Trying out a new, quicker, and easier to digest format for the recap tonight. Feedback is welcomed. Thanks.
The Laker defense continues to find its stride and showing that its top 10 ranking after 3 games may not be a fluke. Tonight they held the Knicks to 31.3% shooting (21-67) and an offensive rating of 94.3. Those are both stellar numbers and show that the team is finally starting to click on that end of the floor. On many possessions the Lakers moved as a unit, rotating crisply in order to run players off the three point line and/or contest jumpers when a Knick did have enough space to get a shot off.
Particularly impressive was the defense the Lakers played on Amare Stoudemire, holding the all-star big man to 15 points on 4-17 shooting. Gasol was matched up with Amare for most of the night and the big Spaniard deserves a load of credit as he tempted Amare to take jumpers, stayed in front of him when did attack off the dribble, and contested every shot taken. Pau drew a couple of charges, picked up a couple of blocked shots, and wasn’t afraid of using his fouls when he had to. So, even on a night where Melo got his, the other big offensive weapon for the Knicks never got off and that played a big part in the Lakers getting the win.
With the Lakers’ aggressive D, however, came a penchant for fouling. The Knicks shot 41 FTs on the night and converted 34 of them (83%). In a the first half, the Lakers controlled nearly every aspect of the game but found themselves up only 12, mostly due to the fact that the Knicks were hitting their freebies to keep them in it. After the 3rd quarter, the Knicks were only down 8 mostly due to the same reason. I’m all for the Lakers playing a physical brand of D. I think bodying players off the ball, fighting through screens, protecting the rim, and not conceding any space is a great way to condition your opponent and the refs how you intend to play on any given night. That said, it’s also imperative that you don’t simply hand the other team free points by putting them at the foul line excessively. Tonight I thought the Lakers did a good job of playing the style they wanted, but didn’t do a good job of backing off when they needed, keeping the game closer than it needed to be for longer than it needed to be.
Normally it’s the Lakers that have the biggest PG issues in a match up but tonight that wasn’t the case. No, Fisher didn’t play that well (2-7 FGs, 5 points, 1 assist, 2 turnovers) but Blake did a good job in relief with 11 points on 9 shots (including 3-5 from deep) while tallying 3 assists, and posted a +17 on the night. Meanwhile, the Knick PGs were pretty awful. Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby combined to score 7 points on 3-12 shooting while missing all 7 of their three point attempts. Their one redeeming quality was that they were okay as “playmakers,” as Douglass had 5 assists while also being careful with the ball (1 turnover combined), but when you consider how important PG play is to Mike D’Antoni’s system, their play was a pretty big hole the entire night. It’s crazy how much this team needs Baron Davis right now as he’s simply a better play maker from that spot than anyone on their roster. (Re-read that last sentence again.
The Play of the Game
The clock was winding down and Steve Blake, with few options, passed the ball to Kobe for a bail out jumper. The rest was simply Kobe making something out of nothing the way he has so many times before (h/t to @jose3030 for the clip):