Around the World (Wide Web): Postseason Eve

Phillip Barnett —  April 15, 2011


[If this video doesn’t get you ready for the playoffs to start, I don’t think anything will. All praises for this one go to Rob Mahoney and the good folks over at Hardwood Paroxysm.]

From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: So what the Lakers are doing here is keeping Bynum in the paint when a pick and roll takes place, funneling the action to him and stopping penetration.  This is the Lakers’ new pick and roll defense, and it what has them at the top of the PPP leaderboard for pick and roll defense.  When it comes to defending the ball handler, the Lakers have the 6th best pick and roll defense, allowing just .775 points per possession.  They are even better when it comes to containing the roll man, as they are 5th in terms of PPP. With this defensive strategy, the Lakers find themselves susceptible to midrange jumpers.  However, as Person mentioned in Ding’s article, they are willing to live with it, because they are confident in their belief that there are only a few guys who can knock down those shots consistently:

From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: We all know how much Kobe Bryant likes to get isolated in the Lakers offense, and while many may argue (effectively in my opinion) that there is too much of this late, you can’t question how successful Kobe is in the isolation.  When Kobe Bryant looks to score in isolation, he posts a PPP of 1.00 (this is good for 24th among players with at least 20 isolation possessions).  This success scoring out of isolation sets allows for Bryant to have success when passing out of his one-on-one situations.  Bryant’s overall isolation offense (including his passes out of isolation situations) has a PPP of 1.049.  When Bryant does make the pass (20% of his total number of isolation possessions) he is able to get his teammates wide open looks:

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: With all due respect to how well Landry has played, the Hornets really need David West here. The offensive problems that West created would have challenged Pau Gasol more and maybe tiered the Spaniard out some. Look for the Hornets to try to pick-and-roll the Lakers to death, the Lakers strategy has been to lay back on that and dare you to beat them with the jump shot. Paul is going to have to both knock down shots and find ways to get some easy buckets inside for his teammates. They need to get Andrew Bynum and his balky knee on the move, the problem is the Hornets are not really a running team. Emeka Okafor also is going to have to have a monster series on the glass for the Hornets to have a chance. PREDICTION Without West the Hornets do not have the firepower. They didn’t really with him, but without him the Hornets (like most teams) just cannot match up with the length and skill of the Lakers front line. Lakers in 5.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: Phew! Wow, what a game.  Everyone was thinking the Kings were going to go out nice and quiet when they were down 18 to start the 4th Quarter.  Lakers just can’t make things easy, can they? A quick Kings run ignited the crowd, sloppy Lakers Offense contributed to the cause, and brick after brick were handed out by the Lakers to make the impossible, reality.  You could feel the energy and excitement in the building, there was a definite buzz in the air and the fans stood on their feet as the Kings clawed back within 6..4..1..then took the lead.  It was bananas. But before that amazing (and hopefully not the last) run by the Kings, let me take you back to the beginning.  I’ve been to 3 games at ARCO Power Balance Pavilion before, so I know the routine.  Doors open one hour before tip-off, so that meant I had to be there around 6p.m. to get a sweet spot in line.  I walked up and was warmly met by the great PBP.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Mucho thanks to all who voted in our first ever SS&R power poll. By the magic of Microsoft Excel, I’ve compiled the results, which you can see after the jump. Despite remaining the Vegas favorites to win the NBA title, the Lakers begin the playoffs at second in our collective power rankings. Their first-round opponents, the New Orleans Hornets, check in at 15th, ahead of only the 37-win Pacers. The teams that inspired the most disagreement were the Celtics and Nuggets. The least controversial were the top-ranked Bulls and the bottom-feeders from Indiana. We’ll do this again after the first round is complete. I wish I could hand out “I VOTED” stickers to all who submitted a ballot. Unfortunately that wasn’t in the budget for this project, so instead everyone just take a Sharpie and write “I VOTED” on whatever you’re wearing.

From Zach Lowe, The Point Forward: Switch-flipping is a dicey thing, historically, but the Lakers and Celtics have the pedigree that suggests they can do it. Boston finished last season 27-27 before shocking even their own fans by plowing through the East and coming within a few minutes of the franchise’s 18th title. The Celtics went only 10-11 in their last 21 games this season, and though the decision to trade Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder is the easy target here, the real culprit is the team’s offense, which finished just 19th in points per possessions. Rajon Rondo is barely shooting 40 percent since the start of March, Glen Davis’ jumper has deserted him and the Celtics generally looked helpless against elite Miami and Chicago defenses in games this month. This hasn’t been a good offensive team in two years, but it will have to be better for Boston to seriously contend.

From Nadya Avakian, Lakers Nation: There’s a reason why the pick-and-roll is the go-to offense in the NBA. It’s a sequence that always subscribes to the same basic action—a player sets the pick, while the other rolls to the basket, finds an open teammate, shoots the ball himself or lays it up at the rim. It can be pure or varied because its rhythm’s and placements all serve to alternate its composition. Because the offense can be modified in a variety of different ways, each pick-and-roll sequence can still manufacture some type of advantage in the half-court, even against the more advanced defenses in the league. Professional basketball currently relies much more on the guy running the point than it has in years past. With a class of ball-handlers including the likes of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash and the like, the pick-and-roll when mastered and executed to perfection, becomes that much more devastating to teams that don’t have a disciplined defense.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Phil Jackson sat down in front of reporters Thursday to preview his final postseason before retiring as a coach, but before he did, he sighed, smiled and said he hoped the material could stick to basketball issues. Jackson was fined Thursday $75,000 by the NBA — with an additional $75,000 fine for the Lakers organization — for his comment made in Portland on April 7. “Who knows what the NBA is going to look like after this year?” Jackson said. “I think there’s some people pretty convinced there’s not going to be a year next year.” Jackson was speaking in the context of his planned coaching retirement, but the NBA prohibits team officials from speaking publicly about collective bargaining issues. Considering his fine, it’s worth noting that this is what Jackson said Wednesday night in Sacramento when asked about Kobe Bryant’s $100,000 fine from the NBA for an anti-gay remark on the bench: “They just do it according to what a person makes.”

From Mark Medina, LA Times: When he wasn’t celebrating the 2010 NBA championship, Artest spent plenty of time this off-season slimming down to 250 pounds and limiting his alcohol consumption in the hopes he could keep up with speedy players such as Kevin Durant. That effort has proven to be a mixed bag, but the way he defends the opposing team’s best player will likely prove to be the X factor in a series. It’s crucial that Artest play the game the right way. When he doesn’t have a superstar player to defend, Artest sometimes appears bored on team defense. When he is defending a top scorer, sometimes the matchup distracts him from basic duties, such as help defense. Then there’s of course the offense, where running a fast break and any shot attempt immediately prompts Staples Center to let out a collective gasp.

Phillip Barnett

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17 responses to Around the World (Wide Web): Postseason Eve

  1. The lakers defense is definitely susceptible to guys who can hit floaters and mid-range jumpers. It is a good strategy because so few players practice that shot AND it keeps their bigs out of foul trouble. The lakers would rather give you an open twelve footer then a contested layup that has a chance is drawing a foul

  2. Kevin Ding’s link is broken.

  3. Everything Pruiti writes is gold, but that defensive breakdown linked to above has a very interesting note:

    The weakest part of our defense (in fact, the only part of our D where we are below average) is defending shooters coming off screens. And the main weak link in that is Kobe, partly because his “centerfield” mentality lowers the defensive focus on his own man’s movement.

    Fascinating stuff. We go as Kobe goes, of course, but there’s no denying Kobe could improve the Lakers even further by being smarter on offense. Now, it turns out, he could improve the weakest part of our defense by being smarter as well.

  4. I see three things that could derail the Lakers’ title run.

    1. Injuries (the less said the better).

    2. Younger legs just running them out of the gym.

    3. Kobe trying to do too much.

    Of those, #3 remains my greatest concern (#1 would be, but you can’t really do anything about that one). I am pretty convinced that if the Lakers win the ring, Kobe will not be the MVP. And I am not convinced Kobe can let that happen.

  5. Thanks, Simonoid. The Ding link is fixed now.

  6. #3 Snoopy,

    Kobe has been playing center field for years as part of the Lakers’ defensive strategy. I find it hard to believe that Phil and the coaching staff would allow Kobe to play center field without their approval for this long. It seems to be a rather successful strategy the past few years. You pointed out that the team is below average in defending shots off screens, but above average in all other aspects. Could it be possible that Kobe playing centerfield might have something to do with the team being above average in the other areas? Being below average in defending shots off screens seem like a cheap price to pay, if the team is above average in ALL other areas of defense.

    I find it amusing that when bloggers on this site criticize the team defense, they point to Kobe. When they criticize the team offense, they also point to Kobe (i.e. VoR). It’s amazing the Lakers were able to make three straight finals with Kobe being a liability to both the defense and the offense:}.

  7. 4)
    I couldnt agree with you more on Kobe. Even Phil Jackson said in his pre playoff presser he is worried now that Kobe has aged and his skills have declined he hasn’t mentally adjusted to his new game. It’s definaltey the best coaching he has done all season. I hope Kobe gets the message. Check the video out

    http://www.nba.com/lakers/video/2011/04/14/110414pressconferencephiljackson-1648940/index.html

  8. 6)
    The best player always gets criticized the most along with the coach. It comes with that talent and that fat paycheck. Kobe has his hands on the ball the most so he dictates the offense. When he makes poor choices the offense struggles. And on defense he is very lazy on the regular season… He plays much harder on the post season. One of the reasons the Lakers have won.

  9. #4,

    I don’t recall a single series in the past two championship runs where Kobe was “trying to do too much” on offense. Sure, there were games here and there where he forced the issue (more so in the regular seasons), but for the most part, Kobe has CONSISTENTLY found that balance between playmaker and shotmaker. His aggression against Phoenix was absolutely necessary when the Suns zoned and packed in the paint last year. Two years ago against Denver, he was both a willing playmaker and an aggressive shotmaker, depending on how Denver was playing him from game to game. IMHO, based on the past few playoffs, Kobe’s ability to find that balance is the LEAST of my concerns.

  10. #8,
    On 99% of teams, the best player and the coach get criticized the most, and rightfully so, but not on this Lakers team. The media finds a way to direct the blame onto Kobe, while Phil is usually given a free pass.

  11. The only series where I thought Kobe was trying too hard to the point of sabotage was the 04 Finals with Detroit.

    What he did in that series was frankly criminal and I still haven’t got over it (they weren’t even doubling Shaq) BUT that’s the ONLY series where I thought he was a net negative.

  12. LT MItchell,

    Two years ago Kobe was absolutely brilliant in the Denver series, drawing the double team and making plays for his teammates. Last year in finals game 7 he was a demon on the boards because his shot was not falling and he set up Artest (of all people) for that key shot. The Lakers are the favorite because of Kobe. I am not bashing him.

    All I am saying is that to my eyes, Kobe has a lost a little something this year and he has a stronger supporting cast. To win it all this year, I think the cast is going to have to step up and Kobe is going to have to trust them to a greater extent than he ever has even to the point where I could see Gasol or Bynum being MVP (because teams are overplaying Kobe). We’ll see how it plays out

  13. I am consistently blown away by the depth and level of writing by those linked above and by those here at FB&G. I wish I had such insights. For anyone bored and looking for non-analysis, feel free to check out http://tinyurl.com/3sjw53o. I always feel like a guilty hustler for posting links but I swallow hard and do it nonetheless. Believe me, the stuff read better when it was scrawled on a napkin.

  14. This team requires an Alpha Dog to lead it. Drew will not grow into one anytime soon, Pau is not nor is LO. Fish can do it, but not on the court. He would be a great head coach for them. But as it now stands, Kobe is our Alpha Dog. We, and the team, follow his lead for better or worse.

  15. if andrew is good enough to play not so much physically, but mentally and gives the lakers more of what we saw in february and march and not the andrew of the last two postseasons who gets into foul trouble, nobody, other than the lakers, can beat the lakers. if he’s not, then all bets are off. this could then be the most wide-open playoffs in recent memory without a clear favorite.

  16. Kobe has lost a little, and so has Fisher, which is why Kobe’s roaming doesn’t work quite as well as previously.

    I agree with VoR that Kobe needs to trust his teammates more; not sure if he can, though.