I saw the Lakers play defense. I saw a version of the triangle offense. I saw a relatively easy Laker win. What year is this again?
First, I have to get this off my chest â€” I donâ€™t know what possessed me but I watched the ESPN feed of the game last night. I guess I hadnâ€™t seen enough Tilt promos (including the one painted on the Figueroa Hotel, which they showed to us). Play-byplay guy Jim Durham appears to have done no homework â€” he was shocked and amazed that Brian Cook could take and make three point shots. Has Cook done anything else this year? Heâ€™s on a quest to become the next Robert Horry (by the way Cook, Horry played good defense). Color guy Tim Legler made efforts to patronize fans of both teams during the game, with my favorite being, â€œI think both these teams will make the playoffs.â€ There are some holes that could be poked in that, and Legler provided no good reasons why he was right. This kind of crap went on all night.
Thanks. Now I feel better. Letâ€™s talk about the game.
The first half was certainly the best half of basketball they Lakers have played lately, maybe all season. That started on the defensive end, where the Lakers stepped up their intensity, particularly on the perimeter. They went after steals (they didnâ€™t get any â€” the Lakers had zero steals for the game â€” but they tried, and thatâ€™s a start). They pressured guards out beyond the three-point line. They rotated. It was fun to watch. (Granted, Houston doesnâ€™t really have good guards for breaking teams down, but letâ€™s not look a gift horse in the mouth.)
The other big change was part of the triangle offense returning â€” get the ball to a big man (or sometimes Kobe) in the high post and send cutters. It worked, motion returned to the Laker offense and players got open looks (and Kobe got one-on-one coverage at times). The threes they took were open shots created out of the offense. It was so refreshing to see something other than isolation plays every trip down, the offense had a nice mix of plays. Plus, they did the little things â€” in the second half Atkins was about to take a three with a defender running at him, instead he gave him the ball fake, watched the defender race by, dribbled a few feet in and hit an uncontested 17 footer. All this led to good shooting, for the game the Lakersâ€™ eFG% was 60.1%.
Mihm had another good game, in the first half he was aggressive defensively on Yao and that caused him problems (Yao didnâ€™t really become aggressive until the much-shorter Grant was on him). Mihm also ran the floor well and had the second best dunk of the game, off the lob from Atkins (the best was when Kobe blew right past McGrady for the reverse jam). Mihm did get in foul trouble, but again part of that was him sliding over to pick up guards who had beaten their man and penetrated (for example, his first foul was on a Wesley drive).
Caron Butler and Lamar Odom also had good games and deserve props. Butler is a bit of a streaky shooter for my taste, but when heâ€™s hot we need to get him the ball. Odom looked comfortable again, and when he does heâ€™s a real threat.
In the second half a lot of the old habits started to return at both ends of the floor and the Lakers struggled some, but when the lead fell to 6 they didnâ€™t fold, hit some key shots and got their double-digit lead back.
Houston is not a very good team â€” their guard play is poor (Wesley is a better player than that, he looks lost) and the more I watch him the more I think Yao is soft. In the second half, Yao started to take the ball to the basket, but that was because Grant was on him. When faced with real defense he resorts to the fall-away. And we want to sign him in 2007?
It was an important win, especially if we carry these lessons over to the road trip next week.