All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘vladimir radmanovic’

Lakers Trade Radmanovic

Posted by hiphopmama on February 7, 2009

My first choice for a title to this post was, “Whaaaat?” but I thought this would be more informative. The LA Times has reported that the Lakers dealt Vladimir Radmanovic to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown. The deal means an $8.5 million payroll reduction a smart roster diversification for the team. “Malcontent” might be too strong a word, but Radmanovic has certainly been less than thrilled with his diminishing playing time, and with Lamar, Trevor, and Luke, we’re not exactly in need of his services. He was the best shooter off our bench, but he does little else. Adam Morrison may be able to fill in some of his spot-up responsibilities once he settles in. If there’s a place for an uncultivated talent to find success, it’s gotta be here amongst this talented line-up and in this offensive system.

Shannon Brown is an unknown quantity. He was a late first round draft pick of the Cavaliers in 2006, but he saw limited minutes and eventually made the rounds in the NBDL, winding up with the Bulls after some big trades. He signed on with the Bobcats on a one-year deal last summer but has mostly ridden the bench this season as well. I don’t see him figuring into our plans this year, but having another guard in the squad couldn’t hurt, seeing as how strapped we were when Farmar got hurt. When Sasha sat out a game with back problems, we had zero guards to bring off the bench (minus Sun Yue), so he will at least serve that purpose. 

I find myself unable to muster any kind of reaction at all to this news. Um, yay? Sad for Vlad Rad, I guess, because he goes from the best record in the league to the flippin’ Bobcats, but that’s the breaks. He wasn’t happy being out of the rotation anyway, so at least now he can compete for playing time. I’m optimistic about Morrison, at least cautiously, but I don’t expect much right away. And Shannon Brown seems like just a piece thrown in to make the whole puzzle work out, although I would love to be proven wrong. All in all a plus for the Lakers, considering all the money they will save in the deal. The core of this team is already set – now it’s just a matter of tinkering around the edges for prolonged success. If they think this will help, then I’m all for it.

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Sweet Victory

Posted by hiphopmama on January 25, 2009

That's what I like to see.

That's what I like to see.

San Antonio 85, LA Lakers 99

(35-8 )

That was pleasant. After losing that heartbreaker in San Antonio a week ago, it was nice to see us take up the challenge and do what we should have done in that first game: put them away. So the outcome was definitely nice, but there were plenty of other things to rejoice about in this one. Kobe out of the game and icing his knees before the fourth quarter even started? Fisher playing just 25 minutes? Farmar making his triumphant return? All priceless, and that doesn’t even include how well Bynum held his own against Duncan, which is cause for celebration in and of itself. I am rarely at a loss for words of critique with the Lakers, but I am happily stumped right now and will content myself with raving about the spirit we found to regroup after our second set of back-to-back losses of the year. 

I almost forgot my biggest source of pride for the evening: the bench’s closing abilities. It was only because of that that Kobe and all the rest got to sit out the last 10+ minutes, as Farmar, Vujacic, Radmanovic, Ariza, and Powell did something they’ve struggled with all year, which was to hold onto a sizable lead until the final whistle. The fact that we were at home surely had something to do with it, but I’m still jazzed nonetheless. Farmar’s return had a noticeable effect on the squad and was probably a key reason for our consistently high level of play throughout, as his solid play kept other backcourt guys from accumulating too many minutes and helped keep the squad fresh. 

It was also heartening to see us play at a more Spurs-like pace and still come out the victors. We did almost break the 100-point barrier, but we held San Antonio to 85 on 37.5% shooting and held them to 21.7% three-point shooting. That’s quite a feat against this team, which is right up at the top of the NBA in that category. It wasn’t the toughest scrum we’ve had against them, to be sure, and we were able to coast to the finish line after opening up a big lead early in the second half, but that in itself is something to be proud of, as we’ve certainly had our struggles doing that this year.

And that’s all I really have to say about that one. It was satisfying to watch us win that way, and you have to believe that the fully rejuvenated bench had something to do with it. Now if we can just keep our guys healthy the rest of the way, we have a good chance of securing that dreamed about home court advantage. I know we have the highest number of road games left for any team, but we’re not exactly chumps away from Staples. We are currently 12-5 on the road, and there are at least a couple among those five losses that could easily have been ours if we had executed better. Indiana comes to mind. And Miami. And Orlando. And San Antonio. I have no comment on that Sacramento game.

Game recap:

And highlights:

Couldn’t ask for much more on a Sunday afternoon. =)

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Wizzed In My Pants

Posted by hiphopmama on January 23, 2009

Tell me McGee's profile doesn't look like our 44th president!

Look at McGee in this picture. Tell me he doesn't make you wanna say, "Yes we can!" (Just look at that profile!)

 

Washington 97, LA Lakers 117

(34-8 )

Please forgive the title. I know, it’s ridiculous and lame, but I’ve had that stupid SNL song stuck in my head for weeks now and I have yet to find a situation to which I can’t somehow apply it. With the stinking wad of…garbage that Washington threw out in this game, I thought it was particularly apt, although I was too lazy to come up with a more clever way to use it. 

To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the second half, having seen the first and knowing how it was going to turn out (ah, the benefits of Tivo). It was refreshing to see us play at a high level the whole way through even against a poor side, and it was even more exciting that we were able to maintain a large margin with the second and third unit in the game. I rarely praise a commentator, but Fratello was right – those were important minutes “in the bank” for Kobe, Pau, and Fish especially. Hopefully we can have a few more games like this to get those guys some much needed rest in preparation for the long trek to the ultimate goal. 

What is there really to say about this one? Kobe orchestrated well, although it was clear his finger was still bothering him. Pau was solid as well. And Bynum led the team in scoring for the second consecutive game. I can’t imagine that’s happened in a long while, meaning that someone other than Kobe has led us twice in a row. I guess Pau might have done it, but that’s not usually his MO out there. It was nice to see Andrew put together another good performance. It was just against Blatche, but every good outing is noteworthy at this point. He just looks so much more active in the games lately, not so sluggish or sarcastic in his response to the run of play. The better half of the bench played its typical sterling ball. Odom lined up his second strong game in a row going 7-of-9 for 16, and Sasha and Vlad Rad both hit some big threes. All in all, it was a fabulous team performance, as we finally played up to expectations against a, let’s be honest, horrible team and got to rest our big guns. It’s no knock on Washington; they were without Arenas, Haywood, and Stevenson, three sure-fire starters worth plenty of contributions when they’re healthy. Without them, it was no contest really, and I’m glad it turned out that way.

Two whole days off now before the big rematch with San Antonio at home on Sunday. If it’s anything like our last game against them, hold onto your butts because it will be a fun one. I would expect that home court and a vindictive impulse would help us to a better outcome than last time, when we lost on a couple of fluke brain fart plays, so that we can keep ourselves at or near the top of the NBA before going into that grueling stretch of road games we have coming up. 

Game recap and highlights:

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Another Nail-Biter

Posted by hiphopmama on January 12, 2009

Heat Lakers

Miami 105, LA Lakers 108

(30-6)

This is completely trite and overused, but I’m gonna go there anyway. Apparently living in or around Hollywood gives you a flair for the dramatic, because the Lakers have certainly mastered the art of turning mundane wins into thrilling affairs. Does that mean I should count myself as lucky? I’m not sure, but I think I’d prefer to be bored while they  demolish teams than feel my heart race as they give up open looks late in games they should have already closed out.

If you didn’t already know, that is enough of an indication of what happened in this one. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t all that great, either. We just couldn’t seem to put together more than a few minutes of solid play at a time, and Miami consistently punished us for our laxness. We went cold on offense a few times, which was enough to doom us for stretches since we weren’t doing a whole lot defensively. It wasn’t the weakest display I’ve seen from them, but it was definitely in the bottom half. Wade was great again, if not quite up to the magnificent standards he set for himself in the last game. I was pleased to see Kobe guard him, and rather well, but it didn’t do much to slow him down. Michael Beasley was eye-opening as well, scoring 23 off the bench and torching us from 15-20 foot range. For the Lakers, only Andrew Bynum had a really good game. Actually, I take that back, since Gasol somehow grabbed 18 boards in a valiant effort to make up for his horrendous shooting. No hard feelings, Pau – it’s a rare occurrence, so I’m guessing it was some bad paella (notice how I stole that one from a previous post??). Oh yeah, and Radmanovic scored 18, hardly his usual invisible outing, so there was that. But he was woefully absent on defense down the stretch, giving up an open three to make things much too tight. 

To be fair, it wasn’t entirely his fault. He shouldn’t have been in the game in the first place. Why the hell would Phil bring him in for a defensive possession, knowing he can’t play  lick of defense, when Trevor Ariza (or just about anyone else) could have filled that role? It didn’t make sense to me then, and it still doesn’t. I am also clueless as to how we can continue to give up open looks at three-pointers late in games when that is the one thing that can hurt us. There is only one message in that situation: stay with everyone! Don’t leave shooters, switch every screen, face guard your man if you have to, just don’t let me see a dead-eye staring one down from the corner as the clock winds down. Yeah, Quinn missed it in the end, but Pierce won’t. Allen won’t. Wade wouldn’t, if it had been him. Maybe, I know, but it’s still frustrating.

Were there any positives in this game? Let’s see… We got to the foul line a lot, and we out-rebounded them by a big margin (53-38), which is something I guess. But we also turned it over 17 times to their 10 and had the same number of blocks as a team whose biggest man on the floor was usually no more than 6-9. Yikes.

Whatever, game over, win secured, still the best record in basketball. There will be ugly games, and as long as they’re wins, I can’t complain too much. I’m just worried as I see their level of play slipping slowly but surely every game that we get further away from the Christmas day Celtics bash. Then again, if we can do this well coasting, there isn’t too much to worry about come playoff time. If they can indeed flip that proverbial switch.

Highlights/recap:

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Ho Hum

Posted by hiphopmama on January 6, 2009

Hornets Lakers

New Orleans 116, LA Lakers 105

(27-6)

I don’t really feel like blogging this one, and I don’t feel bad about shirking my duties, either. I’m depressed enough as it is; I don’t need the Lakers rubbing salt in my wounds. They could have won this game. It was right there for them. They just went cold at a bad time in the fourth and couldn’t find any defensive answers. In true Shakur fashion, though, I ain’t mad at ’em. They’ve had an impressive run of games that started with the win in New Orleans, and they have been ascendant while the other big teams have fallen off. An overtime loss to Charlotte for Boston means that we don’t lose anything in that particular race, although the Magic did win in a riveting affair against the Wizards (sarcasm, anyone?). Here’s all the analysis I’ve got:

Wanna know the difference tonight, compared to the two wins we got in New Orleans? Two words: David West. Chris Paul was out of his mind for much of the game, particularly the first half, but West’s face-up game from the wing simply killed us. It was another example of how effective a perimeter-shooting big man can be against us. Our only other home loss of the year came at the hands of the Pistons, who employed the same tactic mercilessly, with Rasheed inflicting the damage and Iverson playing Paul’s role. Look for that theme to recur. 

One other note: we lost Odom to a scary-looking knee injury in the first half. We’re already missing Luke for a couple weeks, and I haven’t heard the final word on Lamar’s injury, so our once bountiful bench took another knock. The three/four spot used to be our deepest, but it has been depleted to the point that we just have Vlad Rad and Ariza, with Sasha our only backcourt option off the pine. No panicking – we have the depth to roll with it, for sure – but I’ll feel much better if LO gets back in the lineup quickly.

No highlights available yet, which is probably for the best. Instead, just to show that there’s no hard feelings, you get Tupac’s “To Live And Die In L.A.” This man is still the most consistent player Los Angeles ever had, and you can take that however you want.

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Blazed ‘Em

Posted by hiphopmama on January 5, 2009

Is his head touching the backboard??

Is his head touching the backboard??

Portland 86, LA Lakers 100

(27-5)

And we’re back to having the best record in basketball. Not that it means much in January, as made clear by the Celtics’ recent fall from grace, but I’d rather be up than down, I suppose. On a night when the other three biggies – Boston, Cleveland, Orlando – all lost to sub-par opponents, we managed to hold our own against an admittedly hampered Blazers team short of its All-Star guard Brandon Roy. 

We didn’t have the most promising start, falling behind early by nine points (multiple times). And the damage would have been worse if the Blazers had hit even SOME of their open shots, of which there were many. Steve Blake, who has been stroking it from distance this year, missed a number of clear chances to stretch the lead, as did others, while only LaMarcus Aldridge looked to be playing with any kind of confidence. And boy, did he play. I remember him a little from his Texas days, but apparently I’ve never gotten a good look at him in the NBA, because DAMN this boy can play. He hit shot after shot against good defense, attacking the basket, falling away with a hand in his face, facing up from the wing. Between him and Roy – and Oden, if he can stay healthy – they have quite the nucleus of future talent waiting in the wings.

They lost the game, though, and by a considerable margin, because this is our year (or so I keep telling myself). Maybe if they could have built up a bigger lead things would have been different, but we played strong enough in the second quarter to go into the half up one, and we put them away in the third. That was really all there was to it. We were the better team, and once we decided to act like it, the rest came easily. Kobe glided to an easy 26 points in 33 minutes (11-of-19) and Gasol chipped in 19 on a ridiculous 7-of-9 from the field. It’s heartening to see him get fired up out there, and it seems to be resulting in improved energy for him. When they’re both on, he and Kobe are one heck of a one-two punch, and it was plenty to stop Portland.

I don’t have much analysis of this one – I watched it amidst family madness after opting to see Twilight (meh) instead of keeping my date with the Lakers. I hope they forgive me, but in the meantime I offer the following notes on the team:

  • Ariza did a great job as the starter in Luke’s absence (hurt his footsie), despite voicing his preference for coming off the bench. (Don’t you just love this guy??) He contributed zero offense, but it wasn’t needed, and he had his usual hustle stats (5 rebs, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks). I still like Luke as a starter – I feel like it stabilizes the line-up and allows Ariza to bring that extra energy off the bench – but we could do much worse than Trevor as a starter and Radmanovic off the bench.
  • Sasha continues to deputize well for Jordan Farmar. He had 11 points and a beautiful 4-point play, but most importantly he had zero turnovers in his 25 minutes. Along with the fact that he didn’t take too many shots and made them at a good clip (4-of-7), it indicates that he’s making good decisions in his new role at the point.
  • I don’t think we should be looking to do much trading for personnel. We have the guys we need, now it’s just a matter of getting them to play to their potential. I know I’ve done a little bit of whining about Sasha and Lamar in particular, but they’re nothing if not committed and I can’t see us getting anything of real significance for anyone we’re willing to part with. Plus they know the system and are comfortable with the team, which is no small thing. I know it comes in the midst of a good streak for the Lakers, but it’s hard to argue that this team is missing much of anything talent-wise, so the focus should now be on getting mentally and physically prepared for the real test of the postseason. Whenever Farmar comes back, we’ll be that much deeper and further loaded to take on whatever comes our way.

Game recap, courtesy of NBATV:

Tomorrow we take on New Orleans at home before heading up north to face Golden State. The Hornets – currently our closest competition in the Southwest – are 20-10 and coming off a tough loss to the Nuggets on Saturday. They are, however, 7-3 over their last ten and Chris Paul is always a concern, especially with no true back-up point guard. We’ve already handled them twice on the road, though, so with our home form looking good – no, make that excellent – I’m hoping we can turn in another dominant performance before our trip to the Bay. Keep on rollin’, boys.

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Tough Luck In Miami

Posted by hiphopmama on December 19, 2008

Dwyane Wade. That misplaced "Y" only makes me love him more.

Dwyane Wade. That misplaced "Y" only makes me love him more.

LA Lakers 87, Miami 89

(21-4)

I’m about to say something really strange, but I’m not even mad about this loss. Was this a team we should have beaten? Yes. Even on the road? You betcha. The close finish despite our sluggish offense proved that it was winnable, and you have to believe that without any number of our – wait for it – 21 turnovers, we could have easily got the W here. 

And still I’m not upset. Maybe it’s because it was Dwyane Wade, whom it may be physically impossible to dislike. He is easily the most congenial superstar in the league, with a very high likability:talent ratio. That is rare indeed, considering what rat bastards most of the league’s elite players are and have been. For proof, look at the Lakers’ main man and the guy he aspires to become, the great MJ. There seems to be something about achieving at the highest possible level that demands vast quantities of asshole-ishness, and the best players usually have it in abundance. That Dwyane Wade is still a complete sweetheart speaks volumes on him as a person. 

Enough gushing, on to the game. The story of the night was the turnover. We are right around the middle of the NBA in turnovers a game, and we were well over our average tonight. If not for all the TOs, we would have taken a decent lead out of the first quarter. Instead, we were lucky to come out of it tied with Wade having gotten the better of the marquee match-up in the early going. We were outplayed early in the second, but scrappy hustle defense and a more steady offensive approach fueled a spurt that got us the lead midway through. There were a couple poor fast breaks, but overall we weren’t forcing it and cleaned up a lot of the turnovers. as an offense, they team was taking what was there rather than running ahead with one thing in mind. On defense, they were moving their feet, drawing offensive fouls, deflecting balls, and contesting shots. It wasn’t exactly suffocating, but it was a marked improvement from what we’ve seen from them lately. Never let it be said that I don’t give credit where it’s due.

But of course, we then reverted to our old tricks. After building up an 8 point lead, we gave up a lay-up on defense then turned around and threw it away on offense. The resulting possession resulted in second chance points for Miami after we failed to nab two defensive rebounds. Poor offensive execution helped them get the rest of the way back as everyone sat around and watched Kobe isolate on the wing, Pau missed a sitter, and we committed some more turnovers. Just as in the first half, instead of going to the locker room with a solid lead, we left the court even yet again. Despite this, it was all in all a pretty good first half performance on the road. If not for the TOs, I might even have called myself impressed.
The Heat came out blazing in the third and finished it with a 12 point lead. So to start the fourth quarter, Phil trotted out Farmar, Sasha, Radmanovic, Ariza, and Bynum. I literally did a double-take and wondered what he was thinking. Obviously, Phil knows way more than me, because that seemingly shallow line-up played outstanding and cut the lead down to six. He must have really gotten on them in the break between quarters because they came out playing much harder. Everyone just looked half a step quicker on defense, although we couldn’t capitalize because of some missed shots. He only gave in an reinserted the starters after a couple defensive breakdowns. Because while this group had plenty of energy and created some turnovers, they were not as disciplined and so gave up a few easy shots as well.
We finished out the game in fine fashion, eventually closing to within four. Some missed free throws by Miami gave us a couple chances to move in for the kill, but we couldn’t quite pull it off. We ended up with the ball down by two with 21 seconds left, but some never-say-die defense by the Heat led to consecutive blocked shots, including one which might have been called a foul on Wade against Gasol. Pau was fouled on the resulting inbounds but only made one of two free throws, allowing Wade to up the lead to 2 on his own split at the line. For the final possession, we got the ball to Kobe, who dribbled across the lane and pulled up for a fall-away on the left side. It was well defended by Marion, but it was still halfway down before deciding to rim out. All Kobe could do was smile, shake his head, and walk off the court. Which was basically what I did at home, with opening up the laptop replacing the court exit. It’s equivalent, right?
There were a number of troubling elements tonight, but this is not the kind of loss that spells emergency to me. In fact, they’ve had a number of wins that were more worrisome to me. Tonight was just one of those nights on the road. They battled, they worked, but the game plan just didn’t come through for them. The valiant effort down the stretch made it more heartbreaking but also more acceptable because you know they gave it all they had. Aside from Kobe, who doesn’t seem to believe lately that he has to play within the offense, they tried to do what was laid out for them. They were frustrated, though, by stubborn defense by the Heat. Miami’s front line is notoriously small, with no one above 6’9″, yet we still couldn’t get the ball into Gasol or Bynum in the post. They knew they couldn’t match up with our big men, so they just worked like hell to keep the ball out of their hands. As with the loss to the Pistons, I feel like this one will pave the way for future strategies against us, and it will be up to Phil and his coaching staff to devise a plan for how to deal with defenders fronting the post. It’s not unstoppable by any means, but because we didn’t see it coming it stifled us tonight.
Despite the loss, I still have some positives to take from this game. For one, the defense is looking better. We still swarm at inappropriate moments and positions, but it happens less frequently and we were quicker to find our men on the rotation. Another big plus was the responsible play by our bench players. I don’t know what all went on in that meeting between Farmar and Jackson, but whatever it was went a long way toward calming him down. Jordan seemed to have gotten some good clarification on his expected role, and he both executed and defended well, although he still can’t make a lay-up to save his life. Ariza was another improvement. On offense, he sat back and took the chances that fell to him with no hesitation and didn’t take ill-advised shots. His defense continues to impress too. Toward the end of the game he matched up with Wade a few times, and, despite picking up a couple fouls, I thought he did very well. He tripped him up, knocked the ball away, and generally created drama for the Heat. I’d like to see him taking on the opponent’s big gun whenever we don’t want Kobe getting too tired or picking up fouls. He seems built for the role.
It’s a tough start to a grueling road trip – four games in five nights – but at least the effort was there. You’re going to have games like this on the road, but we seem to be moving in the right direction. At the end of the day, I’d still take an ugly win over a reassuring loss, but I’m not going to sweat it too much. 
Game recap:
Tomorrow we have the Magic in Orlando, who are coming off a big win over the Spurs on Thursday. They have a surprisingly good record at 20-6 and are leading their division by a good margin. Between Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard, we have plenty to be worried about. If our defense can play like tonight and if we can get back to our usual offensive clip, I still think we have a good shot. At least I hope so.

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This Is Our Revamped Defense? Or, How We Squeaked By Yet Again

Posted by hiphopmama on December 10, 2008

Suns Lakers

Phoenix 110, LA Lakers 115

(18-3)

First things first: props to Phil for starting Luke tonight. It’s no secret that I’ve been unhappy with the whittling down – no, fuck that, the chopping block treatment – of his minutes. It has been going on since the playoffs last year when he was overlooked after coming back from injury, but it continued this season as the Lakers bench got even deeper with players who were finally ready for prime time. He’s not just a skilled player being snubbed for other viable talent. He is a seasoned, intelligent battler who brings much more to the game than his skill set. Kind of like Rick Fox except much more likable, his role with the team is largely mental. He has great court awareness and is a tremendous passer, spotting the opening before it appears and threading the needle to connect with a streaking player. Sure, Ariza has more athletic ability and Radmanovic is more of a pure shooter, but Walton is a stabilizing influence on the floor who can run the offense even from a front court position and help the second unit settle in. He needs more time to regain his rhythm and get his legs back under him, but that will come with more PT. I’m sure it was as much about making a statement after some shoddy team play, but hopefully Phil will recognize his value for the team after his performance tonight. 

Miraculously earning his way into the starting lineup, Luke immediately made his presence felt. He blocked a shot on the opening possession, had a great interior pass to Bynum in the halfcourt set, and lobbed one ahead of the pack for a transition basket, all within the first five minutes. He had four assists in the first quarter alone, although he got into a little foul trouble and played less and less as the game went on. Going to our seven-footers also worked early. Gasol and Bynum continued their solid play from last night, when they were two of the only bright spots to a horrid Lakers performance. Gasol uncharacteristically picked up a second foul in the first quarter and had to sit but he had a marvelous game, easily the best on the team by the night’s end.

Kobe, on the other hand, was still stinking it up. He missed his first four shots, most of which were pull-up jumpers that he appeared to take on a whim rather than open looks obtained by running the offense. He eventually hit a couple, but it wasn’t enough to declare him officially out of his slump yet. I’m sure his heart was warmed at the news that Raja Bell had been dealt to Charlotte prior to the game (along with Boris Diaw in exchange for Bobcats leading scorer Jason Richardson), but it didn’t help him shoot any better than he did in Sacramento. At least he only fired up 16 shots this time.

The flow of the game was typical Lakers: build up a bit of a lead, watch it disappear, and repeat ad nauseum. The Suns eventually grabbed the lead for a few minutes in the third, but we were fortunate to stabilize at the right time and string some points together, because our defense sure wasn’t going to win this game for us. Even calling it defense is quite generous, as we allowed the Suns’ eight-man roster to shoot over 50% and score 105 points with no Shaq and Nash only scoring 7 points. Stoudemire (21 points) was outstanding and Grant Hill (23 points) smoked us, but allowing Matt Barnes to score 25 was the last straw. I like Barnes – have been a fan since he was at UCLA – but he is not someone who should steamroll you for 25, let alone get off 20 good shots as he did tonight. Barbosa chipped in 18 and even Louis Amundson (who?) got 8. 

The Suns’ stat sheet doesn’t tell the full story, though. The sheer number of open jumpers, easy drives, and uncontested lay-ups was disgusting. Mark Jackson was right that we are the weakest of the top three teams at the moment, and I felt vindicated to hear him enumerate all the problems I have been harping on all along: the failure to stop penetration, the weak defensive rotations, the complete lack of any kind of defensive mentality. He overdid it considerably, however, and had me reaching for the mute button by the third quarter. We get it. There was no defense. Now find something else to talk about or change your name to Hubie Brown (seriously, does that guy have anything else besides statistics in his repertoire?). 

The team as a whole played a middling sort of game. Kobe’s 6-of-16 shooting was offset by Pau’s 11-of-14 – does this man ever miss? – and for the most part the subs looked properly chastened. Ariza didn’t shoot well, but he took fewer poor shots and provided the requisite hustle plays out there. Vujacic was the biggest improvement, scoring a season high 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting including 3 three-pointers. Most importantly, he didn’t fire off threes at random moments and played a good all-around game, even making a few good defensive plays. Late in the game, when we needed to keep scoring to keep Phoenix at bay, he spurned the open three, took a couple steps inside the line, and made the mid-range jumper to help our cause. If he keeps playing like that, I will overlook his soccer player hair and impudent demeanor, which come to think of it was remarkably absent tonight. 

In terms of X’s and O’s, I have a couple requests. For one, I’d like to hear about some heads rolling on account of defensive effort or some practices wholly devoted to our defensive scheme, because we don’t even seem to have one right now. It’s like I’ve been saying all along: getting deflections is not the key to a solid defense come playoff time, so we’d be wise to develop a real plan for getting stops when it matters. Also, I’m glad that we have more freedom and speed of movement without the Big Molasses in the lineup, but I’d occasionally like to see us play a more big-centric game like we did when we had Shaq. By that I mean that I wish that more often we would dribble up court and just chuck it down to either Gasol or Bynum on the block, let them go to work, and run the triangle from there. The way those two have been playing leads me to believe that at least something of worth would develop. I’m sure it would refry the Bean a bit, being that he hated that approach during the Shaq years, but it wouldn’t have to be all the time and who really cares as long as it works? At least when our bigs are punishing the opposition, which they usually are, we should use it to our advantage.

A win is a win, I guess, and we definitely needed this one after the debacle in Sacramento last night. We have to play those pesky Kings again on Friday, this time at home, so hopefully we can make some kind of statement out of it, although I highly doubt it. They never make it easy, do they?

And highlights:

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Lakers D Reappears In Win Over Bucks

Posted by hiphopmama on December 7, 2008

Bucks Lakers

Milwaukee 92, LA Lakers 105

(17-2)

This was as awkward a blowout as you will see. If you were to look just at the statistics, you might think we played a solid game: we shot pretty well (48.6%), defended decent (the Bucks shot 38%), and all five starters were in double figures (Kobe 20, Fisher 19, Bynum 14, Gasol 12, Radmanovic 11). Our point tally was in triple digits and we held Milwaukee under 100 (we are now 12-0 when we do that), and we never trailed the whole game. Furthermore, the lead was so secure in the second half that the second and third units got significant PT. So much, in fact, that Kobe was the only player to reach 30 minutes on the floor.

Yet it was a much less assured win than those number indicate. The Lakers offense looked out of whack all game, particularly in the first half when they shot 37% from the field. The defense played better, somewhat making up for some meager performances on the road, but it was as much a story of the Bucks offense sputtering than the Lakers defense stifling. Starting forward Malik Allen went out just a few minutes into the first with an injury to his ribs, and Richard Jefferson played a sum total of 9 minutes all night. He picked up a couple quick fouls and lasted a very short time after being reinserted before picking up another. By the time he was ready to come back, the outcome was all but decided and Scott Skiles went with his substitutes most of the rest of the way. Michael Redd, who has torched the Lakers a number of times in recent memory, had an atrocious game, and for that I will credit the Lakers D. Kobe blanketed him the whole time he was in there and generally made his life difficult. The defense as a whole swarmed to prevent him getting any openings and didn’t let him get that quick release shot of his going. He ended up playing 21 minutes and going 3-for-9 from the field.

Fisher’s 19 points, including 3-of-5 from three, and Kobe’s 8 assists were the highlights at the offensive end. Vlad Rad’s 2-for-3 three point shooting helped as well, especially during a key stretch when we were building up the lead. Bynum had another good rebounding outing as well, grabbing 14 boards to go along with his 14 points and 2 blocks. And Gasol narrowly missed another double-double with his 12 points and 9 rebounds. The subs were okay tonight, although they once again allowed the opponent to whittle down a big lead in the fourth quarter. Luckily, it was very late in the game and Skiles had essentially conceded by benching his starters for much of the second half. 

Having watched this second unit close out (or fail to close out) many games now, I would love for Phil to take them to task for their complete lack of discipline out there, especially at the end of games. It’s all well and good that they’re playing in low pressure situations with big leads and often in front of the home crowd, but they should still comport themselves professionally and do what they’re paid to do. I know this is a talented bunch of guys to be coming off the bench, but they can’t just go batshit crazy upon entering the game. They’re not going to earn themselves any more playing time by running futile fast breaks when they should be running the clock, and it further undermines the team’s sense of composure. Among the worst culprits are Sasha Vujacic, who never met a three-pointer he didn’t like, and Jordan Farmar, who needs to keep his head about him and be more aware of what the situation calls for. I have sung his praises a lot this season, but late in games he should be the court general when he’s out there, slowing it down and helping keep things under control. Instead, he has often been the instigator for sloppy play that leads to turnovers and opposition points. That has to stop.

Okay, enough whining after a win. There are a number of positives to take from this game:

  • The Lakers are now 17-2, tied for the best first 19 games in franchise history (what a stat, I know)
  • The defense played well for the first time in a few games and held the Bucks under 100 points
  • All five starters finished in double figures
  • No one was overextended in terms of minutes, which will greatly help us late in the season and in the playoffs
  • All 12 players got in the game and all of them scored
  • Another game with no injuries

Now if we could just clean up the turnovers (25 tonight) I’d be a happy camper. Highlights:

And game recap:

The Lakers take on the Kings in Sacramento Tuesday night at 10 ET/7 PT. We beat the Kings in our last match-up with them at Staples, but it was a pretty weak game on our part. We gave up tons of points in early offense and let the Kings make over 50% of their shots. The Kings are even worse off now at 5-16 and coming off 8 straight losses (ouch). They have played some quality opposition in that time – including Portland (twice), Dallas, Utah, Denver, and us – but that’s an awful long time to go without a win. On the plus side, Kevin Martin is back in the line-up and averaging 20 points a game. The bad news is that he’s been playing for the entirety of the 8 game losing streak, so his presence hasn’t exactly given them much of a boost. It’s our last road game before four in a row at home and it’s not that far away, so it’s not that strenuous of an away game. Then again, the Arco fans always get up for a Lakers game, and I’m sure the cow bells will be abundant. Bring ’em on.

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Lots To Work On After Another Win

Posted by hiphopmama on November 23, 2008

Defense? We don't play no stinking defense!

Defense? We don't play no stinking defense!

Sacramento 108, LA Lakers 118

(11-1)

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.

Highlights:

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