Gasol needs to step up his play if the Lakers are to advance
We have looked at the Eastern Division playoff teams, now lets take a look at the west and see what deficiencies they have and how their championship hopes can be derailed by them.
Let me start by saying that every team has a flaw. It doesn't matter how they look, how many championships they have won, or how they play at times.
Under the right circumstances, all of them can be beat.
Tim Duncan is aging and can't dominate like he used to. Their front line is not that big and is not physical, except for Dejuan Blair, and he is not tall by any means.
Duncan is really a power forward playing out of position. He is still effective, but he can't cover up for their lack of size and physicality. Antonio McDyess' best years are behind him.
Teams like the Lakers, and the Thunder can and will exploit their weakness inside by taking it hard to the hoop, or just posting up. This is not to say that overall the Spurs are not tough.
Blair and Ginobili don't mind a street fight, but Duncan needs another David Robinson, which he doesn't have. The Spurs perimeter players love to get to the rim and finish, and they do it well in the half court and in transition.
The Spurs are getting pummeled inside by Memphis because it is a bad match up for them, and Memphis has two players that can really punish you inside if you can't match up (Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol).
The Lakers are still the most complete team in the playoffs, but they have a trouble spot as well. They are weaker at the point guard spot than they have been in years.
Derek Fisher is showing his age, and he is not quite the disruptive force he once was. His back up, Steve Blake has been injured and not much of a factor.
Neither has anything resembling an answer for Chris Paul.
Their saving grace is that the Lakers don't need a prolific point guard because they run the triangle offense, which doesn't require one. L.A. can also be vulnerable to teams that like to get up and down the court.
To some degree Gasol and Bynum can be nullified if the game is helter-skelter and full of fast breaks. This doesn't happen that often because the Lakers are good at imposing their will on you and taking advantage of their size, and the fact that they have the best player in the NBA.
One thing though. Gasol can be intimidated with physical play. To get in his head make him ineffective you have to punk him, like Garnett did when the Celtics beat them for the championship a few years back. Most European players don't like the physical in your face style.
To beat them you really have to force them to be a jump shooting team, and then you have to rebound well. Not an easy task. This team doesn't have as many glaring weakness' as others.
They took care of their biggest weakness with they added Kendrick Perkins to their roster. They are as physical as they are skilled now.
On offense they can get perimeter oriented, and depend on their outside shooting too much. They don't have the stereotypical offensive minded big man that you can throw it to in the post and get good results.
They cover for that flaw by being able to get to the basket from the wings. They put a lot of pressure on the defense when they attack the basket. Durrant, Westbrook, and Harden can all shoot, and slash with the best of them.
Ibaka has a pretty good mid range game as well. If you can keep them out of the lane in the half court, you have a chance to beat them.
That is a tall task, as Denver is finding out, because their wing players are such great athletes.
They can get to the cup when there is little or no room. They are the biggest threat to the Lakers now because they can match their size inside, and are maybe more skilled on the perimeter.
Dallas' main issue is a mental one. They have the knowledge that they have never been able to put it together in the post season regardless of how good their team was in the regular season.
No one takes them seriously. When teams play them in the playoffs they are confident that they can win, and not because they are necessarily better than Dallas, but because they know Dallas doesn't come up big.
Dirk is a great player, but he cannot take his team to the promised land. Kidd and Jason Terry are on borrowed time.
Their regular seasons are fools gold. I don't think they will be able to recover from the choke job they just had with Portland. They really need to think about blowing up the team.
Other than that, Dallas has too may players that are past their primes that they depend on. Marion, Stojakovic, and the oft injured Caron Butler are just not consistent enough anymore night in and night out.
Jason Kidd has had a couple of flash-back games, but they are not going to win a championship with him as their point guard either. I don't care what their regular season record is. They need a major make-over.
It's hard to believe, but Portland can play the game effectively more than one way. They have players that can thrive in the half court offense, which they would rather play, and they have players that like to get up and down the floor.
The problem is some of their players are better suited to a run and gun style. When it comes to the NBA easy transition baskets is like found money. You don't have to work hard for it if it is there for the taking. If you don't take it when it is there, life becomes harder.
Andre Miller doesn't get up and down the court like he used to, but he is one of the best at dissecting defenses in the half court.
Brandon Roy is comfortable in the half court as well. Knee problems kind of make it a necessity for him so his knees don't get pounded as much with all the sprinting and sudden direction changes.
He has been unstoppable the last two games against Dallas and has shown why he was such a high draft pick out Washington four years ago.
LaMarcus Aldridge is your quintessential post up big man with with the total offensive package. He thrives on beating you in a number of ways in the half court and he is great off the boards. He has an array of moves around the basket, finishes a lot of lobs, and has a very effective mid range game.
If you change their offensive philosophy into a track meet, each one of these key players will lose some of their effectiveness. Not all, but definitely some.
In the process you would make Gerald Wallace, Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum,and Wes Mathews very happy, as they all like to run, and can thrive in that environment.
Nate McMillian would not let that happen though. Portland can be had by making them play an up tempo style, which they don't want to do, and by making their bench a non factor.
As a result of the Carmelo Anthony trade, Denver can now come at you in waves with a roster that is deep with quality players.
They were great in the second half of the season, but now find themselves 1 game away from elimination. Their flaw is that they have good players, but not a great player.
When you don't have a great, franchise player, it creates uncertainty when it comes to finishing games, and who will take the big shots. When you look at their roster no one is ready to fill that role.
You know how playoff basketball is. Almost every game has a moment when a big name, big game player has to step up to get his team over the hump. Denver doesn't have that player.
They have nice players that can get you a lot of victories during the regular season, but that doesn't translate to playoff success. They are at a disadvantage at the end of games as we have seen with their series against the Thunder.
The best person on their team to assume that role is Nene. That says it all right there. Gallinari is nowhere near ready for that role, or is Ty Lawson. Neither is Raymond Felton or Wilson Chandler.
J.R. Smith would not be a bad option, but he is too wild and out of control sometimes. Unfortunately for Denver, their biggest asset is also their biggest liability. They are very thin at the power forward spot as well.
They cover for their lack of size out running and gunning the opposition, but that doesn't always work in the playoffs.
The surprising Hornets are giving the Lakers all they can handle and more. Chris Paul has not only proven his worth, but is showing everyone how he can do more with less better than anyone in the league.
David West is out, and if you look at their roster you really don't have another go to guy. Paul is setting everyone else up so they are in a good position to contribute. Carl Landry is much smaller than Bynum and Gasol, but he is holding his own and then some.
Aaron Gray, Willie Green, and Jarett Jack are stepping up and playing with more confidence with each game. The Lakers have no answer for Paul, and have sacrificed some of Kobe's offensive game just to slow Paul down.
Weakness'? I was going to say size, but if they can push around the Laker bigs for a couple of games then I am not going to say that.
Their outside shooting is a big issue though. If Paul can get them good looks, they should be able to make a good amount of them.
Marco Belinelli is playing horribly, and they need more out of him. Ariza and Willie Green are keys as well. If they can make the open looks they get, that will put more pressure on the Lakers.
Paul can only do so much. He has got to get steady production from his wing players if they are to have any chance of advancing.
This is a good example of a low ranked playoff team that hit the jackpot in terms of the match-ups. The Spurs are the perfect victim for them.
The Grizzlies play inside out and like to pound it inside, and slash to the hoop in transition and in the half court. The Spurs don't have a lot of size or athleticism in their front court so there is little resistance.
Memphis is on the verge of doing something special, if they can hold it together. Sometimes they can be undisciplined, and they take a lot of chances on defense. They get a lot of steals that way though.
That is what gets them a lot of points in transition. They are young and extremely quick on the perimeter. Tony Allen and Shane Battier can get after you defensively as well.
If you limit your turnovers, and turn Memphis into a jump shooting team, you will have success. O.J. Mayo is the best shooter they have now, but they don't have a lot of options in that area.
You have to find a way to limit the damage that they do from the post, and rebound the jump shots they miss. If you can do that, you have a good chance.
You also have to take advantage of their youth and exuberance on defense. Making them pay for their over aggression is key. A couple of back doors, and back picks will get them on their heels a little.
Who would have thought that Memphis and New Orleans would be making the most noise in this years playoffs? This is why you have to play the games.