We are two games into the Frank Hamblen era and I have to say I like what I see (and not just because they are 2-0).
The Lakers are pushing the ball up the floor more â€” they averaged 93.9 possessions per game the last two, up from 91.9 prior to that (two possessions may not sound like much, but watch the game and see how much of a difference it makes). In the two games, the Lakers are shooting 51.25 (eFG%), up from 48.7% before. The last two opponents shot 42.5% against the Lakers, down from 47.3% previously. Whatâ€™s more, the Lakers had movement in the offense, passing (28 assists against Portland) and top-to-bottom seemed more balanced and energized.â€™
The problem is that was against two of the NBAâ€™s lesser squads. Tonight comes the real test â€” San Antonio.
San Antonio reminds me a lot of the New England Patriots â€” consistent excellence that keeps winning but bores much of the media. Reporters are drawn to drama â€” Terrell Owens and Freddie Mitchell flood the airwaves because they say and do the outlandish, and that makes a much more exciting story than dull quotes from Tom Brady and another win for New England in a game where their defense dominated.
The Spurs are like the Patriots in that they are dull but efficient â€” they play good defense and do whatever it takes offensively to win (they can beat you inside or outside). Knickerblogger recently did a two–post entry recently posing as Alamoblogger, talking just about the Spurs, and it is worth the read. But here are his two main points: 1) Since 1998 the Spurs have never been lower than third in the league in defensive efficiency (they lead the league this year), and that is why they win; 2) Because they are consistent but not thrilling, Tim Duncan gets overlooked for MVP even though he is the best choice.
Duncan, by the way, has the second-highest PER in the league at 27.44 but the Spurs also have been getting great play out of Manu Ginobili (23.05) and Tony Parker (17.48).
How the energized Laker offense of the past couple games fares against the Spurs defense (allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, compared to the Lakers 103.6) will be a real test. I donâ€™t expect a win â€” although Iâ€™d take one â€”but if the Lakers can hang with the Spurs (and not get blown out, like the previous two meetings this season) Iâ€™ll take it as a sign of progress.
By the way, in case you missed it in the flurry of other activity going on around the Lakers the past couple of days, Devean George is going to be out another week after suffering a minor foot injury during rehab. So, at least for another week, Tony Bobbit gets courtside game seats and maybe some mop-up minutes.