Right when you thought the summer league was a distant memory this game pops up and reminds us all that playing 1 game in 8 days isn’t necessarily great for rhythm.
There were a lot of things wrong (most anomalous) tonight, but it was a win nonetheless.
Overall, the Lakers got caught up shooting way too early in the clock for the whole game and in turn lost any kind of flow to their offense. Defensively, they weren’t as tight on their spacing. Take that in hand with a slow to react transition defense and its no wonder this wasn’t a classic.
After 3 and ¾ of not so attractive play, suddenly the Lakers shook out of their daze and remembered just how much better than the Clippers they are. The 19-0 run in the late stages of the 4th put a thankfully quick bookend to a game that sometimes felt like it might last a couple days.
There were some bright spots in play for some guys though.
For big guys, that two-handed grab thing seems like no big deal, but it’s a been a big divider between an alright rebounder and a beast on the boards. Andrew was a veritable vacuum on the D boards tonight. He was also looking to be a shot changer tonight like he had last year before the injury. He did well in watching his positioning, keeping legal on D, making every Clipper that came within 5 feet of the bucket look for him before they looked to the rim.
But, on the other side of the ball, Andrew is still forcing action on the inside. When he gets in trouble, he doesn’t even look to passing options. He’s going up against 2 or 3 guys at the least, getting his shot blocked just about 90% of the time. A combination of a tiny up-fake and a look to who is around him, will eliminate a lot of the easily read moves Bynum’s doing right now.
Sure its only 4 games in, but Fish has really shown a lot more life on the defensive perimeter than he has in a while. Some may have been the match up against a quick Baron Davis, but it’s reared its head in other games too. He’s pushing up into guards with a good wide stance, giving himself some room to adjust off a drive.
Kobe was on fire to start the game. He looked to be in absolute cruise control mode as he ran his score up to quick double digits. However, and this isn’t all Kobe’s fault, that kind of hot shooting can still be balanced with a varied attack better. I think that’s more what Phil was getting at with his comments about more touches for Pau earlier this week.
But Kobe did set that pace in the 4th as he always does, kicking the Lakers into gear. It wasn’t his best game, but he wore the Clippers down real well, by making them defend on multiple sets for one score a couple times.
Was it me or did Lamar have some serious pop in his step tonight? Starting with him on the bench being more talkative than he has in a while, then continuing on the floor in his first stint. He had a real good change of pace take for 2 free throws in the 1st quarter. Defensively he was getting after guys with some real active footwork. The 2 strong handed blocks he had in the 1st quarter were unlike what Odom usually brings. They had an edge to him that reflects his newfound intensity off the bench.
That rousing hustle play for the eventual dunk by Trevor in the 2nd quarter was awesome to see. Instead of the energy coming from Jordan as it has been recently, the spark from the bench was kicked off by Odom. Either Lamar is comfortable with his role entirely now or he had a heck of a lunch. Whatever it was hopefully that inspired play wouldn’t suck to see more.
Vladi must be practicing with Trevor on defense. He’s really been doing great at stepping into passing lanes on slow flat passes. He also had some real nice helps on players close to the sideline. His recovery off of those help situations was sharp too.
That bounce pass from Pau to Trevor for the dunk in the 2nd was simply beautiful. Trevor’s movement off the ball is getting sharper by the minute. Simple steps like what Ariza is doing should be easier for most players, but you just don’t see it enough. His footwork off the ball led to some real nice highlight plays tonight, including an unusual throw down off of a Kobe miss. To have Trevor being healthy and in full control of his athleticism now is such a valuable (if that’s a good enough word) weapon.
Meanwhile, Pau has quickly become the smoothest player on the Lakers. There is not one part of his game that looks rocky. Its impressive to se him run the floor as well as he did tonight (and ever time else really). He got involved in the mix well tonight, though Kaman did muscle him out most times. But the fight to the insides was there.
For my tastes though the Lakers are still not using their inside advantage enough. There were far too many 3-point attempts without a pass even getting near the post. With the trees in the middle, there’s just no reason for the Lakers to be almost ignoring the size down low the way they are.
The Lakers can’t let the Clippers or anyone go 1 for 11 like they did in the 2nd without blowing the lead up big. A lot of that came from the Lakers settling for that outside jumper like I mentioned above. If they ran plays from inside to out better tonight, the lead could’ve been where it should have been.
You have got to use the inherent advantages in your game.
Now the thing we’ve learned about the Lakers over these last 2 games is that the Lakers now don’t have to be especially crisp offensively as long as they handle the boards and defense the way they did tonight.
When all was said and done, one thought came to mind - can the Lakers please never have 1 game in 8 days again – because, damn.