Lakers Use New Formula to Blast the Pelicans

Darius Soriano —  November 12, 2013

The Lakers have had more exciting wins in this brief season, but none have been more complete and less reliant on extremes than this one over the Pelicans. By finally combining a strong offensive performance with very good defensive effort and execution, the Lakers made up for their loss against this same team last Friday by dominating them 116-95.

As with every win this season, the Lakers’ bench was a key factor in this one. The Lakers’ reserves scored 56 of the team’s 116, led by efficient efforts from Nick Young and Xavier Henry. Young poured in 17 points on only 11 shots, canning jumpers from all over the floor. Henry, meanwhile, added 15 of his own on only 8 field goal attempts, knocking down all three of his shots from behind the arc while also having the play of night when he hammered home a dunk over his former Jayhawk teammate Jeff Withey.

http://youtu.be/1WnUuCHfow0

This contest, though, was more about what the starters provided. For the first time all season, the first five seemed to finally click, not only finding their rhythm but finding a way to maintain it for most of the night. And key to that was, seemingly, the shift that head coach Mike D’Antoni made with this group by putting a lineup on the floor that featured guys playing more in their traditional roles.Rather than playing a combination of a small back court and a super-sized front court, D’Antoni went with guys at their natural spots and it really seemed to pay off.

Instead of toiling away at shooting guard, Steve Blake stepped in for the injured Steve Nash and played a very smooth and controlled game all night. Blake probed the defense for openings, attacked when he found space, and, when he was able to draw a second (and sometimes a third) defender, made the right read to hit his teammates for open shots. Blake may have only scored 5 points on the evening, but he dished out 10 assists (to only 2 turnovers) and was the epitome of a floor general. Wes Johnson also slid into a more natural position as the starting small forward, rather than playing PF for most of his minutes. His production — 5 points and 5 rebounds — was nothing spectacular, but he played good defense on the wing and was aggressive when cutting to the rim and when attacking the glass.

The key to the starting lineup, however, was Jordan Hill. Moving out of his bench role and into the first group, Hill showed that his production when playing limited minutes wasn’t some fluke. Hill scored a team (and career) high 21 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds. Hill flashed his usual activity level on both ends of the floor and did a great job providing a physical presence in the paint, diving to the front of the rim out of the P&R on offense and challenging every shot he was within a couple of steps of defensively. Further, Hill showed very good chemistry with Pau Gasol, sliding into open spaces to make himself available for passes and ducking along the baseline when the Spaniard isolated in the post to ensure the proper spacing existed to allow for one-on-one work.

Taking a step back, then, it’s safe to say that while the individual performances were very good up and down the lineup, the bigger takeaway from this game was that D’Antoni deployed his players in personnel groupings and lineups that made more sense. Players were put in better positions to succeed by playing their more natural positions and that led to, at least from what we saw in terms of body language and how their games meshed, a greater sense of comfort from everyone. Beyond that, though, the substitution patterns and how bench and starters were mixed also made a lot of sense. The final result was a 10 man rotation in which every player saw good minutes and did so with a greater sense of purpose than at any other point during the year.

This isn’t to say that was the only reason the Lakers won. After dominating the Lakers this past Friday, Anthony Davis suffered through foul trouble for most of this game and was never really able to establish his presence on either end of the floor. With Davis on the bench, the Pelicans’ bigs had trouble matching up with Gasol, Kaman, and Hill on both ends which allowed the Lakers to control the paint and dictate the terms of engagement in the half court. Add to this the fact that the Lakers were playing at home and saw a lot of their jumpers fall and it’s difficult to just say “the rotation was better so the team won”. No, it was much more than that.

However, as noted above, the rotation and personnel groupings were smoother and the results were fantastic. On the evening the Lakers went with two primary lineups and both produced at levels that we’ve not really seen in the same game, for the full game, all year. The starters played 18 minutes together and posted an offensive efficiency of 115.7 and a defensive efficiency of 97.9 in those minutes. Meanwhile, the primary bench group of Farmar, Henry, Young, Williams, and Kaman played a combined 13 minutes together and posted an offensive efficiency of 114.8 and a defensive efficiency of 86.1 in those minutes. These numbers were definitely influenced by how poorly the ‘Cans played on both ends of the floor for long stretches, but you have to credit the Lakers for forcing them into a lot of bad shots, cleaning up their defensive glass, and then moving the ball and making the most of their offensive possessions on the other end.

Whether or not this lasts is something we don’t yet know. But D’Antoni may have finally found some lineups and rotations that work for this team in the long term, so beyond the great win, that is what should be celebrated after this game.

Darius Soriano

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29 responses to Lakers Use New Formula to Blast the Pelicans

  1. Isn’t playing players at their natural positions just….something that makes sense?
    Why does D’Antoni INSIST on playing people out of their positions?

    In my opinion (at this point), the rotations should look like this:

    PG: Blake, Farmar
    SG: Meeks, Young/Henry
    SF: Johnson, Young/Henry
    PF: Hill/Williams
    C: Gasol/Kaman.

    We have enough players for each position to play their “natural” positions, so why not play them naturally?

    Oh right, I forgot, he didn’t like Jordan Hill, so he made Wes Johnson move to the 4, which in turn made every other position small…

  2. Hill’s limitations on offense (not tonight obviously) is what prevents him from being a full-time starter. With improved performances like tonight, and giving health a premium we should stay on course our up-and-down season till one named Kobe comes back.

    The idea of a wacky lineup is to force defenses to adjust against us. A quick blitz to start will establish that. Overall, comfort level is the word of the day. Everyone was happy to work hard.

  3. Denver is next – who’s just as hurt and disorganized as we are, we should take this game as the game where it all begins.

    We need to bring high energy to high altitude and not get massacred by a well-rested but hurt and confused bunch.

  4. Finally!
    Someone knocked common sense into D’Antoni.

    Pau Gasol is a CENTER. Nothing else. He has been trying to play power forward all year. It doesn’t work. His missed shots are from the power forward position, not the back to the basket center position.

    Kaman is a CENTER who can play some power forward since he has a good mid-range jumper. He shouldn’t start since he is too slow in combination with Pau Gasol.

    Jordan Hill deserves to be the starting power forward. He energizes the starting five. He complements Pau extremely well. He and Pau can average at least 20 rebounds a game and 35 points a game.

    Wesley Johnson is not the second coming of Shawn Marion. Wesley is a small forward. He complements Jordan and Pau well by being excellent defensively and having athleticism.

    Jodie Meeks earned his spot as the starting shooting guard. He can hold down the fort until Kobe arrives.

    Steve Blake earned his spot as the starting point guard. Steve Blake can play better defense than Steve Nash and can hit the 3 pointer more often.

    Jordan Farmar is excellent leading the second team at point guard. He has matured enough to accept this.

    Xavier Henry and Nick Young are excellent second team forwards. They are thriving off the bench.

    Shawne Williams hasn’t yet shown he can play. I would consider trying out Elias Harris as the power forward off the bench. Or, once Kobe returns, the Lakers can play small ball with the second team – using Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, Nick Young as the shooting guard, small forward, power forward.

    Steve Nash is too physically injured to play. I don’t see him playing much this year, if ever, if those bone spurs on his spine aren’t removed.

    Kobe can take over for Jodie Meeks when he returns. The starting five will have a good blend of youth, athleticism, and experience.

  5. The lineups of Mike D have been making me scratch my head. With no Kobe and no Dwight he had a chance to try his run-n-gun offense and not get blasted for it. What does he give us though? Steve Blake at shooting guard, and Chris Kaman at the 4 half the time. He would never have done this in Phoenix. If Steve Nash is your point guard you need to give Nash a chance by playing to his strengths. Kaman at the 4 is not a strength for Nash, and neither is having Steve Blake at the 2. Blake is conditioned to hang out in the back court and wait for the ball, not fly up court off a miss. I wanted to at least see one lineup with Nash in there that tried to pick up the pace…maybe a Nash, Meeks, Henry/Young, Johnson/Williams, with Gasol trailing. Easy buckets, a two guard that can actually defend that position, and an athletic four. I really like Johnson at the 4 personally. At least tonight was a sane lineup. Everything in its right place. We are not as bad as I thought we would be and let’s hope the guys hold down the fort until Nash gets back. Get well soon Steve

  6. Patrick Dimalanta November 13, 2013 at 1:36 am

    I hate to say it but I hope Nash is out for an extended period of time. And maybe think about retirement for next season so we can save 9M$

    Nash being out freed up minutes for all the other wing players.

    I’d hope to settle into a minutes rotation that looks like something below prior to Kobe coming back.

    C: Gasol- 30 mins/ Kaman 18 mins
    PF: Hill- 35 minutes/ Johnson 8 mins/ Williams 5 mins/
    SF: Johnson- 20 mins/ Young 28 mins
    SG: Meeks- 23 mins/ Henry 25 mins (coin flip, just go with who is hot)
    PG: Blake 25 mins/Farmar 23 mins

  7. Unfortunately, Steve Nash cannot shoot or defend. As a point guard, he has gotten too slow and is no longer a threat on offense. Unless Steve Nash can show us more, then he is done. We simply cannot win with Steve Nash. His offensive skills simply no longer overcome his defensive liabilities.

    Buy Nash out and call it another Jim Buss huge mistake, like Dwight was. Jim Buss likes throwing away 20 million dollars regularly and raising the ticket prices to pay for it.

    The remaining team is a great blend of young and old, athletic and experience, and versatile with a 10 man rotation to keep everyone fresh.

    Center: Gasol, Kaman, Hill
    Power Forward: Hill, Kaman, Johnson
    Small Forward: Johnson, Henry, Young, Kobe
    Shooting Guard: Kobe, Meeks, Henry, Young
    Point Guard: Blake, Farmar, Kobe

  8. I even think Hill is looking a lot better on offense… it might be a keeper. I have liked him ever since he came into the league.

  9. Solid victory against an up and coming New Orleans team. Personally, it’s nothing to get overly excited about because, if not for the fact that we were coming off of an emotional win the night before in Houston against Dwight, I believe that we would have beaten this ‘Cans team last Friday on their home floor. Remember, that game was closer than the final score indicated. We just so happened to run out of gas.

    As others have mentioned, on this thread and within the Game Preview and Chat Thread, it’s good to see Hill being inserted into the starting lineup. Where I’ve felt he should have been since day one. However, knowing how stubborn D’Antoni is, I guess one could say better late than never. With that being said, now that it looks as if he’ll be a starter for the foreseeable future, due to his all out, high octane style of play, it’s imperative that D’Antoni monitors his minutes and sort of micro manages him. He’s not accustomed to playing starter’s mins and with his, some would say, reckless approach to the game, he’s even more susceptible to injury due to fatigue. If he can remain healthy, which is not a given looking at his past history, I know that we’ll get high energy and effort every game and hopefully a double-double and consistent defense to go along with it.

  10. No one has been harder on Pau this season than me but I have to give the man credit, he played a hell of a game last night. If he played that way every night we will have a chance. Also, please Nash needs to retire. The only way Nash comes back to play is if the Lakers want to tank.

  11. That Xavier Henry Dunk was sweet

  12. jameskatt,
    If you are going to call Howard and Nash huge mistakes on Jim Buss’ part, then you have to have been one of the people who called him on it when the trades were made. People were calling them championship moves – remember. The fact that they didn’t work out doesn’t make him an idiot, unless – of course – you are trying to find any pretext to label him such and don’t really want to consider the truth of the matter.

  13. darius: hopefully we’ve heard the last of tinkering with the starting rotation….at least until the next mini losing streak ensues. my mother, god bless her, use to tinker w/her living room furniture. every time i would visit, i would ask, wasn’t your sofa use to be here? arm chair there ? and ottoman over there? boredom? insecure? just wasn’t the right look i suppose. hopefully, coach d’antoni has found that rotation that suits his liking. after all, that’s part of his job description. can’t be as hard as being one’s mother. ask around.

    the key to the starting rotation and 2nd unit, as you say, is placing players in their natural positions. in the grand scheme, gotta give coach d some props, stubborness notwithstanding and much to laker nation satisfaction, at least for one game, found a place for his sofa, his armchair and ottoman. looked pretty good to me.

    Go lakers

  14. Great game last night! The energy & activity by everyone was good to see – we didn’t really have an extended cold/down period.
    Seeing how we’ve been on a win 1, lose 1 or 2 roll, and considering the kind of players we have (role guys inserted into the starting line-up, players who were high draft picks trying to resurrect their career), taking a longer view point is going to make me less crazy. I’m going for a “every 20 game” perspective and hope that there’s improvement from everyone.

  15. Consensus seems to be gathering Lakers are more effective without Nash. Many Lakers problems resulted from MDA playing Nash who was useless. It isn’t coincidence Minnesota scored 47 first quarter points against Nash / Blake back court. Absent Nash on the floor and starting Hill gives Lakers a better chance to win games.

  16. I agree with the main sentiment of the article that playing players in their more natural positions helped a lot. But when Hill is in the line-up with Gasol, Hill is the Center and Gasol is the PF. It worked well, but it is hard to say that it will continue. After other teams adjust will the match up still work? I’m all for running it if we see similar results but, I’m very skeptical.

  17. “…efficient efforts from Nick Young…”

    I can’t lie. That one line stuck out to me out of everything Darius wrote above. It actually made me chuckle. Great effort from the guys.

  18. Jim’s a gambler like his old man … Jerry Buss made a few moves over the years that didn’t pan out … Malone; The Glove; others in the misty past.

    I thought the DH and Nash moves were inspired. Nash didn’t work but the Lakers did get a one year rental of DH in exhange for a center that din’t play a single game last season – not even one game!

  19. Jim’s Moves: As much as I like to criticize Jim, I would not use the DH acquisition or even the Nash acquisition as examples. DH was obtained primarily for Bynum and so I think we got the better end of that (we could still be paying Bynum !!!). Nash was a bad deal, but only in hindsight, and people like Mitch and our scouts are responsible for determining if a guy has hit the wall physically.
    Now – that fact that we did not hold onto DH, the fact that we do not really have many scouts, and the fact that coaching has not maximized what little talent we have left – those are things you can blame on Jim. So go easy on the Howard/Nash criticism and give Jim a break : )

  20. Im not sold on anything yet, as far as im concerned this is a one game fluke, this team has shown a tendency to play somewhat good ball one night and be completely horrible the next, thats why this team dont even have a 2 win streak, its like they leave any ability to play professionnal basketball at home every other game. Big test at Denver, not that the nNuggets are world beaters but they always play the Lakers good at home. What would we get a team resembling last night or the horrible team that shows up every other game, i dont want to hear any excuses about back 2 back games or Denver is so high ect ect, its time to start executing, and this team have not shown any ability to sustain anything. I hope im very very wrong.

  21. @Robert, all this criticizing the FO is assinine in my opinion, the move to get younger and get some cap relief was made and Stern vetoed bc of a couple of whinning owners, that still make me see red and the funny thing is that those to owners behind the plan to bury the Lakers have not attracted a single big time FA since, so there’s karma in that. If we get Paul, there would be no Nash no MDA ( probably) and Dwight would had been a Laker right now i have no doubt in my mind about that. All the decisions that has been made since that day are the result of the wreckage from that meddling on Lakers business. The good thing is that we are poised to make a big splash next summer and the next, i cant fault Jimbo or Mitch for that. Thats been the plan all along, since Kobe and Pau were given the extensions. I say its going to take 2 or 3 more years to recover from the wreckage of that non-trade.

  22. The good thing is that we are poised to make a big splash next summer and the next,

    Just as an FYI on that: the Knicks are supposedly already planning to make a big play for Kevin Love.

  23. Fern: There is no doubt that all of this dates back to that faithful day 12-08-2011.

  24. By the way – that was an excellent rant Fern. I think you summed up a lot of Laker fan frustration in that one. I think rr is still digesting that one as I know some of that hit a number of sweet-spots.

    ” 2 or 3 more years to recover from the wreckage of that non-trade.” Wow – you are on a roll.

  25. . I think rr is still digesting that one as I know some of that hit a number of sweet-spots.

    The Veto changed the direction of the franchise and the entire landscape of the league. And yes, I think Howard would be here if Paul were here. Anthony Davis, who may be the next great two-way big, would be elsewhere absent the veto as well. It may be remembered, as I said then, as the day that the Lakers stopped being the Lakers. It may also someday be remembered as the defining moment for Jim Buss, even though it was not his fault. Time as always will tell.

    And, of course, what has happened with Nash and Howard will only increase the anger that many Lakers fans feel about it. Paul’s being on the Clippers keeps it fresh as well.

  26. Robert – you are spot on.

    regarding The Veto – well, it’s done and the Lakers as well as their loyal fans must move on.

    Just as we’ve moved on from PJ and the Triangle (I hope & trust).

  27. You know? I dont hink we should pursue those FAs next summer, Lebron? No way in hell same as Wade and the raptor, not that i want them here anyways, Melo? That would be stupid, why give a max to a 30 year old especially all the issues with age with the Lakers to be right back to square 1? No thank you. I would try to get one or 2 middle level talent that dont command a max contract keep whoever works from this season, as of right now Hill,Meeks,Farmar, Xavier and Wesley even Blake, hopefully Kobe take a 10-12 mill contract, jettison Gasol, and fill the roster cheaply and then go for keeps for the 2015 FA class. We cant blow our load next summer. Even if the Knicks go for Love i think we have a better shot. @ Robert sadly by the time the team return to contending status Kobe will probably be retired, that veto killed Kobe’s 6th ring, that ship sailed.

  28. R,
    Now you are hitting some ‘hot spots’.

  29. Don’t know what they’d offer, but Lakers would be foolish to not get in the Shumpert sweepstakes.