Gross. Gritty. Grotesque. Gruesome.
For three quarters, the Lakers and Pacers engaged in one of the ugliest games of the season. Both teams were shooting under 40 percent from the field and both teams were shooting lest than 43 percent around the rim. There were loads of bunnies missed right at the bucket way too many long twos were taken and the two teams had combined to shoot six-for-19 on mid-range jump shots. Also through three quarters, both teams were reckless with the ball with each team turning it over 13 times.
For much of the season, these were the kind of games that the Pacers seemed to win and the Lakers seemed to lose. And with two of their best four players in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol sidelined with injuries (Kobe gave his ankle a go in the first quarter, but wasn’t able to return), the writing seemed like it was on the wall — the Lakers would be heading home with another road loss. The Pacers went into the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, a healthier lineup, a better bench unit and more size to collect the rebound from misses that came at an alarming rate up until that point.
Then the fourth quarter happened. Both teams lifted their collective games and some fantastic basketball was played. While the Lakers may have run a variety of sets in the fourth quarter, they largely ran their offense through Dwight, looking to get him the ball in the post on both sides of the lane, giving him room to operate and sliding down to the wing to receive open passes should a post up stall. They ran a series of P&Rs between Nash and Dwight, they ran the Horns sets a few times and even got the ball to Howard through the center-opposite action a few times.
The variety in the Lakers sets down the stretch kept the Indiana defense on their heels, and allowed for the Lakers to shoot some open jumpers — that they were actually able to knock down. They cut down on the number of long twos that they shot in the fourth (only three of their 20 fgas were between 15 feet and the 3-point line, and they made two of those). And it wasn’t only hitting the shots, but the timeliness of the shots that they made were huge.
There were five times in the fourth quarter where the Lakers recaptured the lead after the Pacers either tied the game or took the lead. Steve Blake’s three pointer after sliding down to the left wing during a Dwight post up; Steve Nash’s pull up 17-footer with 7:45 left to play; Earl Clark’s three-pointer to put the Lakers back up three after Paul George knocked down a game tying three of his own; Blake’s 2nd three pointer of the quarter following George Hill’s floater over Dwight that gave Indiana a one-point lead; and then Dwight’s layup that he slammed off the backboard with his right hand after Hill’s mid-range jumper tied the game — all huge plays for the Lakers down the stretch.
And when the Lakers took that final lead off of Howard’s layup with about 1:30 left to play in the game, they held onto the lead and closed out the game. The Pacers shot two-for-six in the final 90 seconds while Jamison hit a huge three to extend the lead to two possessions and Howard was able to get a break away dunk off of a loose ball that essentially put the game on ice.
This wasn’t just a huge win because it was on the road against a good team without two of their best players, it was also a huge win because of the way they won. The Lakers, even when winning, haven’t been able to pull out the ugly victories much this season. They didn’t shoot well to begin the game. Hell, they didn’t shoot well through the first three quarters. But they played hard for those three quarters to keep them within striking distance going into the fourth. They worked hard on the defensive end by contesting shots at the rim (Indiana shot 43 percent on field goals at the rim tonight). They could have done a much better job of running shooters off of the line, but for the most part the defensive energy was good enough to keep the Pacers offensive attack off balance.
D’Antoni got solid contributions from almost everyone who played tonight. Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison were the keys tonight. Blake was five-for-eight from the field with 18 points, but he stuffed the stat sheet adding six rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks while only committing one turnover. Jamison wasn’t as spectacular, but he shot six-for-10 from the field with 17 points and hit a couple of timely threes to help the Lakers cause down the stretch.
Dwight and Ron were both very good tonight for the starting unit. Dwight had 20 points on seven-for-17 shooting, but showed tons of maturity during the fourth quarter allowing the offense to run through him and constantly making the right play. He had a few shots that didn’t fall around the rim, mainly do to a lack of touch, but his kick out to Steve Blake and an absolutely gorgeous pass to a cutting Jamison that was almost Shaq-esque really stood out. Ron, who was a bit reckless in some instances as he sometimes is, played a decent game, and hit a few shots in the third quarter to help keep the game from getting away from them after Indiana got off to a hot start to begin the 2nd half.
All-in-all, I was largely impressed with the grit this team had tonight. Road wins against a tough, physical teams come at a premium — and with a series of very winable games over the next week and a half (v. Sac, @PHX, v. Was, @GS, @MIN). The Lakers are putting themselves in position to not only make the post season, but maybe finish with either the seventh or sixth seeds, pulling them away from a first-round match up against the Spurs or Thunder. While there is still a lot of hoops left to be played, you have to love what they were able to do tonight.
rob from hb says
Great win. Funny how we play like a true team once Kobe goes down. Get well soon Mamba. We cant win a championship without you.
GSW is losing against Chicago. WoW
Tonight was one of the first times this year I feel this team can play with anyone and actually make it to the finals. Dwight is much better then he has been and the team concept was very exciting. Best game of the year for me.
Harvey M says
Yup, excellent win and my personal fave as well, for just the same reason….and I hate to remind you but around the time that they were 17-25, you were predicting under 30 wins for the whole year….
Will be interesting, but as chemistry builds it can go a long way, and what seemed unthinkable one week is expected the next…still hard to believe they can beat Miami, and OKC and actually Denver seem pretty scary as well. (not to mention the Spurs, Clips and Griz). but it sure feels that they are at least somewhere in the mix.
The Dane says
Man… I went to bed before the pretty part started. First 3 quarters where pretty ugly. Only Blake and Nash played consistently well (shots sometimes just don’t fall… nothing you can do about it).
I think Kobe would make a great head coach and Nash a great assistant. Do not be surprised if you see this within the next six years.
99.99% of NBA players wouldn’t play if they had Kobe’s injury because it would ruin their scoring averages. Can’t hate on Kobe for playing.
Respect your legends people.
Kobe did his very best Willis Reed impression leading to a very good team win, Dave McMenamin piece is spot on: http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/story/_/id/9058136/kobe-bryant-laker-teammates-seized-their-opportunity-shine-absence. World Peace summed it up nicely, calling it, “the biggest win of the season for us.”
Next challenge: the Kings
Joe M says
Lakers cannot beat OKC or Miami, are you guys for real? They are totally outmatched against those teams. They have struggled mightily against the elite teams all year, they get crushed by them. I don’t think they could beat the Spurs or Clippers either, but they would have a better shot against one of those teams than OKC. Now what would be nice is if we can get the 7th or 6th seed and have OKC get 1st seed. Then we can avoid them 1st round and have a decent shot of making the 2nd round.
It’s a fact that the Lakers have struggled against elite teams (especially Miami and OKC) – at the same time, they’re getting much better as a team. Obviously id like to avoid OKC in the first, but even if that happens I don’t feel we’re doomed. The team is clicking, defensively something has changed positively (Howard getting healthier/more dialed in?). I’m waiting for Gasol to get back – I feel we’re gonna make some noise in the playoffs
Great game. Career game from Blake, coupled with a great game from AJ means it was one of the best bench performances in years.
Excellent recap, PB. The Steve Blake that we witnessed last night was the SB that I envisioned when we signed him a few yrs ago. As D’Antoni mentioned at his introductory press conference, “He’s a much better shooter than he’s shown thus far in L.A.” And, at least for 1 night, he proved D’Antoni right.
I know that I’ve taken my fair share of shots within the FB&G this season at my NYC Brethren, Ron Artest. So it’s only right that I give credit where credit is due. He was, imo, our best player last night. His offense is what kept us afloat during one point of the game, but what really stood out was his defense on D. West. Ron put the handcuffs on him and proceeded to lock him up. 4-13 shooting, 8 pts total in 38 mins of floor time? Yeah, Ron-Ron definitely showed out last night and in my eyes, on a night in which we didn’t get any points from the 2-guard position (looking squarely at you Jodie), was the major reason why the flight back to L.A. had to have been a joyful one.
Thanks for the link BigCitySid! I love these quotes from that article.
“We have so much respect for Kobe [Bryant] giving us his effort, but we knew once he went out it was going to take all of us to step up,” Blake said. “That’s a great feeling — when you can do that as a team.”
“What I told them is, ‘I don’t know how much I have, but whatever I have, I’m going to give you,'” Bryant said. “That’s all my message was to them.”
“We have too much talent to think that there’s not a chance for us to win when he’s not out there,” Jamison said.
“It was tough, but we all pulled through together,” Howard said. “The guys really helped me out, talking to me, making sure I was in a good place.”
But when a reporter tried to praise World Peace, saying, “David West [who shot 4-for-13] had a tough night because of you,” he replied by saying, “… And the team.”
Later, World Peace called it, “the biggest win of the season for us.”
This is a team that has confidence and is gaining more and more each day. Pau is coming back soon. Kobe will have up to a week off and, hopefully, come back at full strength.
MWP called this the biggest win of the year and he was dead on. Lakers came in without their best player against the 2nd best team in the East. On the road. This Pacers team is supposed to be able to take out the Heat. Big win.
@JoeM You’re totally right that this team has struggled against the best teams in the league, but the Lakers have also not been at full strength all year either. If they can get into the playoffs at full strength and on a roll like they have been…. well let’s just say that I claim “noise” will be made.
Darius Soriano says
A new post is up.
Dane you might have been sleeping the 1st three-quarters. Blake shot great Nash no! He was 3 for 13 coming off a 4 for 14 against Atlanta. 33% last two is 18% below career.
Joe you know I have been one of the biggest critic’s of this years team. BUT I do call it the way I see it as a 40 year fan and college player. With Dwight playing 50% better on D and the boards and Pau very well rested they DO have a chance. Both OKC and Miami have
the same weakness, the center position. Lakers might have 2 top 5 bigs in top shape by then. Also the bench and 8 man rotation in much improved. Biggest weakness is Nash defense which I hope Blake’s
recent play can reduce SN to 25 not 35 a game.
They DO have a chance which is all I hoped for all year.
Rusty Shackleford says
Steve Blake’s best game as a Laker. Easily.
Nash had 9 assists on 2 TOs — including a huge triplet of dimes down the stretch in the 4thQ (Blake’s go-ahead 3, Howard’s re-go-ahead 3-pt. play, and Jamison’s dagger 3) — which is an all-star ratio by any stretch. He also had 15pts on 5-13 shooting (not 3-13) — still not great, but Kobe’s had his share of 39% shooting games too.
As to Nash’s defense, he’s not that athletic and sometimes undersized, but he plays very solid team defense, and is almost certainly more disciplined playing defense off-the-ball than Kobe, who has a tendency to either gamble too much with attempted steals, or drift into a 1-man zone. In any event, I have a tough time buying your defensive analysis, given that you’ve admitted on this board that you don’t really pay attention to off-the-ball play.
Finally, we could check the Lakers’ Offensive Rating wih Nash on vs. off the floor, or I could just state that the notion that team should cut the minutes of a PG who’s shooting 50/40/90 (and with a True Shooting %-age > 60%) and who’s probably still one of the 3 best passers in the league is really, really poorly conceived.
Rusty Shackleford says
Let’s not get carried away being overly apologetic for Steve Nash’s defense on or off the ball. There’s a reason that the book on him is defensive liability just like the book on Kobe is that he can go into chucker mode from time to time. (BTW for those of you who hunt chuckers it is a workout. My brother-in-law absolutely schooled me running up and down hillsides chasing those little bastards.) A player’s limitations are what they are. I don’t get too caught up in defending Dwight’s free throw struggles saying they get the team in the bonus.
Steve Nash needs to make shots and not turn the ball over for this Laker team.
P. Ami says
This is a response to a link that Aaron shared to Ethan Sherwood Straus’ article on Truehoop discussing the Lakers and Luck.
I’m not paying for ESPN Insider these days. I would be curious for a breakdown of ESS’ argument regarding luck. In a way I agree that luck has had an impact and we might be seeing the Lakers progress to the mean but…
I think there is one key element that needs accounting for. It has been stated many times but I agree with this view too much to just leave it be. Chemistry was always going to be an issue. Too many key members of this team were new and the culture of of winning was not up to championship levels when those new members joined. This was not like adding Malone and Peyton for many reasons, not the least of which, Nash and Howard were not joining a core that was only a year removed from winning championships (LO, PJ, Fish, were all key components that had been subtracted). This team needed time to learn how to play together.
Obviously, injuries were a risk for many reasons (Howard’s back surgery and the age of the other core players) and we got hit with injuries enough to make us competitive with Minnesota. Besides the loss of the talents that were unavailable for long stretches, we also lost the opportunity to develop chemistry.
Then there was the coaching change. All three situations served to retard the development of a team that had championship aspirations. All year long, they looked worse then what their talents suggested and the numbers bore that out. I think there was a point in the season where the numbers showed the team to be better then their record, which plays into the bad luck. If you watched them, they looked worse then their record. In my view, the eye test showed them to be awful, the numbers showed them to be mediocre and their record showed them to be somewhere in between.
So, what do we see now? If last night and the game against ATL are any indication, they are good enough now to beat the second tier of East teams in a 7-game series. Show us Boston, NYK, BRO, IND, CHI etc… I think the Lakers win that series, even without Pau. That is what the eye test tells me. The record since the All-Star break seems to indicate the same. The numbers are also trending in that direction. So what to make of team who is likely to be the 7-seed in the West being capable of beating all but one team in the East? One, luck has something to do with it. Injuries, unlucky bounces, the accidents of chemistry, these all play out in a season of chaos. The chaos seems to be cooling off now. The competitive plasma is finding it’s center. The tectonic power of our centers are grinding and quacking. The water-cycle of our point-guards is caught in it’s seasonal flow. There is ice, there is water, there is vapor (Nash, Blake, Kobe). Our swingmen are tilting on the axis of this team, giving us the mild winters and ocean cooled summers that characterize LA with some combination of 3PT shooting, steady D, and strange scoring ventures from Metta, Meeks, Clark and Jamison. The chaos is breaking down into order. It is focusing under the steady work ethic that characterize every aspect of this team. They are executing and this relies less on luck then on effort.
I don’t know that this addresses anything that ESS wrote on Truehoop but this is my losse association of luck and this Lakers season.
One thing I would like to say. It boggles my mind that Kobe’s excellence, his fundamentals, his effort, his intelligence, his skill, his experience, his athleticism, all the aspects you would want from a great basketball player and entertainer, all these elements somehow work and yet seem to be a draw back. Last night’s 4th quarter saw execution. Nash looked like Nash. The ball moved as did the players. They were engaged as a unit and all this with Kobe on the sideline, unable to play. I’ve seen this happen too many times to not want some answer better then, “Teams just band together when their star goes down”. The numbers bare this out. In the first 3 quarters the Lakers have been the best offense for a decade or more. Then in the 4th quarter, the Lakers decide to go Kobe show. For all the heroics I’ve witnessed, I find last night’s win to much more satisfying then those wild comebacks. I know Kobe thinks it is his responsibility. He wants it on his shoulders. I get that. To my mind, getting the team executing like we saw last night is on his shoulders too.
I don’t want to get dragged into the debate ove whether Kobe is a chucked is earned or not.
You seem to be arguing that because Nash has a rep for poor defense that it obviously must be earned…I’m almost tempted to just say to that, “go watch/read Moneyball”. But I’ll just note that a few threads back, I think Harvey M asked folks to point out a *single* concrete crucial late-game defensive breakdown this season for which Nash was personally responsible — and he got crickets. (That’s not to say that none exist — but if no one could easily recall one, I think that’s a pretty good indicator that his reputation may be significantly exaggerated.)
And as a counter-example, I seem to recall a series of possessions on which Ken complained that Nash lost his man on screens (I think?)…and was promptly corrected by Darius that the responsibility properly fell on the help defender in those situations.
Which is all to say that a lot of people who complain about Nash’s defense frankly are not as informed as they could be.
In terms of what “Nash has to do”, the shooting #s I posted above are elite-level, and on the nights he’s not shooting well, he’s facilitating well (FYI, in his poor last 2 shooting games, he’s dropped 16 AST on 2 TOs…it should go without saying that an 8:1 ratio is elite…)
All of this is to say that it’s very easy to understand why certain Lakers/Kobe fans make cheering for the Lakers a lot more challenging than it needs to be.
bryan S says
Good. Grand. Great. Gigantic.
why has blake at the 2 been working unlike last year?
I didn’t read the ESS piece, but the basic problem with a “luck” argument is that looking at W/L and point differential, which is the usual stathead approach to “luck” narratives, all that has really happened is that the Lakers’ luck has evened out. They had a positive point diff when they were 17-25. The Lakers are 35-32 and as per Bask Ref their expected W/L is 36-31. At the same time, Utah and GS have been evening out the other way.
I also think that Blake’s return and putting Clark in the rotation have helped. Clark is very limited, but he fits well and adds a little athleticism. Blake isn’t anything special, but he is better than Duhon and Morris, and is capable of having good games at times, as he did last night.
To my mind, getting the team executing like we saw last night is on his shoulders too.
Kobe ain’t the coach. One thing that we told when Nash got here is that the 4th quarter crunch-time possessions would have less ISO, but it hasn’t happened that much.You can put that on Kobe if you want to, but IMO it is just as much on Nash and D’Antoni.
The other issue with this argument–and I have read or heard it probably literally 500 times–is that I think it underestimates how much other teams can adjust. Xs and Os have limits–but they are not meaningless. If Kobe missed like 20 games, other teams would adjust more concretely than they can over the short-term or within a game. There would be more pressure on Nash, there would be less space for the other guys, etc.
That said, I said in preseason that Kobe should be playing off-ball more late. Personally, I would try some smallball lineups with Kobe at the 3, Metta at the 4, and Meeks at the 2, with Kobe on the block, and Nash instigating the action, and look to make more D/O substitutions.
Isn’t it funny how when teams win they are happy and are seen as having “good chemistry.”
And teams that don’t win, typically aren’t as happy and are seen as not having great chemistry.
To me, the chemistry aspect I’d highly overrated. If it’s such a big deal, okc should be destroyed by the harden trade and the clippers should get to the finals. I know i would pick okc over the clips anyday of the week.
Look no further than the lakers so called chemistry from earlier this year and right now (they were happier once they started winning, not, they started winning when they were happier)
remember………if shaq+kobe=bad chemistry and shaq+kobe=3 championships then chemistry= overrated
Darius Soriano says
I think chemistry isn’t just guys getting along, but guys’ ability to form a cohesive unit and find ways to complement each other on the floor. I’d also add that talent is still very important and can’t be overlooked. Those Shaq/Kobe Laker teams may not have had good off court chemistry, but they sure found ways to complement each other on the floor. They also had 2 of the top 5 players in the game playing peak level basketball. That’s hard to stop when the pieces work well together between the lines.
EST couple of good posts. I agree on Nash, sort of. He is a very smart defensive player. He is 39 and often gets hurt by faster guards or taller guards. Last night it was a taller one(Hill) who scored over him 3 times in the 4th. He is very important to this team even when he shoots 25% like the last two games. Explain the difference between getting beat 5 times in the 1st quarter or not giving up the winning shot in the last few minutes?
My issue is the FO went all out to bring him in knowing his defensive limitations and age. I have to wonder why they didn’t go all out to find a top defender to bring in for key spots when he was enable to stop
younger, quicker, taller point guards instead of the dead wood on the bench. If Steve gives up 25 and 10 assists but scores 14 with 7 assists are we up or down?
I like Steve Nash but a 35 minute a game guy he is not. Bringing in a guy who is 14th in offense and 26th in points against forces Kobe to be the point guard slash shooting guard. Not what the plan was to be
or validates MDs, “wait till Steve gets back”. Also remember he is signed till he is 41 years old.
I think that things like proper floor spacing and having players that compliment each other are often times called chemistry. things like spacing are what can help a team be a cohesive unit. But i think that the term chemistry is incorrect there (i could be wrong)
Also, the word chemistry is used as a “wow they really get along great (clippers)” type of thing as well
To group that together is silly. That’s all I’m saying.
I would love for you guys to help me out with basketball theroy, i am building a nba game engine (for fun) and would live to hear input on ways the game logic should be. here is a link to the lakers team page https://dl.dropbox.com/u/89472888/HTMLs/T15.htm … You can change the number 15 to any number from 1tp 30 to check or other teams.
hopefully i will finish it soon and start a free league for anyone who wants to join.
Joe M says
This team as constructed will not beat OKC or Miami in a 7 game series. Both teams have superior talent and more depth. Both teams play superior defense, have more speed, and more consistent role players. Durant, Westbrook combination is a better 1,2 punch than any Laker 1,2 punch. Miami’s 3 punch of Lebron, Wade, Bosh is better than any Laker 3 punch. Both teams have better outside shooting, which is important since all 3 teams take a lot of outside shots. Yes, Lakers have size, especially if you add Gasol in there, but in today’s league, speed tends to dominant more than size. Lets also remember, they would not have home court advantage against any of those teams, both of whom are almost unbeatable on their home court. Lakers have improved and are definitely a playoff team, they can make some noise in the playoffs. But in no way shape or form are they an elite team. If Howard and Nash performed up to expectations, role players were more consistent, and Gasol did not get injured, then they would be elite like we thought in the beginning of the year, but none of that has not happened. So how can you say this team is elite and can beat an OKC or Miami Heat? It was not too long ago OKC ate the Lakers for breakfast on their homecourt, one of the few loses the Lakers have had in this good stretch.
Would not call this an ugly game. Overall, a very enjoyable game to watch.