Records: Lakers 4-0 Rockets 4-2
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.7 Rockets 105.2
Defensive ratings: Lakers 88 Rockets 98.6
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Rockets Rafer Alston, Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest, Luis Scola, Yao Ming
The LA Times Misses the Point: We rarely get into what the beat writers say about the team here, mostly because they have a hard job and the guys following the Lakers do it really well. But today, the meme seems to be “the Lakers aren’t shooting well.”
This is where using traditional NBA stats is lacking. First and foremost, what really matters most is not points per game — that’s a stat where the pace a team plays at impacts that number dramatically. The Lakers play at one of the fastest paces in the league (third right now) so PPG is high for the Lakers. In any game, the two teams playing each other are going to have the same number of possessions — what matters is who uses those possessions most efficiently. Right now, the Lakers are sixth in the league at 109.7 points per 100 possessions. Maybe not what we expected, or where it will be at the end of the season, but not bad.
As for shooting, using straight FG% does not take into account the bonus the Lakers are getting from shooting threes. Part of what Fisher and Radmanovic bring to the table is that they spread the floor for Pau, Bynum and the slashing Kobe. Fisher and Radmanovic are both shooting 50% from three. If you use eFG% (created by Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, by the way) you get Fisher at a decent, but a bit low, 46%, while Radmanovic is at 64%. Overall, using eFG%, the Lakers are at 15th in the NBA in eFG%, a little low.
The other thing that makes up for that is how often the Lakers are getting to the free throw line, something else that traditional stats don’t capture well. The Lakers are fifth in the league in getting to the line, and as a team that shoots free throws well that gets them a lot of extra points.
The one stat that combines threes and free throws is True Shooting Percentage, which is really a points per shot attempt stat. Use that and the Lakers are at a solid 53.9%, which is 11th in the league. That’s a far cry from 21st.
Lakers notes: Let’s talk a little more about the Lakers defensive start to the season. Kevin Pelton over at Basketball Prospectus has an amazing discussion and breakdown of what the Lakers are doing:
The explanation of what the Lakers have done differently has focused on their borrowing concepts from the Boston Celtics. However, in closely scrutinizing the NBA.com League Pass replay of their game against the Nuggets, I didn’t see much similarity to what the Celtics do, which is relatively simple fundamentally. No, the Lakers are throwing out the most extreme defense we’ve seen in the league in some time. To find an analogy, I have to go back to the Seattle SuperSonics of the 1990s under George Karl, who utilized a version of the SOS Pressure Defense created by long-time assistant Bob Kloppenburg.
One thing not getting talked about is that the Lakers aren’t fouling much — their free throws to field goal ratio against is the lowest in the league. They weren’t bad last year (ninth in the league) but four games in they are on a pace for a number that would have been the lowest ratio since 2004. Put it this way, teams are averaging 20 free throws a game against the Lakers, when the league median is 26.8. (This will be put to the test tonight against a Rockets team that is very good at getting to the line.)
The other thing is rebounding — the Lakers have been the best defensive rebounding team in the NBA this year (just 19.8% of opponents misses lead to a second chance, the league median is 26.8%). Offensive rebounds often lead to easy put backs, and easy points. Also, rebounds help fuel the Lakers transition game.
Ever wonder if I sound like a Muppet? Rebounding is one of many topics that the brothers Kamentsky and I discussed when I was on their ESPN 710 radio podcast this week. (Others include cats in hats.) Give it a listen.
Just say no to McDyess. As tends to happen with any free agent, there are some Lakers fans who think picking him up is a good idea.
McDyess is a good player, no doubt. But I’m from the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” school. Right now the Lakers are so deep that guys getting the MLE are barely getting any playing time, and we already have a rotation right now along the front line (Gasol, Bynum and Odom) that works very well. Whose minutes are you going to cut back? Would he be better insurance than Powell? Sure, but McDyess wants to play, and if he comes here his minutes would be limited (plus he doesn’t know the system, which is why Phil is not traditionally a fan of mid-season additions.
Plus, this would not be cheap — the Lakers are in the luxury tax already (to the tune of $11 million). Whatever you pay McDyess would be doubled, because you’d have to pay the tax as well. Is McDyess a decent one-year rental for $5million is a very different question when you are talking $10 million. I just don’t think you run this big a risk at this price.
The Rockets Coming In: I have now watched about two-and-a-half Rockets games, and I’m still not sure what to make of this team. There are moments they have looked like a potential contender, and moments where they have looked pedestrian, a little lost and disinterested.
They are certainly a good team, and as you would expect that starts on the defensive end. Yao alters a lot of shots in the paint (being 7’6” will do that) and they have good perimeter defenders, particularly Artest when he is interested. However, they have not looked dominant on that end yet, with teams exploiting McGrady at times. Remember that they are without the very good defender Battier right now, when he gets back all that may change.
On offense, the box scores may say that McGrady, Yao and Artest are all scoring about the same per game, but the offense runs through McGrady. He gets the ball on the wing and that sets up just about everything they do. He is playing some very efficient ball (a team high PER of 23, he is assisting on 31% of his possessions used and getting to the line a lot. Regular commenter here Steven is a Rockets fan and was good enough to send in some very detailed thoughts, including reminding us that McGrady is still injured right now.
So why’s he playing? Because w/out his playmaking the Rockets are incredibly bad on offense. He is the only Rocket who can get Yao the ball when Yao gets into his sweet spot. He remains the only Rocket who can consistently get the ball to the Rocket mini-PFs when they’re open. What has been amazing is how easily McGrady has been getting past his defender and into the lane considering he’s playing on half a leg.
Steven is not as big a fan of Artest as some:
Very good 3pt shooter when his feet are set, overpowers other players when he drives towards basket and makes most of the FTs those barely controlled crashes earn. But, IMHO, his disadvantages far outweigh what he brings. He is a very good man-to-man defender who uses his long arms to knock away the ball, but is horrible on help defense.(Not all Ron, but w/Battier the Rockets were a top defensive unit, while w/Ron playing in Battier’s spot they are a sieve.) When he dribbles to set up a shot he usually misses-badly. When he drives he is just throwing up garbage and is relying on bail-out fouls.
All that said, this is a pretty stagnant Rockets offense, there is not a lot of off the ball movement. The spacing is pretty good (most of the time) but this is not going to be confused with Rick Adelman’s Sacramento teams in any way.
The other Rocket I’ve liked is Aaron Brooks, the backup PG that we West Coasters will remember from his days at Oregon. He brings a real burst of speed to an otherwise fairly deliberate team, and he is pesky on defense. Like Farmar off the Lakers bench, he gives the Rockets a real boost when he enters the game.
Here are the two things I don’t get.
1) They don’t play Luis Scola in the fourth quarter, and they limit his minutes. He has the second best PER on the team, has a very good true shooting percentage of 60.6%, scores almost as many points per minute as McGrady. He starts, but for some reason Adelman seems to bench him for the fourth. Not sure what the logic there is.
2) This is an average rebounding team. They shouldn’t be, but they are. They are 12th in the league in defensive rebounding, 23rd in grabbing offensive boards. The reason the Blazers won two nights ago, besides Roy’s amazing shot, was that Portland grabbed 34% of their missed shots for the game.
Keys To The Game: This game is going to be the first huge test of the Lakers new defensive scheme. One, because I don’t think we’ll see the disinterested Rockets at any point tonight, second they are a team that presents matchup problems.
Picture it: McGrady gets the ball on the wing, so the Lakers bring Gasol from the weak side to the strong side ready to zone. Except, to do that now on the backside Radmanovic is going to have to cover Scola — Camby kept leaving Scola and Landry two nights ago (because Camby loves to come from the weak side to block shots) and that pair combined for 34 and 16. Bynum can’t leave Yao alone. The Lakers rotations on the weak side of this defense and their aggressiveness will be tested tonight.
Steven thinks the Rockets offense, as they are playing it now, will play into the hands of the Lakers:
Normally an Adelman offense w/a big setting up in the FT area would create huge problems for the strong side zone. But this Rockets team doesn’t run anything close to a classic Adelman offense and the way the starters have been playing plays directly into the Laker Zone. The wild card is McGrady. If he can get into the lane Scola, Hayes, Landry and Yao should feast on open looks.
This game may be a challenge to watch if you like flow, the Lakers and Rockers are two of the top five teams in the league in getting to the line. If one team can get a big advantage in trips to the line it could decide the game.
Some other thoughts from Steven:
The faster the tempo the better for the Lakers. The Rockets have shown little inclination to hustle back on D and are giving up a lot of fast breaks.
Second Units. The Rocket Second Unit has to outplay the Laker Second Unit or the game will be over by half-time.
Rebounding. If the Lakers don’t dominate the glass there will be some very angry coaches after the game.
Rust. Can the Rockets take advantage if the Lakers start out misfiring from their time off?
Kobe vs Artest. Will the more mature Kobe get baited into a duel w/Artest? If he tries to score on Ron every time the Lakers could sputter to a halt and stand around and watch. Don’t think it will happen, but it could.
Brooks. He is starting to do a WOW! thing or two every game. Just enjoy.
Where you can watch: Remember this is a 6:30 (Pacific) start, and you can catch it on Fox Sports and League Pass everywhere else.
Awesome. Thanks Steven for the observations, they seem to hit the nail on the head.
Having watched a couple of Rockets’ games myself, I noticed something which I considered a little peculiar. Other than Yao, the Rockets have an unbelievably small frontcourt consisting of the 6-9 Scola, 6-9 Landry, 6-6 Hayes and a 6-8 Dorsey. That is tiny! Considering how much he gets injured and what not, I think this is a huge weakness for the Rockets.
One that the Lakers need to exploit. The Celtics did it when they beat the Rockets last week, with Yao picking up his 2nd foul somewhere around the 6th minute. This helps our rebounding offense and defense!
– When the Rockets have possession, Yao being out would allow Bynum to come to the strong side to what Kevin Pelton called the “Stopper” position. Our defense can then try to direct McGrady to the corner and trap him there, with Bynum coming up from the stopper position, which he does very very well. Also, this removes one of the Rockets main offensive threats.
– When we have the ball, out 7 foot big men will be able to shoot over the smaller guys easily.
Let’s see if the Lakers try to pick up on what I think may one of the Rockets bigger weaknesses.
If I remember correctly, Artest has historically not done a real great job of staying within the offense. That will not work well with this team.
I wasn’t paying attention to it before, but in the Portland game Scola was getting abused by Aldridge until Adelman inserted Chuck Hayes, the best defensive PF on the team. So maybe Scola’s D hasn’t been up to scratch. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he spent a lot of time on the bench again because I don’t see him being able to handle Gasol or Odom.
It’s amazing how reliant the Rockets are (still) on McGrady’s playmaking ability. Alston isn’t a starter-quality floor general, Brooks thinks score-first, and Artest makes too many bad decisions. If T-Mac isn’t getting into the seams of the defense they will struggle to score. Until they solve that problem I’m not convinced they can suddenly become a title contender.
Bill Bridges says
I’ve watched a fair amount of Rockets games and so far my opinion is that they were a better team last year.
1. Their defense is not as good as it was during their 22 game run without Yao and Artest. The help rotations are not as quick.
2. Yao’s stamina must worry them. By the middle of the third he is bent over heaving with his hands on his knees. Bynum and Gasol should run at every opportunity.
3. Artest doesn’t fit nearly as well as Battier on either side of the court. He also looks out of gas in the fourth. Let’s see if Battier has taught him Battier’s “face guarding” tactic against Kobe.
4. The front line is weak after the starters. Why Adelman continues to take minutes away from Scola (the rocket’s most productive player) and give them to Hays and Landry is baffling, but useful
5. Brent Barry has not only lost a step but his whole front porch. Close to arthritic, he is a serious liability for them.
The rockets are a left handed team. Yao likes to post up on the left either for a jump hook in the lane or a fadeaway at the baseline. McGrady like to start at the top or the left, either for a pull up J or drive left base line.
I don’t see any of the quasi-princeton motion offense ala Sacramento. Instead it is a series of isolations. This plus their left-handed nature should play right into the Lakers new trapping defense. Herd them left, trap them in, apply pressure until the only left to do is to skin and gut.
Artest has stopped driving to the lane as a Rocket and seems content to take 3’s or one dribble left for a leaning J. His ROI if made to dribble drops.
It should be an interesting test but I don’t see how a line-up of Hays, Landry, Barry, Brooks,and either McGrady or Artest can keep it close against the Lakers’ second unit.
It really stinks to be at work (8:48 am) for this game. I hope you guys a verbose during the cast as all I can hope for at this moment is sneaking a peak at the box score when my boss is looking the other way.
Now if I could get this site to look more like a MS-Word document…
That was a great preview, Kurt.
I actually think our best lineup in this game might be without Bynum — using Odom and Ariza/Sasha. I don’t think it makes a difference to Yao whether he’s shooting over Bynum or Pau — he’s going to get his shot off either way. But he’ll have a much harder time defending Pau’s speed or getting cross-matched with Odom in transition. When Yao’s in the game, it might make sense to also go with more Farmar and really push the tempo.
Houston is one of the few teams with quality depth such that our second unit won’t have an automatic advantage. This will especially be true when Battier is back. I think by about midseason the team will gel — right now Yao and Tmac are working themselves into shape or out of injuries and Artest is still a tough inclusion. Battier, the perfect glue guy, is out. Brooks is emerging as the lead point guard. I think it all comes together, barring injury, in the second half and they become a solid contender.
I’m watching the second half of the Celtics destroying the Pistons. I saw the Pistons before the Iverson deal and they looked better, part of that is the Celtics defense really playing like we remember, but the Pistons look worse than just a couple nights ago. They are not working like a team, and they can’t hit om the outside to save their life.
I finally found the stat I was looking for to use for the LA Times portion of this piece — the Lakers team True Shooting Percentage (combines threes and free throws) is 53.9%, which is 11th in the league. That is a better look at their shooting, and when you think about how they crash the boards the offense comes into perspective.
Adam T says
Great posts of late, Kurt. Real test tonight w/ Houston.
Anybody know a website the game may be on?
Justintv or stoogetv will have the game.I think it’s a mexican feed.Pretty awful.
Andreas G. says
I tend to agree with Reed. Watching Spain vs China in the Olympics, it was all too obvious that Yao couldn’t guard Pau who went 13/17 for 29 pts (in 35 minutes of action mind you).
81 Witness says
Andreas G. says
wow, kinda glad i’m not getting this game live. that was an ugly run right there.
*We need to play better on offense. We’re out of synch…we’re sloppy with our ball handling, our passing, and while our shot selection is okay, it’s not enough to overcome these other factors.
*On defense, I’d love to see us side/front Yao a little more. We have the players with the size to play this way and make the post entry a little more difficult. Instead, we’re just letting him establish position, catch the ball, and make his move.
Seriously though, 8 turnovers already…I like it better when we’re outplayed, not when we give the game away.
rocket currently 4/7 in 3 pointer
Rockets have started the game brilliantly.
I want to see LA take advantage of Bynum and Odom in the post against Hayes and Landry. Those two Rockets are good defenders but those two Lakers are so much longer and quality post players. Attack that.
I also think Kobe should have some time against the Rockets second unit tonight. No Shane Battier around, so Kobe will have an easy matchup (Barry, Head perhaps). Kobe can take advantage of that.
That’s 2 straight plays with extremely poor communication on one of Houston’s more simple sets. When Brooks makes the high post entry and then screens on the wing, Farmar and Sasha can’t get caught up not knowing how they’re going to play that. First Brooks just slips the screen and gets a layup…so on the next play we switch that screen and Sasha gets killed on a down screen from Hayes after Head gets the ball at the top of the key. We have to talk. Especially on these simple sets.
81 Witness says
Sloppy defense for the Lakers. Players need to be vocal or point.
Gotta give the Rockets credit. They are taking advantage of every single Laker miscue. They can’t play better if they try.
81 Witness says
The PUJIT just killed the Lakers again.
maybe i should go back to ohio. =P
so far, it definitely seems that the Lakers aren’t comfortable with the floating defense the rockets are playing. The rockets are also being very physical down low (taking a page from the Celtics?) I like the activity and intensity of the second unit. Lamar, Ariza, and farmar have been very helpful in getting the Lakers to concentrate on the game at hand.
Also, I think i disagree with reed’s idea that the lakers are better off without bynum. So far, visually, it seems his length and strength really bothers the Rockets’ big men.
Lakers are roaring back into it
I thought Adelman kept his trio of stars on the bench for too long. I don’t know why all three where on the bench together in the first place. The second unit was clearly starting to lose some of it’s luster earlier than his response.
Trevor Ariza’s three offensive rebounds have been massive. Game changing plays. Swung the momentum.
was out for the second quarter, wow, what happened?
looking at the box it seems that our second unit really shone through…
Bill Bridges says
Lakers length starting to wear the Rockets down.
1-5 for Ariza. But he was our best player in the 1st half.
Our point guards just not making good decisions.
Bill Bridges says
Rockets really only scored in transition plus a few good Brooks plays. Cut down the turnovers, I like our chances
GO KOBE GO! Keep these Rockets commentators shouting foul on my tv quiet! How physical can this game get? I feel good about our chances now.
I agree, Rockets halfcourt offense hasn’t looked good. They haven’t gotten their main scorers off, struggling to get them good shots. That bodes well for the Lakers.
Kobe’s block on McGrady was beautiful.
Wow, Fisher is really hurting us tonight.
(Just as I type that he makes a running drive. Not forgiven, yet.)
The tall trees in the paint is a huge asset. this is the first game I’ve seen the Lakers play and it’s a huge contrast from the NBA finals. So many blocked shots.
Our starters did a much better job in the 3rd quarter of pressuring the ball and pushing the pace. Bynum’s also doing a great job of patrolling the paint and challenging/altering/blocking shots.
Gotta agree with Reed on Fisher…he needs to be able to play fast without playing wreckless. Eventhough that runner fell, he was too singleminded on that attempt and should of read that play better.
This may sound funny because the guy is ancient, but the Rockets really miss Mutumbo. Just as the post pointed out, the Rockets have no backup size and when they go to Scola/Landry/Hayes behind Yao, the Lakers can feast in the interior and get points in the paint with patient ball movement. Odom’s dunk was proof positive of that.
Adam T says
This is precisely what we’ve all been anticipating with the second unit…Showing the ability to not maintain but increase leads at ends of quarters.
81 Witness says
Dare I say it? I do.
GAME OVER…i hope bring in kobe and show some
my my my is Odom in Landry’s face. for a time, i felt confident with his perimeter game. the bench is showing some metal here. great way to push leads.
Did I mention that Scola cannot guard Gasol?
Triple post…but I don’t care.
Our ability to turn up the pace and pressure has turned this game around. In comparison to our effort early in he game, we are a completely different team right now. Odom continues to prove to me that in his current role, there isn’t a front court in the league that can match a player against him from their 2nd unit. And when we slide Pau/Bynum next to him, we have too many options for a classic 2nd unit to hang with us the versatility that our froncourt provides.
Our depth continues to wear teams down and (at least so far this season) we have the ability to explode at any given time and break any game open. Ariza, Farmar, and Lamar are legitimate starters in this league, and Sasha is still a steady sub that does exactly what we need. You add one of our Bigs to that group and it’s easy to see that there are few (if any) teams that will be able to hold off our 2nd unit.
j. d. hastings says
I really appreciate the lakers stick-to-it-iveness. They shot what? 30% in the first quarter to Houston’s 50? Something close to that? Now the Lakers are at 51+ to the Rockets’ 39.
Trevor Ariza won’t end the game with a great PER, but he was the catalyst that turned the game around and is leading the team at +29. while he hasn’t had a lot of success putting the ball in the hoop, his offensive boards and steals gave us the extra possessions necessary to let the team start seeing the ball go in the basket. Our FG% started rising, and his activity seemed to light a match under the rest of the team.
I hope phil pull kobe out of the game now..
Time to empty the bench Phil…
yes ariza, shoot the ball lazily and still make that 3!
29 point win! if only every western conference game could end like this!
I don’t think i expected a 29pt rout after the first quarter 🙂
Our season reminds me of…
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Our sunday whites would make any Storm Trooper proud. Led by senator Philpatine and the Darth Mamba, this really reminds me of a season long time ago, in a galaxy far far away 😉
WOW! This Lakers team is like a freight train. Just keep opponents complacent for like 2 to 3 quarters then bam…Lakers on the run and the game is over.
Only negatives with the errant passes. Ariza was the man off the bench and so was Farmar. Gasol proudly the player of the game, but what a quiet night. It’s hard to realize he had a monster game. Bynum played tough D all night long and keeping Yao in check. Big ups to Odom and Vujacic stepping up.
Man I love this team.
81 Witness says
Can’t say enough about our bench. Does anybody realize the Lake show did the most damage with #24 on the bench tonight?!?!?
Glad to see the Lakers step up against a real powerhouse.
Wow! I know its early in the season, but to rout a top western team by 29 pts! Wow! The difference maker in the laker routs have been the second unit demolishing the other teams’ second unit. tonight it showed in the 2nd and 4th qtrs. Odom, Farmar, Sasha and Pau. This will be one of the “special” laker teams in their proud history
Mike in the Mountain West says
My only problem with how deep we are is I’d love to put farmar, ariza, or sasha on my fantasy team but they don’t get enough minutes because we keep demolishing our oppenents. Odom is on my fantasy team and i’d like to see him around 30 – 32 minutes to really contribute.
It’s quite amusing to see Luke Walton just have the same playing time as Powell and Mihm.
I hope he doesn’t feel similarly to how sergio rodriguesz is feeling now (Check out truehoop if you don’t get what I’m saying). I think he’s an okay player and it kinda sucks to have him rotting on the bench
The metapmorphosis in terms of defensive effort and concentration on this team from last year to this has been fun to watch.
I think what impressed me the most about this win was that even when they were getting run over late in the first quarter they were still giving max effort and not breaking down defensively which could have led to the Rockets pushing out to an even bigger advantage. Then, once more shots starting falling in the 2nd quarter they seemed to turn things up another notch in terms of forcing turnovers and getting the bench unit to up the tempo. By halftime they even had a small lead.
Basically, from the middle of the 2nd quarter on it was a good old fashioned beat down.
I meant he’s an okay player and it kinda sucks for him to be rotting on the bench.
However, I also do note that we really have better skilled players at his position hehe
@ Mike in the Mountain West
I got Ariza on my fantasy and he’s doing wonders! Get some threes, some steals, 5-10 rebounds per game….but then again my league has 16 members.
That article on the Lakers defense is FANTASTIC. For any basketball nut, click on the link in that article to the SOS Pressure defense. That site is amazing, with a complete breakdown of every set for nearly every situation in that defense. Amazing read.
nomuskles, glad to see you out here again…
Yea, our first real test went OK tonight, it is kinda difficult to separate the starters from the bench players on this team.
Just speaks a lot to the depth of this team that Mihm and Walton were starters a couple of years ago and now they come in for mop-up duty.
That was a seriously impressive final three quarters.
If the Lakers keep this up, Obama will be soon be “spreading the wealth around” with us. If we wake up one morning in January and find out LO’s been traded for Von Wafer, we’ll know what’s happened…
54 – If the Lakers keep this up, they’ll be shooting jumpers with President Obama on the White House court this summer.
At the end of the first quarter, I wondered if we’d ever catch the Rockets.
At the end of the game, they were a broken team.
This Laker team is nothing like last year’s.
The rest of the league should be scared–very scared.
This was as improbable a blow-out as one can imagine … after that dreadful start to the 1st quarter, the Lakers outscored the Rockets 95-50 the rest of the way (including a crazy 39-17 in the 4th). Wild.
Watching games this season is a pleasure, because even when LA falls behind big you can honestly say we’re never out of it.
On a tangent: if I’m not mistaken Bynum has yet to lose a single tip-off so far this year, including tonight against Yao. I wonder who holds the record for most tip-off wins in a single season? Has anyone done any research to connect a team’s winning percentage to having the ball to start the game? My guess is that ultimately there would be little or no advantage, but I’d be curious to see the numbers. I’ll be keeping an eye on it the rest of the year, just to amuse myself.
barry g says
aaron brooks is ridiculous!! that kid’s got some game…
Farmar was Starmar tonight.
My fave cousin, 6 months preggers, from Italy got my seats to this game, hope baby heard some Laker love.
I myself missed the game, love the result! In Tahoe to board some, but MY Lakes beat whatever they have up here, hahaha.
Read this in LA Times, about Buss’ commitment… seems like a big motivator for LO, not that he needed it, but Buss paints a picture of keepin em all together… pure.
Renato Afonso says
I’m wondering if the Rockets aren’t just in a slump right now… I don’t like the idea of facing them in the playoffs…
Every year the Rockets are supposed to be ‘scary in the playoffs’. I’ll believe it when I see it. Their defense should be back to its suffocating best once Battier is back, but I still see issues in that team which will hurt them in the playoffs. They rely too much on T-Mac as a creator, Yao plays soft and allows himself to be bullied a lot of the time, Artest routinely overestimates his offensive abilities, and the bench is unreliable. Until at least a couple of these things changes – and I haven’t even mentioned the health of Yao and T-Mac and the volatility of Artest – I’m hesitant to label them a title contender.
Beyond all of that, I don’t see them as a team that matches up particularly well with the Lakers. They have NOBODY who can guard Gasol or Odom, and once the second unit starts pushing the tempo they don’t have the personnel to respond in kind (or impose their own pace on the game).
The scary thing about this Lakers team is that their strength is supposed to be scoring, and they haven’t even played their best at the offensive end so far. Between the careless turnovers and the missed free-throws, there is still room for improvement – and they are still leading the league in points average by a good margin. Depth + defense = dominance so far, but we’ll see what happens against NO (they look great as well) and Detroit later this week.
Please recall …
70+ Wins and the 2008-2009 NBA Championship was the forecast for this Lakers’ team PRIOR to their loss in the NBA Finals last season. 🙂
Offense, Defense & Rebounding … balanced and in harmony.
5 down … and counting.
Did not watch the game, but from the box score the lakers looked impressive (paticularly Farmar, Ariza, Pau, and that Kobe guy). Were the Lakers really that dominant? The rockets play bad? Or was a combination of both.
That Kobe guy is pretty good
New post up.
68. A little of both right now. But that doesn’t discount how good the Lakers looked again.
Loved Ariza’s energy and general basketball savvy. The LATimes had a decent article on Ariza, with a great anecdote about Ariza trying to slip out of the arena but getting held back by PR Rep Black who said, and I paraphrase, there’s no way he can just leave quietly after playing that well. Of any of the Lakers players–yes, even Pau–Ariza was the reason for last night’s turnaround (if not the subsequent blowout). Just as team’s are fully geared for Kobe’s deadly iso game, Phil can sub Ariza in and provide the offense with a completely different look. I love it.