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Five things to watch in Lakers-Phoenix matchup

Pau Gasol 1. The Lakers will respond well after a loss. Coach Phil Jackson expressed uncertainty about how much a day of rest Friday would benefit the Lakers (8-1) in their matchup Sunday at Staples Center against the Phoenix Suns (4-4) since the Lakers had an uninspiring performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves after similar time off. Forward Ron Artest also noticed that the Lakers' poor habits against the Timberwolves on Tuesday carried over into the team's 118-112 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. But the Lakers will come out with a better effort because the bottom-line result woke them up more than a mediocre performance. The Lakers' practice Saturday also allowed the team to shake off any rust from the day off Friday, so there's no reason the Lakers should not look sharp against Phoenix.

2. The Lakers' front line will bounce back from an off game. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will not combine for seven-for-23 shooting on a regular basis, a stat line that played a large role in the Lakers' loss to Denver. In addition to the poor shooting stroke, Odom was so ineffective that Jackson sat him in the fourth quarter in favor of Shannon Brown (19 points on seven-for-14 shooting). In fairness, though, Jackson also made that move because of Brown's hot hand and because Denver went with a small lineup. Gasol, meanwhile, largely struggled with close- to mid-range shots and appeared to be tired in playing a team-leading 44 minutes, the amount of time he has been on the court for in three of the Lakers' last five games.

The Lakers can't afford bad games from Odom and Gasol, but that should not be an issue against Phoenix. In the Lakers' 114-106 victory against the Suns on Oct. 29, Gasol and Odom combined for 39 points on 18-for-29 shooting, 25 rebounds and 14 assists. Suns forward Hakim Warrick has shown promise, but Phoenix has not fully developed a front-line presence to replace Amare Stoudemire and sorely lacks a rebounder to compete with the Lakers' front line.

Kobe Bryant 3. Don't be surprised if Phoenix goes small.The Nuggets managed to defeat the Lakers with the help of a smaller lineup. Jackson remarked that "they got away with it" when I asked if he expects other teams to try that strategy, but the Suns have good reason to adopt that approach. They don't have the personnel to compete with the Lakers' size. Given Phoenix's philosophy of  pushing the ball upcourt, it would be understandable if Steve Nash and Co. felt compelled to see if their speed and versatility are enough to counter the Lakers' inside presence.

Although it hasn't happened yet, Suns Coach Alvin Gentry has publicly mentioned the possibility that he will play power forward Hedo Turkoglu off the bench against larger front lines so Turkoglu can avoid foul trouble. Nash nearly picked up his fourth career triple-double in the Suns' 103-89 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday, another thing to consider when weighing whether Phoenix should really consider trading him. Jason Richardson's strong outside shooting gives the Suns a serious perimeter threat.

4. It wouldn't be surprising if the Lakers remain trigger-happy. Though I expect the Lakers' front line to have a significant influence on the game for the reasons listed above, that doesn't mean the Lakers won't engage from the outside. After all, the Lakers went 12 for 27 from three-point range in their first game against Phoenix, prompting Jackson to gently remind them that they should focus more on setting up the bigs. A look at the box score after Sunday's game probably will show that the Lakers' front line dominated, but that unit operates the same way YouTube does -- the bigger the volume of content (or touches), the more quickly critical mass is reached. That doesn't mean the Lakers should aimlessly throw entry passes into double-teams, but games such as Sunday's against Phoenix truly illustrate the difference between a good shot and a great shot.

It's going to be tempting to ignore that lesson, especially when three-point shots go in, but regular-season games are all about building good habits. After coming off a loss in which the large number of three-point shots was partly to blame for the result, the Lakers would be better off correcting that fundamental problem.

5. The Lakers will be able to get away with simply outscoring their opponent, but that does not mean they should fall into that trap. The same philosophy from the factor above applies to this issue. Jackson and guard Kobe Bryant both lamented the team's poor defense in transition and in the interior against Denver, valid assessments that's actually been a problem all season. The Lakers built an aura of being able to simply outscore opponents as if they were the Suns or the Golden State Warriors, but that strategy against Denver backfired.

Even if that strategy works against Phoenix, a team that gives up a lot of points and yields a high number of turnovers, falling into that trap misses the point. I'd argue that some of the flaws in the Denver game pointed to the team's small but fundamental problems catching up to them. Because the Lakers kept cruising toward victories, the defensive issues weren't exactly ignored, but they weren't as visible and worrisome.

-- Mark Medina
twitter.com/latmedina

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

Top photo: Lakers center Pau Gasol pulls down a rebound against Phoenix center Robin Lopez in the first quarter of the Lakers' 114-106 victory against Phoenix on Oct. 29, 2010. Credit: Matt York/Associated Press

Bottom photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives down the lane against Suns point guard Goran Dragic in the first quarter of the Lakers' 114-106 victory against Phoenix on Oct. 29, 2010. Credit: Matt York/Associated Press

 
Comments () | Archives (19)

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First let me get this disclaimer out of the way. I think it’s an injustice to the ABA not to include combined stats from NBA/ABA for any of these discussions. When including the ABA Dr. J is 5th all time with just over 30,000 pts. However, 11,000+ of those points were scored in the ABA.

But back to the question at hand, Kobe currently has scored 26,017 pts. Barring injury Kobe should pass all those MM listed – PLUS - 7th place Elvin Hayes at 27,313 pts and 6th place Moses Malone with 27,409 by the end of the year. Thus, by year end Kobe should be in 6th place trailing only Kareem, The Mailman, MJ, Wilt and Shaq.

I’ll project Kobe to play an additional 390 regular season games. That’s 65 games a year for the next six seasons including this one. If he averages 20 points per game that’s an additional 7,800 points which would put him at 33,817. That would be good for 3rd place comfortable ahead of MJ’s 32,292 but well behind Malone’s 36,928. That's my best guesstimate.

PS...that would place Kobe in 3rd place in combined NBA/ABA scoring also.

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/pts_career.html

******Partial Repost (Revised)******

MM has five things to take from a game, here's my three from the last three games:

1. Gasol looks like he's reverted back to 2008 Finals mode. Especially in the Denver game. No muscle, no call. Instead of going strong to the hoop, he's Euro Flopping!

2. Matador D isn't Championship D! No Defensive Communication the Past 3 Games!

3. Lack of Offensive Movement in the Triangle (especially 4th quarter of Denver game). Simple Rule of Physics: A Body that Stays in Motion Remains in Motion. They just stood around relying on their great shooting to win games. 4th Quarter Bit Them in the Arse!!!
__________________________________

Not too long after the Lakers signed Blake and Barnes, I commented multiple times that we should call the bench (even with Kobe and/or Bynum playing with them) the "Killer Bees". No one seemed interested, but apparently the Lakers have taken a shine to it (without accreditation).

Here's one such post from July:

"I still say we've found the basketball version of the Killer Bees (Early 2nd Quarter/Late 3rd Quarter Unit):

Bryant/Brown
Blake
Barnes
Bynum

With LO as "The Fifth Beatle"...
_____________________________________________________

GO LAKERS!!!!!! ONE, TWO, THREE-PEAT TO THE SECOND POWER!!!!!!
Posted by: The Triangulator | July 27, 2010 at 10:39 PM"

I must be psychic or psycho!

I'm sure I'll get comments on this comment though... LOL
_________________________________________

Triangle Physics: For Every Defensive Reaction, There is a Greater and More Lethal Offensive Reaction! The Triangulator

Go Lakers!!!!!!

At an absolute minimum (and I mean even if he's playing with dengue fever and a cast on his broken shooting arm and using a walker) I believe he won't hang it up until he passes Shaq. His actual (and realistic) goal if he just stays healthy, edging past Jordan (32,292 + 1). And that means not just more career goals but also at least one more ring (6+1) than Jordan got.

Bottom line: the Lakers are going to have 18 NBA banners (Celtics' 17+1) hanging in the rafters at Staples by the time Kobe's jersey is placed up there. The greatest player AND team of all time. Yeah, I'd bet the farm on that.

I’m like Nuggets Country in that I’ve been tracking Kobe’s pacing on various all-time list for awhile. He’s currently 5th all-time NBA/ABA in career playoff minutes.

Kareem 8,851
Pippen 8,105
Shaq 8,087
Mailman 7,907
Kobe 7,811

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/mp_career_p.html


Thus, the one thing that concerns me regarding Kobe’s passing MJ in points scored is the number of minutes he’s logged. Here’s how Kobe’s combined regular season and playoff minutes stack up against the leaders in minutes played among wing players:

Havliceck 53,331
Miller 52,425
Pippen 49,174
MJ 48,484
Big O 47,559
Kobe 45,472

Barring injury, in 2 ½ seasons Kobe will surpass Hondo in minutes played and will be in a territory no other wing player has ventured into. No doubt he’ll get there and further due to his superior conditioning and drive.

Let’s enjoy every minute of Kobe, because we truly witnessing one of the greatest athletes that God has allowed to grace any sport.

And for all those expecting Kobe to slow down on the number of shots he takes I'll have to tell you like Lefty told Donny Brasco.."forgetaboutit".


Kobe wants to surpass MJ in championships and points scored. He does not believe the two are mutually exclusive. His aggressive "attack mentality" forces the defense to focus on him and make the game easier for his teammates.

Yes, he over does it at times, but its that attitude that has driven him to be the great player he is.

Did I read that right? Nash only has four career (regular season) triple-doubles? Wow!

I bet that if by far the lowest number of any back-to-back MVP winners. I bet its the lowest among any players with multiple MVPs.

Surprising.

Doesn't Fish have more?

Just sayin'...

--FEARless

LRob, with all due respect to your excellent stats on career minutes (dude, you're like rust, you never sleep), trying to assess the impact of career minutes on Kobe is like trying to assess odometer miles on a Mercedes. Kobe's engine just started purring when those of some on your list were already heading to the junkyard. No player, and perhaps no athlete in any sport, ever has prepared, lubed, and taken care of his motor like Kobe Bryant has. And nobody has ever played as well when that motor's not really running right on (in his case) all 12 cylinders.

I stand on my prediction that he's not hanging 'em up until his odometer reads:

Points: 32,293

Rings: 7

NBA Banners: 18

CornerJ,

I'm with you, dude. Only, along the way he's gonna put some distance in at least one of those categories. I'm thinking rings just so he can put to rest all that Big Three talk down in Florida.

--FEARless

LRob,
-
Thanks for the stats. I enjoyed them.
-
What do we play for? RINGS!!!
-
Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.
-
GO LAKERS!!!

Thinking today that the Lakers are getting some serious action - it is good to be a Laker. Vanessa, Maria, Klhoe, Maria, Monica... Damn... I'm just saying.

Lamar was once again the Bad Lamar and didn't show up. Lamar, Lamar, Lamar... what can I say.

Pau was tired at the end.

Also, the elephant in the room that nobody mentions - Kobe missed 21 shots. Come on, when he plays team ball we win. 34 points on 32 shots. That is what the other team wants. Brown was hot, it would have been nice to let him be the hero and get the w. When Kobe tries to shoot it out with Melo, sometimes we win and sometimes... ;-)

I am a Lakorholic.

I stand on my prediction that he's not hanging 'em up until his odometer reads:
Points: 32,293
Rings: 7
NBA Banners: 18
Posted by: CornerJ | November 14, 2010 at 04:54 PM
-------------------
Corner J - we're in agreement about Kobe. I actually project him to score more points than you...lol.


My guess is that PJ will not make any adjustment if Phoenix goes three-guard.

Some of the grey hairs among us may remember Larry Brown's comment as coach of the Pistons against the Lakers in the 2004 Finals: "Don't worry. Phil won't make any adjustments."

He hates to make adjustments. (Or maybe he's not very good at it.) He certainly won't on the basis of just the Denver game.

But it will be interesting to see what happens going forward. Other teams will go three-guard, especially if they have smaller quicker guards.

The advantages for the other team:

(i) If it gets a Laker big out of the game, that is an advantage to the other team,

(ii) It spreads the court more, making Derek Fisher even more of a defensive liability against quicker guards, and

(iii) It also shows up Shannon Brown's defensive liabilities.

It's really a simple way to neutralize the Lakers' biggest advantage, which is up front. If the Lakers go three guard, they won't be as good on offense or defense.

IMO the question is whether the Lakers will play three bigs (including Artest playing guard on defense) and make the other team pay on defense by going inside (for example, posting up Artest against a smaller guard).

Not too long after the Lakers signed Blake and Barnes, I commented multiple times that we should call the bench (even with Kobe and/or Bynum playing with them) the "Killer Bees". No one seemed interested, but apparently the Lakers have taken a shine to it (without accreditation).

Here's one such post from July:

"I still say we've found the basketball version of the Killer Bees (Early 2nd Quarter/Late 3rd Quarter Unit):

Bryant/Brown
Blake
Barnes
Bynum
Posted by: The Triangulator | November 14, 2010 at 04:19 PM
-----------------

@Triangulator - I just assumed they read the board and borrowed the name from you. Where's Jackie Childs when you need him? Or maybe we can put our very own KobeMVP888 on the job.

Why is Phil so resistant to making in-game adjustments?

Here's one suggestion: If an opposing coach does something that the Lakers are not fully prepared for, that means, arguably, that he's thought of something that Phil didn't.

And that would put into question whether, in fact, Phil's the smartest person in the room. And that's a problem.

We can argue all night whether Phil is, in fact, the smartest person in the room.

But there is no doubt whatsoever that being the smartest person in the room, and being thought of that way, is very very very important to Phil.

In fact, it might be suggested that one of Jeannie's greatest charms (for Phil) is the fact that she has no doubt that he is, in fact, the smartest person in the room.

The extent of Phil's vanity is a largely unexplored subject, but perhaps a fruitful one. It might explain a lot.

jimjoyce, I'm a fan of yours, but on the question of whether Phil is in fact the "smartest person in the room", the correct context for that question isn't in what he does in any particular game, but rather it's whether he keeps winning those rings. If he does (repeat after me, jim)...he's the smartest person in the room.

CornerJ: Whether he is, or isn't, isn't my concern.

But the question is very important for Phil, and insofar as that question factors into the way Phil coaches the Lakers, that's an interesting question for me. (In case I haven't made it clear, his coaching acumen aside, I think he's a really bizarre dude.)

Phil's standard explanation is: "I didn't call time out, because I wanted the players to figure it out for themselves."

On the surface, that's plausible. And most sportswriters have taken it at face value.

But as a wily old girlfriend of mine used to say: "There's what was said. And what was not said. And then there's what was meant."

So, maybe the real meaning is not exactly what Phil says it is.

great Sunday evening game all-

regarding the Lakers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4p7hfeonyFs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L9xv8bUwpI&feature=related

enjoy the game everyone-

I will acknowledge, though, that one of Phil's biggest strengths as a coach is that he doesn't over-coach, ie doesn't overreact to a situation.

He's like a fighter, or a poker player, who waits for the other guy to make the first mistake. And they usually do.

Most coaches can't stand to sit still and let things play out as far as they will before making a move. Phil knows that a move made out of the sense of "I have to do something" will usually be a mistake. And the Lakers are good at pouncing on mistakes.

But at the same time it makes him slow to react to genuinely good moves made by the opposing coach.

On the whole, it's an effective strategy, but there are times when IMO he's out-coached tactically. I think this showed up in the 2004 & 2008 Finals.

And as I've said before, IMO PJ is poor at dealing with interpersonal issues.

Letting shaq vs kobe fester as long as it did without stepping in and trying to resolve it ...

Addressing player issues through the media rather than personally and privately in the locker room ...

Disclosing things in his book rather than dealing with them personally and privately with the individual player ...

IMO these are weaknesses.


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