A Home Stand Ends, A Win Streak Continues
There’s talk of the Lakers having this great record primarily because of a home heavy schedule. True, it does help quite a bit to be able to sleep in your own bed this much to start a season, but there’s another side too.
For the first time in a long time (since 2001/2002 to be exact) the Lakers took advantage of such a favorable schedule. That focus has been lacking for a long time, but thanks to this team’s desire to be the league’s best, they’ve wound up as just that as they get ready to hit the road for a little 3 game stint.
Some of this game had the same ones as the last couple. Big 1st quarter scoring for the Raptors, high percentage shooting for the first half or so and the Lakers losing control thanks to quick guard play.
But like I said before that high percentage the Raptors were throwing down from 3 and mid-range was more due to the Lakers inattentive defense, rather than being outmatched. Once the Lakers took better control of the ball on the offensive end (which slid again as garbage time prevailed), the game fell right back into place.
One big reason the game fell back into place was Kobe Bryant – I know big surprise. His ability to see passing lanes and open men through double and triple teams was on full display tonight. His activity was feeding his shooting percentage and vice versa. Kobe’s shot looked like the Kobe’s shot of old as he was nailing outside jumpers from everywhere on the floor.
Once again as well, he used his own talent as a perfect decoy several times, duping the Raptors into collapsing on him only to find an open Bynum, Radmanovic or Gasol or in the process. That vision through the thick defense the Raptors were running in the paint left someone open in the 1st half. That someone was Pau who was off and running without him having to work as hard in the post for it as he sometimes does.
There was a beautiful back and forth then swing to the right hook shot from in the post on Bosh that had the Staples crowd oohing and aahing along with his increasingly dependable shots from the elbow. With Pau shooting so purely from outside there was plenty of room for Andrew to get to work in the post.
For the second game in a row now, Bynum got to the post quicker, making it easier for his teammates to feed the ball to him there. When Andrew gets dug in like he did tonight, Bosh and anyone else the Raptors threw at him was having more than a difficult time keeping him from where he wanted to go.
Andrew got back to backing down his man in the post as a first option tonight. That made all the difference in the world for his game. There was only one instance of an ill-advised shot from a bit beyond free throw range for Andrew. For the most part he was working in his office without concern for anything else but strong position.
This (and last game) was the Bynum the Lakers need to fill the paint.
With Bynum beginning to get his confidence back on the offensive end, he was also doing well holding spots on defense.
It was allowing Derek to funnel his man (as he has the whole year so far) into the middle. Having that faith in your interior defense has made Derek’s defensive game a lot easier to watch. He hasn’t had to play that face-up defense like he did before (the weakest part of his game). Now that he’s expending less energy on D, his offense has picked up. He was shooting well again tonight, though there were a couple jump shots in transition that could’ve been ditched for a better percentage shot.
But Derek’s ability to nail that shot had the Raptors scattered on transition attempts and a couple times in the half court too.
The bench wasn’t exactly on fire tonight, save for another scorching game from Lamar and Trevor.
Trevor’s constant motion game got him into the box score heavily again. A couple alley-oops and a lot of smart drives when he could’ve taken a longer shot gave Trevor a lot of room to operate in. The Raptors looked conflicted defending him, not knowing whether to push up or give him room once he got the ball.
Defensively Trevor had his trademark / once a game passing lane steal along with other grabs mainly through a great balance of position and being within reach of his man at all times.
Lamar’s open court skills spoke loudly tonight, but again, it was his activity alongside of plays on the defensive end that made him look like he was everywhere at times. Mostly though for the first time in a long time Lamar didn’t let questionable calls get to him and take his game down. He kept his focus even through some tough calls to take.
Sasha had an understated game tonight, not very box score friendly, but he did a good job getting back to his annoying style of defense on Kapono. In the process he all but took the wide-open shots the Raptors were getting from the corners with Parker and Kapono away.
Jordan was the odd man out from the bench as he just wasn’t on his game. What Jordan has to realize is that when he’s on the floor with the bench and without Kobe on the floor, he has got to be the man to breakdown the defense, even if its from minor probing into the paint. Every time he gets his head and shoulders past his man, even for an instant, good things happen.
When Kobe comes back into the game he can then go back to being more of an outside threat and initiator. A prime example of this was in the 2nd quarter when Kobe came back in Jordan began to step back out and almost immediately hit a 3 when before he was struggling to even get a shot up. His size won’t let him get open enough (as he does typically need to be open to drain a shot), but it will allow him to worm his way to the hoop.
But the Lakers did allow far too many points from the same screen set plays being run over and over (as in the Dallas game). The defensive communication was at a complete stand still for a long part of this game. The corners were open too much for 3’s when the Lakers should know full well that that’s what the Raptors do (especially without the help of O’Neal on the elbows).
They also have to avoid getting into shooting contests like they got suckered into during the 2nd and 3rd quarters. They have to stick to what they do best, an inside / outside game with off ball motion to pull the defense off the posts.
The Lakers have got to put games like this away earlier. They let the Raptors hang around too much for comfort when this game really should’ve been over at the 8-minute mark of the 3rd. Every chance they had to knock the game out, they let the Raptors back in through sleepy perimeter D or sloppy passing on the offensive end.
One odd thing about this game was an early look for Luke tonight. Though it paid off big time as the offense was humming with Luke at the 3 position, `culminating in a brilliant full court pass to Kobe for an easy dunk.
The other odd thing – for the first time in recent memory Radmanovic threw down a nice alley-oop from Kobe. Seeing Vladi get up for that shot was shocking, fun and pretty much awesome to see.
When the buzzer sounded and the fans got their taco certificates, the Lakers racked up another win. It wasn’t one for the ages, but it sure was a great way to wrap up the home stand.