Lots To Work On After Another Win
Posted by hiphopmama on November 23, 2008
Sacramento 108, LA Lakers 118
Yeah, we won again. Yeah, we’re off to our best start since the 17-1 start of the 2001-02 season. But this was a definite step backward for us after a couple convincing wins where we seemed to hit our stride both offensively and defensively.
Tonight reminded me of one of the old run-and-gun match-ups between the Kings and the Mavericks. You know those series when both teams would routinely get to 120 or more points. The Lakers leaned heavily on their offensive production tonight as a result of all the easy buckets they awarded a struggling Kings team without its lead scorer. We let the Kings shoot over 53% from the field, and, honestly, it could easily have been worse. They slapped us repeatedly with early baskets, and each time we meekly replied, “Thank you, sir, can I have another?” It was sickening. I’ve complained in the past about our lack of speed in our perimeter defending, but that wasn’t the culprit tonight. At least that wasn’t the ONLY culprit. Sacramento ran on us even off a made basket and somehow got the ball upcourt and got shots off before our defense was set. This is just simple lack of hustle, which is inexcusable in a team that supposedly purged that soft underbelly that cost them the title.
The only thing that got us the win was our offense, and that was no small thing. We also made over half our shots (51.7%), and 8 of the 9 guys who got in the game scored in double figures (Kobe 24; Gasol 16; Bynum 15; Odom 14; Radmanovic 12; Ariza 11; Fisher 10; Farmar 10). That is a pretty astonishing statistic, but it’s fairly routine for this Lakers team this year. Once again, our bench played some hefty minutes, led by Odom’s 34, and they came through yet again, keeping the offensive attack potent when the starters were fizzling out. Still, the offense wasn’t all roses, as we gave up 18 turnovers, resulting in 30 points (ouch). What saved us, ironically, was an almost equivalent number handed over by the Kings: 16 TOs for 21 points.
The defense did eventually kick in in spurts. It’s still not a lock-down defensive game that we play. It’s more of a scrappy, irritating brand of D where we try to pester the other team into making bad decisions. In other words, it’s more Allen Iverson and less Bruce Bowen, if you know what I mean. This leads to all the steals and blocked shots, but it also results in a lot of open shots given up along the way. We count on our offense to keep us afloat when we’re not getting the needed deflections in the hopes that we’ll eventually get in the other team’s head enough to start causing turnovers. It has mostly worked so far, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the course of the year and especially in the playoffs.
Bynum had another progression game, nabbing his third double-double in as many games and showing real growth in his post play (how many times have I said that?). They made more of a concerted effort to get him the ball on the block and clear out for him to go to work. He responded by shooting 6-for-8 and adding a couple of free throws on some nice moves in the paint. Slow and steady wins the race.
The flow of the game was a little disturbing after some good performances this past week. The first quarter was pretty even with the Lakers trading little runs with the Kings. We pulled away a little further in the second, and then blew the thing wide open in the third. Disconcertingly, though, we only ended up winning the third quarter by 7 points despite vastly outplaying the Kings for much of it. We just let them back in it over the course of the third and fourth quarters, at one point seeing our lead shrunk to 2 whole points, but we did our chicken with its head cut off thing on defense and the Kings missed some good looks, and we eventually held them off. The troubling thing was how many times we had to put this team away. It seemed like for every big run we made, we gave up another run by the Kings that got them back to within striking distance and forced us to mount another run to extend the lead. At least we had the biggest run when it counted the most, when that final whistle blew.
And on a side note, has any Lakers team ever been able to guard the pick and roll? I still have nightmares of us getting torched by Troy Hudson and Kevin Garnett in the playoff series against the Timberwolves. I always chalked it up to Shaq’s refusal to so much as move on defense, but it seems we still haven’t figured it out and we were burned by it again tonight. Maybe Phil doesn’t think it’s too big of a deal, but I’d like to see some kind of Tex Winter figure on the sideline who specializes in defending against the pick and roll and, while we’re at it, running a successful full court press/trap. That’s something else we’ve never done well.
Next up we have the Nets at home on Tuesday night. The New Jersey team is 6-6 and currently led by Vince Carter’s 24.3 points and Devin Harris’ 6.2 assists, but most of the team’s focus seems to be on the ever expanding race to get LeBron James in 2010. When your team’s biggest news is its reaction to the Knicks’ trades, you’re clearly gearing up for the future rather than believing in this year. I can only hope that means good things for us on Tuesday.