Clippers/Lakers: A Preseason Affair

J.M. Poulard —  December 19, 2011

The end result of the game may not have counted in the standings, but the effort and strategy sure will once the season gets started.

With Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom no longer part of the organization, there was a lot of anticipation coming into this game to see what these new Lakers would look like.

On offense, the purple and gold did a good job of keeping the offense flowing and having players move off the ball. Consequently, offensive possessions rarely seemed forced; instead we were treated to a Lakers team that consistently took high percentage shots.

Mike Brown’s offense called for Kobe Bryant to go through a series of screens courtesy of his big men to shake free around the elbow area for open shots; but the offense also used Bryant as a screener on the likes of Bynum and Gasol. With Kobe involved as the man setting the pick, the defense occasionally lost track of him and allowed him to catch the ball at the top of the key and go to work.

The off the ball movement in the offense typically provided the Lakes three main scorers the luxury of single coverage.

As a result, the Lakers managed to score 50 points in the first half on 44.7 percent field goal shooting. Although the shooting figures weren’t impressive, the purple and gold shared the ball to the tune of 11 assists and attempted 20 free throws in the first 24 minutes.

The second half on the other hand brought an entirely different look.

The Clippers ramped up their defensive intensity and dared the Lakers to beat them off the dribble. Lob City’s pressure defense generated nine turnovers in the third quarter and also forced a host of contested shots that had the Lakers looking at a 91-67 deficit after three quarters.

The offense looked better in the fourth, but Brown had some of his starters play against some of the Clippers second and third stringers.

On defense, the home team did a terrific job of guarding the post; thwarting every Blake Griffin post up opportunity by pushing him out of his comfort zone or simply forcing him towards the help.

In pick and roll coverage, Brown’s philosophy for this game was to send his big men out to hedge hard out on ballhandlers and recover back to their initial assignment.

Against most teams, the strategy has the potential to stymie an offense; but against Chris Paul it did little to negate his playmaking ability. Indeed, Paul was able to either split the trap, isolate his man or just find his teammate during the split second he was open for a terrific look at the basket.

Also, the inability to limit the Clippers guard play resulted in several open looks from 3-point range (the Clips converted 13-of-28 from deep), an area in which the Lakers excelled at defensively last season.

Furthermore, the Lakers’ 21 turnovers led to a multitude of transition opportunities for the Clippers; who also happened to be the quicker and more athletic team.

The purple and gold’s interior defense was solid throughout, however it was awfully tough to notice given how the Clippers’ starting backcourt shredded their defenders (40 points, 12 assists, 11-for-17 field goal shooting) and then set up their big people for some sensational finishes.

With that said, this game was a learning opportunity for Mike Brown and his team. The trio of Bryant, Bynum and Gasol probably performed as expected, combining for 53 points and 22 rebounds on 48.4 percent field goal shooting, but some other players turned heads as well.

Darius Morris came off the bench to score 11 points and Josh McRoberts did a good job of running the floor and finding his teammates. The former Duke player did have three turnovers, but once he gets some familiarity with the team, one would expect the amount of miscues to drop.

Coach Brown will have to make a few adjustments to avoid mistakes against ball pressure to ensure his team maximizes their possessions. Indeed, the Lakers still managed to run off 23 fast break points, attempted a total of 41 free throws and won the rebounding battle.

Let’s see if these positives translate into the next preseason game and then the regular season.

J.M. Poulard