The Lakers coming in: For a team that didn’t have a lot of external expectations, losses like the one to the Nuggets can still feel disappointing. The circumstances were not in the Lakers’ favor – the 2nd night of a back to back plus traveling to Denver from the west coast is an almost guaranteed loss – but that doesn’t change the fact that the team was right there the entire night yet couldn’t find a way to get over the hump and win the game. Some of the more frustrating aspects of the loss – Wilson Chandler finding himself open so often out of pick and pop situations, Timofey Mozgov’s career night, some sloppy execution right when the team seemed on the cusp of being able to tie or take a lead – shouldn’t completely overshadow some of the things the Lakers did well, though.
The new starting group, for the second straight game, had a nice rhythm together and was able to produce good efficiency numbers during their time on the floor together. Jordan Hill and Wes Johnson have provided an athleticism and energy to this group and combined with the more fundamental based play of Gasol and Steve Blake, forms a nice mix that can score on one end and defend at an adequate level on the other.
Another positive was the assertiveness of Pau Gasol in looking for his own shot, even if he didn’t finish with the best percentages. On more than one occasion Pau turned down open mid-range jumpers in favor of putting the ball on the ground to get better position for a closer look at the basket. Combine Pau’s movement towards the rim with Jordan Hill’s lurking on the offensive glass and you have a formula that puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team’s big men to defend the rim while still protecting the glass. This isn’t the easiest proposition and, as the Nuggets’ game showed, this can lead to some easy baskets for the Lakers inside.
This doesn’t erase the fact that the Lakers are 4-6 or that their bench can run hot and cold to the point of frustration. But there are things to build on that can hopefully become staples for this team that can stick when Kobe returns from his rehab, whenever that may be.
The Grizzlies coming in: If the Lakers are a team in transition with few expectations to contend, the Grizzlies come into this season on the opposite end of the spectrum. After making a run to the Conference Finals last year, the team hoped to take the next step and become one of the elite franchises that could compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy. That, however, hasn’t happened early in this campaign.
The Grizz sit 2 games under .500 (3-5) and haven’t been able to build on their identity as a grind it out defensive team who can make opponents wilt under combination of extreme ball pressure and cerebral big man defense behind it. What occurred instead is a team ranking in the bottom six in defensive efficiency and searching to rediscover that “grit and grind” style that they built under the now departed Lionel Hollins.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t any bright spots on this team. Mike Conley has taken another step forward to become one of the better lead guards in the league, averaging over 20 points while dishing out 5 assists a night. I’m sure the team would like for him to get a few more assists a night, but that scoring punch he’s providing is needed while Zach Randolph deals with a slow start (12.6 points and 8 rebounds a night). Marc Gasol is also putting up good numbers – 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists while going to the FT line 5 times a night – and is still active on D, throwing his big body around as a deterrent in the paint.
All in all, though, the Grizz have to find better balance on O and need to find some production outside of their top 3 players. Outside of that trio, no player is averaging double digit points and if that crew cannot play the defense they’ve built their names on, this team will continue to struggle to find wins.
Keys to the game: It’s cliché, but this game will come down to effort and execution. When the Lakers play hard and run their offensive sets competently, they produce on both ends of the floor and stay competitive in any game. When they don’t, the losses get ugly and do so quickly.
The Grizz don’t offer a lot of fire power, but they do offer a very good point guard and a pair of big men who can score well inside and from mid-range. These are ingredients that have given the Lakers issues this year and finding a way to limit the effectiveness of Conley, Gasol, and Randolph are priorities one, two, and three defensively. This comes down to playing well in the P&R and understanding tendencies. Conley is a master at going away from the pick and the help behind the screen must be aware that he’s just as likely to turn down the screen as use it. He’s effective driving to the rim with either hand, so shading him to go one way isn’t always effective. Further, both Randolph and Gasol can pop or roll to the rim, so they too much be accounted for as dual threats in this action. Because the Grizz don’t have a lot of shooters – Jerryd Bayless and Mike Miller are their big threats – I hope to see wing defenders sag into the paint and take away the lane to force guys to hit shots.
Offensively, the Lakers must attack the paint via penetration, dives out of the P&R, and in the post. Pau doesn’t have a big advantage tonight, but he must work to establish position and be a threat that the D accounts for. In the P&R, Hill must continue to dive hard where he can either score on the roll or suck in defenders in order to open up the Lakers’ outside shooters. And when those shooters get open shots, they must knock them down. It’s obvious to say, but if Henry, Johnson, Meeks, and Blake are hitting outside shots, this team is very difficult to slow offensively.
Before the year started, this game was probably seen as a loss. But with the data we have based off the games played, this game really is a toss up and with the Lakers playing at home, they need to look at this as a very winnable game. The Grizz aren’t just going to give it to them, though. The Lakers must put in the work and focus on every possession to not turn the ball over and to provide the needed attention to detail defensively. Here’s to them following through with what’s needed.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.
This set of 5 games is a Very easy stretch. 4 straight homes games against average to below average teams, followed by a trip with Dorothy to go see the Wizards. We need to go at least 3-2 and probably 4-1. I would guess that anyone who wants/thinks playoffs would feel similarly. 5-0 would be nice too.
That is a fair assessment, but I also think that Memphis, Detroit, Brooklyn, and Washington all have more talent than their records indicate (and more talent than the Lakers) and are capable of playing better than they have to date, so we will see.
And even Sacto is not without some talent. I would sum up by saying that yes, these are winable games, but the Lakers could also certainly lose many of them. Having Hill on the floor and Nash off of it will certainly help.
Casual Fan says
I never understood –why did Grizzlies fire their head coach? Didn’t they exceed expectations in the 2013 post-season?
rr: Agreed that with our current team – nothing is a cakewalk, but the next 5 opponents are 12th, 4th, 12th, 14th and 15th in their respective conferences. We also get a 4 day vaca in the middle – so it don’t get no easier than this. That said – I can’t argue with your talent statement : ) I just checked the dog house and Hill is not in there – so he should get another start : )
Casual: An interesting case indeed. Hollins was fired after winning 56 games, beating OKC, and taking his team to the Western Finals. And yes way above expectations. I will spare everyone the comparisons to our results vs expectations. Our guy gets re-upped and theirs gets fired. Go figure. It stems from political reasons. Hollins did not like the FO moves by the Griz and he was correct. So they canned him. He is one of the best coaches available now – if not the best (not including Phil of course). He lost out to Shaw and Rivers for those two jobs in the summer. Some lucky franchise will get him soon.
Philosophical differences, mostly. Hollins is old-school; they thought he was running an outdated O and the Grizz’s new owner wanted to go more analytical. They hired John Hollinger as VP of Basketball Ops. That was what was behind the Rudy Gay deal.
Also, presumably Joerger works cheaper than Hollins would have.
So far, it is not working out for them.
Warren Wee Lim says
Casual fan, the same reason I believe that last season’s WCF appearance will result into this year’s failure to make the playoffs.
rr: I have another comment in mod, but Hollins is on my list in a pretty high spot amongst guys who can actually be hired. What do you think?
I mentioned that last year. I think he would have been good for last year’s roster. Now–who knows?
I am a believer in advanced stats and analytics, as you know, and those metrics are way down on Rudy Gay, whom Hollins supposedly wanted to keep. OTOH, Memphis has, to this point, cratered defensively, and getting guys to buy in on D and execute on D is a big part of what a head coach does.
@Robert your right about the teams on this home stretch and the Wizard game but i dont know what to expect of this team, Denver is below avg w/o Mcgee and Galinari and still chew us up inside with a scrub wich is the most infuriating aspect of that loss. For some reason i think Pau will have a strong game tonight, motivated to go against lil brother, i could be wrong and Memphis has a way more potent front line that the one that killed us in Denver. We could get a gem like the second Pelican game or a real stinker like most of the games, at least this lineup show some promise. Thanks for the preview Darius excellent as always.
And Robert about Hollins, he is a great coach, hipotetically i would like to see him try to get some D out of this bunch lol.
Pau had had poor games agonist his brother for 2 years. Look it up.
Henry to Gasol for the lob dunk.
Kamen is stinking up the court!
@Ken i dont have to, i seen almost every Laker game for a looong time it was a gut feeling.
clean slate to start the 2nd half
This team is fun to watch!
I’ve maligned Williams many times this season, but tonight he is playing more in line with the manner that won him a position on the team.
The Lakers are extending energy, but it just doesn’t feel like that over the top energy that allows them to win games. I hope the Lakers find their wings during half-time.
Xavier looks like he is pressing against the team that drafted and cut him.
Pau is increasingly gaining back some of his old form. Not quite all the way back, but improving on each ensuing game.
Tied at the half with only bench scoring from Nick Young with 12.
Pretty good way to end the half, lets see of the momentum carries on.
Jodie Meeks has really improved this season.
Terrible clock management by Farmar on that final possession of the 3rd.
Thats why i dont complain about Kaman, he can deliver, seeing the starting lineup, when Kobe comes back they have to keep Meeks and Hill there. A lineup of Blake,Meeks,Kobe,Hill and Pau is nothing to sneeze at. on the other hand the Farmar i hated on his prior laker run is back.
Farmer shot last 2 games is gone. Also ball handling.
At the end of the third, that was supposed to be a pick-n-roll play, but K-man never came up to set the pick. Thus the play was botched and it made Farmar look bad.
Yes, Williams!!!! See how the game comes to you when you hustle and do other things. Good job!
Jodie Meeks is killing, way to bounce back.
Shawne hitting 2 straight treys, im stunned, his fg% must have jump like 25% lol. Excellent,excellent hustle by Meeks.
Blake is really a good PG. Better then I thought. Great game by Meeks.
Its sad, but blake is better than nash.
See here’s the problem. They have Randolph creating his own shot and we have Nick Young. Not pretty.
Another big 10 point game for Pau agonist his brother .
Boy does this team need Kobe.
Jordan Hill got mugged, bs call unbeliavable. No respect.
Blake make a mistake in D there if he step on Randolph path he could had stole or stop his drive to the basket.
Nice zero points in 2nd half Pau. Hope you dinner with your brother goes well.
Who can this team beat?
Last place Lakers is sad.
That was a great play, but of course steve blake bricks the shot.
Miss Kobe again, but the team played ok,energy and determination but came short, Zach killed us in the 4th and we dont have a closer. Thats why we lost.
Nice last miss on purpose. Smart coaching.
Fact of the matter is that Z-Bo made some tough shots throughout the 4th quarter. Jordan Hill played solid D on a majority of them, but sometimes it’s a case of Good D, Better O.
The reason why the lakers lose all close games is because they don’t have a go to guy. Horry is talking about it now. Pau doesn’t want to be a go to guy. I feel bad for Jody Meeks, Blake, hill and young because they have to play 4 on 5 most nights. Pau is just non existent. I rather see Williams in pau place in crunch time. I thought pau was going to show up this game. The first half he had 8 points and 11 rebounds. He finishes the game with 10 and 13 on 33% shooting. 2 points and 2 freaking rebounds in the second half. The guy is done.
Any one else think gasol is tanking so he has no value on a mid season trade?
the Lakers have to fire Mike D’Antoni he is running the team Into the ground!!! how do you as a NBA head coach not double team Z-Bo in the post when he Is taking Jordan Hill to the racks every time!!!
No. He is just weak against strong centers and he has been put played every game by his brother for years.
Pau is a 12 and 10 center making super star money.
pat oslon says
Simply can not CLOSE!!!!
D’Antoni should have watched how Spurs shut down Zbo last yr in the WCF. ZBo was non existent for the whole series… made him ordinary.
He is predictable and one dimensional. If you throw him a double team now and then, he is not a good passer and does not dribble the ball much.
DA should learn to think defense.
What about RAmbis
@Lewis, MDA has done a better job than last year, Z-Bo hit some tough, tough shots with Hill all over his face and some timely muggin of Hill on the other side that didnt not called. The team lost bc we dont have a closer.