There will be times that a team just doesn’t have its best game. Passes that are typically made crisply get deflected; defensive instincts are slow and how a defender moves seems a half-second behind what the offensive player is thinking and doing; defensive rebounds that are normally grabbed get tipped away or are mistimed, allowing the other team to grab them. Last night the Lakers had one of those games. And they still won, defeating the Raptors 108-103 in a game that most (including me) thought wouldn’t be that close. But, this is why the games are played on the hardwood and not on paper and why that town in Nevada (I think you know the one I speak of) does pretty well for itself. The games don’t always go as we think they should.
And in the case of last night’s game, I think that had a lot more to do with what the Raptors were doing than what the Lakers were not. Early on this season if there are two aspects of the game that the Lakers have struggled with it’s containing teams that race out in transition and containing the defensive glass. Last night, the Raptors tried to take advantage of both and it nearly got them a win. On nearly every single possession, whether off a missed or made basket by the Lakers, the Raptors jammed the ball down the Lakers throats in hopes of getting an easy basket. Every single Raptor ball handler was pushing the ball as much as possible to try and avoid facing a set Lakers D. This led to easy lay ups, and ultimately, an offensive rhythm for Toronto that was difficult to break.
And then there were the issues the Lakers were having on the backboards. In the preview for this game I wrote that: “the Lakers have enormous size advantages over the Raps, but Reggie Evans is an aggressive rebounder who chases every loose ball. If the Lakers are lax in chasing down long rebounds or don’t box out, they will allow the extra possessions that can make this game closer than it need be.” Not to say that I told you so, but that’s exactly what we saw last night. The Raptors corralled 19 offensive rebounds and ended up taking 10 more shots than the Lakers even though LA forced 21 turnovers. Early in the game some of those offensive rebounds were the result of some ugly misses that skipped off the rim awkwardly or didn’t draw iron at all. In the first quarter alone I counted three shots that either airballed or skidded off the rim in a manner where giving up the offensive rebound is almost expected. However, throughout the rest of the game I’d say that a lot of the extra possessions that the Raps gained were the results of the Lakers wings giving up penetration, forcing the Lakers bigs to help, which had them forfeiting their rebounding position. And Toronto took full advantage of the real estate under the rim by grabbing the board.
But, in the end, dominating the backboards and getting transition baskets just weren’t enough for the Raptors to get a W. The Lakers still do plenty of things well and last night was no exception. As mentioned earlier, the Lakers forced 21 Raptor miscues. Fisher, Kobe, Barnes, and Artest were active in the passing lanes and did a good job of pressuring ball handlers – pressure that actually led to some of the penetration angles utilized by the Raps to get to the hoop, but I digress. This defensive pressure and activity in the passing lanes led to steals that the Lakers took the other way for easy buckets, scoring 25 points off Toronto turnovers.
Offensively, the Lakers continued to play strong ball by taking advantage of the mismatches that existed. Gasol and Kobe combined for 53 points on 34 shots and made 17 of their 18 FT attempts. Pau showed excellent touch on a variety of face up and turn around jumpers that Toronto’s defenders struggled to contest and Kobe was precise with where he set up on the court to maximize his ability to score and set up his teammates (6 assists for #24 on the night.)
The other two players that really played well on offense were the point guard duo of Fisher and Blake. I can’t say this enough but what was seemingly the biggest weakness for the Lakers last year has been anything but early this season. Fisher made 4 of his 7 attempts on the night (1-1 from three point land) including a big jumper with less than 3 minutes in the game when the contest was still in the balance. As for Blake, when Fish had to go to the bench with early foul trouble, Steve came in aggressive on offense and accurate on his jumper by nailing his first 4 shots (all of which were 3 pointers) to push the Lakers lead to double digits in the final 6 minutes of the 1st quarter. Both of these guys had very solid games and were major contributors once again. Really, it’s like night and day when comparing last year’s PG’s to this year’s group.
Continuing on the offensive theme, the Lakers went away from the P&R heavy attack they showed in Sacramento and operated more from their base Triangle sets where ball and player movement led to good looks on most possessions. The Lakers ended the night with a very good offensive efficiency of 114.1 and executed well, albeit against a mediocre defensive team.
So, the Lakers are now 6-0 and while there are things to be concerned about, I don’t think anyone can complain about the unblemished record to start the year. Yes, I’d like for the defense to be more stout but when Bynum returns to re-form the twin towers in the middle and shore up the Lakers’ big man rotation I expect to see a difference on that side of the ball. Mind you, getting Bynum back won’t be a cure all but it’s big part of the overall remedy. But until that actually occurs, I’m okay with where the Lakers are. More than okay really. They’re playing to their strengths as a team and as individuals. There are times where there are still miscommunications, where an errant cut leads to a turnover or a gamble on the perimeter turns into a lay up for the other side. But in the end, wasn’t some of that to be expected from a team that’s integrating new players while still missing their starting Center? So again, I’m feeling very good about where this team is. Remember every win won’t be pretty and some games that we’d all like (or expect) to be blowouts just won’t end up that way. But as long as the wins keep coming, I’ll sleep easy. All wins may not be created equal, but they all count the same at this stage of the season.
VI Guy says
An OK win over a very long season. I’d like to think that w/ Bynum back we’ll plug up the middle more efficiently. But, like everyone, worry if he can play sustained minutes over a whole season.
The LA Times this morning said Ebanks was put on the inactive list. Anyone know why?
Another DNP for Sasha..I guess he’s a good insurance policy in case someone goes down, but wow, there really is no time for the guy right now, with Brown and Blake playing so well. Not a Sasha hater by any means, in fact I feel a little sorry for the guy, Sharapova or not.
Ebanks is odd man out in a crowded position once Luke was ready to play. He’ll get his chances.
That last sequence where Kobe turned the ball over then made up for it with a monster block on Kleiza was pretty hilarious. Is there such a thing as a game-clinching block when you’re up 6 with 10 seconds to go?
Good write up, right on point. I think the Lakers have won a few of games (TOR? SAC? HOU?) they might have lost last year due to the bench (the starters can’t all be “on” every night). So you can’t really complain with some missteps early in the season when you are already 2 up in the L column on the “Three Kings”.
As for Ebanks – the Nightmare of Luke Walton has returned to make me cringe every time he jacks up a three pointer or does one of his post “moves” (admittedly, they sometimes drop).
This was a great win, because this was a game that they probably lose last season. And if you are looking for improvement this year, these are the type of games where that will show up.
There are positives to Ebanks being put on the inactive list, and that is that it will make him hungry. His hunger will in turn push the Laker forwards in practice, because he should not give them any opportunity to just float during practice. Which in the long run will make the entire team ready to defend their title.
Luke is a triangle guy, period. He hasn’t been in the rotation for a while, and will require playing time to get his timing back. I look forward to his passing and moving without the ball in the offense.
Warren Wee Lim says
It was a good example of the Lakers’ tendency to be complacent with “weaker” opponents… the Raptors have been crashed out just by about every good team as an easy win… and the game last night is a prime example that there is an extra motivation to beat up the defending champs.
Bargnani improved alot, Calderon looks like he wants to start over Jack, Evans is a rebounding machine and the rest of the other guys simply out-efforted our guys. Good thing talent wins out at times…
Can we admit something that is hard for all of us Laker fans to admit? Derek Fisher is on HGH. Old, bad, slow 36 year olds don’t all of the sudden gain quickness. I hope he is saving some for Kobe in a couple years.
Darius Soriano says
#8. Ha. I think that’s comedy. First of all, he’s no quicker this year than he’s been in years past. But, he is playing less and usually fresher legs have a lot to do with how effective a player is in shooting and executing defensive slides. But why think of, you know, logical basketball explanations for why a person plays well. Let’s just leap to the most outrageous conclusion imaginable and call Fisher a cheater. Yeah, that makes sense.
And the high-quality commentary from Aaron continues. Nothing like a groundless claim about Fish to start the season off right. If he plays poorly, you kill him and talk about how terrible he is and if he plays well, he must be on HGH. What a joke.
I heard that Fisher (head of the players union) and Stern made an agreement that Derek can use HGH if he agrees to accept less in the upcoming contract talks.
Joel B. says
Fisher on HGH lol. He’s the frickin president of the players association and I don’t think he’s that stupid. I really don’t believe he’s any faster than he’s been over the past 4 seasons or so. Fisher just surprisingly made all of his lay ups and I think it threw you off a bit Aaron.
Anyway the Lakers really can’t take anything from last nights game. Take the win and toss it in the bag. They just did not have any energy last night, completely out of sync on the defense end and LO had a pretty tough night and made Phil throw a bunch of line ups out there.
And speaking of all the line ups, I’m not sure why Phil decided to give Luke minutes at the 4 over Artest. We love luke in lakerland, but he’s the 11th (yes behind Sasha) guy in the line up and should not be taking minutes from Artest. Artest was playing pretty lazy defense last night and Phil may have just been trying to send a message.
Next up Portland.
Hopefully the Lakers will come out with a little more assertiveness Sunday against Portland. It will be a home away back to back for the Blazers as they play the Raptors tonight in Portland. Heres to the Raptors giving them all they can handle in triple OT, and arriving in LA on tired legs.
I thought the Fisher on HGH comment was obviously a joke. I know Aaron rags on Fisher a lot, but you guys take it too seriously.
14, it’s still early in the season, and we haven’t yet gotten to the point where we all just start ignoring everything Aaron has to say.
Craig W. says
See what you get when you continually rag on someone. You just can’t make a joke without people crawling all over you. Remember that the next time you want to say something for the 10th time.
Darius Soriano says
A new post is up. You can continue the discussion on the Raptors here but we’re also celebrating LO’s birthday in the next thread.
My question: is using HGH really “cheating”? It’s not like any of us could start taking HGH and then suddenly make the roster for an NBA team.
The whole anti-steroids bit is nonsensical to me. I think any player who wants to use them and accept the risks should be allowed to use them.
Tai Chi says
The problem is that if taking steroids gives some players an advantage, then the others will have to start taking them to ‘keep up’ with those on the juice. That means everybody ends up taking the risk, whether they really want to or not.
I’m not one to usually take Aaron’s side. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I agreed with him. Especially about Fisher. But … seriously now … I have myself wondered if Fish uses PEDs of some sort. The dude is seriously ripped, and if memory serves he wasn’t always that cut up. People, athletes or not, don’t typically get “ripped to shreds” in their 30s without help from meds of some sort. I’m not saying he does it for sure, but I do wonder …
E. Dimowo says
That last line reminds me of one George Orwell’s quotes in Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”. Replace animals with games, and that’s very true in basketball.
Anonymous, I belive that you would get ripped to shreds with good diet, and good aerobic and anaerobic stress. No need for “extra-help”.
By the way, do somebody know what kind anti-extras tests are NBA players subjected to?
19, first of all, steroids and HGH are two very different things. Anabolic steroids have to be injected and generally have very very severe side-effects. Steroids are generally taken to build muscle and strength, while HGH is mostly used to decrease the fat directly beneath the skin, leading to a leaner body. It also is not known whether HGH has similarly severe side-effects (they haven’t been discovered yet).
The issue isn’t just that all athletes would have to take steroids to compete, it’s that it sets a very poor example for young athletes. If steroid use becomes widespread in professional sports, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes endemic in colleges, high schools, and even younger kids. A parent wanting their child to become an athlete could probably be blinded by the positive effects of steroids and HGH and start giving them to their children at a young age. This is what the leagues and society in general wishes to avoid.
Just to comment on the whole HGH thing…I’m not sure if you realize this but it obviously stands for human growth hormone. And that’s what it does. It will make your hands, your feet and your entire body bigger. I think in basketball being taller with bigger hands would be an advantage right there. That’s without going into the fact that most people get it illegally and it sets an awful standard for kids. HGH legally costs around $15 a day. How many HS kids can afford that? They would see how well PED’s work and go for the more dangerous cheaper routes. However, I wish it was allowed for players coming back from a surgery or major injury and was handled by experienced doctors.
Secondly, I think our rebounding problems can be tallied up to two huge things. One, Kobe isn’t moving that well on defense and his man is getting past him causing the bigs to rotate. Also, Ratliff isn’t a good rebounder. He goes for the block most of the time leaving the glass unattended. On top of that Gasol isn’t exactly a bruiser that wills his way to rebounds. He uses his length most of the time. When Bynum comes back Ratliff won’t see much time and we’ll replace one bad rebounder with one very good one.
I was half kidding… but a guy like Fisher who works his but off and wants to win is exactly the type of player that would take HGH. And that is the only reason I respect him. He isn’t playing that many less minutes this year. And if you don’t think he is moving at a quicker pace this year than you are watching at a slower one. He is getting in passing lanes, attacking the basket, and making most of his shots. All things he hasn’t been able to do since… well… ever. The guy us a different player. And if a 36 year old starts playing at a different level in any other sport… we all admit it might be PED’s. Why not in basketball?
Craig W. says
It is really funny how a joke can turn serious. That is my problem with some of the political comments that go on today.
One of the reason steroids is not as prevalent in the NBA is that some of the results run counter to what makes people successful in professional basketball.
I don’t know what the effects of HGH are, but tall basketball players have higher than average problems with joints – because they are such tall people. I would think HGH could well make some of those problems worse.
Anyway, because things are a problem with baseball doesn’t mean you can directly extrapolate that problem to the NBA.
Jonathan, HGH has no effect on height after +-20 years old when the growth plates of your bones are already bone not cartilage.
Let the record reflect that Aaron was, indeed, not kidding about his assertion that Fish is on HGH.
To preface, this discussion is conflating Steroids with other PEDs. There are other PEDs than ‘roids.
Anyway,”One of the reason steroids is not as prevalent in the NBA is that some of the results run counter to what makes people successful in professional basketball.” I’m sceptical of this statement on two levels. Not picking on you Craig W.; having read similar comments from Nowitzki and Stern himself. I’m just not sold on either premise.
First off, I’m not convinced ‘roids/PEDs are less of an issue in the NBA – is there data to support this? For that matter, less of an issue than where? The NFL? (well probably). MLB? (maybe, maybe not). Again, where’s the data?
Second, even if steroid/PED use runs counter to what makes people sucessful in the NBA, some of their effects may be helpful indeed. Such as, enhanced ability to recover from injury. As mentioned elsewhere, hyper competitive people often go to extremes looking for a competitive advantage. It doen’t always follow that they always necessarily act in their short or long term interests.
Kudos to this blog by the way for allowing such topics to be discussed. The membership of many sites would try to shout down this type of discussion.
“…can’t directly extrapolate form professional baseball …” Totally agree! My original point was, I’ve been wondering for some time if Fisher’s amazing muscle mass hasn’t been enhanced by pharmaceuticals, and I sure don’t mean Aspirin.
Sorry, I just don’t see D-Fish doing anything early in this season that he wasn’t doing at the end of last.
He hasn’t done anything in this first six games that exceeds his performance at the end of game 3 against Beantown.
It instead appears that he has benefitted from reduced minutes (thanks Steve Blake for being more reliaible, if less flashy, than J. Farmar) and that Kobe is deferring to Fish even more in crunch time than in years past. (D-Fish has hit the “dagger” shots against Sacramento and others).
PLUS–He hasn’t yet played the top-tier Western Conference PG’s that usually push him–D-Will, C-Paul, etc…instead he has benefitted from younger and less-polished PG matchups.
Rest easy. When LA starts playing the premier PG’s, Fish-haters will have their fodder for discussion back. And those of us who love him will defend him.
I believe that if anybody on the Lakers should do something to enhance their body for you know, speed and stamina, it would be to 36 year old Fisher’s advantage to do so, not saying that I think he is using PED’s, btw. Yeah, this thread got interesting, indeed.
The only reason I found this article (and comments) was because I’ve been wondering about Fisher and HGH for a while now. Not saying he does HGH, but I wanted to google it too see if anyone else was as suspicious as I was.
Honestly, having a personal trainer, a nutritionist, and tons of money to spend in better quality food is as unequal as PEDs, and favors kids with more affluent backgrounds.
So honestly as long as the drug is cleared for use and proven to have no severe side-effects, I don’t see much ‘wrong’ in using them.
Besides, if we were worried about these athletes incurring damage and setting a bad example for kids, we should probably rid ourselves of Football, boxing, MMA and various other sports that are obviously damaging.