There was a lot to take in during the Lakers Christmas win over the New York Knicks, but the biggest take away is just the simple fact that they were able to pull out another tough win. This time on Christmas to extend their current win streak to five games, their first Christmas win since 2008. The second biggest take away for me was how well the Lakers mixed things up offensively. It’s becoming increasingly more clear with each minute Steve Nash is on the floor that this Lakers team is a different animal with the Point God running the show. Let’s take a look at the different sets the Lakers ran against the Knicks defense.
- For the second straight game, D’Antoni decided to utilize the horns sets to get easy buckets for the Lakers. Nash has been bringing the ball down, dumping it into one of the bigs, and setting back screens for wings in the corner. In an early set, this action got Kobe a wide open layup after Nash’s back screen. Pau made a beautiful pass as Kobe cut and Bean threw it down. A similar set also freed up Ron for two of his 2nd quarter threes.
- There was also an extension of horns that led to a glorious 4-5 between Pau and Dwight. Nash dumped the ball into Pau and cleared through like he had been doing in the other Horns actions. But instead of Howard immediately rolling to the basket or setting a pin down screen for Kobe or Ron, he set a screen for Pau then rolled. Pau threw a gorgeous lob and Howard threw it down.
- There was a set late in the fourth where D’Antoni brought Howard away from the basket without Pau on the floor. Nash dumped it into Howard at the top of the key and cut off his left shoulder. Kobe came over the top of Howard and received a pass at the top of the perimeter. Howard then set a screen on Kobe’s man which freed Kobe for a wide open 17-footer.
- We also got to see a few 1-5 P&Rs between Nash and Howard or some 1-4 P&Rs between Nash and Pau — and we were able to see Nash’s pure brilliance. He waited for defenders to fully commit to either himself or the roller and just pick them apart from there. We saw plenty of Nash floaters and a sick fade away when the defense concerned themselves with the bigs. And we saw a few brilliant passes that either led to two points or free throws when defenders decided to step out on Nash. They tried to run this another time, but it ended in a turnover.
- Lastly, I saw about 3 or 4 1-2 pick and rolls with Nash and Kobe — something that I was hoping we’d see this season after seeing how effective it was with Ramon Sessions last season. The two standing out to me at the moment ended with Jodie Meeks driving baseline after a ball rotation and the other ending with a turnover, but the Kobe-Nash P&Rs did create favorable mismatches for Kobe each time they ran it.
Overall, I was impressed with the Lakers effort on the day. They weathered both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith having great games — and fantastic third quarters — and gutted out a tough win against a good team. Ron Artest, especially in the second quarter, was fantastic today. Kobe had an efficient shooting night. Steve Nash was point godly. Pau had some great passes. Dwight knocked down free throws when they counted. And, most importantly, the Lakers won. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas gift from the NBA. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas, FB&G. Happy holidays to you and yours.