Lakers/Rockets: The Offense Just Keeps Humming

Darius Soriano —  November 18, 2012

If there’s one thing that’s clear after two games of the Lakers shifting to Mike D’Antoni’s schemes, it’s the fact that they can score in bunches and will have fun doing it. Against the Rockets the Lakers put up 119 points in the win and at times putting the ball in the basket simply looked easy. Granted, Houston isn’t a top defensive team, but it takes effort to score that many points regardless of opponent. (And, in a way, it takes a certain offensive discipline and commitment to approach as well. But that’s a topic for another day.)

If there’s another thing that’s clear it’s that the Lakers have the personnel to really excel at playing this style. No, the Lakers aren’t speed demons but playing this way isn’t so much about speed as it is tempo. The team is pushing the ball up the floor and getting into their sets quickly. With the defense not completely set up and ready to defend against a spread floor, the Lakers are quickly attacking the space given to them and making the most of their opportunities.

Tonight, it all started with Kobe Bryant. Kobe racked up a triple double and completely controlled the game in the process. He played the pick and roll wonderfully, navigating screens (or going away from them), occupying defenders and either exploding into the creases of the defense or hitting a teammate for an open shot. Time after time Kobe called for a pick for either Howard or Gasol and torched the Rockets’ defense with correct decision after correct decision. It’s not that far fetched to say that Kobe is playing some of the best basketball of his career as he’s swapped out other worldly athleticism for peak level smarts with a body that’s still capable of getting him into position where he can use a skill level that’s as high as any other player in the league.

Where Kobe used his superior smarts and skill, Dwight Howard is starting to show the elite athleticism that he’s been known for throughout his career. Over the course of the game, Dwight had countless highlight type plays where he was either a defensive monster, offensive juggernaut, or both:

Don’t let highlights like that one cloud the fact that Howard is also playing a fantastic brand of basketball that isn’t based off his ability to simply out jump his opponent. Countless times Dwight abused Omer Asik with quick moves to establish the deep post with nifty left handed finishes following the dirty work he did to get to his preferred spot. Baby hooks were much more frequent than the monster dunks and if his skill around the rim remains when his peak athleticism returns, the Lakers will be even more formidable.

Beyond the Lakers’ top two players, nearly every other player that saw the floor also played very well. Pau Gasol played a second straight very good, if understated, game with 17 points on 13 shots to go with a handful of rebounds and a few assists chipped in. Ron also continued his good play with 15 points on only 8 shots to go with 3 rebound and 2 assists. And Darius Morris had another very good night as the 5th option, scoring 12 points on 8 shots with 5 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals. All in all the Lakers starting 5 scored 94(!) points on only 65 shots. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The Lakers D, however, remains a work in progress. It’s almost as if they’re still a bit shocked that they’re scoring so well and in the midst of processing the last shot that fell, they’re not running back hard. The Rockets took advantage of this getting more than a handful of “transition” baskets off made Laker shots when they’d simply dribble as fast as they could up the floor and get a good shot or throw the ball ahead to a streaking wing who simply ran by his own man (and nearly every other Laker too). The Rockets ran well off missed shots too and scored 21 fast break points in the process. This will continue to be an issue since the Lakers love to hit the offensive boards hard but they must get more than one player back more consistently to slow run outs.

The Lakers also struggled protecting their defensive glass (something we warned about in our game preview). The Rockets grabbed 11 ORebs total and tipped several other rebounds around before the Lakers could corral them. And while the Rockets only scored 10 second chance points off their board work, if the Lakers want to be a running team they’ll need to be better about cleaning up their boards when shots are missed.

Overall though, there’s not much to really complain about from this win. The positives outweighed the negatives by a fair margin and with the team gaining confidence they’re starting to show some of the potential we all have them tapped for. Yes it’s still early and this team hasn’t yet hit a rough patch playing this way but I think it’s still fair to say that they’re believing in themselves more now. And that simple change is creating a ripple effect in their overall performance, especially on offense.

Time will tell if this is a lasting development. The odds say they’ll come down at some point, and maybe even soon. But, for right now, it sure is fun to watch.

Darius Soriano

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29 responses to Lakers/Rockets: The Offense Just Keeps Humming

  1. Good recap.
    Same old complaints and D’Antoni’s not even on the bench yet. As a Suns fan that got the 4 most exciting years of the NBA while he was coach (post Jordan of course), let me get you ready for whats coming. I see alot of comments like “Geez, we’re allowing them to shoot over 50%”. Get used to it. Its always gonna be like that with Dantoni. Also, lots of opponents will have career nights. Just get used to it. A 12 ppg guy cant wait to play us because he knows he has a chance to rip off 25-30 pnts. And when we win 127-120 against the Warriors, try not to be so predictable and say the same old thing: “Wow we let the Warriors put up 120 on us, were in trouble”. Especially when no one gripes if the score was 94-87.

    Of course not everyone will be able to enjoy this. For some insane reason, some people would rather watch the Heat beat Boston 80-77 with a combined 36% on fg. No thanks. I want my team winning 120-117 on 55%fg. Way more exciting
    7 seconds or less for life

  2. I’m hoping D’Antoni keeps playing Morris to continue his development. Morris is a young, speedy guard that can play pesky defense, something neither of the Steves can do. He may be the best option in certain situations, as long as he’s playing with a mix of starters. Plus it helps to have 2 serviceable backup PGs to Nash to limit his minutes.

    It’s apparent that it will be the defensive end that will determine how far this squad will go.

  3. The best part about the clip is Sacre and Gasol at the end.

  4. Thanks for the feedback, bittersunsfan November 18, 2012 at 10:33 pm, I now understand what the future will be like, and I am all for it, just fun entertaining basketball for sure. Another great game recap by Darius, heck both Darius’ are doing just fine now days. I know these wins were not against the elite teams, but still, we are doing much better now than before.

  5. I’d like to point out there that because of the tempo the Lakers will be playing, it would be unfair to gauge their defense by how many points the opponent scores. Quicker tempo means more points. I’ve always been a bigger fan of the Point Differential Stat to gauge team defense, and i’m interested to see how the Lakers will do the rest of the year.

    Excited for Steve Nash to come back. But I always imagined that Kobe could be a great facilitator in this kind of offense that would prolong his career rather than just be a scoring threat. It would be interesting to see him as the main ball handler in this type of offense as he ages. Thankfully though, that will be mostly a hypothetical and academic discussion since we have one of the best Point Guards Ever coming back. But the way things are going, we can give Steve Nash all the time in the world to heal because of the way the offense has been playing.

    Darius Morris is doing an amazing job filling in for the Steves. Really amazed at how athletic the Lakers look compared to earlier last week, when they looked old and slow.

  6. The regular season was never a problem for this style of play. We’ll see how it works out in the post season.
    I noticed that D’antoni already said in his introduction to the team that “you can’t outcoach anybody”. That kind of approach doesn’t bode well for the playoffs where you actually do have to outcoach your colleagues.

  7. Any updates on what happens to Bernie now?
    Will Mike D keep him on staff?

  8. Bernie ….I liked him when he coached Seattle, etc. Dan Tony needs to rest his body but his concepts are readily available. Bernie is fine as head coach, he lets them play what they love to play. Kobe has new lease on longevity. Kobe’s assist levels will skyrocket and he will still get his 20 – 25 – 30 or 50, but he now realizes that he can also ‘feed’ the pick and roll and when Nash comes back as the guru of such feats, the fun will really begin. Bernie is fine and Dan Tony should rest until he is ready. Dwight is superman with pick and roll. Kobe gets triple double and extends less energy. Trade Blake. Bynum is hurt (told u so). Morris / Meeks got more game.
    Bernie is bad @ 4-1. WorldPeace throws it lefty, the full court for a SLAMMMMM DUNK ala chicky baby

  9. Mico – Bernie’s staying on from what I’ve read. He and MDA’s brother are the only confirmed coaches that I’m aware of.

  10. When the Lakers go on a funk where they lose 3 out of 5 games, fans will clamor to fire MDA and install Bernie as head coach. /sarcasm hehe

  11. Interesting how Steve Blake has become our 4th best point guard overall. If Morris and Duhon can shoot 33% from beyond the arc, then Blake does nothing better on the court than either one of them. I hope he isn’t gifted the backup PG job due to veteran seniority. Morris picked up Lin in the backcourt and hounded him into going 2-9 from the field with three turnovers. Lin did have ten assists, but some of them were due to our wings sagging into the middle when Lin drove into the paint, leaving their men wide open beyond the arc. Dwight can mark the driving PGs in this league, and hopefully his teammates will get used to this.

  12. Happy with alll the pro-Morris talk – MDA said he had been trying to get Blake for 10 years so the expectation is that he will be our 2ndd guard but he also said Morris was promising

    My feeling is that hopefully the offense will inflate blakes numbers and we trade him at the deadline For a reliable backup sf

  13. This was Kobe’s 18th triple double, and his first in over 2 years – 11/2010 against Kings (PurpleBlood – sorry – was not at my laptop last night). He is approximately 16th all time in NBA triple doubles (this is a hard stat to find details on). In any case – this guy is good !

  14. Kobe’s best game of the season. Not because he had a triple double, but because he was really looking for D-12 tonight. Kobe can always score, but tonight he made his team better. Guys we’re not just standing around and watching Kobe score 40 on too many isos.

    Laker’s now have their best record of the season @ .500 (5-5). Very modest I know,but in addition for the 1st time this season they actually rank among the top eight teams in the conference. Just goes to show how bad their record really was.

    Looking forward, big question in my mind. Will the Lakers have to start the post-season in the unfamiliar role as “visiting team”? The Clips & Grizz are legit, and the Spurs & Thunder are as expected. Add the Lakers and one of these teams start off on the road, additional two of these team will meet in the 1st round.

    So the goal is to get one of those top three spots…let the games continue. Up next…Brooklyn. Lakers go to 6-5.

  15. If he wanted to, Kobe could’ve been a top 3 (top 2?) PG of all-time.

  16. Hi Formalhault,
    Thanks for the highlights!
    Living in Europe it’s quite hard to see the games.
    Do you (or someone) know of any place that post extended Lakers games highlights regularly (Something like a 15-30min recap)?
    Thanks a lot guys!

  17. bittersunsfan: Yes – thanks for the feedback – but unlike sT, I do not quite know what the future will be like. As I said last night, it is not entertainment that I am after, there are many other ways I can get that. Winning 60 games by scoring over 120 ppg, and getting ousted in the second round, or in the WCF (edited for baiting) would not be good. We are not trying to emulate the Sixers of the late 70′s, the Spurs of the 80′s, the Suns, or the Nuggets (pick the decade on the last two. None of those teams won the title. We already have a cable deal and sell out the arena. There is no need for entertainment. We need success. And these last several games have gotten us out of our terrible start, but we must continue to build on this.

  18. Darius – I understand the edit – however I just wanted to make sure bittersunsfan understands that I was not intending to bait him/her. I was merely pointing out that the run/gun offense is entertaining, but it has not been successful – and fans of those teams undertstand that. I like it when other teams fans come to our site – with one exception of course : )

    Peter: KB does not want to be one of the top 2 PG’s of all time. He is going to be in the top 2 period, without the PG adjective : )

  19. but it has not been successful

    ____

    Well, it has, actually. Yes, yes, I know– “I want titles.” But D’Antoni never had a defensive anchor like Howard on those teams, and as I pointed out last night and radius pointed out today, judging the team D on PPG allowed doesn’t really work with this system.

    Basically, I think you need to focus more on last year’s analysis and apply it now. If the Lakers don’t go all the way, it will likely be due to roster issues related to age and depth than it will be a failure of the system.

  20. Yes, it’s a relief to see the Lakers finally starting to play up to their potential, but before we get all giddy, it might be instructive to note that none of their five wins have come against teams likely to make the playoffs. In other words, these are teams they should be beating. Once they start seeing more of the West Conference upper tier (i.e., Spurs, OKC, Clips, Griz), it’s going to get a lot tougher.

    While the bench is beginning to come around, their overall lack of team speed may still be tough to overcome on the defensive end. And D’Antoni has to find a way to start limiting the starter’s minutes. If all these guys are consistently logging 38-40 come playoff time, there’s not going to be enough gas left in the tank.

  21. Still questions on the defensive end including the boards. We miss a 6th man off the bench who can come in and create or hit spot ups on a regular basis. The difference between the starters and bench means 2 of the big 4 on the floor at all times. Nash and Kobe together only at the start and end of games,if Morris can continue to improve his shooting and take the PG on defense.

  22. I always believed in D. Morris. I’m glad he didn’t let me down. If you see his college highlights you can tell he’s got great court vision and really good passing skills. He just needs the right system to play in and time on the court.

    This team has been really fun to watch these past two games. And I think once we iron out some things it’ll be even more fun. I hope D. Morris continues to develop.

  23. Darius, did I see Devin Ebanks on the bench? I know he’s suspended but when they were showing the players celebrating I thought that was Devin. Anyway, we don’t really need him at this time, he might just ruin the chemistry or rotation that is working fine.

  24. The Laker’s offensive and defensive efficiency is in the the top 7 in the league, weirdly enough. The eye test says The Lakers have work to do on the defensive end but I feel like once Dwight gets healthy they’ll be fine. Who should back up Nash when he returns? I’m starting to like Morris and feel like at the very least he’s an NBA player.

    http://4hoopsheads.com/articles/why-the-grizzlies-and-clippers-are-contenders-out-west-and-a-laker-update–2

  25. G that was the suns game not houston and Formalhault and everybody else those highlights are up after every game at lakersmedia.com its an excellent site

  26. Darius, I agree with what you said about the defense. It is really hard to quantify it by merely looking at the score total because of the increase in possession… I think this is where a lot of us came to a conclusion that MDA’s team lack defensive acumen because we have always been looking at the points total instead of the point differential.

  27. Thanks batman and your tricks!