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Lakers shouldn't see early playoff adversities as lessons

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Considering each run to a championship a journey, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has compared that process to a school year.

The season proves just as long. There are plenty of ups and downs. And there are plenty of teachable moments.

"It's a process that for me I've had great fortune in looking at seasons as something of a long haul where it's going to be an eight-month or seven-and-a-half month project," Jackson said before the 2010-2011 season started. "But in reality, you still have to give import to this opening game or this next game next week or this preseason game."

It's a tough balancing act between ensuring that team members strategically pace themselves without mailing in performances, and ensuring that they play sharp basketball without burning out. The most telling example is the San Antonio Spurs, who looked mostly sharp throughout the season en route to a Western Conference-leading 61-21 record, only to lose a six-game first-round playoff series to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Lakers guard Derek Fisher once argued that the team needs challenges and adversities because that allows for "true growth." That's fair enough, but save those lessons for the regular season.

I don't see any value in the Lakers learning lessons through a prolonged playoff series, whether it be the Lakers' seven-game series against Houston two years ago, their six-game series against Oklahoma City in 2010 or their recent six-game series against New Orleans. Yet some on the Lakers seem to tout it as such.

"The New Orleans series made it more difficult than we expected, and it got us ready for this series [against Dallas] because we're not too comfortable or overly confident," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "We were on our toes. We don't want to start the series the way we did against New Orleans."

Surely, they don't, but why does it take a wake-up call for the Lakers to realize that. Going through three consecutive NBA Finals and two back-to-back titles, the Lakers frankly don't need to learn any more postseason lessons. They just need to execute properly.

Sure, there were tactical adjustments, such as defending the pick-and-roll against Chris Paul, or Kobe Bryant figuring out once again how to play with a sprained left ankle. But the Lakers shouldn't have required losing a game for the front line to suddenly play more aggressive, the team to be more attentive on defense and the overall effort to elevate. The true value of winning the first-round series would've been to end it as quickly as possible so that Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Matt Barnes could rest and treat their injured knees as long as possible. 

As much as the Lakers argue that they were fortunate to play Oklahoma City in the first round last year because it helped wake them up, they actually benefited more from playing Utah in the semifinals. The Jazz's lack of size advantage, including an injured Andrei Kirilenko, helped the Lakers sweep Utah and gave them a week off to practice and rest Bryant and Bynum before playing against Phoenix in the Western Conference finals. The trickle-down effect from the Lakers getting as much rest and treatment as possible before the grueling series against Boston couldn't be overstated.

Likewise, the Lakers are surely happy to have three days before their contest with Dallas to get the rest and treatment. But with Jackson saying that Bryant's ankle has shown limited improvement, the team would've been better off ending the series against New Orleans more quickly than looking for some teachable moment in a tough series.

The Lakers have been down this path too many times and have run out of lessons to learn. It's now time not to leave anything to chance.

-- Mark Medina

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

Photo: The Lakers overcome a 13-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

 
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Lewsters,

Lakers in 6.

btw, I didn't see your earlier post. sorry.

*RE-POST*

Hobbitmage -

I am well, thank you very much for asking! :-) I am currently about 24 days away from my first comprehensive final examination, and am working my way through Herbert Enderton's book titled "Elements of Set Theory" in order to prepare. London is quite nice now, with some sunshine and a crisp breeze. Think of a Bay Area summer, but with less fog. Once the examinations are over, my summer plans are still up in the air - with potential internships, job hunting, and PhD applications (along with applications for fellowships from things like NIH and NSF). That and writing my thesis will take up the majority of my time.

How are things on your end? I do hope you haven't incurred any serious injuries from your athletic hobby.

PG&R -

How are you? I haven't seen you here often (perhaps that is due to school on my end getting in the way). Are you well?

KobeMVP888 -

I hope you do not think that I was making snide remarks at you. I just thought the project of running statistical analysis with historical data sets is interesting - things like cohort effects, demographics, social trend modeling and the like interest me (even if not on a professional basis). Granted, there are some of the "advanced metrics" being bandied about on certain blogs that seem to be rather gauche with their presuppositions (much like the weak axiom of revealed preference in microeconomics [WARP]). One of those statistics was on Zach Lowe's blog on SI.com, and it's the concept of "overshooting" or "undershooting". I did a small bit of digging, and you can peruse at your own convenience here: http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/25947/mit-sloan-sports-analytics-conference-bullets

Also of significance is the actual post on the "overshooting/undershooting" phenomenon (which is borrowed from the concept of a Nash-equilibrium in micro-economics or game theory, whichever way your academic interest leans). The post (and PDF of the paper) is here: http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/25985/dynamic-efficiency-the-nash-equilibrium-kobe-as-an-undershooter

With that in mind, I think that which view one takes as to what statistics are actually measuring (see the different types of interpretations of statistics to which I mentioned in my former post) is important for discussions like this. I also hope to reiterate the fact that I find these kinds of things (historical use of statistical data to ascertain what is "really" going on) is super important, especially with the dynamic nature of the ground rules of the NBA changing in significant ways every so often (remember when they moved the 3-pt. line in because they wanted to increase offense? it backfired; you got smart teams like Utah playing a type of zone which was really illegal defense at the time, and they dared centers and PFs to hit 20 ft. jumpers). I also hope you didn't think my comment was a swipe at yours; I do value your input!

2011 WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS

SECOND ROUND BLOG MEMBERS PREDICTIONS

LOS ANGELES LAKERS vs DALLAS MAVERICKS

~~~~~~~~~

*LAKERS IN 4*

===------ === ------====
/_____l______l__ ___\____
ll l ----- Lakers 4 - Mavs 0 --------]
L___(0)l______l__ ____l(0) J

JovBatz24 - In my opinion, THE LAKERS WILL SWEEP THE MAVS.
Caliphilosopher - Lake Show in 2 - they beat Dallas so badly that anything and everything "Californian" or "West-Coast" gets banned from the state of Texas for 3 months.
segeboy - see our bigs drawing the attention and Kobe burning them in the first two games ...I'm calling a sweep...

~~~~~~~~~

*LAKERS IN 5*

===------ === ------====
/_____l______l__ ___\____
ll l ----- Lakers 4 - Mavs 1 --------]
L___(0)l______l__ ____l(0) J
LEWSTRS - Lakers in 5...we close this at home...
cofm99 - Add me to the 5 bus...
Lakemelody - I say Lakers 4-1.
KobeMVP888: Lakers in 5.
VtLaker - Hooter Girls...yeah yeah okay I'm on board
John - LAKERS IN 5. WRITE IT DOWN, TAKE A PICTURE, I DON'T GIVE A $#&*@.
mclyne - LAKERS IN 5! We have officially gained our swagger back and will dominate the soft Mavs for four out of the five it will take.
Wallace - Just got my bus pass. I'm on board. It will be another week before I return home from Thailand
Fatty - Who predicts the Lakers in 5 LEWSTERS.
Maxximo - For the last time...Lakers 4 vs Dallas 1
Purple & Gold Reign - My newly cleaned and polished-up Crystal Ball tells me the Los Angeles Lakers will crush the Dallas Mavericks in 5 thrilling, hard-fought games.
LakerSean - Been away for a while, it's good to be back with the Laker Mafia. we're a family, once you're in, you never leave. Lakers in 5.

~~~~~~~~~

*LAKERS IN 6*

===------ === ------====
/_____l______l__ ___\____
ll l ----- Lakers 4 - Mavs 2 --------]
L___(0)l______l__ ____l(0) J

LRob - Sorry Cubes, your Mavs are on the tracks and the Laker Express is smoking thru.
OCLEZY - But the Lakers are the more physical team with Bynum up front,and Artest, i'll take Lakers in 6.
Edwin Gueco - Lew, I treat Dallas with respect than NO, so I pick Lakers in 6, I believe in destiny and I also believe in big business. lol
truongcali - Lakers in 6 baby !!!
Art - Once again, the Lakers finish it off in 6.
D(erek)J(eter) - These are still our goofy Lakers, Lakers in 6.
hobbitmage - Lewsters Lakers in 6.

~~~~~~~~~

Come aboard...and join a wagon!!!

hobbitmage

I also appreciate your well-reasoned post and I apologize for misinterpreting your comments as being digs. Of course I prefer to keep things civil. All your points hold true. Otherwise, you could just pencil in the three-peat, right? All my numbers do is support probabilities. No more, no less.

Isn't it fascinating how the Lakers have managed to win Game 3 on the road the last 4 times the situation presented itself with a 1-1 tie? No, it doesn't guarantee that it will happen the NEXT time that situation presents itself, but it certainly gives the team and us fans confidence that the Lakers can win that game. Anyway, as you know I have been fascinated by Phil's fourth attempt at a three-peat from day 1 this season, wasting my time and brain space comparing the records and trends of these teams all season. I'm equally as fascinated by the recent trends of this team, whether it's winning Game 3 when the series is tied 1-1 or closing out on its first try on the road.

Other than Phil Jackson and his coaching staff, all four teams kept their core players together for the most part for each three-peat, with Artest being the only significant change (upgrade) at small forward on this team. The Bulls' three-peats featured Jordan and Pippen for both, while the Lakers have the luxury of Kobe and Fish trying for their second three-peat. So their are probably more commonalities than there are differences, IMO.

Anyway, let's take care of the Mavs first! Go Lakers!

Who is this team Clan of the Cave Bear...

I'm very impressed with their ball movement on offense...and so is their defense of the paint...this will force the Thunder of rely even more on their perimeter shooting...

OKC 7 assists on 8 turnovers...

Zebo is a stud...then again...him, Arthur, Gasol and Young were all on my FBB team one time or another...

Caliphilosopher

Not at all, brother! I never gave that any thought. I'm dying to see more stats, supportive or unsupportive.

Watching these two young athletic teams, the Thunder and the Grizzlies...Makes me realize the changing of the dominant teams in the West...

These upcoming teams changes the equation as who the Lakers need to go through to win the conference this year and the coming years...

My thoughts are, Kobe's window is of winning more rings is getting more and more smaller...the more reason we need to keep this present core of players and not go through a major overhaul, like a lot in here want...

Can the Lakers keep being the dominant team in the West without PJ and keeping this team intact???

Kobe is just 61 points away from passing Shaquille O'Neal on the NBA's All-Time playoff scoring list.
Bryant currently has 5,187 playoff points, while O'Neal has 5,248.

Here is how the list stands as of today:

Michael Jordan 5,987
Kareem Abdul Jabbar 5,762
Shaquille O'Neal 5,248
Kobe Bryant 5,187

Bryant isn't that far off from the number one spot either. He is currently 800 playoff points behind Michael Jordan.

If Bryant maintains his 25.4 ppg average in the playoffs this season, and next. He will need approximately 32 more playoff games to pass MJ.

Caliphilosopher,

Salut!

re: injuries. C5 is twisted, but I still have good range of motion. Enough to
take falls and keep stepping on to the mat.

Still missing my pup. My daughter is starting to smile. Leaving for latin
america in a couple of weeks.

In general, I'm ok.

Best of luck on exams. Best of luck in terms of schools!

re: summer plans. Go south! Good exchange rates in Latin America. Good
food.

KobeMVP888,

re: mis-understandings. No problem. Glad we're clear.

re: Phil's 4th 3-peat attempt. I have also been fascinated by it. This was one
of the reasons why I was so disturbed by Pau's play and by Bynum's behavior
over the summer. EVERYONE knew that this season was going to be
historic, because of the Lakers attempts and the rest of the NBA re-configuring
to defeat the Lakers.

Is anyone else watching Memphis? WOW!

hobbitmage

How many times have we seen this when one team is in a rhythm, especially a young team like the Grizzlies, and the other team hasn't played in awhile. Rest = rust for the first half of MANY Game 1's. By the 4th quarter, the rested team has the advantage. I still like OKC in this game.

HAVING SAID THAT, the Grizzlies look great!

MM - This is how the Lakers operate.Showing up with the maximum possible level of effort game in and game out isn't realistic.It is also a basic human trait to adjust effort to the levels perceived as the bare minimum to get things done.They need wake up calls once in a while and that is how they won the last two championships too.What makes you think it should or will change anytime soon ? Why do you assume that the only way they could have lost against New Orleans was lack of effort ? They get surprised by teams who sometimes play better than expected.It is the NBA...teams sometimes just beat you..they got to the playoffs too..didn't they ? They are not chumps...
And I do not think it is quite as black and white as you suggest it is.LA shows up with their best effort = LA wins.Sometimes team get the best of you.You learn and adjust.
The way the Lakers operate is not deliberate..the teams they play also have a say in how things turn out....
Another thing - Your suggestion that a lesson once learnt is learnt for good is not quite accurate.This team stumbles...gets back up...this is how they are.....what you term as "lessons" like - "Just execute properly" aren't really lessons :) ...they know it..it is just hard to keep doing it consistently......

Dang, those Grizz are off to a good start. I wonder if anyone picked them at the beginning the season to go this far. I do remember somebody posting on here since the beginning of the year touting the Grizz and saying they were going to be good this year and in the playoffs even when they were below the 8 seed but I forget who it was. They should take a bow!
Imagine the Grizz making it too the WCF, or, heaven forbid, even to the Finals, wow.

Completely agree with LEWSTRS post about the Grizz and Thunder becoming the teams to beat in the near future. Both those organizations have done a good job.
Fortunately the Pacific division doesn't seem to have anyone who can challenge the Lakers so they should be good for at least a top 4 seed for the next several years.

Can the Lakers keep being the dominant team in the West without PJ and keeping this team intact??? (LEWSTRS).

Maybe, but this team, especially Kobe and Pau are really running up the mileage as far as games played the last 3 years, that will probably take a toll sooner rather than later.

I think they will need to keep making some tweaks to the lineup but that will be tough with the salary constraints. Perhaps they will make a big trade, though not sure who, or just continue to ride with what they got until it falls apart.

Smug OKC getting their tails handed to them in game 1.

Gasol vs. Gasol coming up soon?

I just hope the new CBA doesn't keep the Lakers totally in a bind so that they are unable to improve as players age - otherwise, San Antonio is the model for what happens when the team gets too old; even an infusion of talent + run n gun during the regular season = too weak to get past the first round.

Tim-r-Show...what is your prediction for the Mavs series and why...

Good question Lewstrs.

I didn't watch the previous Mavs series, so I can't really gauge where the Lakers are at vs. the Mavs. I certainly think the Mavs are capable of winning one or two games - but are they capable of winning 3 or 4? (probably not)

Reasons are because the Mavs traditionally are paper tigers, but do have the ability to just score in bunches when Dirk gets hot. Terry is someone to contend with and is likely to give us fits if our team defense isn't together. In the end, we're far superior inside, and they really don't have much of an answer for Kobe.

YEAH YEAH - THAT OKLAHOMA CITY TEAM ARE TOO COCKY! THOSE SMUG BASTARDS DESERVED A SMACK IN THE CHOPS, AND MEMPHIS GAVE IT TO THEM...

(well, that's what people say when the LAKERS lose a game 1 or game 2)

:-)

Actually, congrats to Memphis. Some pundits were questioning them tanking games at the end of the season to get to the 8 seed, but it got them the Spurs instead of the Lakers, and it's probably why they're still playing.

And congrats to Zach Randolph as well - long maligned, he's showing that he can be the go to guy for a team. Back before the Pau trade, when the Lakers were fishing for one more good player, and when Portland was trying to dump off any players that had a "bad attitude rep", I had suggested trading for Z-bo. Might not have been quite as good as Pau has been for the team, but heck, they might have pulled off a couple of rings with Zach instead of Pau (and ironically, they might still have Marc Gasol on the roster as well - front line of Bynum + Randolph + Odom + Marc Gasol = wow!)


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