An Unnecessary Sequel (Warriors 113, Lakers 123)
By Adam Lauridsen
Sunday, December 9th, 2007 at 11:25 pm in Game Summary, Baron Davis, Mickael Pietrus, Monta Ellis, Kelenna Azubuike, Stephen Jackson, Troy Hudson, DJ Mbenga.
Don Nelson kicked off the season by asking us to wait 20 games before judging his team. At 11-9 — and 10-3 with Stephen Jackson in the line-up — there are endless reasons to be excited about our prospects. Still, the more things change, the more three nagging things stay the same: the San Antonio Spurs, the Utah Jazz, and, as Sunday night made clear, the Los Angeles Lakers. The City of Angeles continued to bedevil the Warriors. In what could have been a rerun of last year’s losses, the team struggled to contain LA’s big men, got burned by Phil Jackson’s systematic offense, and coughed the ball up far too often to stay in the game. If this team is better than last year’s squad (and I still think they are), they need to start winning games that were losses in 06-07.
Following Friday’s comeback against the Heat, Don Nelson was highly critical of his “8:30 players,” not showing up to play until the second half. Sunday night, with a 6:30 tip, it seemed like most of the roster failed to show up at all. After a series of games during which guys tripped over themselves to play the hero, no one stepped up to bail out the Ws against Kobe and the 14 other guys he doesn’t feel are worthy of playing with him. But while Friday night’s struggles seemed to be a matter of effort, the Lakers had a clear plan for shutting down the Ws’ potent offense:
Keep Baron from being a playmaker. Kobe spent most of the night draped over Baron no matter where he got the ball. Davis worked a hot hand during the first quarter to drop in a fair number of points, but Kobe’s defense owned him for the final three quarters. The Warriors can still win when Baron misses shots. they have serious trouble, however, when he can’t get others involved. Kobe’s size kept Baron from seeing the court and his speed kept Davis, for the most part, out of the lane. The result was a very stagnant offense. When Hudson and Ellis took turns at the point, things didn’t get much better. The rest of the Warriors did try to move the ball during spurts, but all the passing was around the perimeter. The inside-outside game on which the team thrives was largely non-existent. It showed in our shooting percentage.
Refuse to abandon the block. Unlike Miami, which tried to run with the Warriors rather than park O’Neal down low, the Lakers sent Bynum, Turiaf, and Ariza into the paint. Bynum, in particular, ate us alive, forcing Nelson to use Mbenga instead of Andris or Al. DJ gave the team a great stretch defensively, but his inability to be a cog in the motion offense kept us from building momentum for a typical Warriors run. We got stops, but we couldn’t always turn them into points at the other end. When Nelson went away from Mbenga looking for more points, the Lakers once again feasted around the basket. Quick big men are still kryptonite to the Warriors’ special powers. We can’t drive past them on offense or keep them away from the rim on defense. Nelson probably will spend all of Tuesday night against the Spurs (and a likely-to-play Duncan) trying to solve the same problem. It’s mid-December. Let’s hope he sorts it out by April.
Dare the Warriors to beat you from behind the arc. Phil Jackson played the numbers Sunday night. It’s usually a safe bet. The Warriors are viewed by most as three-point crazy team. That’s only half the story. The Warriors use the three pointer to open up the lane by drawing out the defense. They then use their quicker players to get a lot of high percentage looks. The two parts of the game feed off one another. Most teams hate to give up 6, 9, or 12 point runs to the Warriors when they get hot from behind the arc, so they pull their defense out. The Lakers, however, weren’t buying it. The Warriors hit some early threes but the Lakers kept packing the lane. Jackson, Davis, Harrington and Pietrus had open looks all night long but couldn’t convert. The game came down to the Lakers’ high-percentage post and mid-range offense (excluding Kobe’s shots from near the Mexico border) versus the Warriors’ low-percentage barrage from behind the arc. The results were exactly as you would have expected. The Warriors made runs - and crept ahead a few times - but simply didn’t have the consistency to pull it off over 48 minutes. Once again, we’ve seen this playbook before. The Jazz wrote it last season. Nelson has yet to come up with a persuasive rebuttal.