Lakers/Jazz: First of Many Wins

J.M. Poulard —  December 27, 2011

The Los Angeles Lakers just completed a fairly challenging portion of their schedule, playing three games in three nights. Although two of the three contests were held at home, it was still difficult for the team to navigate through it given the lack of practice time. Indeed, the players are still getting accustomed to playing with one another and have to do so all the while facing the rigors of the condensed schedule.

With that said, Mike Brown earned his first victory as the Lakers head coach on Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz. The Lakers still have some areas to improve on, but getting the first win out of the way certainly removes the added pressure of figuring things out while being winless.

A few observations from the game:

  • Apparently the Utah Jazz were the younger, quicker and more athletic team coming into the match-up against the Lakers; but they could have fooled us. The Lakers played with a lot more energy, getting the deflections as well as the loose balls and ran down the court for 16 fast break points.
  • The Utah Jazz have historically been a team with a high foul rate; as a result the Lakers made a conscious effort to feed MWP, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant on the block in an attempt to generate fouls. Also, simply running the court allowed the Lakers to get out ahead of the Jazz players who had to foul in order to limit the Lakers’ easy scoring opportunities.
  • With this being the third consecutive game in as many nights, Mike Brown gave Jason Kapono the nod as Kobe’s back up; playing him 17 minutes. Brown hasn’t quite settled on a rotation yet, as Matt Barnes (who played in Sacramento) failed to see any court time.
  • For the second game in a row, Metta World Peace was productive on offense. He drove to the basket for a dunk, posted up on the block and was able to get himself to the free throw line.
  • The Jazz’s inability to play defense without fouling essentially allowed Kobe Bryant to do less for a change. Indeed, Bryant’s scoring was still needed, but his playmaking abilities weren’t needed as much as in the previous contests.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers surrendered a mere 36 points in the paint thanks in large part to their activity, length and athleticism. The Jazz had trouble finishing at the rim against the likes of Gasol, McRoberts and Murphy (seven blocks between them).
  • Troy Murphy went scoreless against the Jazz in 31 minutes, but his contributions helped the Lakers get the win. The left-handed big man snatched 11 rebounds and dished out four assists.
  • Kobe had a few instances in which he hijacked the offense in the fourth quarter, but he got himself into great scoring position (pinch post, low post and at the wings) and delivered. He scored with his left hand off a spin move, converted a transition 3-pointer and got himself to the free throw line in a three-minute sequence.
  • Despite the fact that the Lakers were blowing out the Jazz late in the fourth quarter, Brown kept Gasol and Bryant in the game for the sake of getting an opportunity to run the offense. The strategy helped the team produce manufacture high percentage shots; but more importantly it may have done something for Pau Gasol’s confidence, whom attacked Enes Kanter in the post on multiple occasions instead of settling for fall-away jump shots.
  • The stat of night may be Pau Gasol’s 12 free throw attempts. A more aggressive Gasol equates to a far more productive Lakers offense.

Perhaps giving some of the young guys on the team some burn early in the fourth quarter could have been a huge benefit to the team, but instead Mike Brown chose to stick with his veterans for the most part. The decision meant that the rotation players got some playing time against Utah’s second unit and the Lakers certainly looked more confident and more in charge during that stretch. The strategy may just help the Lakers be a bit sharper in their execution against the New York Knicks on Thursday.

J.M. Poulard

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32 responses to Lakers/Jazz: First of Many Wins

  1. a win, finally.

  2. it was pretty darn fun to watch the hapless Jazz miss all those shots, and watch Kobe and MWP throw down some nastiness like they were in their 20′s again. If we can play defense like this 2 out of every three games, instead of 1 in 3, we’ll be allllllright. Bynum will take us to another level. My hope is that he plays so well and doesn’t miss any games due to injury that he either: a) makes a trade for dwight howard look more even, so much so that bynum could be traded straight up, or b) makes Jim Buss and Kupchak think real long and hard about trading him….but ultimately I still want D13 to come to Hollywood for our next dynasty!

  3. This win gives me confidence that the Lakers will make the playoffs, especially with Bynum returning.

  4. And so the Lakers are finally 2-1… with the other win coming from the moral victory we had vs the Bulls – who are also lucky to be 1-1 coz GSW just beat them up tonight. 1st coaching win for Mark Jackson.

    I think the team executed well tonight. We realized we needed to take care of business against a lesser team. Our bigs stayed out of foul trouble which is key whenever your 2nd/3rd best guy is still out on suspension.

    The guards handled the ball, 5 total turnovers between Kobe and Fish only… and get this: the bench made ZERO turnovers!

    Lastly, key #3 for me, Fish didn’t quite kill us tonight. We know we can’t expect such games to happen all the time but I liked what I saw from him tonight. He looked better than Devin Harris who was supposed to be killing us. That man’s confidence is just shot right now. He could be a nice target for the TPE + 1st rounder.

  5. Good to get that 400 pound gorilla off their backs with New York next. I love the hustlemen( Murphy and McRob) bringing energy and just doing the little things that go unrecognized that win ball games.

    Devin Harris seems like he is just going through the motions on the court.I was depressed just watching him on the tv. I liked his all around game in years past with NJ. A change of scenary is all this dude needs to get his mojo back. A long armed athletic guard that plays defense and can create their own shot. His talents would be very useful in LaLa land, a guy can still dream cant he.

    This team is just a PG away from being one of the top teams in the league again. MWP is looking good with the triangle gone for good(picking up the slack for LO’s bailing). The bench coming in fulfilling their roles, not trying to do anything outside their talent level is icing on the cake. The rah rah coaching on the sidelines is definitely a change from the days of Phil sitting back and letting the game unravel at the seams. It will take some time but this group of players are going to buy into what Brown is selling, thats what he does best.

  6. I found Troy Murphy’s stat line very similar to a Lamar Odom one.. 0 points, but 11 boards and 4 assists. As much as I loved odom, I think between mcroberts and Murphy we actually have a little more versatility and depth, at least when Bynum returns.

    Also, this team will look much better when Bynum returns. I can’t even imagine if we were able to pull off Howard and jameer for Bynum and the tpe, we would be very tough to beat.

  7. After three (3) games Is it too early to draw any conclusions pertaining to Matt Barnes? Two DNP’s (coaches decision) in three games. In the only game he appeared in, he posted a productive line, 13 minutes, 4 points on 2-4 fga, 3 rebs & 3 blocks vs. the Kings. There doesn’t appear to be any injury issues pertaining to playing back to back games. So is it just too early to even question why Barnes is looking like the 12th man and out of the rotation?

  8. JM, excellent points. Here are some of my observations:

    - McRoberts has shown up to play, his athleticism and hustle is a breath of fresh air, but he has also showcased his very unpolished offensive game. Definitely no LO, but good for the second team or as relief for Pau.

    - Murphy has been a bit of a disappointment. He’s extremely unathletic, not showing much defensive acumen, and seems hesitant to shoot from range, which we need from him, especially when the second team has Artest paired with Bynum or Gasol in the post. He needs to help spread the floor.

    - Ebanks still needs to work on his shot, but really promising signs from the guy.

    I agree with most posters here that when Bynum returns, we’re going to have a nasty defense that few teams are going to be able to exploit. Transition offense will remain our kryptonite, but as long as we tighten up our game, avoiding turnovers and scramble posessions, we should be able to limit the damge. I also second (third, forth, and fifth) calls for a decent PG who can take some handling responsibilities off Kobe’s (broken) hands.

    I wonder who’s available at LO’s TPE. Without trade speculation, does anyone know who fits the bill? Darius, feel free to strike this part if need be.

  9. it’s funny how some posters were screaming for Artest’s head, where are they now eh?

    I loved the D around the rim, the Jazz couldn’t get anything to tip in, we owned that aspect last night, and it should get better when ‘Drew comes back.

    I think the reason Brown brought the starters back in in the 4th was because the Jazz had gone on a 9 – 0 run and cut the lead to about 20, with 4 or 5 minutes to go, and he did not want to let them get back into the game. (first possession after that time out, we turned it over inbounding the ball, but the starters stayed composed).

    it’s been a long time since the Lakers have had hustle guys like McRoberts and Murphy, this is great to see, reminds me of the ol’ Rambis/AC Green days, I guess Ronnie Turiaf was that for us, and I wish we never traded him away.

  10. It sure was fun to see the jazz miss and miss and miss and miss

  11. Seth and all the others who keep waiting for Dwight Howard,

    if Bynum starts to excel on both ends of the floor without getting injured, why would we trade Bynum? He can handle himself against all post defenders in the league, which is not true for Howard since he doesn’t have a polished inside game. McBob is providing hustle at PF, which should be the help that Bynum needs.

    What does worry me is our ball control. We simply need better PG play in order to keep the ball out of Kobe’s hands… IF we trade someone, our priority should be trading one of those SF’s for a serviceable PG to start or backup Blake.

    All coaches preach defense and execution but in this shortened season there won’t be enough practices to improve through practice. If we are able to keep our defensive effort (specially in those second halves), limit our turnovers (thus increasing our chances of transition defense) and keep being aggressive and attacking the rim (thus gaining FT’s and converting them) we will be a contender. However, I’m a bit worried that Mike Brown likes seeing the ball in Kobe’s hands and we will fail in limiting turnovers…

  12. Finally a win! Are we still dreaming of a Bynum for HoWard trade? Do we really think that Bynum is that great that we can trade him straight for howard? If that is the case why not trade Bynum for Marc Gasol and a PG probably J. Pargo? Memphis have given us Pau once maybe they can give back Marc for us plus a PG.

  13. Barnes hurt his hip against the Kings and apparently was listed as questionable coming into the game. I believe that’s why he didn’t play. (Though, I actually missed this game due to family obligations.)

  14. Given all the constraints heading into the season and the tough opening schedule, I really wasn’t expecting much from this team the first few games. Sure the optimist in me hoped they’d win most, the pessimist in me expected them to lose most.

    Ultimately what I wanted to see was progression and growing cohesion from a team where everyone is still learning a new system and the new players.

    So far, I’ve liked what I’ve seen but there’s still a long ways to go of course. It also reinforced my belief that last year’s team wasn’t that far way. All the team really needed was some tweaks such as the McRob and Murphy signings and getting a PG. I’m still hoping Morris gets some burn and we have a better idea of what he can do.

    I’m still not impressed with G-luck and think he doesn’t give enough shooting production for the weaknesses he’s displayed. I’m not liking his propensity to go iso ball, lack of awareness and control.

    But I understand Brown is searching for a reliable back up SG. The rotation is definitely up in the air. I expect it’s going to take another 10-12 games of weird lineups before Brown feels he’s got a handle on everyone’s abilities. Then another 10-12 to figure out a set rotation. It’s easily going to be mid season before there’s any kind of consistency barring injury (knock on wood)

    I’m not seeing anything out of Luke that makes me think he should be activated. With a SF depth of Ebanks, Peace and Barnes, Luke should be a emergency piece.

    My only guess about playing Luke and Fish this much is Brown really wants to know how much they have left. Brown has come across as a very detailed oriented guy who takes in a lot. He also hasn’t been afraid to call guys out including Kobe. Also gives out a lot of praise, very demonstrative coach. All this seems to indicate that he will make decisions on his own terms.

  15. What has happened to Devin Harris? I liked the kid when he actually played defense years ago but he seems like a jaded basketball player now. I never thought someone would get depressed by LEAVING New Jersey. Maybe is being traded from a contender in Dallas (who later wins a championship….. hummmmm, was it me), to the armpit of Amercia, then to America’s Siberia. A change of scenery to Sunny California might help. The two years left on his contract at $9+ million makes it highly unlikely though.

  16. I think my favorite moment of the game was the dunk from “Metta… World… PEACE!” :)

    Aside from how much fun the announcers were having with it, it’s nice to see him play with more confidence and figure out his place in the new system. He should be bulldozing his way to the rim, not hang out and shoot from the perimeter. I think Mike Brown’s offense suits him better than the triangle.

  17. I’m not sure we were all that good, or if it was the fact that the Jazz was a brick factory last night. Pathetic.

    @11- We’d trade Bynum because we’re tired of waiting for the kid to excel. Abraco.

  18. It’s funny how one win changes everyone’s mood. I love this game!

  19. @16 Magic Phil. Bynum has excelled plenty. It’s if he can be healthy and stay on the court. If you’re going to criticize a player, be accurate at least.

  20. 16,

    My thoughts were on Seth’s Howard for Bynum straight up trade. If that’s a one for one trade because Bynum is excelling at both ends of the floor, then why do the trade at all?

    Obviously I would trade them right now if Orlando was willing to do so… If Bynum starts to excel, then he might become better than Howard (at least offensively) and there’s no reason to pull the trigger.

  21. Hope Barnes can come back against the Knicks,we need his hustle and his stroke looked good in the scrimmage.Very surprised Glock is playing over Morris,want to see Morris against NY and Den. and the Murphy- Bynum combo.

  22. @17 PJ

    Not just a win, a blow-out win!!! A win against Chicago and Utah would have been out of this world.

  23. I would like to hear from fans who have actually run/owned a business. I suspect they wouldn’t be as quick to crown the Lakers and the Laker front office with thorns.

    No matter what we might like, this year is going to be a somewhat inconsistent process. Kurt used to say every season was a process, but this year that is especially true.

    chownoir’s observation that Brown is a very detailed coach and wants to see for himself just what each player has in the tank before tossing them on the scrap heap seems to be a very smart move. This also puts him in sync with the Laker front office over the last 30 years. Scream we spoiled fans may, but the people that matter aren’t going to just jump at things without thought.

    I agree that there is more behind the LO situation than we currently know – and probably more than we ever will know. We can’t know everything – live with it!

  24. it’s funny how some posters were screaming for Artest’s head, where are they now eh?

    ___

    I was never calling for his head. I did call for Ebanks to start, so I am glad MWP is not starting. Using him on the block with the second unit appears to be the best way to use him. Brown deserves credit for that.

    But the same lecture applies the other direction: the Lakers have won one game, against a team that looked exceptionally bad and a had a terrible night shooting the rock. We will know a little more about this team after the home/home with Denver. Denver is a good team, and they are built perfectly for this season: they go 11 deep, play the George Karl frenetic style, and have the altitude advantage. They have two starting-quality PGs, Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, both of whom are far better than the Lakers’ counterparts. The Lakers will have Bynum for those games.

  25. 8/kareem: it’s early but murphy is rebounding the basketball at a near career-high clip. my guess is he’s much healthier than he was all of last season.

    if he’s sharing the floor with MWP and Kapono/Fisher, it’s wise not to launch 3s, because those guys aren’t quick enough to rebound long misses and defend in transition.

  26. This was a great win and showcased the fact that the Lakers are still stacked in terms of a starting line-up. But, given that the goal of anyone Laker team with KB8 on it is to win a championship, let’s not be lulled into thinking that we don’t need acquire a legit starting PG or to shore up the bench.

  27. I suspect they wouldn’t be as quick to crown the Lakers and the Laker front office with thorns.
    ______

    My main gripe with the FO is the fact that they are overcommitted to a group of older players, both in terms of years and money. There are six of these contracts–basically half the roster. This limits flexibility going forward.

    The Odom deal may yet turn into something positive; Odom’s performance so far is making it look better. However, the things to remember about it are:

    1. They could have, and probably would have, signed Murphy anyway.
    2. McRoberts and Odom are both guaranteed 2.5M next year. Both of their deals run out after the 2013 season. They saved the tax money on Odom this year, but Odom has a very team-friendly contract–that is why he was in trade rumors all the time and was so easy to move. The Lakers could have cut ties with Odom next year, or at the deadline this year, had they wished to.
    3. As many people discussed yesterday, Mark Cuban is engaged in a plan to get far enough under the cap so that he can sign both Howard and Williams in FA. He has talked openly about this; it is not spec. Odom’s contract may help him in that endeavor.

  28. robinred ,
    You don’t know what the FO tried to do. You just know where we are now.

    The LO situation probably started last year and has progressed right up until he was sent packing. Since we are not inside either the FO or Lamar’s head, we don’t know all the details or reasons. IMO Lamar was let go because he wouldn’t fit into this team, couldn’t be consistent, and wore his emotions on his sleeve. However, I also was not ‘in the room’ this last year and I am only guessing.

  29. 19) Bynum is more likely than Howard to suffer injuries; that’s why he would be traded.

  30. Regarding Devin Harris, I went to a Clippers-Nets game a few years back (shut up, the tickets were free) where he had a scary fall resulting in some weeks missed. It’s my opinion (due to my observational bias) that the psychological impact of a play like that may be affecting his play more than being bummed about where he’s playing.

    Here’s the injury: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxeNLsy4hqc

  31. robinred ,
    You don’t know what the FO tried to do. You just know where we are now.

    ___

    Craig,

    We actually do know what they tried to do: they tried to trade for Chris Paul. If you have a response to any of the other points–contracts, Murphy, Cuban’s plans, I am happy to discuss it. McRoberts probably would not be here if Odom still were; I think he took the deal in part because he knew would get minutes here. That is perhaps true of Murphy as well, but even if were not Murphy, they almost certainly would have signed a backup veteran big at the minimum, with or without Odom on the team. Odom’s absence probably made the Lakers more attractive to Murphy.

    Also, the psychological backdrop of the Odom trade is not of great interest to me right now. I think they pulled the trigger too soon, but at this point I want to see if they use the TPE to add talent to the roster. As yet, they have not.

  32. Lakers front office over extended contracts to players that fit the ‘triangle.’ Probably in an attempt to keep Phil J on board. There is no other logical reason for them giving Luke, Meta, Derek and Lamar those long term contracts.

    Now, the Lakers are in the process of transitioning the personnel away from ‘triangle’ personnel into a more flexible offense. Thus, players like Luke and Derek are obsolete.

    Matt, Troy, Josh, Jason and Devin are players that are more of a prototype of the players that Mike Brown likes to have on his team.

    Meta is embracing his role as the leader of the bench mob. His body language is indicative of how seriously he takes this position. Meta gathers the players together to have discussions about adjustments and schemes (conjecture on my part) on the free throw line. This is refreshing as it develops camaraderie.

    Kobe and Fisher must recognize their age limitations and engage their team mates more by passing them the ball when they are wide open for shots; whether they make or miss them. Eventually, they will gain confidence and be ready to contribute going further in the season.

    Here’s to hoping that Ebanks, Barnes and McRoberts continue running the floor even though they almost never receive a pass.

    Goudelock will be okay, once he recognizes his limitations in this league. After the first game he convinced himself that playing in the NBA was not so difficult. Subsequently, he thinks he is better than he is: iso’s, attempting shots over players 7 inches taller than he, driving into the lane and throwing up one legged shots.

    Tonight will be a good test on the Lakers fortitude. Tonight more so than the back-to back-to back will be a game that they will have to grind out. If they remain close they might be able to steal one at the end.