Phil Jackson implores Lakers to prioritize inside game before perimeter shooting
One Lakers statistic looked good on face value at halftime Friday against Phoenix, but Lakers Coach Phil Jackson remained unimpressed. Most teams would take a four of eight mark from three-point range any day, but Jackson looked at another statistic that pleased him more. The Lakers had gone 12 of 16 from the field whenever they went inside.
"I had to nail that home," Jackson said after practice Saturday at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo, a day after the team's 114-106 victory over the Suns. "Then they went out in the third quarter and took some more. I didn't have much influence, I guess."
Apparently not. The Lakers went 12 of 27 from three-point range, improving their overall mark through two games to 47.9%, an increase from last season's finish at 34.1%. Clearly, the Lakers' off-season acquisitions of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes upgrade the Lakers' outside shooting; the two shot a combined five of nine from the outside. Ron Artest's three-of-eight mark from three-point range showed that healthier fingers, increased confidence and rhythm are paying off, though he went five of 14 overall. And Kobe Bryant's two-of-five finish from downtown serves as one of many signs his right-knee rehabilitation is coming along.
It's only two games, but Jackson made the point that the Lakers were "more of an inside team" with the impressive post work Bryant, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol provide, as will Andrew Bynum once he's expected to fully recover from off-season knee surgery sometime around Thanksgiving. So even if the Lakers shoot well from downtown Sunday night against defenseless Golden State, Jackson doesn't want his team to think their impressive shooting range should change the identity of the team.
"We had a real high percentage in our inside game," Jackson said, "yet we were still taking outside shots."
The same players who took the high volume of threes against Phoenix publicly endorsed Jackson's philosophy. Shannon Brown, who went zero of two from three-point range after a three-of-four mark in last week's win against Houston, said, "We pretty much take what the defense gives us." Barnes, who in two games has gone three of five from downtown, took it a step further, saying, "Teams don't win by shooting threes." And Blake, whose three-pointer provided the game winner against Houston, defended the team's approach thus far: "We definitely want to get into penetration and postups, but we have guys who can shoot threes too."
The issue on its surface is fairly minor as the Lakers have averaged 44 points in the paint, while still remaining impressive from the perimeter. But in the long term, it could reveal a lot about the team dynamic as it determines where it finds its shots. Even if the Lakers, particularly their bench, have looked impressive so far because everyone has bought the team concept and appear to have good chemistry, the first two games revealed areas where the Lakers opted for the outside shot when they could have produced an even better shot inside.
That doesn't mean the Lakers should go inside just for the sake of going inside. That also doesn't mean the Lakers should avoid shooting open outside shots. The Lakers should approach the game, however, looking to get the ball in the lane and post first, before settling for jumpers and three pointers. Working inside-out instead of outside-in also will help the Lakers' perimeter shooters develop a better rhythm as well. If perfected, an effective inside presence along with outside shooting will give opponents fits.
"If we have a wide-open shot, then we got to shoot it," Brown said. "If it's a three, so be it. Not all the time we have to take them. We can drive or whatever the case is so long as it's within the rhythm and the flow of the game and the flow of our offense; we have to take the shots given to us."
-- Mark Medina
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