the game.17 point cushion was mostly because of him.You will have off and on nights like Ray Ray,difference is he is Kobe Bean,he helps in other ways,no matter what the snide envious dissers try to implicate.
    Thanks Darius.

  21. J.D. Hastings June 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    On a very general and platitudinous note, the last 2 games have been “50-50″ games that could go either way in the last 5 minutes and each team has taken 1. Details of execution, calls, etc. be damned.

    If the Lakers can ensure that every game from here on out is at least a 50-50 game (especially in Boston), then they will win the series.

    The only 2 ways they will lose the series are if they give a game away with a lack of intensity (like the Celtics did in game 1) or 50-50 games happen to go the Celtics’ way 75% of the time.

  22. Why can’t we play Drew, Pau and Lamar at the same time down the stretch if everyone has their game going? Lamar can guard Pierce with length, and at the other end Lamar and Pau can rotate sides and high posts while Drew operates the other side low post.

    Especially down the home stretch this would give us another top rebounder on the floor and with Pau and Lamar’s passing we could attack the Celtic’s pressure defense like it’s a zone by passing over the top and off big men dives, leaving Kobe and Derek free for wide open jumpers upon defensive collapse.

  23. Why can’t we play Drew, Pau and Lamar at the same time down the stretch if everyone has their game going?

    __

    If Phil tried that, they would iso Pierce and have him try to take Lamar off the dribble. I am not saying it wouldn’t work, but I think Artest’s D on Pierce is worth all the Artest-related headaches.

  24. bahahaha. doc rivers calls the lakers out for moving screen.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2010/news/story?id=5268744

  25. It’s funny when he has Mr. Moving Screen on his team, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers got called for a moving screen or two in the next game while Boston gets called for none.

  26. #23 – In my opinion, they don’t because Lamar cannot guard Pierce. Lamar is a surprisingly bad defender, given his length and athleticism. He reaches too much rather than moving his feet, doesn’t get through screens well. He also goes for pump fakes, which is a recipe for a free throw parade against Pierce. Lamar was getting beaten off the dribble by Glen Davis, for goodness sake.

  27. 16, I agree on Bynum coming up huge for us. He is absolutely dominating the paint, and it isn’t even close. When he’s on Perkins, the guy is invisible. When he’s on KG, KG stops making shots. If Bynum can ever get fully healthy, he will be absolutely dominant. We’re seeing what he can do when his mobility is very limited; you can still see he has trouble moving side to side. But he’s done an amazing job on his show-and-recovers on screen rolls and has been one of the primary reasons that Rondo hasn’t gone crazy in the paint.

  28. @28:

    Celtics’ point totals with Bynum and Gasol both suited up I have posted this before, but worth seeing:

    83
    89
    87
    89
    103 (11/16 on 3s)
    84

  29. how bout some love for PJ on giving Fish the nod and getting creative with the triangle by using Kobe to set screens?

    Can’t underestimate the value of a coach who trust his players.

  30. A new post is up. It’s written by a new contributor – Jeff. A very good read on Fisher. Enjoy.

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/06/09/the-intangible-mr-fisher/

  31. I’m enjoying the win ESPN commentators said we wouldn’t pull off. These two teams are really closer than you think as for as match-ups are concerned.

    Pau/Garnett: These two will simply nullified each other. Both probably will average 20/10 the entire series.

    Bynum/Perkins & Big Baby: That match up will give you probably 10pts/15boards. These guys are working hard and doing their respective jobs well.

    Fish, Farmer, Shannon/ Rondo: Our guards will give us at least 15pts/5boards/10 assist–& so will Rondo! This match up =0 edge.

    Kobe/Pierce & Allen: Kobe can give you 35pts/5/5 and so Ray Ray and Pierce can to. No edge there right?

    Phil/Doc Rivers: Extreme coaching here. Adjustments, timely time-outs–a hard fought thinking game with no one coach better than other. Counter punching at it’s best.

    That’s just how close this series is. NO blowouts happening here. So where do we win? Simply if any player does not execute it will cost their team. But our advantage this year happens to be the QUEENSBRIDGE BOYZ!

    #1. If Lamar (the box of chocolates guy) shows up Big with maybe 15/15–we win!

    #2. If Artest continues to lock down Pierce—we will win!

    #3 The ace in the hole. If Kobe goes off for 40 or more (which I feel like its coming) than we will win!!

    The C’s will continue to play the same way tough and pretty reliably consistent. We must counter with consistency and count on one of those Queensbridge boyz to show-out. Trust me it’s the little things that will win this series. Remember the timely steal by Artest? The 3 by Lamar? The lock-down of loud mouth Pierce? Ok, so you do.
    Team effort will win it but again its those two guys that if they play well we will bring home the ring. I’m counting on it.

  32. Well, if anyone knows moving screens it would be Doc Rivers. He gets to watch a clinic 82 games / year.

    I’ll add that it’s a general gripe of mine, it’s not just the Celtics, but everyone with moving screens. And it’s been going on a long time.

  33. RE moving screens: The refs started letting those go more and more when the hand checking rules started being enforced. It seemed to all be in an effort to help boost the play of perimeter players and make the game more fun to watch. Only recently have the refs started calling the on ball moving screens more, but off the ball it’s still unlikely to hear a whistle.

    As for Doc’s comments – I think there’s a saying about stones and glass houses that applies here.

  34. Doc River’s complaints about moving screens is pretty ironic. When is Phil Jackson going to send a tape in of all the blown calls down the stretch that the Lakers didn’t get? How about Rondo’s hand pushing in Fisher’s elbow when he went up for the runner in the lane? How about the no call on Rondo’s hack across Odom’s arm that led to an out of bounds turn over to Boston? How about the ridiculous call on Bynum when he elevated to contest Pierce under the basket without even touching him and Pierce flopped? I mean once again, we gutted that win out with a tremendous effort from Fisher, but if the officiating had been consistent, it would not have been that close. I feel the officials gave Boston every opportunity to win and they just fell short. Once again I question the integrity of the league as a whole.

  35. Craig W. made an excellent point and i tend to agree. Bynum can be our most important big man! yes, even more important than Pau. I know this wasn’t what Craig W meant. He just said that Bynum gives us that down low banger when he is in while Pau/Odom do not. But i’m taking it to the next level.

    A healthy Bynum would be our most important big man against the Celtics. it is so unfortunate that the is not healthy. So unfortunate. Not only because i love to watch the guy play, but because you can tell he has the killer personality and an opportunity to shine continues to be taken away from him due to injury.

    What would the results have been in 08 with a healthy Bynum and an Ariza? I’ll save you the answer, we would be working on a three peet right now!

    Even hurt, he has the personality of an assassin. And even hurt he can make a huge difference, and has over the last 2 games.

  36. *Ray Allen had and “orphan game”, the kind of game where the camera never shows your mom cheering.

    *Andrew Bynum has lost all 3 tip-offs to Kendrick Perkins so far.

    *Only 2 players have been consistent across all 3 games: Artest and Pierce.

    *The replay of Fisher’s runner against Davis shows two Boston players flopping at the same time: Davis and Pierce (the greatest American-born flopper in the NBA because he brings it to offense, defense and rebounding).

    *Only 1 Laker hustled down court to rebound on Fisher’s end-to-end dash for glory, Pau Gasol.

    *Often, refs let a foul go uncalled when a ball is knocked out and just give possession to the aggrieved team. They can’t do that anymore during the replay period.

    How does one buy tickets in Boston? Is there a local Barry’s Tickets? I’m going to Game 5.