Lakers/Knicks: Make That Two In A Row

Darius Soriano —  December 29, 2011

Trying out a new, quicker, and easier to digest format for the recap tonight. Feedback is welcomed. Thanks.

The Good
The Laker defense continues to find its stride and showing that its top 10 ranking after 3 games may not be a fluke. Tonight they held the Knicks to 31.3% shooting (21-67) and an offensive rating of 94.3. Those are both stellar numbers and show that the team is finally starting to click on that end of the floor. On many possessions the Lakers moved as a unit, rotating crisply in order to run players off the three point line and/or contest jumpers when a Knick did have enough space to get a shot off.

Particularly impressive was the defense the Lakers played on Amare Stoudemire, holding the all-star big man to 15 points on 4-17 shooting. Gasol was matched up with Amare for most of the night and the big Spaniard deserves a load of credit as he tempted Amare to take jumpers, stayed in front of him when did attack off the dribble, and contested every shot taken. Pau drew a couple of charges, picked up a couple of blocked shots, and wasn’t afraid of using his fouls when he had to. So, even on a night where Melo got his, the other big offensive weapon for the Knicks never got off and that played a big part in the Lakers getting the win.

The Bad
With the Lakers’ aggressive D, however, came a penchant for fouling. The Knicks shot 41 FTs on the night and converted 34 of them (83%). In a the first half, the Lakers controlled nearly every aspect of the game but found themselves up only 12, mostly due to the fact that the Knicks were hitting their freebies to keep them in it. After the 3rd quarter, the Knicks were only down 8 mostly due to the same reason.  I’m all for the Lakers playing a physical brand of D. I think bodying players off the ball, fighting through screens, protecting the rim, and not conceding any space is a great way to condition your opponent and the refs how you intend to play on any given night. That said, it’s also imperative that you don’t simply hand the other team free points by putting them at the foul line excessively. Tonight I thought the Lakers did a good job of playing the style they wanted, but didn’t do a good job of backing off when they needed, keeping the game closer than it needed to be for longer than it needed to be.

The Ugly
Normally it’s the Lakers that have the biggest PG issues in a match up but tonight that wasn’t the case. No, Fisher didn’t play that well (2-7 FGs, 5 points, 1 assist, 2 turnovers) but Blake did a good job in relief with 11 points on 9 shots (including 3-5 from deep) while tallying 3 assists, and posted a +17 on the night. Meanwhile, the Knick PGs were pretty awful. Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby combined to score 7 points on 3-12 shooting while missing all 7 of their three point attempts. Their one redeeming quality was that they were okay as “playmakers,” as Douglass had 5 assists while also being careful with the ball (1 turnover combined), but when you consider how important PG play is to Mike D’Antoni’s system, their play was a pretty big hole the entire night. It’s crazy how much this team needs Baron Davis right now as he’s simply a better play maker from that spot than anyone on their roster. (Re-read that last sentence again.

The Play of the Game
The clock was winding down and Steve Blake, with few options, passed the ball to Kobe for a bail out jumper. The rest was simply Kobe making something out of nothing the way he has so many times before (h/t to @jose3030 for the clip):

Darius Soriano

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32 responses to Lakers/Knicks: Make That Two In A Row

  1. Really liking the Mike Brown defense so far.

  2. Good win, but its a rare occurrence when our pg’s outperform the opposition. Some real sloppy play down the stretch, but that’s expected with the limited practice time. The best thing about it though is that Bynum’s suspension is now over. Anxious for the 2 in a row against Denver to see how are (in)complete roster looks.

  3. Denver’s backcourt is excellent; they have two quality PGs in Lawson and Miller, Afflalo, and Rudy Fernandez.

  4. Now that we have our offense starting to fit and we are getting much better on defense…back comes Bynum.

    I am really glad to see Andrew, if only to cut Pau’s minutes and allow him to play his natural position. However, we may see both a disjointed offense and less than stellar defense for the next couple of games. We are not used to playing with a dominant big man on offense and our defense has not used the block in the middle that Bynum will be. Those things could throw us out of joint for a bit.

    I just really don’t want people complaining tomorrow night about how we ought to trade Bynum because he isn’t helping the team, i.e. we are worse than we were before he came back.

    I do think it is an advantage for Bynum that we are playing the same team two days in a row. It allows him to make an adjustment that will work for the 2nd game, while still getting into game shape.

  5. Craig, with the timing of that Simers article and natural adjustment problems when Bynum is back, you know the short sighted fans will be out in full force about Bynum’s negative impact.

  6. Cheese with your w(h)ine fellas?

  7. It was a game that none could complain. It wasn’t perfect, no game is, but it was a game where the Lakers weren’t really in danger of losing the game. The Knicks have Melo, which means they can basically score at will, but we did a great job covering other aspects, including that of Amare’s explosion.

    Kobe had fun… he had moments where his play simply taunted the opposition – which is good meaning he is feeling well enough to, but is not advisable as we need him to conserve his 33yo knees and body.

    I know PER is not a real basketball stat but I really admire how effective and efficient he has been under the new offense. He has a PER of near 30 which is out of this world.

    Pau Gasol has not yet achieved his 2009 self, but part of me thinks he never will. Remember he is also adjusting to a new coach, a new system, and a position he isn’t really a natural in. Let alone the rumors that always disturb your mindset.

    Overall the Lakers CAN BE BETTER. Which is the scary part. Getting Bynum in the fold will take another adjustment and it will involve some lesser minutes from McBobs and Murphy… but it will be a needed change for the team if we intend to survive this grueling compressed schedule unscathed. We can’t be too compelled to win it all on the regular season only to be like the Spurs last season that lost Manu to injury on the last game of the season.

    Cheers to the team – great game.

  8. ^ as an addition, Bynum’s return will benefit Pau alot as his usage rate in terms of fouls/minutes and damage will be lessened with a legitimate anchor in the middle. He may also go back to being a more effective passer/positional defender and best of all it will conserve the energy.

  9. Good news. Kobe was well within my “Goldilocks” level of use/involvement–except in the 3rd quarter–his best/most dominant–and the Lakers worst.

    It was interesting to see coach Brown sit Kobe for the start of the 4th.

  10. (Uprooted) Adam in Boston December 30, 2011 at 5:06 am

    I really like this Lakers team. A lot.

    They have a deep bench that seems to enjoy playing together. They play hard on defense. And they have 9 guys who can score.

    Now, do I think they can win it all as constituted? No.

    They’re a player away IMO. Maybe two. The guard play is really going to hurt them when it comes to the elite teams in the NBA.

  11. The players are drinking the Kool-Aid Brown is serving, just like mama made it, nice and sweet. This is why I liked the hiring of Brown, he is one of the best salesman on the sideline. He sold himself to management, now he is working on the players. You have to give props where props are due for a job well done considering the lockout and the LO trade coming before a shortened season.

    Overall good game last night except for all the fouls. Kobe was letting the game come to him most of the night, picking his spots. Outside shooting is a breathe of fresh air, Troy hasnt got his finger on the trigger yet( watch out when he is locked and loaded).

    Did anybody else peep that Dirkish,one knee high,fadeaway Kobe executed perfectly lastnight. Mr. Bean is a chameleon, he has continued to morph himself into something different every year. We as Laker fans are truly blessed to have witnessed one of the best to ever lace them up. Cherish the moment, like the saying goes, you never miss a good thing till its gone.

  12. @ drrayeye
    I was extremely happy to see him pull him at the beginning of the quarter. It sent a message too that he cost us maybe 10 points of what could have been a 20 point lead by showboating. Good Coaching Brown.

    @ Adam in Boston
    The Lakers are at least two players away. We “need” starting point guard (a la Sessions, Mo Williams, Deron Williams, or DJ Augustine). Even a player like Andre Iguodala would help because he would allow us to play him more with the second unit and get Morris ready faster. The second “need” is a back-up Center. I love McBob and like Murphy but both are power fowards. We need a true back-up center to spell Bynum and lessen the need for Pau to play Center (he does well, but it wears him out). Problem is we waited so long that all that is left is Pryzbilla (too costly). This is when you miss LO’s multi-faceted abilities.

  13. @ Busboys4me,

    I just wish to engage in to some WTS about Sessions. We don’t need a superb PG, just a decent one who can handle the ball, play some defense and shoot the occasional open three. Sessions would be a perfect fit but… oh well, maybe if we send Cleveland a trade proposal in comic sans they will take it.

    Regarding the backup for Bynum, I actually think that depending on the matchup you can use McBob and split some court time between Pau and Bynum. It would be preferable to get him a backup but I would rather trade one of those SF for a proper PG.

  14. I think backup C is okay. Pau can spot it for 5-8 minutes a night without wearing down (depending on the opponent), and Murphy can take the rest of the minutes, and is big enough to cover the non-center centers that the league is full of these days, like Dirk.

    Even if Bynum only averages 28 minutes, platooning the other guys in and out situationally should do it. Foul/injury trouble is another…okay, you’re right, they need a backup C, even if it’s a stiff like Ratliff.

  15. I am not sure why Morris isn’t getting any burn, unless he has some issues on defense, or Brown doesn’t want him to get used to an open game, then have him have to adjust to Bynum. For a rookie, that might not be beneficial to his development. However, he does seem to fit the bill for the offense Brown wants to run – with Bynum in the game.

  16. @12 and 13

    Last year we relied on LO, Pau, and Bynum to man the middle. What happened when Drew got hurt, LO got into foul trouble, and Pau went into white swan mode? We had to play Joe Smith and Derrick Caracter. Ouch!!! Remember Theo was unavailable. Personally, I wouldn’t mind bringing Congo Cash back for emergencies, but given the $ for $ luxury tax, I don’t know if the front office will do it. How about Ostertag (currently trying a comeback in the D-League), at least he would be fun.

    The Simers write-up about Bynum is toothless. Bynum is immature and entitled. Tell us something we didn’t know. Most twenty-something multi-millionaires are.

  17. @ Craig re: Morris:

    I was intrigued by Morris after his first preseason performance, but despite his attributes, the offense bogged down with him in the game because he was pounding the rock and looking for his own shot too much. (Kind of like what happened to the Knicks throughout the second half last night–unbelievable lack of focus). I understand that he cannot break those habits without live PT, but, given the 0-2 start, and the daunting early-season schedule, plus the absence of Bynum, I’m willing to cut Brown some slack on this and forgive his waiting to experiement with a rookie PG until he gets a chance to coach a few games with a full complement of starters.

  18. Let’s stop asking for LO. The guy is 3 for 27, out of shape, disinterested with a stoned look on his face on the bench. I watched all 3 games and there is clearly something wrong with him.

    Looks like FO knew what they are doing!

  19. Ken, much probably is the other way around. There is something wrong with LO because of what FO did.

  20. If Morris doesn`t get some minutes in the next 2 games, he should be sent to the D-League to stay sharp. Working against the Denver guards would be a good learning experience for him. I would still like to see a 3 man rotation at PG unless we get a new guy thru trade.

  21. From what Brown has said Goudelock is ahead of Morris because he is ahead of Morris defensively and he brings a definitive skill in his shooting that can help the team now. Not that playmaking will not help this team, but he clearly believes Morris won’t get much burn ahead of Blake/Fisher. To me, D-League seems like the obvious move. Morris has good court vision just needs to work on the J. I for one wouldn’t however want to put a guy who hasn’t played all year into a situation like Denver. If he’s not presumed ready for the Knicks backcourt, then I don’t know he he would be for step up. Although, it would be really good to see him tested against one of the fastest pg in the league.

  22. @ drrayeye
    Kobe has started on the bench to begin the 4th quarter for about 10 yrs. Browns message there was, Catch your breath and get a water

  23. Darius – I like the quicker format. I am a big fan of bullet points as well. I think there are other places to read a general game summary. I really appreciate hearing your (and other contributors) specific observations and insights on a game or players’ performances. Just my two cents.

    I have been pleasantly surprised by the team so far. I fully expected an 0-4 start. (I guess I didn’t realize how horrible Utah was.) Brown has been a breath of fresh air. Not saying he is the greatest coach on the planet, but he was a good hire given who was available and players seem to be buying in.

    With Bynum and Caracter coming back, I think the bigs rotation is pretty set. Blake is playing like we hoped he would. Fish is … well, Fish. I have resigned myself to the fact that he will be starting for the Lakers until he retires in 2020.

    The Ebanks / Barnes conundrum is a good problem to have. Really hope Brown and the team can find a way to keep them both invested. I don’t think Ebanks is quite ready for the big time, but he needs to play to develop. Barnes is actually underrated IMO. He made several smart plays offensively and never seemed to be a detriment.

    Not being of the title or bust mindset, I think (barring injuries), this is going to be a really interesting team to watch. Chemistry is going to be huge this year.

  24. I think ya’ll are getting ahead of yourselves when it comes to Darius Morris and I know why: He’s the fastest PG we’ve had in a million years.

    When the position has been bruised and battered like crazy, any glimmer of hope seems to be the saviour of all. Heck we’d even tout Farmar to be the next Tony Parker if it weren’t for his departure.

    Speaking of which, the Lakers are 1 move away from contending and thats to replace Papa Fish into someone fresher. Steve Blake off bench has been great already, we need someone who is a threat offensively and is able to draw defenders with dribble-penetration.

    I know, quite a luxury to ask for. But its really not that hard to find the answers.

  25. The offense won’t be pretty until about a month or so into the season. remember, the triangle has been the staple for the last 4-5 years for this core group. Plus, the lockout and shortened training camp certainly didn’t help. What’s important is the defensive system of Brown is there and the players are buying it. Hopefully it will carry the team until they get the flow of the new offensive system.

    As for the frontcourt rotation, Pau should play spot minutes at the 5, with Murphy being the primary backup. McBob, Caracter will play behind Pau at the 4. on some occasions, even Metta can play the 4. I just hope Barnes can have some more burn at the SF and even backing up Kobe at the 2.

    For the PG position, obviously the team needs to upgrade, ideally someone who can also ‘create’ effectively. Sessions would be a great fit, as a capable scorer and distributor. Another viable option IMO is Mo Williams. He is clearly not happy with his role and PT with the Clips. He also played for Brown before so that’s another big plus

  26. Oh no’s, Bynum got a speeding ticket and tricked out his car. Hide the women and children guys. No doubt he’ll be dragging longships up the LA River soon, seeking new lands to pillage.

    Personally, if the guy is willing to pay the penalties that we, the People, have established for tricking out your car, parking in disabled spots, and speeding- then who the hell cares? LA needs all the frivolous and entitled rich youths to stupidly waste their money as it can get. I’ll be really pissed if Bynum decides to lay off teachers, increase class sizes, and generally ruin pubic education in the city. Hey Simers, stop ruining my Bread and Circus. I honestly don’t need my flour cut with your yeast infection of moral outrage.

    Love the way the Lakers’ D is moving. I agree it’ll take some time for the Lakers to get Bynum reintegrated, and would like to see more of Morris. ALl that said, Blake is doing exactly what we hoped, Fish is playing the minutes we all envisioned, and I hope I get used to seeing 3PTs going down as regularly as we are now seeing. The team will only get better. Now if we can just get Kobe’s usage rate down, I’ll be more comfortable. That is likely to happen as the team becomes a more cohesive unit.

    One thing, I respect Barkley, and as of now he is dismissing the Lakers’ talent level. I’ll not take it personally, as I think Barkley is an honest observer of the NBA. I do think the PG issue is something that needs addressing but, comfort in the system should let our 3 top players do their thing at elite levels while the role players make their contributions. What players like Ariza, Brown, Fish, Shaw, Fox and other role players could give us was contingent on using the space the stars created for them. Capitalizing on this space then feeds back on giving the stars even more room to function as you then need to account for effective role players. That is why execution is so important and why Kobe harps on it to such a degree. When Blake, Murphy, Barnes, MWP, McRoberts and Ebanks (hopefully Morris) get to the point where they expect to execute the plays, when they build both mental and muscle memory of success on this team, then we’ll see if they have the talent to do this against the elite teams, night in and night out. I do think they are playing a style that can work in the playoffs. Looking forward to finding out.

  27. Cleveland’s not trading Sessions to us – Dan Gilbert would ask for Gasol or something crazy.

    Mo Williams would be a fine regular season filler – but he is mr. unclutch in the playoffs – couldn’t make a wide open shot with lebron all those years. Plus, he is probably a c- defender as well.

    Williams doesn’t really make the lakers younger – the pg we get needs to have some, shall we say, athleticism.

  28. Our answer to the PG situation – IMO, our weakest position – always seems to be to trade for something to fix us tonight.

    This is a new coach, a new system, several new players, and some really young players. A real key to our defense and our energy would seem to be the development of chemistry – which seems as if it could be very good.

    All that doesn’t argue for sending out 2/3 players in trade or bringing in someone nobody else wants. Especially with the salary cap issue – which, IMO, drove Mark Cuban to completely redo a championship team – I wouldn’t expect the front office to jump off any bridges.

    How about we live with what we’ve got – perhaps play Morris a little bit – and expect the front office to deliver someone only if the deal just can’t be passed up. I know that doesn’t appeal to those who just want new faces, but it does seem to be the way this organization has worked for 30 years or so.

  29. I feel guilty for giving Kobe crap on twitter last night. I repent.

  30. Cuban, again, is clearing cap space for runs at 2012 free agents–Williams, and perhaps Howard. He has stated this repeatedly.

    The Lakers played very well last night, but I think it is worth pointing out that the Knicks have the worst backcourt in the league at the moment, with Iman Shumpert hurt and Baron Davis still not available.

    As I noted up in post 4, Denver has a fine set of guards, and the one team the Lakers have played with multiple shot creators in the backcourt (SAC, with Thornton and Evans), beat them.
    So, I think we will know a bit more about the team after Saturday. The Sunday game, a back-to-back in the altitude and the team’s sixth game in eight days, seems like it will probably be a “schedule loss.”

    On the positive side, I like that Brown is playing Blake and Ebanks, and the Lakers appear to be feeding off Brown’s energy. Murphy and McRoberts were, as many said at the time, smart pickups for the money. Kobe is clearly buying in. It is worth remembering that Brown’s problems in Cleveland revolved around making post-season adjustments, but he has been a good regular season coach.

    I agree with the comments to the effect that Morris should be in the DLeague if he is not going to play, and that the Lakers still need a major upgrade in the backcourt.