Archives For

(Oof, of course the duty of recapping this game would fall to me)

Box Score: Lakers 96, Pacers 98.

The Good
I really wish I could skip this section, but if I had to choose bright spots from this gloomy game, I would have to choose:

Pau Gasol’s passing
Pau made some truly beautiful passes in this game, including an over the head pass that Bynum really should have converted into a dunk, but instead got 2 free throws after a foul. At times too unselfish, Pau deferred to his teammates throughout the game, setting up Barnes for a highlight dunk, and even setting up a lob to Andrew. Throughout the game, the offense ran much more smoothly (note: this is a relative term) when Pau was at the high post, directing traffic, and hitting cutters with pin-point passes. This led to a season-high 10 assists for Pau, and he probably should have had more had his teammates converted some of the bunnies they missed.

Metta World Peace’s Return from the Dead
While MWP was effectively corpse-like against Miami and Orlando, he had a strong game, tallying up 11 points on 5-9 shooting (and even a made three!). While he still made a ton of questionable decisions (those off-balance fade aways are not pretty, nor effective), it was good to see him contribute at least something to the game.

First Quarter Energy
The Lakers did come out firing in the first quarter, taking a 13 point lead, 27-14 going into the 2nd period. Matt Barnes led the way with 6 quick points, leaking out on multiple occasions for some easy points. Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts also played with great energy, each getting a couple blocks, further fueling the Lakers excellent defensive play (in the 1st quarter).

The Bad
After that first quarter, everything went downhill. While holding the Pacers to 28% shooting in the 1st, the Lakers gave up 65% shooting in the second, with the Pacers shooting lights out from three. This included a David West buzzer-beater, cutting the lead to 3 going in to the half. The Pacers finished 10-18 from three, while the Lakers were an anemic 2-9 from three, which has become a regular thing for this Laker team. Even though the Lakers had a huge free throw advantage (22-33 to 16-19, with four Pacer free throws at the end of the game), they weren’t able to overcome the extra 24 points that the Pacers got from beyond the arc.

Roy Hibbert also had a monstrous game, going 9-13 for 18 points, finishing +18 in 27 minutes. He repeatedly pushed his defender (Bynum, Gasol, Murphy, McRoberts, it didn’t matter) deep into the lane, then finishing solidly with what appears to be his favorite move, a left handed hook shot. Indiana’s trio of young guards, Darren Collison, Paul George, and George Hill, all played solidly, shooting 13-22 combined, and 6-10 from three. The Lakers repeatedly clamped down on penetration on defense, giving up open three after open three, and the Pacers made them pay.

The Ugly
I wish I could put more under this section, but Andrew Bynum deserves special mention. While he didn’t play all that poorly (6-12 shooting for 16 points, 8 boards), he struggled mightily against the double team, making several bad passes and committing turnovers. He also did not contain Hibbert in the slightest, with the Pacers going to Hibbert twice in the last three minutes, each time with Hibbert either getting a shot for himself or a shot for a teammate. For someone vying to be one of the best centers in the league, Andrew needs to be able to contain Hibbert one-on-one, and he just wasn’t able to do that tonight.

Also deserving special mention is how horrible the Lakers last two offensive possessions went. First was a horrible play leading to a terrible Fish shot/pass to Gasol that went out of bounds, then the last was a horrible Kobe three that was contested 30 feet from the basket. Needless to say, the Lakers being down three with only one shot attempt left is a recipe for disaster, because unless Fish is open, Kobe is taking that shot, and he just doesn’t get the separation on the perimeter that he needs to get off a clean shot. A lot of blame should go to Mike Brown for designing an offense with a ton of off-ball movement but very little actual ball movement, but it’s clear that the Lakers have no go-to play down the stretch, not like they used to with the Kobe-Gasol pick and roll.

The Play of the Game
If I had to pick a play, it would have to be Gasol’s high post pass to a cutting Matt Barnes, who dove straight down the lane for a crushing dunk. Sadly, the Lakers went away from Gasol after this play. It is a wonder to watch him pass on the perimeter, and he made a lot of good decisions this game. Hopefully the Lakers will continue this trend, and continue to play their offense through Gasol.

Hard Cap: Who Really Gets Hurt?

Zephid —  August 3, 2011

On a day when the NBA has fired the first volley of legal action against the Players Union, there’s a lot of talk about who is to blame and who is holding up negotiations. One of the biggest issues at hand is the Hard Cap.

Many of us are probably fairly knowledgeable of what a hard cap entails, but a little refresher seems in order. In the previous CBA (the one that just expired), the NBA had a “soft cap,” where teams could sign whoever they wanted up to a certain limit (a little over $58M last season). However, once teams reached that limit, they could only sign players in excess of the limit using various exceptions, including the Mid-Level Exception (once a year, each team can sign a player at the average salary of the league), the Bi-Annual Exception (once every two years, each team can sign a player to a nominal amount of money (around $1-2M per year, for max 2 years), Traded Player Exceptions (when they make a trade in which they take on additional salary), and various “Larry Bird” Exceptions (whereby teams are allowed to re-sign their own players to larger contracts that put them over the cap). To prevent teams in bigger markets from continually accruing salary and simply outspending other teams, the CBA included the luxury tax, which forced teams to pay an extra dollar for every dollar they were over the luxury tax limit (somewhere around $70M last season). This served to limit a number of teams from overspending, the San Antonio Spurs being a prime example of a team that was very leery of exceeding the luxury tax limit for many seasons.

However, if teams could pay the extra money, they could just keep spending and spending away. Teams like our Lakers and Dallas paid out over $90M each this past season, 3 times more than the Kings and Nuggets have on their current payrolls for this season. Thus, a lot of small market teams (and fans of those teams), have started to call for a hard cap. A hard cap would make the salary cap limit absolute: there would be no exceeding the salary cap, regardless of the circumstances. The NFL currently has a hard cap system, and many attribute the parity of that league to the hard cap.

Tim Donahue of Eight Points, Nine Seconds, a Pacers blog, recently wrote an article claiming small markets need a hard cap. Donahue makes the case that a hard cap rewards disciplined spending and good management, something that many small markets have (such as Portland and Oklahoma City). Since large market teams can’t simply outspend the small market teams, the performance of the team would depend entirely on whether the team’s management could put together a cost-effective group of players that fit as a team.

That sort of argument seems to be the norm. Royce Young, however, a blogger for the Daily Thunder as well as CBSSports, makes a strong case that a hard cap could make keeping stars in small markets very difficult. One of the most useful parts of the past CBA were the various forms of Larry Bird Exceptions, allowing teams to keep their own players, even if doing so meant they would skyrocket past the cap. While this didn’t prevent Lebron James from bolting Cleveland, it did help Dallas keep Dirk Nowitski (and then win a championship at our expense… #anti-coping). However, if a hard cap is instated, a team like the Thunder may have a lot of trouble holding onto their good young players, like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka. If all of those players want extensions, the Thunder will be extremely strapped for cash under a hard cap, considering Westbrook will almost certainly be a max level salary player and Ibaka will also command a high salary as a quality big man. Thus, even if teams draft smartly and make good decisions, it may become impossible for teams to hold on to their star players.

So does a hard cap hurt small market teams or large market teams? It certainly hurts dumb teams more than it does smart teams; any team willing to give Rashard Lewis $120M or similarly for Gilbert Arenas will get severely punished by their own cap inflexibility. Most would say it prevents large market teams from outspending small market teams, and for the most part, I agree. The Lakers would certainly have to give up one of Bynum, Gasol, or Odom to be under the salary cap, and it would have to be for almost nothing in return. A hard cap would definitely level the playing field in terms of spending power not dictating team strength.

However, a hard cap would produce a new imbalance in the NBA landscape, being that some teams are in states with low or no state income tax. California, for instance, had a state income tax of 11% for people making over $1M. Compare that to Florida and Texas, which have no state income tax, and it becomes clear that tax policies have a strong effect on where NBA players want to sign. A player could sign in Orlando for $9M and make the same amount as if he signed in LA for $10M.

As for whether a hard cap hurts the players or the owners, it definitely saves the owner’s from feeling forced to overspend on players. But as Henry Abbott points out in this very insightful post on TrueHoop (rare, I know), the NBA already has a de facto hard cap in the form of BRI sharing. In the previous CBA, the players received 57% of BRI, and that’s it. If 57% wasn’t enough to cover all player salaries, the players would simply receive less money (taken out ahead of time in the form of escrow). So while a hard cap may limit the value of some contracts, the CBA still dictates how much of BRI the players will receive, and in turn how much they are paid.

But you know who the real loser is in all of this hard cap business?: The NBA Trade Machine aficionados. A hard cap would make trade conditions extremely stringent, salaries having to match almost dollar for dollar, given that teams won’t be able to exceed the cap. And I don’t buy any of this “flex cap” crap the owners are pushing, because once you reach the flex cap limit, it becomes hard cap, plain and simple. Gone will be my days of somehow finagling Andre Iguodala onto the Lakers roster (and with it, my hopes and dreams!). In this respect, I think a hard cap hurts the NBA, because trade scenarios and MLE signings are some of our favorite topics of discussion (no matter how speculative they become). Yet the hard cap will almost certainly level the playing field for small market teams. Thunder fans just shouldn’t come complaining when they have to give up Serge Ibaka for nothing.

I am way too tired/lazy to write a cohesive essay recapping the game, so you all get a recap in list form!

-The Hawks started off frostbite-cold (and pretty much finished frostbite-cold). They shot a combined 1-15 from three, 30-83 overall, and 19/28 from the free throw line! That’s 7%, 37%, and 68%. Part of that was the absolutely suffocating Laker defense, but a lot of it was the Hawks simply missing a ton of shots. The only reason their shooting line wasn’t any worse was a 6-9 night from Al Horford, whose face said (to me) “Please let me be traded.”

-The Lakers absolutely crushed the Hawks in the 1st quarter, leading 28-15 after 12 minutes. Derek Fisher hit his first 3 shots (a clear foreshadowing of what was to come) and the Lakers never looked back. They missed 4 shots the entire quarter, and the lead would’ve been even larger had they not turned the ball over 4 times.

-The bench for the Lakers came out in the second quarter and played terribly for the first 6 minutes. And by terribly, I mean as bad as the Hawks were playing, so the lead only dwindled from 13 to 9. Keep in mind, the Lakers won the game by 24 points, and Luke Walton was -5. Please come back soon, Matt Barnes.

-Can someone please tell me when Steve Blake plans on joining the Lakers? Seems absurd to me that they’re paying him $4 million this year and he has yet to show up…

-To be totally honest, I only half-watched the game after halftime. I was much too busy constructing witty (to me, at least) one-liners on Twitter, listening to my Spanish commentators exclaim “Joshay Smee!!!!” and seeing Josh Smith jacking up a three.

-The 2nd half of this game was really a formality. The Hawks had given up by then and Joe Johnson’s face told me “Man, at least I’m making $1293487 billion dollars a year.”

-Bynum was a complete beast on defense. He finished with 3 blocks and 15 boards, while having at least 5 altered shots which led to horrible misses by the Hawks. Sure he had only 5 points, but he played his role and brought the intensity on defense which was the real cause of the Laker lead.

-One thing about Ebanks and Caracter: say what you want about them being rookies and inexperienced; those guys go hard. Even though it was junk time in a massive blowout, they fought for rebounds and went hard to the basket. Good signs for future Laker depth.

-The Lakers had very balanced offense. The threesome of Kobe, Pau, and Shannon Brown led the way (that one’s for you, Steve W), with 20, 14, and 15 points, respectively. Artest had 11 points on 4-7 shooting, while Fisher chipped in with 10 points. Every Laker scored, even Joe Smith on a fancy, Kobe-esque turnaround. And when Joe Smith scores, you know it’s been a good game for the Lakers.

Overall, it was nice for a change to have a team play absolutely terribly against us. The Lakers, fresh from the All-Star Break, seemed to be expecting the other team’s best, like they had received in the previous few games. But the Hawks showed up and played terribly, while the Lakers showed the defensive intensity and the offensive flow of a championship team. Combine those two and you get a 24 point blowout. Let’s hope this is a good start to the rest of the regular season.

Lakers/Knicks: WHOMP

Zephid —  February 11, 2011

I thought “WHOMP” was the best way I could describe this game in one-word. (For those not in the know, Whomps are the big stone blocky thingies from the Mario series that slam down and crush Mario into a pancake if he sits under them for too long.) With a final score of 113-96, the Lakers won convincingly in MSG, pounding the Knicks in the paint and playing solid defense while Kobe Bryant put on a show.

Both teams played fairly sloppily in the 1st quarter, the Lakers having 4 early turnovers to the Knicks 3. Raymond Felton got off to a hot start, going 4-4 for 11 points in the 1st quarter with 3 assists and 2 steals. While this was great for my fantasy team, it didn’t allow the Knicks to get any separation from the Lakers, because Kobe Bryant was on-fire, NBA Jam style. Kobe scored 19 1st quarter points, while going 3-3 on threes, some of them from way beyond the arc. The hot starts from Felton and Kobe seemed to offset one another, and the game was close going into the 2nd quarter, 30-28 Lakers.

The 2nd quarter was where the Lakers really began asserting their dominance over the Knicks. They began pounding the ball inside to Pau Gasol, who shot 9-16 on the night for 20 points to go with 6 boards. When Kobe returned with 5:48 left in the quarter, the Lakers had opened up a 10 point lead, mostly thanks to Pau’s dominance and the shooting of Shannon Brown. Meanwhile, the Knicks really struggled to score, netting only 20 points for the quarter, going into halftime down 48-62. It would have been even worse if Landry Fields hadn’t tipped in a missed free throw by Amar’e Stoudemire with 0.8 seconds left in the half, which led Kobe to unleash an F-bomb which was seen (not heard) on the national TV broadcast.

To be honest, I started watching StarCraft II livestreams after the first half, because it really felt like the game was over. The Knicks weren’t playing well, and they really didn’t look like they had a lot of fight in them. As I peaked at my stream In the 2nd half, I saw the Knicks make small runs, cutting the Laker lead to 11 or 9, only to have the Lakers come back, score a couple times and get a couple stops, pushing the lead back up to 15 or 16. The threesome of Kobe, Pau, and Bynum were pretty unstoppable against the undersized and undermanned Knick defense, Kobe going 12-17 for 33 points and 10 boards, while Bynum finished 5-8 shooting for 12 points and 9 boards.

I think the real difference between this game being a 17 point win versus a 7-8 point win was the play of the bench. It’s been a while since the Laker bench put together a fairly complete game, but this one was pretty close. Lamar, the “Mr. Consistency” of this season, shot 5-10 for 14 points with 3 boards and 3 assists, while Steve Blake had 8 points and 7 assists, and Shannon Brown had 6-10 for 12 points (to go along with two monstrous dunks, one in transition, another on a horrendous lob from Blake that Shannon somehow managed to convert). Even Luke Walton shot 4-6 for 8 points with 4 assists and 3 boards, which will probably be his best game of the season. And as a sign of how one-sided the game was in the end, Joe Smith played 3 minutes. Seriously, the correlation between Joe Smith playing and the Lakers blowing an opponent out is like 90%, with the other 10% being the Lakers getting blown out themselves.

Overall, the Lakers played pretty well, and the Knicks played pretty badly. Combine those two, and you get a 17 point Whomping. The Lakers now move to 4-0 on this current Grammy’s road trip, with a showdown in Orlando coming on Sunday.

Wow, that game was uuuuuuugly. There were fouls, turnovers, sloppy play, and a boatload of missed free throws, with the Lakers coming out with a solid 93-84 win. Considering the last time these two teams played, the Lakers got blown out 104-85 at home, I feel comfortable calling this win “solid.” There were a lot of things that went right, and a lot of things that went wrong…

Things that went right

1) Three Point Shooting
I was tremendously glad to see some solid three point shooting out of the Lakers after what seemed like an eternity of jacking up bricks. Ron Artest (surprisingly) led the way going 3-6 from downtown, and would’ve had a much better percentage had he not thrown up some highly ill-advised off-balance, off-the-dribble, sideways three pointers. Fisher also had a strong shooting night, going 2-3 from three and 4-7 overall. With Shannon, Lamar, and Blake chipping in one three apiece, the Lakers managed to finish 8-16 from beyond the arc.

Team Defense
Despite some fairly lackluster play to start the 1st quarter, the Lakers managed to really key in defensively and push the Grizzlies into bad spots. Gasol, Odom, and Bynum managed to contain Zach Randolph, one of the more efficient scorers in the league, and hold him to 8 points on 2-14 shooting. They also contained Marc Gasol to 5-14 shooting, another one of the league’s most efficient scorers. And while Mike Conley had an excellent start to the game, going 3/3 for 7 points, the bigs, along with Blake and Fisher, managed to hold him to only 2-9 shooting the rest of the game.

Forcing Turnovers
The Lakers got their hands in passing lanes, causing 15 turnovers, with each Grizzly starter giving up at least two. Against a very good offensive rebounding team like the Grizzlies, forcing turnovers let the Lakers take possessions away from the Grizzlies without having to battle for rebounds. Even though the Lakers didn’t get many fast break points off turnovers, not giving the Grizzlies the opportunity to get offensive rebounds was probably an even bigger plus.

Things that went wrong
Horrendous Free Throw Shooting
You’d think that Kobe going 7-7 from the line would mean our free throw percentage would be at least 75-80%. But nope, the other Lakers had different plans for us this night, going a collective 14-28 from the line, giving the Lakers an overall line of 21-35, or 60%. Artest and Gasol led the way with 4 bricks apiece from the line, but Odom and Bynum were right behind them with 3 bricks each. Seriously guys, just make your f’ing free throws. If you had, this game would’ve been over by the start of the 4th.

Giving up Easy Points
As I mentioned before, the Lakers were lucky they forced a bunch of turnovers, because the Grizzlies were rushing the offensive boards. While they had only 14 offensive boards, it was those boards in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters that really kept the Grizzlies in the game. And as usual, teams that can run on the Lakers tend to get lots of fast break points. When Memphis pushed the ball, they were able to spread the floor and get into the paint before the Laker bigs could get set on defense, to the tune of 15 fast break points to the Lakers three. And this differential probably would’ve been larger had the Lakers not given up a lot of fouls to prevent easy scores.

Still, this game was a solid win, on the road, against a very good home team (the Grizzlies are 16-8 at home). While the real test may be coming up next against Boston, these past few games seem to have the Lakers pointed in the right direction.