Game 2 Adjustements: Getting Gasol Going

Darius Soriano —  April 18, 2011

If there’s one thing I love about the playoffs, it’s the adjustments. I’d prefer to talk about what the Lakers’ opponent needs to do to rectify a loss, but after the first game that’s not the case. Instead, we need to look long and hard at what the Lakers need to do to bounce back and claim a win to even up the series on Wednesday. Luckily (or unluckily, I suppose) the Lakers’ game one performance gave plenty of things to work on heading into game two.

And while there are plenty of things to fix on defense (more on that tomorrow), today we focus on how the Lakers can be more effective on offense. And that means getting Pau Gasol going.

In his post game presser, Phil Jackson said a variety of things about the Lakers’ performance, but what stood out to me was his statement about not being able to recall Pau getting a lot of touches in the post (his overall lack of touches is something else to look at, and we will a bit later). Phil briefly explained that Gasol is one of their primary guys and that getting him the ball in places where he can be most effective is a priority.

So simple, yet so true. And yet the Lakers, as a team, did a poor job of getting Gasol the ball in areas where he could take advantage of his match up with Carl Landry. Before game one, I mentioned that I’d like to see Gasol get a lot of his touches in the strong side post, working in the hub of the Triangle. Yesterday, however, we saw very little of that. Instead we witnessed Gasol primarily operating at the elbow or on the strong side wing, essentially making him a distributor in the Lakers’ hand off sequences and sideline initiations. Needless to say, this isn’t where Gasol – the Lakers’ 2nd best offensive player and primary post up threat – should be spending the majority of his time.

Granted, Gasol is a gifted offensive player who can flourish in these spots. His mid-range game is a strong part of his arsenal and he successfully did damage against the Hornets from the mid post and elbow in the regular season. But in the playoffs, he’ll need to get back to the block to be more effective as well as vary his offense attack. Below are two simple adjusmtents I think will help Gasol get going:

*The first adjustment is for the Lakers to run more “center opposite” actions for Pau. As detailed in this fine post, this action is designed to get a big man coming across the lane to make the catch. This benefits Gasol greatly as he’s not a traditional banger on the low block while also utilizing his quickness and ability to catch the ball on the move. By setting Pau up on the weak side and screening for him to come to the strong side, the Lakers can (hopefully) shake Pau free from his defender and allow him to settle into the low post more easily. An added benefit to this action is that it also allows the Lakers to set up their strong side Triangle initiation with Pau in the hub. The Lakers can then utilize all of their cut and screen actions on both the strong and weak side to take advantage of Pau’s ability to pick out teammates when they break open. With Pau in better position to score on his own or force the type of help that he can take advantage of by making passes to open teammates, there are no downfalls here; only upside.

*Another way to get Pau going is for the Lakers to run more 4/5 P&R actions between Gasol and Odom. Too often in game one, when the Lakers went to the P&R, they relied on the high P&R with Kobe as the ball handler and either Gasol or Bynum setting the screen. This action had mixed results (as it has all season) as Kobe often found himself bottled up coming off the pick with no one to pass to. What we didn’t see as much of was the weak side action of Gasol and Odom working hand off and P&R sequences where Odom could either attack the basket coming off a Gasol screen or pull the ball back and make an easy entry to Gasol. Often times this action causes a switch on D and puts the PF that was guarding Odom onto Gasol in a position where Pau has already established good post position. Plus, with this action occurring on the weak side, Gasol has more space to work with where he can either turn and face or go to a standard back down move to work his jump hook

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Outside of these two specific sets designed to get Gasol into the flow of the game, the Lakers need to generally look to the post more (whether for Gasol, Bynum, or Odom) to get their offense operating at peak effiency. During the regular season, Gasol took a combined 19 FG/FTA’s against the Hornets, Odom took a combined 13, and Bynum took a combined 13. Yesterday those numbers were 13, 14, and 10 respectively. In game one, the Lakers were too quick in reversing the ball back to the top of the key rather than holding the ball for an extra tick and letting the post man work his way open to make a catch. I understand the want to keep the ball moving (it is one of the first principles of the offense) but the Laker bigs do need their touches for the offense to flow smoothly – not to mention stay balanced – and yesterday provided another example of the wing players moving away from them too early. I expect film study to make this obvious if it wasn’t already clear after the game. (As an aside, if Steve Blake is able to play on Wednesday I think his general focus on running the offense with an emphasis on making post entries will help the team in addition to all the other ways he was missed.)

In the end, getting the offense settled will be key not only for game two but for the rest of the series. Besides a better emphasis on post play (and better production from the post players) the Lakers also need to work on their spacing, their off ball screens to free up cutters, and in their general crispness of getting into their sets. Besides Kobe’s ability to make shots and Ron’s well rounded offensive game, there wasn’t much positive from the Lakers’ performance on that side of the ball Sunday. Hopefully on Wednesday we’ll see them get back to basics by featuring their big men and working more as a team to get each other going.

Darius Soriano

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36 responses to Game 2 Adjustements: Getting Gasol Going

  1. Continuing from the last post.

    I nor anyone else is saying Pau isn’t a big part of the team or anything like that. And yes Pau didn’t exactly complain about the lack of touches, he did say it affected his game. I do indeed construe that as a complaint because of his history of complaining about lack of touches when he doesn’t play well. Which I think we all know he’s done more than a handful of times. Yes Pau is owning up to his struggles, which is good, but he needs to put his money where his mouth is.

    I remember versus the celtics in the 08-09 season the lakers were down at half time and Pau was struggling. He got it together in the second half and won. Kobe said he had to remind Gasol that he’s one of the best players in the world and he needs to play like it. The problem is Gasol should never have to be reminded just how good he is. Yes some of it is the team not getting him involved. But most of it is his overall lack of aggression and proneness to just float throughout the game.

    I think the lakers should watch a little game tape, game plan for chris paul and watch last years Game 7 years. FSN replayed it a week or two ago after a lakers game. But the entire team needs to be reminded of the fire, the emotion, the energy despite being exhausted, the trust they showed in each other, and the defensive intensity they displayed in that game. They refused to lose last year. That attitude has been lacking all season.

  2. Joel,
    Kobe spoke on this after the game. No player is the same and each has his own view in how to help the team and how to play the game. Pau is a player that often focuses on making the “right” play, not necessarily the play where he just goes for his own. There will be times where he does need a reminder about being aggressive.

    Also, I’ve never understood how team/player make up isn’t taken into account when doling out the criticism. The Lakers need a player like Gasol – one that doesn’t mind playing 2nd fiddle, will make the extra pass, loves to set up his teammates – to balance some of the shot happy guards and wings he plays with. Yet, fans want him to do more and be more aggressive. Yet on the flip side, when he asks for more touches, fans want to kill him for speaking out and tell him to “stfu” because he had a bad game. I don’t get it.

    Which is it? Do you want him aggressive or not? If you want him to want the ball, then why the concern when he says that he’d like it more? I understand the want for him to play better, I want that too (as does he, if you listen to what he says). But to continue to pile on like he’s just completely in the wrong at every turn? Again, I don’t get it.

  3. Gasol is best at the high post or elbow. He is more comfortable and more effective even and actually especially against smaller players in those spots. He was two for nine shooting. Did he get enough touches? Yes. He actually got too many touches if you ask me. I would rather have him be one for five. He isn’t Kobe. The guys who didn’t get enough touches were Artest and Bynum.

  4. it’s true that pau needs more touches, but he also has to play with more passion and energy, and make himself dangerous on the floor. if he wants touches, he needs to establish good position and demand the &*!#$%@ ball.

  5. Gasol is best at the high post or elbow. He is more comfortable and more effective even and actually especially against smaller players in those spots. He was two for nine shooting. Did he get enough touches? Yes. He actually got too many touches if you ask me. I would rather have him be one for five. He isn’t Kobe. The guys who didn’t get enough touches were Artest and Bynum. I love the triangle offense, I love how everyone touches the ball and is into the game. The one problem with not having a PG who dominates the ball is just that. There is no QB. There is no leader who decides where the ball should be going. A traditional PG would immidaitley stop directing the ball to Gasol and start feeding Artest and Bynum.

  6. Darius, couldn’t agree more. Incidentily, some of the same criticism is lobbed at Dirk Nowitzki. Just by their physical attributes, both are not suited to be the banger type. They both also come from European basketball where much more zone defense (no defensive 3 seconds!) and less reliance on isos condition a player and give him less chances for “going for his own”.

    I have another question regarding Gasol: in the previous seasons Pau seemed to be able to hit cutters for open lay-ups a few times a game, which to my eye has been reduced to almost zero. What do you think, is this because teams prepare better to take this away, because the Lakers don’t make the effort to dive when Gasol has the ball down low, or is it Gasol himself who has gone away from these types of passes?

    From my perception, the Lakers now often go to a dump down to Gasol and have the ball-side guard and wing cut by him to isolate him on the block. In previous seasons, I think cuts by players to make themselves a target for Gasol have come from the top or the weak side and are much harder to defend. Right now, the Lakers exclusively set it up to have Gasol (or Bynum/Kobe/Artest/…) beat their defenders 1-on-1 in the low-post whereas before they worked to beat the defense in a way that resulted through ball and player movement. I just think the offense has become a bit static at the moment.

  7. The players we have have won this thing twice. That isn’t to excuse our play, but it does seem we are a bit “the sky is falling” about the situation.

    Pau is who he is and that is plenty good, but I do think having two pass first players in the post (Pau and Lamar) at the same time is not good for our overall game. This is where I think Phil’s insistence in closing out games with these players makes us less dangerous. We need a thug who will demand the ball down low at the end of games – if only to counteract Kobe’s tendencies. Andrew is the closest we come to this type of player and Phil just won’t play him – this one is directly on Phil and no one else.

    It is easy for Kobe to take over when the only other player playing who is at all demanding is Artest – and he is busy fitting in.

  8. It should be noted the great adjustment by the Hornets heading into game two. In the last game of the regular season recently against the Hornets New Orleans used their Center like most teams do set set picks for CP3. The problem with this strategy against the Lakers is that involves Los Angeles’ best defensive player (Andrew Bynum). In that game Bynum altered almost every Paul shot. On one possession Bynum switched onto Chris on the pick and roll and Andrew guarding Paul one on one and the top of the key blocked his jump shot. The Hornets in game one switched around their pick and roll offense. Whenever they could they would use Gasol or Lamar in the high pick and roll to take advantage PF the Lakers average PF defenders. A great move by New Orleans that paid off.

  9. I accept Pau for the player he is. A versatile and gifted big man. Obviously better as a PF than a C. I also recognize that you can’t have more than one #1 option on this team. Kobe is the alpha dog. Moreover, every player is entitled a bad outing. We are fortunate to have Pau on the team…BUT even with all the things we didn’t do well yesterday this game still looked like it would be a W until Bynum lost the jump ball to Aaron Gray AND the most frustrating thing of all is that it wasn’t until about minute 47 of the game, @ the end of the fourth quarter, that Pau finally made a quick and decisive move to the basket and powered the ball through. I was waiting the entire game to see that instead of Pau passing to the perimeter when he had position or attempting weak floaters that were getting routinely blocked or simply missed. He can play with fire and determination, he can back his man down and be the black swan. I fully expect that Pau to materialize come Wednesday.

    Also, we didn’t lose this game solely because of Gasol but the criticism he is getting is understandable when you are the 2nd best player on a championship team. It just comes with the territory, as Kobe pointed accurately out in his post-game comments.

  10. Pau did not lose us this game, but Pau and Lamar together do not give us the down low type of play to counteract the way the Hornets attack.

    While we have changed our defense this year, we still need to take account of the strengths and weaknesses of our bigs. Against the Hornets we may need to change how we rotate our players.

    While we may not have to adjust to other teams, the Hornets present particular problems with bigs playing out front and not boxing out.

  11. Or Gasol’s sloppy, soft self can muscle to gain position down low where he can receive the ball. This dude shoulders no responsibility for his lackluster lazy play.

  12. For all this talk about the offense and Pau’s part in it, if the end game defense is a little bit better and Lakers take the game. It’s been a disconcerting season long trend that the team cannot get the key stops when it’s close and down to the last two minutes.

    I’m not sure what the problem is as it was a strength the last two years. Sure we can point at Bynum being pulled out and how the scheme was changed with him in mind. But these are still the same guys who played without Bynum in key situations last year. Seems like the mistakes are not a scheme issue but one of miscommunications and mental lapses.

  13. You know what, chalk it up to a missing PG to deal with Paul and a lack of focus on the whole team. Get the ball to Pau a bit more and he needs to put on his big boy jersey and do some dirty work down low. I thought the NO bigs played great but they were really physical with him. Return the favor, if they get the calls then so will he. Body them up, flop a little or whatever. It’s really down to aggression and playing with the same edge that the Hornets brought.

  14. 6 – You are right. Over the last couple seasons the cutters who took best advantage from the weak side were Odom and Ariza. With Ron often on the weakside now he doesn’t seem to cut very often when Gasol is holding the ball in the post on the other side. Earlier in the season Barnes was really good at moving to the rim from the weak side and scoring off quick passes from Pau. Coincidentally, this was when Pau was playing some of his best ball of the season. Ron’s not really a cutter. He just seems to move around the perimeter and wait for a kickout. Or he may post up to mixed results. Odom still cuts sometimes. But sometmes he gets a little too comfortable sitting near the three point line.

  15. @Kaifa —

    what exactly makes Gasol and Dirk unable to be bangers by their “physical attributes”? For one I don’t think they have the same body types (Dirk more agile/athletic) but all the same get your behind in the gym!! The bangers arent all born that way. Awkward as heck Roy friggin Hibbert hit the gym and actually looks like a ball player. Same with Psycho-T and the Orlando kid from Duke. We expect top players to be able to change styles and evolve – same goes for Pau and anyone else, whether from Europe, Asia or Mars! We’ve been beating a very effective LBJ for not having a good post game; what makes Gasol different? Besides at this point, he’s played NBA ball much longer than he ever played Euro.

    No excuses Pau. You’re a ball player regarded by many as the “best big”. The “right” play is one that allows you to score most effeciently, period. You have a hook shot? Use it. Anything else is the dumb play.

    This dudes sloppiness drives me bonkers

  16. I am all for Pau getting more touches. The problem I have with saying that “the Lakers should work harder to get Pau the ball in his spots”, is that it’s not as simple as just getting Pau the ball in “his spots”. Pau has to do work to get in his spots. It’s not just going to magically happen. Okafor and Landry and even Ariza, were pushing Pau off of his “spots” pretty easily. That should not happen, given Pau’s size compared to his opponents. That’s where the question of effort comes in. It’s refusing to let smaller players muscle you out towards the three point line. If Pau shot 2 for 9 and he was scrapping and forcing his way to his spots, I would have no issues. It’s not even a matter of aggression, it’s about effort to me and Pau did not give any effort. Inexcusable.

  17. #17. I’ll write now what I wrote on twitter: Pau needs to play better and work harder to get the ball. The Lakers need to run sets that help him achieve that, and then pass him the ball.

    Really, this is pretty simple stuff.

    #16. I’m keeping your comments but your handle/name gives you close to zero credibility at a site like this. There are plenty of places to bitch about a player you don’t like. FB&G is better off with fans that are open minded. With a handle like yours, that’s doubtful.

  18. Adelman parting ways with Rockets. Not to get ahead of ourselves here, but potentially a candidate for Lakers job? I wouldn’t mind..

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=6384752

  19. Darius,
    That’s why I switched from my previous handle of “FisherLover69″

  20. Dude —

    Its a gimmick and a bit of a joke. Pau is a great player. I do find him a bit slothful. I’m not looking for my handle to provide credibility or not too. That’s what my comments are for. In any event, you’ll find that nothing I note will be inobjective. I’m not about slurring players…

    Btw, I agree completely with your twitter comment.

  21. #21. My only point is that comment would get more respect and would come off as more credible if it wasn’t backed by the name “gasolhater”. Especially when your entire comment is about how Gasol was awful.

  22. I took a couple of hits on prior blog about my thoughts on our guards. Don’t get me wrong, nobody works as hard as Fish. If the rest of the team tried as hard as him life would be simple. My problem is if you knew going in that Fish by him self can’t stay with Paul then where is your game plan. Put Kobe on him. Put LO on him. Don’t switch fight through the picks. Embarrassing Pau, who was still not awake which completely took him out of the game and made no sense. Just like putting Pau outside on offense to pass or stand makes no sense. The Lakers played small while NO played big. Either this team has attention deficit disease or Phil got big time out coached. Our guards are who they are. Below average. You can’t leave them on an island. And Pau is clueless on pick and rolls. Sometime Phil has to actually do some coaching. Most of the team mimicked the coach, half asleep

  23. I know it’s not the right time of the season for it, but when Pau jogs up the court, why doesn’t Phil immediately sub for him? I think he might get the message then. The last thing we need to be doing is giving Chris Paul a big to lob it to in transition.

  24. Congrats to Chris Webber. He is now calling NBA playoff games. I think him and Kevin McHale do a great job on the NBA League Pass.

    That being said, does anyone remember when they first had him and Gary Payton doing that? It will be interesting to see how his career evolves from this point. He was pretty raw as an analysis guy when him and The Glove started out but has since improved vastly. Butttttttt. right now he kind of sounds like Jesse Jackson and John Madden mixed calling the IND-CHI game right now.

  25. Darius,

    Reply to the early post. I want Gasol to want the ball. I just can’t stand we he complains (in general) about not getting touches, but doesn’t demand the ball or work hard to get position. There has been a few times that he’s complained about not getting touches but just floated around the perimeter all game. We can all tell the difference between the shot happy guards just not passing and Pau not being engaged. When the former occurs, he doesn’t need to stfu at all. He should do the exact opposite no matter who its directed to, including Kobe.

    It’s fine to be an aggressive second option such as Russell Westbrook. My point is Pau is too talented offensively to completely not have an impact whatsoever. It’s detrimental to the team when he’s unengaged offensively like he was in game 1. I’m not saying he has to take 20 shots and score 30points. But he has to make his presence known every game in some form or fashion. That could be scoring, it could be offensive rebounds assist whatever. Even missed shots in the paint open up opportunities for good offensive rebounders like drew and lo. That responsibility is mostly on Pau (which he did in part own up to). I understand what you’re saying about personality, but despite personality he has to perform and he has to impact the game, he’s too good not to. But every now and then Pau looks like he’s mentally checked out. Everybody is entitled to a bad game, but Pau was a mentally a no show in game 1 and the lakers can’t afford that.

  26. Can we all agree that the NBA refs are – at best – just mediocre to average.

    Just watching other NBA games – not the Lakers – I have no comment about the refs in the Laker game Sunday.

    However, the refs seriously get too much wrong, anticipate calls and clearly favor the ‘flavor of the month’ players. It seriously corrupts watching the game.

  27. Just saw the details on Houston letting go of Rick Adelman. There is a really good coach, but I totally would understand if he really didn’t want to coach the Rockets again. That organization doesn’t seem to have any direction, but statistics – it is as if Henry Abbott were the general manager. That will really screw up any organization.

  28. Craig W @ 28 – “… it is as if Henry Abbott were the general manager …”

    Haha! Scary.

  29. I think of it this way: in 2009, the Lakers got their wake-up call first against Houston then against Denver. In 2010, the Lakers got their wake-up call against OKC. In 2008, the Lakers didn’t get their wake-up call until the Finals.

    I’d rather the Lakers get punched in the mouth early so that they can build that championship mettle than coast through the early rounds only to get blown out of the water in the Finals.

  30. Zephid,
    Maybe I’m stubborn like Phil Jackson… But I still think we can put on a basketball clinic and win 14 straight games to get to the Finals and lose to the Heat

  31. Forgot that the refs try to spice up games during the playoffs.. It’s ok. Lakers will take game 2.

  32. Don’t know if you guys read this but Kobe finished 12th in the Defensive Player of the Year rankings.

    Do you think Artest did better or worse?

    Yup you guessed wrong, he finished 18th.

    Let’s see Bynum and Pau shore up the defense on Wednesday. They are the ones that need to focus on that award for next year.

  33. Adelman’s a hell of a coach. He must stay on another team because his face is so expressive when his hopes are crushed. Also, remember what happened to the Lakers after the last Rockets castoff got a key to Staples Center?

  34. Id love to see Gasol in a real Princeton offense!!! But Kobe might not love the idea of such a spread the wealth offense.

    On NBAplaybook there is a great post on Lakers’ strugles with defending CP3 on the Pick and Roll:

    http://nbaplaybook.com/2011/04/18/how-chris-pauls-pick-and-rolls-hurt-the-lakers/#more-13571

    Thing is, that Paul combines quickness, basket-IQ and a great mid-range game, which enabled him to make the perfect reads on all the different looks the Lakers gave him.

    Maybe Kobe should have some looks on Paul, while letting Fisher do his Ray-Allen chase on Belli.

  35. As long as the games are NOT played early Pau Gasol wil be fine. I have read this somewhere that Phil Jackson said that Pau eats his dinner at 11 pm and sleeps at around 1 am. No wonder that Pau played with less energy in all of the afternoon laker games this season. I am not justifying Pau’s poor play considering him being a professional athlete it is his duty to be ready every game time no matter what is the scheduled hour of the game is. But people have certain habits such as spaniards who have SIESTA time (Afternoon sleep) that they are used to do even during childhood.