Portland's second-chance points provide plenty of examples of why the Lakers didn't properly adjust without Andrew Bynum
Leaving Andrew Bynum with the task of tightening up the Lakers' defensive rotations and securing rebounds has left the young center empowered.
No longer did he feel his value through the prism of points, field-goal attempts and minutes. No longer did he have to keep justifying his worth with all the injuries and prolonged recovery periods, leaving some wondering if his size and length would be even worth it. And no longer did Bynum have to wonder how to fit within an offense that features plenty of firepower from Kobe Bryant, mid-range jumpers from Pau Gasol and versatility from Lamar Odom.
Bynum's average of 13 rebounds and 2.58 blocks per game since the All-Star break filled a hefty role that is valued by the Lakers, but it also left a void once he drew a league-imposed two-game suspension for committing a flagrant foul type 2 in the Lakers' 106-98 victory Friday over Minnesota. That's why it shouldn't be too surprising the Lakers missed Bynum's presence in their 84-80 victory Sunday over Portland, needing late-game heroics from Bryant and Derek Fisher to overshadow the Trail Blazers' 45-35 rebounding advantage and 21 second-chance points. That's why, even if the Lakers face an undermanned Suns team Tuesday at Staples Center, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson doesn't feel much at ease, considering Phoenix made 22 three-pointers the last time it was at Staples Center, making it necessary to close out more on the perimeter instead of remaining close to the basket for rebounds.
Bynum's absence also exposed a mindset the Lakers had during his surge that they hope to quickly correct against Phoenix.
"Andrew takes up so much space and he's so big that sometimes with him on the court we cannot do the little things like box out and make the right rotations," Odom said. "He bails us out with his size."
Below the jump, I explain in detail how Portland exposed that weakness on its 21 second-chance points
8:47-8:44, First quarter -- Even though the box score credits the Blazers getting an offensive rebound after Fisher blocked Andre Miller when he drove into the lane, Portland retained possession because the ball went out of bounds. So this had little to do with the Lakers' unwillingness to crash the glass so much as it ws Gasol giving Nicolas Batum open space to hit a 17-foot jumper.
3:10-2:47, first quarter -- After Gasol missed a right hook, Batum grabs the rebound over Matt Barnes and pushes the ball in transition. Fisher and Bryant get back on defense to shut off the gaps in the perimeter, while Gasol raced to cover the paint. Gasol gets back in time to help stop Wesley Matthews, who drove past Bryant with a single dribble. Gasol blocks Matthews' up-and-under layup, but he allows Matthews to grab the loose ball. Wesley then throws a bounce pass to LaMarcus Aldridge, who nailed a five-foot jumper over Gasol.
10:19-10:07, second quarter -- After Rudy Fernandez rolled off Andre Miller's screen set on Bryant, he fought through it and contested Fernandez's three-pointer on the far side. Though Derrick Caracter boxed out Marcus Camby, he tipped the ball out up top to Miller. Barnes' deflection from Miller's pass to Brandon Roy went out of bounds. But from the inbounds pass, Camby threw a bounce pass inside to Roy, as Barnes was sealed off.
9:29-9:27, second quarter -- Caracter picked up Roy on a screen and roll and forced him to commit an off-balance jumper on the nearside perimeter. Too bad neither Odom, Steve Blake or Shannon Brown didn't put a body when they were in the paint on Camby, who tipped in the missed shot, cutting the Lakers' lead to 31-24.
8:59-8:57, second quarter -- Both Caracter and Brown sealed off Roy in the far corner, a miscalculation after Camby set a screen on Brown. That left Camby open to receive an entry pass as he drove baseline. Odom cut him off at the rack, but no one shut off Gerald Wallace from getting the offensive putback, closing the gap to 31-26.
4:50-4:45, second quarter -- After Roy hoisted a three-pointer from the far side, Odom appeared in a position to box Camby out. Instead Odom went toward the basket to grab the rebound. Meanwhile, Gasol ran toward the basket from the far end after the shot. With neither Gasol nor Odom putting a body on Camby, he slid through both of them to grab the loose ball. He then kicked it out to Ferndandez, whose three-pointer sliced the Lakers' edge to 39-38.
9:47-9:30, third quarter -- After Matthews fired up a three-pointer, Wallace put a body on Gasol with very little resistance. The ball hit off the backboard and into Brown's hands, but Wallace wrapped his body around him. During this whole time, Gasol simply stood and watched. The referees ruled a jump ball, with Wallace winning the tip. Aldridge then posted up on Gasol for a turnaround jumper, increasing Portland's lead to 53-44.
7:48-7:33, fourth quarter -- Portland properly exposed the Lakers' mismatches, choosing to delay switching back off screen-and-rolls so a man wouldn't be left unmarked. Odom closed out on Ferndandez's three-pointer, while Steve Blake was left to box out Camby. He clearly went over-the-back to get the rebound over Blake, but no whistles were called. After Roy and Fernandez ran a screen-and-roll, Odom stayed in the paint to get the rebound. But that left Fernandez open to sink in the trey, widening the Blazers' lead to 71-66.
5:28-5:20, fourth quarter -- After Fernandez found him open on the far perimeter, Batum's three-pointer was immediately blocked by Ron Artest. But Camby immediately grabbed the loose ball in place of Odom. The Lakers were set in their defensive rotations until Aldridge ran a pick and roll with Miller. Fisher cut toward the paint to deny Fernandez penetration along the baseline and Miller a drive to the basket. Gasol picked up Miller. And Bryant appeared too busy directing the defense to pick up Aldridge near the top of the key. That enabled Aldridge to nail a 20-foot jumper to give Portland a 74-68 lead.