Lakers/Mavericks: A Look At Individuals

Phillip Barnett —  October 30, 2012

The Lakers didn’t exactly open their season as spectacular as their off-season was as they fell to the Dallas Mavericks 99-91. It was a night where they couldn’t consistently get stops, shot 3-for-13 from three and an abysmal 12-for-31 from the free throw line. Like much of the pre-season, this team just didn’t seem in sync at any time during the game on either end of the floor and the final score was a direct product of their inability to become a cohesive unit.

Instead of breaking down the big-picture aspect of tonight’s loss, the FB&G staff decided to collaborate on tonight’s recap and take looks at individual players. Each of us decided to play closer to one or two guys throughout the course of the game and write down some thoughts on the guys.

Darius on Point Guards: Nash definitely didn’t look as comfortable tonight in sorting out his niche in the Lakers’ offense. Early in the game he did a very good job of getting the Lakers into their sets and that was reflective in how the ball was moving and how efficiently the Lakers were scoring the ball. As the game went on, however, the sets started to break down and Nash became more of an off the ball worker than I think anyone would really want him to be. In the final minutes of the game he attacked more frequently by starting possessions with the pick and roll, but he needed to try and find a better balance by running that action a bit more throughout the contest.

Two other notes on Nash: 1). He looked to be bothered by the ball pressure the Mavs were using against him throughout the game. Dallas used both Darren Collison and Roddy Beaubois to pick up Nash at three-quarter court and that really slowed down Nash and led to the Lakers getting into their sets much slower. 2). Nash working off the ball did have some benefits. He occupied his man well and help rarely came off him, allowing the Lakers bigs more room to operate in the post. That said (and as I mentioned earlier) there was a bit too much off the ball work for Nash tonight.

Blake had a nice game and showed that he’s got a good handle on initiating the Lakers’ sets. He was assertive in trying to turn the corner when he ran the pick and roll and used his dribble judiciously to try and get into the creases of the D. That said, Blake still is not as aggressive as he needs to be in seeking out his own shot. He turned down at least two open jumpers in favor of taking a dribble that allowed the defense to recover to him. Blake did have at least one bad turnover where he kept the ball on the right side of the floor only to throw a late skip pass that got intercepted but overall I thought he did well in running the team when he was on the floor.

Where neither PG was that great was on defense. Nash found himself on his heels a lot against Collison and Beaubois both in the half court and in transition. Both Mavs PG’s tried to attack Nash in space and it ultimately allowed them to find their rhythm on offense which led to them hitting shots at a pretty high rate. Blake wasn’t much better than Nash in this respect. In the end, the Lakers’ PG’s played good position defense for the most part but also had too much trouble marking their man when on an island. Whether or not this becomes a trend remains to be seen but today’s results will only encourage more teams to attack them, and the Lakers, in this way.

J.M. on Shooting Guards: Please forgive me for providing you with obvious information, but the Los Angeles Lakers are a very good team with Kobe Bryant on the floor. Indeed, in the first six minutes of the game, the Black Mamba had four touches and managed four field goal attempts, with three of them coming right at the rim. Kobe was able to explode off screens away from the ball to catch and go right down the lane for baskets.

Also, he was able to catch the ball on the move with his big men spread out in the high post or out on the perimeter and drive to the rim for uncontested shots. The rest of the first half played itself in that same fashion as Bryant converted a shot off an easy post up on Dahntay Jones and also had another finish at the rim. One of the most interesting subplots of the offense is that Bryant had a few possessions in which he was completely uninvolved in the offense, which consequently means that he got to manage his energy levels.

In the second half, Bryant offered more variety as he posted up, ran through screens for perimeter jumpers and cut hard to basket and was fed the ball for semi-easy finishes

Defensively, Kobe was aggressive from the outset in defending Mayo off the ball, following him around and running through screens to make life difficult for him. Mayo was active in the screen-and-roll game to get himself free and routinely worked Bryant to get himself open for jumpers off the dribble.

Also, Kobe seemed hesitant when he was helping on defense and an opponent came down the lane trying to convert at the basket. He got himself out of the way to avoid fouling but provided no roadblock whatsoever.

As the game wore on and Bryant kept running through screens, he became slower defensively and needed a little more help from his big man to cover Mayo as he recovered defensively, but the Mavs then moved the ball to the next player for an open jumper.

Jodie Meeks spelled Kobe for six minutes in the first half and found the open spots on the floor, which in turn meant that defenders had to account for him and it opened up driving lanes as well as easy post ups for Pau Gasol.

Defensively, Meeks did a good job of rotating defensively, mind you his rotations resulted in him get caught on a big at times, which gave essentially gave the Mavericks a rebounding advantage. With that said, for most of his defensive possessions, he was assigned to Dahntay Jones who just stood out at the corner 3-point line. Carlisle flashed his brilliance as a coach when Bryant came back into the game to guard Jones by running him off multiple screens despite not even being part of the play, with the sole intent to tire out the Lakers superstar and keep him involved in every possession to wear him down during the game.

In the fourth quarter, Kobe’s defense went up a notch as he forced Mayo to catch the ball further out than he wanted and thus forced him to take tough shots.

The Lakers superstar had one of his most efficient scoring nights, pouring in 22 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the floor — no free throw attempts though — but often had his hands up to signal he wanted the ball to come his way in the fourth but didn’t get it. With that said, Bryant seemed fine with the way the offense was conducted by Nash for the most part, but it’s just something to keep an eye out on, especially with Mike Brown insisting on playing Kobe and Nash together.

Phillip on Small Forwards: It’s not a secret; Metta World Peace had a horrible game and looked worse than he did at any point during the preseason. He was one for eight from the field with three points, eight rebounds, four assists and three turnovers. However, it wasn’t his line that I was concerned with, it was his level of engagement throughout the course of the game and his role (or lack thereof) on the offensive end of the floor.

Early in the game I noticed that Ron wasn’t as active or engaged or enthusiastic about his actions as he usually is. He seemed lethargic and uninterested early in the game and was going through the motions for the most part. I also noticed that Mike Brown didn’t have him as an active participant in any of the sets in the first half of the game. Ron was consistently on the weak side of the floor away from all of the offensive action. They ran the double-option hand off sets, high P&Rs, ISOs and backside cuts — all of which did not involve Ron at all. I’m not sure if his noninvolvement in the offense led to his lack of interest in all things basketball or if it was the other way around, but this was a glaring issue for me.

However, when Ron did get the ball his efforts were futile for the most part. He did some nice things in transition by pushing the ball and hitting his man on the wing at the right time for a couple of assists and hit a cutting Kobe during a high post up in the 1st quarter. Outside of that, things were tough to watch as Ron tried to barrel his way through the lane only to see his shots ricochet off the rim or not hit the rim at all.  This play at the end of the first half sort of summed up his night.

Defensively, he didn’t do a horrible job. He forced Shawn Marrion and Vince Carter into so tough shots and got his hands on a few loose balls to create some turnovers. I find it difficult to gauge the effectiveness of an individual defender when the team defense failed to consistently get stops the whole night, but Ron, at the very least, wasn’t horrible on that end tonight. He got caught looking as plays developed on the strong side and let Shawn Marrion slip past him a couple times, but his on-the-ball work was solid.

Zephid on Power Forwards:  Gasol was one of the few bright spots in a crappy first game.  Throughout the course of the game, we got to see the many facets of Pau’s unique skill set.  With the starters in, Pau spent most of his time on offense at the top of the key.  From here, he made what I would call the main read, deciding whether to throw it to the weak side, the strong side, or dump down into the post.  Showing his passing skills, Gasol was able send quick passes to a cutting Howard for easy dunks and fouls.  Showing his handles, Pau drove past his man into the middle of the lane, creating some opportunities for himself, as well as some dump offs to Howard for dunks.  Showing his shooting skills, Pau let his mid-range jumper fly a couple of times, hitting one and missing one, though he was wide open on both occasions.

When Howard went out, Pau transitioned to the center position, taking up the deep post position that Howard occupied when he was on the floor.  Showing off his post game, Pau hit a couple of jumpers in isolation, as well as taking Eddy Curry off the dribble (not hard) for a lay-up.  He also orchestrated the offense from the post, hitting a cutting Jamison at least once for a foul, while dumping off to Jordan Hill on a couple of occasions.

On defense, Pau was primarily a hard hedger in PNR’s against Nash.  Pau showed well on most of the PNR actions, but several times was unable to recover quickly enough to get back to his man or to rotate to another offensive player.  The Mavs got several easy baskets due to poor rotations by the Laker D, with Pau’s lack of foot speed contributing to several of them.

All-in-all, Pau finished the game with a decent line of 8-19 shooting for 23 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks.  While he was effective, a number of his makes came when the game was decided, so his shooting numbers were worse than they appeared at the end.  Pau needs to be more efficient when he’s close to the basket, or he needs to hit those wide open shots with regularity to get his shooting percentage at a good enough level for a big man.

Although we didn’t get to see the glorious amount of 20 footers that we saw in the first pre-season game, Hill did manage to launch a couple, to hilarious results.  The first shot was from 15 feet straight on, going off glass and bouncing out.  The second shot was from the wing, hitting the far back side of the rim and falling into the hands of the Mavs.  But, Hill did the things that he was supposed to do, which was attack the glass on both ends, getting two difficult offensive rebounds and putbacks, showing strength and aggression that we all wish Pau had (Pau got stuffed on a couple put back attempts, hence his relatively bad shooting percentage).  Hill also played decent defense, a couple of times jumping out on PNR’s to cover smaller players, once blocking an OJ Mayo shot attempt.  Hill was also one of the bench players who ran the offense very well in the second quarter (along with Jamison), smoothly setting screens and cutting to the rim for a couple easy dunks.

Dave on Centers: It’s obvious that Dwight’s still shaking off the rust. Also obvious that he’s pretty spry for a guy coming off back surgery. He mistimed a number of jumps but at least he’s still got some hops. D12 grabbed the first board of the game, showed his sweet baby hook, had a nice hand-off to Kobe and was the beneficiary of a beautiful pass fromPau, all in the first quarter.

Dwight looked a little winded in the second quarter but still chipped in a couple of points and altered some shots by being active around the rim which is what he does. As has been his pattern throughout his career, he went to the stripe a lot and missed a lot. He wound up making only 3 out of 14 free throws for the night.

Howard remained physically aggressive in the second half, if not always being smart about it – the flagrant-1 on Elton Brand was basically a cheap frustration foul. He got back on track offensively in the third quarter as Brown called his number more with direct feeds.
In a lot of ways, this was a logical continuation from the preseason. It’s a team in progress and that includes Dwight. Still, his back looks sound and that’s huge – there was a real question this summer about if and when he’d be ready to go. The same goes for Jordan Hill as well by the way, he was super aggressive going to the basket. And, like Howard – he was abysmal at the line – 1 for 6.
Dwight had a nice put-back off a Pau miss midway through the final quarter but I was a bit disappointed by his overall effort on the boards. He seems to be sorting things out with Pau and I don’t want to see a guy who’s averaged 13 rpg for his career deferring to anybody, not even a teammate. He fouled out with a couple minutes left in the game which was by that point, a forgone conclusion. Overall, Dwight had 19 points on 8 for 12 shooting, 10 boards, 2 assists and a block, in 38 minutes. Not a bad effort at all and it will certainly get better.

Phillip Barnett