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Rocket fueled pregame thoughts

PROGRAMMING NOTE: On tomorrow's edition of the 710 ESPN Lakers Podkast, we'll have's John Hollinger as a guest. We'd love to pass along a couple reader Q's, so if you have any, send them to

It's no secret that tonight's game with the Rockets gets a lot tougher without Lamar Odom in the lineup, but Houston would have made for a burly matchup even if LA had its suspended forward.  The Rockets have won 11 of 13, and feature an offense far more streamlined without the medical nightmare formerly known as Tracy McGrady, and given the lack of mobility his bum knee forced on the other end, McGrady might as well have taken the floor wearing a "Kick Me" sign pinned to his jersey.  The opposition attacked him at will. Now, an already strong defense has more continuity and is regaining the quality of last year's group

In short, these guys are playing well, fitting in with a Western Conference that looks (with the exception of a slumping Nuggets squad) a lot tougher now than it did a month or so ago. 

Click below for more game thoughts...

  • While the Lakers aren't nearly as effective on the break without Odom, they still need to push the pace.  First, it tends to tire out Yao, and it also allows the Lakers to attack the Houston offense and find high percentage looks before the Rockets get set in the halfcourt.  When the run outs aren't there and the Lakers do set their O, guys cannot stand still.  They have to work to create angles and outlets on drives and move the ball both to limit Yao's ability to standing the post and block shots and for the Rockets to pressure solitary ball handlers left on an island.  With Josh Powell likely to start, it's a good night to add a few more pick and pops with JP, and with Pau Gasol to help pull Yao from the block.
  • On the other end, be ready for the Rockets to run a little more themselves. Aaron Brooks is lightening quick and can get the ball up the floor in a hurry, and Kyle Lowry is no slouch in that regard, either.  The Lakers will have to do what they can to keep those guys out of the lane, and will need to pay particular attention to Brooks, who (as he demonstrated to the Suns) can fill it up.  At least initially, I would expect Fish to try and body him up, using his superior strength to try and slow the diminutive Brooks down. 
  • When they do set things up, the offense is now unquestionably run through Yao.  Writes's Chris Mannix: "...After running a half-court offense through McGrady for a year and a half, Adelman has gone to a more aggressive, running style that features more quick post-ups for 7'6" Yao Ming. The focal point of the offense from 2002--03 to '06--07, Yao had become a secondary option in Adelman's read-and-react attack. Under former coach Jeff Van Gundy the Rockets ran a simple turnout play in which the guard feeds the center in the low post, 15 to 20 times per game; until McGrady got hurt they ran it less than half that many times in most games under Adelman. The generally mild-mannered Yao even began barking along the sideline for more touches. In the last two weeks, though, Adelman has been going to Yao in the post more often, resulting in efforts like Yao's 28 points on 13-for-15 shooting against Cleveland last Thursday. Says Battier, "Yao is our foundation. We know that to win now, we have to go to him early and often."
  • It'll be fun to see how the Rockets match up with Kobe Bryant. Shane Battier's work has certainly received a lot of press, but in a revamped rotation and with the Lakers lacking Odom's length, they can afford to switch things up all night between Battier and Ron Artest
  • DJ Mbenga hasn't had a ton of run against higher quality opponents.  Tonight he will, and needs to stay out of foul trouble. The bench and non-Gasol supporting cast generally has to step up in Odom's absence.  Over the past couple seasons, the Rockets have done as well as anyone limiting Kobe Bryant's efficiency, particularly in his high volume shooting nights.  If it comes down to Kobe having to shoot the Lakers to victory, it could be a long night.  The other guys, from Fish to Walton to Sasha and beyond, must demand the attention of Houston's D.  That gets back to the whole moving thing.  Better to facilitate the creation of high percentage looks.

More good reading: Forum Blue and Gold, The Dream Shake, Rockets Buzz

See you at the live blog.


Comments () | Archives (22)

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Just glanced over at the Dream Shakes roster comparo for tonight. They have Scola v. Gasol with Gasol losing. "Just watch, Scola's gonna win this one" to paraphrase.

What are they smoking. Scola can't hold a candle to Gasol in the NBA or in international competition. This one game is going to change it? Pfft....

I'm looking for a break out game from Walton. He normal defers and hides his talents so that he can feed the other shooters. Hence his remarkable 4 - 5 assists a game. But tonight, with his High BB IQ, he knows he cannot defer. I am looking for him to break his season high and score at least 16 points. If he can do that, this game will be in the refrigerator.

Show 'em what you're worth LUKE!!!


After reading that NY times article a few weeks back I will be closely watching and scrutinizing Battier's D on Kobe. Should be an interesting subplot to a tough tough road game, especially considering Kobe might be more prone to go into shoot first ask questions later mode more quickly than usual with the loss of Odom.

Edited Repost, apropos of Hollinger mention:

Hollinger has a "Is CP3 better than Magic" article.


All Hollinger ever does is poop himself with subjectively derived numbers, and then invite the rest of us to change his diaper.

Oooh numbers! Sounds science-y! Wait, how did he select and weight these numbers? Oh, it's a subjective judgment call... But, he swears the numbers are not outcome derived! Then how did he know what stats to select and how to weight them to start with? He had to say steals, for example, are more determinative that the +/- when a player was on the floor. That decision is based on a subjective assessment of the game. Hollinger never discusses his judgment calls, but instead acts like his PER is free from such decisions. I smell a background in finance.

In addition, what is the correlation b/w a player's seasonal PER relative to position, and his team's odds of winning championship? Does a team with many high-PER guys win a lot? Is there an optimal spread of PER?


This guy's act is getting old.

Good morning Lakers fans!

Hope you've all rested up and eaten your weet-bix.
Am a little aprehensive about this game in Hourston, but think we can pull it off.
Mamba24- me thinks we need a roll call to get things moving!

Talk to you all on the live blog,

Anna x

ps: Much as I love Pau, I think Numb3rs has officially jumped the shark. On the subject of Shark- why was it xxled??

Go Luke's BBALL IQ!

We need you now more than ever!

On a sidenote...we need to make our shots. Sasha needs to make his shots if he's playing with Kobe because they won't respect him, and they will double on Kob.

Yea expect Kobe to Jack up twice the amount of shots when Lamar normally doesn't score that much anyway.

Typical Kobe.

repost because this article is a must read!

You're having Hollinger on? LOL.

I'm curious to know what his identity is at ESPN. Does he have a specific mandate that he's supposed to fill? He's not a guy who is breaking stories. Is he simply a columnist, meant to express an opinion or give insights backed by stats?

He constantly gets attacked for being biased. He usually responds in a couple of different ways:

He cites historical evidence that supports the validity of his formulas like the Spurs in 2007 (and ignores the historical evidence that refutes it - like the Utah Jazz in 2008).

He re-defines what the purpose of the formulas so that it makes it look like his critics are arguing the wrong point.

He simply states that its a formula that updates automatically so it can't be biased (and ignores the fact that he's made subjective judgements about how to "weigh" certain stats over other stats).

There has been an outgrowth of stat-crunchers from nbastuffer to 82games to the win-shares guys. Does he pay attention to the ways other guys look at stats and what does he think of them?

Does he think that numbers tell the complete picture? Is there anything vital about basketball he feels there isn't a measurement for?

Maybe Hollinger can give some insight into a question that I've wondered about a lot. It's sort of a chicken or the egg type of thing.

Does the system that NO runs inflate CP3s offensive stats?

Did the system that D'Antoni ran inflate Steve Nash's stats?

Does the system that Cleveland runs inflate LeBron's stats?

Basically, does a system where a certain player dominates the ball, artificially inflate their numbers?

Therefore - does the triangle diminish Kobe's stats? Would his numbers be more impressive if the ball was just put in his hands every time down the floor and the Lakers just ran pick-n-roll until Kobe either shoots the ball himself or finds the open shooter?

How about this one for Hollinger. How much basketball does he actually watch?


You just made me read Bill Simmons. Shame on you haha.

I know. I can't stand the Boston homer..But its definitely fun to read about how awful the Clippers really are! lol

lakers sth-

Thanks for the questions. I particularly like the one about that which cannot yet be measured by new metrics. One thing, though, in terms of usage, Kobe is right up there with LBJ and D-Wade. It's not like he doesn't have the ball in his hands as much as other superstars. He's second in the league in field goal attempts.

It's also why efficiency ratings are important, because they put straight stats in context. How much "work," so to speak, does it take for a player to produce what he does?

With CP3, I'm not so sure it's a system thing than a reaction to reality. Why wouldn't you want Paul handling the ball on every trip? I certainly would, because he's that good. And while I like to poke fun at Mike Brown's offense, I'd give LBJ the ball all the time, too. And even with a better supporting cast around him, James has continued to thrive statistically, just as Kobe has with better players around him.


I have a feeling Luke is going to show us just how good he is tonight and I will be first in line to say sorry to the son of the HOF!

Hollinger gives the Lakers less than a 1/5 chance of winning the championship this season... and only a 32% chance of even making the Finals.

Some people say the numbers don't lie. Hollinger's do!

Did you read that Clippers article and the CAVS offense!? 5 plays? too funny!

1) high screen with Lebron and Big Z
2) High screen with Lebron and V.
3) High screen with Lebron and J Smith
4 ) Everyone clears out for Lebron
5) Post move for Big Z.

Don't want to be negative or all chicken little "the sky is falling" but this is gonna be a tough couple of games.

I know the guys can work their way out of this slump. I just hope it doesn't take too much longer.

Quick (but depressing) quiz for you all. Name the last team the Lakers beat that is currently in the playoffs. It was the Hornets way back on 2/20/09 at Staples.

Anyway, as always,



I was in Vegas with a few friends during the Boston-Cleveland Game 7 last season. We were watching it in a sports book absolutely stunned at how repetitive Mike Brown's schemes were. We were wondering if his playbook was written on a cocktail napkin.



that's four more than they ran last year.


BK - I wasn't talking about wanting to run the system that way or not. I was talking about whether the system dictates the stats.

Kobe having that many FGAs doesn't mean he has the ball in his hands almost the entire time on offense. CP3, LeBron and Nash all consistently just dribble and dribble and come off screens until someone is open for a shot. It speaks more to the assist numbers than anything else.




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