We can only hope that game two is as entertaining as game one. Notice I didn’t say as close, I said entertaining.
I’ve said before one of the things that excites me most about this series is the chess match between two all-time great coaches. Except that we may not get a lot of adjustments tonight, at least from the Spurs. I quote commenter SpurredOn, who has joined us this series:
From a Spurs perspective, I follow my team closely and Pop isn’t likely to make any for game two. He’ll tell his squad to do the same as game one, just execute better on offense. The shots were there so take them. Holding LA to 89 points at Staples is excellent, and even if LA shoots a bit better and gets up to the mid 90s, that’s a Spurs type road game. He likely wants TD to be more aggressive with his open shots and Parker to handle the ball more vs. Fisher. If he has any tricks up his sleeve, it’s likely he won’t show it until the series returns to SA, regardless of whether the Spurs win game two or not.
As for the Lakers, I didn’t love the Kobe/Gasol pick and roll, the Spurs defended that well. Darius wants the Lakers to stick with a key play that did work from the second half, but with a twist.
One of the plays we used to come back in the second half was the elbow pick play where Kobe comes off a Gasol screen, curls to the lane to receive the pass, and after the catch probes the defense either looking for his own shot or dumping it off to Gasol. This play worked over and over as Kobe was able to attack a helping Duncan off the screen and leave a trailing Bowen to either try and recover to Kobe or falling back and trying to body Gasol on his roll to the bucket. Running this screen action was a good adjustment by the staff because when we ran the high P&R the Spurs stifled us. So, I expect the Spurs to find ways to answer this elbow screen action by sagging in a defender from the wing to show Kobe another defender before Duncan or by using the opposing big to collapse on Gasol to have Duncan and Bowen sandwich Kobe; basically having 3 defenders playing our two offensive guys (Kobe and Gasol). If the Spurs do this, I expect Phil to have Odom and a shooter on the open side of the triangle (the side Kobe is curling to). Then I expect Phil to have Odom cut/flash off the sagging defender and the wing shooter to slide up the sideline in order to create a passing angle for an open 3. Basically this will have Kobe with the options of shooting, lobbing to Gasol, passing to a cutting Odom, or hitting the sideline man for an open 3. I just drew this up on a sheet of paper and it looks solid. This is a play, that even though we used it in game 1, we should make the Spurs stop it and if they can, then make subtle adjustments off of it and keep making the Spurs work in this set.
Personally, what I want to see from Gasol is more intensity from the opening tip — more Deer Hunter Face. As for Kobe, I’m comfortable that he knows what he’s doing, even if Tex Winter hasn’t completely figured him out.
The pace of the last game was good, 91 possessions, which is a little faster than the Spurs like (it actually splits the difference between the Lakers and Spurs season averages). While the Lakers didn’t get many classic fast-break points, they did get some plays where pushing the ball forced the Spurs to just pick up the guy near them and mismatches were created. The Lakers second unit in particular had success with this and I hope we can see more of it.
One of the reasons that group had success was the pairing Farmar and Sasha at the guards with Kobe at the three caused the Spurs problems. Those three together were +9 in the third quarter. I hope we see more of that combo.
The Laker defense, which was pretty lax in the first half, tightened up those last 18 minutes of the game. The Lakers’ rotations got faster and they started beating the Spurs to where they wanted to be. LA needs to start doing that earlier. It also helped that the Spurs shooters just went cold, it would be nice if they would do that again.
For an opposing viewpoint, check out Pounding the Rock and Spurs Dynasty. Of course you should read David Thorpe at ESPN.com. If you haven’t read Henry at True Hoop’s post about the troops in Iraq playing hoops, you must. And as other stuff comes up throughout the day I’ll probably add links in bullet points below
Enjoy this game, it should be entertaining.
• This comic at BDL made me laugh.