LAKERS -at- ROCKETS - 12/28 - Thoughts and :-)) Ratings

 
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 9:07 pm    Post subject: LAKERS -at- ROCKETS - 12/28 - Thoughts and :-)) Ratings

LeBron at Center... The Lakers stumbled their way into Houston with a 5-game losing streak.

Tonight, they committed fully to the small ball and started LeBron at the center position for the first time in his career. The lineup opens up the floor for Russ and LeBron to get to the rim offensively. Defensively, the team is mobile and switchy, but still lacking defenders at times.

The Rockets play small, as well, and both teams put the ball through the hoop at a high clip tonight with only a team scoring under 30 in a quarter just once.

The Lakers flirted with double digit leads twice earlier in the game before finally going up by 11 in the fourth quarter. But before you could finish a thought, the Lakers lead had been trimmed back to 3 and they were calling a timeout.

They traded buckets down the stretch until the Lakers finally had got some separation.

With 1:20 left Russ and LeBron worked the two-man game. Russ hit LeBron on a delayed cut down the lane for a hammer. Next time down, he found LeBron rolling again for the layup. After some intentional fouls, LeBron iced the game at the freethrow line as he set a record for the oldest player to ever have 5-straight games with 30+ points.

The Lakers took the high-scoring affair 132-123. Had to get this one.


LeBron -- -- Strong start to the game with 18 points in the first half on 7-11 shooting. He had the perimeter shot going with a trio of threes, but he also bullied his man in the post, bumping and fading for some easy ones in the paint. Meanwhile, he manned the center position, handing jumpball duties from the start. It’s a new evolution of LeBron. Since his injury last year, he struggled a bit with explosiveness and getting to the rim. This year, it was harder to tell as we struggled to get lanes open for him or finding ways to get LeBron downhill with non-shooting bigs and Russ/THT and team out there. But the big scoring games lately have coincided with the Lakers small ball. And with the paint a bit more open in this one, we found LeBron cutting off ball late in the game for the big scores. Defensively, our centers in this game (LeBron and Melo) both had blocks at the rim on driving guards. LeBron came up with a big challenge with a couple minutes left that the refs called goaltending on. We challenged and it led to an overturn. Then, LeBron won the jumpball. First game starting at center and he dropped a 32-11-11 triple-double. The Stats: He scored 32 points on 11-19 shooting (3-5 from three, 7-9 from the line) to go with 11 boards, 11 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers and 3 fouls in 39 minutes. He was a +6.

Westbrook -- -- His mistakes are often big mistakes. By that I mean, they just standout. He had an unforced dribble turnover at midcourt early in this one with no one on him, ball went right out of bounds as he was dribbling up court. Later, he hit the top of the backboard on a jumper (that will probably make Shaqtin’. Midway through the fourth, he back-rimmed an uncontested dunk with the game tied. Laker fans souls die a little with all that and it’s like ankle weights on your team when it piles up in a single game. More subtle, a 4-point switch in the third when Russ got fouled, missed both FTs, Johnson fouled on the offensive board attempt, and two FTs for the Rockets on the other end. All that stuff just hurts. He and LeBron were pretty efficient shooting-wise in the first half with Russ going 7-9. But possession-wise, Russ had 4 turnovers, which included some bad passes in addition to that dribble miscue. He had 7 turnovers by the time crunch time came around. With all that setting the stage, Russ came up big with a couple assists to LeBron cutting down the lane in the final minute. Huge passes. Those were backbreakers for the Rockets. Chemistry takes time. You’ve got a lot of failing to go through as you find a play or sequence here or there that works. Earlier in the game, Russ positioned himself in the dunker spot while LeBron posted up. As his man helped, he cut to the open space in the middle of the paint, took the pass and quickly scored the layup. We’ve seen that before this much. Their design offensively is improving whether people want to believe it or not. But because it’s not a natural fit, it’s going to take time. Defensively, we just need more defenders on court. The Stats: He scored 24 points on 10-17 shooting (2-2 from three, 2-6 from the line) to go with 12 boards (4 offensive), 10 assists, 2 steals, 7 turnovers and 1 foul in 35 minutes. He was a +9.

Monk -- -- Into the starting lineup and it paid off with strong first half with 16 points on 4-9 shooting. Some excellent attacks off the dribble, including hammering a dunk on some matador Rockets D. He knocked down 2-5 threes in the half, including one straight away off a SLOB sequence. In the second half, he’d have lob finish on a pass from THT. He’d also hit another three. We called his number on an ATO horns sequence that we’ve seen where LeBron finds a backdoor cutter and Monk dunked off that one executed perfectly. Again, the playbook is making some progress. Defensively, Monk had a rotation block in the paint. Later in the second half, he denied a baseline drive with another block. Huge minutes tonight for Monk. His defensive improvement is helping him stay on court (Ellington not here tonight, as well). It is not without problems, though. He fell asleep on D ballwatching and let his man relocate into an open corner three. Those bad habits still pop up with regularity. But it’s the end of December and we’re making progress. Just keep improving. The Stats: He scored 25 points on 7-14 shooting (3-7 from three, 8-8 from the line) to go with 2 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks and 1 foul in 40 minutes. He was a +11.

Bradley -- -- Good to have him back just to get a few possessions more where we disrupt a play, where he fights through a screen and forces an offensive set to reset the action, or ties up a guy to turn a layup into a jumpball. It’s not consistent two-way minutes, but it’s more consistent than a lot of alternatives at the moment. So back in the mix and he gave the Lakers some stretches of two-way ball that had been sorely missing. Strong start to the third with a three from the wing off the ATO to start the half. He then scored on a reverse as Johnson posted up and AB snuck in backdoor to take the pass. He then forced a timeout as he gave up a pass, relocated to the corner and swished the three on the return feed. Late in the game, he also had another backdoor cut where LeBron went behind his back to him for another layup. Great job with the off-ball cutting in this game by him, and really a better job by the team in general. The Stats: He scored 14 points on 6-13 shooting (2-5 from three) to go with 4 boards, 2 steals and 3 fouls in 31 minutes. He was a +8.

Johnson -- -- From NBA obscurity into the starting lineup. That’s not the first time that’s happened for the Lakers this season. Yet another starting lineup for the Lakers. When out there, you’d like him or Russ to essentially play the C spot offensively at times so that you have floor spacing with non-shooters strategically placed. Stanley went 0-4 from three tonight. He’s playing the PF spot defensively. From there, we saw him grab a board and go coast to coast to earn some freethrows. He’d also score a layup on the break. So we can play some uptempo ball. When he gets matched up with a big, he can use his speed to attack (a nice attack, spin and reverse And-1 against a big in the first half). Against smaller guys, he showed he could muscle his way to a layup on a baseline attack. The Rockets play a bit small, so starting him at PF fit well. He and LeBron could switch at times. A little bit of foul trouble again in this one. What I like (and maybe this is from getting reps on our G-League team) is that he’s more in flow with the rest of the team than you would expect given he’s just been thrown into the fire. He’s kind of doing Ariza stuff for us now, which this team has needed all season. Just wish we also had AD in the mix. The Stats: He scored 9 points on 3-8 shooting (0-4 from three, 3-3 from the line) to go with 5 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and 5 fouls in 32 minutes. He was a -7.

Horton-Tucker -- -- Oof. He’s really been floundering a bit lately. We’re bring him in for Russ when he takes his first rest. That’s more how I’d prefer to see him. But he really didn’t give a lot of impact in this one. He found Monk for a lob for his only assist. He attacked a closeout, hung and scored an And-1 layup for his only hoop. The Stats: He scored 2 points on 1-4 shooting (0-2 from three, 0-1 from the line) to go with 3 boards, 1 assist, 2 turnovers and 5 fouls in 21 minutes. He was a -2.

Anthony -- -- Really strong game from him at the PF/C spots. He led the bench with 13 points in the half. Neither Collinson or THT joined in the bench scoring in the half as we ran just the 8-man rotation. Big three tonight with 2:23 left to go up by 4. That perimeter shot was dropping. Nice to see with all the minutes lately. I’m loving some of the nuances in the offense. One of his misses from three was off a Horns Flare sequence that had multiple movements to it. Defensively, he held his own in the post. He had one possession where he got scored on easily, but he had several stops in the post. He also had a couple of blocks. Loved seeing a guard try to take him and Melo rejecting him. We really have to try to pick our spots with Melo defensively, but we just don’t have the luxury at the moment. So he was out there helping the team close tonight. We had some offense-defense subs to try to help. Overall, though, good night from Melo. The Stats: He scored 24 points on 9-15 shooting (4-8 from three, 2-2 from the line) to go with 9 boards (3 offensive), 1 steal, 2 blocks and 4 fouls in 28 minutes. He was a +17.

Collison -- -- His value right now is if he can keep Rondo off the floor. The health and safety protocols caught up with Rondo, however. So that kept the Lakers from utilizing Rondo anyway. Not sure yet what Collison can give. He’s just trying to find where he can contribute and that’s hard to do with just one practice. He scored a layup on an attack from the corner to help give the team their largest lead tonight. The Stats: He scored 2 points on 1-2 shooting (0-1 from three) to go with 2 boards, 1 assist and 1 foul in 14 minutes. He was a +3.

Fizdale -- -- Key Moment: Obviously, the couple of buckets by LeBron from Russ in the final 1:20 were the big ones. I did love seeing the play call to set up Monk for a dunk on an ATO earlier in the fourth. We’ve seen that play a few times. Good time to bring it out. Also, credit to Fizdale on the challenge of LeBron’s goaltend call. That saved a hoop late in the fourth.

Key Substitution: No traditional centers in this game. Coaches went small from start to finish with no Dwight or DJ in the starting lineup or off the bench. Good team to pull it off against as they are generally small and their backup big is young.

Key Stats: The Lakers had just 12 turnovers (Westbrook with 7!). Still, we didn’t give up a lot of possessions there. The Lakers also won the offensive boards 14-4 despite the small ball. Some credit to the team rebounding on the defensive end to keep some of that in check. Hopefully, against bigger teams they can hold the line there. The Lakers had 9 more shots and 4 more freethrow attempts by winning the possession battle.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 9:33 pm    Post subject:

First! In a win too!
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 9:44 pm    Post subject:

Honestly, I think Russ is just too wound up/tense and just needs to freakin relax.
There's no way he should be that inefficient at the rim and overall with his athleticism.

He's going 110% all the time...when 75% would do.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 10:22 pm    Post subject:

I like what I see from Stanley Johnson, at both ends of the floor. I noticed a couple of times he was guarding his man on the baseline and forced him to step out of bounds to force a turnover.

I had no idea he could break his guy off the dribble, get to the rim and score. That's a nice bonus.

I'm thinking he's a keeper.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 4:34 am    Post subject:

Thanks, DB!

Melo a +17
He's been playing well this season.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 8:14 am    Post subject:

Quote:
Their design offensively is improving whether people want to believe it or not. But because it’s not a natural fit, it’s going to take time. Defensively, we just need more defenders on court.


I want to believe that you're right about the offense, but I'm not seeing it. Instead, I see Lebron going into playoff mode and stretching himself to the limit so that we can squeak out a win against the Rockets.

As for the defense, I think that the refs will limit us to five players at a time. Bummer.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 8:54 am    Post subject:

Aeneas Hunter wrote:
Quote:
Their design offensively is improving whether people want to believe it or not. But because it’s not a natural fit, it’s going to take time. Defensively, we just need more defenders on court.


I want to believe that you're right about the offense, but I'm not seeing it. Instead, I see Lebron going into playoff mode and stretching himself to the limit so that we can squeak out a win against the Rockets.

As for the defense, I think that the refs will limit us to five players at a time. Bummer.


Imo we see it for stretches but then we go back to Lebron ball, particularly when guys start missing, losing lead, etc.

On defense, we just don’t have anyone really capable aside from Lebron (who takes some of his rest on that end), AB, Johnson, Collison and Reaves. So 2 of the 4 joined the team less than five days ago, Lebron can’t go all out at 37 all the time and AB looks bad when he isn’t on ball because it seems like he has to cover for Russ running around and blowing assignments.

Hopefully Ariza, Nunn can contribute and make the defense better.

Teams are going to continue to attack Russ, Melo, DJ, Ellington, Monk. Ellington and Monk have done ok, but yeah Johnson and Collison are 2 guys you want to keep as they show NBA level guarding capability.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 10:03 am    Post subject:

^^^^

Getting Reaves back will help. Some people overrate his defense, but he brings energy that we really need.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 10:39 am    Post subject:

Aeneas Hunter wrote:
Quote:
Their design offensively is improving whether people want to believe it or not. But because it’s not a natural fit, it’s going to take time. Defensively, we just need more defenders on court.


I want to believe that you're right about the offense, but I'm not seeing it. Instead, I see Lebron going into playoff mode and stretching himself to the limit so that we can squeak out a win against the Rockets.

As for the defense, I think that the refs will limit us to five players at a time. Bummer.


There's a lot of little things that they are doing and not doing. Some of it is just decision making, some of it is set play execution.

- Westbrook has cut way down on early offense jumpers from where he was. At the same time, his percentages going to the rim have improved. This was a noticeable change a while back, even before us going small.
- LeBron has cut down on the iso step-back threes. He's taking more pull-ups and catch and shoots. He seems to only go for those step-backs when the lock is very low.
- We're seeing more flare screens for a variety of guys.
- The inverse screen action with LeBron and smaller shooters has picked up immensely from where it was. This is now one of our bread and butter actions in crunch time.
- We've got several new horns actions.
- We're using gaggles on the weakside more and flowing into them from other set actions, which is like a layer on top of a layer in our schemes...so we're going deeper into counters when first options aren't available.
- Russ and THT are positioning themselves in the dunker spots a few more times than previously. This is still a work in progress, but again, like last night we saw Russ get an easy off ball bucket from this. So awareness is there. We really need more work on Russ/LeBron cutting with purpose off ball, but it's improved.
- Pin-in screens on the weakside have increased, but still need more. But we could go multiple games without those previously.
- We were improving our two-man actions with AD to get him going to the hoop more.
- We've realized the issues with certain lineups (like those with DJ in them) and have moved on.
- The ball movement in the final minute has been much better. Previously, we'd stall things out on iso and let the D load up. Last night, passing won it. That game with Reaves and the outcome on the line, multiple passes until we hit the open man. This is still very much a work in progress (and we need more games), but coaches are stressing it and we are seeing some results.

Defensively, that's another story. We need healthy defenders. They've definitely improved and the stats had shown that, but without AD we need all our other guys available to compete first and foremost.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 10:44 am    Post subject:

Aeneas Hunter wrote:
^^^^

Getting Reaves back will help. Some people overrate his defense, but he brings energy that we really need.


He needs more strength. That will help him stay a little tighter on guys on individual D instead of allowing separation at times. But his team D reads for a rookie? Those are excellent. Even, for a vet, they are really strong. When you combine that with his energy/effort it helps him be one of those glue guys and we need that out there badly.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 10:50 am    Post subject:

danzag wrote:
Thanks, DB!

Melo a +17
He's been playing well this season.


Got to give him credit for this one, but smarter teams are going to target him relentlessly on D to try to take him out of the mix. Ariza and Johnson will chip away at his minutes and we'll pick his spots more.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 12:39 pm    Post subject:

Nice points, DB.

The concerns I have DB is this, though.

Defensively the lineups that play well, are they doing some of the stuff we're seeing "improved" offense from? Who are our staples to make D work? AD, Bradley, Reaves etc. We saw that in the Dallas game. But we were also running more Dwight lineups when the D rankings improved.

Over this 5 game stretch, we've completely abandoned Dwight, and our D has gone to the toilets. This won't work. What's the plan with Bron at the 5? Micro ball works with Westbrook, Houston showed that, but come playoffs Houston's lack of paint protection was a major issue.

We need to establish reps on offense with defensive balance. Are we getting that? No. We're seeing some offense lineups do well, with Bron at the 5. We're seeing some defensive lineups do well on D, but the offense is awful.

I'm very worried where our season is headed at, TBH. I see some developments off the ball, I notice there have been some developments to the offense. But the defense is so bad without rim protection. We shouldn't fall in love with Bron at the 5. It's only a short term short sighted move, like when Houston went with Covington at the 5.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 1:35 pm    Post subject:

I'm not going to say the D improved because of more Dwight or going big. I think it was likely less DJ and more AD at C...along with a few other guys just not being as atrocious as they previously were.

Bottom line on that end, though, we aren't going to be a great defensive team until AD returns. And micro ball in the playoffs is not going to be something we do for 48 minutes. More likely it will be 10? ... at the most?

Coming through the other side of this stretch of micro ball, will the team be better at protecting the defensive glass? Houston got very, very good at that. It's been a weakness of ours even in big lineups. But a stretch to develop habits there? I'm very curious what we can look like at that end of the floor if we can stay afloat through this stretch and get AD back.

In regards to the offense, these were all trends prior to going uber small. We're making guys better and setting them up for success more. We're learning more rules to what we want in free flowing situations in addition to expanding our playbook. The intent is right...and we're piling more and more into the mix. It's very much a work in progress, but I think they are ahead of my expectations on where I thought they'd be in the X's and O's. Especially compared to last year.

But we've got a very tough situation without AD right now. Some nights we probably won't be able to stop the bleeding.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 2:02 pm    Post subject:

DancingBarry wrote:
There's a lot of little things that they are doing and not doing. Some of it is just decision making, some of it is set play execution.

- Westbrook has cut way down on early offense jumpers from where he was. At the same time, his percentages going to the rim have improved. This was a noticeable change a while back, even before us going small.
- LeBron has cut down on the iso step-back threes. He's taking more pull-ups and catch and shoots. He seems to only go for those step-backs when the lock is very low.
- We're seeing more flare screens for a variety of guys.
- The inverse screen action with LeBron and smaller shooters has picked up immensely from where it was. This is now one of our bread and butter actions in crunch time.
- We've got several new horns actions.
- We're using gaggles on the weakside more and flowing into them from other set actions, which is like a layer on top of a layer in our schemes...so we're going deeper into counters when first options aren't available.
- Russ and THT are positioning themselves in the dunker spots a few more times than previously. This is still a work in progress, but again, like last night we saw Russ get an easy off ball bucket from this. So awareness is there. We really need more work on Russ/LeBron cutting with purpose off ball, but it's improved.
- Pin-in screens on the weakside have increased, but still need more. But we could go multiple games without those previously.
- We were improving our two-man actions with AD to get him going to the hoop more.
- We've realized the issues with certain lineups (like those with DJ in them) and have moved on.
- The ball movement in the final minute has been much better. Previously, we'd stall things out on iso and let the D load up. Last night, passing won it. That game with Reaves and the outcome on the line, multiple passes until we hit the open man. This is still very much a work in progress (and we need more games), but coaches are stressing it and we are seeing some results.


Thanks for the detail. I am not an Xs and Os guy, so some of the nuances are lost on me. We all consume sports in different ways. But I'll start watching more for some of these things.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 2:15 pm    Post subject:

DancingBarry wrote:
Bottom line on that end, though, we aren't going to be a great defensive team until AD returns.


I'm not sure how high our ceiling will be on defense. If you look at the stats, we're in the mushy middle on DRtg. There are three teams that have pulled away from the pack: Golden State, Cleveland, and Phoenix. We are 12th at the moment, but there are about 10-15 teams that are pretty much the same as us. Even with Davis, I'm not sure that we will get out of the mushy middle and get closer to the elites.

Talking about DRtg is abstract, so let me put in practical terms: Even with Davis, I don't see the horses in this roster to make us an elite defensive team. Yes, our defense looked worse over the recent stretch, but on the other hand, we had a really, really soft schedule prior to that stretch. Davis' injury is part of the problem, but his return is not going to fix the underlying deficiencies.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 2:31 pm    Post subject:

DancingBarry wrote:
Aeneas Hunter wrote:
^^^^

Getting Reaves back will help. Some people overrate his defense, but he brings energy that we really need.


He needs more strength. That will help him stay a little tighter on guys on individual D instead of allowing separation at times. But his team D reads for a rookie? Those are excellent. Even, for a vet, they are really strong. When you combine that with his energy/effort it helps him be one of those glue guys and we need that out there badly.


Plus he makes the right defensive play so often, it's uncanny. I had to replay several defensive sequences, some in slo-mo, to see how much better he is than WB at just placing himself in a good position to box-out or deflect or rebound or rotate.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 8:20 pm    Post subject:

Dwight was a +17 today.
Guess how many minutes played? 16.

The RW experience mandates us to have floor spacing and open paint. Thou shall not have basketball floor balance.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2021 9:26 pm    Post subject:

wolfpaclaker wrote:
Dwight was a +17 today.
Guess how many minutes played? 16.

The RW experience mandates us to have floor spacing and open paint. Thou shall not have basketball floor balance.


The RW/Melo experience in the fourth against Memphis...

Melo was awful and I thought we were finally sitting him. But we never went back to the starters in the fourth. Ugggh. Fizdale has got to go with what's working there.
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