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3 Reasons with the LA Times

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Brian from the LA Times' Lakers blog swapped posts with three reasons on how the Jazz/Lakers can be beat and how they can lose.  Here are Brian's answers below.  I'll post the link to mine when they have them up.

Thanks Brian

Three Ways to Beat the Lakers...

 

It's a tough task, no question, much easier said than done.  I'm not being partisan when I say I don't think it'll happen.  Actually,  I'd be shocked.  But there is a blueprint, even if construction is a bear.

1. The three pointer.  It's not that opponents shoot a high percentage from beyond the arc against the Lakers- at 34.5%, LA actually has the NBA's third best Opp 3P%- but that they get a boatload of chances.  20.7 a night, to be exact (good for third in the league), with 7.2 finding the bottom of the net ("good" for sixth).  This, by the way, isn't an accident.  Part of the team's defensive philosophy is to exchange long range shots for stuff closer to the rim, with the belief that over time, the bombs will stop dropping.

The strategy has actually been pretty effective, but it does mean that the Lakers are prone to giving up open threes at inopportune times.  Hit a few, and that can open up the floor for some of those Jerry Sloan back cuts and off ball screens, and give a little space for the P and R and Deron Williams.

Granted, Utah isn't all that good from beyond the far line, but hey, lightning sometimes gets caught in a bottle, right?

2.  Push, push, and push some more.  In the half court, the Lakers are an effective defensive team.  Not so much in transition, as evidenced in part by the 369 dunks they allowed this year.  The instincts Utah has to push the ball (10th in pace factor?  Who says Jerry Sloan is plodding?) are good ones for this series.  Yes, I know that getting into a track meet with the Lakers is land-war-in-Asia dangerous, but while the Lakers are very good on the break, they're downright scary in the half court, where their passing bigs (and that Kobe guy) can pick apart opposing defenses.  Plus, with LA's length, the less time purple and gold bigs spend on the block, the better for Utah.


Every turnover, push.  Every long rebound, push.  And so on.

3.  Make them a team of jump shooters.  If the Lakers have a weakness offensively, it's the lack of a reliable outside shooter. After the All Star break, LA was the fifth worst three point shooting team by percentage in the NBA, at 34.4%.  (While I knew it was bad, I didn't realize how bad until I looked it up.  Day-um.)  Except unlike, say, Philadelphia, who was worse (31.2%) over the same time span but limited their hoists to 12.9 a night, the Lakers took a more robust 18.  Not the Knicks, for sure, but every unnecessary three LA takes is a trip that otherwise could be finished in the lane or mid-post by Kobe, or Pau Gasol (nearly 57% from the field) and Andrew Bynum (56%). 

Plenty of teams have zoned up the Lakers to try and lull them into settling for jumpers.

I doubt that would work in the playoffs, simply because their attention to detail will be better and the Lakers are capable of crushing zones with good passing and cutting, but whatever Utah can do to encourage long jumpers, they should.

Three ways to lose to the Lakers...

1.  Overplay Kobe, especially high on the floor.  As Jazz fans saw in the second half Tuesday night, the Lakers move the ball far too well to pressure Kobe when he has the ball high on the perimeter.  It's tempting to try and get the ball out of his hands at all costs, but not all that productive because Bryant has some high quality dudes surrounding him these days.  The double comes, Kobe passes to Pau or Lamar Odom in the high post, they pass it to someone else for a layup.  Seriously, like almost every time.   And if it's not a layup, it's a wide open look. 

In fact, doubling anyone in LA's starting unit (or when Odom is playing with them) is a dangerous proposition, and must be done with care, because the team is so good at moving the ball.  It sounds a little perverse because Kobe is, you know, really good, but it's actually more dangerous to try and make the supporting cast beat you rather than trying to take away the other guys and make Kobe do it. 

In the former (and far more efficient) scenario, Kobe still usually gets his AND everyone else goes off.  In the latter (again, easier said than done) it's a question of how much 24 can pour on. 

2.  Turn the ball over.  Yes, I know that's pretty obvious, and also can be tricky since I advocate faced paced play above.  But the Lakers are so good offensively that they'll almost always get their points, even against good teams.  Every easy bucket given to LA off a turnover just makes the mountain tougher to climb.  Don't do their job, they're already good enough at it. 

3.  Let them open up the floor. 

When the Lakers are playing well, the offense allows for a great deal of space.  They'll run slip screens with Kobe and Gasol, put Bynum in space for easy lobs, cut off Gasol in the high post, move off Kobe's penetration, or let Odom lead them on the break or drive off curls at the perimeter.  Jumpers come in rhythm from penetration and kick outs, and therefore tend to go in more often.  The Jazz happen to be experts at clutching, grabbing, and doing all the little things that can make that more difficult.  They might want to do it.  A lot. 

Let the Lakers pass the ball, and they're tough.  Force them to put it on the floor more, and they're less efficient.