Lakers/Trailblazers: The Rout That Wasn’t

Darius Soriano —  February 20, 2012

Boxscore: Lakers 103, Blazers 92
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 113.2, Blazers 101.1
True Shooting %: Lakers 58.6%, Blazers 55.5%

The Good:
In the preview for this game, I wrote this:

Some of what makes a team successful is a bunker mentality where the players can rally together and find a common enemy (of sorts) that serves as extra motivation. Phil Jackson was a master of this during his time with the Bulls and the Lakers, and I’ve got a sneaky feeling that Kobe learned a thing or two about this tactic during his time under Jackson. Right now, this Laker team needs all the extra kicks in the pants it can get. If (Kobe’s statement) helps in that area, I’m all for it.

I’m not going to sit here and say that the way the Lakers played tonight is directly attributable to Kobe’s public backing of Gasol last night. However, I’m not going to dismiss it either.

The Lakers came out tonight focused and ready to play and there was a certain sense of teamwork and camaraderie in the air. The Lakers were moving the ball well, making the extra pass (sometimes to a fault), and taking extra pride when a teammate made a positive play. It was a sight to see the ball zipping around the court, inside and out, from side to side with nearly every player touching the ball on countless possessions. The result was the Lakers racking up 23 assists on their 38 made baskets with a few assists of the highlight variety mixed in.

With all the ball movement, the Lakers were able to run the Blazer defense ragged, getting easy shots inside early on. Andrew Bynum benefitted the most in the early stages, getting easy dunks and point blank attempts that he converted with ease. As the defense started to adjust and collapse the paint in an attempt to shut down the easy shots at the rim, the Lakers then started to move the ball to shooters on the perimeter and they also took advantage by knocking down their open looks. And just as Bynum was the beneficiary of shots in the paint, it was Steve Blake that took advantage of the extra space behind the arc, making his first 4 three pointers and turning the game into a game of target practice.

It wasn’t just the Lakers’ offense that was doing work, either. Their defense was engaged in the early going, denying the paint and forcing the Blazers to take jumpers. And when Portland did take those outside J’s, Laker defenders rotated well and contested shots and then cleaned up the misses by securing defensive rebounds. The Lakers only allowed the Blazers to score 7 first quarter points (a franchise low for points in a 1st quarter) and with that, the rout was officially on…

The Bad:
Until it wasn’t, of course. This wouldn’t be the Lakers if they crushed an opponent for a full 48 minutes, after all. Around the middle of the 2nd quarter, the Blazers finally got some shots to fall as the Lakers naturally let their respective guard down. Suddenly defensive rotations weren’t as crisp and closeouts weren’t as timely. And the Blazers started to take advantage of the extra space on the perimeter to knock down some three pointers and crawl back into the game. By the time the half time buzzer sounded, what was a 30 point lead was down to 22 and while the Lakers were still in firm control, the writing was on the wall that the Blazers weren’t going to go down quietly.

In the 3rd quarter, the Blazers carried over that momentum they built up going into the half and started to hit even more shots against a Laker defense that was, at that point, purely in spectator mode. When screens were set, the Lakers didn’t step out to hedge hard and when the ball was swung, closeouts were nearly non-existent. The Blazers were able to take mostly uncontested three point shots and got them to fall at an incredible rate. Even when the Lakers started to try and pick up their defensive effort, it mattered little because Portland was able to find their rhythm to the point that even contested jumpers started to fall. The result was a 36 point period for the Blazers and what was once a lead that seemed insurmountable was then down to a manageable 15. That lead would shrink to 10 in the fourth period before Fisher and Kobe hit back to back jumpers with another Kobe lay in tacked on to push the Lakers lead back to 16. Portland would never truly recover and that was seemingly that save for…

The Ugly:
The referees starting to call a tighter game that seemingly caught both teams off guard. The final frame lasted what seemed like an hour after countless whistles blew with both sides complaining about calls that were going against them. (It got to the point that Kobe even earned a technical foul after being called for a charge on a drive against Gerald Wallace. That tech was Kobe’s 7th on the season which puts him halfway to the point where he would earn a game suspension should he keep accumulating them at the pace he currently is.)

What made matters worse was Nate McMillan deciding he would go to a hack-a-World-Peace strategy in the final 4 minutes to try and get his team back into the game. And while the tactic wasn’t successful in stopping the Lakers from scoring the ball nor in inspiring his team to play better offense, it certainly helped ugly up a contest even more by making it unbearably long down the stretch. When you combine this final stretch of the game with how the Lakers stopped playing as hard as they could in the middle part of the contest, you nearly forgot how beautiful the game started with the Lakers getting nearly everything they wanted on offense and building up that huge lead.

The Play of the Game:
Several quality plays to choose from tonight, including Bynum throwing a baseball outlet to Kobe with #24 then euro-stepping past Nic Batum for a sweet lefty lay in and a couple of beautiful big to big passes between Bynum and Pau (with Bynum doing the dishing). Instead, though, I go with Kobe breaking down Gerald Wallace off the bounce with a pretty inside-out crossover and then sidestepping Marcus Camby with a nice fake to finish at the cup while drawing the foul. Kobe may not be the explosive athlete he once was, but he sure can make up for it with savvy and craft:

Darius Soriano

Posts

25 responses to Lakers/Trailblazers: The Rout That Wasn’t

  1. Talk about a unpredictable team. Horrible on the road great at home.

    Would be much less so if Blake and Barnes were starters. The obvious problem is if Fish and Metta were part of the second unit that unit might never score.

    Ramone Sessions makes this a 3rd 4th seed. That means at least one home advantage in playoffs. Where they win.

    No change in PG with a trade and no starting Barnes makes this a 5th to 7th seed. No home advantage clearly means out in first round.

    Mitch must make this move. Other wise it’s a even shorter season with 3 more years of Brown, 2 more of Metta and another of Walton and Fisher.

    Now that should make you sleep well.

  2. Great 1/2. I just don’t understand why they won’t just keep the offense going inside and blow teams out. The rotations are horrible. I don’t know why he just won’t ride the starters (switching out for Blake and Barnes of course) until the end of the 3rd quarter.

  3. Yes, I’m happy for the win. One which was needed after that crazy loss in Phoenix before going on the road to play the Mavs & Thunder before the break. However, someone please explain to me how can a player (Bynum) start off hitting 4 of 4 for 8 points (plus 8 rebs) in the 1st quarter, helping the Lakers to a HUGE 29-7 lead, and then only get 3 more shots in the next 3 quarters to finish 5-7 from the field? In the 2nd quarter Portland fouled Bynum when he got the ball down low and he finished the 2nd quarter 4 of 4 from the line. Bynum line was 12 points (4 of 4 fg’s, 4 for 4 ft’s), 12 rebs at the half.And he was needed on the court, & was on the court. His +/- of +15 was tied w/ Kobe for the highest number in the game. So why did A.B. only get 3 more shots in the game?

    A) Portland changed it’s “D”, doubling & tripling Bynum in the 2nd half
    B) Portland’s “D” kept him off his “sweet spots” in the 3rd & 4th quarters
    C) Bynum tired & stopped moving after halftime
    D) His teammates stopped passing the ball inside after the half
    E) Combination of 2 or more of the reasons above
    F) another reason (please share)

  4. Carried over from last couple of posts.
    http://www.cbssports.com/nba/story/17362549/kobes-frustration-a-reflection-on-lakers-deteriorating-front-office

    Yeah I would go on a rant too if I was Kobe. We all know for a fact how all the Lakers scouts/trainers were treated. If half of this other $$#% is true, then we are in trouble folks and I think Kobe’s rant is completely justified. I am even more sure that he is in contact with Mitch and did it with his blessing. Kobe can get away with saying it, but Mitch would get fired.

    With all of the crap that is going on in the background it is amazing that we are even 19-13. Scary times for Laker fans…

  5. I didn’t get my edit in on my last post-
    Just wanted to say that there could be zero truth to that story, except for the trainers/scouts getting axed. We did make a big trade, after all…

  6. I have a feeling that when the Lakers built that 30 point lead, they weren’t running Mike Brown’s offense and the starting three’s legs weren’t tired from playing too many minutes on the account of Mike Brown’s poor rotations.

  7. Furthermore, the more and more I think about the Chris Paul trade was more about saving money than getting better and that is why it was nixed. Even with Chris Paul, we were looking at major holes at the two forward position and no bench.Jim Buss is a cheapskate and that is why we have the worst bench in the NBA.

  8. does it make sense for the lakers to invest heavily in scouting while kobe’s window is closing? those picks are going to be dealt to improve the lakers’ chances of winning now, not later.

    berger criticizes nepotism and cronyism as if they were totally unheard of in sports, then suggests jeannie buss needs to be more involved. what?

    i believe this story contains three messages from dwight’s representatives. The first message is a middle finger to the Lakers, for being unwilling to give up both Pau and Drew. The second message is a middle finger to the Magic front office, for not giving in to their trade demand: now that the Lakers are out of the picture, New Jersey has much more leverage.

    the third message is an invitation to GMs: New Jersey doesn’t have to field the greatest hand for Dwight anymore, so the number of teams that can facilitate a trade increases.

    what does berger get out of this? this is how the game works: insiders need to forge relationships with important figures in the basketball world like executives and agents in order to bring information to the public first. in exchange for information/breaking news, guys like awoj@yahoo will write this kind of agenda-driven “report.”

    i now believe dwight will never wear a laker uniform.

  9. @ #6, disagree with your statement. Laker mgmt knew the team would need a true all-star point guard in the new, more conventional offense they would be running under Mike Brown, as opposed to the triangle which didn’t and CP3 would have been the answer. Give management credit for looking to plug the biggest need first.

    Franchise history states the Lakers are better than any other team when it comes to building & re-building serious contenders in the NBA. I’m confident they will again.

    Another thing. If the Lakers are unable to acquire a piece or two which will make them a serious contender this season, I’d rather wait until the off-season to make a move IF that improves the Lakers options of acquiring the piece(s) needed to become a serious contender (top 5 NBA team) for the title against current teams like the Heat, Thunder, & Bulls.

    “Everybody is entitled to my opinion”.

  10. Chris Broussard is reporting LA has interest in Beasley with their TPE.

    I for one think this would be an incredible deal for LA because I think a scoring SF is exactly what the team needed last year to get over the top. I don’t have hope in the PG front this year because of who is available and for what they would require in return. If the Lakers can keep Pau and basically solidify their SF spot with athleticism and scoring then it’s a huge win for this team (Artest+Beasley+Ebanks) < Beasley.

  11. Paul @ 7 and BigCity @ 9 – Of course who knows, but I’m thinking the plan was to have a “Big Three” of CP3, Kobe and Dwight Howard plus a bunch of whatever.

    It would have been an incomplete, but exciting team, no doubt.

  12. 8: Really? Only now?

    The second I saw that he wouldn’t sign an extension with any team that traded for him signaled the final absolute straw.

    Even before then, his wishy-wash nature put me off of him before then. Man is the best center in the league. But does he make up for the worst PG rotation? Whether he’s here or not, that problem exists.

    I’d rather this team do something with it’s core. There’s still talent here.

    Bye.

  13. 8,

    Chibi, I think Magic will not get a better trade than Drew for DH. We have more advantage to be firm than letting our two bigs go for one. Supposing DH dream did not happen, are we in trouble with Drew? NO, not at all. From the game last night, You could really see the real culprit both in offense and defense, its a PG. G-lock was good in offense but could not keep up in D against Crawford or other premier PG’s in the league, he needs more experience in NBA. Fisher may have a ton of experience not nimble enough to keep up with young PG’s. Blake is more of a 2 than 1, he’s the marksman that Lakers should set up together with Murphy, nonetheless he could be a decent PG in the 2nd unit.

    Supposing Lakers stick with Gasol, got RS for the TPE and Agent Zero too, IMO we’ll be competitive in the playoffs. It’s a matter of time wherein Blake/Murphy/G-lock would be comfortable as gunners, I hope Kapono will hop in too. Lakers will be dangerous opponent as the evidence in the 1st Q. The biggest question is: why can’t they do this on the road?

  14. Lakers players taking a us against the world approach now. Let’s hope that changes road results.

  15. After reading the CBS article linked @ comment #4, I can only conclude that Dr. Jerry’s health and/or age is preventing him from reigning in the destructive tendencies of Jimbo aka Dumbo Buss. Dr. Buss loves the Lakers whereas Jim’s agenda seems to be totally different. Jim seems to love money and power and what is best for the organization is secondary to his whims. Dismantling such a successful back office staff shows he is not in that chair for the right reasons.

  16. Loved the players only meeting news. I love the leadership of Fish, Kobe and Pau stepping up. Good chemistry makes this team a lot better. They still need a piece or two to contend for the title, but they can be a lot better as is, too.

    I am pretty sure Kobe learned that “go to the media to make a point” routine from Phil.

    Fun season so far.

  17. Ken @1: I agree with your seeding predictions, unfortunately I did not see a path forward for how we can become part of the NBA elite. A 3-4 seed and a probable second round exit is our peak?
    D12: Above to Ken is why I hold on to this. Edwin is correct that we will have the best offer. Unfortunately we are competing with the “Cleveland” maneuver.

  18. Dave: To resume: No, I am not counting players like J Kidd in his twilight, in those stats. All of the teams during that 24 year span had mult HOF in their prime (Magic/KAJ/JW) being a great example. Anyway, I am not trying to justify D12. What I said was, we have 1 Superstar and 2 Stars now. I do not want to go backwards and try to win like the 2004 Pistons, because that happens every 25 years. If we can’t get something good – then just keep the Big 3.

  19. @#10….

    Lakers8884…I really like that trade proposal involving Beasley. The kid is a bit of a knucklehead, but he can ball. Acquiring a scorer like him at the 3 would put the Lakers back into championship contention even without an upgrade at the point, IMO. Having non-productiveness at both the PG and small forward is too much oh an obstacle to overcome.

  20. Kenny T thinks Jim Buss is Voldemort.

  21. Berger obviously had an agenda in the article and spun it, but the specific facts about long-time professional basketball people being run out and replaced by Buss progeny/cronies/no one do not speak well at all about this situation. People who have defending the FO need to examine that.

    As I said in an email to Robert, I think Jim Buss figured if he got Paul, that would draw Howard, and basically having those two would eliminate the need for stuff like “scouts.” Now, of course, different story. And it seems pretty clear that a lot of this was about getting back at Phil.

  22. Chibi,

    If you have specifics to refute some of the facts Berger piece, let’s hear them.

    The “nepotism” line was directed at the Joey and Jesse Buss hirings, and Berger is hardly the first person to suggest that Jeannie, rather than Jimmy, should have taken over.

  23. @23 rr

    Excellent point.

    Getting Howard does not automatically bring us Deron. Getting a good point guard and a better small forward guarantees us that we will be a more formidable team. Adding Sessions and Beasley for the TPE and draft picks makes us better than D12 for Pau and Drew anyday!!!

  24. I’ve always maintained that the deadline has put a damper on the season so far. The energy needed on the road is the best example of a team going through the motions. Orlando is handling the rumors much better than we are. However, we can’t get better unless trades are looked into. kobe and Pau can’t have it both ways,. nobody is going to take scraps for decent players.