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Five things to take away from Lakers' 108-103 victory over Toronto Raptors

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1. The Lakers survived the test, but they should save that for playoff opponents. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson entered the press conference room following the Lakers' 108-103 victory Friday over the Toronto Raptors ready to address a litany of issues that made this win more difficult than it should have been.

Before addressing the Lakers' trouble against Toronto's zone defense, the team's poor defense and individual performances, however, Jackson shared a sentiment that at first seemed puzzling. "I thought it was good for our team to have to face some adversity," Jackson said after the Lakers improved to 6-0.

Surely, this time would happen at some point. No team can enjoy double-digit leads, comfortable rest for their starters and significant bench play for the entire season. But given the Lakers' constant monitoring of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant surrounding his surgically repaired knee and the want to rest the starters as much as possible so they're fresh for playoff-caliber opponents, I found it odd Jackson found satisfaction with his team experiencing that test against Toronto (1-4). After all, Jackson was asked before the game whether he's viewed the prospect of resting starters for significant chunks of time as a necessity or a luxury.

"I think it's very important," Jackson said beforehand. "Any time a player has to overextend in a game, it affects him at a later date."

It's unclear whether the heavy minutes assigned to Pau Gasol (43) and Lamar Odom (39) will have devastating effects in the future. It is one game after all, but it reveals a continuous pattern where Jackson simply doesn't have confidence in the rest of the Lakers' frontline to absorb Andrew Bynum's absence. The burn for Theo Ratliff (four) and Derrick Caracter (two) provided little to help give Gasol and Odom a rest. "We have to shorten that somehow," Jackson said, although he hasn't done so yet all season.

That's a much different story for the Lakers' backcourt, which entailed Kobe Bryant (34) and Derek Fisher (30) getting relief thanks to the consistent play of Steve Blake and Shannon Brown, but the Lakers simply don't have that luxury with the their frontcourt. It also doesn't help that the Lakers haven't had more than a day between games for rest following the Lakers' second game against Phoenix, prompting Jackson to give anyone who played more than 24 minutes Wednesday against Sacramento off during Thursday's practice. That included all the Lakers starters and reserve forward Matt Barnes, leading Jackson to tell them they had the responsibility to prove their rest was warranted.

The Lakers instead allowed the Raptors to remain within single digits for the entire four quarter.

"I'm playing a lot of minutes," said Gasol, who entered the Toronto game averaging a team-leading 37.4 minutes per game. "That's a reality. I don't know if I wish I'd play a little less. But it is what it is."

The Lakers' locker room, including Gasol, Barnes and Derek Fisher, downplayed the notion that this was nothing more than a blown opportunity considering close games will likely come possibly as early as Sunday against Portland. Barnes mentioned the value for teams learning how to grind out wins. Gasol credited Toronto's personnel. And Fisher argued the Lakers can set themselves up for failure if they enter a game expecting things should happen exactly the way they envisioned.

Jackson was then asked to revisit the the dichotomy Jackson outlined regarding the value of his team building sizable enough leads to warrant rest versus the team learning how to play through adversity.

"That's a good comment there," Jackson said. "I really don't know how to respond to that. We want to keep this winning streak going obviously. So we push it a little bit far and we're also at home so it's also easier to play. Rest comes easier. With that knowledge in mind, we know the next contest against Portland is going to be a real challenge. They have a good idea of how they want to play us and they do a good job with it. We have our challenge ahead of us. It's always nice to keep the winning streak going and extending it so we're pushing the envelope right now."

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2. The Lakers' defense is on a milk carton: A huge reason why the Lakers remained in close contention with Toronto points to their failure to hold a team below 100 points for five of their six games. Bryant raised an interesting note where the Lakers have held teams to 43.1% shooting, a mark that ranks seventh best in the league. But it's clearly not a good thing that the Lakers are allowing that many points.

The Lakers conceded 58 points in the paint, 24 fast-break points and were outrebounded 49-31, a stat line that Jackson said indicated pointed to the team's "commitment to defense."

"That's something we can't continue to do," Brown said. "Sometimes we didn't box out. But that's unacceptable and inexcusable. We have to grab every ball we can."

The responsibility goes beyond Odom and Gasol needing to combining for more than 16 rebounds. All player accounts said the breakdowns started with miscommunication on pick-and-rolls, providing a trickle effect where the Lakers featured delayed reaction on help defens, resulting in putting themselves in a tough position to get the board.

Plenty of missed assignments go around, including Bryant allowing DeMar DeRozan to beat him a few times one-on-one, Ron Artest going for a steal at the expense of keeping the rotation in tact, Ratliff proving too slow to slide forward on Toronto's drives to the basket and the Lakers' frontline (Odom, Gasol, Ratliff, Caracter, Artest, Ratliff) failing to switch with the backcourt (Fisher, Blake, Brown, Bryant) on screen and rolls.

"That's something we can't have," Barnes said. "I know we're missing our center in Andrew, but I know we have enough big guys and talent and smarts to take a charge, take a block or cut it off."

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3. Derek Fisher set the example on hustle plays One player, however, set a good example on how to play defense. Fisher recorded four steals, drew two charges and contributed with 11 points on four of seven shooting, including a key corner jumper that gave the Lakers a 104-94 lead with 2:43 remaining.

Fisher said those type of hustle plays give more satisfaction than just hitting a quick shot, and it's something that should serve as an example for the rest of the team.

"I think every team keeps track of deflections," Fisher said. "If one guy can be active out there and get his hands on the basketball, when you're on a team there isn't anybody out there by themselves on offense and defense. That defense starts picking up or there's two or three guys being really active out there they're going to stand out if they don't pick it up."

4. The Lakers offense looks impressive but they can't depend on it

The Lakers have cruised on offense thus far, with their dominating and team-oriented offense churning out a league-leading 113.8 points per game. They provided plenty of theatrics to show how difficult it will be to stop the Lakers. Bryant drove the lane and posted up DeRozan with ease, resulting in 23 points on six of 12 shooting. Gasol's team-leading 30 points on 12 of 22 shooting revealed his patience in the post. It also partly illustrated the chemistry between Bryant and Gasol, which once featured Bryant throwing a no look behind the shoulder pass to Gasol for the easy basket. Steve Blake's 14 points, including a four of six clip from the three-point line, points to his effectiveness as a catch-and-shoot player as well as the vision Bryant, Gasol and Odom have in finding him open after drawing double teams. Brown's 12 points on four of seven shooting signifies his ever continuing improved stroke since devoting much of the off-season to perfecting it.

But the Lakers hit a dry spell in the second and fourth quarter, thanks to a Toronto zone defense that prompted the Lakers to force shots. That resulted in a two of eight three-point clip in the second quarter and a zero of five effort in the fourth quarter, an issue Jackson expressed concern about this season even when those shots went in the basket. The Lakers haven't fully grasped that they're an inside-out team, and the zone defense exposed the team's willingness in settling for shots instead of working for them.

With the Lakers already struggling on the rebounding front, that left them further exposed on transition defense.

"We probably needed to run what we were going to run if it was man to man," Blake said. "We have to run our normal stuff and our shots will come to us."

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5. Luke Walton's return - Even though Jackson had indicated earlier this week he needed to see Walton in a "hard practice" before he made his first regular-season appearance because of a strained right hamstring, Jackson reconsidered after Walton successfully went through running and three-on-three drills on Thursday.

Even if Walton dressed for the Raptors game, however, Jackson said beforehand that wouldn't automatically yield to playing time.

"I'm not going to throw him out there whimsicially because he needs minutes," Jackson said of Walton, whose activation left rookie forward Devin Ebanks off the roster. "I'm going to throw him out there because we need to use him to our advantage. In many ways I hope he doesn't have to play, but the other possibility we may have to use him because of the situations that demand it."

Jackson inserted Walton with 5:41 left in the second quarter in hopes he'd help with the facilitating the triangle and helping in boxing out. But his immediate three-point attempt hit the backboard, a shot Walton said he took simply because Bryant instructed him to do so. He then reentered the game with 24.8 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and recorded a steal that led to Gasol's bank shot that gave the Lakers a 89-80 lead with 9:58 remaining in the game.

"It was nice to be out there and feel no pain," said Walton, who played six minutes. hopefully I wake up tomorrow and feel the same way."

"My back feels great," he added. "That's what felt so frustrating about the hamstring. I felt so good in the first week of training camp and the hamstring went. It felt frustrating, but I feel great right now."

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant collects a pass in the post against the defense of Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan in the second quarter Friday night. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Lakers center Theo Ratliff can only get out of the way as Raptors guard Sonny Weems puts down a dunk in the second quarter Friday night. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

Photo: Lakers point guard Derek Fisher deflects a pass by Toronto center Andrea Bargnani for a steal in the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant gets ready to congratulate forward Luke Walton in the final moments of Friday night's 108-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant gets ready to congratulate forward Luke Walton in the final moments of Friday night's 108-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 
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Reader Comment of the Day: "I'm ready for backup plans in case Lakers chat crashes because of Luke's presence." -- Mark Medina on Live Chat

Tweet of the Day: "Walton's first shot of the season: I think he hurt the backboard" -- Mike Bresnahan (Mike Bresnahan from LA Times)

Joakim Noah finished with 26 pts. 12 reb. and 2 healthy knees.

This was exactly the kind of game and opponent that we would lose to in past years. The simple fact that we didn't is yet another testimony to our superior bench this year. In fact, there were stretches when Blake and Barnes played better than the starters. And no, that's not going to be the case normally, but it is clearly why this team is so much better this year. And why we're going to have a bunch more beautiful ugly wins this year.

MM,

The reason the Lakers struggled against the Zone was that they tried to force inside. The one thing about Zone defense as much as I have harped on it was that it does a far superior job in denying the ball inside to the big man (defending the perimeter is much different). When the Lakers tried to force it inside toe Pau they would find the ball tipped so they needlessly passed it around on the perimeter instead of running the offense which would have not only busted the zone but also get it to Gasol to post up (and even if Pau had missed because there would be a collapse on Pau there's much more opportunities for offensive rebounds....hence why very few teams at all run zone).

Pau is still doing an excellent job offensive wise and the last player to come to his production in October/November was the Diesel when he last played in Los Angeles. That being said I agree that the Lakers defense was porous especially in the 2nd with LESS hustle and getting burned in transition like where that one sequence Derek hit a 3 but then after Leandro was on the other side of the court shooting a wide open 3. If that was the effort they gave, then even Bynum's presence wouldn't have mattered if the Lakers 1) Went slow to being slow on defense and 2) played horrnedous help on the screen and roll (many times the third man usually LO didn't rotate to cover the inside when Pau hedged resulting in many lay ups.) and simply not hustling. No one's presence could have slowed down that no hustle not even Wilt.

That being said yea it was good to have some adversity in and aside from the 2nd quarter the Lakers defense was all right especially with forcing 20+ turnovers (12 of them were from Laker steals). That being said the battle of the boards were just awful (thanks to the defense made our reboundes become out of position.......not to mention that LO tip into his own basket was argh dropping).

But hey Portland is coming up and I think Phil will drill them at practice today about Friday's game.

6-0. I hope the break the 16-1 record the 01-02 Lakers achieved this early in the season. It's very doable and I think the real test will be @DEN.

Clipboard Boy -

Your first comment is pretty damn funny. :-) I missed the live chat and the game, so seeing this made me laugh.

KB Blitz -

I like your insights to the game last night. It's especially helpful since I didn't get to see the game last night.

Regarding the rebounding, did Toronto get a number of offensive rebounds? Were they limiting our offense to being "1-and-done" for the majority of the night?

I was just thinking that with the triangle, if there were problems getting it into the low post, why not run a high-post triangle, with either Pau or Kobe being the recipient of the entry pass at the FT line? That might help open up spacing for Barnes/Blake on the wing or corner, and LO can crash from the block opposite from the entry pass on the elbow.

Then again, I can be absolutely off, since I didn't get to watch the game. Those are just my thoughts though.

Hope you had a good Friday!

Good news - in Bresnehan's article today, it is apparently the case that (A) KAJ is doing much better health wise, and (B) that Andrew is continuing to work with him.

Link is right here: http://tinyurl.com/2uaaore

"Regarding the rebounding, did Toronto get a number of offensive rebounds? Were they limiting our offense to being "1-and-done" for the majority of the night? "

They got 19 offensive rebounds 9 by Amir Johnson and 5 by Reggie Evans (Evans got 14 total rebounds and Amir got 15). While some were ones that took advantage of Pau being out of position and LO (Bargnani and David Anderson were shooters so they were forced to cover for them) that being said many defensive break downs happened along with less hustle on the boards contributing to us being out rebounded badly.

And remember, the triangle is an offense that is dictated by the defense. If they are going to try to put pressure to get Gasol off the high post they will. That being said the second place where Gasol gets most of his shot is the high post/free throw line extended after the low post. The Raptors went into a zone so they went out to do everything to deny entry passes into the post whether it was low or high. There was only a few passes that was properly fired around with purpose hence why the Lakers lead in the 2nd was short since they simply did not attack the zone. When they did manage to run the offense and get to the ball to Pau in the high or low post, usually LO got the chance to get an offensive rebound and score.

One of their bad games this early on but heck winning covers a multitude of sins. Hopefully they will be more focused and show more hustle against Portland which along with New Orleans has shown resurgence.

and I don't think it said that Bynum was working extensively as much with KAJ in that article it said:

"Abdul-Jabbar has worked extensively in the past with Andrew Bynum, who is expected to return around Thanksgiving from off-season knee surgery, if not a little later."

And yeah Kareem has worked extensively with Bynum in the past and still does work with Bynum probably but not the extent he has worked with him before. Between Kareem's Leukemia and Bynum's desire to work less and develop more (which Kareem felt hurt in Sept 09) without as much from Kareem is one of the reasons we haven't seen Kareem much coaching Bynum as before.

Maybe not pretty, but still adds up to another W, that's what counts.

What's up with New Orleans, are they for real?
Are they last years OKC?

KB Blitz -

I guess I am just hoping that Andrew will realize that he has an opportunity to work with one of the greatest, and will really be a sponge with KAJ. I'd hate to see him be like J.J. Stokes was to Jerry Rice. Thanks for giving me a bit more of a break down about the game.

I think if we show this kind of effort against Portland, we'll lose pretty badly. I like that we're undefeated right now, but I just want our team to continue to make improvements even if just incrementally for the time being. It would be really nice to see a strong defensive effort in the next couple of games.

Blitz, what do you have going on today?

Art -

Apparently they are for real. There was a pretty good article on cnnsi.com about them: http://tinyurl.com/36yn7dw

Check it out and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your thoughts on things.

The way I look at it Lakers are playing lazy defense and made it tighter in the end when it counts. Gasol was no trying to push Bargnani out of the post nor attempt to stop any wayward layups that slipped from the front guards. What they missed in defense last night, it was taken by offense with the addition of the 2nd unit. Walton was just right, didn't do anything spectacular nor made any bad plays. In fact, he was able to steal some passes. Overall, Lakers are bored and waiting for a better match up.

This is what I noticed in this blog. There is always analysis in every game, every move, every shot, every substitution etc. ad infinitum. No one is enjoying basketball anymore per se without involvement, that it is just a game of to-and- fro and players make mistakes, shots don't go in like the other night. Why not sit back, take a deep breath, drink something and enjoy without any comments? Blogging sometimes make us a dull boy, it is the 'holic effect to be always on the edge to make something out of nothing. As Art Fl said in previous thread - learn how to shut up and act as unaffected fan. lol!

That's just my take in analyzing bloggers and chatters. The mastered the art of punditry in seeking attention.

Cali,

Thanks for the link, enjoyed the article. I decided to do a little research on coach Williams and now it makes a little more sense. Williams played for Doc Rivers and was an asst coach for Popovich, so I see where he gets his attitude about the importance of defense and rebounding.

The article mentioned they are vulnerable to off-ball movement and the Lakers should be able to expose them, but it appears they have some good players to go with Paul. I wonder about their depth, I see good ole' Mbenga even got 8 minutes, good for him.

I don't think Miami has great depth so I can see how they played well with the Heat. It's still early but it looks like they may make some noise this year. I think they will have a tougher time with the Lakers inside game especially with Bynum back.

We play them in NO on 12/29 on the second game of a back-to-back, first game against the Spurs. That may be a challenging game.

Edwin,

I'm not sure I said what you said I said. I don't totally disagree with the comment you attributed to me, but I understand the blog commentary and people wanting to comment on anything and everything.
That's what the blogs here for I guess.

I think the blog has evolved to something a bit different than what it used to be prior to MM. While even in the past the blog would occasionally get off track and devolve into some silly stuff or comments unrelated to the Lakers or basketball, now it seems to be the more the norm rather than the exception.
I have been guilty of doing that too on occasion.
I'm not passing judgement on that, I figure the blog will become whatever MM allows it to become and what the bloggers make it.

Sometimes someone's comments may bug me, but I try to ignore them.
Sometimes it's hard to do, sometimes I just don't have time to respond and sometimes someone else makes comments that are so close to what I was going to say it's like they took the words right out of my keyboard, so I don't bother since it would just be a repeat of what they said.
I enjoy your posts so keep them coming.

That's just my take in analyzing bloggers and chatters. The mastered the art of punditry in seeking attention.

Posted by: Edwin Gueco | November 06, 2010 at 06:48 AM


Amen.
And Amen.

Here's a tune for Saturday morning..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbMCjuHsT7A

Edwin, this is one of the few times I disagree with you. This blog has become more than just a basketball blog. It's now more like a family, a big extended family. We've got a really interesting group of people contributing now: the elders, the tight and much loved brothers and sisters, the happy-go-lucky cousins with all sorts of side interests, the crazy uncle, the mean-drunk brother-in-law, etc. And they all come here because they feel comfortable here (props to MM, and to all of us for that). And just like at big family gatherings, there is no rhyme or reason for how the conversation threads go on any given day. People interact, stuff happens.

Frankly, I love it. Every thread is a movable feast. And in that regard, Art's advice is the best: if you don't like a particular comment or an entire thread, move on to one that you do like. This is a really, really good blog for a great Laker Family. Eat. Drink. It's all good.

Free Sasha.

@Cali/Art -

Speaking of New Orleans coach Monte Williams, he learned from some of the best. He played for Riley, Pop and Larry Brown. He also coached under Pop and Nate McMillan. Here's what he said about his time with Riles...

"He taught me how to work, how to thrive in intense environments. Every one of coach Pat Riley's practices are intense," says Williams, a 6-8 forward who was a first-round draft choice for the Knicks in 1994 and played for four other teams before retiring in 2003."


I didn't get to watch the game, but it sounds like a typical effort against a bad team desperatelly wanting to beat the lakers. The lackluster win also points to a bad night by the x-factor....Lamar Odom.
I hope this is not s sign of things to come for him and he starts falling into his old habits. His play had been fun to watch. I am actually the most excited by Miami's second loss. No doubt they are a great team, but I sort of feel like Lebron and Wade take away some aggresiveness from each others game. They remind me of Denver a few years ago when they had Iverson(still near the top of his game) and Carmelo. Obviously Miami is a more talented group, but it still is not easy to combine two top notch scorers on a team unless one of them is a Center(ala Shack and Kobe).
More then anything, I hope the lakers can remember how to play defense when Portland comes to town.

LRob -

For a guy who played/coached under some heavy hitters, in retrospect it does not surprise me that New Orleans is a good (so far) defensive team. They did put up 90+ points against the Heat, so I guess I'm a bit more surprised at the offensive output, especially since Pop, Larry Brown and Pat are know for their defensive acumen.

Thanks for the quote too. It really helps to make the understanding of Coach Monty a bit more complete.

LRob,

Thanks for the extra info on coach Monte. For some reason I always enjoy it when a rookie coach does well but I don't know why.
I hope he does well, but not TOO well.
Having another good team in the west I think helps us more than hurts, it will help to dilute the wins of the other teams.

There was nothing to take away from last night's scrimmage. That meaningless practice game wasn't worth giving any thought to other than the obvious, which is that the Lakers were listless and played like they didn't even want to be there. Let's see if this was an aberration or the beginning of a trend without Andrew, given that Pau has now played 2 consecutive 43 minute games. Then again, they did play 3 games in 4 nights for the first time this season, so they should come back strong, rested and determined on Sunday. And who cares what their record is after 17 games as long as they get HCA in the Real Season when the 82 game practice season ends.

Happy Birthday, LO

Playin' so well, could be more of the Triple Tower lineup in our near future? This year's version of LO, AB and Pau will make a hellacious long tall triangle.

Edwin sir,
yes, a network friend of mine tells me their research reveals a large demographic of those that watch TV with a computer in their lap. We've morphed into an ADD society. This community has come a long way since the early days. Think it was more of a blog in the early days than the chat room it's become, but the glass half full still wins 'round here, and that's a good thing.

VMan and others,

In a nutshell the blog and chat is an enjoyable place to be. It is just my take being overfed and over driven by too much information. I used to be excited to open the sports pages and hunt for Lakers stories or await with what Chick would say after the game. Today, there is an abundant data to digest from tweets, websites, bloggers and pundits, forgetting to appreciate the game itself. When Basketball was invented by Naismith, it was intended to find an alternative sport during winter time, a sport that can take place in an enclosed room. Today, it is more than a sport. I am not saying it is bad because we can also turn it off if we don't want to be a professional junkie. I'm just commenting philosophically on how games have transformed fans at this time.

Sorry to all if I appeared to be a "Scrooge" to the new medium.


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