Lakers/Heat: LeBron’d Down the Stretch

Darius Soriano —  January 17, 2013

The Lakers fought the good fight and did plenty of things right against the defending champs, but fell short 99-90. Games like this are especially tough to swallow for a variety of reasons but mostly because the Lakers had a really good shot to win this game and because a win against a top flight team could have really catapulted this team forward. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

For most of this game, both teams traded body blows by attacking the weaknesses of their opponent. The Heat turned up their defensive pressure, forcing countless Laker turnovers, and then turning those miscues into easy baskets. Miami’s first four baskets came on dunks, all of them the result of strong ball pressure and Laker giveaways. All night Miami played tight on ball handlers, forced the Lakers into making forced passes to teammates that were barely open, and then repeated the process until they either stole the ball or forced a tough shot.

Especially vulnerable to the pressure D were the Lakers guards. Steve Nash (4) and Kobe Bryant (6) combined for half of the Lakers 20 turnovers, mostly on the types of plays they need to handle better. As I wrote in the game preview, the Heat blitzed Nash on the P&R, showing immediate and heavy ball pressure whenever he initiated the action. The hedge man was super aggressive stepping out to deter his driving lane and the original defender chased over the pick aggressively to catch up and pester Nash from behind. Too often Nash was caught in no-man’s land, between the point where he could make an easy read to an open teammate or create offense for himself. Meanwhile Kobe simply couldn’t find the right rhythm to his game for too long, often looking to pass when his teammates weren’t ready or trying to force the action into the post when there wasn’t a good passing angle available.

Behind the Heat’s ball pressure there was also great recovery all over the floor. With the Heat trapping and pressing up on strong side passing lanes, you’d figure there would be openings on the backside or in the post but there simply weren’t. At least not for long. The Heat flew around the floor, closing up those angles quickly and shifting their D to deny post entries in the process. All in all, the Heat played to their strengths and took advantage of the Lakers’ lack of footspeed and capable ball handling besides Nash to swallow up the perimeter offense of the Lakers.

The Lakers, however, weren’t going to simply let the Heat dictate the terms of this game all night. When the Lakers found a way to not turn the ball over, they slowed the pace of the game down and attacked the Heat methodically on both ends of the floor. Yes, Miami’s ball pressure on D was fantastic, but the Lakers did find ways to crack the code on multiple possessions, swinging the ball to open shooters or getting the ball into the paint where they could use their size to finish or earn foul shots.

Defensively, when the Lakers were able to slow the game down, they did a good job of contesting shooters and packing the paint the best they could. Miami still found slivers of light to get inside and score at the rim, but that mostly came on P&R’s where the bigs sat below the screen and invited the mid-range shot. The Heat were still able to force the action enough to get inside, however, and produce enough good shots from inside 15 feet to keep their offense relatively effective.

So, throughout the game both teams kept going at each other, the Heat making a run playing to their strengths and then the Lakers hitting some timely shots and getting the ball into the paint to play to theirs. Back and forth they went all the way until the final two and a half minutes of the game where the score was tied at 90.

But, then, right when it seemed the game could go either way, LeBron happened. Of the last 9 points of the game, LeBron scored 5 of them and assisted on the other 4. After setting up Wade and Ray Allen for good (though tough) shots, James hit the dagger jumper that pushed the lead to 6 with only 49 seconds to go. On the other end of the floor he defended Kobe (more on his night in a second) and essentially denied him the ball or contested his shots to the point that he couldn’t make a meaningful play. With LeBron carrying them down the stretch, that was the ball game.

Ultimately, there were some good big picture signs in this game with some concerns sprinkled in. Kobe found his offense in the 4th quarter and was key to the Lakers making their push, but for the rest of the game he couldn’t buy a basket. He looked a bit worn out in this game, chasing Wade off the ball for most of the night, getting crushed on screens in the P&R, and then having to try and create offense on the other end. Tonight simply may end up being a bad game that we forget in a few days, but it’s also something to watch for as Kobe expends a ton of energy on both ends of the floor. On the good side, the team is clearly more engaged on D and is doing a much better job of finding shooters and contesting shots while still protecting the rim. They won’t face a LeBron and Wade every night, and when they don’t some of those explosive drives will be bottled up better.

At this point in the season, I’m not too into moral victories simply because the hole the Lakers are in is quite deep. However, it’s also fair to say that this team is getting closer to being the team many thought they could be earlier this season. Dwight is looking healthier, they’re starting to work out a rotation that makes sense, and they’re getting healthier. Combine all that with improved defensive attentiveness and improving chemistry on offense and this team is getting better. Whether it’s too little too late will only be known with more time. But the foundation is finally starting to take hold and, with that, there’s reason to have some hope.

Darius Soriano

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44 responses to Lakers/Heat: LeBron’d Down the Stretch

  1. Kobe chasing the opposite best backcourt player is a big,big problem,too many wasted energies,never forget the guy is in his 17th NBA campaign,those legs won’t be fresh anymore,he can’t be effective for long minutes on both sides of the court
    we need a Tony Allen type of player really badly,much more than the so called stretch 4 or another offensive threat creating off the dribble

  2. LeBron is just spectacular. The Jordan/LeBron debate with rage on for centuries.

  3. The Lakers are beginning to show some heart, and a semblance of an identity. Plus, they are beginning to be entertaining to watch.

    Championship or even going far in the playoffs feels might unlikely, but what’s the point of crying over spilled milk? This season is about figuring out what they’ve got, and whether any re-factoring can squeeze one more deep run in the Kobe era.

    There, the toughest elements are that: 1) Howard doesn’t feel like a guy who will ever be a dominant leader, yet his ego won’t let him be a #2 either; 2) Nash is skilled and a great leader, but is definitely showing his age. His ability to probe and attack is nominally diminished at a point when the West is loaded with GREAT, quick point guards; and 3) D’Antoni does not feel like a guy that will ever adjust his schemes to his talent or the competition. He is like the fast ball hitter, who really doesn’t care who’s pitching. I’m overstating that a bit, but not by much.

  4. more than his canned free throws,i find reasons to worry for what i saw in Howard’s eyes when he went to the line for those fatal two misses
    the guy was scared,simply scared,nothing but scared,and if this is gonna be our max player for the next 5 years we’re in serious trouble

  5. Mavericks are now a game back from us.

  6. I don’t know about you guys… but I didn’t like it that LeBron went for that dunk in the last few seconds of the game…
    It wasn’t gonna change the outcome of the game…

  7. What the past 10 days have clearly shown us is:

    Clips, OKC, Heat are top-tier champion contenders.

    Lakers are not close. They areva interesting team made up of high-profile, former all-star players who are now over the hill.

    Pau is not a top 15 PF now.
    Nash is not a top 20 PG now.
    Metta is not a top 20 SF now.
    No one on the bench is a top 25 6th or 7th man
    Many of the coaches and FOs are miles ahead of the Lakers who are living in the past.
    The NBA has left the Lakers behind.

    I am 100% sure that this team, this bench, these old players and this
    coach have ZERO chance of winning. No make that like the old movie:

    “Less then zero”. Only bad trades by another foolish GM can save the next two years for us fans. You can’t win forever I guess.

  8. way too early to judge Nash, imho,…people forget this is also a major adjustment for Nash, because he is used having the ball in his hands WAY more, and having an offence that is totally centered around him. In Phoenix, like 75% of the plays stated with a high PNR. Here it seems more like 20%. and often he just walks the ball up and passes it to Kobe or Pau. So this is just a completely different type of game for him…And with all the concern that the bigs are not getting enough looks and touches he will continue to try to post them up a lot more than he is used to. So while he appears less effective, I say it is still much too early to tell.

    As for Dantoni I think that is just not true. This offence runs much differntly than the Suns. Way, way more ISO ball and post ups are being tolerated. I think tonight he would have loved to get the ball inside more, it was just the fact that a) Miami played insane swarming interior defence, like they only reserve for playoff games and games against key opponents. with DH and Pau starting to play with much better energy, I am quite confident more energy will be placed on how to get the ball down low, either with better schemes allowing entry passes from the wings or trough high post passes from Pau/. And the defenc has also started to look much better, with DH starting to look much better and with him really cleaning up the defensive glass. So i quite disagree that he is now unwilling to adjust and recent games prove that to me.

    The question is whether they can surpass the Heat, Clips and OKC as I think time will show they are able to handle the rest. I do think they need a solid back up point guard, who can pass and defend, (how about Eric Bledsoe…dreaming???) or defend from the 2 spot (a Tony Allen type) and possibly another defensively strong, and outside shooting 3 (someone like a Battier or even a Jared Dudley type). A guy who can come off the bench with energy would be really great.

  9. You simply cannot take a game from Miami with 71 FGA.
    Nash overpasses a lot.

  10. Howard is never going to be able to carry the Lakers to the finals. When kobe retires in 2014, Lakers are going to have to get another allstar or superstar to pair up with Dwight otherwise it would be like 2005-2008 all over again.

  11. The usual excuses (Kobe chucking, Pau being soft, the refs) didn’t apply in this game. The Lakers didn’t lose the game, the Heat won it with their D, enough that they only had to rely on 2 players for their offense. They jumped the passing lanes early, pressured Nash constantly (he was dribbling 30 ft from the basket at times and had nowhere to go), blitzed the PnR, and denied post passes to Howard. In short they were everywhere with their crisp rotations, the opposite of what the Lakers have done until recently.

    That Heat D is beautiful and something I wish the Lakers would do. Too bad they can’t lure away Spoels or Thibs as their new coach…

  12. Harvey here is the problem with your post.

    All we heard for a month is “wait to Steve comes back”
    Over and over, interview after interview. Ok Mike so he is back, the guru of your offense and he can’t run it, looks very average and the team is worse than before he came back.

    As to your point of Miami played a certain way. Same team, same players now for 2 plus years playing the same way. It’s called lack of scouting or inability to develop a plan. Didn’t surprise me so why did it surprise MD and the players. I guess Mike’s plan is having none is better then having a bad one.

  13. KOOO,

    They are a much better team with Nash in there, just not yet in the top 3. These last 3 games are, imho, the first time this team is starting to cohere, so I would just as Dantoni has said throw out the rest. While everyone said they need Nash back everyone knew really it would take a month after Nash is back to really judge the team and that month hasn’t even happened yet. From what I see, DH is starting to dominate, defence is much improved, role players are starting to fit in (Clark and Jamison and occaisionally Duhon and Morris) and be somewhat useful (despite the fact that this was considered by many to be one of the worst teams 6-10 in the NBA, and a good argument could still be made that that was true.), and Dantoni is showing a willingness to play to the teams height and allow a lot more ISO ball and post ups. (perhaps the execution of getting the ball inside still needs a bit of tweaking when they face an overwhelming defence like the heat are capable of playing).

    So to me, even with all these injuries and a very poor bench, this team looks like it has the potential to be top 4 now, (though the nuggets and spurs are close). I think that is enough to strive for for the moment. Will they ever have enough to seriously compete with the Clips, Heat or Thunder, who knows… a lot can still happen, (including trades and roster moves) and of course the Lakers can be hit with another round of injuries to thoroughly scuttle the season. But with all the injuries and adjusting to new teammates and coaches, this team is still 12th on Hollinger’s ranking system. and they were behind teams 3 teams in the east (Chicago, Indiana and the Knicks) who simply have much, much easier schedules. And Nash led teams have a tendancy to be late bloomers as the kind of team building sharing of the ball he encourages, tends to sacrifice short term pain for long term gain. So we will see. To me, if this takes one or even two more years to coalesce, I am ok with that. This team was going nowhere before the summer, and while the “laker demise” makes for a nice story line, I don’t think it actually reflects the truth.

  14. Programming note: the KBros have resurfaced at Sheridan Hoops–Chris Sheridan’s site that launched in 2011.

  15. Before the season started, Steve Nash was supposed to be perhaps the biggest difference for this team. While he is much better than Blake or Session’s, he is not the same Steve Nash. I will admit I am a little disapointed we are not getting more production out of him. What we have now is a point guard who may not even be top 10 today in the NBA. Some of this is due to Nash’s age, but a lot of it has to do with the fact he is not entirely comfortable in the offence, like Harvey has said. Howard was supposed to be the other difference, but even he has underperformed. Some of it has to do with his immaturity, but again, a lot has to do with the offense. The Lakers just do not have enough shooters, guys who are a threat from the outside. You saw the way the Heat could just swarm the paint whenever he got the ball. So both these guys have their own issues and the offense makes it more difficult for them, not easier. This is a poor job by the front office, and hiring Mike D did not help. We need to go in the direction of youth, speed, and athleticism, it is the only way this team will become a title contender again. As constructed this team will never win a title, especially when the two big stars you picked up are not playing to their potential.

  16. The ref with dark hair was atrocious.

  17. Another Moral Victory for the Lakers. If we are going to count this Moral Victories we might be leading the NBA standings. Time for the team to get wins that count on the team standings. We are now 2-1 since MDA’s season started. I just cant wait for MDA to say its already the playoffs and finals.

  18. Two small steps forward (Cavs & Bucks win), a big step back (Heat loss). It’s not so much that the Lakers lost to the World Champion Heat, but the growing internal strife between the players with this loss. After the game Kobe tells the press “I need more help on offense, if I’m going to play “D” vs the other teams best guard. D-12 telling reporters “we loss because Wade had a great offensive game. LeBron’s going to get his, can’t allow Wade to do the same.
    http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/8856259/kobe-bryant-los-angeles-lakers-says-needs-help-offense-focuses-defense

    If the Lakers best two players continue on this path of non-constructive public criticism & sniping, the chances of them playing together next season grows smaller. Very tough times for Laker fans.

  19. BigCity,

    You ain’t lyin. I’m riding with Kobe to the end, not with Howard for the future.
    There were blown calls both ways, but this this NBA love for Lebron is making me hate him again. I mean Lebron should just wear all white all the time, from head to toe. This dude never fouls and always gets fouled!
    And I hope last night proved to everyone rooting for Gasol to be the captain of the 2nd unit as a center, that Gasol is done.

  20. @ Manny–Gasol played well in his first stint off the bench in the first half–eight points and was active….second stint, it seemed like they simply failed to include him in the offense. He got a couple of the aforementioned garbage calls against him trying to stop LBJ, but I thought he looked pretty good under the circumstances.

  21. Predictable loss against another elite team, how many of them have we won this year?

    Brooklyn, Denver & the Knicks and I wouldn’t say those teams are elite.

    The elite teams (Clippers, Heat & OKC) match-up extremely well with us, the only advantage we do have is from having D12 and when we can’t even get him the ball because of the smothering defense.. What exactly do we have left?

    Production from our guards minus Nash & Kobe is NON-EXISTENT, even with those two on some days, our turnover ratio is woeful. I don’t know why they even bother running back after a turnover vs the Heat. It’s a predictable dunk 99.9% of the time. We hand out free points every single night, how do you expect to beat elite teams when you do that?

    If any team is going to beat the Heat I would say the Clippers are the most likely to, they are a match-up nightmare for the Heat with the plethora of fantastic guards they have.

  22. Bad news, over the last 10 games, Lakers @ 3-7 have only won more games than one team in the West, last place Phoenix, who went 2-8.More bad news: watch the following “Numbers Never Lie” video: featuring our Lakers chances of just making the post-season.

    http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8851758

  23. MindCrime,

    I’ll give you that. Gasol did alright, I especially loved seeing him throw it down, down low in traffic in the 2nd half. That’s what we all need to see from him, not once in a blue moon, but every single game. Last time he dunked like was in the Xmas game, once in a blue moon.

  24. Here’s the thing…Mike’s system hasn’t worked with any team but Phoenix, and with a pg that was at the apex of his career. At this point I’m sure that D’Antoni recognizes the difference between Nash then and Nash now. Over the all-star break, Mike has to devise a scheme that optimizes the 2013 Nash, the 2013 Howard, the 2013 Kobe, the 2013 Metta, the 2013 Pau, the 2013 Jamison and the 2013 Lakers bench. A coach that’s all about winning does so by any means necessary. A coach with an inexperienced bench in games can use his timeouts for strategy and also for rest breaks for his players. Give a player a minute before the timeout to rest, the timeout and a minute or two after the timeout to get rejuvenated. The coach can also utilize the 2-3 zone on occasions to rest his players and also throw a wrinkle in the opposing team’s offensive rhythm. Just Win!

    Older, young and inexperienced or injured players have a tendency to be inconsistent; they play well 1-6 games. Unfortunately, the Lakers rely heavily upon a combination of all four categories of players. One game we get 14 points from Jamison or 20 from Metta, the next 12 points from Morris/Clark and the next game the Lakers get 16 from Pau or Howard. Then inexplicably they’ll all disappear at the same time and it generally occurs during high profiled games.

    This team’s basketball IQ is supposed to be above average, yet they are only making incremental improvements playing with each other.

    D’Antoni needs to tame Metta and Morris on taking so many shots when Dwight is in the game. Myriad times last night he set the pick high and rolled to the basket wide open, only to have the ball passed around the perimeter. This allowed the defense to readjust and prevent any post pass. The Lakers only player capable of probing a team’s defense without turnovers is non-existent.

    How is Gilbert Arenas playing overseas? Have the Lakers even looked at Delonte West? Another poster said it true, the Lakers need a pg more than they need a stretch four. Even if Steve Blake came back tomorrow the Lakers would be in the same position they are today. With a pg that is incapable of getting in the paint.

    It will take Pau a few games to adjust to the tempo of the game off the bench. The Lakers should continue with Clark starting, he’s learning how to play with the big boys.

    Even if this season is lost (I said IF) the Lakers need to start thinking about how they compose a team in the NBA today and for the future.

  25. Pau was definitely a better fit off the bench. But apparently he still thinks he is one of the best players on the team. It sounds like he’s already saying he won’t be happy coming off the bench. That sounds like to me like a bit of an ultimatum. Maybe he’ll cool off in a few days. Crying like that to the press only reinforces his reputation around the league as a softie. Does he really think he plays with the same drive and intensity with the lakers as he did during the olympics?

  26. If we get to the end of the season and Dwight is playing the way he is now, do you give him a max contract?

    I don’t see a franchise player there. I have no problem with his smiling and friendly off the court demeanor, but Robert Horry, Shaq, and other former players are right about the need for him to wipe the smile off his face come game time and start playing with an edge.

    Nobody smiled more than Magic Johnson, but come “winning time”, nobody was more competitive. Magic’s will to win and his competitiveness drove him to improve his game during the summer, and take over games during the season. I haven’t seen any evidence of this from Dwight. A hyper-talented 28 year old “franchise” center can’t be airballing free throws down the stretch in a tight game against the defending champs, and should not be held in check by a team whose front line is so weak that it is the worst rebounding team in the league.

    Right now, the Lakers have two 7-footers who are either physically or mentally (or, maybe both) very soft and not the least bit deserving of “franchise” status.

  27. I think the Lakers can compete and get better, whether Pau is here or is traded.

    First, I have paid some attention to various teams over the years. With Nash in PHX, early in the season, Nash is more turnover prone as I think he is acclimating the team to how to play as a unit on O. He gets better at anticipating his own players and they get better at seeing what he will make available to him. All that said, the argument will be made that this is January not November or December. While this is true, I think this is a set of special circumstances and the Lakers are only now playing on the same page. While I know it’s a big joke on TNT and all the blogs, but this is the first time we can see the Lakers playing as a unit. Now we are seeing the Lakers as they should be in November and Nash’s game is reflecting that, more so then his being in decline.

    Dwight is getting healthy. The defense will only get better. Again, they are playing more and more as a unit. He will be fine and I have no doubt that the same people who are saying Dwight will never carry the Lakers to the finals were also saying LBJ will never win anything.

    As for Pau, the Lakers need to see what is available. After that, they have to decide if they want an upgraded version of Earl Clark to man the 4 or if they want the best backup big man who can also give them twin tower options. Both have their strengths. I guess it’ll depend on what is available come deadline.

  28. Quite simply bad coaching…double team lebron..let somebody else beat you.

    But nba is turning into the wwe….i never see lebron or durant get double teamed…never

    Thats like playing for weeks without fouling somebody

  29. How many times did two Lakers defenders find themselves on ball and both run away from the man? “Basketball IQ” eh. Was everyone out of fouls during that last trap or was there no way Miami could miss a free throw? Maybe I misread the clock. That ending was massively frustrating. Miami looked effortless it their victory despite the closeness of the score. Fatigued but well-oiled.

  30. Defense/Offense: Many on this board and elsewhere have correctly identified defense, as being a major weakness and one that has cost us dearly so far this season. However, let’s not forget our offensive issues. People are quick to point to our average total ppg as evidence that we are fine on offense. Not true. When you turn the ball over 20 times against a team like Miami – you lose. Saying our offense is good is like saying an NFL QB who throws for 400 yards and throws 5 interceptions, is good.

    MD: Keep in mind that I said nothing during the game last night or after. I read all the posts calling MD out etc.. Clearly, I think I am on record as not being a fan of MD. I do agree with Darius that this is like beating your head up against the wall (I know from experience), however, the wall was built in a very inconvenient location and I think in many cases, people are not beating their heads up against it as much as we are simply bumping our heads into it : )

    Pre-Game: The studio and the announcers were both saying that MWP and KB were having their best seasons in a few years. I agree. I would say that while DH has not been what we wanted, he is better than AB. Certainly even at his current level, Nash is better than our recent PG’s – true? So even if Pau is worse, and our bench is a little worse (I say a little – cause it was never good recently), I still say the sum is less than the parts. rr: I know we could have done better with the middle of the roster, but 11th place is just beyond comprehension.

    Playoffs: We can still do it, but we need W’s in bunches, not progress.

  31. When the Heat turned it up, at the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters, they blew away the Lakers badly. I agree we need an upgrade from Clark. Someone who can shoot the 3, is fast, athletic, and can play solid defense. Clark does all of that, but we need someone who will be more consistent and better. Preferably, someone who can also create their own shot. I know that may be asking a lot, but it is needed and I think we as fans should be demanding that a move is made this year or is at least attempted.

  32. Funky,

    I see your point about Howard, but if he wants to stay here, then I think the Lakers should trigger on the max deal. If he walks, the Lakers will basically be an expansion team without draft picks in June of 2014: they will have a more or less clean cap–just Nash and a couple of small deals. But they will have no talent and no draft picks, and there is no reason to think that LeBron James will come here.

    ___

    As to Nash, as I said two weeks ago, his stats are the same as ever, with two exceptions:

    His AST% is down, likely due to the fact that Kobe gets a lot on his own and the Lakers bench is so bad that they can’t convert cookies. I have seen that happen many times.

    His USG is down–Darius covered this one. I think that Nash is wired to deal with crsis by “getting guys involved” and it is hard for him to shoot more on this roster–he is always thinking about getting Howard and Pau going, etc, as he said in the ESPN interview.

    But, I think people just expected a little too much from him, including me. He is much less of a problem than is the fact that his backups are not NBA players.

    MDA: I think we (and he) need to remember that his best teams in PHX featured Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire in their physical primes. This team has a guy with a bad back and three other guys over 30 as Nash’s main running mates. I thought he would adjust better than he has, and I own that. But I still see the main issue as being how bad the roster is 5-9. If this were 2009 Pau and Kobe and 2010 Howard–no problem. As it is–problem.

    And, yes, it appears that Kobe and Howard don’t like each other, but I tend to think that is more the effect than the cause of the team’s problems. If the Lakers were 26-13, they stil might not like each other, but it wouldn’t be an issue.

  33. I still cant believe we have nash and his coach

    This defies basketball logic…despite what the media says.

    Parker
    Westbrook
    Paul
    Lin
    Curry
    Conley
    Lawson
    Lillard
    Collison

    Just in the west…..and we have the absolute worst individual defender..and a coach who cant help with his scheme.

    I feel like manti teo….the lakers catfished me.

  34. I still say the sum is less than the parts. rr: I know we could have done better with the middle of the roster, but 11th place is just beyond comprehension.

    Like some guys here do with Kobe, you focus too much on your dislike of D’Antoni–you need to think and look big picture.

    The Lakers’ point differential is that of a 22-17 team, not a 17-22 team, so that is part of it. Nash has missed 25 games; Pau has missed about 12, and Howard has missed 3 or 4. Blake has missed the entire season, and the guys behind him are actually worse than he is. Now Hill is out. That is part of it.

    The West is deep and tough. NO is winning more now that Gordon is back; SAC has some talent. Houston and Portland are improved. OKC and SA are still excellent. The Clippers are now an elite team. That is part of it. The Lakers have lost games to all of those teams except NO, and they played them without Gordon.

    Also, I think it is very debatable how much of upgrade this year’s Howard is on last year’s Bynum. Bynum is not well thought of, but he played well and played 60 games last year. Put it this way: I think the difference between 2012 Bynum and 2013 Howard is less than that of 2012 and 2013 Pau. Metta is playing as well as he can, but he is still a below-average 3. Look at the 3s on the other teams in the conference. Kobe has played well on O, but his D was awful until recently.

    Also, you made a big deal out of Jamison–MDA is using him now, but it hasn’t helped that much. Jamison gives as much back on D as he gains on O, as he has his entire career.

    All that said, there are issues with MDA. I don’t like benching Meeks and I the rotations should be more stable. The Lakers need to play slower. MDA needs to keep at least two of the big 4 out there at all times. Like Brown, he seems to lack a constructive bench presence. So, I am not impressed. But I think a wing who can D up and a decent backup 1 would make him seem a lot smarter.

  35. rr,

    On Howard, I’m pretty sure you’re right and the team will offer him a max deal. The reality is that there will probably always be non-franchise guys with max deals (though perhaps fewer under the new CBA). I want to be fair and recognize that Dwight is coming off major surgery and is not at 100%, and that more than anything else likely explains his production this year. However, as Aaron routinely pointed out last year, there isn’t a long list of guys who have returned to “normal” post back surgery in the NBA, so that’s why I posed the question the way I did (if his performance at season end is where it is today).

    If this is the best Dwight can offer, I’m not sure that I would commit a max contract to him. I know he’s still the best center in the game, but the only center-focused champion in the last 15 years is the Shaq-Kobe squad, so I don’t think that’s the critical position on the floor.

    Admittedly, losing Howard would leave the Lakers roster bare, but I would be concerned about building around a guy who can’t get more than 7 shots in 38 minutes against an undersized opponent. Miami is an awesome defensive team, for sure, but they pretty much took Howard out of the game offensively, and that’s disappointing. Now, if we had a PG who could get into the lane and break defenses down, I imagine Howard would be seeing more shots….

    As for Nash, last night seemed embarassing. Miami’s perimeter defenders jumped on Nash 35 feet from the basket and just smothered him to death. It was very reminscent of my own high school basketball career, where I would get annihilated by guys who were bigger, faster, and stronger than me. In one game, as a freshman, I brought the ball up the court against Sean Elliott. He jumped me just past half court, smothered me, ripped the ball away and took it in for a flying dunk. On the next possession, he did it again….

    I have to admit that I didn’t expect Nash to be elite; but neither did I expect to see him get completely taken out of a game and flustered like he seemed to be last night.

  36. Biggest decisions of Jim’s career: Rudy T, Mike Brown and D’Antoni. 3 whiffs.

    Pau couldn’t post up Wade, Bosh or Battier when they tried to go to him. And he’s still talking as if he’s elite. Only thing elite about Pau is his decision making. Also PF constantly get open 3s when him and Dwight are on the floor because Pau’s natural tendencies as a C are to stay in the paint not guard the perimeter. Lakers have to find a trade for him.

    The past 2 years many Lakers losses were just like last night and goes as far back as the first game after the lockout vs Chicago. Team losses composure, fails to get goos shots and ends up losing. No adjustments made late and complete failure. This Lakers team misses Pj badly.

  37. Magic Johnson trashing the Lakers and praising the heat alot on Facebook.

    Anyone else see it?

  38. rr: Like I said – I have been very mild on this issue of late, relative to some others (Kevin – if this was a bar I would be buying you rounds). Further, I have stated that we should not make any move with coaching until after the year (again reasonable – where there are others calling for the head immediately). That said, a desired change in coaching or coaching philosophy (as you have outlined) is something that is possible and I guess is partly due to my optimism (albeit warped optimism), which some would call denial. If I listen too much to you (which I do) – I get depressed – because the message (and yes – perhaps an accurate one) is that we are old, slow, can’t play defense, have one of the worst benches in history, and our entire starting line up is way past its prime (whether due to injury or age). Did I miss anything? : ) I prefer my fantasy world where a couple of fixes and we could be there. Like I said – Denial – and I will stick with it until we are mathematically eliminated or someone beats us 4 times, whichever comes first : )

  39. I prefer my fantasy world where a couple of fixes and we could be there.

    Well, actually, I think that is more what I am saying. Like Darius said yesterday, MDA is going nowhere now–if he does, it will be at the end of the year. But the small changes I am talking about might conceivably happen in the next couple of weeks, and they might help.

  40. Kobe has been the only playmaker for a long time..they thought nash would help…he cant beat his man. Dwight doesnt set good enough picks to free nash or himself.

    If they just sit pau down. we can sneak in the playoffs

  41. Kobe pointing fingers in a game where without Kobe’s offense the team was tied with less then 2 minutes left…His teammates did help on offense…Kobe’s defense and offense did not help…end of story..

    Like I said to you yesterday, basketball is a team game. The Lakers win and lose for a lot of reasons. It’s OK if you don’t like Kobe; that puts you into a group with milliions of others, including some Lakers fans and a few people who post here.

    But don’t make the mistake of trying to pass your emotions about him off as analysis. If you continue to do that, you will just drag the discussion down and make yourself look foolish.

  42. Funky,

    Good post. While there are reasons to get down on the Lakers after last night (Notably that Miami was on a B-2-B and at the end of the road trip and the Lakers still lost), we need to remember that Miami is Miami and James is James. As Dave said in the new post, the title goes through James and South Beach right now. Evebn if the Lakers were the Lakers we had all hoped for, I still don’t think they could beat that team four times.

    As to Howard, your points are fair, but I don’t see better options. Having cap space, as we have seen many times, is not a guarantee of a turnaround. And, I think there is about a 50% chance that he walks anyway.

  43. If Howard does walk, where does he end up? He can’t be traded. So he has to go to a team with cap space. Outside of Dallas who else is out there that he would realistically consider? It doesn’t seem like he has many options.

  44. rr, I am trying to remind myself just how good Miami is. They have not played to their potential this season, but as the TNT guys said last night, when they put their mind to playing D, well, just wow. That we could hang with them as long as we did, even while not playing a good game (did any Laker have a good game?) is a pretty good sign.

    I imagine that there is a hypothetical way to assemble a team in 2014 using the huge cap space created by Howard’s departure that would be better than one including Howard, but that’s not likely to happen. I’m frustrated by him, but I’m trying to check myself. Nobody works harder or is more passionate than Kobe, and I’m quick with the criticism when he goes on a forced shooting spree. Pau is supremely talented but soft. L.O. was filled with potential but totally inconsistent until his 6th man of the year award. Fisher was all guts, but slow as heck.

    Looking back, I know that I view the Showtime Lakers more favorably today than I did at the time they played. Magic was awesome but wasn’t a good shooter for much of his career. Scott was kind of one dimensional. Worthy was fantastic on the break and in the paint, but average at best from outside of 12 feet. Time has a way of smoothing out the rough edges, leaving largely positive memories of “the good old days” but no team or player is perfect. I just wish this current Lakers team was a little closer to that unattainable goal….