Around the World (Wide Web)

Phillip Barnett —  December 27, 2010

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

From Mark Heisler, LA Times: Happily for the Lakers — or as happily as anything can be now — they don’t have to worry about beating Miami in the Finals. Who said the Lakers will make the Finals? One game never means anything, even if it’s on Christmas and bidding on EBay for two courtside tickets reached $41,440. So, as bad as the Lakers looked, with the Heat walking on them in a 96-80 rout, that doesn’t mean it’s time to start worrying. It was time to start worrying a week or two ago, with San Antonio and Dallas showing they weren’t the same old Spurs and Mavericks. For the Lakers, who dominated the West for three seasons, spending 34 days out of first place in the last two, it’s a whole new deal.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: The text message popped up and set off a slight moment of anxiety. Lakers forward Ron Artest was set to arrive Tuesday at the Target Terrace in L.A. Live to introduce his public service announcement with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, but he just texted his publicist he’d be 20 minutes late because of traffic. It’s not a big deal except this announcement preceded the Lakers-Milwaukee game, meaning arriving late there would result in a fine from Coach Phil Jackson. Artest managed to arrive to Staples Center on time, but his need to monitor the clock epitomized the tug-of-war he felt between balancing his Laker responsibilities and promotional efforts raffling off his championship ring for mental health charities. That’s why Artest felt a sense of relief on Christmas, the day Raymond Mikkael, a father of four and a Hawthorne resident, learned he won the contest, which was announced at the Conga Room following the Lakers’ 96-80 loss to the Miami Heat.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Depending on who you ask, the Lakers lost a lot of intangible stuff in the wake of Saturday’s Christmas anti-miracle. Gravitas, confidence, and pride, just to name a few. But as I noted heading in, the Lakers faced real, practical consequences from continued spotty play (beyond prompting Kobe Bryant to stick a boot in places boots don’t comfortably fit). During their consecutive title runs, the team reached Christmas with a lead in the Western Conference. Now, after peeling themselves off the Staples floor following the Miami game, despite playing by far the NBA’s easiest schedule the Lakers found themselves not just outside the W.C.’s top spot (five back of San Antonio), but the second as well (three behind Dallas), and in a dead heat with Utah for third (with Oklahoma City a scant half game behind).
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: LeBron James was magnificent yesterday, hanging a triple-double on the Lakers in the Heat’s blowout victory. In my initial damage assessment I wrote that “Artest got destroyed by LeBron,” a statement to which a few commenters have objected on the grounds that I was being unfairly critical toward Ron’s defense. So to fact-check myself, I decided this afternoon to hop onto Synergy and rewatch all of LeBron’s plays from yesterday’s game in the hopes of assigning blame where blame’s rightly due. I looked at every sequence in which LeBron was involved either because he took a shot, went to the free-throw line, handed out an assist or committed a turnover. For each one I took note of which Laker (or Lakers) was tasked with guarding him. I recorded the success or failure of the play and compiled the results into a table you can find after the cut.

Phillip Barnett


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  1. I was on mexican cruise but saw the Heat game yesterday on DVR. I know a lot of fans here didn’t like the fact I picked the Heat this summer to win the title but I think after watching us get deestroyed you can see how I could come to that conclusion. The good news for us is that one of the big reasons we got dominated is that Gasol got dominated by big Z and Lamar got dominated by Bosh. If Bynum gets healthy and moves into the starting lineup Pau doesn’t get pushed around by that giant 7-3 Center and Bosh naybe gets pushed around by our 7 foot PF. Other than that, I think its safe to assume that Lebron will continue to outplay Kobe like he has done for the last few seasons.


  2. So what will LA do to right the ship? If getting trounced by the Bucks, and then dismantled on Christmas doesnt give the team extra self motivation to play better(what will). AB is not going to play himself into shape anytime soon. Thats why I had a sea sick feel when folks where claiming Andrew was the answer to the current problems, when he is still weeks away from being a factor on a nightly basis.

    Although I never put to much weight on regular season games, the upcoming weeks are going to be very telling of the emotional state of the two time defending champs.The coach and star player has called the team out in the press for its lazy play, thats what makes this a different situation than in years past. Will LA be content to ride the wave until the playoffs, or show a little pride in what they call a job. I dont doubt that the team can make the necassary steps to improve, but will it be enough to keep up with an improved league looking too dethrone the king at the top of the hill.


  3. The regular season does not matter as much for teams that are established; this Lakers’ roster can’t be described that way, though.

    This is significantly different than last year’s team – Barnes and Blake give different dimensions to the bench, Walton is back after missing (essentially) all of last season, Brown is better, they have no idea what they will get from Bynum (that is a constant, but it contributes to the unknowns), they don’t know what Kobe is capable of, between his finger injuries and coming off of knee surgery, Artest is less dependable than last year, on offense (not surprising) and defense (which is surprising), Odom is playing better, Gasol seems to be in a “funk” – I suspect minor injuries, and Bynum’s lack of availability means Gasol can’t let the injuries heal, which accentuates the fact that there is minimal depth at PF and C (versus at least a little depth last year from Powell and Mbenga).

    So this regular season actually matters a lot; more so than last year. But the players apparently don’t feel that way.


  4. John Ireland made an interesting comment this morning on ‘The Herd”…

    No team in the modern era of NBA basketball (starting with 1970) has been to four straight finals and won 3 of them. Only two teams (Lakers and Celtics from the 80’s) have ever been to four straight finals.

    Of course, this posits that the Lakers would reach the finals this season – a real question with the improvement of the Spurs and Mavs. This also implys that it is a tough mental job to go through three straight seasons and reach the finals; never mind a fourth.


  5. I finally got to watch the game in its entirety:

    1.) Many quality shots simply did not fall. For example, wen the Lakers were down 17-10 with 3 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Fisher and Barnes each had a wide open 3-point on separate possessions. Had those shots went in, it would have been 17-16. Instead, the next bucket scored was Bynum’s hook with less than a minute remaining in the quarter, to put the score at 17-12. Call it nerves or bad luck, regardless, the Lakers had many good looks that, on another day, may have resulted in huge runs.

    2.) The Heat played good collective team defense. Their defensive scheme seemed to focus on on Kobe, undoubtedly because they knew of Z’s history of nullifying Gasol. Everytime Kobe tried to back Wade down into the post, Z would double-team from the weak side, with LeBron sliding down to cover Z’s man. This usually left Barnes or Artest open at the 3-point line on the other side, a difficult pass to make out of the post.

    3.) There were many errant entry passes into the post that resulted in turnovers and, subsequently, fast break points. The passer often just held the ball above his head and passed. Rarely did the Lakers put the defense on their toes with pass fakes, unexpected drives into the paint, or even just a bounce pass.

    I said in the previous post that this isn’t a true indication of how the Lakers fare against the Heat. When Bynum is healthy and starting, Gasol goes back to the 4. Bynum would then be able to use his strength against Z, while Gasol can likewise abuse Bosh in the post.


  6. Lakers have two problems against the Heat that, frankly they had against the Cavaliers last year. First, Ron Artest is completely ineffective against Lebron James. That’s not an insult since nobody in the NBA has shown that they can bother Lebron, but for a guy that does so well against the Paul Pierce’s and Kevin Durant’s of the world it is a little shocking to see how average a defender Lebron makes Ron Artest look.

    Second, as somebody mentioned earlier Z’s length really, really bothers Gasol combine that with that fact the Z can comfortably hit that 15-18 footer it’s makes it really difficult to decide what to do when Lebron or Wade run the pick and pop with Z.

    Without a healthy Bynum, I frankly don’t see how the Lakers match up with the Heat.


  7. Call me optimistic, but I’m not yet ready to hammer the nail in our title coffins just yet. Yes, L.A (deservedly) lost this game due to the multitude of reasons we’ve all cited – bad P&R defense, poor rotation, hedging on offense, poor shot selection etc. But as Darius pointed out, the championship isn’t decided in December, but June. The Lakers still have room to right a lot of wrongs before then. For one thing, Ron, Barnes and heck, even Kobe need to pick up the slacks where defense is concerned. Bynum (predictably) needs some time to get back into shape and then Pau slides back to the 4 which he’s more suited to.

    The motivation issue is a real one as far as I know. Being the two time champions does that to you I guess. But unlike last year, the Lakers have not come out of the gates with a head start in the West. Hopefully, the perils(!) of having to get through San Antonio AND Dallas to make it to June should kick start their season.