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Lakers Forget Inside Game and Lose

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 09:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks for an open pass over Rashard Lewis #9 of the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 9, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Michael Del MuroCorrespondent IJune 10, 2009

Stat of the night: Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum combined for three assists and 25 shot attempts.

In Game Two, the three had seven assists and 28 shot attempts—Lakers win by five. In Game One, the trio again combined for three assists, but this time shot the ball more than 31 times —Lakers win by 25.

So, what's the big deal?

This is a sign that the Lakers stopped running their offense from the inside-out, which is what got them in trouble against the Nuggets (The Game One numbers don't include the inside play of Kobe Bryant and Luke Walton, who did much of their damage in the post as well).

In Game Three, Bryant's 20-point first quarter shifted the focus of the offense from the inside game—which Gasol was dominating—to a Bryant-focused perimeter one.

In short, the Lakers became the Cavaliers and Bryant became LeBron James. The long rebounds from the 15 three-point misses and outside jumpers allowed the Magic to get out and increase the tempo on defensive rebounds.

In Games One and Two, the Lakers shot a combined 24 three-pointers. They shot 23 Tuesday night.

In addition, the best way for the Lakers to neutralize the defense of Dwight Howard is to pound the ball inside to Gasol or Andrew Bynum, and force the Defensive Player of the Year to stick on his man.

After falling behind by nine points midway through the fourth, the Lakers started going back inside and regained some offensive rhythm back. With 1:29 left in the game, the Lakers cut the lead to one on a driving layup by Gasol.

He should have had an "and-one" with Rashard Lewis jumping right into his chest, but I guess the refs give the Magic some benefit playing on their home court.

But what about the Lakers defense? They didn't play any. The play of point guard Rafer Alston is exactly what has killed the Lakers all season and all playoffs.

Fixing the defense is simple: Derek Fisher needs to do a better job of keeping 'Skip To My Lou' out of the lane and Odom, Gasol and Trevor Ariza need to do a better job of rotating to the shooters once the ball is kicked out.

But if the Magic are in transition, the rotations, Fisher's defense on Alston and every other strategy the Lakers have, go out the window. And to keep the Magic out of transition play, the Lakers need to stop shooting perimeter shots and start going inside.

Don't be surprised to see a return of Bryant and Walton in the post throughout much of Game Four.

 

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