Lakers-Warriors: The Sequel Surpasses The Original

Clublakers.comAnalyst IMarch 24, 2008

The Lakers had to go up to Oakland looking to redeem themselves against a team that they should beat without having to come back from 26 down.

Luckily, through this hard fought game, the Lakers found the composure they sorely lacked in L.A.. They rode that, along with a concerted effort on the defensive boards and mid-range, to a much needed, heart-attack inspiring win.

There was a lot of good and a fair share of bad in this one, so let’s run through it.

Good early offensive post work by Ronny. When he got position in the second half mostly, he wasn’t letting go of it. That hold on position went a long way to giving the Lakers a pass option to the middle inside, easing up movement everywhere else. He has got to stop passing the ball in or out of the paint when he has a shot. He’s right by the basket for a high percentage shot, a foul, or sometimes both. It’s not a bad problem to have (players that pass too much), but it can’t come at the expense of three-second violations or missed easy chances.

There was determined defensive work from Ronny though. He isn’t letting any shot go without a fight and you’ve got to love that. He had numerous changed shots and played some really well contained jumping defense. The emphatic swat he was doing before has given way to a more controlled type of block.

A most impressive element to the Lakers game tonight (mostly in the second half) was the team effort on the defensive boards. Lamar was heading the effort, but there were few times in the second half that he was alone underneath. Luke, Kobe, Vladi, Sasha and Jordan were crashing the key to get position alongside Lamar. That bolstering of the paint helped almost completely wipe out the second shot chances of the Warriors in the 4th quarter and overtime.

Sasha, overall, is shooting well, but he has really got to settle down from the arc. Making shots is great, but hoisting up a shot early in the clock is doing no good in the long run. He has got to get back to his drives along the baseline that he was doing earlier in the year. At the very least he’s got to put the ball on the floor along the key once in a while to ease pressure off of his shot. Defensively, he has to stop gambling on steals. Once he gets beaten on drives, he reaches for the improbable steal when he should be looking to get into a recovery position to help on the other player rotating onto his man.

Sasha’s fourth-quarter help defense on the swing through moves of Davis and Jackson were desperately needed. With the Baron looking to sweep from side to side up high to set up his drive or get space for his jumper, it was really important that the Lakers had someone on him that could take a quick step back or laterally to keep up with him.

So I guess consistency is no longer a problem for Lamar. From the outset the guy was in the groove on the boards. The one board he got away from two Warriors underneath, holding it high with one hand then going coast to coast for the three-point play was fantastic. Even when the rest of the team decided to stop helping on defense and let their man run free into the middle, Lamar was there to contest (with Ronny at his side) the drive. He guy is working harder than anyone on the floor. Seven double-doubles in row, back-to-back 20-20 games, domination of the paint on the defensive end, stepping into shots, taking the drives available to him and standing straight and tall in all circumstances are all impressive.

Like him or not (and if you don’t right now you never will), Odom is playing like a no-holds-barred stud right now.

The real snag to me in the Lakers’ offensive struggles against the Warriors is why they refuse to run more post plays for Lamar right now. With small teams like this (and with the absolute roll Odom is on) you have got to use him to your advantage in the block. Relegating him to a watchdog on the boards (though he’s done spectacular in that respect) or having him shoot from 10 feet that often is doing nothing but shooting yourself in the foot and out of the game.

Kobe looked like he was running in mud at times. He got stuck on post after post without the ball on the offensive end with limited agility that he usually has. He just didn’t have that cutting power that he normally has. With Kobe being as immobile as he was, its even more imperative that the Lakers get the ball inside to create freer space for Kobe and the perimeter players to move. His shot is being affected by his ankle now as you can see that the lift he gets isn’t quite where it should be.

Despite that, the guy played like a true warrior again. There is nothing that can keep him from being on the floor and that kind of determination got him out from under his hindered movement to put up yet another strong game.

The smartest / most gratifying defense the Lakers played tonight was on broken plays. They closed out on everyone incredibly well, once the Warriors had a play get shut down or altered.

There was still a control issue in this one. Once the ball started running faster by the Warriors, the Lakers started copping out for jumpers on breaks instead of getting to the half court offense they thrive in. Even with the lead the Lakers just weren’t careful enough with the ball or the pace. There should be no reason the Warriors force the Lakers into shooting these one-pass break rhythm shots or the bad passes they had in the fourth.

If I were coaching I would fine every player that shoots a three off of one pass, on a break or when there’s tons of clock left. The Warriors have NOBODY – ABSOLUTELY NOBODY inside that should be intimidating the Lakers this way. I can’t believe that I have to write this, but get the ball inside a measly five times a quarter, please!

Every single time the Lakers got inside they got a foul called, the shot made or a three-point opportunity. The third quarter was evidence to that. Patient, though-out ball movement and jabs to the paint got the Lakers the pace they needed. When the Lakers began to not throw a shot up without working the ball in and out things fell into place. The Warriors were scrambled on defense and exposed on the inside.

Make shooters out it on the floor and make slashers shoot or give up the ball. To that end the Lakers have to make Ellis (and speedy guards in general) more of a shooter. Sometimes they push up so close to him it gives him easy runs to anywhere he needs to go. I swear it’s not that hard to do, take two steps off of him. If he makes a shot from the space, so be it. It’s not the points, its giving up that many drive and kicks through one player. They did better in the second half containing this, but at times (ala all last game and the first half of this one) the Lakers make this easy type of defensive maneuver look about as hard as taking the SAT in Chinese.

I know it’s hackneyed to read in my rants, but I have to say it - this game brought the 8th (that I can recall right now) buzzer beater against the Lakers. They continue to relax at the end of quarters despite getting burned time and time again. Closing out quarters means playing until the buzzer sounds. This kind of easily contained nonsense is the type of thing that can lose you a series in the playoffs. Not just from the points, but also from the confidence and momentum it gives the other team.

By the way, it’s a zone - a weak in the middle stagnant defense that is seemingly a 20-sided Grand Canyon sized Rubik’s Cube for the Lakers. Stop passing around it and attack it!

WTF Of The Game: A re-jump of a ball because of a “bad toss” and a step into the key on the first free throw called in overtime. Those two calls weren’t just rare; they were flat out preposterous.

Well that was just one complaint laden article for a win, huh? I and we all will take the win, but the Lakers will hopefully be getting healthy soon because the cracks in the armor are starting to show. For now, first place is back where it should be, in the Lakers’ hands and they now have a favorable run of games coming their way.

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