The Lakers won a nail-biter against the Portland Trailblazers.
Late in the 4th quarter, the Lakers repeatedly went to Pau Gasol He had multiple isolation situations against Robin Lopez. Two specific drives stood out with less than three minutes to go. Each time, he attacked left, and tried to pivot his way around the basket for a shot. Each time, he was way off.
MarShon Brooks tried to play point guard late in the game. He didn’t do a great job involving his teammates. In fact, when he was bringing the ball up court, he only saw the rim. Gasol was an available option, but, Brooks didn’t create much of a two-man game situation either. He got away with a backcourt violation. A few times he attacked the basket. A few times he used pump fakes. Almost all of the time, he missed easy shots from midrange.
What worked best for the Lakers was transition play. The Jodie Meeks 3-pointer was made in transition. The Brooks half-hook along the baseline, was made in transition. Jordan Farmar attacked the basket two consecutive times. Each time he had driving layups, both in mid-transition.
The previous two games prior to the Blazer game, the Lakers had scored 22 points and 30 points respectively, all in transition.
During the 3rd quarter, the small line up seemed to work. Ryan Kelly did a tremendous job against LaMarcus Aldridge in isolation. His blocked shot got the Lakers out and running. Jordan Farmar and Marshon Brooks used their length and quickness to force turnovers. Aldridge is prone to making jump passes. The Laker guards took advantage of the situation and got running.
This has been the best week of Laker play in a long time. Steve Blake is a great veteran, but wasn’t a great fit for what the Laker team is trying to do. Blake’s cerebral and tough play didn’t match with the energy, quickness, speed, and exuberance of the current Laker team. Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks provide great energy. They should. After all, they are one of the few healthy players on the Laker team and have spent more than enough time sitting on the pine earlier in the season. Both guys are looking to break out. Their energy on the floor is infectious and builds momentum.
In the end though, it wasn’t really small-ball or post-play that won the game. It is speed, quickness, energy, defense, and enthusiasm that did. Big or small, teams will always find ways to win with those tools in their back pocket. The Phoenix Suns of the 2000′s overcame any size mismatches because most other teams simply could not catch up. They lacked rebounding and interior defense, but did the best with the talent they had. The current Laker team is doing the same thing. Frankly, if there’s a center in the draft that can run the floor, and there are a few, that center may be able to fit Mike D’Antoni’s offensive philosophy after all.
All that guy has to do is play defense, and run.