Breakdown Takedown Shakedown
Ah, the unintentional comedy stylings of Bob Seger.
Along these thematic lines, I conducted an Internet shakedown for breakdowns of the upcoming Lakers-Rockets series, and took down a trio. The first comes from Forum Blue and Gold's Kurt Helin, who notes, among other points, the importance of running Yao Ming into the ground, an objective made potentially easier with the second round's breakneck pace.
The other thing is you can still wear Yao down — he is in far better condition than he was just a couple years ago, and the crazy number of television timeouts in the playoffs help. But he is just never going to be doing triathlons. The Lakers did get to him this season, and with the every-other-night nature of this round the Lakers may be able to wear him down some. Gasol and Bynum can run the floor well, the Lakers need to push Yao and make him sprint.
The second preview comes from Fox Sports' Charley Rosen. The venerable scribe thinks the Lakers should take the contest in six games, but can envision possibilities for a Rockets upset. Among the reasons...
Since fronting bothers Yao so much, Houston has taken to setting him
up for 10-foot jumpers — which are virtually unstoppable and uncannily
soft and accurate. Also, Yao's sheer mass will clog up the middle on
defense and discourage layups.
When and if (Andrew) Bynum gets nailed with early fouls, Yao can easily out-size and overpower (Pau) Gasol. While (DJ) Mbenga is big and strong, he's also crude and extremely foul prone. And Luis Scola will wind up with uncontested jumpers from the stripe whenever Yao is doubled.
Fellow "Lakers in six guy" SI's Scott Howard-Cooper notes Phil Jackson and Rock Adelman's not-so-fond stroll down Memory Lane.
Finally, a few notes of my own. This morning, I fired up the DVR and watched the last meeting between these squads. The 93-81 win featured an army of cats blazing "Banging with Mbenga" T-shirts and a wide array of reasons why the season's 4-0 clip against the Rockets wasn't a fluke. Some observations...
- The Rockets don't post Yao Ming down low at the start of possessions nearly enough. He's their biggest advantage, but for reasons I or Mark Jackson (calling the game) couldn't wrap our heads around, he spends a lot time up high or at the tippy top of the box. Aside from the potentially easy buckets the Rockets miss, they dont get to capitalize on Yao's passing skills, that ability to find teammates wide open after his close proximity to the basket forces a double team. Again, I don't get it.
- In lieu of dumping the ball deep inside, the Rockets often rely on guys like Ron Artest, Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks to create shots for themselves. That tendency explains in part why the Rockets both struggle to score and turn the ball over a fair amount for a team that limits its own possessions while plodding. It's often quite predictable and pretty ooogly. For all the discipline Houston exhibits defensively, they're often sloppy while in possession of the rock.
During the game, it was noted that Artest's career clip from the Staples floor is a paltry 37%. Not sure if that tally also includes games against the arena's red headed step children, but in any event, Ron Ron shoots bad bad while in L.A. Throw in the way he often monopolizes the ball and- were I the Lakers- I'd try to force the ball into his hands far from the cup whenever possible, then wait for him to make a mistake. Between a propensity for being goaded into terrible shots and an overestimation of his playmaking abilities, this doesn't strike me as a stretch.
- Brooks may be the more explosive and potentially dangerous player, but the offense tends to run steadier with backup Kyle Lowry running the show. (And by the way, remember a while back when I wondered if the Celts would have been better off trying to trade for Lowry instead of waiting out Stephon Marbury's release? I stand by my questioning of their approach.)
- Aside from the obvious candidates (Yao, Ron Ron), there are two Houstonites I'd peg most with the potential to most likely to cause Laker headaches.
First is Luis Scola, whose combo of controlled scoring prowess, rebounding and effort can seriously impact a game. Plus, he may spark fits of jealous rage from Sasha Vujacic over their matching hair do/head band looks. Hell, the two could even play brothers if you were casting a movie about hippie roundball players. Is Scola trying to horn in on The Machine's action? Is this series big enough for both of them? They won't spend much time guarding each other, but it may still be officially "on."
The other would be Lakers Blog icon Von Wafer. I know it sounds wholly predictable that I'd champion the Lakers Blog icon/K Brother fave, but all joking aside, Von has a serious green light off the bench and is averaging nearly 17 points against his old employers this season.
Plus, dude's got a mohawk! You just can't sleep on that.
More thoughts to come as we get closer to Game 1's start.