After game 1 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals, Amare Stoudemire famously said Lamar Odom had a lucky game.
They’ve been giving Amare a hard time for that, but it’s starting to look now like maybe Amare was right.
And while he was at it, maybe Amare should have called out Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown and Luke Walton.
According to TNT analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller, the Lakers lost games 3 and 4 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals because they struggle with Phoenix’s zone defense.
Hm. Be careful about buying in to the zone defense hype.
It’s not the “girly zone,” it’s the girly Lakers that are the problem.
The Lakers’ immaturity and lack of heart has caused them to wander from championship caliber basketball.
This article makes 4 points:
(1) The zone is not bothering the Lakers.
(2) As the playoffs evolve, the Lakers defense is getting worse.
(3) All but Bryant and Fisher dogging it on the road.
(4) The Lakers aren’t hungry enough to rebound.
— 1. THE ZONE IS NOT BOTHERING THE LAKERS —
How exactly is the Suns’ zone hurting the Lakers? Not in scoring. Not in shooting percentage. Certainly not in turnovers.
As the following tables shows, the Lakers’ offense has actually performed better against the Suns in game 4 than it did the entire regular season and against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, and was arguably better than against the Utah Jazz, whom the Lakers swept out of the playoffs.
|Lakers’ Averages||vs. Suns (game 4)||vs. Jazz||vs. Thunder||Regular season|
The 106 points the Lakers scored in their loss in game 4 would have been enough points to sweep either Boston or Orlando from the playoffs, had the Lakers defended like Boston or Orlando.
— 2. THE LAKERS ARE NOT DEFENDING WELL ENOUGH RIGHT NOW TO BE A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM. —
While everyone has been obsessing over the Suns’ defense, people overlooking what’s been happening with the Lakers’ defense, including the Lakers.
Not Kobe Bryant, though.
A recent study found that defense really does win championships. In short, in the last 15 years, when the playoffs are down to just two teams, the team with the better defensive record in the NBA in the regular season has pretty much always won the NBA Finals. The exceptionss are when key injuries in the regular season made a team appear worse than it was when the playoffs hit.
This year, which team best fits that description? The Lakers? The Celtics? The Magic?
The Lakers have the potential to play championship caliber defense though, if they’d just get on it.
During the 2009 – 2010 regular season, the Lakers had the 4th best defense in the NBA. But as the great philosopher, Forrest Gump, once said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
You aren’t a great defensive team because your regular season record says so, you are because you bring it each night, and because you bring it each night, your record says so.
— 3. ALL LAKERS (EXCEPT BRYANT AND FISHER) ARE DOGGING IT ON THE ROAD. —
According to the NBA’s own efficiency rating system, Kobe Bryant is the most efficient player to play all four games of the 2010 Western Conference Finals, and it isn’t even close. Kobe’s efficiency rating per 48 minutes is 44.27. The next most efficient player is Robin Lopez with 32.49. For perspective, Ron Artest’s efficiency score is 17.23, and Shannon Brown’s efficiency score is 14.16.
But take a look at the dramatic difference in how effective each Laker has been in the two home games of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns, versus the two away games:
|Player Efficiency per 48 minutes||Home vs Phx||Road vs Phx||Difference|
Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher actually played better on the road than they did at home.
But the difference between the home and road play of Shannon Brown (-17.52), Luke Walton (-14.69), Ron Artest (-13.99), and Pau Gasol (-7.57) is unacceptable.
And the difference between home and road performance of Lamar Odom (-32.8) and Jordan Farmar (-29.19) is a joke. Unless a crowd is adoringly cheering them on, they show no heart or character at all.
— 4. HUNGRY TEAMS REBOUND. —
Question: How does the overall tallest team in the playoffs get out rebounded by 21 rebounds?!
Answer: They just aren’t hungry — especially their “bigs.”
Phil Jackson in the post game press conference said,
“We outscored them from the field both games, shot better than they did, did a lot of things very good, but it wasn’t enough to win the game. They best us at the foul line both nights, and that’s the difference in the margin of the game. And we have to do a better job on, you know, on that activity.”
I’m sure many a Laker fan feels that, had the fouls been called both ways, the Lakers would have probably prevailed.
That may well be, but fortune favors hard workers, and the Lakers are simply being outworked by a smaller team with bigger hearts, and no where is that more evident than on the boards.
The rebound disparity in game 4 was widely, and incorrectly, reported as -15 for the Lakers, however that number fails to take into account “team rebounds,” rebounds that a team comes up with, but cannot be credited to a single player.
The real rebounding numbers for game four are Lakers 42, Suns 63. The smaller Phoenix Suns out rebounded the Lakers by 21 boards!!!
HERE is where the zone was a factor.
The Suns zone kept Lakers bigs further from the rim, hence further from rebounds.
Without the rebound and free throw disparities, the Lakers would have blown out the Suns in games 3 and 4, and would be resting right now with a bowl of popcorn on their laps while watching the Eastern Conference duke it out.
But the Lakers will need more than more rebounds and free throws to be NBA champions.
Rebounds are a sign of hustle and hunger.
Free throws are a sign of offensive agressiveness, particularly inside.
In addition to hunger (rebounds) and free throws (agressiveness), the Lakers will need to play championship caliber defense, and play as hard on the road as they do before their adoring Hollywood crowd.
The Lakers need to realize the Suns can beat them, even in Los Angeles. The Suns are hungry, and they are deep, deep enough to overcome whatever talent advantage the Lakers may think they have.
Talent may have got them here, but it’s going to take hungry hustle with talent to bring the Lakers the rest of the way.