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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lakers Dominate the Warriors (4.18.12)

With the Golden State Warriors undermanned, undersized, and in full on tank mode, the Lakers made sure to work out the kinks in their offense.

The Warriors are a great JV matchup for the Los Angeles Lakers. About three weeks ago, the Warriors allowed Kobe to regain his shooting touch following an ugly 3-21 shooting performance. Kobe dropped 40 on 16-28 shooting that night against the Warriors. This time, the Warriors allowed the Lakers to reestablish their basic principles of offensive execution. After mightily struggling to effectively send entries into the post against the Spurs, the Lakers came out and treated this game as a run through practice for post entry execution.

The Lakers absolutely dominated on the inside, scoring 62 of their 99 points in the paint. Andrew Bynum was a beast, scoring 31 points on 12-14 shooting, with 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block. However, Bynum's 4 turnovers were, once again, a problem that needs to be resolved in the next three games before playoffs begin.

With all of the attention on Bynum this season, Pau Gasol showed to the rest of the league why he is the most versatile forward in the game. Pau dropped this line, 7-16 shooting for 22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 blocks, and 0 turnovers. The offense ran through Pau for a majority of the game, and Pau did not disappoint. His perfect decision making was a sight to behold. His high low entries to Bynum were spot on. His over the shoulder no look passes to guys cutting in the lane led to numerous layups. His turnaround and spot up jumper were cash. Pau's hand prints were all over the game. At one point, after Pau performed a wonder baseline pivot to hit a diving Sessions right at the rim for a layup, Stu Lantz stated, "If you've got a better passing 7 footer in the league, I want to know who it is." Pau's basketball IQ is off the charts and nights like these show the world just how great of a basketball player he truly is. How many power forwards get triple doubles? David Lee (25pts, 11rebs, 10asts), Drew Gooden (15pts, 10rebs, 13asts), Joakim Noah (13pts, 13rebs, 10asts), and Serge Ibaka (14pts, 15rebs, 11blks) are the only other power forwards this season to get a triple double. Only Lee's night is even close to comparison. In fact, only 12 guys have gotten a triple double this season, and the only guy with more than 1 is Rajon Rondo with 6. Pau's performance was awesome, and it may have been the most impressive big man triple double of the season.

Following a disappointing loss to the Spurs, Mike Brown commented upon the spacing and execution necessary for effective post play in his post game press conference. The Lakers obviously listened up. The Lacking size, no David Lee or Andris Biedrins, and depth, no Stephen Curry or Nate Robinson, the Warriors were forced to employ a 2-3 zone for many stretches throughout the game. However, Coach Mark Jackson did not employ the zone until after Andrew Bynum killed his team in the first quarter. Bynum started the game hot, shooting 7-8 for 17 points. Bynum scored all of his buckets off of either isolation sets where he attacked quickly, or dunks at the rim for alley oops or putbacks. The Lakers came out ready to play, and they led 32-26 at the end of the first.

In the second quarter, the Warriors played much more zone. The Lakers continually burned the zone with good ball movement, proper spacing, and flashing to the open parts of the zone. The Lakers killed the zone with consecutive possessions late in the second quarter. Sessions held the ball at the top of the 3 and swung it to Pau at the far elbow. Pau was immediately doubled by Sessions man (the near high side man of the zone), so Pau swung the ball back to Sessions at the near wing. Sessions then swung the ball to Barnes at the far wing. With the zone moving from side to side, Metta World Peace cut from the near corner to the near elbow to flash into the open space. Barnes hit Metta at the near elbow, and Metta immediately caught the ball and looked to feed Bynum. Bynum established great position right under the rim by sealing the low middle man of the zone on his back. Metta sent the entry and Bynum caught the ball, turned to face the rim, and dunked it with two hands. Following that play, the Lakers ran another zone buster. Sessions was at the top of the 3, and he swung the ball to Barnes at the far wing. Barnes was immediately doubled by the far side high and low man of the zone. Barnes hit Bynum as he cut from the near elbow to the far block. Bynum caught the ball in good position, but his momentum took him out to the far mid block, so he gathered himself and turned middle. Bynum was immediately doubled by the high and low man on the far side of the zone. Bynum kicked the ball back to Barnes at the far wing. Barnes quickly skipped the ball across to Metta in the near corner. Metta pumped, causing the near side low man of the zone to rush past him. Metta passed up the open 3 and instead hit Pau at the near block. The low middle big man of the zone picked up Pau at the near block. With the low middle big, the only big on the floor for the Warriors, covering Pau, Pau looked over his shoulder and saw that Bynum had sealed the far side low man of the zone (6'6" Brandon Rush) on his backside right at the rim. With Bynum facing the rim, and the smaller Rush on his backside, Pau lobbed the ball right to the front of the rim. Bynum promptly went up and tapped the ball in as Rush pushed him under the basket. These two zone busters displayed high basketball IQ. Both times the Lakers attacked the zone to get looks right at the rim. With proper spacing, quick decision making, and creating mismatches, the Lakers capitalized with ease and perfection.

The third quarter included more of the same. This time Metta took his turn to dominate in the post. To start the quarter, Metta and Pau started at the top of the key as Sessions dribbled from the far wing to the nearside top 3. Metta set a pick on Sessions man at the top of the key and he cut to the far block. Sessions swung the ball to Pau at the near mid wing. Pau immediately caught the pass and looked for Metta. Metta perfectly sealed his man on his back at the far block. With no one in front of him and the rim, Metta caught the pass from Pau and went up for the uncontested layup. Stu Lantz loved the play and stated, "World Peace should give a clinic to the rest of his teammates on how to seal in the post. He will seal you so effectively." Maybe Metta can give a few pointers to Bynum if things get bogged down like that Spurs game. Metta picked up 4 assists in the quarter, with most of them coming from post passes. One beautiful set started with Sessions at the far wing. Sessions swung to Bynum at the far top of the key. Bynum swung to Ebanks at the near wing. As the ball moved to Ebanks, Pau flashed from the far block to the middle of the lane and Bynum performed a delayed dive to the rim from the far top of the key. Ebanks quickly sent the entry to Metta at the near block. Metta held the ball with his back to the basket and he noticed Bynum on wide open on the dive. With his back to the basket, Metta lobbed a pass over his shoulder and to the rim. Bynum easily caught the lob and dunked it for the alley oop. Pau also picked up 4 assists in the quarter, with one of them providing a highlight dunk for Devin Ebanks. With Pau in an iso at the far block, Ebanks simply curled from the near corner to the middle of the lane. Pau hit Ebanks in the lane, and Ebanks took off of one foot for the nice one handed jam. The Lakers outscored the Warriors 28-19 in the third quarter and pretty much sealed the deal, entering the fourth up 84-67.

The Lakers stretched the lead to 97-74 with 7:47 remaining. As the deeper end of the bench subbed in, the Warriors made the score respectable, losing, 99-87. Overall, the Lakers completely dominated on the inside. Drew, Pau, and Metta led the way with 31, 22, and 18. Their huge inside presence will be lethal once Kobe comes back to fill out the wing. Using the Warriors as a practice run should prove useful once the playoffs come around. Mike Brown has to be pleased with the offensive execution. It was great to see the Lakers come out and take care of business against an inferior team. All too often the Lakers seem to play down to their competition, creating far too many close games, and forcing Mike to play his core guys too many minutes. Against the Warriors, guys like Jordan Hill, Darius Morris, and Andrew Goudelock (an offensive threat who has surprisingly played a total of 4 minutes since 3/20) each received 4 minutes of run. It was nice to see the Lakers able to play the young guys at the end of the game. Every minute saved for the older, core guys, counts.

Great performance, now let's see how the Lakers come out and attack the Spurs on Friday.

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