Lakers/Clippers: Ron’s D, Kobe & Pau’s O Lead The Way

Darius Soriano —  March 26, 2011

The wins just keep coming.

The Lakers were able to improve their post ASG record to a sparkling 14-1 with a 112-104 victory over the Clippers. However, I’d be lying if I said that the Lakers played their best game or that this win was some sort of dominant performance indicative of how the Lakers have outclassed many opponents since the break. The fact is, the Lakers played well but the Clips hung around in this game, keeping it close to the point that the outcome was somewhat in doubt in the 4th quarter.

A few positives and a few negatives from this game:

Positives:
*Kobe Bryant poured in 37 points for the 2nd straight game, the first time he’s accomplished totals that high in back to back games since the Celtic and Rockets games on January 30th and February 1st respectively. Better than the point totals though, was the fact that he scored them efficiently, needing only 21 shots to get there while also taking a season high 17 free throws. Kobe did a great job attacking off the dribble and rarely settled for the long jumper if a sliver of space existed where he could advance towards the hoop. On several occasions he used high P&R’s in semi-transition to shed his defender and then used the bounce to get all the way to the rim where he finished around the Clipper big men. Kobe also worked well off the ball, using weak side screens to curl towards the top of the circle where he could get off his jumper cleanly. Best of all, though was how Kobe balanced his shot taking with picking out his teammates for open shots. #24 ended the night with 6 assists, but it easily could have been 10 had some of the shots he set his teammates up for got thrown in. Because Kobe’s own offense was going, the defense consistently collapsed towards his side and he expertly picked out teammates cross court either when spotting up or slashing into open space behind the D. On several occasions Kobe used the P&R and a diving big to draw the D in only to skip the ball to a ‘mate (mostly Artest) that then had several seconds to properly set his feet and fire away. Just a superb all around offensive night for Mr. Bean.

*Pau Gasol joined Kobe with a splendid offensive night of his own. Pau hit 10 of his 15 shots to score 26 points, including 6-6 from the FT line. In the preview to this game, I mentioned that the Lakers should go into Gasol early and often to attack Blake Griffin and that’s exactly what happened as the Lakers first basket was a Gasol jump hook after a strong back down move. Pau then proceeded to knock down jumper after jumper, continuing to show the great touch on his J that’s been present for months. I really can’t say enough about the consistent way that Gasol is knocking down his jumper and how it’s become a staple of the Lakers’ sets. He’s become nearly automatic from 17 feet and in to the point that when he makes the catch at the mid post then turns and faces, I pretty much expect the shot to fall as he releases that rainbow jumper of his. Several times last night he simply made the catch, turned, jab stepped his defender into taking a half step back, and then fired away with his jumper.

*Where Kobe and Pau excelled on offense, Ron Artest excelled on D. Matched up with Eric Gordon, Ron went into lockdown mode to completely remove Gordon as a threat to hurt the Lakers. Ron harassed all over the court, poking the ball away if Gordon for a second exposed it, bodying him every time he came off a screen, and completely shutting him down if Gordon dared try to isolate him on the wing. Gordon finished the game 3-14 from the field but missed his first 11 shots with Ron draped all over him. But it wasn’t just Ron’s work on Gordon that made this a standout defensive night. He also had the defensive play of the game when he made an open court steal on Blake Griffin with under a minute to go when a basket would have brought the Clips back to within a single basket. I think it’s safe to say that if Griffin gets a basket on that play this game takes a different tone down the stretch but instead Ron sealed the game with his steal. Offensively, Ron also had a game to remember. He made 6 of his 11 shots, including 3 of his 5 three pointers to tally 15 points. He also had an adventurous night attacking the rim, dunking a ball on Chris Kaman after a nice baseline drive but then missing two other attempts and thunderous slams when working in the open court. And while jokes about exceeding his dunk quota poured in on twitter (including one from me), I’m just happy that he’s attacking the rim with such reckless abandon.

Negatives:
*The non-Artest D could have used some work, however. The Lakers did a decent job of clamping down on the Clips in the first half, holding them to an offensive efficiency of 98.0, but still gave up too many open shots and weren’t stingy enough in closing down the paint. Early on it was Mo Williams pushing the ball up court after both made and missed baskets and getting good looks for himself and his teammates after collapsing the D on drives in transition. The Lakers did a poor job of recognizing Williams pushing the pace, didn’t build a wall against him, and instead let him break down their defensive integrity. And when it wasn’t Williams getting into the paint, it was Blake Griffin providing his normal highlights. At the end of the first quarter, Steve Blake shot a jumper that ended up missing but instead of hustling back to slow a streaking Griffin, Shannon Brown just stood and watched as the miss turned into a 55 foot alley oop to the soaring dunk champ. In the 2nd half, things only broke down further as the Lakers were too lax in closing out on shooters. Williams continued his hot shooting (he finished with 30 points on only 16 shots) and he was joined by Randy Foye in knocking down the open shots that the Lakers surrendered.┬áDon’t get me wrong, some aspects of the Laker D was solid as Bynum did a good job of protecting the rim when he was in the game, but besides Bynum and Ron the team defense was lacking. There’s a reason this game was close in the final minutes, the Lakers just started to try and match baskets rather than stop the Clips from getting and making good shots.

*Besides poor defensive execution, the performance of the Laker bench was the other part of this game that was lacking. While the guys played hard, they showed little cohesion or ability to knock down the open shots that were there for them. The foursome of Odom, Blake, Barnes, and Brown shot a dreadful 5-20 and combined for only 16 points. Again, I don’t want to bury them as they played hard and contributed in other areas but it’s no coincidence that all 4 players were on the negative side of the plus/minus ledger as the Clips’ major pushes in this game all coincided with the Laker bench on the floor. Despite a couple of top 10 level plays – Odom had a great wrap around pass to Gasol for a dunk and Brown had an up and under dunk that rivaled anything Griffin did all night – it just wasn’t the bench’s night. They didn’t move the ball enough on offense and when they did try to make the extra pass it was a bit too risky, and on defense they didn’t have the same intensity or focus that the 1st unit had.

*This isn’t quite a negative, but deserves mentioning: This game was quite chippy. Blake Griffin was fouled hard on more than one occasion, including a play where Artest wrapped him up and tossed him to the floor. Griffin didn’t make a move towards Ron, but did give a hard stare to the ref as if he was looking for a flagrant foul. Kobe got hit in the face on a jump shot late in the game and looked none too pleased that there wasn’t a foul call after he finally scraped himself up off the floor. And then there was the exchange between Derek Fisher and Chris Kaman late in the game. Kaman set a moving screen on Fish and Derek proceeded to give Chris a shove after the play. The two had to be separated after the play and Kaman was unwilling to let it go, ultimately getting tossed from the game after he (seemingly) was telling Fish to meet him after the game for some sort of bare knuckled brawl. (Seeing Kaman mouth something about “being right there” while pointing to the tunnel was both comical and a bit worrisome considering both guys would be hanging around after the game. That said, I trust that Fish can handle his own in any altercation. I wouldn’t want to be hit by one of those arms.)

In the end, though, the Lakers took this game by making enough plays to win. At this point I’ll take the W and let the film session do the teaching rather than have the players forced to learn from a loss. As we’ve mentioned several times in the past couple of weeks the race for playoff seeding is in full effect and with the Spurs and Celtics both losing, the Bulls and Heat winning, and Dallas idle the Lakers were able to pick up a game on the two teams seen as their biggest threats and keep pace with the other teams that represent threats in the post season. ┬áThere are little things I’d like to see the Lakers clean up as the season comes to a close but with their current trajectory I have little doubt that the team is on the right track to achieve their goal of playing their best ball when the playoffs begin.

Darius Soriano

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35 responses to Lakers/Clippers: Ron’s D, Kobe & Pau’s O Lead The Way

  1. Agree with the analysis, but would have liked to have seen the team take advantage of the mismatch when Griffin switched to defend Bynum.

    Once in a while you will see the Lakers exploit a mismatch in the post, but that almost always happens with Kobe or Ron rather than Andrew. That said, Andrew does not really demand the ball very much on the offensive end, which is an interesting development (he seemed to do that more in the past, when his focus was not so much on defense). I guess the kid should be commended for so thoroughly embracing the defensive mindset, but I’d still like to see him demand the ball when he has a mismatch.

    As for Kaman, that’s just sad. He spent all game getting dunked on by various Lakers and then finished off his effort by trying to fight the smallest guy on the court. Nice work.

  2. lol@kaman.

  3. The Laker offense is not run for a center. Pau has to come out to the elbow to get most of his touches when he is playing center. This, IMO, is a failure of the triangle system that Phil runs as he structures it to include defensive bigs, not offensive ones – Shaq was such a dominant anomaly you couldn’t keep the ball out of his hands. Andrew has been trained in Phil’s system since he was an NBA baby.

    This is not a question of Andrew not being demanding enough on offense – just his training by Phil. This is why I think Andrew will flower offensively much more when Phil leaves. No, I am not looking forward to that day – just commenting on how it is likely to affect Andrew Bynum.

  4. ROFL at this Ball Don’t Lie link about the Lakers doing reverse dunks on Kaman and then Kobe twisting the knife in the interview:

    http://tinyurl.com/69e6yk4

  5. Still a little angry at that late (uncalled) foul against Kobe. When a player swipes through, misses ball BUT does hit the head, how do all three officials miss it?

    Oh, yeah… They are all NBA officials. I keep forgetting how horrible they really are.

  6. I sort of agree that the ball movement by the bench was weak last night; however, Blake at times seems to be “over-moving” the ball. Take the open shot, Steve!

  7. i doubt san antonio relinquishes HCA, but each loss + laker/bulls victory adds up.

    worst case scenario, they may be forced to bring duncan back before he’s 100%. at the very least, it might mean more minutes and less rest for parker and ginobili.

    they do not have an easy schedule, with 4 sets of back-to-back games. it could be a perfect storm.

    @MEM, POR(B2B), BOS, @HOU, PHX(B2B), @ATL, SAC(B2B!), UTA, @LAL, @PHX(B2B)

    that final game against the Lakers could be for the privelege of controlling the team’s destiny, with regard to seeding out West and HCA throughout the playoffs.

    of course, the lakers need to remain perfect until then, and the spurs would need to lose 4 of 8 games. on top of that, the bulls need to lose at least 1 game.

    PHX actually plays SA twice and CHI once. They could really help us out by winning all 3 games. So could Boston, of all teams. They’ve got 2 games remaining agains SA and CHI.

    i think it’s great that the laker home crowd is acknowledging bynum when he’s subbed out. i don’t know if it does anything for him, but positive reinforcement never hurts.

  8. It’s amazing when Gasol goes back to the high post and PF upon Bynum’s re insertion into the starting lineup he starts shooting well again from the field. One of the few times he tried to create offense at Center with Andrew on the bench Jordan blocked him and then right after forced him into another air ball. I think Gasol only missed two shots at PF. imagine if we had a back up Center? Easier said then done.

  9. Re: HCA Against the Spurs

    It doesn’t really matter because there is no way the Spurs are beating the Thunder or the Mavs in the second round. We just need to make sure we have HCA against the Heat in the Finals.

  10. Gotta say last night was a great game, and a very chippy one at that. I must give Griffin props. He stood his ground and did not let himself be bullied by our veterans. I like that kid a lot!!! These Clips are going to be a heck of a team.

  11. @7. While it’s nice that the guys could put a scare into the Spurs, I would rather they finish as the #2 seed out West, but also have HCA in the Finals. The way the seeds are currently lined up, the Lakers would play NOLA in the 1st round (possible sweep to gain rest for Drew and Kobe), then either POR or DAL in the next round after they’ve likely played a six or seven game series. When our guys are well-rested and play with energy, they’re unbeatable. I said this a few times some months ago, but health permitting, this team IMO is fully capable of going on a 2001-like run.

  12. Dude,
    I couldn’t agree more. This team has that kind of talent and is built for the playoffs. Also… If you don’t think that Bynum foul and subsequent suspension will pay off for the Lakers in the long run… Did you see what happened when Blake Griffin went to the basket and Bynum lowered his shoulder only to move out of the way at the last second? Blake freaked out and missed a wide open dunk. If one of the strongest and most athletic PF’s in the game is now intimidated by Bynum I can’t imagine how a PG is going to attack the basket.

  13. While I admire your optimism (remember when you claimed we would handle the Celtics 4-0 and Magic 4-2 last postseason), Dude, sometimes we still have to keep in touch with reality.

    A 2001 scenario is still what I dream about, don’t get me wrong. But if we’re rested and healthy, I think we could hope for a 2008-like run through the West and win a tough one in the Finals.

  14. If the Dude said that before the series after knowing Bynum was hurt I can’t stick up for him. But we beat the Magic in 5 games.

  15. @13. Since I don’t remember ever saying that (especially because of Bynum’s meniscus situation), I went back to find where I made a prediction of a Laker sweep of the Celtics in last season’s Finals, but couldn’t find anything other than this:
    ———————————————
    347. The Dude Abides wrote on May 29, 2010 at 10:19 pm
    If the series is tied 2-2 for Game 5 in Boston, then Lakers in six. If Lakers have a 3-1 lead before Game 5, then Lakers in five.

    Edit More Options
    Edit Comment
    ———————————————
    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/05/29/lakerssuns-game-6-preview-chat/#comments

    So I was wrong about Game 5, but had predicted several times that the Lakers were going to beat the Celtics. The reason I believed they would win Game 5 if they had a 3-1 lead was because this Laker team had not lost a close-out game since Game 6 of the 2009 2nd Round vs Houston. Starting with Game 7 of that Houston series, the Lakers had won six consecutive close-out playoff games (five of them on the road). And of course I thought they’d win Game 5 of a 2-2 series since to me, that’s a must-win game. But it wasn’t to the Lakers.

    Anyway, counting the Boston series, they’ve now won seven consecutive close-out games (two of them Game 7′s at home, the other five on the road). Health permitting (knock on wood), I’m going to say it again: this Laker team has a 2001-like run in them. The key is sweeping the first series to give Drew and Kobe some rest. This should happen if NOLA is the first-round opponent.

  16. I agree with the Dude… That is until the Lakers play the Heat in the Finals. Than I think not only won’t the Lakers sweep through… It’s 50/50 with HCA advantagebagainst that team. Thank god we will have it most likely. Without it I don’t think we would have much of a chance against them.

  17. I’m not usually a big fan of Simers… As he is a less knowledgable and less funny version of me. But this I found very entertaining. Discussing how to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of Derek Fisher. The only thing I don’t agree with in the article is the pathetic argument that nobody can guard fast PGs. Lol. Like there isn’t a difference between when Kobe guards them and when I guard them. They always dominate just the same. Obviously we know this to be false as the average PER Fisher gives up to opposing PGs is sensationally higher than the average PER for PGs. Which is even more astounding when you realize the Lakers are a great defensive team. But enjoy…

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-simers-20110327,0,2249103,full.column

  18. man. had to sit through another comeback win by the bulls.

  19. I know this is inviting a kind of ‘piling on’, but I just checked out Hollinger’s power rankings. He’s got Chi at #1 which is pretty controversial, but I suppose vaguely defensible, but guess who he has at #2?

    Probably not in your first seven guesses….

    Would you believe…. Denver?

    At some point, the guy has got to take his rightful place alongside the medieval ‘scientists’ employed by the Church who offered ‘proof” that the sun revolved around the earth.

  20. Damn it, Dude – I just spent 15 minutes digging into the archives of May and June 2010, and – like you said, that one comment was all I could find. But I swear, someone well-respected here said that. Maybe I got you confused with Zephid or Snoopy – and now you’ve got me thinking – but I know it’s one of you three. And it was such a distinct comment that it stuck with me to this day.

  21. Also Dude – just nitpicking here – but that Houston series was actually in 2010, so the 7 closeouts aren’t consecutive. But your point is well taken.

  22. I just hope not picking up a back-up center doesn’t bite us in the butt. Insurance is important, but not always needed.

  23. @22. Haha…yeah, that was before it became obvious that Drew’s injury couldn’t be mitigated enough by the knee drainings, and Kobe’s knee was in worse shape than we thought. Plus the guys had just finished sweeping Utah in the 2nd round (Houston was 2009), so things were looking really good. That’s why I’m making all my predictions now with the injury disclaimer :D

  24. Nice writeup Darius, if those three continue on like last night, we will be in good shape. This thread turned out to be an interesting read indeed.

    “Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” – Reggie Leach

  25. OT, but just finished reading The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith. I recommend it if anyone’s got some free time. It’s not as well written as Lazenby’s books, but I always enjoy reading a book about Michael Jordan before he was mythologized. It’s truly amazing to note what the “real” picture of him was like at the time, and how different it is from the general media picture.

    Not sure exactly what a “killer instinct” is, but all I’ll say is I can’t imagine Kobe playing 36 rounds of golf on the morning of games. Kobe may be an SOB, but I’ll continue to respect him for his focus and dedication to the game.

    I’m looking for my next basketball book. Anyone read the recent Jerry West one?

  26. Snoopy – did you download The Jordan Rules or did you buy a hard copy? I’m having trouble finding a PDF version.

    PS: I’m assuming that you’ve already read The Last Season. That’s like a prerequisite for being on this site.

  27. 21, pff I picked Celtics to lose in the 1st round that year, so it couldn’t have been me.

  28. Aaron, you must think if you post it often enough, the Heat will make the Finals.

    You’re about 1/2 right. They’ll make the Finals alright.

    Just not this year.

  29. mo williams and randy foye scored efficiently. However, the game proves that you need veterans. kobe and artest’s steals, fisher’s drawing offensive fouls, and kobe’s drawing shooting fouls, Lakers did little things that veterans do.

  30. 28,
    Im not proud of this… But “The Last Season” is the only book I’ve ever read

    30,
    Who really thinks here that the Bulls can beat the Heat in a playoff series?

  31. #27. Breaks of the Game is a great book if you haven’t read it. As are both the FreeDarko books if you haven’t read those yet. Loose Balls is a great hoops book that looks at the ABA.

    #33. I think the Bulls can beat the Heat in a playoff series. Why wouldn’t I think a fantastic team can beat a collection of talent that has not yet shown they can consistently play together (the key there is *yet*).

  32. Aaron, seriously, you’ve only read one book your entire life?

    That explains a lot …

    Also, interesting, the Heat only have to beat the Bulls to make the Finals? I knew ESPN had a lot of influence, but this is really surprising.