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Lakers' poor bench play in second quarter against Sacramento illustrates season-long inconsistency

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Lakers forward Lamar Odom had always taken it personally whenever the team's reserve unit didn't do well enough to hold a lead. That meant Kobe Bryant and the rest of the starters couldn't get some well-needed rest. That meant Odom had to lead an inconsistent group, a role he's capable of fulfilling but maybe not so much as his unassuming secondary role. That also meant Odom trying to temper his own frustrations.

That tipping point actually happened in late December when the Lakers' bench allowed a 21-point lead against the Detroit Pistons to evaporate to within eight points in the fourth quarter. That meant the starters would have to come in and save the day. So one could only imagine how Odom felt when the Lakers' reserve unit combined for only one point in the first half Tuesday against Sacramento. The Lakers managed to recover in the second half, however, and finish with a 106-99 victory over the Kings.

But the incident provided the latest and most vivid case study of a unit that has gone through too many ups and downs, making it hard to accurately track the reserves' development process and what contributions the Lakers can consistently expect from them.

In the end, the bench didn't necessarily decide the outcome. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum handled that, combining for 79 points. But the bench certainly played a significant role. After the Lakers held a 28-17 first-quarter lead, Coach Phil Jackson had a good reason to rest most of his starters in the second quarter, especially given the game was on the second night of a back-to-back. But a zero-for-eight clip among the reserves in the first half resulted in the Lakers holding only a 49-48 halftime lead. The bench then improved in the second half, finishing with 20 total points, including Odom's 10 points and seven rebounds. After the jump is a breakdown on the bench's poor start and how it managed to bounce back.

The Bad

2nd quarter, 11:19 - 11:09

After receiving a pass from Lakers backup guard Shannon Brown, reserve guard Jordan Farmar immediately launched a contested 26-foot three-pointer over Kings guard Tyreke Evans. After Sacramento forward Jason Thompson grabbed the rebound, Evans ran the break and drove to the rack. He missed the left-handed layup, but Thompson tipped the ball in, reducing the Lakers' lead to 30-19.

2nd quarter, 10:44 - 10:30

Odom grabbed the rebound off Thompson's missed 17-footer and pushed the ball up the floor to Brown. On the far end behind the perimeter, Brown dribbled between his legs and then drove left past Kings guard Francisco Garcia. Though Sacramento forward Andres Nocioni and Thompson moved from the weak side to help, Brown went through traffic for an over-the-shoulder layup. The shot hit off the backboard, Nocioni grabbed the board and pushed the ball to Evans. He drove to the rack and drew a foul on Odom, who also was given a technical for arguing the call. Evans converted on all three free throws, reducing the Lakers' lead to 30-22.

2nd quarter, 10:30 - 10:10

After Evans made the foul shots, Brown manned the point. Drawing pressure from both Garcia and Evans, Brown dribbled behind his back near the timeline before Evans swiped the ball. Brown grabbed the loose ball on the far end of the court after Odom batted it away from Garcia. He then drove to the basket and forced a left-handed layup, despite there being three Kings players in the paint. After Thompson blocked the shot, Evans grabbed the ball and passed to Kings forward Omri Caspi on the other end. He finished the play with a one-handed slam, cutting the Lakers' lead to 30-24 and capping off Sacramento's 7-0 run.

2nd quarter, 10:10 - 9:45

Farmar brought the ball past the timeline, drove into the lane and passed to Adam Morrison on the far wing. He took one dribble, squared up outside the paint and attempted a shot over Thompson, but he easily swatted the ball. Evans led the break, drove into the lane and then kicked out to Nocioni in the near corner. Instead of marking Nocioni, Brown guarded the paint. As soon as Nocioni released the ball, Brown kicked out but it was too late. Nocioni's three-pointer slashed the Lakers' cushion to 30-27 and continued the Kings' 10-0 run.

2nd quarter, 9:04 - 8:45

With Farmar on the near corner, Morrison cut to the lane, penetrated the wing and then cut up top on the far side. By then, Odom manned the point up top and soon passed to Morrison. He drove right past Casspi, pulled up for a jumper just outside the paint and the shot rimmed out. Though the shot proved to be a good look, Morrison didn't  take advantage of the angle he had for a bank shot, which would've improved his chances. After Evans cleaned the glass, he ran the break and found Nocioni open on the far corner. He faked left, then drove to his right past Odom and curled into the paint off Thompson's screen on Odom. Gasol tried stepping up, but Nocioni angled over him for the right-handed layup. The score cut the Lakers' lead to 31-30. 

2nd quarter, 7:48 - 7:18

After swiping the ball from behind Garcia, Brown manned the break and found Farmar open for a near-corner 21-foot jumper. Though he had all the time in the world, Farmar's shot nipped off the front rim. On the other end, Gasol blocked Nocioni's three-pointer on the corner and Odom grabbed the rebound. He passed to Farmar, who spun left around Nocioni before bringing the ball up the court. Though his recognition proved valuable on that play, he traveled moments later as he drove into the lane. 

2nd quarter, 6:32 - 6:22

Brown fed an entry pass inside to Odom, who posted up on Nocioni. Odom dribbled once, spun toward his right and went in for the layup. But the shot rimmed out. It was a very good look, but Odom shot the ball left-handed. That's something he typically does since he's a left-handed shooter, but Odom didn't have the angle. On the next possession, Evans drove right past Farmar to the rack and drew the foul on Gasol after making the layup. Though Evans missed the free throw, the basket gave the Kings a 37-34 edge.

The Good

3rd quarter, 5:13 - 4:58

At the 5:13 mark, Odom subbed in for Gasol and immediately established his presence. Odom passed the ball to Ron Artest as he cut to the near perimeter. Artest then drove into the lane past Nocioni, drew a double team from Carl Landry and then kicked it out to an open Odom at the top of the key. He drilled the three-pointer, giving the Lakers a 67-57 lead.

3rd quarter, 1:56 - 1:45

Sasha Vujacic entered the game for Bynum with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter, and he proved that The Machine still has a little bit of oil left. After he passed the ball from the timeline to Brown at the near end, Vujacic made an L cut to the near corner. After Brown made an entry pass to Artest on the right block, Brown flashed toward Nocioni, who was marking Vujacic from the baseline. Artest passed to Vujacic after he penetrated along the corner. He sank the 21-footer, increasing the Lakers' lead to 73-64. 

3rd quarter, 1:21 - 1:13 

After Odom fed an entry pass to Gasol on the left block, Odom cut toward the right block and set a screen on Evans. Brown then curled to the free-throw line, caught a dump pass from Gasol, spun around Landry and made the floater. The Lakers led 75-64.

3rd quarter, :06 - :01

With Odom manning the point above the timeline, he looked to take Landry one-on-one. And that he did. Odom drove right and then switched to his left hand for the layup, giving the Lakers a 77-64 lead to close out the third quarter. The Lakers' last six points all came from the team's reserves.

4th quarter, 11:49 - 11:37

After Brown successfully contested Casspi's missed three-pointer, Bryant grabbed the board and led the break. As Sacramento's defense struggled to get back, Vujacic raced along the far sideline toward the corner. Bryant found him wide open for the corner 17-footer, which increased the Lakers' lead to 79-68.

4th quarter, 10:35 - 10:26

Brown again contested Nacione's shot and it resulted in an air ball. Vujacic batted the loose ball in the direction of Gasol, who picked it up just above Sacramento's three-point line. At the timeline, Gasol threw the ball to Brown, who was open just outside the right block. He caught the ball and drove in for the one-handed slam, giving LetShannonDunk.com another clip to add to its highlight reel and adding to the Lakers' 84-68 cushion.  

4th quarter, 6:31 - 6:24

After Odom fed Gasol on the right block, Odom set a screen on Casspi by the free-throw line. Gasol kicked it out to Odom at the top of the key and then drove the right baseline as Casspi tried to catch up. But Vujacic had enough leverage to make the right-handed layup, extending the Lakers' lead to 90-78.

4th quarter, 4:39 - 4:35

As Odom brought the ball up the court, Bryant set a screen by the free-throw line extended on Landry. Though Landry didn't bite and instead backed down inside, Odom had enough of an angle on the right side to charge in for the layup. Odom also drew the charge, though he didn't convert on the three-point play. Nonetheless, Odom's layup gave the Lakers a 93-82 advantage. 

What This Means

The Lakers' effort against Sacramento provides solid evidence why Jackson remains reluctant to rely heavily  on the reserves besides Odom. It explains why Derek Fisher is the preferred option at point guard, regardless of any FIsh's struggles and the strides Brown and Farmar made in the middle of the season. It explains why Bynum starts instead of Odom, given Bynum's need to get involved early, Odom's wish to delegate as well as Odom's maturity -- a necessary quality one of the reserves needs to have so someone can lead the unit. 

But the episode also shows that Jackson is willing to give the reserves a chance, just not when the game is on the line. Jackson went to that rotation in the second quarter because he wanted to give his starters some rest after logging heavy minutes Monday against Golden State. He was willing to have them play through the second-quarter meltdown, apparently confident the Lakers' starters could reverse the fortunes in the second half. And when the Lakers built up another sizable lead in the third quarter, Jackson gave the bench another shot to prove themselves.

No doubt, the individual contributions are different among the reserves. Though Odom has his disappearing nights, he's largely been a dependable inside-outside threat this season. Before Vujacic injured his shoulder, he appeared to be gaining confidence. Meanwhile, Vujacic's return has resulted in less time for Farmar, who has often been frustrated with his limited role and often plays outside of the triangle offense. After a breakout beginning that entailed a trip to the Slam Dunk contest, Brown has played inconsistently as of late and has been plagued by poor decision-making. And Morrison has largely struggled getting definitive footing in the rotation. 

Nonetheless, the Lakers' latest game proved that the bench can make the difference, for better or worse. And though the team has top-heavy talent, mostly in Bryant, Gasol and Bynum, it will help down the line for the bench to establish and maintain consistency. The starters' rest depends on it. 

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers' Jordan Farmar passes between Sacramento's Jason Thompson, left, and Tyreke Evans during Tuesday's game. Credit: Carl Costas / MCT.

 
Comments () | Archives (23)

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"Tonight was an exhibition by him (Drew) and Pau that showed the strength of our team."

Exactly. It's Phil time. Time to tune up.

Pau looks more comfortable from mid range and Andrew is exploding again. It's lookin' like it did on paper in October.

There's going to be open looks on the perimeter. If our shooters hit shots, we've got a parade.

Meanwhile:
Ron the ARt and Kobe voted top 2 best defenders by their peers. In all the word slingin' commotion, we neglected to mention the re-invention of the Dobermen. When the playoffs jump up, it's gonna get even more noticeable.

I did not watch nor followed the live chat, bonding time with the family. I have a lot of back reading to do on some interesting posts. Am I going to overdose again on my Lakerholicsm?

It is a very beautiful day, lots of sunshine and it is always a good day when Lakers win. Life is beautiful.

As MM said, this game illustrates just why Phil uses the rotation he uses, why Fisher is still (deservedly so) the starter, and why Bynum is too over L.O.

I want to give props to Bynum last night, and for the last stretch of games. He really is doing a nice job of staying mostly under the radar, steadily doing his job and thank goodness staying healthy for a full year (I just knocked on wood =P). Bynum dominates those centers he can, he competently guards the better ones, and is quietly still improving. He doesn't always put up big numbers, but is becoming a steady presence when not in foul trouble.

I still contend that Bynum will not only be an all-star within 2 years, but the best center in the NBA at that time. He has a much better touch than Dwight Howard, those moves that Kareem taught him helped mold him into a very nice offensive, old school low-post center. Yes, he mostly shares the low-post position with Pau, and gets less touches as a result. But just look at the combined stats for the two last night, 49 pts and 24 rebounds, not a bad night for your starting front court!

Artest is reminding me of Rick Fox a lot lately, the same type of role he seems to have on this team that Rick had on those threepeat championship Laker squads.

L.O. is as selfless as ever. He reads the game very well, and totally overlooks his own numbers. If the Lakers need someone to step up, he will. If not, he plays his usual game of facilitating the offense, getting rebounds and basically using whatever aspect of his versatile game that is most needed. I love the Lakers bringing him off the bench, when Luke finally gets back then I bet you'll see the 2nd unit step up a lot more since Luke helps set up Lamar and everyone else with easy buckets.

Glad to see Sasha get some minutes, hope he can hone his shot to what it was come playoff time.

Poor Adam Morrison never gets more than a couple of minutes a month, but he's not going to be able to shape his best asset, his jump shot, in a few minutes here and there. I would rather see Sasha get those few extra minutes to help improve his game now that he's back and not waste court time on Morrison...

M/M, you are imitating Aztronut with your blow by blow report. Well, I find your report very realistic on what we saw last night versus what was perceived in other sugar-coated reporting that glorify the 2nd unit. Perhaps, by this time fans in general are beginning to realize the wisdom of PJ why he let the old guy, Fish run the point and he could not rest Kobe's battered body, someone has to act as a zoo keepper. After the road trip which end in MN, I hope they could rest Kobe. We need a strong Kobe in the playoffs. The last three games are Blazers, Sacto and Clippers all home games.

Despite all the handicaps, Lakers are winning and moving onward to capturing the Western home court, not yet the WCF. Like the Warrior previous night, the Kings are also good individually but they lacked cohesiveness to beat our two giants in the post. No matter how good you are, if you are small in the post like the Kings Centers Spencer Hawes and Thompson, you can't beat the 7'1" because they're much closer to the ring. Basketball is a game of the tall and speedy players, if you can beat the odds on both makes you a great player like Kobe, Lebron, Jordan, Magic and Bird.

Edwin - I could never imitate aztro, but it's a nice compliment that you spoke of us in the same sentence. Appreciate you liking the post. I hope aztronut comes back. His game analysis was always good and richly detailed.

MM

Wow. Sasha...my man...nice to see you again!!

Seriously, if The Machine can get back to form and regain his touch, that will help this team soooooo much. As I keep saying, when we can't put someone not named "Kobe" on the floor who can hit a perimeter J, it kills us. Sasha coming back with some confidence and a shot will make a huge difference down the stretch.

And Farmar? The dude just doesn't show signs of being a real point guard. A true point comes onto the court and assesses the situation and figures out where his team has the advantage. In the 2nd quarter, Farmar failed to recognize that Gasol and Odom in the post was where the ball needed to go and that the Queens had an up-tempo, energy team on the floor. What does that tell you? Slow the ball down, run the offense, and feed the ball into the post. Then Ammo, Brown, and Farmar can feed off the doubles and hopefully hit some shots.

But nooooooo....not Farmar! He comes out and launches contested 3's early in the shot clock, pushes the tempo, and makes forced drives into the paint.

That's why you never got back in the game bro. You just don't get what it means to be a PG. You don't seem to have a sense of being a floor manager. Oh well. Good luck with your next team. ;-)

-I see that Phil is starting to answer the question of who will get the bulk of the minutes b/w Fisher/Farmar/Shannon/Vujacic. Interesting rotation yesterday. I don't believe Farmar's in the dog house yet...this isn't message sending, this is finding who's going to best fit this team going forward. Our point guards are a Swiss Army knife at this point.

-Artest on Tyreke is a nod to Tyreke's ability as well as Artest's all purpose defensive abilities. I imagine we'll see him on Chauncey, not necessarily to stay in front of them, but to fight around screens better.

-As for some of the stuff regarding who is getting shots and ball distribution, I see no animosity between Kobe, Pau, or the rest of the team. There will always be an underlying need to compete for minutes, for shots, for what strategy is best at defeating teams, but this team is pretty resilient (and Kobe 2010 is far more mature than the millenial Kobe).

-Rejoice in the win. Yes, even if its the Sacramento Kings, even if its the Warriors, even if its the Washington Generals. Every team deserves that respect, and likewise, even the Lakers can't be so arrogant that they can't enjoy the ride. A couple of dings and dents aren't going to stop a Ferrari.

M/M, you know you are much better than that. If someone wants to run the blog, you can't just run away and ask bloggers chase you nor make suggestions in violating laws on censorship through systemic ostracize of contrary opinions. Abandoning your posters is not a good policy, Lolo, Kbros learned these hard facts. Long timed fans come here because of the Lakers and LA Times rich traditions not of any personalities, however the composition of ideas and the creativity of posters make blog great and worth the time.

We know that Brown or Farmar are not the point guards for this team next year, They can't displace the old man. Brown will opt out and Farmar will just go away.

Edwin - LOL I'm confused by your comment. I was simply saying it'd be great for Aztro to come back. I didn't suggest that he chase me. How am I ostracizing people??

MM

Jeannette,

I also read this morning the live chat last night and I understand what Jette was referring at those personal chats about bf and dating and movies in a Lakers Blog live chat. Ouchhh mentioned it before in his stirring criticism on another blogger that we are here because of the Lakers. Of course, we are free to say anything what we want in a live chat or blog to break the formalities but remember that the print is being read by all fans not necessarily one person. You have to address your chat or blog to all fans in general. If you want to chat individually like what sportscasters are also doing with their telecasts, it is only a side remark, it should be fast and quick and back to the game. The game is the center of attention. Most of us have been indoctrinated by Chicky-baby, who is Lakers first before anyone. Some new posters here do not even know the late Chickisms and his ethics.

Good analysis MM.

Methinks the bench play is effected by Phil's pre playoff tweaking. It's Sasha's turn now. Lamar has been turning it up, and that's the bench sign that's most important. Sasha, Jordan and Shannon have all gotten crunch minutes... it's a process. It ain't soup yet, but it will be.

BTW: Fish bashers. It was Fish's speech at halftime of the Toronto game that's moved this in a more positive direction. He needs to hit his shot and play position defense. True. With Andrew and Pau's improved play, there will be more looks. Shooter's shots eventually emerge and so will Fish's.

I have been a BIG Farmar supporter ever since he entered the draft. I secretly prayed that the Lakers would take him, and was overjoyed when he came to us. I have preached patience for the whole time he has been here with the Lakers.

But, he is starting to disillusion me of late. And not really because he can't shoot anymore (well, that's not all of it).

I would like to know why, as a point guard, he is so intent on shooting every time he has the ball? Also, did he not see what was working for the starters again Sac? He was in the game with both Bynum and LO and he never passed to either person even once.

Also, I know he's in a shooting slump. That happens to everybody. But, is he actually working on getting his shot back? How come I don't hear of him arriving early to put up jumpers and get his stroke back? Does he think it'll come back on its own?

Our other draftee actually works tirelessly on his game (Bynum). Can the same be said for Jordan? I really hope the answer is "yes".

At least in my mind, the last thing I look for from our PGs is how many points they score. That is not their job in our offensive scheme. I need to know how they control the game. Last night, Jordan was not in control.

There was this point in the game, though, where Jordan could have redeemed himself. He had just yucked up a brick of a three and the Kings went down to score. On the next possession, he could have set up the offense. The announcers where calling for a timeout. But, PJ gave Farmar more rope instead, hoping he would figure out on his own what to do next. Which was to clearly setup the offense.

It was so obvious to everyone that it really is baffling why instead Jordan tried to drive to the bucket, through three Kings ending in a turnover and another score for the Kings. PJ finally pulled Jordan after that play.

If it were me, I would have pulled him even if he made the shot.

During that stretch, neither Bynum nor LO touched the ball.

I don't get it.

Maybe Jordan thinks he can get away with that because he's rarely on the court with Kobe?

--FEARless

VMan - Thanks a lot for the feedback. I definitely appreciate it.

MM

I'm also confused why you said that. Did u run away from the blog? Did you suggest censorship? Well, if the answer is NO, you know what I was referring at.

Going back to previous years, we are used to poster coming here and take full command of everyone. We had JJ with his long winded dissertations that takes whole morning to read, then followed by Mike T Jackson Journal. Lolo put up his own blog and most recent, KBros went for greener pasture. Well, all of them run away from the blog. That was I was referring as running away from the Lakers Blog. Aztro seized our attention with his full scap reporting which was very helpful but then he went beyond his powers....he suggested censorship too on trolls. Because he did not get what he wanted he just completely shut down his postings.

Edwin - Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification

MM

Hey guys we got a new post up

MM

Love Fish and his value is still underrated, but doesn't the instability of the bench good reason to put Fish on the second unit while also playing crunch time minutes (much like LO)?

I think it's more our lack of options as to who will start. My vote is Sasha. If he played like he is playing now at the start of the season, he may be starting right now. We don't need a true point and he's a pesky enough defender.

Having Fish and LO off the bench with the energy and youth of Shannon on 2 or go small with 3 guards with Farmar. We need stability on the bench, not knock out punches and highlight reels.

These guys need to earn it and take it from Fish and they haven't.

FEARless: Farmar has some moments in games that one can really envision him as the PG of the future. Those times are further apart and happen less and less. Instead of progressing, he is regressing (Shannon too, unfortunately).

I'm almost certain that Jordan will end up going somewhere else. He'll probably make a decent NBA backup for the rest of his career and I wish him the best, but there is still the here-and-now, the Lakers are heading into the playoffs with a shaky but proven D-Fish, and no real nice adequate backup.

Jordan's erratic play, his bad decision making and his recent shoot-first type mentality is crippling the 2nd unit. Instead of soaking up some of those backup minutes, letting the aging Fish get some rest, the opposite is happening and Phil is being forced to keep him on the floor. Shannon obviously is not point guard material, so what is left is some pretty bad solutions outside of Farmar.

C'mon Jordan, you don't have to try to make all-star type plays every time down the court, settle down and try running the offense first, take shots within rhythm of the offense and don't force things. Having to play Fisher more minutes heading into postseason isn't something Phil should even be considering. Hope you got the message these past few games and start making better choices on the floor.

- - -

Edwin Gueco: huh? What the heck are you saying? MM is "making suggestions in violating laws on censorship through systemic ostracize of contrary opinions" - uh, wha??? Got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? I don't know why you'd say MM is - whatever the heck you are referring to.

No offense but this blog had become almost unreadable, the K-bros were turning into the Smothers Brothers variety hour. They chased me away for several months, I know that. MM is doing an EXCELLENT job here, he has NEVER chased away ANYONE! Good lord, if anything this blog is better than ever now, and having posted on different web-sites for years (sacbee, oregonian, etc...) I will say this blog is now hands-down THE BEST TEAM BLOG ON THE 'NET!

Please, stop writing this paranoid jibberish Edwin - you're better than that!

- - -

MM: you may want to inform the L.A. Times webmaster that the Terms of Service line on the bottom of the page ends reading "Copyright 2009" yeah, I know, it's only been 3½ months... lol

Mang Edwin,

Did I miss anything on the live chat? I am still on the post, Why Lakers won't repeat? I am too slow today. When I miss the game the live chat is at the bottom of my priorities of back read. I mostly follow it live because of justa. No intention of partcipating.

Also, you are right we are here for the Lakers.

CyberCosmiX, no need to defend M/M because he has gotten the message. Perhaps, you too got mixed up with my jibberish paranoidism. Pardon me for all my typos, you may have misunderstood my post. If takes one to be up-to-date with the blog to understand the censorship statement which happened a couple of days ago.

We have no conflict with what you think is the best. We will not be wasting time coming back if it is not worth blogging.

Jeanette -


ME???? I'm honored....

Justa, yes you! You are hilariuos! Most Valueable Blogger belongs to MAMBA24 and you are the Most Valueable Chatter on the live chat.

Hope you get the seat for the ASG. I will see if I can go to LA for ASG. I hope to see you in June for the parade:-)


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