Just a collection of thoughts typed while watching the game, and a few afterward thanks to stats sent by Rob L.
â€¢ All credit to Kwame, who held phenom Dwight Howard to 40% shooting (eFG%), 17% off his season average, just 8 rebounds and an offensive rating of 91.04.
â€¢ Smush just seems to play better when pushed. He had maybe his best quarter of the season in the third quarter last night, right after Sasha had a good first half. Before, we have seen something similar when Farmar has had a good half or game. Smush seems to need to be pushed,
â€¢ The Laker offense centered around Kobe, he used 30% of the Laker possessions last night and still had a solid offensive rating of 105.28 (in large part because he got to the line). But the big key was seeing great shooting from Smush (75% [eFG%]), Cook (87.5%) and Walton (65.4%).
â€¢ Against the high pick-and-roll where an opposing center sets the pick, the Laker bigs still tend to sag off. Against Miami that allowed Wade to turn the corner without a problem and get into the lane. Against Orlando, who ran that a lot more from the elbow extended, Kobe got picked off Hill (and Smush of Nelson) a number of times and Kwame and Bynum were back, allowing penetration into the lane. Iâ€™m not really in love with this strategy,
â€¢ Rob made this point to me in his email â€” you donâ€™t think much about Bynum on one level but he is almost always efficient. That bodes well for the future.
Now, with a nod to the master of this (Kevin at Clipperblog), here is a breakdown of what I think was the key stretch, the last couple minutes of the third quarter,
â€¢ Score is 70-70, 2:21 left in third, the Magic have the ball: The Lakers double Howard on the box with Kobe and Kwame while the ball in on the wing, preventing a pass inside. The Magic keep working ball around outside looking for way to get the ball to Howard, but the result is Dooling is forced to take three as clock runs out, a shot he airballs.
â€¢ Kobe grabs Dooling’s miss and pushes the other way but Magic are back and triple team him in transition, Kobe hesitates then tries to go left on Ariza, who tracks him to the free throw line and knocks it free. In the scramble for the loose ball, Ariza kicks it the length of the court (somehow not called), and he and Nelson race after it, Ariza makes a nice play to dive and keep it in play at the other free-throw line, but Cook picks up the loose ball, whips it past half court to Smush in what now is a 4-on-3 drill, he drives the lane, Milicic is slow to leave Kwame giving Smush the easy two.
â€¢ 72-70 Lakers: Next Magic trip down Nelson throws a sharp bounce pass from the top of the key to Ariza, who is flashing though the lane coming off a Howard pick. Walton sees the play develop but goes for the steal and gets burned, leaving Ariza free to attack the rim. Cook has a quick defensive rotation off Milicic and gives Ariza a hard foul. Ariza hits on of two from the stripe.
â€¢ 72-71: Lakers play a two man game, Kobe sets a high pick for Smush and gives him the ball on a handoff, Nelson quickly slides under and forces Smush toward the right corner, so Kobe and Smush run the same thing coming out of the corner. Again Nelson goes under but this time Smush pulls up for the long two and drains it. 74-71. That forces Orlando to call a time out.
â€¢ Out of the TO Lakers come out in a rare zone, but Dooling is able to penetrate left baseline, makes a nice interior pass to Milicic just a couple feet from the front of the rim, but Walton blocks his shot from behind.
â€¢ The loose ball is volleyed by Kwame to Kobe who pushes it but pulls up with nothing there. Kobe keeps his dribble and ends up with Nelson on him 18 feet out along the right side, backs him down a little, goes for the fade away and gets fouled, then hits two freebies.
â€¢ 76-71: Nelson comes off a very high Howard pick and gets into the lane, but the Lakers are still in a zone so Kwame is waiting, forcing a kick-out pass to Darko just off the elbow, who seems surprised and hesitates on the pass. Smush drops on to Darko, who quickly hooks him and drives past him to the right and makes a nice running jumper/finger role in the lane.
76-73: Just about 11 seconds left on the clock, Kobe dribbles out high with Dooling on him, as he starts his drive to the right with 6 seconds Nelson is quick to double, Kobe recognizes and makes a quick kick to Smush, who just as quickly rotates the ball to Cook in the left corner for the open three as time expires. Suddenly the Lakers lead 79-73 and never look back.