With their 116-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers have moved to a 4-1 record since the All-Star break, one game under .500 and two games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. While the Lakers did play well tonight, the implications of the win are much more important than how they actually went about winning the game. With a home loss to a very beatable team in the Timberwolves, it would have put the Lakers back three games behind the Houston Rockets with games against the Hawks, Thunder and Bulls coming up in the next five. And while the other five teams competing for the last 2-3 playoff spots (Utah, Houston, Golden State, and Portland) have all been struggling recently, it’s not in the Lakers best interest to keep pace with their struggles if their ultimate goal is to make the post season. Considering their upcoming schedule — 12 of the last 23 games will come against non-playoff and/or bubble-playoff teams — they have an opportunity to finish the season very strongly, and could very well end up as high as the seventh seed. I’m not necessarily trying to get ahead of Sunday’s game against the Hawks, but merely pointing out the importance of a mundane win over the Timberwolves at this point in the season. Every win matters from here on out, and losses will seemingly matter more.
Before we look ahead to Sunday, let’s take a look at what they did well tonight.
- First and foremost, I’d like to commend the work that the bench unit was able to put in tonight. Outside of Kobe Bryant, the triumvirate of Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks outscored the Lakers starters with 46 points on 37 shots with 18 rebounds and 7 assists. Blake played particularly well by getting the offense in its sets, finding open teammates (six dimes) and picking his spots well. Blake was three-for-five from the three point line and had an uncharacteristic seven rebounds. I thought Blake was spectacular passing the ball. He had a pass to Jamison who slipped a screen late in the first that was brilliant and a pass to Dwight Howard in the second where he probed the defense until Howard was free, then slipped a nice bounce pass right behind Greg Steisma.
- To that point, Jamison’s game has been its absolute best when he’s been able to get easy looks around the rim by moving well off the ball. He’s been fantastic slipping screens in P&R situations while his uncanny ability to cut to the basket at just the right time has really helped this offense move. While moving off the ball is important, the timing and the understanding of spacing is equally important — and it seems as if Jamison has the best understanding of these things on the team, and he’s been taking full advantage of that skill set lately. And it was in full effect tonight against the ‘Wolves.
- Moving on to the starting unit, Bryant has had yet another brilliant game. For the fourth straight game, Bean has scored at least 29 points and shot over 50 percent from the field (h/t to Ryan Cole for that stat). While it’s not nearly as impressive as what LeBron James was doing earlier this month, it’s still ridiculous for a guy his age to be so efficient scoring the basketball. What was interesting about Bryant’s 33 points tonight was the fact that he recorded 11 points in each of the first three quarters (he sat out the fourth). 13-22 from the field with five rebounds and five assists is a hell of a night.
- For the other guys, there were some good things there as well. I thought both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard did a great job of setting the tone early. Nash was aggressively looking to score off the dribble and Howard was extremely active on both ends of the floor. Neither of those guys have amazing nights in terms of the box score, but each of those two impacted the game in very real ways. The Timberwolves were double teaming Howard off the ball for a large part of the third quarter (as a part of their zone scheme) to try to keep the ball out of his hands. Nash, who made some great passes as the night progressed, also didn’t turn the ball over and kept the unforced errors to a minimum to reduce the number of Minnesota extra possessions.
All and all, it was a great night for the Lakers. With Golden State, Houston and Utah all losing yesterday, it was essential for them to pick up this win and close the gap between those currently in the Top 8 seeds and themselves. As mentioned earlier, they’re only two games outside of a playoff spot with 23 games left to play. Getting in is very doable, but they have to win the gimmie games like tonight that they had struggled with to begin the season. They play again on Sunday night at 6:30 PST against the Atlanta Hawks.
el lungo says
Kobe 3-7 over FT s unacceptable!Such a burden he has become.
yeah thought it was 3pt shots at first 3-7 … anyway great to win games we expect to win
Loved the fact Kobe got to take the 4th quarter off…sweet
Great gimme game, if the Lakers did not lost all those gimmes early in the season we would not be on this predicament, total control from start to finish.
david h says
phillip: absolutely correct, reserves played tremendous. even third string, in limited minutes (garbage time) held their own. this will be key as we head toward the playoffs. to the rest the starters whenever possible to remain ready and able when needed. the combination of jamison and blake seems to work well with the rest of the starters and little if any dropoff when nash and clark and/or chop liver are on the bench. we got a glimpse of that last night. credit to the coaching staff. that coach d, he’s smarter than he looks. no mental lapses please…keep the blinders on. let us fanatics do all the second guessing here.
in an effort to improve dwight’s free throw shooting, everyone at staples need to leave their seats, go out to the parking lot, restrooms, concession stands whenever dwight is shooting free throws, please.
another two days rest before the next game vs atlanta coming to staples. would do well to rest the starters (reserves played tremendous) if at all possible with monday being an off day prior to a pivotal road game in oklahoma versus the thunder. a little lightning before the thunder will do wonders for our ego and confidence in the stretch run to the playoffs.
Viewing the final total of comments from last night’s Game Preview Board, I see that my wish, from my 1st post last night, was granted ..
All jokes aside, expected victory last night against an inferior opponent. Who also, while already under manned, happened to lose their best interior player during the game. Our 3 main reserves played well & Kobe was zoned in all night. I believe that Dwight could’ve been utilized a lil more on the offensive end of the court; but also realize that Minny zoned up a lot during the contest. With that being said, good to see that he didn’t allow the amount of (or should I say, lack of) touches that he received offensively affect his work on the defensive end of the hardwood.
On to the next one .. Those ATL Boyz
Based on Metta’s poor play the last 6 weeks is it a thought to move Jamasion into starter? He works better then other without the ball and with Nash. His plus/minus has been impressive the last month. In addition he is the 3rd best rebounder in the team. like to see his defense more when Dwight’s on the court.
May not be as bad as you all think.
Joe M says
At this point the Lakers have proved to us just what we can expect from them. They are indeed much better than what they have shown throughout the year. 12-5 in their last 17. That is about a 700 winning percentage. Still not close to championship caliber, but I will at least be content to see this team to find a way in the playoffs even if their chances of winning it all are almost 0. It would at least give us some hoipe for next year and maybe if we can just add a few younger players, maybe trading one of our older guns, it may be possible this team can do something. Defense is still a major issue with this team. We need to get stronger defensively and to me that starts with Mike D and him putting more focus into getting his team to play great team defense, yea I know, that is hard to believe.
In an effort to improve dwight’s free throw shooting, everyone at staples need to leave their seats, go out to the parking lot, restrooms, concession stands whenever dwight is shooting free throws, please.
Classic David H … Classic
All I am saying is that if Phil was coach, the Timberwolves would have just forfeited the game before it started and all the players would have rested.
(In case you don’t know, this is a joke)
MannyP: You could be correct given that the 21 game streak obviously started in Phil’s era. Phil coached for 20 years, made the Finals 13 times and won 11 chips. He took over for Doug Collins and Del Harris neither of whom ever even made it to the Finals. Both his teams and his superstars have never made the Finals since his departure. Now granted 2011 was not his best year. However that is all many on this board remember. So to be equally sarcastic: There is no way Phil could have made a difference this year. He would have coached like 2011 and not like any of the other 19 years, and he probably would have fallen asleep on the bench during most games.
Or perhaps alternatively we could evaluate this year’s team and coach based off this year’s results and not worry about what Phil would or would not have done.
rr: With regard to Jamison: I am not second guessing. I brought this up early in the year. That is First guessing : ) And once again you are arguing while agreeing : )We both think he should have played both then and now. He would play less if Pau were healthy. He never should have been glued to the pine. Where do we differ? : )
Reserves hitting shots in road games is a whole other thing.
Darius Soriano says
Where things get tricky is that D’Antoni had to learn his players on the fly. The only way to do that is to give guys minutes, extensive minutes, and then sort it out later. It’s why, when Jamison first went to the bench, D’Antoni said “it’s nothing against him and it’s not his fault” while also saying “he’ll get another shot to play, I’m sure”. And, what do you know, he got his chance again and is back in the rotation contributing.
I don’t mind critiquing the coaches, but I think it’s much more informative if we take the big picture in mind all the time and then zoom back in, rather than starting from a zoomed in perspective and trying to work our way out. The latter often leads to confirmation bias.
harvey M says
Exactly. Its what I have been hoping for all along. Get to the playoffs, and that gives us, at the worst, a boost into next year.
And I think many of us, saw flaws in the roster that started the season, but no one could have anticipated that that roster, which was not set up to endure much injury, would instead have a cascade of injuries….and with a bigger problem of these injuries being at similar positions, so that there were almost 20 games played without an NBA level point guard, for a coach whose system is mostly about the PG position, and then with another very long stretch with serious depth issues to the bigs, the Laker’s biggest perceived advantage, and key defensive cornerstone.
The other big issue, is that the only successful precedent to building through free agency, the Heat, (and I suppose the celtics as well) had two huge advantages over this team. One obviously was signing healthy superstars in their prime. But an almost equal advantage was having cap room, and flexibility to sign those superstars in a way to maximize the potential of adding key other complimentary pieces needed to fill out the roster. Now maybe when Jordan and Pau are healthy and with how the bench have developed (with no small kudos going to Dantoni for that) perhaps the team is now deep enough or there are pieces to trade or other cap “flexibilities”, to add what else is needed. But its really good to see the team take a more coherent form.
Nash, Blake, Jamison and Meeks all shot over 40% from 3 in February. Guess I can’t complain about the system if it’s producing these results.
Darius: Fair enough. And as you know I am trying to avoid the discussion all together, however Phil is one of my sacred cows. With regard to Phil: While I supported him, and complained when he did not get the job – that is over. It is useless to speculate about what he would have done, however it is also useless to defend D’Antoni by saying Phil could not have done any better. Both types of comments are irrelevant and we should evaluate this year’s team and coaches based on this year’s results, not some hypothetical comparison to what Phil might have done. With regard to the rotations: I am not saying this was an easy task : ) But that is why we need a very good coach ! Choices have to be made and yes some trial and error. The coaches can be forgiven for some trial and error type mistakes, however I am thinking they should have a better than random chance of getting this right early in the year (and yes I know the injuries did not help), Also, right or wrong, simply picking a rotation and staying with it has its advantages, as the inconsistency itself causes problems. We went through 1/2 a season plus of change, and that was partially our own doing. I will evaluate after all is said and done – and that will be based on circumstances and results. I will not grade on a curve : ) And I will not give our coach a good grade just because Jim says he deserves it and because he is locked into a contract. He should be evaluated based on results. And the jury is still out : ) Darius: Thanks for the response and your board provides good relief from what has been a tough year.
If Phil was on the bench and Andrew Bynum had not been traded, Phil would inspire Andrew’s body to heal quicker and, perhaps, grow another foot. With D’Antoni as coach, Andrew is out injured – even if he’s not on the Lakers.
All I am saying is that Phil is magical. NO one else can coach in the NBA. No one.
(I promise not to joke around anymore)
MannyP: My question is that if Drew were still here would he still have that crazy doo? What if Nash were still in Phoenix, would he still have long hair? Perhaps Kobe never should have shaved his mini-fro. And yes – Phil is Magical – he made 11 chips appear in an area where none were being produced : )
Robert: If Drew where here, I think his ‘do’ would be different. I think he would opt to bring back the Jerry Curl. Nash would be hairless. Completely hairless. Head to toe. No eyebrows, no arm hair.
david h says
every time i flush i hear a freethrow go in. dwight? is that you?
we are all bored beyond belief and it’s only friday. time for dave m to chime in with the friday forum. dave m?
harvey M says
Bottom line with Dantoni..(and I am in general a supporter, so I will put that up front, so that you can all have a fair shot at attacking that)..1) this is a tough f’ing place to come into with enormous expectations, a flawed roster, extreme levels of injuries and a VERY, VERY difficult balance of egos and styles, not to mention the aspirations of the FO to play faster and more entertaining offensive ball which may have also not been consistent with the type of success, the fans expected. He has also endured a level of hate from this fan base that I find almost unprecedented, given all of that. 2) he has adjusted to this all way better than could have been expected and has more or less dumped any dogma about his offensive style, allowing way more post ups and ISO than he ever did..period 3) The results we are seeing with the bench is exactly consistent with what he has achieved in the past. By shortening rotations, creating clearer roles for his bench players and allowing some freedom to lesser players (which is not usual in the coaching brethren), he has achieved great results with the bench which effects were also seen on the suns, the Knicks (can you say Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw, Jared Dudley, and also to an extent JR Smith, Raymond Felton…..) and also with his successor Alvin Gentry. All of that while being prone to attacks from the conventional wisdom that his rotations are too short and he is too reluctant to make situational substitutions. So I don’t think it is a coincidence and he deserves at least a decent amount of credit for that.
Darius Soriano says
I think the biggest disconnect between fans and coaches is the idea of process vs. results. All coaches preach the process. They talk execution of their schemes and a carrying out of their philosophy on the floor. Whether we’re talking Phil, Popovich, D’Antoni, or any other coach they all — or at least the good ones — preach process.
Most fans, however, focus solely on results. Lakers’ fans especially. Robert’s comment above mentioned results multiple times and I’d imagine most fans feel the same way he does in terms of the results.
Personally, I side more with process because, once there’s proper buy in the from the players and if the talent is in place, a dedication to process will yield results. The issue is, however, is that variables affect process — injuries, roster upheaval, coaching changes — all can throw a monkey wrench in what you’re trying to accomplish. There’s a ripple throughout what you’re trying to accomplish when there’s too much change. That’s what the Lakers have faced for much of this year…
But things are looking better now. Much better. The coaching change has settled. The injuries have settled down and the players who are out have been out for long enough that roles have been established and adapted to. What we see now is a focus back on process — on execution — and playing out the schemes on both ends. And, as we’ve seen, the results have followed. As an aside, this idea is one of the main influences in how I run this site. The process of what the team is trying to accomplish interests me the most. If all I did was want to talk about the results, I’d just post box scores.
Darius/Harvey: I am not disagreeing with many of your points. And I did not just say “results” : ) I said circumstances and results (well at least one of the two times I did). So of course some circumstances are better than others and that needs to be taken into account. As Harvey points out, there were a number of circumstances that made this a difficult gig and that is true. And as Darius points out – getting into the “process” is very important, and for a variety of reasons, that is just now starting to happen. However all of this must be weighed against opportunity and results, and the conclusion is very debatable. As Darius says, things are “looking better”. Let’s hold our full appraisal of MD until after the season is over when the “results” are in because without the final results the report card is “incomplete” : ) Appreciate and enjoyed your posts. And yours too MannyP – but that visual you gave me on Nash was not pretty : )
Like I said last fall when some people here were trying to tell me that Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono needed time to learn the system, I am more on the “process” bandwagon with a young team than with a team like the Lakers. This is not to say that it doesn’t matter; basketball is a game of interactive parts, and timing and familiarity are big parts of that picture. But what Antawn Jamison can and cannot do was pretty well-known to all relevant parties before he ever put on a Lakers uniform. That needs to be considered by proMDA types, antiMDA types, and all those in between. With Howard, Gasol, and Hill all available, and the team’s having massive defensive issues, sitting Jamison was a perfectly understandable decision.
I would also add that it is just not Lakers’ fans who were focused on results: Mike Brown got fired in large part because he was 1-12 counting exhibition games, and Buss and Kupchak expected this team to be very good +immediately+.
I think a key point about D’Antoni that a lot of people have missed is that the Gasol and Hill injuries may have actually helped him, in that they are the two guys whom he has had the most trouble finding roles for. As I said yesterday, Jamison and Clark are certainly not better players than Pau and Hill are, but they fit around Howard and in the system better than Pau and Hill do. That, along with Blake’s return, has allowed D’Antoni to create an 8-man rotation that he can work with.
As to things getting better, a lot of people here sneered at McMenamin’s piece, but it is worth noting, as McMenamin did, that the Lakers have lost the five games which they have lost in the last 17 by an average of 14.4 points. Their Pythagorean Record is only 32-27, and Minnesota minus Love, Pekovic et al is the worst team in the conference.
harvey M says
Always a good read. Spare the indulgence but there is a woman who writes on the street.com, named Helene Meisler, and one of her favorite expressions is “never rationalize an indicator”…meaning if you are buying into using a metric you need to use it and not rationalize when the indicator reaches a conclusion you don’t like. Having said that, I am a big fan of point differential so I think its wrong to disagree with the point made by Mcmenamin that the whole win streak happened with no blip on the scoring margin indicator. And overall, I think it is fair to say that the Lakers are still not a great team since they have a point differential of just +1 ish.
But given the sheer volume of injuries, and the coaching changes, and the bad psychology that developed probably for a number of reasons, but not least of which was that they were losing in an environment where that is not tolerated, and where it was completely unexpected, causing additional pressures and overall pretty awful body language on the court, I think this is the one case where you have to say that the team is at least a little bit better than that +1 point differential would indicate. For one you don’t come out of the hole that the 17-25 start created, without some potholes along the way. Secondly, and Ramona Shelburne has pointed this out, there was just a much better “buy-in” coming out of the all star break, possibly, in part due to the events around the death of Dr. Buss, by Dwight, and that seems to have changed the psychology of the team substantially, and should insure that we never see the kind of putrid stench coming off of the floor like the one that we witnessed in that Boston game, after Pau’s injury, when Dwight was more or less forced on the floor, and which resulted in a 21 point loss.
Perhaps. The Lakers point diff was around +2.5 when they were under .500. Here are the point diffs and DRTGs of the three teams they are chasing, along with the Lakers’, from Bask Ref:
Utah +/-0/22 (Utah has scored 5812 points and allowed 5814).
So, the Lakers actually have the highest DRTG of the 4.
As to the buy-in–maybe. But I would think that only Kobe, and maybe Pau, who is not playing, would be deeply affected by Dr. Buss’ passing on a personal level. OTOH, it might encourage guys to put their differences aside.