Lakers-Rockets Thoughts

» May 15, 2009 2:38 PM | By Brandon Hoffman
  • What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? The Lakers need psychiatric help.
  • Speaking of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, the Lakers trailed by twelve points (13-1) before Phil Jackson elected to burn his first timeout with 7:28 remaining in the first quarter. Houston’s hot start was eerily similar to Game 4, when the Rockets jumped all over the Lakers and led 17-4 before Rockets Coach Rick Adelman, not Jackson, called timeout. I don’t criticize Phil often, but his refusal to call timeout when the opposing team makes a run has never worked with the Kobe-Lamar led Lakers. The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Kamenetzky asked Jackson to explain how he determines when he needs to call a timeout versus when he thinks his team can play through adversity. Here was Jackson’s response: “My thought process is … is this a learning experience for this team about how they have to organize or reorganize themselves in situations like this so they can find something they can rely on in situations that are desperate. There’s still 40 minutes of a ballgame left and sometimes it’s very important that they reorient themselves.” Learning experience? After an 82 regular season and 11 playoff games, the Lakers are who they are. Game 6 proved the Lakers didn’t learn whatever lesson Phil tried to impart in Game 4.
  • Luis Scola scored six of Houston’s 13 points to start the game. How did the Lakers adjust? Jackson subbed Lamar Odom in for Andrew Bynum at the 7:28 mark of the first quarter and switched Odom onto Scola. Scola proceeded to score six more points, and finished the first quarter with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Scola’s like an Argentinian Kevin McHale. The guy’s footwork is incredible. But the Lakers’ decision to defend Scola one-on-one in the first half was an obvious mistake. L.A. doubled Scola to start the third quarter and it completely discombobulated Houston’s offense. L.A. cut a sixteen point deficit to two (54-52) with 5:58 remaining in the third quarter, and actually outscored the Rockets over the final three quarters, but it was too little too late. The damage had already been done.
  • Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher didn’t help matters in the first period by firing up jumpers early in the shot clock. Bryant missed his first five shots, while Fisher shot 1-for-4 in the first quarter. The Lakers failed to establish themselves inside early in the game (Gasol attempted one shot in the first quarter) and Bryant and Fisher were to blame.
  • On the flipside, Rick Adelman is doing a tremendous job. Adelman coached some great Kings team, but I’ve always felt the Kings were at their best when Chris Webber went down during the 2003-04 season. In its purest form, Adelman’s motion offense is predicated on high-post passing, backcuts, and ball handoffs. And with Webber sidelined, it was truly equal opportunity. Six Kings scored in double figures, led by Peja Stojakovic’s 24 points per game. Brad Miller made the All-Star team. Adelman didn’t have to worry about getting his star player touches. And that’s what we’re seeing with these Rockets. We’re seeing Adelman at his best. Forget the fact that McGrady and Yao are sidelined. Basketball is all about matchups. This may sound a little far-fetched, but the Rockets are a tougher matchup for the Lakers without McGrady and Yao. Pick-and-roll heavy offenses dictated by waterbug point guards like Aaron Brooks have always given the Lakers fits. Defending Brooks is like trying to catch lighting in a bottle.
  • Gasol, Odom, and Bynum are being outworked by Scola, Carl Landry, and Chuck Hayes. I know hindsight is always 20-20, but how badly do the Lakers miss Ronny Turiaf? Turiaf would never allow the Rockets’ bigs to outwork him. The Lakers decided to let Turiaf go because they couldn’t afford to keep him and Sasha Vujacic. But with Vujacic giving the Lakers next to nothing this season, and Bynum still struggling to round into form after yet another mid-season injury, it looks like the Lakers re-signed the wrong guy.
  • Los Angeles’ defense on high screen/rolls was pathetic. L.A.’s helpside defense was non-existant. Ron Artest isn’t going to beat the Lakers by himself. The same goes for Shane Battier, Carl Landry, and Chuck Hayes. We’ve already talked about Scola, but he’s dependent upon Brooks to get him the ball. So why don’t the Lakers trap Brooks on the pick-and-roll? Hedge aggressively. Get the ball out of his hands.

20 Responses to “Lakers-Rockets Thoughts”

  1. Tsunami Says:

    The Lakers will not win the Finals if they rely on a perimeter game. They have the best frontcourt in the NBA and they are not being patient with.

    The only way a team of role players like Houston beats the Mighty Lakers is the Lakers jacking up deep jumpers. They are inefficient, and lead to long rebounds that the Rockets get. They take away the huge offensive rebounding advantage of the Lakers.

    This team was made to outscore opponents into submission. Not sure why they don’t use their size advantage on tiny Houston.

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Landry and Hayes are mucking things up inside. Everyone is talking about L.A’s height advantage, but that means little if Gasol, Odom, and Bynum are unable to get deep position. Hayes and Landry are pushing them out of the paint.

    I agree with you, the Lakers need to be more patient. I know everyone is pointing fingers at Kobe, but Kobe is always going to take some questionable shots. That’s who he is. You take the good with the bad, and he’s proven that the good far outweighs the bad.

    Fisher’s shot selection has been surprising. He’s normally the one who settles the Lakers down and gets them into their offense, but he’s been too concerned with shooting himself into the game.

    I’m not that concerned with L.A.’s offense. They should be able to put points on the board in Game 7. I’m surprised at their inability to make in-game adjustments. Scola was on fire in the first half and the Lakers continued to defend him one-on-one. That’s inexcusable.

  3. Tsunami Says:

    They HAVE to put points on the board. They just haven’t shown they can put the clamps down on defense for 48 minutes.

    But their offense has been so potent this year, I don’t know what has happened.

    Landry and Hayes have mucked things up…but what is a better plan. Go into the post where Aaron Brooks MAY try to double team…get off a high percentage shot near the hoop that if it misses, you get Lamar Odom flying in from the weakside for a dunk…or an 18 foot fadeaway that leads to a long rebound?

    It just doesn’t make sense to me. In more ways than 1 they played into the Rockets hands last night.

    Think about this. Ron Artest had another terrible shooting night, Shane Battier was a non factor on offense again, and yet the Rockets won by double figures even though LA trimmed the lead to 2 in the 3rd quarter. That just boggles my mind. Where any Rockets even in foul trouble? They have to have the thinnest front line of any playoff team right now and the Lakers refuse to attack them in the post.

  4. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    I really think you’re underestimating Houston’s frontcourt defense. And I think you’re overestimating Los Angeles’ supposed advantage down low. Bynum has been a non-factor. Odom is banged up. And Gasol can’t get good position versus Landry or Hayes. Hayes is like an immovable object. That guy is probably one of the top 7-8 frontcourt defenders in the league.

    The Rockets won because Brooks, Scola, and Landry carved the Lakers up on the pick-and-roll. Landry scored 13 points in the second half.

    You want to know what has happened to L.A.’s offense? Houston’s defense happened. The Rockets aren’t getting enough credit. Battier and Artest were 2nd team All-NBA Defense, but like I said, Landry and Hayes are tough.

  5. xphoenix87 Says:

    The Rockets are the quintessential bend but down break defensive team. They aren’t going to turn you over much (other than Artest, who has crazy strong and crazy quick hands), and they aren’t going to block a ton of shots, but they give you nothing easy and they rebound everything. Unless LA can get out and run a bunch, they aren’t going to go nuts offensively. The big question is whether or not they can stop Aaron Brooks. We knew going in that Brooks would give them trouble, since Farmar and Fisher both have trouble with quick PGs. The issue has been that Gasol and Bynum are providing no deterrent at the rim. Once Brooks beats the first line of defense, he’s had either uncontested layups, or the defense doesn’t rotate and he gets easy dunks for his bigs. I think LA’s best plan for game 7 might be to put Kobe on Brooks to slow him down. You can live with Artest beating you, he’s not a guy who’s consistently going to take good shots regardless of who is guarding him. Brooks though has been great so far, and he’s really the only guy who can beat LA for this Rockets team.

    One last comment about this series. The refs have been absolutely terrible. I mean, truly awful. Neither of Artest’s ejections were warranted, and they’ve just been really inconsistent throughout.

  6. Tsunami Says:

    I know this sounds silly coming from a Cavs fan…but how can the “problem” be the Lakers defense when they only scored 80 points? Didn’t they lead the league in offensive efficiency? You said it yourself, by this point you are who you are – aren’t the Lakers an average at best defensive team and a juggernaut on offense?

  7. Tsunami Says:

    Bynum’s been a non-factor because he gets like 2 shots and if he misses he gets yanked.

    Gasol has shot just fine in this series. Kobe has shot well too given the difficulty of the shots he’s taking – but can’t you see that all the long jumpers are playing right into Houstons hands? They were like 1 iso move and jacking up shots yesterday. There was no ball-movement or force feeding the post.

  8. john amaechi Says:

    hoffman- i must say that i’m pretty hurt that you don’t respond to my comments anymore. i just was wondering why?

    is it because defending KOBE!! over and over again and expecting different results is driving you insane?
    ________________

    “I agree with you, the Lakers need to be more patient. I know everyone is pointing fingers at Kobe, but Kobe is always going to take some questionable shots. That’s who he is. You take the good with the bad, and he’s proven that the good far outweighs the bad.”

    _________

    what’s good? i’m just thinking out loud about how the lakers season has ended each of the last 5 seasons, and it hasn’t been good by lakers standards. we’ve seen numerous “bums” come and go, but one man has had his mutilated shooting hand in all of it.KOBE!!

    when does this public PERception of greatness meet the reality of the results?

    and where is that KILLER INSTICT that we so often hear about?

    best closer in the game comes out and “sets the tone” by jacking up jumpers and playing no defense.

    nice.

    maybe it’s just my PERception.

  9. john amaechi Says:

    next point hoffman is about defense, which you never seem to grasp.

    you claim chuck hayes is “probably top 7-8 front court defenders in the league”?

    are you serious?

    because then you point to the fact that battier and artest were both second team all defense.

    what exactly does all defense mean?

    look at some of the front court players who received first team votes but not enough to make second team, this is like your “honorable mention” list.

    http://www.nba.com/2009/news/05/06/defensive.team/index.html

    Joel Prizbilla, Ronnie Brewer, Yao Ming, Emeka Okafor, Kendrick Perkins, Sam Dalembert, Udonis Haslem, Anderson Varejao, Nene, Chris Anderson, Pau Gasol, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace.

    these names exclude the first and second team guys.

    that’s about 15 names right there.

  10. john amaechi Says:

    now to KOBE!! the team USA “tone setter”.

    as xphoenix pointed out.

    why not just have KOBE!! come out and lock up aaron brooks 25 feet from the hoop the way he did for team USA?

    why doesn’t KOBE!! demand to take brooks and slow the rocket attack?

    maybe shane battier wants to win more than KOBE!!?

  11. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tsunami:

    The Lakers aren’t an “average” defensive team. They were in the top 5 in defensive efficiency for most of the season. They finished sixth in points allowed per 100 possessions and sixth in field goal percentage defense.

    That said, I don’t expect them to suddenly lock teams down like the 2007-08 Celtics, but they’re capable of playing much better defense than we’re seeing versus Houston. Their pick-and-roll defense has been wildly inconsistent.

    As for Bynum, his problems haven’t stemmed from a lack of touches. Have you watched him throughout the playoffs? He looks like a rookie out there. He’s rushing shots and he’s always a step slow on defense. He’s had one good game. That’s it. Some of his struggles can be attributed to the fact that he’s coming off an injury, but most of his problems are mental. He just hasn’t been able to adjust to the intensity of the playoffs.

    The Lakers didn’t lead the league in offensive efficiency, they finished third. And the Rockets were 4th in defensive efficiency. These two teams are a closer matchup than most people realize. All these analysts squawking about how the Lakers will never get past Denver or Cleveland because they can’t even handle the Rockets without Yao and McGrady are talking nonsense.

  12. john amaechi Says:

    dump the ball down to gasol, let bynum and odom play off the weakside.

    or just let KOBE!! impose his will. whatever works.

  13. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    JA:

    Kobe is a 6-6 shooting guard with a lot of miles on his legs. He doesn’t have the lateral quickness to defend Aaron Brooks. And he shouldn’t be criticized for that.

    Yes, I think Hayes is one of the top 7-8 frontcourt defenders in the league. I can’t back up my opinion with All-NBA Defensive team votes. Mainly because Hayes only played 12 minutes per game during the regular season. But trust me, he’s an elite defender. The guy has no offense skill whatsoever. Have you seen him shoot free throws? He’s in the league because he’s a lockdown defender.

    Besides, have you seen some of the dudes who received votes on All-Defensive team? Is Sheed a good defender? Hell no. Travis Outlaw? Derek Fisher? Joe Johnson? J.R. Smith? That list is hilarious.

  14. john amaechi Says:

    i know that list is hilarious.

    until it comes to KOBE!! all of his votes are justified.

    too bad he doesn’t shift his defensive attention from the stand still jump shooting battier to the ultra quick instant break down of your entire defense aaron brooks.

    you’re right. KOBE!! is too old, and his legs too weary to even consider setting the tone defensivly for the lakers the way he did for this summer’s team USA.

    i have my dvr set to record KOBE!! going off tonight, i just can’t wait to see how golden his image is!!

    i wonder how many times we will be told about KOBE!! imposing his will on the nba!!

    legacy time!!

  15. xphoenix87 Says:

    It was two years ago that we were all raving about Kobe’s defense on Leandro Barbosa in the Tournament of Americas. Just last year he was defending Rondo in the Finals. Now he can’t defend Aaron Brooks? Seriously. Aaron Brooks?

    LA has had their offensive moments in this series. They certainly aren’t matching their normal efficiency, but they’re doing about as well as expected against a good Houston defense. Looking at the games other than game 5 (which I don’t think tells us much from an analytical standpoint), LA is averaging a 108 Offensive Rating. That’s actually pretty close to what you’d expect from their offense vs Houston’s defense. However, Houston in those 5 games is averaging a 110 Offensive rating, well over the 108.3 that they posted in the regular season. LA has to do better defensively than that.

  16. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    xphoenix:

    Rondo wasn’t really a threat to score the basketball last season. The Lakers put Kobe on Rondo so that he could roam and provide help on KG, Pierce, and Allen. He literally played two steps off Rondo the entire series, which allowed him to prevent penetration.

    You can’t play two steps off of Aaron Brooks. He’s a good shooter. Brooks is shooting 41% from the three-point line versus LA. Bryant doesn’t have the lateral quickness to stay with Brooks on the perimeter.

    I thought Farmar did a decent job on Brooks in Game 6. He just didn’t get enough minutes. I think we’ll see a lot more of Farmar in Game 7.

    I agree with your thoughts on LA’s offense.

  17. Tsunami Says:

    Do you think Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace are better defenders than Chuck Hayes and Luis Scola? Because the Lakers frontcourt has absolutely dominated the Cavs frontcourt in both games this season. And Bynum didn’t even play in one of them.

    I don’t understand how THAT Laker team, which laker fans insist is waiting for the Cavs in the Finals, is this same Laker team now that can’t score over guys that they have half a foot height advantage against.

    And like I said…this is not like how the Lakers shut down Yao in game 2 by fronting him in the post, instantly doubling him everytime he got a pass, and forcing him into a million turnovers. This is the lakers dumping it into Gasol just a couple of times a game. And if he gets it in good post position, automatic score. I just don’t see why they don’t hang their hat on that i guess.

  18. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tsunami:

    Varejao is a good system defender. He’s always in help position and he takes a ton of charges. But I don’t think he’s a very good one-on-one defender.

    He can’t defend Odom or Gasol because he isn’t strong enough to prevent Gasol from getting deep position, and he isn’t quick enough to stay in front of Odom.

    Landry and Hayes are strong guys, and both of them have quick feet. Big Ben is a strong defender, but he can’t stay with Odom either. And Ilgauskas is a defensive liability against the Lakers.

    It’s all about matchups.

    Look, Gasol is a very good player. But he’s not the dominant scorer that you make him out to be. You’re too caught up in LA’s height advantage. Yes, Gasol is shooting a decent percentage, but he disappears for long stretches and it’s not like he’s getting great position and the Lakers are just looking him off. The Rockets are doing the same thing the Celtics did: They’re pushing him out of the paint.

  19. john amaechi Says:

    nobody wants to play lock down perimeter defense more than KOBE!!

  20. Tsunami Says:

    The NBA is all about match ups. I agree. I guess we just disagree on this.

    When I watch this series it feels like the dominant half-court offense that I saw in the Lakers all season is gone. They don’t flash the post, they don’t dump the ball down low, and they don’t get easy buckets unless off a turnover.

    Maybe part of it is the injury to Odom, I don’t know. But I’ve been surprised that the Lakers haven’t at least TRIED to exploit the Rocket’s in the post. I’m not saying Hayes and Landry aren’t good defenders…but are the Lakers even getting them into foul trouble? I mean, if they have to trot Brian Cook out there again…

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