Posts Tagged ‘finals’

Humble Beginnings… Explaining the Lakers’ Slow Start and Why There’s No Need to Worry (@LakersNation #Lakers #LakeShow #LakersNation)

October 24, 2018

 

Hype, hype and more hype surrounds the opening tip of the 2018-2019 Lakers season. We have LeBron James. Let it sink in. We have LeBron James. So therefore, look for the Lakers to steam roll through the league into the playoffs to tangle with the beast of the West Golden State. Right?

Wrong!

The Lakers have had three of the most exciting LOSSES ever, featuring alley-oops, fights, blocks, pretty passes and some of the most fluid transition buckets ever witnessed. For stretches they look like they’ve figured it out. Then the buzzer sounds. Lakers lose. Then the buzzer sounds again. Lakers lose again. Finally, the buzzer sounds a third time. In spite of a spirited comeback, a LeBron James buzzer beater clangs the rim…and Lakers lost a third time. Lakers are 0-3.

First question. Lakers Optimist are you worried? Nope. In spite of the fact that teams like the Toronto Raptors have seamlessly incorporated their new stars en route to early success, the Lakers still have that learning curve to figure out with the new guys. The Lakers know exactly who they are and exactly what they want to do. Furthermore they know that in the open court nobody can stop them. This is why they have, in spite of shooting atrociously from three, become a top 3 in the league in points in the paint and still manage to put up 119, 115 and 142 in each of their 3 games. I expect the Lakers to figure it out and begin to be the Western Conference juggernaut everyone expects them be.

Second question. Figure WHAT out? There have been several different discussions on exactly what is keeping the Lakers from wins in these opening games. Aside from two fourth quarter meltdowns and a late minute choke against the Spurs, the Lakers have been in these games and downright dominant at times. However, by the numbers, the Lakers have given up 128, 124 and 143. You can say all you want about the rest of the league, but the Lakers need to be concerned about their defense. The biggest problem area is the team’s three point defense. The Lakers allowed Portland to make 13 three pointers at a 35% clip. That’s 39 points. With the Lakers losing by 9, take away half of those shots and the Lakers win. The Rockets shot 38%, nailing 16 three pointers. 48 points. Again, they lost by 9. Take away half of those shots, Lakers may win by 5. The Spurs shot a blistering 53% from behind the arc, hitting 15 threes! The Lakers lost by 1 point. A couple of those threes were given up in that improbable last minute Spur comeback. The Lakers have been supremely suspect in their three point defense, daring the team to beat them from behind the arc and teams are doing it. Conversely, teams are daring the Lakers to beat them from the behind the arc and the Lakers are failing to capitalize. Don’t get it twisted though, the blame does not fall on the Lakers three point shooting. It falls of their three point defense.

The Lakers have been getting outglassed routinely, with the exception of the Spurs game. In the first two games they were outrebounded by an average of 12 rebounds. Even more demoralizing is how they’ve surrendered 14 offensive boards to Portland, 13 to Houston and 10 to San Antonio. Even as they are getting stops, they are giving teams second chances.

So why, Lakers Optimist, are you not worried? I feel that both of these are easy fixes. The Lakers possess the athleticism, height and ability to switch 1 to 5 on defense and to rebound by committee. The Lakers have seemed to get somewhat confused or lazy on their rotations which results in the open looks that players like Nik Stauskas and Brynn Forbes were hitting with ease. The Lakers need to buy in to contesting every shot. If the Lakers can keep teams to less than 29% from behind the arc AND secure the rebound they will be in these games. The Lakers without JaVale McGee get killed on the glass. Incorporating a dog on the glass like Johnathan Williams will surely help with that issue when McGee is taking a breather.

Only three games in, I expect the Lakers to quickly move up the learning curve, especially when you consider that they won’t be matching up against top 3 teams all season long. Sometimes it takes a lesser talented team to help a team hit their stride. Look for the Lakers to finally notch their first win against Booker, Ayton and the Suns tonight. As they start to figure out defense, they will begin to round into form.

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Lakers WILL Do Better Than Last Year: Sick of the Laker-haters Talking

August 23, 2013

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I am not a delusional fan. Rather I think everyone else is quite delusional. I think the media and the NBA world is full of Laker-haters. These Laker-haters complain when the Lakers are on top and are beside themselves in happiness when we are at the bottom…rarely. So in the off-season following a disappointing season everybody has a bunch of nonsensical predictions for this Laker season based on a laughable LACK OF FACTS.

First of all, last season was a flop for reasons that hold no proof that this year would be a flop! Injuries to several stars throughout the season kept Lakers from chemistry and the expected success. They finished the season with a 28-12 run and played the Spurs without Bryant, Nash (really shouldn’t have played at all), Meeks, Peace nor Blake in uniform. Based on that, Lakers suck this year? That makes sense.

Howard is not coming back so Lakers will suck based on what comparison? Well if you’re going to say they need Howard to be successful you have to show me a season where they were successful with Howard! All you have is last year. Howard was playing injured, not really working with D’antoni nor buying into his offensive system and failing to take over the reins in the playoffs when it all fell on Him. So he’s gone and therefore we are worse? Yeah, that makes no sense.

The rest of the West is too tough. Nope. Your top teams in the West consist of OKC who basically peaked when they reached the finals against Heat. The status of Westbrook is unknown. This team will be good, but not great. They still lack inside presence which the Lakers still have the advantage and more, picking up young quick players that can keep up even better than previous seasons. Then you have the Spurs who’s core is getting older, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. They did NOTHING to improve in the off-season. I don’t see them as invincible. Denver and Memphis lost their coach and have improved on anything in the off-season. Golden State is an experiment. Last year they were in the bottom half so now you’re just guessing Western Conference supremacy. I’ll give you the Clippers based on talent, but Lakers have potential to be as high as the 5th spot and WILL make the playoffs.

Everybody keeps talking about what the Lakers DON’T have. I give you the fact that we don’t know what kind of Kobe we are going to get. But let me tell you what the Lakers do have. D’antoni still one of the best offensive minds in the league, redefining the game with his run and gun offense. He created stars in Phoenix that really were not stars anywhere else since. So what happened in NY? Carmelo happened in NY. If you’re players don’t buy into what you’re selling, as a coach you’re wasting your breath. Last year, Howard would not run pick and roll with Nash. He just wanted the ball dumped in the post which resulted in forced entry passes that caused turnovers and predictable offense that caused even more turnovers. D’antoni has young quick players that respect his offense and players like Gasol, Nash and Bryant that are willing to buy into his system. If you’re concerned about D’antoni and defense, he is too! He has publicly stated this and has also enlisted Kurt Rambis as one of his assistant coaches. Pay attention folks!!!

Everybody is concerned about big names. Lakers already have big names, first of all. Secondly, every wise addition to the Lakers addressed every position that was previously lacking and also addressed the lack of athleticism and youth. They got younger and faster overnight! These players will be cogs in D’antoni’s system. D’antoni’s system does not need STARS. So that argument falls flat.

I’m not saying the Lakers are a championship contender. But I am saying that you can’t say that they are NOT by looking that the facts that the Laker-hater media (don’t listen to Charles Barkley!!) and delusional, YES delusional Laker-hater fans are using. This team will compete, will make the playoffs and then it’s anybody’s guess. Matchups, skill and luck come into play and things happen. So no I’m not putting this season away and hoping for Lebron or Melo to come to LA next year. I’m expecting a great season filled with Lakers that WANT TO BE THERE, have revenge on their mind, led by one of the greatest players that ever did it and are buying into what D’antoni is selling. This is the Lakers and the standard is high. By the way, making them the underdogs is only more motivation. Last year they were champions on paper, so we know that argument means nothing right?

Parade or No Parade?

April 1, 2010

After the Lakers basically TOOK the championship from Orlando last year the first thing I said was, “…and they are going to take it again next year”. My reason being I looked at the arsenal that the Lakers had: “Twin towers” on the inside by the names of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. A veteran point guard that controls the offense in Derek Fisher. An effective, quick and timely offensive threat in Trevor Ariza. The most versatile forward in the game Lamar Odom and the best there is– Kobe Bryant. The bench delivering with the likes of Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and a healthy Luke Walton. They were easily the strongest offense in the game. With Bynum, thier interior defense was stepped up on the whole and really, who in the NBA could really challenge this jaggernaut of a team next year??

FAST FORWARD…

The team managed to stay in tact after several worrisome back and forth’s with Lamar Odom. Lakers decided to let Trevor Ariza go to Houston and in exchange they got Ron Artest. So, after mulling it over with a fellow Laker fan, it turned out that this was an upgrade. An upgrade to a better defense to add to an already intimidating offense. The Lakers in essence had a star-studded team, an unbeatable team, and a team that undoubtedly could return and win the NBA Finals this year.

NOW TO PLAY THE SEASON…

The Lakers started the season setting out to prove on the court what everybody was saying in the media and at your local sports bar. From the onset they looked to run away with it winning plus 20 games before losing 5. Everything clicked. Even with Ron-Ron still finding his way offensively, he still helped in other areas. No, we didn’t consider him an x-factor, but Shannon Brown easily filled the role that Trevor Ariza left. Defensively they looked much better. Everything looked like we expected it. So what happened?

The Lakers since then sputtered thier way to what is now a worse record than last year, not really able to put any consistent winning streaks together. Having 2 and 3 game losing streaks in between. Losing to A-List teams and struggling to beat D-List teams on the strength of last second Kobe heroics. Their defense is inconsistent, allowing open threes and having poor defensive rotation. With thier offensive numbers down, they are not able to rely soley on the third quarter runs that defined last years lopsided victories. And when the Lakers lose– THEY LOSE!!

Are we complaining? Well, yes and no. This Laker team as opposed to last years Laker team looks vulnerable. After being embarrassed by Denver and Cleveland early in the season, most Laker fans expected them to return with a vengeance that translates to an emphatic victory. Instead, both the Cavs and the Nuggets soundly put the Lakers away— again! What? Not like last year. Where the Lakers could fall behind by any number and come back and win, they tease us with a nice little run at the end then fall short. Not like last year. Last year, let’s be honest, teams were visibly intimidated by the Laker dominance. This year they really don’t look all that invincible. Is it a different team? The record could indicate that. The drop in offensive points per game could indicate that.

After all that they are firmly entrenched in the top of the West and second best record in the league. So why are we complaining? Because we are wondering if this team is able to go through the much improved Western Conference filled with teams that are NOT worried about the Lakers. If they get through it have a very determnined and angry Cleveland Caveliers or Orlando Magic team (if Atlanta or Boston doesn’t surprise us) waiting in the East.

Let’s speculate!

The Lakers have been banged up all season. We haven’t really seen the Lakers at full strength. However they’ve managed to do what is necessary to obtain the top spot in the West. In certain games, they miss several key components to thier bench due to injuries or playing with injuries: Luke Walton, Sasha Vuljacic, Jordan Farmar. They lost offensive punch for a  time when Pau Gasol was injured, they missed Kobe for a few games (still winning but could have used Kobe against Boston). Ron Artest missed a few games. And now they miss interior offense and defense with the injured (again??) Andrew Bynum. Kobe has been playing hurt all season. Chemistry issues? Maybe. Losing any of the starters brings Lamar to the starting position and decreases the effectiveness of the bench. We look to have both Luke Walton and Andrew back in time for the playoffs. Let’s see…

The Lakers are in a different mindset. The year that Boston dismantled the Lakers, Boston was in a “must win” situation and knew that it was now or never. The Lakers were just happy to be in the playoffs. Last year, the Lakers became the now or never team with a chip on thier shoulder and showed it in thier play. Even though they still had too much swagger at times, they still did what they had to do at the right time. This year, they’ve won it and for the younger guys, hunger is in question. Pau wants it bad, Kobe always wants it, Artest never had it, Odom wants it again…but what about everybody else who’s already had it. Obviously the hunger may not be as strong as last year. And the rest of the NBA sees Los Angeles as a big yellow target.

Too good. Too cocky. It’s an 82 game season. We would like to see a team give 100 percent every game, but that doesn’t happen. The Lakers do not have to give thier all in all to win games with the talent they have and unfortunately for the fans, they know it. We see it. Everybody talks about it. If you ask most of the Laker players they will probably say that they try every game. But once they got securely ahead in the West they became very inconsistent…sometimey… And maybe, just maybe they get bored. Bored? Yes bored. We can see it in body language and how they lazily finish out quarters after jumping out to a big lead. Okay this game’s over. Some games were just boring victories. The other team is fighting hard, but the Lakers are just cruising to another win. We’re speculating here. Even towards the end of the season, with the top spot in the West won and the best record out of reach, there is nothing to do but wait for the playoffs. That’s when the REAL playing begins. REALLY. Really?

They just aren’t as good as they were last year. We hate for this to be the reality but it very well could be. And either it’s that the other teams got better or they got worse. We can all agree that they’ve lost offensive punch when Ariza left and maybe that has had the Lakers struggling to find thier rhythm offensively at times. Cleveland added Shaq and we have seen in  games that they give the Lakers a hard time in establishing interior presence and causes turnovers and forces the Lakers into jumpshots. Denver is an offensive and defensive angry beast with Chauncey Billups at the helm. Orlando is peaking. Dallas has made some key trades to become a legitimate contender. Maybe other teams just got much better. Thus somewhat leveling the playing field. This means it won’t be a cakewalk. The Lakers will have to give everything they’ve got to get this second ring.

What do you think? Well I suppose it doesn’t matter what WE think. The playoffs begin in April and the Lakers begin thier title run with questions either for the team, the fans or both. Are the Lakers really worried and frustrated? Or are they just annoyed that they can’t “turn it on” and “turn it off”? Do they really miss Bynum that much as shown in those recent road embarassments? Is this just a, “get the season over with” attitude? These last games, at least statistically, don’t matter. Or maybe they do in terms of finishing strong.

It really doesn’t matter who the Lakers play en route to the finals because they all have potential to upset the Lakers, especially Denver whom the Lakers struggled to put away at home in thier last meeting. But one thing’s for sure, if the Lakers are going to be successful, these things must happen:

Defense. This is why we have Ron-Ron right? The Lakers will have to play better team defense. The easy layups and open threes will have to stop as many of the teams in the West are three point threats. Hopefully Bynum will be back to stop the free-for-all attack at the rim. We expect Ron to be on his game but perimeter “D” breaks down sometimes and then what???

Run Your Offense. This season we’ve seen the Lakers go away from the triangle and settle for threes and jumpshots. This almost NEVER works. You start inside. Get Bynum going, then get Pau going, Once these guys are going, double-teams are demanded and now the rest of the players, especially Kobe can have a field day. You don’t need threes! Take your time! You are not a early in the shot clock offense. You are a slow, get a smart  shot, offense. Use it to your advantage and run when necessary. Slow offense allows you to set up your defense since most of the teams in the West also like to run.

Turnover Issue. The Lakers will simply have to take care of the ball! This has been thier downfall in much of thier losses this season. Nothing more to say about that. This is linked to running your offense.

O Bench, Where Art Thou? Hopefully with Bynum and Walton back, we get our bench back. They are so key! Teams have consistently outscored our bench the latter part of the season. I look for improvement when these guys come back since our bench will now consist of Odom and Walton– controlled and deadly!

It comes down to Kobe. But I  don’t mean scoring. I mean sharing. That game in Atlanta saw Kobe just shooting and not doing much sharing. The Lakers are at thier best when all of the players are involved. Hopefully this was just because of Bynum’s absence combined with frustration. But they have to share the ball. That said, Odom, Artest and Pau will have to be extremely effective offensively so that Kobe doesn’t feel he has to take over.

Follow my lead. You have the best coach in the business and the hunger of Kobe, Artest, Odom and Pau. If the Lakers have that same “win or go home” attitude all across the board, they can be virtually unstoppable. Seriously.

So the final question. Parade or no parade?

Depends on which Laker team shows up. Ultimately. at least we hope, the team that will eliminate the Lakers from the title run will be the Lakers.

The Lakers Return to Familiar Place Hoping that History Does Not “Magically” Repeat Itself

June 3, 2009
Kobe's Lakers and Dwight Howard's Magic meet in the 2009 NBA Finals

Kobe's Lakers and Dwight Howard's Magic meet in the 2009 NBA Finals

Welcome back to the finals, Lakers!

This finals has the makings to be one of two outcomes.

Outcome one is the sigh of relief in the words of “finally!” for many of the young Lakers including those who experienced the heartbreaking and embarassing game 6 loss to Boston last year after getting where many did not expect them to be. The Lakers didn’t expect to get there either, cruising past the Western Conference only to run into a brick wall of defense and physicality by the name of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics consisted of three all-stars who had yet to taste the flavor of an NBA Championship and had a “win or fail” mentality. The Lakers consisted of a young team who seemed to have the mentality of “Wow! We’re here! Let’s win this, but if we don’t, we’ll get Bynum back next year!” And thus we all know what happened. Kobe‘s sigh of relief is the removal of that monkey on his back that he faced ever since he and Shaq parted ways– can he lead a team to an NBA Championship in the post-Shaq era? Not only that, Kobe would love to experience this once more, knowing that though they beat the odds of returning back to the finals following an NBA Finals defeat, returning a third year after losing…well… Odom and Gasol would love to redeem themselves and actually show up during these finals and grab that illusive ring for the first time. Phil Jackson would probably love to catch Red Auerbach and further solidify his place in the coaches Hall of Fame.

Outcome two is the painful repeat in what would be even more disappointing considering this team was picked to win it all from the outset of the season. First picked to win 70 games (almost), then picked on for lackluster games against poor teams and a playoff series that should have all but ended sooner. They would run into another brick wall, the same brick wall that the other puppet in the commercials – Lebron James and company ran into— Orlando Magic. They would go through the rigors of winning 60+ games and battling through to the finals only to lose again.

I say outcome two is unlikely!!!

Game On!

This will no doubt be a hard series at first, but I expect the Lakers to win for a few reasons. One, this Laker team is experienced and knows what it’s like to be in the finals and what’s more, to LOSE in the finals.

The Lakers remember this day...and should refuse to let that happen again.

The Lakers remember this day...and should refuse to let that happen again.

Any team, especially a GOOD one with pride will not let a 39 point game 6 elimination go unavenged. The aforementioned mentalities have now switched. It is now the Lakers who say “anything less than a championship is a failure” and will play as such. Game 6 in Denver showed a Laker team that was dedicated to smart offense and disciplined defense on the way to a sound 27 point elimination of Karl’s Nuggets. Two, the Lakers as opposed to the Cavs boast a stronger supporting cast including an all-star power forward in Pau Gasol. There is no “all you have to do is stop Kobe.” in this series. Speaking of stopping Kobe, after dealing with Shane Battier and Dhontay Jones in previous series, I see nobody who boasts a “slow Kobe down” individual defensive ability on the Orlando Magic. Double teams and wide open looks for his supporting cast should be expected. Three, the Lakers can be happy to be facing the Magic because now they have what they worked for all year — Homecourt advantage. This, if all else fails will be thier security blanket, especially for the bench. Four, the Lakers have battled some very physical teams en route to the finals in the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets. As far as I know, this Orlando Magic team is far from these teams in terms of physicality and do not possess the stifling defense of the Rockets. I said this before the Lakers faced Denver to point out that offensively, the Lake Show will be able to get whatever they want. I think this will also work to thier advantage.

Having said all that, what needs to happen for the Purple and Gold parade???

Andrew Bynum needs to live up to the hype in these finals. 

1. Defense is key! How do you defend Orlando? Orlando possesses the ability to three-point shoot you into oblivion and practically everybody on that team can shoot threes. If that doesn’t work, they have  Superman Dwight Howard. Perimeter defense is essential. Aside from Dwight, I don’t see a need to double-team anybody (even if Jameer Nelson does return). Thus, effective man-to-man coverage will insure that there is a hand in the face of anybody shooting a three pointer. They are bad enough when covered– don’t give them any open looks. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol will be essential in slowing down Dwight Howard. I don’t expect Phil Jackson to use the double team as he used it sparingly on Yao Ming during the Houston series. Hassling the passers, denying Dwight the ball and hounding the shooters will keep Orlando from crushing you inside and dismantling you from the outside. Finally, Fisher, Farmar, Vujacic and Brown will have to step it up majorly if Jameer Nelson is inserted into the lineup. Another great point guard– ahhhhhhh!!!! The Lakers MUST– I SAY MUST PREVENT DRIBBLE PENETRATION! Keep in mind that, Orlando has a tendency to live and die by the three pointer. If you defend the shooters, they will DIE by it.

 2. Smart and Efficient Offense. Much like in Game 6 in Denver, the Lakers have to take thier time and run thier offense. They have to go inside out, utilizing Pau and Drew as much as possible. Once Pau (cause I don’t know if Drew can get hot just yet…let’s hope) gets going, he will demand the double team which will start opening up the perimeter. Of course you know they have to hit shots. If Ariza and company start draining shots, the Black Mamba can really takeover and now you have an offensive jaggernaut! Okay, I know, I know! Superman, Dwight, shot blocker, etc. It is IMPORTANT that the Lakers go at Dwight Howard offensively and force him to play defense. This could get him in foul trouble. Getting Dwight Howard two quick fouls in the first quarter can change the game tremendously. Now the Lakers can get anything they want inside and defensively they can guard the perimeter more effectively and force Orlando to depend on the three point shot.

3. Kobe does not go for 50! What that means is the other players must support Kobe. Odom is a very important component for the bench. He has to take care of business.

Both Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol must be huge offensively and defensively.

Both Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol must be huge offensively and defensively.

You may seen Odom inserted early if Hedo gets too much to handle defensively. But Odom has to be the one to attack the basket as well as Ariza. Speaking of Ariza, he needs to continue to be effective from three as well as slashing to the basket (my personal pick to become the next James Worthy). Gasol has to be that second scorer to force Orlando to decide who to double team. Equally important is Andrew Bynum. He needs to get effective offensively to make Dwight work. THIS IS THE BIG STAGE WHERE LEGENDS ARE MADE, DREW— WE NEED THE OLD DREW BACK! The bench which was basically non-existent in last year’s finals and much of the playoffs, HAS to be there. I know Shannon Brown will come to play (where did this dude come from. He’s on fire! good trade!). The bench must outplay Orlando’s bench. I believe we really need Sasha Vujacic to return back to “machine” status. If Kobe doesn’t have to carry his team for much of the game, the Lakers will eat Orlando up.

Trevor Ariza is the necessary spark the Lakers need in this series.

Trevor Ariza is the necessary spark the Lakers need in this series.

4. “No Mercy”. I believe that’s what Kobe told his team in Game 6 against Denver. Cleveland led this Magic team by as much as 23 and still couldn’t put them away. This Laker team is also notorious for that and we can’t forget the 24 point lead blown in Los Angeles against Boston last year. I know they won’t forget. The Lakers have to jump on Orlando early and maintain the lead. It’s very hard to play from behind especially against a three point shooting team. Those threes then become back-breakers!

OOPS! I ALMOST FORGOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING– THE LAKERS WILL HAVE TO WIN GAME ONE!! The Lakers have not beaten Orlando all season long and a game 1 loss will no doubt get them thinking, much like against Boston. So it is IMPERATIVE that the Lakers get that monkey off of their back and win game one decisively to set the tone AND to take care of homecourt– it’s very hard to win in Orlando.  

This is going to be exciting even though they’ve already created the Lebron and Kobe puppets. Go ahead and add a Dwight Howard puppet to the mix. I expect this series to be over in 6. My previous predictions were as follows: Lakers over Jazz in 5 (correct), Lakers over Rockets in 5 (prior to the Yao injury which changed the course of the series- wrong, very wrong) and the Lakers over Denver in 6 (correct). Let’s hope I’m correct this time.

Alright Laker fans! It’s on!

ENJOY THE NBA FINALS!