Wednesday, December 28, 2011

3 Games in 3 Nights

I still can’t get my head around so many things about the Los Angeles Lakers. They got screwed by David Stern with the CP3 trade, they lost Lamar Odom for nothing because of it, they have a new coach, new system for the first time in 11 years, a defensive first mentality (also for the first time in quite a long time) and they may not even be the best team in town.

Still, they have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (for god knows how long) and Ron Artest (I refuse to type the other name) so they should be fun to watch, right?

Well, if you like 4th quarter breakdowns, turnovers, missed free throws, horrible pick and roll defense, struggling to reach a hundred points and lineups consisting of Blake-Barnes-Artest-Walton-Murphy, you were in for a treat.


Things started looking bright for the Lakers in the first game, they were outhustling a young, hustling team, looking like their new commitment to defense was paying off and they had a generous lead in the 4th quarter against them. 

Who are "them?"

MVP Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls were not playing a very smart game, they were going through the motions, this having to do with the lockout, the shortened training camp and the new face (and mask) they brought with Rip Hamilton, Rip didn’t look all that great in this game, but he doesn’t need to be great, in the future he has to be solid knocking down 2’s and 3’s at a respectable rate while playing respectable defense and I’m confident he will be able to pull it off which will make the Bulls a fantastic team.

The Lake Show plays a completely different style of ball, gone is the triangle and it’s replaced with a new system that borrows elements from the Duncan-Robinson Spurs teams (which new coach Mike Brown was an assistant coach on) and sprinkles just enough of the triangle to avoid having the players go crazy because they have so much to learn. But that wasn’t the selling point he pitched to Jim Buss to be the new coach of the team. He insisted about defense, he insisted about defense on a team that has in their starting lineup 3 players over thirty to go along with Andrew Bynum (whose knees could pop at any time, even in his sleep).

What does this mean? 

It means that any concentrated effort can only last for small stretches. It can’t last with the condensed schedule, it can’t last with players that might get injured at any moment and it can’t last with rookies or out of shape players.

This stretch I’m talking about was the third quarter, the Lakers looked like all the things Mike Brown promised, they looked young and they played with intensity.

But then the 4th quarter came and things got sour for the Lakers.

The Bulls didn’t look like they really wanted to win, until, all of the sudden they got the best Christmas presents they could get in the 4th quarter.

4 missed free throws, turnovers, and a fading superstar that still thinks he can will his team to places he can’t, and failing hard in the process.

It wasn’t hard to play the game “What would CP3 do?” with the last plays of the game, every single possession made you think about him. The most noticeable one was the last play, when Kobe decided to commit basketball suicide and drive against four Bulls that were salivating at the thought of him going to the basket.

All of this, paired with some very good defense by Luol Deng, gave the Bulls their first win of the year. The Lakers had some things to look upbeat about, like Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Devin Ebanks, and some aspects of their defense, but this is a franchise that doesn’t look at things like ‘potential’ and ‘project’ like positives. This is the NBA, you cannot stop to think about a loss in the start of a back-to-back-to-back. 


The Sacramento Kings, on the other hand, are completely based around the idea of potential and projects - even off the court - they are toying around with plans to build a new arena and keep the team in the city.
But they made the Lakers look like amateurs. If you thought that only elite players could destroy the Lakers pick and roll defense, think again. Marcus Thorton, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, and even the last pick of the NBA draft, Isaiah Thomas (no, not THAT Isiah Thomas – notice the spelling) tore their defense apart and made Mike Brown go postal.

It took a 14 points lead to get the Kings crowd chanting “BEAT LA!” but it was better late than never, or so they thought.

Seconds after the chant started, L.A looked like everything a fan could imagine, slowly cutting a 14 points lead with tenacious defense, excellent ball movement and most of all, a team that looked great. Even Ron Artest was using various posts ups and punishing Sacramento for not having a player that could match him in the post.

But then reality kicked in again. Those efforts can’t be maintained for long stretches, at least for now. In the future, with the rookies getting more accustomed, Bynum coming back and Ron Artest getting back to game shape thing may change, but not now. The Kings took the game after holding off the Lakers 4th quarter attack, 100-91. Back to L.A we go.


For a team playing their first game of the season, playing against a team on the 3rd night of a back-to-back-to-back, one would’ve thought that Utah would take every chance to run, trying to induce the Lakers into a heart attack by halftime. Turns out, however, that the Utah Jazz are a horrible team with a horrible coach. They’re pretty much a bunch of projects that may not even be “decent” in the next 3 years.

This seemed like a perfect game for the Lakers. The game turned out to be not about fatigue, but about chemistry and rhythm, which is something the Lakers have and the Jazz don’t.

Ron Artest threw down a vicious dunk, Kobe crossed up Raja Bell, Gasol spat out a pretty decent 22 point, 9 rebound, and 5 blocked shot stat line, and the defense held the Jazz to just 32% shooting from the floor and 71 points. 

Make no mistake, the defensive effort means practically nothing, basically every game until March means practically nothing, it’s all about setting a rhythm for the end run. This was a morale booster, and the Lakers were in dire need of that.

Gone are the three straight games and now they can look to much happier things, right?

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