From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: On several counts, it was another outstanding effort from the Lakers. Individually, several players brought their A-game. Andrew Bynum continued his reign of terror, blocking three shots, altering several other shots he couldn’t get his paws on, and snagging 12 defensive rebounds (16 in all). Derek Fisher drew a pair of charges (one against Joe Johnson away from the ball), deflected a pass to create a turnover and got a steal while backpedaling in transition to prevent the kind of buckets Atlanta’s offense desperately requires. Ron Artest hounded Johnson into a miserable 11 point/14 shot performance. Allowing barely an inch to operate, Ron-Ron’s pressure also helped induce the Atlanta wing into three turnovers. And so on and so forth.
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: It’s been a tough 24 hours for milestones recorded by Moses Malone. Monday, his record for consecutive double-doubles since the NBA-ABA merger (51) was eclipsed by Kevin Love. The Wolves forward managed the same tally in one season, while Malone stretched his feat over the course of two. Tuesday, Malone found himself lapped by Kobe Bryant after contact from Joe Johnson beyond the arc sent The Mamba to the line for three free throws, all good. And with that, another rung on the ladder reached. For Kobe, the connection to Malone — who played for the Sixers of Bryant’s boyhood backyard — is obvious. Before Bryant turned heads in 1996 with his jump straight from Lower Merion High School to the Lakers by way of Vlade Divacs’ rights, Malone demonstrated such a move truly feasible. Yes, Kobe was the first high school guard drafted, but Kevin Garnett had been taken the year before him, Tracy McGrady the year after, plus five more youngsters before the decade concluded. The following decade began with Darius Miles taken third overall.
From Bret Lagree, Hoop Onion: The Atlanta Hawks can compete with any team in the league as long as their jump shots go in. When they don’t, they can’t because they aren’t, as a team, especially good at anything. Against lesser teams, the Hawks can take advantage of being not bad in a number of areas and punish the inferior team for its mistakes. Against better teams, the Hawks aren’t offered nearly as many mistakes to punish (only two teams in the league force turnovers less often) and frequently fall victim to the variance inherent in shooting a lot of jump shots. It’s a game like this that gives the lie to scapegoating effort after losses. The Hawks (outside of a not-so-surprising 5 cumulative defensive rebounds from Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and Marvin Williams in more than 98 cumulative minutes) were not lacking for effort. They grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. They scored 20 fast break points. They held Los Angeles to five fast break points. Zaza Pachulia scored eight points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and was one of six Hawks, despite the team scoring just 87 points and making just 33 field goals, to earn at least a pair of assists.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Ron Artest sat in front of his locker after the game, all aglow. (That’s different from Artest being all atwitter, which he would be later with his Twitter account – announcing he had a “pork and skittle smoothie” for dinner, re-Tweeting Khloe Kardashian’s query as to where her fragrance-loving “B***hes” were at and contacting Charlie Sheen directly to offer that one word: “winning.”) Artest sat and spoke happily after the Lakers’ eighth consecutive victory about “locking up All-Stars.” Good-bye, Joe Johnson and your scoreless second half; next up, LeBron James. Artest didn’t mean to be demeaning, but he managed to make the Miami Heat sound like the Minnesota Timberwolves by insisting: “They’re young and dangerous.”
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: On Thursday night, the Lakers get their long-awaited rematch bout with the Miami Heat, who humiliated them back on Christmas Day. The game will be played under circumstances no one saw coming. Tonight the storm clouds that’ve been gathering around the Heat look more menacing than ever, as Miami face-planted at home to the Portland Trail Blazers for their fifth consecutive loss. The Lakers, meanwhile, continue to pound on fools left and right. With another surprisingly easy road victory, 101 to 87 over the Atlanta Hawks, the champs’ winning streak has reached eight, tying their best run of the season. The disintegrating Heat will be eyeing Thursday as a last-stand, save-our-season kind of game, which isn’t really ideal from the Lakers’ perspective. But if they play with the deluxe form they’ve shown since the All-Star break, no amount of desperation on Miami’s part will make a diff.
From Jeff Schultz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Two days ago, Larry Drew declared the Hawks were “in disarray.” The good thing about being in disarray is that, while everybody might be running in the wrong direction, and possibly into a wall, there’s at least a certain degree of actual existence. That’s an assumption we can’t make any more. The Los Angeles Lakers came to town Tuesday night. They didn’t really do anything that special, and they still led the Hawks by 20 points in the third quarter. The final score was believed to be 101-87, although most fans would have a difficult time confirming that because they were running around Philips Arena looking for any unsold Kobe Bryant T-shirt. (More on that shortly).
Jeff Schultz link is broken.
Darius Soriano says
#1. That should be fixed now. Thanks for the catch on that.
I hate to sound like Debbie Downer, but even though the Lakers are getting stops, their wings and perimeter players aren’t getting the job done on the defensive glass just yet.
It will be interesting to see whether this issue can be resolved just by accumulating more experience in this defensive scheme and getting a feel for where defenders need to position themselves. Otherwise, youthful, athletic teams are going to present a real problem in this regard.
I think one way to combat this is to play the Big Lineup. I can see Lamar not only snatching long rebounds but also starting fast breaks. Offensively, his range has improved enough so that spacing shouldn’t be an issue.
I’m not saying use it all the time, but I don’t see any drawbacks to closing halves with Artest, Kobe, LO, Gasol, and Bynum on the floor.
Sorry if this is off topic, but looking ahead… Miami is actually the team that scares me the most. They are not the best team in the East, but I think Wade and James are poison for the Lakers. We’ll see how it goes.
Webber on NBA TV had some great commentary on the Heat. I am impressed with him. I wish more guys were insightful like that (are you listening ESPN?)
Finally, I am weary of the bashing of LeBron’s supporting cast. Wade and James both need the ball in their hands and like to go 1 v (up to five). The problem is less the supporting cast and more the styles of James and Wade and what that does to the supporting cast. We have seen the exact same thing with Kobe when he goes into god-mode and everyone just stands around watching. There is no flow and it does not bring out the best in others. Am I missing something on this?
OK – stepping off the soap box now. And not feeling great about the outcome of the next game. Someone talk me off the ledge.
Darius Soriano says
For those that haven’t seen it, here’s Chris Webber talking about the Heat from last night. Very good stuff.
#4. I wouldn’t put so much stock in this game to need to be “talked off a ledge”. This game is important but, just like earlier in the year (and this type of talk I’m sure upsets people) all I’m looking for is a Laker team that starts to figure it out and play better basketball as the season draws to a close. And *that’s* what we’re seeing now. I don’t think the Lakers are going to win the rest of their games to close the season. A loss here or there will happen. But, honestly, is anyone feeling worse about this team now than they were two months ago? Will one loss (even to the Heat) change the fact that the Lakers look to be figuring it out? For me, it won’t. I’m still looking big picture here. I want every game to be a win, but realistically I really just want growth so that when the playoffs come they’ll be ready. I think we’re on that path now.
I was on the Bynum for Carmelo trade bandwagon but the way he’s playing, he sure is making me eat my words.
Of course it’s a little easier for Bynum since he doesn’t have to worry about offense like Howard, Shaq, and Hakeem and other good centers in the past, but I’ve seen very few centers ever control the game defensively the way that Bynum has the past 8 games.
If (if) he keeps this up I don’t see how a team is going to beat the Lakers 4 out of 7.
Even if the Heat don’t advance to the Finals this year, they are a threat to do so down the road.
There’s something to be said for crushing the confidence of one’s opponent. Give ’em something to remember.
Hanging another loss on the Heat would be a big step in that direction.
Igor Avidon says
That should probably be Hoopinion not Hoop Onion lol
Nahh, I don’t want the Heat to be crushed and don’t want a long losing streak from them. If they hit rock bottom, they actually might get introspective enough to be receptive to long term fundamental changes to their styles of play and adjust.
But if things are just meandering along, just like an addict who hasn’t hit rock bottom, they’ll think their current approach and behavior will be fine. Let them think it’s okay to have Bron and Wade take turns attacking the hoop instead of playing off each other. That it’s okay to have Bosh just take his jumpers.
If those three actually bought into a system that incorporates all their talent, then they’ll be a very tough team to beat.
There’s more to offense than just scoring, especially in the Triangle.
If we are looking to evaluate Bynum’s offensive contributions, we have to ask questions like:
Is he where he needs to be?
Is his movement-without-the-ball in synch with his teammates?
Is he executing sets properly when he’s involved in them?
Is he anticipating shots and fighting for inside position before they go up?
Stuff like that.
Darius, yeah, my ledge comment was a bit tongue in cheek. Lakers (and their fans) don’t need to worry about the Heat until and if they meet in the finals. A lot more important stuff to be focused on before then.
At same time, I do think the Heat give the Lakers trouble. I am curious to see if the ‘New Drew’ is able to disrupt Wade and James on their drives to the hoop. That will be fascinating.
VoR – If Noah can do it, why not Bynum?
Craig W. says
Wade and Lebron will be getting the calls so Drew should establish position, put his hands straight up and stand still. He will change their shots that way and their % will go down. That’s what I want against superstars. We don’t need to shut them down, just slow them down – like Portland, we can shut everyone else down.
@3 I agree w/ you about trying out the big lineup here and there. The problem w/ that lineup in the past has been a lack of outside shooting but w/ lamar shooting so well from the outside this season it could be an effective lineup.
I think this game w/ the heat sets up bad for the lakers w/ the heat losing their last 5 and the lakers riding high. It is in no way a “must win” but I think it will be interesting to see if the lakers can maintain focus and possibly mount a comeback in the likely scenario that the heat come out strong in the 1st quarter at home.
Teams already know that LA is the best team in the league when engaged. Thats why every opponent has brought their A game trying to measure up to the champs. LA doesnt have to measure up to anyone in the league at this particular time in the season. If a team beats them during the regular, does it correlate to success when everything is on the line(nope).
The most important thing LA has over the entire league is knowing how the man next to them will react when the going gets tough and its time to fight or flight. As the saying “membership has its privileges”, the same can be said for experience. Time will weed out all posers and talkers making way for teams that are ready to back it up.
kwame a. says
Darius-Webber really has turned into a good analyst…who’d of thunk it?? Although it was funny watching a Sac Queen and a Celt (Lurch) having to talk about Kobe climbing the all-time ranks and the Lakes playing their best ball all year. You could see the pain in their eyes.
Joel Paris says
Love the play of Andrew and the team has really found their stride. The “Highlight Factory” is usually a tougher place for the Lakers, good to get out of there with a solid W.
Reign on Parades says
I’m happy that things like Bosh or Melo for Bynum were never seriously considered
I wonder if Deron for Bynum ever had wings though. We’ll never know, given how Mitch and KOC operate
That speech by C. Webb was one of the best I’ve seen this season. So many spot on points, really wish I could hear more from him.
Darius Soriano says
Webber has always been an insightful person that’s well spoken with a good understanding of the game. This is why I always though it was a bit phony of him to have this tough guy persona on the court when he really was a skill player (ala Gasol) that excelled playing a relatively finesse game.
It’s good to see that he’s gone back to his roots a bit and uses that intellegence that he showed as a player (his BBIQ – excluding that timeout call in college – was outstanding) and translated that to a career analyzing the game.
Interesting – the next guy Kobe is approaching on the scoring list is an active (and I use that term very loosely) player.
Chris J says
I watched the entire Heat postgame press conference with Wade and LeBron last night and it was very, very telling in terms of what’s wrong with that team.
Setting aside their coordinated sweater shirts that evoked Meg and Hamilton Swan in “Best in Show,” those two came off like they’re not at all a part of the team. Everything was “D-Wade and I” this or “LeBron and I” that — it was as though the other people in the locker room, even Bosh and the head coach, were lesser stars not worthy of the same consideration.
In reality, that’s the truth. But I just don’t see how you can win at a team game when getting so little help beyond the efforts of the Big Two. I said this last summer, and still believe it — this Heat team is not built to win in the playoffs.
Let’s hope L.A. simply comes in and treats this like just another game to be won; no “statements” or other hype are necessary. Simply pound the struggling team into the floor, then move on and find a way to win in Dallas.
I can’t really join in the Webber lovefest as I’m a Michigan grad and hate that he brought shame to my school re: the 90’s hoop scandal. However, yes – his intelligence and finesse were always very underrated aspects of his game.
I can’t help but have a bad feeling about the Miami game; flaws and all, the Heat are too talented to lose 7 in a row. Conversely, while the Lakers have simply been surging, we’ve struggled as much as anyone else not named Boston to contain Lebron. I don’t think we’ll sleepwalk a la the Cavs game, but this is a veteran team that knows that there’s no such thing as a regular season statement game. And if there is, it’s against real threats like SA and Boston.
@ 23 – ” … flaws and all, the Heat are too talented to lose 7 in a row…”
Should be OK then, since losing to LA would “only” be 6 in a row (grin).
I am blown away by how straight forward Webber’s take was.
Absolutely brilliant, and an actual glimpse into how professionals approach the game.
I get the sense that Webber dearly wishes he could still play.
It is possible that Miami will figure it out, because Wade is involved and he has been there, but I do think it will take them until next season to get it together.
The East contenders are simply too much for what is essentially a rookie team, and a rookie coach.
Chicago has a great team, an elite level scorer/creator, a hustle-passion-defense guy, a fairly deep bench, and a tremendous coach. They have solid playoff experience, given that they gave the Celtics and the Cavaliers all they could handle in the last two seasons.
Orlando has a good team, one of the best defenders/big men in the league, streak shooters (who, if they get hot, flat out destroy opponents), playoff experience, and a tremendous coach.
Boston has everything that Chicago and Orlando have, as well as the experience of being a Champion, and a burning desire for vengeance and respect from last year.
I simply can’t see Miami making it past any of those three teams, not to mention two of them…
Not yet, anyway.
I think the toughest Playoff Series for the Lakers this year would be:
3) Robber Barons
The Heat don’t scare me in a seven game series. A single game, maybe. A series? I think that the Lakers size, coaching, and defense would wear them out.
Darius Soriano says
A new post is up.