Archives For

Gross. Gritty. Grotesque. Gruesome.

For three quarters, the Lakers and Pacers engaged in one of the ugliest games of the season. Both teams were shooting under 40 percent from the field and both teams were shooting lest than 43 percent around the rim. There were loads of bunnies missed right at the bucket way too many long twos were taken and the two teams had combined to shoot six-for-19 on mid-range jump shots. Also through three quarters, both teams were reckless with the ball with each team turning it over 13 times.

For much of the season, these were the kind of games that the Pacers seemed to win and the Lakers seemed to lose. And with two of their best four players in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol sidelined with injuries (Kobe gave his ankle a go in the first quarter, but wasn’t able to return), the writing seemed like it was on the wall — the Lakers would be heading home with another road loss. The Pacers went into the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, a healthier lineup, a better bench unit and more size to collect the rebound from misses that came at an alarming rate up until that point.

Then the fourth quarter happened. Both teams lifted their collective games and some fantastic basketball was played. While the Lakers may have run a variety of sets in the fourth quarter, they largely ran their offense through Dwight, looking to get him the ball in the post on both sides of the lane, giving him room to operate and sliding down to the wing to receive open passes should a post up stall. They ran a series of P&Rs between Nash and Dwight, they ran the Horns sets a few times and even got the ball to Howard through the center-opposite action a few times.

The variety in the Lakers sets down the stretch kept the Indiana defense on their heels, and allowed for the Lakers to shoot some open jumpers — that they were actually able to knock down. They cut down on the number of long twos that they shot in the fourth (only three of their 20 fgas were between 15 feet and the 3-point line, and they made two of those). And it wasn’t only hitting the shots, but the timeliness of the shots that they made were huge.

There were five times in the fourth quarter where the Lakers recaptured the lead after the Pacers either tied the game or took the lead. Steve Blake’s three pointer after sliding down to the left wing during a Dwight post up; Steve Nash’s pull up 17-footer with 7:45 left to play; Earl Clark’s three-pointer to put the Lakers back up three after Paul George knocked down a game tying three of his own; Blake’s 2nd three pointer of the quarter following George Hill’s floater over Dwight that gave Indiana a one-point lead; and then Dwight’s layup that he slammed off the backboard with his right hand after Hill’s mid-range jumper tied the game — all huge plays for the Lakers down the stretch.

And when the Lakers took that final lead off of Howard’s layup with about 1:30 left to play in the game, they held onto the lead and closed out the game. The Pacers shot two-for-six in the final 90 seconds while Jamison hit a huge three to extend the lead to two possessions and Howard was able to get a break away dunk off of a loose ball that essentially put the game on ice.

This wasn’t just a huge win because it was on the road against a good team without two of their best players, it was also a huge win because of the way they won. The Lakers, even when winning, haven’t been able to pull out the ugly victories much this season. They didn’t shoot well to begin the game. Hell, they didn’t shoot well through the first three quarters. But they played hard for those three quarters to keep them within striking distance going into the fourth. They worked hard on the defensive end by contesting shots at the rim (Indiana shot 43 percent on field goals at the rim tonight). They could have done a much better job of running shooters off of the line, but for the most part the defensive energy was good enough to keep the Pacers offensive attack off balance.

D’Antoni got solid contributions from almost everyone who played tonight. Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison were the keys tonight. Blake was five-for-eight from the field with 18 points, but he stuffed the stat sheet adding six rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks while only committing one turnover. Jamison wasn’t as spectacular, but he shot six-for-10 from the field with 17 points and hit a couple of timely threes to help the Lakers cause down the stretch.

Dwight and Ron were both very good tonight for the starting unit. Dwight had 20 points on seven-for-17 shooting, but showed tons of maturity during the fourth quarter allowing the offense to run through him and constantly making the right play. He had a few shots that didn’t fall around the rim, mainly do to a lack of touch, but his kick out to Steve Blake and an absolutely gorgeous pass to a cutting Jamison that was almost Shaq-esque really stood out. Ron, who was a bit reckless in some instances as he sometimes is, played a decent game, and hit a few shots in the third quarter to help keep the game from getting away from them after Indiana got off to a hot start to begin the 2nd half.

All-in-all, I was largely impressed with the grit this team had tonight. Road wins against a tough, physical teams come at a premium — and with a series of very winable games over the next week and a half (v. Sac, @PHX, v. Was, @GS, @MIN). The Lakers are putting themselves in position to not only make the post season, but maybe finish with either the seventh or sixth seeds, pulling them away from a first-round match up against the Spurs or Thunder. While there is still a lot of hoops left to be played, you have to love what they were able to do tonight.

Tonight was an absolutely ugly game from both teams. Los Angeles were coming in after a win in Orlando while the Hawks were coming off of a huge loss from Miami, and the game looked like both teams were on the second half of a back-to-back. The Hawks would ultimately win this game 96-92, but they did everything they could down the stretch to give it away.

The two biggest problems for the Lakers tonight was their poor shot selection and their missed defensive assignments. Kobe came out chucking the ball like he did in the Orlando game, and wasn’t able to hit on anything until late in the second quarter. Kobe took a lot of contested jump shots and went into the half with three points on 1-8 shooting. There were too many possessions where Kobe spent more time dribbling the ball than actively looking to make plays for either himself or his teammates. Instead of playing within the flow of the game, it seemed like he was constantly looking to get himself going after a couple of down games — which ultimately ended up with him having another down game (31 points on 33 shots with five of the Lakers eight turnovers).

The offense never really got into a groove on the night. Kobe set the tone early with long jumpers, and that’s what the rest of the team did the rest of the night. 47 of their 92 shots tonight were from at least 15 feet and out, including 29 three pointers. Of those 47 shots, they only made 11, which is a staggering 23 percent. A lot of these longer shots turned into fast breaks for the Hawks, who scored 11 fast break points and plenty more on secondary breaks. This also led to quite a few kick out three pointers after guards got into the lane after Lakers defenders failed to get back on the defensive end in a timely fashion.

On the other end of the floor, we saw more signs of the Lakers playing on the 2nd of a back-to-back. The rotations were constantly slow, guys were getting beat off the dribble and guys weren’t able to find their man off the ball. There were several times, especially early as the Hawks built their biggest lead of 14 where Kobe got sucked into the lane hoping to help out on either Horford or Johan Petro and ended up getting burnt by a three point shooter or a cutter back door. With Earl Clark going down early with an ankle injury, the Hawks were able to clean up some of the boards and guy like Petro was able to record a double-double.

The second half looked a bit better for the Lakers — especially Kobe — who shot eight-for-16 in the third quarter and recorded 20 points to keep them within striking distance. In the fourth, the Lakers were able to take a four point lead, but weren’t able to hold onto the lead or recapture it down the stretch because they simply couldn’t make shots. The Lakers were 3-11 in the last five minutes of the game, which included two missed bunnies from Kobe and Ron that would have given the Lakers a one-point lead with about a minute left to play. The Hawks’ John Jenkins and Kyle Korver missed free throws down the stretch, but the Lakers weren’t able to take advantage of them.

The loss for the Lakers was huge, but they may have suffered an even bigger loss if they end up losing Kobe for an extended period. He attempted a game tying jumper with about two seconds left to play and landed on Dahntay Jones’ foot, spraining his ankle. Kobe was able to walk off the floor under his own power and his X-rays were negative, but according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski, Kobe will be out indefinitely.

With Kobe, you never know what that means as he’s played through so many injuries, but tonight, it’s not the greatest sign moving forward. The Jazz lost, so they’ll hold onto their 8th spot out West for another day, but the Mavericks are coming on strong (1 game back), so not having Kobe for just one game could be really tough to overcome, especially with the Pacers up next on the schedule.

Records: Lakers 30-30 (9th in the West), Thunder 43-16 (2th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.7 (8th in the NBA), Thunder 112.8 (1st in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.4 (16th in the NBA), Thunder 102.9 (8th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Thunder: Russell Westbroo, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Thunder: None

Thunder Blogs: Make sure you’re keeping up with Daily Thunder for all of your OKC news.

Keys to the Game: Coming into tonight’s match up against the Thunder, it’s hard to expect the Lakers to record only the fifth win for a road team in Oklahoma City this year. The Thunder have been nearly unbeatable at home — and in two of the three games this season — have been much better than the Lakers on the floor. It took a rough shooting night from both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (the combined for 33 percent from the field) and six Lakers to score in double figures to squeak out a win at home. However, should the Lakers win tonight, it would be a humungous boost in their quest for a playoff spot. They’ve been getting some help from the other teams vying for the last two spots out west (thanks, Utah!) and they’ve been helping themselves with their 5-1 record since the All-Star break. A loss to the Thunder tonight wouldn’t be devastating, but they really could use a big win. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that will need to go in the Lakers direction tonight for another win against OKC.

One of the reasons that the Lakers were so successful against the Thunder in their last meeting was because of the less than stellar performance from Russell Westbrook. Russ didn’t just shoot six-for-22 from the field, but he took myriad terrible shots while he tried to find his rhythm that essentially pushed him further away from his groove with each attempt. He took a lot of shots that we aren’t used to seeing Russ take — the two post-up fade aways over Nash that both missed badly immediately come to mind. Westbrook was also taking a lot of mid-to-long range jump shots early on, which helped the Lakers tremendously. Westbrook is one of those guys who, if he finds an early rhythm, he’s damn near impossible to contain. Fortunately, the Lakers were able to minimize their turnovers (only 13) and didn’t take too many long range shots. And when they did (four of the five transition layups Westbrook attempted were a result of a missed three pointer or a turnover), the Lakers were able to get back in transition and contest his shots at the rim. If you take a look at Westbrook’s shot chart, it’s exactly what you want to see. Lots of medium and mid-ranged jump shots and more misses than makes around the rim. A lot of this can be attributed to Westbrook’s poor shot selection, but the Lakers, namely Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, did a great job of protecting the rim as he tried to get buckets in the paint.

Westbrook Shot Chart

The Lakers are also going to need a huge contribution off the bench if they’re going to be successful in Oklahoma City. In each of the last two games against the Thunder, the Lakers bench has outplayed the Thunder bench. On January 11, Kevin Martin scored 15 points, but was neutralized by Antwan Jamison’s 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. In the Lakers win, Pau Gasol and Jamison combined for 28 points on 11-for-16 shooting. According to hoopsstats.com, the efficiency differential in each of those games was a positive one for the Lakers bench (+19 in the loss, +6 in the win). Tonight, the Lakers bench will be without Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill (injured) or Earl Clark (starting), so it’s going to be essential for Jamison to step up and be the lone Lakers big off the bench. It’ll also be essential for Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake to knock down the open shots that they’ll likely receive. Meeks, Jamison and Blake have played relatively well since the All-Star Break, they’ll have to continue trending up if the Lakers are going to pull out a win tonight.

What might be the most important aspect to tonight’s match up will be how the Lakers defend Kevin Durant. In the previous match up, Earl Clark and Ron Artest split time as the primary defender on Durant with shocking results. Clark had a much better night guarding the league’s defending scoring champ, holding him to seven points on 3-for-11 shooting. When Ron got the assignment? Durant did most of his heavy lifting hitting five of 10 shots for 11 points. The staggering difference between the two lies in Ron’s declining foot speed and the added length with Clark as the defender. Clark did a great job of running Durant off of his spots, going over screens and closing out on jump shots (the one three that Durant did make, Clark got sucked in on a Westbrook drive). With Ron guarding Durant, Scott Brooks had Durant play off the ball a lot more and ran him through a series of screen. Down the stretch, Brooks didn’t run Durant much, but put Ron and Earl in off-ball screen situations to create the favorable match up for Durant.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TNT. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

 

With their 116-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers have moved to a 4-1 record since the All-Star break, one game under .500 and two games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. While the Lakers did play well tonight, the implications of the win are much more important than how they actually went about winning the game. With a home loss to a very beatable team in the Timberwolves, it would have put the Lakers back three games behind the Houston Rockets with games against the Hawks, Thunder and Bulls coming up in the next five. And while the other five teams competing for the last 2-3 playoff spots (Utah, Houston, Golden State, and Portland) have all been struggling recently, it’s not in the Lakers best interest to keep pace with their struggles if their ultimate goal is to make the post season. Considering their upcoming schedule — 12 of the last 23 games will come against non-playoff and/or bubble-playoff teams — they have an opportunity to finish the season very strongly, and could very well end up as high as the seventh seed. I’m not necessarily trying to get ahead of Sunday’s game against the Hawks, but merely pointing out the importance of a mundane win over the Timberwolves at this point in the season. Every win matters from here on out, and losses will seemingly matter more.

Before we look ahead to Sunday, let’s take a look at what they did well tonight.

Continue Reading…

As expected, the Lakers didn’t make any moves as the NBA Trade Deadline came and passed. With the Lakers struggling to get back to .500 this year, many wondered if another big move was on the horizon for the Forum Blue and Gold, but there was never anything that made any sense. There were rumblings about both Howard and Pau Gasol being moved (which would have potentially been a bit louder had he not been injured). But in reality, the Lakers don’t have any pieces that other teams want that they want to move. Going into this trade season, it was expected that the team the Lakers had before the All-Star break would be the team that they finished with at the end of the season. The nature of the contracts, the ages of the guys with those contracts, and the fact that this team hasn’t really gotten a chance to really play together as a unit — especially under D’Antoni’s system.

Furthermore, there were no trades that were of the blockbuster caliber. J.J. Redick was the centerpiece in the most high profile trade of the day, and Thomas Robinson was the headliner in the biggest (and only) trade from yesterday. While I won’t provide much analysis here (i.e. none) here’s a look at all of the trades from the last two days.

Orlando-Milwaukee Trade
Orlando gets: Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb, and Tobias Harris
Milwaukee gets: J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith

Houston-Sacramento-Phoenix Trade
Houston gets: Thomas Robinson and a future 2nd Round Pick
Sacramento gets: Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas
Phoenix gets: Marcus Morris

Portland-Oklahoma City Trade
Portland gets: Eric Maynor
Oklahoma City gets: The draft rights to Giorgio Printezis

Oklahoma City-New York Trade
Oklahoma City gets: Ronnie Brewer
New York gets: 2nd Round Pick

Dallas-Atlanta Trade
Dallas gets: Anthony Morrow
Atlanta gets: Dahntay Jones

Atlanta-Philadelphia-Golden State Trade
Atlanta gets: Jeremy Tyler
Philadelphia gets: Charles Jenkins
Golden State Gets: Two 2nd Round Picks, one from each team

Charlotte-Orlando Trade
Charlotte gets: Josh McRoberts
Orlando gets: Hakim Warrick

Boston-Washington Trade
Boston gets: Jordan Crawford
Washington gets: Leandro Barbosa

Phoenix-Toronto Trade
Phoenix gets: Hamed Haddadi and a 2nd Round Pick
Toronto gets: Sebastian Telfair

Memphis-Miami Trade
Memphis gets: Dexter Pittman
Miami gets: Trade Exception