Magic 108, Lakers 104: Los Angeles broom stores seriously bummed out
Anyhoo, BK talks about the night.
And I write about it, in the breakdown below.
Two Good (short and sweet, since I didn't think much great took place):
- Pau Gasol (offensively): To some degree, three rebounds can be written off as the product of Orlando's hot shooting. Ain't many boards to grab when your opponent never misses. But if you think El Spaniard still should have doubled that tally, fair enough. But either way, hard to gripe much about nine shots falling and only a pair astray. To say the least, not much success on Orlando's part slowing him down. As is often the case in a Laker loss, dude needed to touch the ball more. Like, way the hell more.
- Jordan Farmar: A very lazy pass was snagged and converted into a high arching layup by Mickael Pietrus. But that aside, I thought Derek Fisher's backup mostly enjoyed a nice showing. Eleven points on 4-6 shooting, highlighted by a double clutched bank shot dropped as the shot clock approached nil. And in general, Farmar's activity and hustle were solid, most notably on a sequence where he snagged a Pietrus miss in heavy traffic. That effort was rewarded with a pair of trips to the stripe, both successful. For the first time in a while, Lamar Odom wasn't the most impressive member of the bench unit. Along with Gasol, Farmar was the only Laker on the positive side of the +/- measurement.
- Ball movement, balance and Kobe Bryant: Yes, I jammed three items into one category. But I also felt the aforementioned aspects combined to create one central issue, so I "cheated." Sue me. It's my blog.
At the half, I noticed that the Lakers' twenty-two buckets came by way of just eight assists, a notably low tally for a team this good at swinging the rock. Moreover, eight of those twenty-one baskets belonged to Kobe, along with four of the dimes. What did that suggest, in my mind? The ball didn't change hands much, which felt like a bad tone set for the second half, particularly because 24 had already demonstrated signs of slowing down. As it turned out, my instincts were correct. The game wrapped on a damn near identical pace (16 dimes for forty total baskets), crafting what I felt was a misleading 51% clip from the field. I say "misleading" because without the benefit of a few miracle-a-riffic/Mambariffic shots (7-10 for 17 points during the opening frame, 4-15 from there), the Lakers would have connected at a percentage more reflective of what their offense felt like.
Mind you, it wasn't entirely Kobe's fault that the Spalding resided so often in his mitts. On at least a few possessions, Bryant was forced to hoist with the clock running down after a busted play required scrambling, often the result of iso'ed play from his teammates. Those guys are responsible for their own actions, so along that line of logic, bad on them. But I do think Kobe's lead is often imitated by his supporting cast, and his night did feature an abundance of iso work, excessive dribbles and seriously challenged shots. The end result was the mirror opposite of the Lakers at their best. Frankly, it reminded me of the Cleveland O easily shut down by the Magic during the Eastern Conference Finals.
Which takes us back to Kobe's night. Yes, it was more likely "exception" than "rule." And yes, some success was found suckering Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus with pump fakes- and if it's not already in the scouting report, note to Orlando defenders, Mamba crushes folks with this stuff- and canning shots 99% of his peers couldn't make playing NBA Live. As Jeff Van Gundy described them during the ABC broadcast, these were of the "impossible" variety. But taking that degree of difficulty into account, you had to figure this prowess came with a shelf life.
I felt Kobe's luck officially hit "pushed" late in the second quarter. Having just watched a layup attempt get swatted from the weakside by Dwight Howard- credit Lee for some quality shading in pursuit- Kobe concluded the possession by attempting a standstill trey with Lee right in his mug. Neither was a particularly great decision, and I hoped Kobe recognized that, if "The Zone" hadn't been vacated, he was living at best "Zone Adjacent." Didn't happen. I also agree with Phil Jackson that Kobe seemed gassed as the game wore on, which may account for some bad results, whether you're talking late game turnovers or charity stripe gaffes.
All in all, tonight also demonstrated why, by and large, I've always felt the Lakers are much better off in "equal opportunity" mode to kick things off, with Kobe playing fourth quarter Mariano Rivera. Teammates are involved, a flow is discovered, defenders remain on their heels and all the while, Kobe remains fresh as possible. Hopefully, everyone got this out of their system, and we can return to the crisp passing and off-ball movement that usually transforms the Lakers into a borderline unbeatable force.
- Free Throw shooting: Ten misses at the stripe (16-26), including a very uncharacteristic quintet misses for the Mamba. According to my math, that comes out to precisely ten blown points. The Lakers lost the game by four. I trust folks can pick up what I'm laying down without further gab, but for the benefit of the thick, such carelessness won't cut the mustard while battling for an O'Brien against a quality foe.
- Defense: The Magic ended the night at 63%, and that number actually merited the Lakers some props. After all, they clamped down enough to chip away at Orlando's NBA Finals record 75% mark notched before halftime Gatorade and orange slices. Similar to the free throw critique, I imagine it's reasonably obvious why this is a problem. Three Magicians (including a seriously rejuvenated Rafer Alston) hitting 20 or more, with another pair on 18. In particular, the pick and roll D was often quite sloppy.
- Me, for not sticking to my guns: I (and my fiancee) originally felt that Pau made a mistake upon retrieving Kobe's turnover in the final seconds (the ill-fated double team split). Hitting the hardwood to snag the loose ball was great, but he proceeded to shuttle the ball to Kobe amongst a slew of Magicians, resulting in a bobble and Pietrus at the line. Yes, the onus is on Bryant to protect the ball, but the scene was chaotic and I felt Gasol would have been better served calling time out and starting the Lakers from scratch. So did my lady. Unfortunately, when I expressed that opinion during the live blog, I was met with a flood of contrasting takes from the participants (including BK). Instead of standing my ground, I quickly conceded that perhaps we made too hasty a call without the benefit of a DVR rewind. Well, once I gave the sequence a second look, I became certain I was right the first time. Thus, I come off looking spineless and unwilling to stand up for my better half. Guess the Lakers weren't the only party guilty of botched execution.
Well played, AK. Well played.