2 Down - 80 More To Go
The cliché battle of L.A. was on tonight as the Lakers took on their locker roommates for the second of a back to back. Only tonight, this wasn’t a battle as much as it was like watching an old fashioned schoolyard butt whoopin’.
First play out of the box Andrew snatched himself a block. Went down on offense and knocked back a nice shot. You would think that after last night’s mild lesson from Phil and less than average game for him, that he’d come out looking to get some oohs and aahs again.
He was noticeably more active on the boards. His violent grab out of the air for the put back and then his use of his length to get a missed Pau lay-up were exactly what you want to see from the big kid.
If you watched Andrew get down the court to offense away from the ball he was bumping early to push himself into the position he wanted in the paint. That kind of quick spotting up makes rooting him out of the paint even tougher.
However, what Andrew has got to learn is passing out of trouble / the paint / the post. He looks like he feels obligated to shoot every time he gets the ball. That’s leading to far too much forced action. The one time he did pass out of the post when he was in trouble Kobe got a 3-point play out of it. He can’t assume that just because he’s deep in the paint that he can overpower everyone. Use the offense; use your team to open up the paint.
Pau was giving some nice effort on both ends tonight. He was fighting with Skinner quite a bit and that physical play was taking its toll on his offense. However, Pau made up for a lot of that loss with some real good work on the defensive boards. One thing for Pau to get is that if things do get physical to the point of him feeling worn down, he does have help on the inside now with Andrew back in the fold.
Offensively though, he’s second only to Kobe in knowing how to vary his offense from possession to possession. Per his usual hustle, he also did great running the floor as well tonight.
I know he was working on it while injured, but damn, Ariza’s shooting is welcome surprise. If that shot stays consistent, it will open up the Minutmen’s (and the Lakers’ in general) game more than it is already. Evidence of that are the absolutely clear lanes that Ariza is filling along the baseline from the corners. His movement off the ball on both ends is just sweet. What I hope doesn’t happen is Trevor resorting to the 3 as a primary weapon. For now its good to see him bring this new element to the table.
Jordan’s improvement is getting bigger and bigger and its only Game 2. His decision making (especially on short jumper opportunities) is improving by the day.
Jordan and Trevor are developing a connection that adds yet another option to the offense. By the way, that alley-oop was freakin’ crazy!
While I’m on the subject of Laker point guards, how great was it seeing Derek get his shot rolling? He’s been kind of in the backseat with this team for a bit, but he used the open space created by defensive attention to everyone else perfectly.
Speaking of the Minutemen, Lamar has shown something that he hasn’t before. As a member of this bench it’s been awesome to see him being so active in cheering the team on. When he was starting he’d often come out of the game and remain fairly quiet. Now though, he’s up on almost every play yelling at the guys. You’ve got to love that change.
Also watching Lamar run the speed game with Jordan, Ariza and the rest of the bench guys reminds me of how Lamar thrived in a quicker system in Miami. If he can continue to run that quicker pace, his game should open up more as the season goes on.
Kobe was a bit too easy going with his dribble tonight. He was lengthening his dribble around the Clipper guards and was getting stripped more often than normal because of it.
However, watching Kobe being able to play as mellow as he has these first 2 is fantastic. Sure everyone loves the giant scores and huge plays by Kobe, but for me if the guy can play this laid back for at least half the season it makes the Lakers that much more dangerous in the post season.
What the Lakers did particularly well again tonight was balance the offense.
Mostly due to the weapons everywhere, the Lakers are unpredictable as to what they’ll run from set to set. Its one thing to be able to do that, but the Lakers are showing that they also know how to use their arsenal. It sounds dumb, but it’s not as easy for some teams as you’d think.
Also, the Lakers did a great job of fixing some problems before they got out of hand. There was no problems that led to some insurmountable mountain. When the defense got soft, they kicked their face-up aggression. When the offense got sloppy, they spaced everything out again and used the offense to create opportunity.
The have done one thing beautifully these 2 opening games – they’ve made their own breaks via defense. That’s a giant improvement from last year.
In the 1st half, the Lakers were so aggressive and dominant inside that the Clippers were relegated to becoming nothing but a long distance shooting team.
Lastly, I loved seeing the Lakers going after the Clippers until the final buzzer. There was no backing off of the attack at any point, no matter the lineup on the floor.
What the Lakers have got get under control right now is the slow telegraphed passes they’re throwing out on the perimeter. Its one thing to throw lazy passes on the interior, but to lob the ball around as carelessly as they have on the outside is asking to get killed in transition points. Those points were evident when the Clippers closed the gap too quickly in the 1st tonight.
There was plenty of time throughout the game that the Clippers showed the trouble a lot of teams will have this year. There is no time for the other team to slow things down and just try to maintain. You have to play at top notch level at all times with the Lakers, which unless you have matching depth, you can’t do.
And I can’t count that many teams that have that.