Lakers/Trailblazers: Early Energy Leads To Easy Win

Darius Soriano —  December 28, 2012

When the Lakers had their magnificent summer of acquisitions to form their big four, this was the type of game many envisioned they would have more often. Each player played to their strengths on both sides of the ball, they complimented each other well, and as the game progressed the game became easier and easier as Portland’s defense had few answers for how to contain a such a diverse offensive attack.

Consider the following:

*Dwight Howard brought the type of defensive energy and paint presence on both ends this team sorely needs. All 13 of his shot attempts came in the paint as he dove hard on P&R’s to make himself available for entry passes and worked hard in his post ups to get the type of position that creates easy shots. Defensively, he contested most shots that were taken anywhere near his vicinity, blocking three and altering several others. When you add this work to his activity on the glass (14 total rebounds, 6 offensive), Dwight Howard was the most impactful Laker tonight by a fair margin.

*Steve Nash was the consummate floor general. Though he only made 3 of his 7 field goal attempts (scoring 6 points), he handed out 10 assists and controlled the flow of the game for every minute he was on the floor. Several of his dimes were of the pinpoint variety where only a tiny window existed and perfect timing was needed to make a scoring play and he delivered both. One of his several highlight level passes that stood out was a slick post entry to Kobe who had sealed his man deep on the block along the right lane line. Nash noticed Kobe’s position and angled a skipping bounce pass right beyond the reach of the defender and into Kobe’s hand, leading him into the natural drop step for a finish right at the rim. No other type of pass would have gotten through on that play and Nash made it easily. Nash’s off ball work continued to be excellent as well as he set several good screens to free up teammates and put them in position to score. All in all, his numbers weren’t eye popping, but his impact certainly was.

*Kobe Bryant got to do what he does best: score the ball. His 27 points were a team high and he got them in a variety of ways. Working off the ball and then establishing good position on cuts and post ups, Kobe made all six of his field goal attempts in the restricted area and then sprinkled in some jumpers from wings for good measure. When the defense got out of position, he’d punish them with a quick cut or use their momentum against them to earn trips to the foul line. What also stood out about Kobe’s night, though, was that his decisions with the ball were quick and almost always correct. When the shot was there, he’d take it. But he also moved the ball on to open teammates wonderfully. His four assists weren’t spectacular (though his lob to Darius Morris was highlight worthy) and were mostly the product of him simply hitting the open man on time and on target. Against the Blazers, Kobe was more of a cog in the machine than anything else and the results were him getting his points and the rest of the team getting theirs too. There will be nights he’ll need to take on a bigger burden, but tonight he didn’t have to and he adapted accordingly.

*Pau Gasol is starting to find his game again. His stat line of 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists tell part of the story but not all of it. His points came on a mix of inside and outside play that showed off his flexibility. He knocked down two 3 pointers but also had a couple of nice moves from the post. One play that stood out was a power drive from the right wing in which he drove to the middle, showed the defender the ball ala Hakeem to get him in the air, and then spun back to his right to hit a short shot. Pau’s passing was also sublime as he picked out teammates from the high post like a 7 foot point guard, putting passes on the money so that only his teammate could make the catch while still being in a position to score. Several times he hit Dwight with perfectly tossed lob entries that were either converted for easy baskets or earned him trips to the foul line. Defensively, Pau also did some good things in protecting the rim by tallying 3 blocks. His one on one matchup with Lamarcus Aldridge could have gone better (LMA led Portland with 26 points on 12-17 shooting), but his outburst had a lot to do with him hitting open jumpers out of the pick and pop or when the defense sagged due to dribble penetration. Overall, Pau was solid on D and fantastic on offense and if that continues there’s no reason to think this team would be better without him.

———

With the Lakers’ big four setting the tone, the rest of the team simply had to fill in the gaps and play to their own strengths. Darius Morris did a good job with his on ball defense of Damian Lillard, helping to hold the rookie to 11 points on only 4-17 shooting. Morris chased him over screens and then adjusted later by going under the picks when Lillard’s jumper wasn’t falling. He also pressured him all over the floor and did a good job of funneling him towards help. Jodie Meeks hit 3 of his 6 three point attempts and played with his typical hustle on both sides of the ball. And speaking of hustle, Jordan Hill had another good night, scoring 8 points and grabbing 8 rebounds while providing good help defense on the back line.

And with the Lakers’ stars playing well and their role players also carrying their weight, one of the best parts of this game was the fact that they were able to rest their starters down the stretch. Portland saving their starters for their game tomorrow night certainly aided in Kobe, Dwight, and Nash not playing a single 4th quarter minute, but that’s besides the point. The Lakers’ starters need to get rest whenever they can and this game provided an opportunity to do so. The fact that it wasn’t wasted was one of the highlights.

All in all, this was a game the Lakers can build on. Portland isn’t a great team by any means, but you can only play the team in front of you and the Lakers did a good job of getting a much needed win and doing so in convincing fashion. Every night won’t be this easy but the Lakers can use this template of energy, defensive attentiveness, and offensive diversity to win games that will be much tighter against teams that are much better than this Blazer one. Hopefully, this type of effort continues.

Darius Soriano

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50 responses to Lakers/Trailblazers: Early Energy Leads To Easy Win

  1. good to see Lakers take care of a team they were supposed to dominate early. Also good to hear MDA seems to want to make a concerted effort to help develop Morris as well – good for Morris to get reps alongside Kobe/Nash and put that youthful energy to good use on d to save the other guys a little. Plus it doesn’t cost MDA too much for him to give Morris burn early – lot easier than trying to use him late when you don’t know what you’re gonna get on a given night.

  2. Also – first game i think I’ve ever seen where Kobe looks like he’s legitamately enjoying himself for once and taking it all in. Even though they lost last game he’s looked a lot more relaxed since Nash came back and is smiling during games

  3. D. Howard and the starters played with a sense of purpose. For once even the bench mob played well and it was nice to see the starters get a break. Good team win all the way around. However I think that Jamison is serviceable and should be utilized in some form or fashion. Let’s keep it going, go Lakers!

  4. What happened to Jamison?
    It’s a bit sad that he’s not even getting any playing time

  5. @mico – MDA stated a week ago that he feels bad but Jamison and Hill might be odd guys out on occassion for a bit while they get the rotation figured out – nothing they did wrong, just Jamison being a solely offfensive 4 doesn’t fit what they need to right the ship at the moment. Jamison had the option of playing garbage time tonight but didn’t want to and MDA respects him as a vet and professional too much to throw him out there when it doesn’t mean anything – MDA answered as such when asked during post game press this evening. No conflict between coach/player, just tough to find mins for him. Once Howard is closer to being 100% and the rest of the team is more in sync defensively, it will be easier to help and hide Jamison on D etc… But yeah it would be good to see him out there helping out.

  6. Yeah there wasn’t much word from MDA regarding Jameson’s (lack of) playing time, was there? I actually thought he’d be playing more in D’Antoni’s offense. Seems to be taking it pretty well though, not sulking on the bench or anything.

  7. this game we see the Lakers dominate the game form the very start..Hope that the Lakers fans see this kind of game every single night,,the energy, hussle plays are high..good win

  8. Here’s a great youtube channel to see extended Laker recaps:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/HDLakers24/videos

  9. Great recap. Great win. Lakers overwhelmed them to start and never let up. They should try to carry over this performancce next game and try to win wire to wire. Like the point about developing morris. He has a nice skillset and one of the best ever to learn from. Not to mention he already lauded kobe’s work ethic annd implementing that as well.

  10. Antwan is actually upset about not playing – when asked about his now 5 DNPs he said it was like they don’t need my services anymore.

    I feel bad for him because he is obviously still an nba player but yeah besides the 1 monster game he had he didnt really show us anything all year.

    If we truly arent going to use him I would like to see him either traded or waived so that he can still get a chance to play.

  11. Darius: “Dwight Howard brought the type of defensive energy and paint presence on both ends this team sorely needs.”

    Totally disagree with this. I watched a player that had trouble getting off of the ground as JJ Hickson went over his back for rebounds, passed the ball out when getting solo guarded by Jared Jeffries or Myers Leonard, and miss easy chances at the rim. I did not see “the type of defensive energy and paint presence” that would have even moved the needle against a decent team. The only reason the Lakers won easily last night IMO is because POR is terrible and was missing Wes Matthews.

  12. Game: Great game; blatant talent disparity; and no – Portland is not a great team, yet they are tied with us : )
    Dwight: A game ago we were talking about his back and he can’t feel his toes, and then this great game. A miraculous recovery indeed : )
    Jamison: We need offense from the bench. I do not understand exiling this guy. He was never good on D, and we knew that when we signed him.
    Kobe: We do not need Kobe smiling and enjoying himself. We need him annoyed and angry (think 2009) , and I am confident that is what he will be.

  13. I think Jamison was signed because MB was a defensive-minded coach, so the FO wanted a player who could provide scoring help. Then it turned out MB couldn’t coach defense or offense…

    Credit MD for realizing this team needs help on D and playing Morris and Hill over Duhon and Jamison. I agree they need to work Jamison back into the lineup, maybe after they feel Howard’s getting healthy enough to shoulder more of the D.

  14. tviper,

    JJ Hickson has always been a great offensive rebounder. As Darius mentioned in the other thread, Hickson averages 4 OReb a game. In case you’re wondering, that’s very good. Howard played near perfect and for his accomplishments to be negated because of literally two or three plays where he was out hustled for a rebound is a tad bit ridiculous. He only missed one bunny all game, as far as his terrible offense. The one noticeably awful offensive sequence was his take from the top of the key into a crowded key where he picked up an offensive foul. Otherwise, brilliant performance.

  15. Mico,

    Not only Jamison, what about Ebanks, Clark, JDO they are only faces and players on the roster but has no role in d’Antoni’s line up. At. least, Sacre is a lively cheer leader.

  16. Jerke and Scott have it right – IMO – in that the lack of playing time for Jamison is more a factor of MDA needing to find defense on a team that has enough offensive firepower. I agree with tviper that Howard was clearly less than 100% last night, although there were a couple of spectacular plays. When we see something like the block from the 2nd help position we tend to forget the whole body of work. Until Dwight is more consistent on the defensive end I don’t see MDA trusting Jamison enough to work him in.

    We now have 3 PF (Pau, MWP, Hill) and 3 centers (Dwight, Pau, Hill). I think MDA will work with this rotation until he has the remaining rotations set. It seems he is trending toward Nash, Kobe, Morris with Meeks an Duhon as backups. This is a fairly thin backcourt and I suspect he won’t do a lot with the frontcourt unless Mitch gets more guard talent or Steve Blake comes back.

    I personally would like to see Ebanks get a bit more run, to ease the backcourt strain, but he apparently hasn’t shown enough versatility to impress MDA.

  17. Kareem, without going back and looking at the film, I am pretty sure he missed more than one bunny. If you would like to consider that a “brilliant performance” that is fine, I just disagree. I don’t think it was anywhere near brilliant and thought it was more on the order of pedestrian given his expected impact. Just my opinion.

  18. we STILL need a backup PG and SF. I was hoping we get D.West and Raja Bell. Even Delonte could start at the two and go back to being the backup one. Wai don’t we use Clark more at the SF sport?

  19. It appears that Dwight with a couple of days off is very different then on back to back. That can work during playoffs and the next few weeks do to schedule. Without a strong Dwight, Pau, Kobe and Nash’s defense and age clearly shows up.

    Must be someone out there like a West or Martin then can fill the gaps during tough schedule periods. Guys like Jamison, Clark, Ebanks and Duhon may have more value to other teams as they have little here.

  20. @LakerKev – thanks for the link -
    As I´m sure most of you did, I felt it was important to bounce right back after the defeat up in Denver; that said, though we obviously have a ways to go yet before becoming the powerhouse team everyone´s expected to see, a win is a win!
    BTW, that match up on Friday looms ever closer! GO LAKERS!

  21. Yeah, that Howard stinks. He only held Hickson 10 pts. below his average and dominated him so completely that JJ only played about 19 mins., despite not being in foul trouble. Howard forced Portland to play bigger players, who were also ineffective against him.

    Dwight’s not perfect, but he’s pretty good. If you want to talk ineffective, how about Aldridge? Sure 26 points look good, but only 3 boards? Just floating on the perimeter shooting jumpers doesn’t put enough pressure on his opponents, especially with Lillard struggling and Matthews out. Think Philly takes Dwight for Bynum as of today? So do I.

  22. Martin would get virtually no playing time. DWest on the otherhand.

    By the way this is the best article I read all year about Gasol..

    I felt it was very touching.

    http://m.espn.go.com/general/blogs/blogpost?blogname=los-angeleslakers&id=35232&city=losangeles

  23. No one is saying this, but last night there was a very big, big difference in officiating. In Denver 3 of our starters were in foul trouble simply for winking at a Nugget. and on the other Kobe didn’t see the free throw line, Howard felt like Shaq in the old days with slaps scratches and his arms being pulled down with the refs calling it good D. Heck even Meeks was driving, only to end up on his behind, nothing but good D from Denver, right? I’ve always said this about the NBA, teams are only as good/great on D as the refs let them. 09-10 Boston got away everything possible, heck. Garnett 5 moving picks in one set, Garnett yelling pushing refs, picking on Calderon, all good D from Garnett and the Celtics.

  24. I get why people want to see guys play – I thought Jamison was a great pickup for this team but
    @scott is dead on – w the change to MDA scoring isn’t an issue. And the reality is w the 4 allstars, there will always be a certified weapon on the flr at all times so Jamison isn’t as necessary to bolster bench scoring. So yeah, it does come down to Defensive considerations first for MDA – hence why jamison doesn’t play but Morris is geting some starting burn.

    Also, for all the concerns over MDA having a short rotation – he’s running a steady 9 man rotation every night w each guy getting pretty consistent mins to play and he’s getting contributions from everyone. Ebanks will really have to battle hard to find mins there, and clark was a roster throwin on dwight deal – seen him in phoenix he’s on his way out of league when his rookie contract expires. Sacres a towel waver that’s all at this point. Too late in the year to be a developmental season any more – MDA was put in a hole to start with all the injuries and has to get wins now.

  25. Any team that consist of Kobe, Nash, Dwight & Pau, offense should be the least of their problems. Defense, on the other hand, might be the kiss of death. Good to see that we were able to shut down 2 out of their 3 offensive weapons. And for fwiw, if LA (notorious Laker killer) is wet all night between 15-18 ft, I’ll take it; as long as no one else is contributing.

    Dwight, while still lacking the athleticism and explosiveness that allowed him to be a 3 time winner of the DPOY, still managed to control the paint by either blocking or altering everything within his vicinity. Was also good to see him smiling, laughing and celebrating on the bench during the game because, IMO, up to this point in his ‘Test Drive’ of the organization, he hasn’t been enjoying the ride.

  26. Unprecedented:

    For the month of December Kobe at 34 averaged 34-5-5-1.5-0.6.

    Kudos old warrior.

  27. @shaun – just saw the twiiter on hoophype w Jamison saying he’s unhappy and that it seems they don’t need his services. Shame but understandable that he feels like that – its sorta true – but not MDA’s fault. Jan 15th is earliest he could be moved if still unhappy. If it doesn’t work out perhaps he can be flipped to someone in the east that could use him for a playoff run. His contract isn’t big enough to get much back though – unless duhon or blake got packaged with.

  28. Manny….

    Good points about the refs. I have absolutely no respect for most of them, especially the veterans like Bavetta, Joey and Danny Crawford. I know they have a tough job, but the inconsistency from game to game is hard to deal with. I feel that most refs strive to keep the game close into the 4th quarter so that fans don’t leave early. The NBA is about the bottom line, and the refs know it.

  29. Another name for ken? Is this 4, or did I miss a couple?

  30. No just my second since someone was posting with my ko name. Never used any other.

  31. Lil Pau- I have it @ 4 but i could be off. I think the chronology was Ken (before he opted out of the blog…twice as I recall), then something random like “broken river”, then Ko and now Keno.

  32. So what’s you’re guys impression of Dwayne Wade kicking Session in the nuts the other day?

    He recently got a 1 game suspension and now Miami has lost 2 straight.

  33. Formal: karma.

  34. Speaking of Sessions, he would be our team’s ideal backup PG at this point. Next choice s would be Calderon and Ridnour. Deron Williams would do too but you know…

  35. Here’s hoping Kobe averages his age every year from now on. Dwight isn’t the old Dwight, but he has flashes and is a superior center in the league nevertheless. If he comes back fully to form and Nash integrates fully and MWP, Meeks, Hill, Morris, and maybe Blake contribute as they are capable, we could be dangerous. I am calling a 2-7 (Denver 6) match up with the Clips.

  36. Die

    Sorry but you are wrong. No idea what broken arrow is but thanks for your effort. And what is your point other then being wrong?

  37. Under the ideal situation Sessions would have stayed as the back up point guard, the Lakers would have received Anderson instead of Duhon, and Barnes would have stayed and played as Kobe’s back-up in a spread offense with Sessions as the second squad leader. Unfortunately it didn’t work out this way. The Lakers loss is the Clippers gain. They have what the Lakers need, a complete back-up squad that plays independently of the starters. The Lakers must have two starters in at all times. That is not championship basketball.

  38. Busboy4me,

    Didn’t both Miami and Oklahoma essentially have two star(ter)s on the court at all times? Those were #1 and #2 for championship basketball last year. Same with 4 of the last 5 championship teams: Boston, Lakersx2, Miami. Dallas was the only team to run an A and B squad.

    So recent history doesn’t support your pessimism. Now if you think our supporting players aren’t enough to supplement the star power as 1A and 1B, that’s a different story. But I think that the secondary players are in a state of becoming. Many of them are finding a niche for themselves and developing their game in that direction (Hill, Morris, MWP, Gasol to an extent). If this process is successful, then we may just make it to the big dance in June.

  39. I am going to be a Debbie Downer here.

    The Lakers didn’t really look all that different to me in this game than they usually do. Morris played pretty well on D, but a lot of that was also just Lillard missing shots. As someone said upthread, they still need a backup 1 and a backup wing who can actually help the team, although that won’t matter big-picture if this is Howard and Pau’s permanent level of play. But either way, the bench is simply inadequate right now and Blake will only help a little. If MDA does not trust Ebanks and Jamison 10-12 MPG, or one of them 20-22 MPG, then the Lakers need to do something about the personnel. Finally, there were fewer missed roatations, but it was still happening far too often,

    On the upside, I will say that Nash and Kobe make the team worth watching. But Howard looked better mostly because Portland has no interior presence; they are as bad as any team in the NBA in the paint. He simply does not have the mobility or the explosiveness that he did before the injury.

    Also, a Western lottery team got a lot better tonight: Eric Gordon is back in NO, and scored 24 points in 25 minutes. Replacing Austin Rivers, who should have stayed another year at Duke, with Gordon makes NO much better (they won tonight).

  40. Kareem

    Hill is a competent third big. MWP is playing well but has been somewhat inconsistent. Playing Morris early was a total flop against NY. The drop off between Kobe, D12, and Nash is too great for the Lakers to be worthy contenders. They need help. Lowry as a back-up and any big that they can match up with would be nice.

  41. I’m sorry, but I think people are complaining too much. We just got Nash back, and are already seeing better things after his return (offense, energy, team spirit, end of game execution). Gasol’s also playing much better with Nash being back. Morris as a starter hides Nash on defense. Hill’s play reduces Gasol’s and Howard’s minutes. Meeks is a 3pt bonus of the bench and always plays hard, even if his shot is off. We still have 11 games ’till middle of the season, let’s wait and see the progress of this team. I’m excited. I like our chances.

  42. Ken- Thanks for your clarification. Apologies. Apparently I must have treated you and your impersonator(s) as being one and the same. Still and all I appreciate your posts.

  43. Alot of regular posters can’t find anything right about our team. We’re 10 games behind where we want to be and we’re just getting back on our feet. For Nash and Pau, its just the 3rd game together, what’d you expect?

    For someone that’s coming off a serious surgery in the offseason, Howard has played in 30 more games than our supposed baby boy Bynum. Thats 30 games more than the expected reverse. For the most surprising among everything else, only Kobe is himself. Wait, we complain about him shooting too much too. Gahhhhh.

  44. Warren, part of the fun is playing arm chair coach and GM. I am sure the majority of NBA teams would love to have our problems, but we are spoiled.

    You have to admit you are a little worried that DH12 looks rather ordinary after 30 games. I guess we want to see the explosiveness so badly that we tend to forget that back surgery is no joke.

    I wonder if there are any MDs on this forum that can provide some insight into expected recovery time and whether full recovery is even possible.

  45. Dwight is currently averaging- 17.6 11.8 2.5 and his career numbers are 18.4 12.9 2.2

    I’m very much okay with these stats! When you put it in context, that he’s coming off of surgery and still not fully recovered, then I think they look pretty damn good. When you also think about the fact that our PG that we signed to roll with DH12 has only played like 7 games this year….well let’s just say that all the naysayers seem to look a little ridiculous IMO. The guy may never get back to being the *old* Dwight, but we all knew that when they made the trade! I’ll take DH12 at 85% rather than Bynum who can’t even get on the court.

  46. We are spoiled as well we should be. Our team plays for chips!!! We understand that our team is not currently constructed to win a championship. We don’t have the players nor do we have the coach. I had no confidence in Mike Brown and I have none in D’Antoni. We have pieces that the Master could work with. We should have hired Phil before Brooklyn does. If Jimbo (Lil Jimmy) wants Showtime instead of championships let him own the Clippers!!! Bring back Phil, get Lowry, Anderson, and Tyreke and let’s get our championship back!!!

  47. Thanks Die.

    Warren
    As one of the group most disappointed in Dwight please allow me to explain, my concern seeing him everyday:
    1-Leads the league in TO for a center. Not due to injury but bad fundamentals putting ball on the floor.
    2-Leads NBA in offensive fouls on moving screens. One time and you learn but 6 or 7 is not an issue with the back.
    3-One of the league leaders in goal tending. Some were silly obvious like off the glass or clearly on the way down.
    4-Calling out Hill, Kobe and Nash ON the court during a game is an issue.

    Recovery of the back, slow on back to backs and even missing free throws we understand, but very low basketball IQ after 6 years in the league is not. Reading old Orlando blogs now I see these issues and
    calling out his coach and teammates appears to be a repeat. These are my problems with a guy the media wants to call a franchise player!

  48. Tviper and Kareem, if by bunny you mean a layup that looks like a gimme, then for what it’s worth (which isn’t much I’ll confess) Howard missed at least two of those.

    I’m just grateful he didn’t blast someone in the face like he did Fareed (sic) the previous game.

  49. re: all the talk about Howard not being the same player post-surgery, I’m watching a replay of 2009 Lakers-Orlando finals game 2 on Time Warner and Howard doesn’t seem all that different, same awkward post moves and getting stripped/harassed on a regular basis, frequently just participating in offense to kick out to 3-point shooters, perhaps more rebounding but then he had Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu at forward so there wasn’t much competition for rebounds, not too different in shot-blocking