Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Rockets

Darius Soriano —  January 8, 2014

I’ll be completely honest with you. I hate losing. The old cliché about hating losing more than liking winning applies to me. This is why, even though I completely understand the long term benefits of a high draft pick and how high performing players on rookie contracts are one of the most valuable resources under this CBA, I can’t entirely get behind the concept of rooting for losses (and the resulting draft pick that comes with those losses). I’d compare it to going to the dentist regularly. Yes, I understand the benefits of seeing my dentist, just don’t expect me to get excited about the prospect of going to see him and having him scrape my teeth with metal tools.

I say all this because, after last night’s loss, I’ve found myself becoming more numb to the losses. During the second half of the Mavs game, there really wasn’t one moment where I thought the game was winnable or that the Lakers would pull it out. At one point the team was down only four points. At another, they trailed by 6 or 7 points but Dirk had just gone to the bench, setting up one of the best situations the team could find themselves in if hoping to make a come back. Even in those instances, I wasn’t really confident they would win.

After the game, Nick Young said the mood in the locker room was like a funeral. Without being in that room inside the bowels of the Mavs’ arena, I can say I totally understand what Young means. The saying “bringing a knife to a gun fight” applies to the Lakers right now. They are outgunned almost every night from a talent perspective. Increasingly, they need to play closer and closer to their top game to beat below average teams. They get down big in games, make some in-game runs to close the gap, but seem to not be able to get over the hump.

It’s dispiriting. And it’s starting to show in the body language of the players. After his funeral comment, Young said the team needed to get some “swag” back. That will be easier said than done considering the amount of talent wearing suits instead of uniforms when the games start. But Young is right. The team needs something to go their way that they can build on. Here’s hoping it starts tonight.

As for tonight, the Lakers face off against the Rockets and their old friend Dwight Howard. They are a respectable 22-13 on the season, but even being 9 games over .500 is only good for the sixth seed in the West.  The Rockets also enter this game a bit banged up. Omer Asik is out with a hip ailment. Patrick Beverly has a broken hand and will not play. Chandler Parsons is questionable with a knee issue, though I’d imagine he suits up.

Even with these injuries, the Rockets have a strong core of contributors led by Howard and James Harden. Both will be all-stars this year and likely all-NBA performers as well. They’re flanked by Jeremy Lin and Terrence Jones in the starting lineup and when you add Francisco Garcia, Aaron Brooks, and Omri Cassipi to them you have a nice rotation with extreme talent at the top and capable role players throughout the roster.

If the Lakers hope to take down this team, they’ll need to focus their efforts in two distinct areas – pick and roll defense and controlling the backboards. These two things are linked, of course, as Harden and Lin’s work in the P&R triggers the type of defensive rotations that then open up offensive rebounding opportunities and makeable outside jumpers.

The Lakers would be best served playing off both Lin and Harden and turn them into jumpshooters. Both are very capable of hitting shots from the outside (with both being able to turn a game when they get hot), but Harden is only shooting 32% on 6 attempts a game and Lin is at 37%. The latter is a fine number, of course, but Lin shoots over 53% from two point range and Harden is over 52%. Both are also adept at getting to the FT line when attacking off the dribble in the half and open court, so laying off them is the best option.

As for the rebounding, the Lakers must mark Dwight Howard constantly and keep a body on him at all times. Actively boxing out Dwight serves two purposes – 1). It keeps him from getting easy baskets from put-backs and tip ins and 2). Dwight can be foul prone when he’s boxed out as he will use his hands to fight off defenders and try to use his athleticism to go over the top of his man. If the Lakers can get Dwight on the bench with silly fouls, they’ll be in much better position to compete for the full 48 minutes.

Offensively, I sound like a broken record, but the Lakers must continue to move the ball in and out of the paint – either via direct post ups, passes to the dive man in the P&R, or via dribble penetration – and then hit open shooters beyond the arc. Those shooters must then hit their shots at a solid rate. The Lakers have no chance to win if they’re minus-15 or minus-21 from behind the arc; the three point ball is too vital to their offensive production. On this same note, Ryan Kelly needs to be a bit more assertive when he makes a catch behind the three point line. He’s out there to stretch the floor and while I appreciate his willingness to move the ball to the open man or attack closeouts with a hard dribble in an attempt to make a play for himself or a teammate, he needs to let it fly more. With more minutes comes more responsibility to be a factor on offense, especially since his defense and rebounding aren’t the strong suits to his game.

Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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50 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Rockets

  1. hey darius: you’re beginning to sound like us. and by the way, it’s when the dental hygienist inserts that sharp instrument below the surface of the gum line is where I draw the line.

    in an effort to save time, tonite’s game versus the rockets should be a free throw shooting contest between Dwight Howard and anyone not named Jordan Hill of the lakers. Ok, to be fair, include Jordan Farmar, no, make that Jodie Meeks shooting left handed. all ties to be decided by two coaches shooting best of 10 from midcourt.

    now that’s entertainment.

    Go Lakers

  2. this is THE one team i would love the Lakers to beat… short term happiness in a long season. Here’s hoping for a surprise ping pong for the 2014 draft…

  3. As per MIke Trudell,
    Nick Young (sore back) is going to try and play tonight. He doesn’t want to leave his already-shorthanded teammates out there.
    ___
    Solid Swaggy, but man, keep an eye out for that goshdarned injury bug!
    ___
    Many thanks to rr for the reply yesterday, awesome post – & the conversation that followed was brilliant too. (rr, Robert, MannyP & you others, great reading)
    I gotta figure that Kaman will get some burn against dh tonight, is that rational?
    ___
    stucktrader, I´m with you on this one –
    & to echo Darius´ closing statement in the first part of the article:
    hope the `kinfe´we´re bringing to this `gun fight´ is nasty enough to get us through.
    Go Lakers!!!

  4. Just an update from twitter…

    Mike Bresnahan ?@Mike_Bresnahan 1h ago
    Kupchak also said he was “comfortable” with Kobe’s $48.5-million extension. “We expect him to play at a high level for the next two years.”
    Expand Reply Retweet Favorite More

    Mike Bresnahan ?@Mike_Bresnahan 1h
    Kupchak blamed injuries, not D’Antoni, for Laker problems. Said Lakers won’t tank. “It’s the worst thing any team could do for their sport.”
    Expand Reply Retweet Favorite More

    Mike Bresnahan ?@Mike_Bresnahan 1h
    Just got off phone with Mitch Kupchak. A few things coming up, first his summary thought on D’Antoni: “Mike’s doing a great job.”
    Expand

    Would be nice to see the guys grab a very satisfactory win tonight, but as Darius said, this team is just outgunned every night from a talent perspective and nothing can really be done about it. They just gotta gut it out, play hard thru it, and wait for guys to start coming back.

  5. At the outset, I never had this team making the postseason. So I can honestly say that I’m not totally shocked about how this season is transpiring. What I am shocked about are the number of injuries that have taken place. Mind you, for the second year in a row. Which, of course, compounds the losses. With that being the case, as Darius alluded to, and as much as it upsets me to admit this, it’s gotten to the point to where I am acceptable of the losses. I can’t even bring myself to summon up any level of anger. Am I sitting in front of my TV rooting for us to lose? Not at all. But I’m sure as hell not yelling at my TV like that kat in the Beer Commercial while watching us suffer another loss. Or kicking the dog (just joking david h. I don’t even own a dog.) So I’ll be in front of my TV tonight, – and fortunately, I ordered the League Pass this season because otherwise, being a resident of New York City, I wouldn’t even be able to view the game since we were kicked off National TV – hoping, against all odds, for a victory. Knowing, for the most part, that we’re more than likely to get blown out (come to think of it, maybe it’ll turn out to be a good thing that we were booted off of National TV). I just know that, speaking as an individual who has been a fan of the Lakers for 34 years, we’ll rise back to the top of the NBA echelon. And it’ll be sooner rather than later.

  6. Darius,
    You nailed it with this post. Without Kobe, Nash, Blake, and Farmar we just don’t have much of a backcourt to play on the road or play into a tough 3rd qtr. The old Laker nemesis of not boxing out leaves me totally frustrated with our frontcourt. There are no reasonably sized hard-bodies on this club. Jordan Hill might qualify, if he were a couple of inches taller.

  7. Wes needs 35 minutes a game.

  8. nice 1st Q

  9. Boy Meeks passes are a ugly thing. Not even close often.

  10. Good fight tonight.

  11. I know Kupchak has to say they are not and will not tank…but it’s tankapooloza whether on purpose or not right? If you are going to finish out of the playoffs, you might as well be dead last. 1 draft player can completely change a team (Lillard most recently).

  12. Best half in a while.

  13. Dwight really isint that good – as much as we get down on Gasol he is still outplaying dwight tonight just like the 09 finals

    I think #4 should be a mandatory white guy jersey for the lakers – almost thought luke was out there … also kelly is terrible .. walton last year would be better than him, hope he gets waived

  14. I’ll continue championing for Kelly, just like I did for Earl “The Duke” Clark, and Josh “McHops” McRoberts. Are any of them starters? No, however they are good rotation players.

    If you don’t like Kelly a (2nd round pick) then you sure wouldn’t like a player that the Lakers would get with a 2nd round pick for Pau.

    One good offensive game by a Laker “Wes Johnson” and suddenly he’s an NBA player that needs minutes. I’ve been an advocate of Johnson’s since he got signed. He certainly deserved all of the minutes that Williams was getting.

  15. great 1st half, keep it up fellas!

  16. Why does Kamen wear basketball shoes. Should just come in slippers.

  17. Scouts figured out KM. force him right and let him shoot. Not a good shooter.

    Looks like MD half time speech hits them again.

  18. Marshall 2 for 10 with 5 TOs.

  19. The Lakers could off set their 3rd quarter blues by starting Kaman. He’d come in with a fresh perspective offensively and maybe give the Lakers the edge that could aid them in winning games. (Edit: He inserts Kaman by default)

    When did Jodie think he developed a floater? That’s the 2nd or 3rd floater he’s attempted. Work on that during your off season and not during the game, Meeks!

  20. Kamen is playing. Wow…

  21. 8th loss on 9 games. 6th worst record in NBA.

    No trades.

    Mitch said MD is doing a great job.

    Hate to see what a bad job would be like.

  22. Third quarter woes continue for the Lakers but Kaman is finally playing.

  23. Unlike Steve, Kaman has no compromising photos of D’Antoni.

    As mentioned by others, it makes you wonder if the money alone will be enough to recruit talent IF other players come to feel the Laker rotations are influenced by the neighbor’s barking doberman. I don’t know if that’s a wide-spread notion or not.

  24. Interesting point by Stu

    Maybe the other teams are making adjustments at half.

    Yea and MD is not?

  25. Maybe the other teams are making adjustments at half.

    Maybe, but I think tonight was more about the fact that Houston has James Harden, and the Lakers don’t.

  26. They also have a guy named Howard and we do not. Pau and he both had good statistical games tonight. We had both of them on the roster last year. A twin tower formula that worked well in 2009 + 2010.
    By the way – Kensanity, Marshall Law, Marsh Madness is over (2-13 and 6 TO) Only fitting it happened against Jeremy Lin’s club

  27. Marshmallow madness

  28. They also have a guy named Howard and we do not.

    I thought it was better not to mention that. I have made myself, shall we say, pretty clear on Howard.

    Also, the Lakers’ numbers were generally better in that era with Odom on the floor with Pau or Bynum. And Kobe was 31, not 35. And yes…there was a different coach.

  29. Don’t forget we had Fisher too ! : ) Wanted to put a smile on your face

  30. Robert,

    I assume you avoid Abbott–I usually do–but he had a nice little bit on Fisher today that you should read.

  31. The story on Kupchak’s comments backing MDA are basic. I support you 100% until I support you 0%.

    Now, while I actually thought MDA did a decent coaching job this season given the awful hand he was dealt, I think he’s a goner after this season.

    For one, the situation is likely just gonna get uglier and more demoralizing until they get healthier.

    Two, all of the ego/pride crap he pulls with folks like Kaman and Hill that clearly go beyond basketball reasons make him the kind of coach great players just aren’t going to want to play for.

    Three, the lack of defensive identity on this team unfortunately reinforces MDA’s reputation.

    Alas, we need some moral victories in Laker Nation.

  32. Its a long season….

  33. I was all for playing the younger players and giving them time to develop confidence and experience, but I thought we would always have at least one leader on the floor at all times. Pau is a good #2, but he isn’t a leader – at least not now in his career. We are certainly giving players experience, but without leadership on the floor I doubt the confidence level will rise. John Wooden or coach K couldn’t organize this talent on a nightly basis without at least one leader.

    I do think all the failure this year will force the front office to look elsewhere for a coach next year – deserved or not. MDA can’t help but lose a fair amount of the team, unless he gets real support and turns things around when Kobe & Nash return???

    It doesn’t help that he doesn’t seem to manage big men very well – and that’s something the Lakers are known for. I do agree that his system doesn’t acknowledge big players, but he does wonders for the 6’7″ and under crowd.

  34. Well one good thing from the latest loss.

    Watching Dwight brick free throws and hearing that Kamen called him some foul name when he questioned the fouls.

    Small steps to make me smile.

  35. People have advocated the tank job but complain when these things happen. I do not get you man.

    Alot is happening behind the curtains believe me. This year we should sell. This is a year when you CAN sell because the direct effect is clear.

    Watch out for Detroit. I don’t think they’re tanking they’re just glutted and disorganized. 1 deal with LA will correct alot of their errors in the roster and payroll.

  36. Watch out for NY as well. They might be in shambles but them not owning their own pick might motivate them to do something a little outside the box.

    Brooklyn’s play has gotten bettet of late. Toronto is very cold and the Raptors are very hot right now. Mitch mentions “vision” there might be something to see here.

  37. To use the old cliche, it has to get worse before it gets better. But I think we’re fortunate in some small ways:

    1. Injuries have lessened the accusations that we’re tanking. (Even if we’re tanking. It’s why Mitch can say what he did yesterday with a straight face.)

    2. We still have assets to try to flip before the deadline. If we can move some combination of Pau, Kaman, Meeks, Blake, etc. for at least one first rounder and a second or three (to replenish the ones we’ve traded), that still puts us in better shape going forward. If we can score any young talent for the same, that’s a bonus. (Hard to imagine we’ll get a 2014 first-rounder for any of the above, but remember — we’re missing several others over the next few years.)

    3. As has been said many times before, if the bottom’s going to fall out, this is the year to have it fall out. Imagine if we’d traded this year’s first-rounder.

    4. We have a lame-duck coach who is probably not going to be an impediment to attracting free agent talent — because he’ll be gone if he is. (Though it wouldn’t shock me to see them try to squeeze one more year out of MDA and then jettison him before what I’m guessing will be the big free-agent push in the summer of 2015.)

    5. Buss shenanigans notwithstanding, Mitch has earned some confidence. How much power he actually has relative to ownership is something we can speculate upon, but I think it’s substantial. At its worst, I don’t think this is or ever will be a Jimmy Dolan situation. (Or even, for that matter, a Sarver situation.)

    Cold comfort after watching a pair of games like the last couple…but as WWL says above, this is what tanking looks like. It’s ugly but necessary…and it could be worse.

  38. Also, looking at last night’s game, we gave a better effort in several areas than you’d expect. We didn’t get crushed on the boards, for example. (Maybe because Hill and Kaman both got a little burn.)

    The two things that stand out are free-throw differential and turnovers. Discount the first because we played on the road and hacked Dwight, who shot half of Houston’s free throws (and missed most of them). But turnovers remain a killer. If Marshall wants to have any chance to see time or even stay on the roster when Farmar and/or Blake return, he’s got to tighten things up. He doesn’t have to be a great shooter (and last night was particularly bad), but his assist/turnover ratio has to improve, because dishing is his greatest value.

  39. Kendall Marshall is a pretty limited player. He has his strengths that will make you fall in love with him but along them are also obvious weaknesses. What were we expecting? He’s not even in the DLeague and suddenly he gets promoted to NBA starter. It was good while it lasted.

    The Lakers situation is bound to get uglier. With 2 games out of the many we play away from home on this Grammy trip, we seem to be on pace with our supposed new-found plan. Well, it was always a wait and see approach. It was never set in stone. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gotten all these vets onto the team like Kaman and etc.

    The Lakers now seem to be steering one way. Its only a matter of time that it happens but when you get to see how the sausage is made, lets just say you make more sausage in the process.

    Its best that we put our eye toward the future. It was what this season represented mostly. An eye and a leg toward the future, doing what you can at present. However, there’s not much you can do at present.

    I am still against keeping Pau. I believe he’s recovered some of his lost trade value with very good play as of late. Since that New Year’s eve game, Pau has been dominant. 22/12/4 and 3bpg … now that’s an allstar!

    Anyhow, the reason I believe he will be traded is so:
    1. Get value, possibly a middle 1st round pick this year;
    2. Get a future piece, someone preferably on a rookie-scale contract;
    3. Get someone they intend to sign next year;
    4. Get rid of Pau’s contract debacle. Of course he would like to be here we can pay him the most.

  40. On MDA, his job is safe I assure you. He cobbled a .500 win record without Kobe and a bunch of min contract guys. The team is losing only after the back court was decimated by injuries. The front office continues to look at bringing in guys who would fit in MDA’s system. MDA is secure for at least next year if not longer.

    On the trade Pau front, if a good offer comes along such a 1st round pick or someone the Lakers would actually use going forward can be had then so be it. But otherwise standing pat and letting his contract expire, is better then bringing in a bad contract. I rather like Pau. I think he is still a very good player just not worth nearly 20 million anymore.

    I thought the bit from Mitch was interesting on Williams being waived. It was done to essentially free up a spot should yet another injury occur in the back court.

  41. darius: if coach dantoni’s halftime speeches to his players are anything like his post game interviews, it’s no small wonder the players come out lethargic from both mental and physical exhaustion:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T82In5VaeMg&list=UUbNWe0snu7U9H2qioNH2nvg

    and check this guy out because we need more of this:

    http://www.twcsportsnet.com/videos/2013/12/18/backstage-lakers-larry-lewis-helps-players-improve

    Go lakers

  42. Sometimes I think the sound of a word gives it undeserved life. The F-word is not one of those. It has a sound that crosses cultural barriers. On courts in non-English speaking parts of the world, people will shout the F-word in frustration. So, keeping in mind that it is a dirty word for the best of all deeds, the F-word is well used and even misused. Then there are words like “Tank”.

    The T-word is also a dirty word of sorts but describes a far less pleasurable activity. Like the F-word, the T-word is often misused in the context of basketball. One aught to be forgiven for thinking the T-word is an expletive. The thing is, the Lakers are not tanking. The Lakers are a fringe playoff team with a ton of injuries. This makes them a bad team. They are a team of classic role-players who should play no more that 20min a game. The one player who can be considered an all-round player, Pau, needs the ball gotten to him by other players. The players who usually get him the ball, Kobe, Farmar, Blake and Nash, are all out for extended periods. This team is doing what it can to compete and it’s not enough. That is not tanking.

    Anybody complaining about MDA, who can sensibly believe that a team as limited as the Lakers are going to beat fringe playoff teams, let alone beating one of the stronger teams in the West? The Lakers can be competitive for short periods of time that may even, on occasion, last a whole game. But lets not expect anything more than that.

    I think MDA will be around another season after this one. There is no compelling reason to pay him to go away until a competitive team is built. There is not going to be a significant signing in this offseason. The most significant additions will be in the draft and I don’t see a problem with being able to develop young players in MDA’s system.

  43. Had the play espns lottery machine for like 10 mins before hitting #3 and Embid

  44. I think MDA will be around another season after this one. There is no compelling reason to pay him to go away until a competitive team is built.
    __

    Yeah, that’s what I figure. We are not going to compete for a championship next year and MDA is already under contract. Now if him being coach is an impediment to, say, signing Love in 2015, that’s different.

  45. The T-word is also a dirty word of sorts but describes a far less pleasurable activity.

    I think this my favorite line in years of loyal FB&G fandom. It’s like Mark Twain suddenly donned a James Worthy throwback.

  46. Tanking is an idea for frustrated fans looking for something positive about losing. It won’t be a reality until such time as a team is truly eliminated from contention and decides to trade off or shut down their better players. Don’t fool yourself — the Lakers are still competing, and hoping to get players back to get better. They’re just not great to begin with, are significantly injured, and relying heavily on perimeter shooting coupled with bad transition defense and poor rebounding is who they are. If the Laker FO liked D’Antoni enough to hire him, then no reason to believe that’s not the direction in which they intend to keep heading. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him coaching the Lakers for at least the length of his contract.

  47. At this point, I want the team to lose as we can use injuries as a legit excuse and no one will say they are tanking or dont care. The Lakers need a top 5 or even top three pick and if so they will be the biggest turnaround team.

    I love Pau but trade him while his value is highest or get him signed to a reasonable 2 year extension now as Kobe is going to be hear for two more years and I think Pau can help but he has to take a paycut. I think if he knows where he will be, he will be an asset.

    I think DAntoni is gone and there will be a new coach come summer.

  48. would any lakers fan oppose a Tom Thibodeau signing if things turn sour in chicago? Kobe loves the guy and if phil isn’t coming back, this would be the best coach for whatever team we have in the future. The Anti-MDA, all D.

  49. Thibbadeau would be an amazing coach but he would wear our guys out

  50. If Riley can wear out a group of superstars in the 80’s, think what Tom Thibodeau would do to a random collection of talents. Yes, he would win – but for how long? Extremism of any kind wears on players, organizations, and fans. Thibodeau is having his problems with the front office at this time – why would this be any different with the Lakers?

    If the Laker organization replaces MDA, I strongly suspect they are going to be very careful to try to select a coach who wears well with the players and the organization. They don’t have to be friends, but they have to have compatible goals and methods.