Lakers/Knicks: Defense Smothers New York

Darius Soriano —  January 9, 2011

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

In a dominant performance that brought back visions of championship caliber basketball, the Lakers pummeled the Knicks 109-87 to extend their win streak to 4 games.  The game showed that the Lakers continue to take positive steps in the right direction and may have signaled that they’re finally back on the right track after struggling so much over the past several weeks.

The lasting impression from this game will be the Lakers’ defense.  They held the Knicks to 36% from the floor and an offensive efficiency of 88.8 on the night.  The Lakers consistently challenged the Knicks’ shots inside and did a very good job of contesting their outside jumpers.  However, I thought the Knicks did themselves a major disservice by not running the pick and roll more frequently in the contest.  Instead of going to their bread and butter action, the Knicks ran variations of the set by initiating their offense through high post entries to Amar’e where he would work in isolation or look to run hand off sequences with the Knicks guards.  This led to lots of jumpshooting from both Amar’e and the Knicks wings and they just couldn’t knock down enough shots to sustain offense.  Amar’e ended up only making 1 of his first 10 shots from the floor as both Bynum and Gasol did an excellent job of contesting his shots out on the floor and then funneling him to each other when he’d put the ball on the floor.

The only reason why the game was close in the early going was because the Lakers played a sloppy first period (committing 7 turnovers) with their miscues fueling the Knicks offensive attack by allowing them to get out in the open court and work against a defense that wasn’t set.  However, once the Lakers stopped turning the ball over (they’d commit only 3 after halftime) New York had to deal with the Lakers aggressive half court defense and their offensive execution only suffered for it.

The other major theme from this game was the Lakers ability to control the paint against the undersized Knicks.  And the star of the show was Andrew Bynum.  The young big man was just a beast inside easily backing down Amar’e with power post ups and taking it to the Knicks all-star big man nearly every time he touched the ball.  And while Stoudemire blocked some of Bynum’s shots, big ‘Drew consistently battled and still finished with 18 points on a variety of strong finishes with none more powerful than a one handed slam right over the top of Amar’e after Bynum head faked to get him out of position and then dunked right on his head.  Really, this was Andrew Bynum’s best game of the season…that is until he got tossed out of the game for arguing a foul when he blocked an Amar’e jumper on the left wing (a block that looked clean to these eyes).

Considering the success that Bynum was having and how much he was impacting the game, there was some reason for concern at the time that the ejection occurred.  After all there was nearly a full quarter left to play in the game and the Knicks looked to make a rally after the resulting FT’s cut their deficit to only 8 points.

However, Kobe, Pau, and Odom weren’t going to have it.  After ‘Drew got sent to the showers, those  three guys completely took over the game and sparked a Laker run that ultimately pushed the lead up to 18 by the time they all checked out with less than 2 minutes remaining.  The controlled the glass, continued to play pressure defense, and ultimately shut down the Knicks offense to the point that all D’Antoni could do was sit with his arms folded on the bench and look on in anger as his team took one of it’s worst losses in weeks.

A couple of other notes from this game:

*This game was testy for almost the entire contest.  Besides Bynum’s ejection, Ron Artest was called for a technical and a flagrant foul (on separate plays) and both the Lakers and the Knicks seemed frustrated with each other (and the refs) the entire night.  Normally, I leave the referees out of the discussion of the game as I usually feel that it’s the players jobs to adjust to how the game is being called and go from there.  But tonight I thought the game was refereed unevenly (for both sides) where a foul on one end wasn’t one on the other and vice versa.  When that’s the case it’s tough for the players to find a rhythm in the game and I thought that really plagued this contest throughout.  In the end, I think the Lakers did a better job of playing through it all as their physicality and advantage of having Bynum/Gasol/Odom was too much for the Knicks.  But the refereeing did stand out to me tonight and that’s not a good thing.

*Kobe didn’t have a good shooting night, needing 28 shots to get his 27 points.  He missed a lot of mid-range jumpers and didn’t have his same feel for finishing on his array of leaners and fade-aways that he normally does.  However, he impacted the game in many other ways hauling in 10 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists.  If you really want to judge his impact, I’d suggest looking at his team leading plus/minus of +26 on the night.

*The Lakers shot really well from the outside by making 8 of their 17 attempts from deep.  It’s been a while since the Lakers shot that well from deep and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they won by such a comfortable margin on a night where their 3 point shots were falling.  One of the bigger 3’s of the night was a dagger from (guess who) Derek Fisher who pushed the Lakers’ lead to 17 with 5 minutes left to play and effectively ended the game.  Up until that point there was still a feel that the Knicks were within reach, but after that shot the game seemed over.

*The first night without Matt Barnes showed that the Lakers likely have a good formula for replacing his production.  Luke Walton got 7 minutes of game action and Shannon shared the court with Kobe for about half of his 18 minutes.  Luke did well in his short stint by running the offense well, but did have a couple of defensive issues mostly when getting sucked in on penetration and giving up open jumpers.  Overall, though, he did a good job.  As for Shannon, he had a very good all-around night.  He contributed to his highlight reel with one handed dunk that had a little bit extra authority on it and a buzzer beating 3 pointer at the end of the third quarter where he was falling out of bounds in the left corner.  That shot proved to be a big one because it completely shut down the momentum the Knicks built up going into the fourth quarter when they thought they’d only trail by 8 going into the final frame.  Instead they trailed by 11 and the home crowd was really into it.

Darius Soriano

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to Lakers/Knicks: Defense Smothers New York

  1. Great game and great synopsis. They played like the wanted to win this game. Even though Kobe was off on his shot, he did those other things to keep New York at bay. No one talks about the great rebounding game had by Lamar. He ate up more offensive (6), defensive (12), and total rebounds (18) than anyone else in the game.

    Ron Ron played a good overall game by rebounding, getting his two steals, and playing more enthusiatic defense. ShanWow also was great scoring 16 on only five shots.

    The only concern was another o-fer for Steve Blake. His shot needs to come around because even though he runs the offense well, he lacks defensive prowess. We need more out of him.


  2. On my famous subjective rating system, the Lakers earned a solid four stars–both as a team and individually. The turnovers in the first quarter already kept them away from a teamwise five, but this was close enough to a blowout to see Derek Caracter finishing out the game. Now if that could happen at the end of the third quarter . . . . .

    Kobe was mostly a super duper part of the Laker team, but couldn’t resist overshooting with ill advised pujits and free lancing. Andrew could have been a 5 were it not for getting thrown out of the game–and so it went for everyone else: almost a great game-but not quite.

    Four stars may not be quite good enough yet, but it is the best I’ve seen from a Laker team in a long time!


  3. Reign on Parades January 10, 2011 at 12:52 am

    That was one of the worst ref jobs I’ve ever seen. Leon Wood should lose sleep tonight


  4. He is our new Darrell Garretson.


  5. anyone worried Drew’s going to get a 1-game suspension for grazing that ref? A couple of players this year have been penalized for making contact with an official.


  6. He shouldn’t but given that PJ and Kobe diss refs so often, he might. All he did was say “Are you serious” twice. It was a bad call from a bad ref who wasn’t all that as a player.


  7. The refs had a bad night against both sides. As fans, we tend to remember those calls against us, but last night the refs were equal opportunity bad.


  8. Blake looked like he was starting to snap out of his shooting slump the last few games but the ankle injury has got to set him back. His form was probably thrown off with the sore ankle.

    Was Ron’s chippyness last night what everyone was looking for? He certainly seemed more intent at getting into people’s faces after the whistle instead of walking away like he had done most of the year.


  9. It was nice to see Pau to continue to be more assertive and resume taking that jump shot from more often. It helps open up the inside. He definitely looks more involved these last few games and it’s making a big difference. Phil suggested the change might be his reduced minutes and that Bynum is back. I didn’t realize how much Pau didn’t like playing center – if I’m to take Phil at his word.


  10. 8. Chownoir

    I loved Ron’s competiveness last night, that in your face action always hypes me up. To me it helps a team like LA that is full of low key individuals( except Mr. Bean and Barnes) who need to be coaxed into aggression. Its like you being friends with the biggest dude in town and you know nobody will mess with him and he want let nobody mess with you.

    Ron has played ball his entire career with a chip on his shoulder and he needs that fire to play at his best. A passive Ron is out of his nature and tends to make him lose focus because he’s trying to be someone he is not. An aggressive Ron is instinctive and plays full speed ahead without having to think about what his next move is, it comes nautrally. I compare it to fans saying if Kobe ever had to defer to another teammate and not be leader of the pack his game would fall apart. Its what drives him to be the best and gives him that killer instinct. No matter who is on the court he wants to prove that he is the best. For both it can be a double edge sword, but the positives outway the negatives.

    Welcome home RonRon you have been gone too long, your fans have been waiting to see the old you and you definitely delivered last night.


  11. Don’t know if anyone else recognized this, but I loved the way Matt Barnes arose from his seat at the end of the bench and started clapping on the play where Ron Ron was issued a Flagrant 1 against STAT. It perfectly illustrates why Kobe requested his services. Toughness and Attitude.

    On another note, impressed with the movements of Big Drew. Running the court better, Footwork looks to be improving and his Timing (especially defensively) is just about where it needs to be. But with that being said, he’s still not Elevating well enough on his attempts. Still doesn’t have that Lift as of yet and that’s the reason why STAT was able to continually challenge/block (or in my eye, Foul) a few of his attempts. Hopefully, within a couple more weeks, his Foundation will be Solid.

    Finally, it took for Kobe to take 28 Shots in order to get 27 Points, but yet his +/- was +28. Tells u why I never deal with that Plus/Minus Bullsh… .


  12. Random OT trade-related comment (don’t get upset, Darius):

    Am I the only one who thinks this big Carmelo deal still won’t make the Nets contenders in the East? When I look at all the players that are suppose to move I still don’t see New Jersey ending up with an elite squad.


  13. #11. Are you saying that you don’t think plus/minus can be meaningful? If that’s the case, I strongly disagree as it often gives a good indication of what players contributed to building (or sustaining) leads (or vice versa).

    Over the last couple of years, plus/minus really told us that Odom was contributing on a nightly basis even if his statline was modest. It’s not the end all tool but it can be quite useful on nights like last night where simple boxscore analysis might tell you that Kobe hurt the team with his FGA vs FGM.


  14. I haven’t said this in a long time, but I can finally say that I fully enjoyed watching the Lakers play for the ENTIRE game. Their defense was excellent (minus a few breakdowns) and it was beautiful to watch the Lakers put the clamp down on an effective offensive team. They closed out on shooters, didn’t allow as much penetration and did not give up as many offensive rebounds as they normally do. They seemed a step ahead, which is a place they haven’t been for quite some time. Offensively, Andrew was a force, Pau was making his shots, the ball was moving, Shannon was great and Kobe was also solid. Yes, the 10 for 28 wasn’t good, but a good portion of those “missed shots”, on any other night, would have led to Kobe at the free throw line. And Kobe’s high plus/minus can be attributed to his willingness to attack the Knicks and get in the paint. He didn’t make a ton of shots, but even his misses exploited our advantages in the paint because in attacking the rim, Kobe would draw attention from Amare or Chandler while Pau, Andrew and Odom were free to clean up the glass or take a pass for an open dunk or layup. You just can’t beat teams like the Knicks by firing up three pointers. You have to get into the teeth of the defensive and I thought Kobe did that pretty well. Overall, great game from the Lake Show.


  15. +/- from one game is not very helpful at all. It can be of limited use if looked at for an extended period of time.


  16. #15. So you don’t think it helps establish what was going on while a player was on the court and how he may or may not have contributed to what happened? Just asking…


  17. I’ve actually never been a huge fan of the plus/minus stat either, simply because circumstance plays such a huge part in basketball especially with this Lakers team that has been so up and down no matter who is in the lineup.

    I believe stats are used too often in sports because people can’t explain what they are seeing out on the court/field.

    The eye ball test is all I need. I don’t need stats to tell me that the Lakers played one of their best defensive games of the year. Just like there are stats out there that show Kobe actually isn’t a very clutch player. But what do your eyes tell you?


  18. #17. We’ve discussed this consistently here but it should be said again – statistics should be a tool in the overall evaluation of the game. It shouldn’t be the only measure, but rather used in conjuntion with other measures (including the eyeball test) to explain an event. Within this context, I’m still wondering why +/- can’t be insightful.


  19. Darius is right–Kurt used to say it too. ALL the metrics–PER,+/-, WS, etc.–have limits, because basketball is a fluid, interactive game. At the same time, all them are tools that we can use, along with watching the games, to get a better handle on what is going on.

    Any chance Artest gets suspended for a game after the flagrant?


  20. 16) It establishes what was happening while the player was on court, but by itself it says nothing about how an individual player did. The +/- is the same for everybody who was on the floor for that segment of the game.

    Unfortunately, too often it is used that way.


  21. T Rogers @ 12 – I’m not a big ‘melo fan and am mystified why the Nets want him so badly. So for that reason alone I don’t think much of the Nets prospects once he’s on board.

    Facetious Disclaimer: I don’t know what ‘melo’s +/- ; PER, or WS is, so maybe I’d change my mind about him if I knew these.


  22. @ 21,

    I think Prokhorov sees Anthony as the key piece to marketing the team against the Knicks. I also think Prokhorov wants to do something flashy that will generate buzz.


  23. #20. I agree with what you’re saying. So, would it be fair to say that it’s not the tool that doesn’t have value but rather the perspective that it often fuels and the conclusions drawn from it?

    Also, I wanted to add that it’s true that when 5 players share the court for the same period, you’ll get the same results in terms of +/-. However, doesn’t that also speak to the fact that the group in question did play well? And then you can go on to look deeper into why that occurred. In the recap, I probably didn’t take this idea far enough but I tried to get across the point that even though Kobe shot poorly he did so many other things well and it was reflected in his +/-.


  24. Tra @ 11 brings up a good point about toughness and atitude having value. I would venture the same is true about leadership in the locker room. I doubt advanced stats capture any of these.

    I think Darius is spot on with comment #18 – stats are a useful evaluation tool.


  25. If either Bynum or Artest get suspended for anything that happened last night, it would be a complete joke.

    All of the old frozen envelope, “The league is looking out for the Knicks” conspiracy theorists would have plenty of new ammo.

    Bynum didn’t deserve a whistle, let alone a T or ejection for making a clean block and then stating, “Are you serious?”

    And I love how the AP has totally overblown Artest’s foul on Amare by claiming he “clotheslined” him in the second half. Watch the replay — Ron’s left arm was extended, and as they made contact the arm happened to hit Amare’s head; there was no ill intent. Other than a foul, that deserved no other action. As I said last night, the refs were terrible across the board. Let’s hope the suits on Fifth Avenue don’t compound their underlings’ poor work.


  26. First off Ron said on his twitter the old Ron that cam out last night won’t come out again so sorry DirtySanchez and anyone else who liked his aggression (I liked it too).

    about the +/- there are many things that happen in a game that arent reflected in stats but an over all look can help. Like Kobes +/- was high with a low shooting because out big man were in good position to get some offensive rebounds. Not saying thats what happened but there is a lot more that goes into the game than the stat line


  27. Statistics are a tool, not a conclusion. The problem is always that we want to use the tools that support our previous opinion, rather than allowing the tools to temper or modify our opinion.

    Once a Kobe hater, always a Kobe hater and statistics will only be used to support that point. The same with the Kobe lover.

    Kobe is one of the greatest players ever to lace up sneakers on a court. He is this because of the development of his talent to yield the greatest skills possible and his intelligence, not solely because of his innate talent – there are more talented athletes in the NBA today.

    He is also on the downside of his career, not on the ascending side. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the most dangerous player on the court; simply that his intelligence and guile will be the things that keep him ahead of the pack in the future.

    We constantly want to make definitive judgments about this team and these players at continuing points in time. This is not the correct way to measure things – as both Kobe and Phil will tell you. The measurement comes at the end of the season.


  28. Great synopsis as usual. One of the many things I like about this site is the lack of whining about refs — although I wish that were true about the Laker players as well. Give it a rest, guys. That means you, Kobe, Pau, and Andrew.

    That being said, uneven calls often lead to the kind of chippiness that we saw, and this crew had a very poor game that fed into the ill will on both sides. Hopefully the league looks at the techs and flagrant in that context, with no further action.


  29. 27 – You are right about bad calls (or no calls) leading to chippiness. When players are allowed to get away with borderline dirty tactics it will cause retaliation. It is one thing to let pushing and shoving go in the paint. However, when a player gets hit on his shooting arm in the act of shooting it should be called every time.

    Regarding Bynum, he should have shut his mouth after the first tech. It was the start of the fourth quarter. The refs had been butchering the calls both ways all game. He should not have been too surprised. When the first whistle came he should have just turned away. Of course it is easy for me to say that.

    And I’m with DirtySanchez. A chippy Ron Artest and a passionate Andrew Bynum are a welcomed sight. The Lakers need that fire back.


  30. 23) I haven’t checked, but I’m sure there are plenty of examples of a mediocre player having a better +/- than a very good player, because of the teams they are on. If Kobe has a great game, but Gasol, Bynum, and Fisher have crappy games, and the Lakers lose, Kobe will have a bad +/- for that game. The same holds true for an entire season, when comparing PERs of players between teams.


  31. For me, there were two lasting impressions of the game. The first is that the refs were easily the most infuriatingly inconsistent crew I have ever seen. The second is that Ron Artest is a cyborg; living tissue over metal endoskeleton. There is no other explanation for how he was able to stand still, hold his arm straight out, and keep it there while Amar’e Stoudemire ran into his wrist, stopped, and fell backwards from the impact.

    Ron is a cyborg. I am convinced of this.