Crucifido’s Corner: Lakers Road-Weary, But Still Winning

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Crucifido’s Corner: Lakers Road-Weary, But Still Winning

First things first—you just didn’t want the Lakers to take this game lightly.

Coming in against a broken team like Miami on the high, the Lakers could’ve been dangerous. You add the first game from Marion on a team desperately looking for an infusion of energy from anywhere, and this game could easily spell trouble.

The fourth quarter run of the Heat showed just how giving any team a look at a comeback can be bad news.

Off the bat, I loved Kobe’s takes on Wade’s typical lackluster defense (and no one semi-blocked shot doesn’t count as a game of defense) in the first quarter. Pushing the ball into the middle like he was along with Pau being inside, had Miami immediately dumping all defense down low. When the defense was drawn in, Kobe’s mid range jumper was left wide open.

Then when Kobe’s jumper got shut off, Sasha, Farmar and everyone else were spotting up at great angles for the pass (i.e. Farmar’s first quarter ending three off of Kobe’s take).

Kobe’s passing was spot on today, too. In fact I think he may have passed a couple times too many in the first half, but as usual Kobe getting his on offense is never a worry. The jab dribbling, and the pushes to the inside set the Laker rhythm up really nicely overall. That was as smooth a 30+ point performance as you’ll see in the NBA.

As we all know it’s not all about the offense with Kobe. Since he’s gotten the inspiration to play defense with determination from his international stint, he’s been on a tear. Though it wasn’t mostly the intense rebounding he showed in Orlando, today it was lock down perimeter D.

The stop Kobe pulled off on Wade in the third quarter with seconds left, resulting in a travel was a sampling of the genius of Kobe’s D.

Odom played really good perimeter defense today. Rarely, if ever, biting on head fakes and keeping perfect distance between him and shooters or slashers, kept Miami from moving the ball through any defensive position he was filling.

Radmanovic did a good job early on playing off the curl to the basket. Coupling with Kobe’s jabs to the middle, Miami was sent scrambling pretty often.

The problem with Vladi offensively was him crowding the lane almost every time anyone got the ball even in the mid-post. When he stepped out to the three after running through the key instead of holding up in the paint, everything eased up. Also, he’s lagging after missing a shot on getting back.

There’s too much sulking or complaining for the foul from Radmanovic. He doesn’t have the speed of or defensive ability to carry that off. Stop griping and get back quick—every time.

Luke finally looks to getting himself back into shape and able to trust the ankle more. Some good passes off of the block and cuts underneath for a lay-up or two were more what we’ve come to expect from Luke.

Sasha has just been the unnoticed killer this season. It continued today as it has for the entire season. I’ll be the first to admit I gave up on him far too early in his career. This season he has been magnificent at spotting up. Whether he makes the shot all the time or not, Sasha’s understanding of the offense and where he needs to be has improved exponentially.

With Sasha nailing the shots like he did in this game, Miami was forced to go single coverage on the floor. Not being able to double Kobe off of Sasha (or Farmar either) was huge. Having yet another guy that the Heat couldn’t leave to shoot at will was just another thing that sent Miami’s “defense” into scramble mode even further.

Defensively, Sasha did a decent job keeping tabs on his man. He crowded the shooters and kept from getting picked off as much as he could.

The thing about Gasol on offense that I find impressive is his almost immediate knowledge of spacing and where he needs to be on every single play. Already there are few times Gasol is crowding, out of step or slow to move from post to post.

His pass after cutting along the baseline to Walton for the lay-up was beautiful. Versatility in the post like that is a rare commodity in the NBA.

Defensively, Gasol showed his weakness in the post. It has always been a soft spot in his game, but the activity of Blount in the paint really froze Pau. Once he can get to the high post and swoop in to get boards or help defense with Andrew in the idle, that weakness won’t have that big of an impact on the Laker D.

It was yet another good game from the player of the game for me, Odom. Now that he’s free of having to do things he’s doing the same things with ease. Most impressive today was his rebound positioning – consistent, proper and strong, every time. When the 15-foot jumpers are flowing from Odom’s hands, you know he’s having a good game.

His rebounding was effortless and better than that, it was always under control. Controlled taps, two hands on all boards, kicking it back out to reset the offense and holding it well to set the Laker offense into motion off of defense.

His defense was good, too. I liked him running from the free throw line down to the baseline with purpose. There was no hitch in his movement as he fought through a lot of traffic to consistently get involved in every play from the mid range down to the block.

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