Lakers/Grizzlies: Let’s Hope This Isn’t A Habit

Darius Soriano —  November 30, 2010

For the third consecutive game the final buzzer has sounded with the Lakers trailing on the scoreboard.  This time it was a two point defeat as the Lakers fell to the Grizzlies 98-96 in a game that might as well been a replay from Sunday’s game against the Pacers.  Because while the details of the game were a bit different, the Lakers again showed up and down effort against a game opponent and tried to make a push in the closing minutes that fell just short.  There was even a botched last possession at the end of the game to make tonight’s game look even more familiar.

In the end, some wordy explanation as to what occurred in this game isn’t really needed.  As I mentioned in the game preview the Lakers aren’t clicking on either side of the ball and to a certain extent they’re their own worst enemy right now.

Against the Grizz the Lakers would forego running their offense to instead run isolation sets where nearly every other Laker stood around watching his mate with the ball try to score one on one.  Mind you this approach will work just fine when the offensive player is making shots. But in those cases it really just masks the fact that the execution isn’t quite right.  But on nights like tonight where Kobe is struggling to knock down jumpers (9-25 from the field, 1-6 from behind the arc) and Gasol isn’t his normal efficient self either (5-13 from the field), the Lakers need to do a better job of executing their sets by hitting the open man on time, setting hard screens, and cutting hard.  In essence, they need to to a better job of helping each other because the tactic of attacking man up just isn’t working.  And tonight against the Grizzlies, that one on one approach only led to forced jumpers where players looked for the individual talent of their guys to bail out the team rather than working together to get the types of shots that are usually going to be more efficient.

The other byproduct of the Lakers offensive approach tonight was how their sloppiness and ineffectiveness led to equally average results on defense.  Too many times the Lakers’ missed shots led to run outs for Memphis going the other way where easy baskets were earned in transition.  Even when the Grizzlies didn’t get out in the open court for an uncontested shot, the fact that they were able to operate against an unset and scrambling Lakers’ defense meant that shots came easier than they would have if the Lakers had been able to properly balance the floor and retreat back on defense on their own terms.  This all meant that Mike Conley (who, by the way, had an excellent game) was able to operate in space where he excels and attack off the dribble into a defense where the second layer of help was consistently late or, worse yet, not there at all.  This then fueled his confidence to the point that his jumper (which is improved from season’s past) was consistently taken in rhythm when the Lakers backed off him in both the open court and when going under screens on the P&R.

Overall, where the Lakers deserve the most criticism tonight (and, really, in several of their recent games) is that they’re just not paying attention to the finer details of the game until their backs are completely against the wall.  And against the Grizzlies (as it was against the Pacers) their final push to try and pull out the win wasn’t enough and came at too late a juncture.  And while it’d be easy to lament on and on about the Lakers not playing hard or them being complacent, I’m not quite there yet.  The losses are frustrating and there are things to improve on but 5 losses by a total of 22 points and every single one of them coming against quality teams (yes, quality teams) that have played well has me cutting this team some slack right now.  Again, they’re off their game but these recent performances haven’t erased from my memory the games from the first couple of weeks where the ball movement was superb, the offense was flowing at an all time level, and the defense – while leaving something to be desired – stepped up on many key possessions to bring home victories.  I mean, this team just doesn’t have it’s “A” game and while some of that needs to be credited to the opponent, a lot of it also has to do with things that the Lakers can ultimately control through their own actions.

So, tomorrow is a new night and the Lakers will look to right the ship against the Rockets.  I’d be lying if I said that I see tomorrow being any easier than the last few games but I’m also confident that the Lakers won’t let this loss linger and will be ready to play tomorrow’s game.  Until then, vent away but understand that this Lakers team has had some success in dealing with adversity and as Ron Artest said after tonight’s loss, “Now we’re in the season. Now we have to fight.”

Darius Soriano

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22 responses to Lakers/Grizzlies: Let’s Hope This Isn’t A Habit

  1. As pointed out Lakers are waiting to focus on execute especially on D. A big problem with that approach is that by then the opposition has confidence both offensively and defensively so they are much more difficult to shut down than they would be earlier in the game.

  2. Live by the Kobe, die by the Kobe.

  3. “5 losses by a total of 22 points.”

    That’s really telling. What’s more is that all of those games really were winnable. Even though they probably shouldn’t have been.

    Great analysis here. There really isn’t much else to say about what’s wrong with the champs.

  4. http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/22276/too-much-kobe-dooms-lakers

    Not gonna argue what causes what, but the relationship between Kobe’s 20+ shot attempts and our losses is quite evident.

  5. I am only concerned about Gasol’s minutes, Kobe’s health/shooting, Bynum’s long term health, and Artest.

    I had hoped Artest’s pre-season shooting and overall offense would carry over but if not, fine. But somehow I just don’t feel the same defensive impact, and I honestly thought It’d be even better this year without the plantar facitus (damned if I can spell that right), cheap Chinese shoes, extra weight, and so on.

    I’m just waiting for that break out game like against Denver last year where he just mauls a premier perimeter scorer. Brandon Roy doesn’t count because he was obviously hurt

  6. @ #5

    I don’t know how many people watched the KCAL postgame interviews but one of the points Phil made was that the players have to stop giving Kobe the ball. A lot of times he said they passed it early in the shot clock to Kobe and let him go at it, while he’d prefer them to go away from him and try to all be aggressive until later, then use Kobe.

    I think this goes hand in hand with Darius’ description of everyone waiting and hoping the talent would bail them out. It’s too simple to throw out Kobe’s high volume games as a hugeee part of our losses (even though every year it gets trotted out, and to some extent is probably true I guess). Either way, when the team is really clicking and everyone’s running the O, that’s when the comments like “Pau is the Laker’s most important player” and such start coming out. I love seeing Kobe disappear since this means we’re playing well, but I understand that it’s largely dependent on the team as a whole how much that happens.

  7. For the first 8 games that our offense was flowing, Pau was the best player for the Lakers. I think Kobe is somehow butt hurt that everyone was talking about how awesome Pau is. Kobe is dominating the ball these past few games to show who is the boss (which I think is quite stupid) because if Kobe has the ball in the beginning, all the other players can’t get into rhythm. Ron hasn’t been a big help either, with bone-headed decisions at the end of the games. The Killers B’s certainly are on a slump as well. Nothing is clicking for the Lakers, seems like they need to motivate themselves a bit more!

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this the biggest loosing streak Lakers have had in 3 seasons (including this one)?

  9. #9 It is tied with one from late last season. If team drops the Houston game is the longest one in quite some time.

  10. 1)They have no real “big” depth, with Bynum and Ratliff out. Especially affects Gasol, since there at least some options for subs for Lamar. (Caracter, Walton, Artest.)
    2)Kobe is not shooting as well as would be expected – some combination of finger and knee, I assume.
    3)Kobe has been “bad” Kobe several times, combined with some unusually poor shooting from Gasol (see 1 above).
    4)The bench hasn’t been producing like they were earlier.
    5)Defense has been very spotty.

    They should be OK with 1 once Bynum comes back.
    Hopefully, more time will bring improvement with 2 (at least from the knee perspective.)
    I don’t expect Gasol’s shooting slump to continue; who knows about the “bad” Kobe.
    Hard to say what the “real” bench is – hopefully it’s closer to the earlier games, and not the recent ones.
    Defense is mostly an attitude thing, combined with the limitations of no Bynum, so that will probably be OK.

  11. It seems like the whole team is psychologically waiting for Bynum to return as if he is Aslan. I’m disconcerted that our losses have come at the hands of playoff or playoff caliber teams. However, all of our losses were pretty close so there is some consolation.

    There is really nothing we can do about our porous point guard defense but wait for Bynum to come back and be the back-anchor on defense. So, I suppose everything hinges upon Bynum’s successful return.

  12. I don’t think its quite right to look at this as 3 game losing streak (even though it is)

    The loss to Utah was against a very good team (top 3 or 4 in west) on the road. We did not play a bad game against the Jazz, we simply missed good looking shots many of which rattled in and out. Additionally there was the whole shot clock weirdness at the end which while was not the cause of the loss did cause a certain amount of disruption.

    We did play poorly against Indiana and I think last night’s game was much worse on both ends. In both games we failed to match the energy and focus of young teams who really wanted to beat us.

    Thus I am not concerned about losing 3 games in a row (sometimes bad luck will do that) but that we are trending down right now. If we come out great against Houston and the follow it up in the next game I don’t think this is an issue. However if the trend continues that would be troubling.

    P.S also we can’t forget that last year we won a lot of these down to the wire games with last second or close to last second shots. There is an element of fortune here. You simply cannot win them all (This does not alter my analysis above)

  13. Kobe deserves blame, but I think Pau deserves more blame. Lakers have lost these 3 games because of Pau’s play. He is getting pushed out to the 3 point line on his catches. He doesnt seem to want the ball. His pick and roll d has been subpar to say the least. It is very frustrating and I am concerned. All our hope is on Bynum and that cant be a good thing.

  14. The whole “when Kobe shoots less (A), the Lakers win (B)” argument is a little flawed. B doesn’t really follow from A, A follows from B. Obviously in blowouts, Kobe doesn’t play in the fourth quarter, he gets large rests in between, therefore, his shots are going to be lower. This isn’t the case all the time, but most of the time it is. And in those blowout games, we see the Lakers play….defense. Something they are just refusing to play lately. They can’t wall off the paint, they can’t close out on shooters, they can’t change shots in the paint, they can’t defensive rebound or get loose balls. Basically they can’t get stops. And you’re not going to win in the NBA, if you’re just relying on hot shooting to get wins.

  15. Everyone deserves the blame, but can I mention Phil for a minute. He’s wearing Pau down. Lebron is in miami complaining about 41 minutes a few nights, well Pau is playing more than that every night. He wearing Pau down and he has to play Derrick Caracter. He especially has to play him tonight versus the undersized Rockets. I rather get 38 really good minutes from pau than 45 bad minutes from Pau and 15 bad minutes from Caracter. A really good game should overcome any mistakes Caracter is making. Phil has to tweak his line-up. If not, it’s going to be more of the same until Bynum comes back.

    Phil did say he doesn’t want to play Caracter because he’s setting him up to fail. But if these games don’t matter because they are early in the season, then why not. If he plays 15 consistent minutes he should be able to learn from his mistakes. All he has to do is play Caracter the last 2 minutes or so of the first quarter. Go small with artest and barnes in to start the second with Pau. Then give Pau another 3 minute or so rest in the second quarter when Kobe comes back in the game, so that Caracter can be on the floor with Kobe and Lamar. The lakers are already losing games so it can get any worse from a team standpoint, but it can only help Pau and Lamar.

  16. I have yet to watch last night’s game but it sounds very similar to Sunday’s game.
    On Sunday the Lakers seemed to run the first 5 possessions through Kobe. It was working but I said to my wife that it was a bad sign.
    Then on almost every possession whomever received the first pass ran an iso with everyone else watching.
    The Lakers are playing in cruise control right now and trying to use their talent to pull games out at the end. I’m not worried but it is frustrating to watch.

  17. #8. Why don’t we leave the pop psychology out of the analysis, okay? No one is in Kobe’s head and to assume that we know what’s driving him and his style of play is an overly simplistic approach to looking at any game and it’s results.

    #4. Your analysis would come off much better if you actually got the numbers right. Kobe shot 9-25 on the night. Included in that was his 1-6 from three point territory. So, if you remove the threes he actually shot 50%. Obviously you can’t pick and choose like that, and that’s not my intention. But I am saying to try to do more than just spout off numbers because that doesn’t do much to prove a point. And it’s even weaker when you try to spout numbers and then mis-cite them.

  18. @19

    Well, without the threes he was 8/19.

    I agree with the gist of the post, though.

  19. @ 4, 5 and everyone else about kobe’s “volume” of shots—for an alternate view of the “chicken/egg” question see this link–whether you think it’s right or wrong–and even though it’s a couple of years old– it’s at least an alternate theory to “kobe needs to stop shooting….” Is it Kobe shooting to much or, as the writer at this link postulates, is kobe shooting more because of circumstances….

    http://www.littlewhitestatistics.com/?cat=7

    p.s. “thedway” a poster over at truehoop deserves the credit for finding this gem

  20. #20. Robinred,
    My fault…don’t know why I inverted some numbers in my head and had him at 8-16 without the missed threes.

  21. What about kobe’s D on no name players, he sure did make X henry look like a pretty damn good player.