09 November 2008

Lakers Chat, Part 4-0 Going on 5-0 (The Now It Gets Tough Edition)

The LA Lakers have had serious shooting woes, but their insanely active defense has prevented them from being defeated (Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus breaks it down in detail on this post).

When the Lakers play with the line up of Bynum, Odom and Bryant in the front court with Ariza and Farmar in the back court, they have by far the quickest line up in the NBA, but rather than focusing on fastbreak points, this line up focuses on defense. They double the ball handler agressively, usually leaving someone on the weak side open, but so far teams haven't been able to pass out of the double teams fast enough to exploit the opening, instead teams hoist up bad shots or turn the ball over. It's a huge improvement over their defensive performance last year, and their stats in their first four games have been outstanding (average margin of victory so far 20.8 points).

This week is their most difficult weak in the remaining calendar year. If they get past the next four games, then they will have a legitimate shot at finishing 2008 undefeated. Tonight they host Houston, a team that might be able to handle the Laker's quick team, and if the Lakers continue to shoot around 44% from the field, they'll have big trouble beating the Rockets. After that they have back to back road games on Tuesday and Wednesday in Dallas and New Orleans, then they come home on Friday to face Detroit. That's a big change of pace from playing one game in eight days last week (and that one game, hosting the Clippers, who were playing well and challenged the Lakers until 7:58 left in the 4th quarter when the Lakers went on a 22-0 run). The Detroit game is the late ESPN game on Friday night, so don't pretend you have something better to do, and catch this game, you'll see the new look, AI-enhanced Pistons, and you'll get a chance to see for yourself the changes the Lakers have made in their defensive approach in the 2008-9 season compared to last year's team.

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