*We didn’t recap yesterday’s game, but here are a few thoughts: First, there will be games where the Lakers don’t shoot well and yesterday was one of those games. Credit a packed in ‘Wolves defense that tempted outside shots for some of this, but in the end there were still good looks that the Lakers took that didn’t fall. I do hope that the Lakers try to find ways to get the ball to their big men but on some nights the outside shots will need to fall in order to get the bigs the requisite space they need to make post catches so they can go to work. What I was encouraged by was the fact that LA’s bigs didn’t mope but instead crashed the offensive glass to get their touches. One of the principals of the Triangle is to create positioning that generates offensive rebounding chances. Last night was a good example of that AND an example of hungry bigs (especially ‘Drew) that wouldn’t take a lack of direct post entries as an excuse to not find the ball and go after it.
*Speaking of broken offense, Phil says Kobe is prone to break it all on his own while Ron is now better than #24 in running LA’s sets. I have two thoughts on this. First, this is a classic dig from Phil towards Kobe and gave me a bit of a laugh. I also think this was a way to give Ron some credit for starting to turn the corner in his understanding of the Lakers’ O. Second, Phil is 100% correct. Kobe does break the offense. A lot. The fact is, Kobe (and Fisher) have the best understanding of this offense of any Laker. And because Kobe is pretty talented at scoring the ball, he’ll often maneuver himself into position to get shots rather than letting the offense play out in a way where maybe someone else would end up with the ball. One of my main complaints about the way the Lakers have run their sets over the past couple of years is that they run a read and react system but often make up their minds of where they want the ball to go without acknowledging what the D may be doing to disrupt it. Sometimes the team is still quite successful and others not so much. The Lakers are still a top offensive team so this isn’t the biggest problem but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem at all. For what it’s worth, I still have confidence that this team can work their sets to get key baskets when they need them. And until there’s undeniable proof that they can’t, I’ll begrudgingly accept the fact that this team doesn’t always do what they’re supposed to do and live with the results (which have been pretty good over the last 3+ seasons).
*For what it’s worth, Ron himself admits that he’s making strides in understanding the Triangle. On twitter he references that Phil often talks about a two year adjustment period and that his two years are almost up. To be honest, he’s 100% correct and I hope the light bulb really has come on for him. He has been, thoughout his career, a pretty good offensive player and even with a greatly reduced role on this team it doens’t mean all that talent is suddenly gone.
*The Lakers winning streak has been a nice reminder that they can still play up to a high standard and show high levels of focus when needed. Many are pointing to the defense, but Phil Jackson says that controlling the game’s tempo through proper offensive execution has been the real key. And really, Phil’s right. Yes, the defense has been better than what it typically has been in most of the Lakers 5 games during the streak. Starting with the Hawks game through the most recent win over the Wolves, the Lakers have held their opponents to offensive efficiency marks of 89.8, 108.1, 108.4, 100.4, and 92.1. Those are very good numbers in three games but numbers above their yearly average (which hovers around 105.0) in the other two (the Blazers and Clippers games if you were wondering). However, here are the pace numbers (estimated number of possessions) for those same 5 games: 89.1, 84.6, 87.6, 86.7, and 85.8. All 5 of those games are below the pace the Lakers usually play at during the regular season (91.1). As we’ve discussed before, the Lakers defense really is keyed off how well they run their offensive sets. Good execution on that side of the ball promotes better floor spacing and floor balance, allowing players to transition from offense to defense effectively. When the Lakers key in on running their sets correctly (even if it doesn’t always produce points) they’re a much more difficult team to beat.
*It’s buyout season and players are on the move. Bibby is Miami bound and Troy Murphy is heading to Boston. The Lakers, meanwhile, are silent. Personally, I don’t mind the inactivity as I think the Lakers have a roster, as of right now, that can win the title. No need to add players and payroll (even marginal amounts) when those guys likely won’t play. I must admit though, Corey Brewer and Kelenna Azubuike do intrigue me. Brewer is a very good defensive prospect and has a winning pedigree from his collegiate days. Azubuike is a very good shooter that has decent size and is a hardnosed player on both sides of the ball. Long term I’m not sure if either are better prospects than players the Lakers currently have on the roster (Ebanks and Brown are comparisons to both players, respectively) but it’s close (especially if Azubuike is can find his health).
*Andrew Bynum sure does look good lately. As we wrote a little while ago, he’s doing more things – and doing them better – than he ever has before. CA Clark is seeing these same things of late. I must say a healthy, engaged, active, and productive Andrew Bynum is one of the key difference makers in the entire league. Note that I’m not saying as good as other players, I’m saying difference makers. Seven foot behemoths that score with touch, rebound well, and defend the paint are often key ingredients to championship teams. Right now, with what he’s showing, the Lakers have one.
*Tony Parker misses a game and the Spurs get blown out in Memphis. I’m not jumping to any conclusions right now, just pointing it out. This does remind me of something Greg Popovich said at the all-star game though. Pop said that his team has been healthy this year and that every other contending team has not been. He then went on to speak about how fortunate his team has been in that regard. His final point was that in the years that his team’s been healthy, they’ve been right there competing for a title at the end of the year. Right now Parker is only scheduled to be out a couple of weeks with his bad calf. If it’s longer or if this lingers and hampers him for longer, this is something to really watch.