Lakers/Knicks: Too Little, Too Late

Darius Soriano —  December 13, 2012

For the fourth straight game, the Lakers saw the clock hit triple zeroes with them behind on the scoreboard. This time, the final count was 116-107, with the Knicks claiming victory. This game, like several others before it (the Thunder game instantly comes to mind) represented a bit of a moral victory, but for a team that desperately needs actual victories another loss stings.

The game started as so many other games have this season, with the Lakers in an early hole. In the game preview I mentioned how the Lakers would need to rotate to shooters and mark them all over the floor since hitting jumpshots is what the Knicks do. Well, the Lakers only did this occasionally and the Knicks made them pay for it. They knocked down shots from all over the floor and while some of the looks were well guarded and happened to fall anyway, others were the types of looks the Knicks generate all the time due to their precise ball movement and execution in the half court.

Make no mistake, though, there’s really no overstating how hot the Knicks were. It seemed every jumper they took found the bottom of the net and, in some cases, no amount of solid D was going to stop them. However, the Lakers also played certain actions poorly and suffered dearly because of it. Their pick and roll defense was especially poor with Chris Duhon unable to stick with Raymond Felton, even getting beat off the dribble and surrendering the paint when going under the screen to try and cut off his driving angle. Furthermore, whenever the Knicks set screens off the ball, the Lakers’ bigs failed to step out to deny passing angles and that ended up allowing NY’s wings to make easy catches that either led to open jumpers or quick drives into the paint that opened up countless other options.

The combination of an on fire Knicks team and the Lakers’ spotty defense led to the Knicks putting up 55 points in the first 16 minutes of game action. Those numbers are mind boggling, as was the correlating offensive efficiency of 170.4. Things really couldn’t have gotten much worse for the Lakers and if at that point they would have folded up their tents and went home I don’t think it would have surprised anyone.

The Lakers started to calm down and find their stride, however. It helped that Carmelo Anthony had to leave the game with a a lower leg injury, not to return. Melo was the catalyst to the Knicks early barrage (his 22 points in the first quarter were as spectacular for the Knicks as they were upsetting for any Laker fan) and having him in the locker room certainly shifted the tone of the Knicks’ attack and made them a bit less dominant. But with Melo out and the Lakers looking at a deep hole, they did what they could to fight back. After a 41-27 first quarter beat down, the second quarter normalized to the tune of a 27-22 Knick win. Sure, the Lakers still lost the period, but they were at least stable.

In the 2nd half, we saw a different Laker team, however. And I mean that both figuratively and literally. Rather than try to continue to what they’d done in the first half, the Lakers adjusted their style while Mike D’Antoni went to a different lineup to try and find a spark.

In Jamison’s place, Ron saw most of his minutes in the 2nd half at power forward. At small forward, Devin Ebanks got sustained run, playing 22 of the 24 second half minutes. Jodie Meeks played 16 minutes, flanking Kobe in the back court (who never came out) to form a non-traditional duo who shared ball handling responsibilities. At center, Dwight played most of the half, but when he sat Robert Sacre and his big body filled in for him.

Ultimately, this lineup worked for a variety of reasons. The Knicks didn’t pressure the ball so the Lakers wings could all bring the ball up without fear of dealing with a man hounding them. This group also offered a nice blend of toughness, athleticism, shooting, and defense to give the Lakers a fighting chance.

Offensively, the Lakers went to post ups for Ron against the smaller Knicks’ wings and off-set that with pick and rolls between Kobe (or Meeks) and whichever big man was in the game. Even though Ron and Ebanks aren’t shooters in the classic sense, they were able to space the floor with whichever one of them was on the baseline crashing the offensive glass hard. With Kobe (who gutted through back spasms, by the way) using his full offensive arsenal to score points when Ron was producing in the post, the Lakers found enough points to stick around.

And with versatile defenders all over the floor, the Lakers also found some strategies that worked for them on that side of the ball. They started switching nearly every screen, both on and off the ball. This led to Dwight covering the point guard a lot (Felton attacking Dwight became a theme of the 2nd half), but the big man held his own more often than not. The Lakers wings did a good job of hitting the glass to help a perimeter bound Dwight (Kobe had 10 rebounds, Ron and Ebanks combined for 11) and they were able to get some much needed stops.

Of course, there were still break downs. Dwight was stepping out to pick up the guard so the pocket bounce pass was open a lot to Tyson Chandler diving to the rim. The Lakers’ back side wings didn’t always get there in time to disrupt Chandler’s dive and it resulted in fouls that sent Chandler to the line for 12 FTA’s in the 2nd half alone. The Lakers also didn’t grab every needed rebound as the switching left them, at times, confused as to who should be where and which rotation they were supposed to take. All in all, though, the strategy was effective enough to help them climb back into the game.

In the end, though, all the clawing and scrapping only led to a final deficit that wasn’t as bad on the eyes. I was happy to see them fight, but I’d have been happier if they could have completed the improbable. It wasn’t meant to be, though. Tomorrow will give them another chance, this time against the Wizards. We’ll see if they can carry over any of their 2nd half fight, and strategy, into that game.

Darius Soriano

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42 responses to Lakers/Knicks: Too Little, Too Late

  1. Sir Charles said it best.

    “lakers are slow and old and they aren’t getting faster or younger when Nash and Pau come back”.

    Game, set, match.

  2. Turnover led to easy baskets thats why they are slow and old on running back. They are still slow in rotation in a half court defense. Even if they are athletic enough, if they dont rotate on defense they are still slow. So, now what?! Its the defense, the Dallas Mavericks team in 2011 were slow also but they were playing good defense against the Miami Heat team who were athletic and young.

  3. I was glad that D’Antoni had the sense to get Duhon off the floor. The Lakers need to bring in a PG before the road trip is over. But playing Kobe 44 minutes in a game in which he was having back spasms, the team had virtually no chance to win, with another game tomorrow…no sale.

    Brian Kamenetzky:

    As a result, the Lakers are facing their most significant problem: Math.

    “Over the past three full NBA seasons, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference has averaged 48 wins. The Lakers, now 9-14 following Thursday’s 116-107 fraternity-style paddling at the hands of the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, would have to go 39-20 to get there.”

  4. Thanks brian I have been saying that for 2 weeks. If this team doesn’t make The playoffs Dwight is gone, gone, gone. Need to get what you can now for him. Get some of The draftS they gave away do to The last two years under the jimmy madness. Being a lottery team with no draft choices and $100 million contracts is insanity.

    Jimmy has turned a once proud franchise into a $100,000 joke, mean while the Clips with 3 ex-Lakers on Way to the finals. Clean house.
    Metta Gone, Pau gone, bench gone. Rather see a young athletic team losing and caring then this old, slow passionless team.

    While your at it Gerry either send your son back to the stables or sell the team to Magic’s group. It’s over fans for the next three years.

  5. Could tell tonight that Steve Kerr was trying to be the voice of reason – again too much of Charles saying D’Antoni needs to change his system all night long – when he never put it in in the first place and he’s not trying to run it now. People are just willing to bag on the coach regardless of the realities of having basically 1.5 stars in kobe and half a Howard. Sure D’Antoni can adjust – he could probably implement the triangle – but thats not gonna change the quality of the roster he has to work with at the moment or bring everyone back healthy.
    Ron played alright but he’s a much better player when there is better players around him. betcha Mitch and Buss have made calls to D’Antoni backing him and telling him to keep his chin up – cuz right now he must feel likes he’s been hung out to dry a little. Still don’t get what coach is going to automatically step in and fix everything.

    Its pretty clear that Howard seems to have regressed a little physically – he’s looked rough now – the actual game playing seems to be taking a toll on him. it just sucks but they just have to power thru and continue to gut it out until everyones healthy. At the very least the team learned what kind of energy its going to need to play with all the time and showed some pride tonight. They didn’t embarass themselves. And thats all you can ask for right now.

    Could see Nash is dying for his teammates too – wants to be there so badly, but hard to lead or help from the bench.

  6. Us fans should somewhat feel responsible for this. The overwhelming consensus was to “Fire Brown” and he wasn’t the problem, obviously, and was a better coach. Now that we have D’Antoni he should get players exactly for his system. The faster the fo realizes lakers aren’t winning the title the faster this may happen and we collect talent and build for next year. Or who know’s just may catch lightning in a bottle with a roster shake up.

  7. Kerr made a couple good points about the coaching staff this evening and lack of training camp and you have to think that that has an effect.

    @kevin_ I think you had to get rid of Brown – he wasn’t adjusting or changing his lineup in anyways shape or form like Mike D has at least attempted to do so far this year. And you had all the baggage from last year as well.

    The big problem I see is that there is now way the FO can trade Pau, because then they’d be left w zero post offensive threat as Dwight is nowhere near 100% and there isn’t anyone thye can get back on the market that can score down low

  8. Jerke: coaches changed problems haven’t. High minutes for kobe, inconsistent rotations (went from starting hill to jamison this game and 2nd half he started ebanks), transition defense. The team looked cohesive with a plan under brown. They look completely lost now.

  9. I missed the game and was away from work. But, when I got back to work I asked them who won, they also did not see the game, and said that the Lakers probably lost. How awful indeed that response was to me. Heck, I will take a moral victory any day this year. Too bad the Lakers gave up their number one draft pick this year (I hope it was worth it), it may be a high one for once.

  10. I’m not saying Brown wouldve been worse (he wouldn’t have been better either) – I’m just saying there was no way they wouldve let Brown continue after last year, this preseason, and the way he started. He had 4 very ugly uninspired losses to start the season with the only legit one being to the Clippers. As for hill – he was -9 in 3 mins of play and Jamison wasn’t much better but at least Jamison is a threat to score out on the flr, thats why he played. And Ebanks got burn because Metta was playing like crap and Ebanks put in some good mins and responded – nothing worng with that decision. Given that there was no ball pressure by knicks Mike also adjusted and took out Duhon and had Meeks and Kobe handle the ball. He did the best that he could with the roster that he had to get this team back in the game. he even got a couple good mins out of Sacre to rest Howard and give hiim some bench time due to dumb fouls.

    As for high mins for Kobe – what does anyone expect when 2 starters are out, howards still a gimp – and the rest of the roster is mostly 3-4th string guys? that mike d should keep kobe’s mins low to save him for the playoffs?

  11. one thing about Dantoni and defence which has never been acknowledged here. All Dantoni’s bad years defensively were racked up with Amare (one of the worst defensive big men in the game) at centre in Phoenix and then NY (anyone else notice how much better the knicks are doing this year defensively with no Amare?) In the one year that Amare was injured in Phoenix for almost the whole season, and the starting 5 was Nash, Raja B, Kurt Thomas, Boris Diaw and Shawn Marion (with Barbosa. James Jones, and Eddie house and eventually Tim Thomas, as the main bench guys) the Suns were rated #4 in defensive efficiency till Kurt Thomas went down with a season ending injury mid-Feb. So with even a decent defensive group and a full training camp, Mike D can be a pretty good defensive coach.

    Not having a training camp, and the poor talent on the team (after Kobe and Dwight) when you take out Pau and Nash has not helped.

  12. Agreed Harvey – D’antoni has been much malinged for his defense but the reality and numbers tell a different story if taken in context. Maybe it wouldve been better if he had brought in his own staff in LA – at least they’d all be on the same page.

  13. Under normal circumstance I would never ever want to add Delonte West to my team but there is nothing normal about this season. I say sign Delonte and hire a life coach for him that lives with him and administers his meds.

  14. Roster: This roster is not significantly changing (for the better anyway) until after next year. Pau is worth more to us than anyone else, and we can’t sign FA’s for obvious reasons. Yes – we can add vet min guys, but I said “significant”, and guys like Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill, like we did last year are not significant. We need to make it work with this roster, and some minor tweaking.

  15. Coaching: Forget how you feel personally, coaching needs to be judged on results. You can rationalize everything you want and say that guys like PJ and Riley only won because of talent, and other coaches only lose because they do not have talent. That is not how it works in sports or any other business. You are judged on results. Corporate executives are judged on profits and stock prices. Coaches are judged on wins and losses. When you add in the team’s salary and winning tradition, you are expected to win more. Mike D’Antoni is 4-9, and that is a worse percentage than Magic Johnson had in 1994 with a fraction of the talent of this roster. This is fact – it is not something that can be argued.

  16. Strange season indeed.Besides the turnovers Kobe and Dwight are playing very well but still The team is in disarray.MB experiment was a failure.

  17. Last thread someone said that the Lakers gave up their first round draft picks for the next two years. I thought that there was a league rule in place to where each team had to keep every other year’s first round pick, and could not give or trade them away. I hope that the Lakers finishing season wins are high enough, so that the pick will not matter anyway, like has been the case for most of the past years.

  18. Fact: 2 allstars are hurt, another is 60% and besides Kobe the rest of the roster is 3-4th stringers. No one wins in this league with the Lakers current roster.

    Fact: PJ isn’t coming back

    Fact: No training camp nor a staff that the coach picked to implement any system offensively or defensively – nor hardly any practice time since he took over to actually make adjustments.

    Fact: Whining about it doesn’t change things. The reality is Lakers have major cogs that are hurt (3 out of the 4 allstars) – it sucks, but no one can do a hell of a lot about it.

    The above are facts – not something that can be argued.

  19. 2 All Stars Hurt: True – but we only had 2 all stars last year – and we still have 2 – yet we have significantly regressed.
    PJ: What does that have to do with anything? I mean – I wish he was – he isn’t – well this season – anything is possible.
    Training Camp: Heard this about Mike Brown last year. Guess we do owe him an apology.
    Whining: So you can post and it is intelligience and other’s posts are whining? Interesting.
    And none of this changes – the fact that coaches need to be judged on their record. What you are doing is no different than someone not wanting to hear any crticism about Kobe. Some don’t want to hear crticism about players – others don’t want to hear it about coaches. Nobody is blaming everything on MD, but, I am hardly alone that accountability should start there.

  20. This is fact – it is not something that can be argued.

    ____
    Nah. Zach Lowe’s piece at Grantland summarized it pretty well. If you want to reject that, then, well, you are just not being objective.

    Basically, when things are as bad as they are now, everyone should take some blame: Buss, Kupchak, the scouts, D’Antoni, the assistants, Kobe, Howard, Metta,–pretty much everyone except Steve Nash and the people who work the concession stands at Staples. I get that you are down; I am too. I was actually a little nauseous watching the 2nd quarter. But just hammering on one thing, when it is many things, is more venting than insight.

  21. You know, i’m still very optimistic that we can turn this thing around once we get our guys back and the addition of West.

    But these guys have to be committed to defense.

    Btw we will return the favor to the Knicks in Los Angeles.

    Believe it! (Naruto)

  22. The Lakers needed Carmelo Anthony to get injured before they could close the score. Otherwise, they are blown out.

  23. “Sir Charles said it best.

    “lakers are slow and old and they aren’t getting faster or younger when Nash and Pau come back”.

    Game, set, match.”

    And he was the first moran that claimed the Lakers neede4d to play faster, and that woul dbe their best game. By this point it is clear, the Lakers can’t play fast and need to slow the game down. Put more emphasis on defense. So basically the whole hiring of Mike D was pointless…

  24. Tonight the Lakers play the Washington Wizard, the worst team in the NBA. Who by the way are missing their best player John Wall who happens to be a point guard. The Lakers CANNOT lose this game. Amazing as it seems, playing last place Washington in mid-December is an “important game”.

  25. Great piece by Brian Windhorst on ESPN today that puts it all in a nutshell:

    http://espn.go.com/nba/dailydime/_/page/dime-121213/daily-dime

    Basically, it’s not D’Antoni or the players that are the problem. With the Nash and Howard acquisitions, the front office in the off season made a set of moves that most would consider “no-brainers”. As was D’Antoni taking the coaching job when offered.

    But taken as a whole, it has proven to be a flawed conception. That is, building a top-heavy team around a set of not necessarily compatible and aging superstars. The results speak for themselves.

    In contrast, take the Clippers. They chose to retain a solid core of youth and veterans, and then fill in with compatible pieces to bolster a once suspect bench that is now a game changer and the envy of the league. Again, the results speak for themselves.

    Some may still hold out hope for this year, but I have a feeling things are going to get a lot worse before they get better again.

  26. I don’t understand the whole idea that Mike D’Antoni should get a pass because he doesn’t have enough healthy talent. Or, similarly, that Kobe should get a pass for being a blackhole for the same reason. This is Kobe, Dwight, MWP, Jamison, Hill, and other professional basketball players. Talent isn’t the problem, folks. It’s coaching, leadership, and now accountability.

  27. Lakers fans have a dysfunctional relationship with Kobe.
    It is kind of like being in a family with an alcoholic. Everybody
    protects and enables him most of the time in LA. Unable to come to terms
    with his selfishness, because they know he won’t change.

    He is a great scorer and works incessantly, but he is also the key agent of dysfunction on the Lakers. He will drive the Laker ship into the ground as he continues to age and demand the highest volume of shots in the NBA. Even when Gasol and Howard were in on the court he was taking more shots than anybody in the league per game.

  28. Early in the game last night, Melo beat Metta off the dribble and went in for the dunk against a rotating Jordan Hill. Hill had a chance for a good , clean foul but hesitated and as a result got posterized for an And 1. The Lakers have got to play tougher and stop allowing opponents to cakewalk to the basket. Oh, and Jordan had no fouls prior to that. It was the perfect time to send a message to Melo and the Knicks, and Hill muffed it. To me, that was indicative of how the entire team is playing. Passive and weak. Hit somebody!

  29. I don’t want to blame the coach, but I feel all this starting happening after Dantoni refused to take Howard out when hacka started in 4th of the games against the Magic and Houston. If anyone remembers things were semi alright at that point of the season, moral was still up. With Nash out and a weak minded Gasol, coming off a beat down they handed Denver the Lakers were all good, we fans were all good. But after those 2 losses do to the hacka Dwight, thats when all the finger pointing started. Thats when Howard started the help the helper stuff. Thats when Metta became the scrub he really is, when our scrubs became the D leaguer they really are. I’m tired of blaming the players already. I mean if the players we have can’t do whats being ask to do, they just cant. For how great Kobe is on offense, on D he’s on Duhons level and Dwight for how great he is on D, he’s on Hill’s level on offense.

  30. 1/2decaf1/2regular December 14, 2012 at 8:57 am

    ok never thought i’d say this but when is pau coming back??

    lakers DESPERATELY need the spaniard back.. i was one of pau’s biggest critics but sometimes you need to know what life is without that person before you can take him for granted… turns out darius may have been right about pau’s versatility in the offense afterall.. our offense suddently looks predictable and appears to have lost much of their versatility without his passing and playmaking from inside and outside. even dwights game has suffered a bit and dont remember last time he got a lob or easy bucket…

    as for d’antoni i have not lost faith in him.. i dont think he has much of a choice anymore but to adjust his system to fit his personnel with a hybrid offense of slow down tempo and small ball.. and you can see him incorporating that already.. but without training camp or hardly any practice time its obviously gonna take time.

    and unless lakers acquire another PG like asap kobe absolutely and without question needs to play more PG before the ship sinks.. hes already logging heavy minutes in losing efforts so there would not be much more to risk

  31. darius: let’s hope too little too late is not a recurring theme for this year’s lakers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DunGvUIAYBw

    speaking of which, looks like you took the night off for a change. good for you. good sleep leads to good health. advice we all should take as this year is especially stressful as a laker follower. speaking of change, time for front office to allow us to be the leader. take some of our advice for a change. listen and take heed of the positive and multitude choices available via everywhere you look. this of course will happen before we wake up. aw, but we can only dream.

    Who knows is my two word answer for what’s wrong with the lakers. the long answer? so far what we got is a recipe for disaster and the ingredients are far too numerous to make for good cake. suffice it to say, pound cake is what we got and mud pie to show for our effort, or lack of it thereof depending on your point of view. hoping that with the returns of our fractured threesome will be the start in the right direction; will be hope premised by patience and possible recurrence of injuries to same or other players currently on the roster thru out the season. of course if this were to happen, the word cursed season will begin to rear it’s ugly head. or has that word already surfaced and is prefaced for the not so midas one: jim buss?

    exasperated and flabbergasted; now on to dc.

    Go Lakers

  32. @Robert re: “Coaching needs to be judged on results”

    True, but only to an extent. No coaches can win without talent. Look @ Doc all those years in Boston without the Big 3… He didn’t win squat with Paul Pierce and scrubs until finally the Big 3 was assembled and they won the title that year. Did Doc all of a sudden become a different, far more amazing coach because his results were better in 2008 than in 2007? No, that would be a silly assertion.

    Look @ Phil and the Lakers in 2006 and 2007. He is the GOAT coach and his results bore a 2 time first round exit in both years. Then the following year we acquire Pau and the Lakers are in the Finals. Did Phil’s results in 2008 all of a sudden make him a different, amazing coach compared to 2007 and 2006?

    Erik Spoelstra with a hobbled Wade is the worst coach ever, and now his results bore a championship last year. Is he now a different, great coach? No, he’s essentially the same guy. Sure coaches learn and get better too and sure are based on results, but there is a very high correlation between talent and results.

    “When you add in the team’s salary and winning tradition, you are expected to win more.”

    This is also an unfair statement because our team salary accounts for Pau Gasol and Steve Nash playing together for more than 1.5 games. You cannot fairly extrapolate expectations from the coaching based off of team salary unless you dock off Pau’s 19 mil for the last 4-5 games and Steve Nash’s 8.9 mil for the past 20 games or so.

  33. In total agreement BigCitySid. Especially if you take into account the loss to the Cavs earlier in the week. If we leave out of D.C. with another L, that would mean we would’ve allowed 2 of the worst teams in the Association to treat us the way Marquez treated Pacquiao last Saturday night.

  34. Dwight is the most fragile Laker ever. His on court antics are as frequent as Bynum’s but not as demonstrative. After a player scores he hangs his head and pouts. He got blown by several times last night by Felton and looked around like he isn’t supposed to guard the rim. The lob to Chandler at the end he should’ve gave him the jumper instead he left his man way early and left Meeks on an island. And gave up 2 crucial off. rebounds to Chandler late. Howard has taken no respnsibility for Lakers struggles so far instead always help the helper after every game. He’s not dominating and is content with this situation because he’s done absolutely nothing to try and change it. After all the scrutiny he got last year you’d think he’d play with fire but he’s not. He has no chip on his shoulder and seems to think he’s doing all he can. With Pau healthy he’s the third best player on this team. This isn’t the player Lakers want to take the torch from Kobe.

  35. He is a great scorer and works incessantly, but he is also the key agent of dysfunction on the Lakers

    Naw. The Lakers have a lot of really bad players playing heavy minutes, and Howard is not what he was. As has been noted many times,. KB”s efficiency is up this year.

  36. We need to win the next 4 games or we will have legitimate issues to make the playoffs

    Against Washington, Philly, Charlotte, and what is now a big game golden state – we then have NY on Xmas again so who knows what will happen there.

    All 4 would bring us just under 500 or at 500 with an Xmas present – hopefully the rest of the west stays near 500 around 8th so we can have a shot because let’s say we lost 2-3 of the next few games we will be close to 10 games under 500 – which would ruin the season

  37. Kobe takes a lower percentage of shots in the first quarter. This shows he is attempting to adjust to his teammates “abilities” on a game by game basis.

    It is no wonder that the lakers are 1 and 11 when he scores thirty or more. Those are the games he is forced to control the game.

    With that said, Kobe should try to force feed Howard as much as possible.if it works then you win, if not, then at least you figured it out early in the season

  38. I just want to see some well played games. The Lakers haven’t been giving that to the public for awhile now. Fortunately I’ve been too busy to watch most of the last several games or I might be in a catatonic state right now.

    They can get it together before season’s end but it will be for the right to play as the 7th or 8th seed and the uphill battle that would be. Still, that’s far better than lotto balls bouncing.

  39. I hear you Hale, I mean it sucks when I put the gamecast on my android phone and see us down all the time.

  40. I thought the most telling scene of the game was when it ended and the Knicks players all came together at mid-court for a team huddle led by Chandler & Kidd.

    Barkley and Kerr spoke of it ad nauseum, but those two guys have transformed the culture of a franchise that has been as selfish and laughable as any in the league into one that seems completely committed to team basketball. I think the Knicks will give the Heat a run this year, and that’s not something I ever imagined typing.

  41. darius: somehow tonite’s game is just a game.

    give your loved ones a hug today.

    and our prayers to the families of the tragedy in connecticut.

    Go Lakers