Los Angeles Lakers Adjustments for Game Five: Play Big

Michael Del MuroCorrespondent IMay 27, 2009

DENVER - MAY 25:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots over Nene #31 of the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 25, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Play Big

When NBA officials announced Tuesday that Dahntay Jones would receive a retroactive flagrant one for his trip on Kobe Bryant midway through the third quarter Monday night, but would not be suspended, it seemed that message board posters and sports talk show callers were happy because it meant "Kobe would take it to that fool."

Immediately following the intentional trip, these folks had a good point.

After the blown call, Bryant played angrily and proceeded to pass off for a brick, nearly turn the ball over twice, and shoot a brick himself.

But that was in the heat of the moment and is not the typical post-MVP Bryant. The post-MVP Bryant is a much less selfish player, but mostly because he doesn't have to be.

For one, he is not playing with guys like Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and Brian Cook.

And secondly, his all-star counterpart Pau Gasol has been arguably been the third best player on the court averaging 17.8 points per game and 13 rebounds per game while shooting 62.5 percent from the field.

He's calling for more touches and who's to blame him with much of the team's failure coming from outside the key?

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To put it in perspective, Gasol and fellow big man Andrew Bynum have shot the ball 65 times versus the Nuggets hitting 60 percent of those. While Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom, who has relegated himself to an outside threat so far in this series, have shot the ball 64 times hitting a measly 31 percent.

The post-MVP Kobe recognizes that the post is where the success will come and I expect Pau and hopefully Bynum to have the opportunity for great nights.

Chris Anderson

The last game, Anderson had 14 rebounds, four of those on the offensive end. This cannot happen again. The Birdman is the Nuggets energy player–his dunks energize the team much more than the shooting of J.R. Smith.

The Lakers need to pay special attention to him. Those cuts to the weakside resulting in dunks need to be impeded. He also can't have a free run to the basket to grab an offensive board or create a rebound for a teammate.

I'd like to see Phil Jackson dedicate Luke Walton as the Birdman hunter. Walton played well when he matched up with Anderson in game three.

If the Lakers do put Walton on Anderson, that would mean more time for Kobe at small forward, or a strong defensive lineup of Shannon Brown, Kobe, Trevor Ariza, Walton and either Gasol or Bynum.

The Referee Situation

Aside from the phantom call and non-call that sent tonight's Magic-Cavs game into overtime, game four was officiated much more evenly. I expect to see the same thing in Los Angeles.

The cry for an evenly called game is why Jackson was so willing to be assessed a $25,000 league fine for criticizing the officiating to the media.

Expect to see a few pushes in the back called early against Nene and Martin. I would like to see Bynum and Gasol act out the pushes a bit more the way Nuggets do just to be sure that the refs see the foul.

And expect some contact on Melo to be allowed.

Then there's the Kobe-Jones situation. Jackson called Jones' play "unsportsmanlike" and the league agreed. I guarantee that Jones will not be allowed to manhandle Bryant as much as he had in game four.


One of the universal cries after the game four loss was that the Lakers did not have the toughness of the Nuggets.

"They Lakers were punked," some said.

ESPN's Tim Legler said that all Lakers opponents need to do is throw an elbow into the back of Gasol, Bynum and Odom and the team will fold.

Fact is, the Lakers are what they are. They are not a physical team that will intimidate opponents with hard fouls or violent play. Rather they intimidate opponents by their skill. Gasol and Odom are two of the best multi-talented big men in the game, and they, along with Bynum are excellent passers. And of course there's Kobe.

When they Lakers get hit without a foul being called, they need to stop worrying about the refs and go down and execute the triangle. The Lakers players need to remember that skill plus execution plus fundamental basketball are what make them such a good team and the lack therof for Denver make them such a combustible one.