Tonight, the Lakers continue their current home-stand with one of their toughest matchups of this young season. The Memphis Grizzlies come in playing some of the best (probably the best) basketball in the NBA and the Lakers are coming off consecutive losses to the Mavericks the Nuggets.
The Nuggets loss was on Sunday, and with four full days off, the conversation during the week was largely about Kobe Bryant, his legs and the minutes he’s been playing. Byron Scott, when asked about reducing his minutes, responded with an alternative route to keeping Bryant fresh (via Mark Medina):
“Still kind of keep [his minutes] where it is,” Scott said. “It prompts me to give him more days off, if anything, so I can keep it in the 30-40 range.”
Scott would later say that if this new plan doesn’t work — and he’s willing to give this about two or three games — he’ll cut down Bryant’s minutes.
Scott seems to be missing the larger issue here, and it was one of the issues down the stretch of the Lakers loss to the Grizzlies in the first time these two teams met. This is a Lakers basketball team that is far from clicking on either end of the floor, but especially on the offensive end. Bryant is shooting shots at a ridiculous nightly clip, and a lot of his chucking is a direct result of a combination of a lack of talent and a lack of continuity on offense.
While practice during the off days isn’t going to help with the former, it’s only practice during the off days that will work for the latter of these issues. While there is some credit that should be issued to Scott for looking for new ways to help both Bryant and the team, him focusing just on Kobe’s individual struggles is akin to taking a glance at Picasso’s Guernica and focusing just on the horse and bull, completely ignoring the struggle painted across the full canvas. Kobe’s legs is one of the central themes for this season, but it’s only one of the problems causing the Lakers inability to add tally marks in the win column.
On the other end of the floor, the Grizzlies boast the best record in basketball (12-2) and have not lost a game against the tough Western Conference (8-0 heading into tonight’s game against the Lakers). They’ve maintained the same suffocating defense from seasons past, but are now one of the NBA’s best offensive teams. Memphis has a Top 10 offensive rating while still playing at one of the league’s slowest paces.
One of the reasons for the Grizzlies improved offensive efficiency: Courtney Lee. The Grizzlies, with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, have forced teams to clog the paint over the years to try to counter their luxury of having to bruising bigs who can play with their back to the basket. This has opened up wide open shots from the perimeter, that the team wasn’t able to fully take advantage of in seasons past. This season, Lee is shooting at an absurd .611 clip from 3-point range. While it’s risible to assume that he’ll continue to shoot the ball this well for the remainder of the season, he’s essentially closed the Grizzlies offensive circle: Great point guard who can get into the paint at will, a deft passing center who can play anywhere from 17-feet to the basket, a physical power forward who is nearly unguardable when defended by one man — and now they have a shooter to spread the floor.
Further more, they’re getting scoring from more guys, the bench is deeper. During the last calendar week (Sunday-Saturday), the Grizzlies saw 10 guys reach double figures in scoring, seven of them did it multiple times. They’ve become multi-faceted and less reliant on guys they know they can rely on.
For tonight, the Lakers are going to struggle defending the Randolph/Gasol duo, this is a given. They don’t have the size or the ability to guard two of the better big men in the NBA. What they can do is keep Conley out of the paint, close down passing lanes and run Lee off the three-point line. Although they’ve proven that they have multiple guys who can beat you, it’s going to have to be one of those other guys tonight if the Lakers want to win this game. If Conley, Gasol and/or Randolph gets it going, it’s going to be awfully tough to keep pace offensively against a Top 5 defense.
On the other end, Kobe is going to have to trust his guys. Carlos Boozer (shudders) had a fantastic game against the Grizzlies in the first meeting. Jeremy Lin was effective, but not great, and Wesley Johnson had what was probably his best game of the season. No one is going to beat this team playing Kobe ball. He’s been his most efficient this year when playing off the ball, letting someone else run the offense and getting his shots off curls and down screens. It’s going to take much more than just getting Bryant touches in sets where he’s not creating, but that’s definitely the starting point.
At the end of the day, it’s about getting stops for these Lakers, which they weren’t able to do in their losses to Dallas and Denver. This Grizzlies team is very good and have few flaws that can clearly be exploited. The Lakers are coming off four days rest, so there’s hope that the fresh legs can help them compete in the fashion that they did in the first meeting. A win is unlikely, but so were the other three.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.
chris henderson says
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… reduce Kobe’s minutes, now.
he’s going to burn out, plus.. the team plays more team ball without him. they need to learn how to be a team then, let KB come in and find his place in this group, not the other way around.
The ease with which this team gives up points is jaw-dropping.
Sweet J. Hill .. Real Sweet
No field goal attempts by Kobe in the first quarter and the Lakers lead. Nice first quarter by the Lakers.
Who would have thought that sacre is better than boozer
I think Lakers actually match up pretty well with the Grizzlies.
Earl Clark can’t get here first enough!
Alright, Jeremy, stay aggressive.
Kobe 1 for 5 with 4 TO so far.
15 to 5 runs with no time outs and 3rd string aganist their starters, starting to wonder about Scott
Denver Kobe 1 for 9 kast 6 minutes
So far tonight Kobe 1, for 5 with a air ball 3 pointer.
And another turn over and team us 1 for 11 down stretch following 11 point 4th vis Denver.
But it’s Kobe’s world
Showing his age and more people are turning off Laker games
…are we doing.
Kevin T says
This game is not Kobe’s fault, he let everyone get involved for 1st 3 quarters and everyone says they would have more confidence for the 4th quarter, well what I saw was everyone missing shots and Kobe didn’t ball hog this game. Talent wins games and there is no talent on this team. 4th quarter less talented players freeze up and they can’t shoot and Kobe is stuck he shoots every one including me call him a ball hog he passes or lets someone else run the offense and we see what happens.
Kobe 2 for 16 last 6 minutes last 2 games.
Craig W. says
Ok, we are far enough into the season to make some observations and Byron Scott doesn’t know how to play his team in the 4th qtr.
He consistently puts Boozer in to finish the game, when Boozer doesn’t score near the end most games and is an extreme defensive liabilty – Davis needs some rest in the middle of the quarter so he can finish games in place of Boozer.
Having Lin, Kobe, and Young in at the end of games is an extreme perimeter defensive liability. Wes Johnson needs to be in there to defend at the end of games. Certainly we need Young, therefore Scott needs to replace Lin or Kobe. If he is going to keep Kobe in, then he needs to a) give him more rest before reinserting him into the game or give him a short ‘blow’ with about 5 min left. I think Kobe should be the PG at the end of the game with Young & Johnson on the wings.
While Scott’s starting 5 may be ok, finishing by replacing Johnson with Young simply leaves us with no ability to make stops on the defensive end – especially when Boozer is in there. This isn’t rocket science.
Kevin T says
Maybe Byron don’t know that he can’t rollover the timeouts to the next game, I see about 3 to 4 left at the end of every game. Is he saving them for a rainy day. Bad bad coaching and game management.
Happy Tank s giving
Grizz is the better team and Lakers are good for two quarters only. Once Marc turns on his offense, game is over. What we used to do to other teams before, we’re now the bad team. Earl Clark H e l p!
Earl Clark H e l p!
Even if this “Clark” was the “Clark” that could transform into ‘The Man Of Steel’, he wouldn’t be able to “Help” this team.
Warren Wee Lim says
I’ve always liked Earl Clark as a stretch-four. He moved well, often un-noticed by most defenders because he’s the least of the concerns on a team with Kobe, Nash, Pau and Dwight.
Wait what? We no longer have Dwight? and Pau? and Nash? Thank God we still have Kobe.
To be honest, the best way to approach the season is to find your future team. There is no point getting the most out of Boozer because he is not going to be a part of next years’ team. If he is, then God help us.
If Jeremy Lin takes a good deal to be a starter/backup in the 5-6M range then I am all for keeping him for 3-4 more seasons along with Nick Young and Julius Randle. Sacre has a team option and it would be safe to assume he’d be retained. With very good play early on, barring an injury, I can see Ed Davis asking for 6-7M per year or he gets that elsewhere.
So far I haven’t seen the most of the Lin/Bryant dynamic to give up on them. I look at the 1/2 PNR and it seems like with a bit more of court time it can develop into something. The one thing I don’t like is our robotic movement. While its nice to have some sort of structure from your coach, restriction in how the game is played reduces the efficacy of guys like Lin and Wes Johnson to have more freedom in their game.
All in all, Randle plus a top 5 pick, Jahlil Okafor perhaps… Kobe, Lin and Swaggy. Retain Ed Davis and find a rim protector. Reggie Jackson form Okc.
-I found this game interesting & entertaining. Didn’t have much expectation of a Laker win, so I was pleased they were as competitive as they were…team had nine (9) blocks.
-Lakers have two very winnable games in their next three vs the T ‘Wolves & Pistons. If Lakers play team ball like they did last night, they’ll win.
-Happy Thanksgiving to all…enjoy!
Renato Afonso says
The problem with playing Kobe at PG is the insane amount of TO’s… But I do agree that Scott’s late game rotations and play-calling are atrocious. Even if I still feel that the offense runs better with Boozer on the floor, late in the game we need stops and someone who isn’t going to be blocked if he needs to play one-on-one close to the paint. Scott’s team is showing no signs of improvement.
Earl Clark is, well, probably not good enough to have any sort of impact. As Warren said, he produced in the MDA’s stat-padding offense while working off Dwight, Pau and a better version of Kobe. Not sure if what he can do now…
Guys this was the perfect game … competitive, fun to watch, and we still got to lose so that we keep our top 5 pick.
It might actually be hard for us to keep the pick given how terrible the teams in the east have been so we need every loss possible.
Free Clarkson !!!!!
J C says
Why is Ed Davis on the bench in the 4th quarter in favor of Wes Johnson at power forward?
Davis’ consecutive blocked shots early in the game electrified the crowd, inspired the team and led to points in transition.
He had 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 22 minutes. Sure he only had 2 points but he only took 3 shots. So he isn’t gonna shoot you out of any games.
His defensive presence is sorely needed out there.
Playing Wes ahead of him is mystifying.
Just as mentioned in the original post, I think BS and KB are refusing to see the true problem and the true issue. We have new players on the team who have not played with KB before. That goes both ways. Cutting team practice (at least that’s what it sounds like) is not going to cut it. If there is something that needs to be cut, it’s Kobe’s “insane” “admirable” personal practices, then game time, and if all that is not enough, THEN team practice.
Judging from what we know (or hear) about Kobe, no amount of ‘days off practice’ will result in him cutting his own workout regimen. Chances are he’ll just feel antsy and try to make it up during personal practice. If that’s rehab work, fine, but if it’s other stuff (even shooting), it can and should wait.
Craig W. says
Yes, Kobe does create turnovers as a ballhandler alongside Lin. My problem is that we absolutely have to have some defense at the end of the game – that is basketball 101. At the start of the game, I agree Boozer gives the offense a better chance to get into a groove – then again, we also have Wes Johnson on the floor on the wing. Wes is not anyone’s idea of a stopper, but he does bring a defensive presence that is better than any of the other starters.
To substitute Young for Johnson and leave Boozer in at the end of games would seem to argue for the TANK theory being in full effect – it is that egregious.
If you are playing a middling offensive club, you don’t provide a path to the basket for them. If you are playing a good offensive club you are asking to be skewered, flayed, and handed your own intestines.
Boozer still being on the floor more than 20mins a game to me gives evidence to the tank theory.
We don’t need him on offense in the 1st unit, we already have guys like Lin who should be scoring more often times just become passive for long stretches. Ed Davis would work great, just run some PnR’s and it would help the defense. Plus, Davis clearly doesn’t require the ball, so more shots to go around for Hill/Lin/Kobe without it messing up the flow of the game.
I see absolutely no reason to have Boozer continue to play, beyond a back-up role. IF you are trying to win games. But we have a problem when three of the guys who are our main wings Wes/Kobe/Young are all shooting horrible sub 40%. At least Swaggy has injury recovery as a valid excuse for now anyway. What’s Wes’s excuse? Kobe takes too many horrible shots and plays to many minutes to shoot well. I would like to see Kobe play 7 minute stretches for 28mpg, then maybe he can start hitting 40%. Even though he clearly held back from chucking, he continued to go into 4th quarter chuck mode. He hasn’t shot well in the 4th quarter yet, most of the time he’s shot horrible.
I think Hill has fallen in love with his Set Shot, which bothers me b/c we need somebody besides Ed Davis shooting over 50%. I liked Hill much better when he got hustles O-rebounds and took easier shots. Now it seems he requires a bunch of non-jump shots as well, in addition to Boozer. I see those guys wanting to jack up a ton of mid-long range shots as a big part of the problem. Give me a real stretch 4 shooting 3’s instead and then things will start to really open up. Earl Clarkson maybe could be that guy.