Lakers Win 3rd in a Row, Dispatch the Kings with Relative Ease

Darius Soriano —  November 24, 2013

This win was, for lack of a better term, a professional effort by the Lakers. Based off record, the Lakers came into this game the better team. The Kings may have more young talent on their roster, but the Lakers have more talent that is properly harnessed. Tonight, that difference showed and, though there were some stretches where it looked as if the Kings might overcome, the Lakers were able to hold on and win 100-86. The win is the third straight for the Lakers and brings their record to an even 7-7 through 14 games.

Offensively, there was a lot to like in this game. As it was on Friday, the Lakers played through Pau Gasol for the majority of the minutes he was on the floor and he responded with a 20 point, 10 rebound effort. Pau worked well in the post against Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins while also hitting his jumper at a good enough rate to be a threat regardless of where he caught the ball. Pau wasn’t his normal self as a passer (he only tallied a single assist), but he consistently made the right shot/pass decisions, often kicking the ball out to the same side wing and attempting to re-post to set up his own offense. I’m not quite ready to say that this is the Pau we can look forward to on most nights, but I am ready to say that the respiratory infection that Pau was dealing with earlier in the year probably hampered him more than most were willing to acknowledge. Pau has more stamina and more life in his legs for longer stretches now and that bodes well for him moving forward.

As I mentioned in the preview for this one, having a bench player (or more) step up and have a good night is almost a necessity for the Lakers to win and tonight was no exception. Xavier Henry, quiet in recent games, broke out in a big way by scoring a team high 21 points on only 11 shots. Henry was active in transition and moved well off the ball in the half court, all of which aided him in finding the gaps in the Kings D that allowed him to get makable looks. Henry brought his usual aggression off the bounce and that allowed him to get to the FT line 6 times (making 5), but it also allowed him the space he needed to shoot his jumper.

Like it was against the Warriors, though, this game wasn’t so much won on offense but rather on the defensive side of the ball. The Lakers held the Kings to 41.7% shooting on the night and did a good job on nearly every King not named Greivis Vasquez. Because while the Kings’ starting PG had a good night scoring the ball (20 points on 9-18 shooting), the rest of his teammates had issues getting clean looks for most of the contest, often settling for contested jumpers or shots in the paint that always seemed to have either Pau or Jordan Hill lunging to try and alter the look.

The Lakers didn’t exactly force the Kings into a lot of mistakes, but what they did do was play fundamentally good D on most possessions, rotating well when the ball was swung and contesting shots when the Kings fired away. If there was one area the Lakers could have been better in it was playing the P&R a bit higher so to not allow the ball handler to get back to the middle after coming off the pick (Vasquez did this repeatedly most of the night and it was key to him scoring as well as he did), but for that was the only real issue I saw defensively. On most other actions the Lakers played things well and that led to the Kings taking the types of shots the Lakers could live with them taking.

Overall, I really can’t say enough about the way this team is starting to forge an identity for themselves and play a style that is not only sustainable, but one that can be successful long term. This isn’t to say they can be one of the better teams in the league — they still don’t have enough talent to make that claim — but by playing smart and hard every night, they’re positioning themselves to be in nearly every game with a chance to win. Without Kobe (and, to a lesser extent, without a healthy Nash) that’s really all you can ask for. So the fact that this team is .500 through 14 games with a chance to actually eclipse last season’s record through 15 games with a win on Tuesday is worth praising.

Where this team ends up will still be greatly influenced by Kobe, but where they are now is solely on the players on the court and the coaches pulling the strings. Both have been doing more right than wrong and have been entertaining us along the way. For that, I’m appreciative.

Darius Soriano

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23 responses to Lakers Win 3rd in a Row, Dispatch the Kings with Relative Ease

  1. For my part, I don’t have to play devils advocate and be conservative because I’m not writing the article. But from here in the peanut gallery, this team has the potential to be dangerous this year.

    It all depends on the player that Kobe is when he settles in. The Kobe/Pau combo is what made us a finals contender, and it was us moving away from that combo that took us out of contention. Even stars in their twilight (as Kobe and Pau are) can be dangerous in this league with the right support. If Kobe comes back with the same level of athleticism he had last year, and makes some changes in the aspects of the game he chooses to emphasize then we could see good things from this team.

    That’s because at this point, it’s becoming increasingly untenable to knock the talent that the Lakers are putting on the court. I like your formulation about how the Lakers are “harnessing” their available talent better than the opposition, but we need to recognize that players like Hill, Young, Henry and Farmar are quality athletes in their own right.

    Hill looks legit as a poor mans Dennis Rodman type, and honestly has since he was traded to the Lakers. His lack of utilization has been more an indictment of the coaching staff than it was anything to do with Hill. His game is entirely complementary with this team, and should remain that way when Kobe comes back, because his utilization is essentially zero, in that the team doesn’t need to pound the ball to him for him to get his numbers.

    Everyone loves to knock Swaggy P, but his biggest problem has never been talent. It’s been selfishness on offense and not playing defense. But we need him to be selfish on O, and he and Farmar are sympatico and are showing great chemistry. And he has been putting in an effort on D that I never expected of him. If he keeps up that effort he will be an incredible asset for the Lakers this year.

    Farmar was made for this system and continues to provide a positive increase in speed and controlled chaos on offense that helps guys like Young and Henry. His PER is right at his career average, but he is just coming off an early season slump, and to my eye he looks stronger than what the advanced metrics are giving him (13.4 atm). Regardless, that would make him our strongest backup since he left.

    And though Henry has had some ups and downs this season, his ups have been spectacular, and even during his downs he was still getting to the rim and providing a nice dose of athleticism. There is a fair argument that he has just regressed to his career averages (which are bad), but he is very young and I think he still has tremendous upside for this team.

    Regardless, I still think Gasol is still basically the same guy that dominated the 2012 Olympics, and I think Kobe thinks that too based on his actions at the end of last year where he basically told D12 to eff off and started playing an effective two man game with Pau. If Pau pushes his PER back up over 20 this season (as I expect), that could leave the Lakers with 3 guys potentially over 20 (Kobe, Pau, Hill).

    Young, Farmar and Blake are all players that could end up clustering around 15 this year, and even though Meeks will regress on his shooting, he is obviously working for a new contract and between him and Henry we have the potential for one decent backup 2 guard on any given night, and Henry still might turn out to be something special.

    Even setting aside the potential contributions of Kaman and Johnson (who looks to be a great glue guy, providing excellent athleticism, especially on the defensive side), or the possibility that Nash might recover enough to come back as a shooter off the bench (I don’t think he’ll ever have the speed again to be the primary ball handler or a starter) this looks like one of the best collections of complementary talent the Lakers have had since their first finals team with Pau.

    Sure, Kobe might refuse utterly to play defense, and he might disrupt their growing chemistry on offense. But I personally think he turned into a human traffic cone on defense last year because of the insane effort he needed to put in on offense just to keep the Lakers in games last year. He wasn’t great the year before that either, but that also seemed to be more of an effort issue, and yet again the Lakers had trouble scoring with Bynum under Mike Brown and needed Kobe to focus on that aspect of his game.

    This year, the Lakers have 7 or 8 quality players who are a threat to score the ball, and Kobe has always done what he thinks he needs to do to make the Lakers win games. My view is that this year his defense actually might make the difference between the Lakers being dangerous and the Lakers being just average. I personally wouldn’t be shocked to see Kobe emphasize his defense more this year, and if he does this could be a very dangerous team.

  2. Someone mentioned my name on the other thread ;)

    The Lakers play together and generally has a happy disposition. This happens when guys play well together and are comfortable with each other. While everyone is competing for roster spots, everyone plays off the other for energy. When one man struggles, two more step up.

    At 7-7, I can already call this team “better” than last season’s painful season. Everything looked so forced, everyone needed to be accommodated. This version, its just like a free-flowing ebb. Kobe witnessing his team play “the right way” will garner trust from him. The mamba closer can only do the team positively.

  3. Really solid win, i think the tean is player better each game that passes really surprised with the D. Really happy with the effort. Looks like they might be on to something. Thanks for the analisys Darius.

  4. I, like you, am very pleased with how this Lakers team has performed so far through its first 14 games.

    I like how this team isn’t so much about “defined roles,” as it has been about “just give us what you got tonight.” Its a mish-mash of players that are all capable and hungry to show that they can contribute.

    What this team lacks in a definitive strength, they make up for by not having a definitive weakness. When a player is having an off night offensively or defensively, Dantoni has enough depth that he can substitute without fear of a there being a significant drop off. When the regular season is 82 games, you can win a lot of games by not necessarily being the better team, but rather being the team that played harder.

    I think Kobe will be returning to a team that will allow him to be the dominate scorer on nights he is feeling good physically, and being more of a facilitator on nights when he is not. Kobe doesn’t have to “fit in” to the team, but unlike last season, he will have the option of filling a role on some nights, instead of filling every role on every night.

    The upcoming schedule contains a lot of very winnable games, and I am excited to see if the team can keep moving in the right direction.

    Last thing… How many wins would Jordan Hill have been worth last season? The guy is relentless and puts so much pressure on defenses to box out properly on missed shots. If there was an “energy player of the year” award, Hill would be in first place by a mile so far this season.

  5. I love this team win or lose, they fun to watch

  6. While it’s a fact that the Kings are 1 of the worst teams within the Association, credit still needs to be given to our defense for the containment of ‘Big Cuz’ and I. Thomas. The guards did a good job of crowding Thomas and the Pau/Hill combo bodied up well against Cousins. Also helped that Marcus Thornton, who seems to always have good shooting games against us, has been relegated to the bench by their coaching staff.

    Can’t say enough about how much I’m enjoying the way that the ball is moving and how everyone is involved offensively. On any given night a different player has the potential to lead us in scoring (X-Hen took the honors last night). This leads to better team camaraderie and a higher effort on the defensive end of the floor.

    Two things that I would like to see:
    1. As good as SB has been facilitating the offense since assuming the starting PG role, I still feel that Farmar needs to be given more than 17-18 mins per game backing him up. Especially with the way in which he’s been playing as of late.
    2. With Kaman sidelined due to back issues, besides being our starting PF, D’Antoni is now using Hill as our backup Center. Not good in my opinion. An alignment such as this has the potential to wear a player such as Hill – who’s still getting accustomed to playing starter’s mins and exerts a tremendous amount of energy – down. I wouldn’t mind seeing spot mins for Sacre in this instance.

    This upcoming road trip will be telling, cause while it’s true that the opposition that we’ll be facing are all balling below .500, we haven’t fared too well outside of the confines of Staples. This (playing on the road) is where Kobe is surely missed.

  7. Could it be MDA was a good choice as coach?

  8. Off Topic -

    D. Rose out for the remainder of the season. Damn.
    I can only imagine what’s going through the mind of that man.

  9. ESPN is reporting that Kobe Bryant has signed a 2 year extension.

  10. Kobe just signed a 2 year extension with the lakers – do we know for how much? right now its under wraps but doesnt this need to be made public for salary cap reporting details?

  11. Lakers signed Kobe Bryant without seeing him play for 2 more years.

    How much?

  12. Wow .. And I know that Darius is probably working on a thread right now about the extension, but I gotta admit that I’m surprised it was done so early. Without even seeing at what level he’ll be able to perform at coming back from such a devastating injury. Definitely begs the question: For how much?

  13. The ever-dreaded “sources close to the situation” supposedly claim Kobe’s deal will “still make him the highest-paid player in the league” but I will believe it when I see it.

    Any word Darius?

  14. 2 yrs – 48 mil .. Wow

  15. In all fairness, they have seen him play in practice, so it’s not like they don’t have some touchstone for what they’re getting. However, I am surprised that they gave him 24 million a year. That seems too high, but I must believe that they have some plan going forward.

  16. let’s just put this out there now: 40,000 points, is that even possible? if anybody can, it’s that guy who just signed a two year extension w/los angeles lakers. if there was ever a trait young buss has inherited from his father, it’s loyalty.

    Go Lakers !

  17. this game wasn’t so much won on offense but rather on the defensive side of the ball.
    The Lakers didn’t exactly force the Kings into a lot of mistakes, but what they did do was play fundamentally good D on most possessions,
    ____
    These two points in Darius´ analysis are what stand out the most to me.
    Despite the fact that the Kings are one of the worst teams in the NBA, as Tra has already mentioned, it sure was another fun W, wasn´t it?!!
    Oh, that dish from Blake to Johnson for the dunk was saweeeet!!
    ____
    Tra,
    Agree with you on Farmar, upping his mins. would be good to see.
    Regarding JHill however, I agree up to a point. He´s obviously thriving & must be loving the minutes he´s getting. True, there is that potential danger of his wearing down some if not closely checked by the coaching staff (brings back memories of those 40+ Mamba was putting up, ugh). That said, it´s still early in the season. We´re working hard to hover at a .500 win clip (& hopefully we can improve on that an inch at a time), which means that Hill´s performance is being counted on more and more to help keep us there. After Mamba´s return, & the adjustment to the squad that that will command, I have the feeling that the coaching staff will be able to spread out the minutes a little more evenly among those who can contribute consistently. I mean to say that when it gets deeper into the season, around the AS break?, or maybe even a little before if things are running smoothly?, the coaches should temper minutes played thereby giving the fellas needed rest so as to: a) keep `em healthy & b) have them at a peak energy level if there is a possible playoff run on the horizon –
    Disclaimer: I am NOT saying that it´s even a remote possibility as of yet, please folks, don´t jump to any conclusions! ;)
    Anyhow, JHill is a big cog in the machine right now & apart from the fact that he looks spry & is obviously benefiting from this opportunity, I don´t believe we´ll see a change in his playing time until later on in the season.

  18. If $48 million is true — that is stupid. They gave Kobe too much of their cap space. Kobe is not the key to winning the next championship. The good thing is his contract is only 2 years.

  19. WOW – sources say Kobe will make between 40-50 Million over the final 2 years …… gotta say that is too much for Kobe when Lebron only make 15 million and is much younger and in his prime especially with him coming off of surgery which could relapse just like derrick rose just did.

    It also cuts into our possible cap space next year and I would even say in 2015 as Kobe and Nash will now take up at least 50% of our cap space next year before trying to resign Gasol and all of our other 1 year guys.

    I would say it also make signing Gasol on a bargain much harder because he will likely not be willing to take that large of a paycut when Kobe really didnt considering the point that he is at in his career.

    Looks like this will be our team for the next 2 years and the likely-hood of signing a big free agent is cut way down.

  20. In my humble opinion, The Black Mamba deserves every cent he´s been offered.

  21. Wow that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m willing to bet it’s not because the Lakers know it’ll eat into their cap space, but because Kobe refuses to back down, and it would be PR disaster if the Lakers let Kobe walk because a contract negotiation couldn’t work out.

    $100 that Kobe forced it…

  22. Early on this team was perceived to be a rag-tag unit filled with misfits, reject, busts and slow old-timers. But to the dismay of all the haters this team has talent and is much more entertaining than the product that we put on the floor last year. They may not be as skilled as most teams but they play with heart and hustle plus they play hard every game. The guys play team ball without any attitude problems, which is quite refreshing, not to mention surprising when you consider the short amount of time that they have been together. The team has performed well within the friendly confines of the Staples Center. Now we need to pull off a few wins on the road. Its going to be a long season but I think its going to be an A-OK ride.

  23. So, Kobe is taking over a 6 million dollar pay cut. Or, in other words, Kobe is taking a 20% pay cut. Let’s see if Pau will match or do better. I really am enjoying this team. I just hope we can limit the bad blow-out losses, they hurt. :(