Following The Blueprint

Darius Soriano —  April 30, 2012

Before yesterday’s win over the Nuggets, the last game the Lakers played and won was a week before against the Thunder. That game was interesting for a variety of reasons – the elbow, the double overtime, and the fact that Blake, Ebanks, and Jordan Hill all played down the stretch over more celebrated options. After that game, I was engaged in a conversation via twitter about the model the Lakers used to beat the Thunder; about whether or not the approach the Lakers used was sustainable.

I replied that the Lakers model to get wins is normally independent of opponent.

What I meant by that was that the Lakers have real weaknesses and they’re the same against every team. Just as the Lakers have real strengths that are (mostly) the same over every team. In order to win any game versus any opponent, the Lakers must try to maximize those strengths while limiting those weaknesses. It’s pretty simple in concept while also, sometimes, being difficult in practice.

Fast forward to yesterday and we saw the Lakers execute their game plan to perfection on both sides of the ball.

On offense that meant pounding the ball inside and forcing the Nuggets to show how they’d defend the Lakers’ superior post players. Bynum, Gasol, and Kobe all got chances to operate below the free throw line to test the D. Early on, the Nuggets double teamed these players and, true to the plan the Lakers passed out to open teammates who then took (and hit) open shots. As the game evolved and the Nuggets couldn’t force the turnovers or missed shots off those double teams, they played more single coverage and the Lakers stars made them pay. Kobe and Pau went off and Bynum was able to sneak into the creases of the D where he received good passes or carved out position on the glass for put backs and offensive rebound chances.

Defensively, the Lakers forced the Nuggets to be a halfcourt team. With the game’s tempo slowed, the Lakers set up  their D in a way that funneled ball handlers to Bynum with the results being a historic night of rejections and the Nuggets’ O then becoming more perimeter oriented. Jumpers were taken but missed their marks. Inside shots that weren’t sent away, were either taken over the outstretched arms of challenging bigs or hurried in an attempt to avoid them entirely.

This formula may sound Nuggets’ specific, but it’s not. Mike Brown was hired as a coach that would inspire the Lakers to play better defense. In his first press conference, he spoke of making crisp rotations and challenging every shot. He spoke of getting back on D, and making the opponent grind out points. Early in the year, the Lakers did just that, riding their defense to some of the wins that helped position them as the 3rd seed in the West.

In the 2nd half of the season, though, that defense faltered. Rotations were late if made at all. Shots went unchallenged as ball handlers turned the corner without impunity, stepping into makable shots. Fingers were pointed, heads hung low, and frustration mounted. Post game comments were filled with phrases like “we just didn’t get it done” and “we simply saw the same old, same old” when talking about the defense.

Yesterday, that changed though. Andrew Bynum reclaimed the paint. The wings pressured the ball. Rotations were back to early season form with shots getting challenged all over the floor by every Laker playing.

This is the blueprint the Lakers need to follow. It’s what their coach teaches and it’s what their players know to work. After all, in 2009 and 2010, the Lakers won rings playing this same exact way. The coaches have changed. As has some of the personnel. But those that remain, remember it clearly.

During a break in yesterday’s action the production director cued up some tape. It was a mic’d up segment from a Nuggets’ huddle. George Karl was imploring his guys to go harder; to execute the plan he’d installed to beat the Lakers. He told them that with the way they were playing, he couldn’t tell if the game-plan needed tweaking as they weren’t executing it.

The Lakers don’t have such issues. At least not really. They know their path to winning is mostly independent of opponent. They know that they need effort and attention to detail on defense. They know that they need focus and precision on offense. These things have been true all year. What hasn’t been, is them doing it on a night to night basis.

With the playoffs here, that’s what needs to change; that’s the adjustment Mike Brown’s team needs to make. If they can simply bring it nightly, they’ll have more success than failure. No guarantees, just the best chance to win. Game one was a good place to start. A chance to duplicate comes tomorrow.


Darius Soriano

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56 responses to Following The Blueprint

  1. What am I missing?

    Why are they talking about this like Hill is already done?

  2. It would just be crushing if we have to go back to watching McRoberts and Murphy after watching Hill rebound and defend PnRs.

    As R.R. Magellan would say, Jordan Hill sounds much hotter than McBob.

  3. That is exactly the blueprint for a ring. In a half court game Lakers own teams. With a solid PnR defense anything is possible.

  4. Robert – your not missing anything. And the article didn’t assert guilt.

    It just made clear that Hill was charged and the Lakers would not make a statement for legal reasons.

    Since Hill’s arraignment is tomorrow at 9:30, there is a small chance that he will play – but playing basketball is obviously a much lesser concern than dealing with criminal charges.

    Moreover – Hill hasn’t been granted bail/bond yet (though from what I can tell he likely will be), but its completely up to how hard the DA presses for no bail and whether the judge wants to grant it.

    If the accusations are false – we can only hope the best for Hill – as I’m sure its very troubling for both him and his family.

    If the accusations are true, than, Hill will – like most defendants – probably some way to plead out (so he doesn’t get 10 years of jail time). Either way – its bad news for him.

  5. I don’t think they’ll see him as a flight risk. I would assume a 100,000 bail at maximum. Though that’s tough to tell without the actual facts. If he can pay it he’ll be released probably on conditional OR, which means he’ll be released on his own recognizance, but will have to check in. In CA, you can call in.
    For reference, I was a criminal defense attorney and these domestic violence charges were always difficult for both sides. It will depend on what relationship they have now, independent witnesses, statements made by both parties, and any injuries.

    In california, a Domestic violence without injury is usually a misdemeanor. The fact that they are filing it as a felony is telling. It means that a District Attorney feels that there was enough to file it as a felony.

  6. Cdog: Thanks for the reply. So let’s say he is “questionable” for tomorrow (maybe doubtful), since he has to answer the charges. He will no doubt have some sort of bail (most likely), and we are probably months away from a final verdict. All that said, the ESPN radio show was talking about him like he was done for the playoffs. Why would he not perhaps miss one game while he answers the charges, then resume playing while he is innocent until proven guilty?

  7. …Because we are a society that presumes guilt, grants ‘not guilty’ after a long road, and almost never grants innocence.

    Sure, we say innocent until proven guilty, but our society doesn’t work that way.

  8. What I don’t understand is how a girlfriend is considered a family member.

    Usually DA’s do a fairly thorough job of investigating these circumstances before charges are filed.

    It does sort of sound like a lesser form of aggravated assault which is still very serious since it’s a felony but maybe borderline felony / misdemeanor and something he can plead out of provided there were other mitigating circumstances.

  9. I have to say I was very dissatisfied with how Dallas blew a late seven point lead. Over half my income (sady) is by betting (legaly) on the NBA playoffs. I thought Dallas had a 40 percent chance of winning the OKC series and since the odds were so out of wack I bet heavily on that series. I was feeling very good about my pick until Durant hit that shot 🙁 In the playoffs very seldom do you see the worse team come back from a blown lead like that in game one on the road. It’s looking like we will have to play OKC without Artest for at least one game on the road. That won’t be a good thing. Not the way Artest has been playing.

  10. He most likely wouldn’t get convicted, or would plead some sort of settlement.
    In America, athletes don’t go to jail unless it’s something super serious. They are rich and powerful enough to pay their way out.

  11. @KevinDing: Mike Brown doesn’t expect any complications or missed games from Jordan Hill court case in Houston regarding felony assault accusation.

    @ESPNLandOLakers: Hill said today he expects to be available for Tuesday’s game. BK

  12. At this point, there’s really nothing left to discuss RE Jordan Hill. He’s accused of something. It will play out through the legal system. He’s stated he doesn’t expect to miss practices or games. Mike Brown has said the same thing. That said, if he does, the Lakers will deal with it on the court like any other player absence. Going further on this topic is just spinning your wheels. It’s time to start talking basketball again.

  13. I am wondering what sort of adjustments we would likely see from George Karl. He made a lot of qualms about the constant illegal D that he claims from Bynum, but a look at the tape shows that Andrew always had a big loitering weak side down low. This allowed Drew to be nearby whenever somebody penetrated. I expect things to be different next game, particularly with trying to draw Bynum farther out before they attack the rim. Karl’s complaints may also have the refs ready to whistle if Drew tries to loiter down low for any time at all.

  14. They need to try to push the pace of the game by becoming more active on defense and forcing turnovers that lead to run-outs and an up tempo game.

    Short of going to a smaller line-up with a center who’s more of a threat as a ranged shooter, it’s hard to see how they draw Andrew out away from the basket on a consistent basis.

  15. I don’t know how Karl can get Bynum out of the paint. Unless of course one of his seven footers can start hitting outside shots or they okay Harrington at Center 😉

  16. Dave,
    Haha. Exactly.

  17. Watching Dallas, I’m still not confident that the Lakers have enough quality ranged shooters to beat a team like OKC 4 times.

    Between Dirk and the Jasons (Terry and Kidd), the Mavs have enough to scare the Thunder.

    I don’t know if Kobe, Sessions and Blake (or Gasol) can accomplish the same.

  18. It’s sad how far Stoudemire’s game has fallen off. Those nash/stoudemire pnr’s were a thing of beauty as recent as 2010 wcf. I really appreciate Kobe he’s had multiple knee surgeries like stat but has overcome them. Guess that’s the perfect example of different bodies work different ways.

  19. Kevin I was thinking the same thing, he looks completely washed up. Though it must be said he might look better without Anthony and with a point guard. They are such a terrible combination, such a case of star effing by the management to sign both and then not to have Stat of the bench and seperate the two a bit.

  20. Dave,
    Dallas also doesn’t have any post players rendering OKC’s very good low post defenders at the 4 and the 5 useless. Like why is Perkins ever on the floor unless Bynum, Hibburt, or Howard is on the opposing team? He has been a waste of space this year. And his D isn’t nearly as good post devastating knee injury.

  21. If you blow almost half your income betting on games you have a problem. I dont put my kids at risk of not getting fed because some playoff game. I just enjoy them for you know,FUN

  22. Other than that i believe that the emergence of eubanks and especially Hill just made this team fairly deep once MWP comes back from his dumb suspension but at least thats a positive that came out of it. MacBob and Murphy have become expendable. I believe this team will go as far as Bynum ( yes him) take them he is in his own class this playoffs, with him locking down the paint and Gasol as a fascilitator and kobe doing his thing? Now we have some depth consistency is the key if they are they are going on a deep run

  23. Only 2 ways Denver can impose their will and Lakers control both. With sound offense and good shots nuggets will have to take the ball out limiting their chances of getting fast break points (they may run off makes anyway). Second is Lawson PnR’s which the team should see coming. It may take an away game for the challenge to come.

    I thought Lakers had defencies Knicks are playing 1 on 5 out there. That team reminds me of the 06 Lakers.

  24. Perkins just threw a punch towards Dirk’s face. Why is he not ejected?

  25. Fish is having a good game for the thunder – nice to seen

  26. Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire punched the glass area that enclosed a fire extinguisher – Marc Spears

    Apparently he needed medical attention and stitches.

  27. Vintage Fisher! Turning back the clock. I have a feeling in game 7 of the second round, Fish will hit the game winning shot against us. With both hands pointing towards Mitch and Jimbo.

  28. Jayz

    I’ll bet Aaron will bet you on that and give you odds!

    Also what makes you think it would go 7-games?

  29. Ko,

    I’ll never bet against a Kobe Bryant led team. The dude is a legend. But Fish sticking it to us, with the game on the line, would be the greatest payback of all time.

  30. Is the whole eastern conference just imploding for the Heat to cakewalk to the finals? WTH??

  31. I agree. I actually think Lakers can best OKC. Not as confident about Spurs. Thing is Fish would not be in at the end of the game so we don’t have to deal with that.

  32. durant’s personality is so bland, it’s disgusting.

    wow, refs decided to give mavs all their make-up calls one after the other.

  33. Toughest question ever. Who gets more bs calls from the refs: LBJ or Durant?

  34. Dagger 3 by fish

  35. Fisher is clutch. What a game

  36. Fir the life of me I don’t know how Dallas plays so well in the playoffs. They only have 2 guys who can score and a bunch of avarage guys.

    Some great coaching I guess.

  37. Another close game that OKC won, Fisher’s leadership really matters. When I saw him talking to his team mates especially Durant.

  38. That was a great game. Last year was lightning in a bottle for Dallas. It’s going to be hard for them to win 4 out of 5 vs OKC. League has to look at that Perkins-Dirk exchange. What Perk did was worse than Rondo imo.

    Lakers have to take care of business tomorrow.

  39. MWP: Threw an elbow that damn near decapitated Harden.

    Rondo: Bumps an Official AFTER getting t’d up, causing an automatic ejection.

    Stoudemire: Injured his left hand by punching threw a glass encasement n the locker room after their loss ‘gainst the Heat.

    Clear cases where, n one form or another, Veteran Players allowed their Emotions to get the best of them.

  40. Judging by the nba handing out harsh penalties lately. I can’t see how Perkins isn’t suspended for this. Throwing a punch is worse than bumping a ref, right? If that’s anybody on the Lakers there tossed right then.

  41. While it may have appeared that Perkins threw a punch at Dirk, the refs looked at it on replay and allowed him to remain in the game. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the league to take action. OKC seems to enjoy a lot of the league offices’ favor. Perkins crashed both elbows into Pau’s shoulders during a recent game with not even a foul being called, much less a flagrant. I’m glad Dirk stood up to him.

  42. The league can upgrade the severity of an incident after reviewing video.

    Bynum’s hard foul on Gerald Wallace three years ago was initially called a flagrant one, but the league later upgraded it to a two.

    For the sake of fairness, let’s hope Perkins’ history also is considered, as was apparently the case in deciding Artest’s punishment.

    A guy who was one T away from getting suspended in the playoffs two years ago should be viewed as a repeat offender, and if justice exists in Stern-land Perkins will miss some games over his attempted punch.

  43. @ Kevin. Didn’t see the altercation. But just watched a video.

    Punches in the NBA are normally multiple games.

    But they called a double technical in the game.

    That’s embarrassing. Perking should’ve been thrown out right then.

    He should probably miss 2 games. But I doubt he even gets 1.

    They didn’t even call a flagrant on the floor.

  44. I doubt that the league suspends Perkins for that punch. If it were a Laker……yeah.

  45. So… Artest’s elbow was an accident and he gets 7 games off. Perkins throws an intentional punch and gets a T, and no suspension at all.

    I’m not understanding the logic in this.

    The game last night was fun to watch though, but I really hope the Mavs can come back and at least give the Thunder a fight. I’m a lot more confident in our ability to beat the Mavericks in a 7-game series than if we up against the Thunder. They scared me last time, and they are better this year.

  46. Why all the carping about how officials seem to be against your team. The fact that this seems to be the lament of all teams would indicate the league is doing a pretty good job in this area.

    It is a proven scientific fact that we see/hear what we want to see/hear. We humans seem able to filter out those things we disagree with or that don’t fit our prejudices.

    Maybe we should dial down all this conspiracy stuff.

  47. Aaron pet peeve #1

    Analysts calling the Lakers too big for other teams at the 4 and 5. It just cracks me up like nothing else. Most games Andrew Bynum is going against players his size. His height and weight. Mosgov… His Height and weight class. Andrew Bynum is just better than other Centers. He is highly skilled, with nice strength and historically good dexterity. Pau Gasol. Yes he is taller than most PFs by two to three inches… But he is usually out weighed by a ton and def out muscled against most competition. This isn’t a bowl you over type of player. Most of the time he is spending on the high post or three point line on offense. No, the Lakers aren’t really that much “bigger” than other teams… except at SF (when MWP isn’t taking off heads) they are just better than every other C/PF combo. By a lot. Their big guys aren’t really bigger, just better. They can shoot and pass and dribble… Something most other teams bigs cannot do. To say Bynum and Gasol are bigger than everyone is not just a flat out lie (we have messurments to prove it), but it really demeans the kind f talent they posess athletically and technically. This big man duo might be the best of all time. Robinson was a shell of his former self when Duncan came into the league after a back surgery (don’t read this Dwight) so the only compitition is really Sampson and Hakeem. Was Sampson ever as good as Bynum was this year? I don’t think so. Although Hakeem with any other Center might be the best big man duo ever 😉 This Lakers big man tandem is historically great. They compliment eachother like few could (thanks to Pau’s elite PG skills) while receiving only a handful of praise and respect. A team with those kind of big men AND Kibe Bryant? It’s not like they also don’t have a Ron Artest (defensive monster) and Ramon Sessions (statistically one of the better PGs in the league). With Hill, Barnes, and now Ebanks off the bench with a spot up shooting splash of Blake… You want to bet against these guys?

  48. Looked to me like Perkin’s hand was open, and therefore not a punch – it was more of a shove that caught nothing but air.

    If anyone has a HQ/HD link to the incident, that would be appreciated.

  49. Adrian W. with a much more in depth take on Andrew Bynum and his… Well… Different personality… Especially for an NBA ball player.–andrew-bynum-reaches-new-heights-with-lakers.html;_ylt=AroIeUE7QB3eX.TO2Yo0n_G8vLYF

  50. Well said @48, Aaron.

    Though I think a part of the reason everyone keeps talking about how big the Lakers are, is because they act like it. It’s one thing to be tall and bulky, another to play big and throw your bulk around in the paint the way Andrew does. I bet it helps to have lots of skill for that though, not to mention reliable options to pass to.

  51. our small forwards (mwp/barnes/ebanks/kb24) could learn something from Shawn Marion about how he’s defending durant:

    “Marion ……, and also happens to be providing a master class on how to defend Kevin Durant. Apparently, it’s just that easy to hold the NBA’s scoring champ to 15-of-44 (34 percent) shooting from the field and an average of 4.5 turnovers per game”


  52. billbill,
    Actually Marion is probably taking tips from MWP (and now Ebanks) who seem to always hold Durant under forty percent from the field. I love KD. But he always seems to struggle in the playoffs a bit ala Eddie Jones cause he just isn’t strong enough for play off defenses.

  53. When they talk about the Lakers being “big” it’s because they start two 7-footers who are agile and coordinated and are highly effective low post scorers who can mesh together on the court without negatively affecting the teams’ offensive flow. No one else can do that.

    And if you look at it, there aren’t *that* many Cs as big as Bynum. He’s listed at 7′, 285. In this series, that’s 20 lbs heavier than Koufos, 35 more than Mozgov, and 50 more than McGee, the three guys who are trying to check him.

    Of the other WC playoff teams, the biggest Clipper is Jordan at 6-11, 250. The biggest Thunder(er) is Perkins at 6-10, 280 (Aldrich is an inch taller, but also 40 lbs lighter), and I suspect that’s a short 6-10 for Perk. On the Jazz, Jefferson is 6-10, 260 and Kanter is 6-11, 262. The two biggest players on the Spurs are Duncan (6-11, 248) and Splitter (6-11, 232). For the Grizz, Marc Gasol is the closest, at 7-1, 265. And the Mavs have Haywood at 7-0, 268.

    So Bynum got’s either 20 lbs on anybody he’s playing against who is close to his height, or he has 2-3 inches on those who can match his strength. Basically, he’s a matchup nightmare for any team.