A Series on the Brink: Game Four Adjustments (Game On: Lakers @ Hornets)

Published: April 24, 2011

In a way, it is kind of ridiculous to play the “What if” game, because you can always come to whatever conclusion you, as a subjective creature, want to reach. We postulate over what would have happened if Monty played this lineup or that lineup, gave X guy more minutes or Y guy less, but really we could never truly know what would have happened in such a scenario. Furthermore, we could never know how Phil Jackson would have adjusted or how the players who actually did play would have responded. All we can really know is what did happen, and what did happen in game three is simple; we got our butts kicked.

As is the case when looking back at most games, the game was neither as lopsided as it appeared, nor was it as close as it appeared. I know that seems impossible, but depending on your perspective and how you want to see the game, you could both argue that the Hornets were in the game late in the third/early fourth and you can argue the Lakers should have won by 25+. Somebody wanting to make the first case will say that the Hornets got close several times and if they just hit a few more open threes and made 80% of their shots “at the rim”, then they could have pulled out a victory or at least kept it close.

Meanwhile, it is easy to imagine a world in which Emeka does not go 7 for 9 and the Lakers do not spend the entire third quarter taking jump shots as opposed to getting the ball inside for easy buckets. The point is, that it could have been closer or it could have been even more lopsided, so imagining ways in which you could have coached the team to victory is only fair if you are also willing to admit that you could have also coached them to an even greater defeat. We are all geniuses when we look back, but how well can we project forward? Let’s give it a shot. Here are my game four adjustments.

1.) Take Trevor off of Kobe Bryant…. and perhaps off the court all together

When Kobe takes 15 shots or less the Lakers almost always win, when he takes 25 or more they almost always lose. In between? Well, you guessed it; sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. The point is that you want Kobe taking shots, but most coaches build their game plan around putting their best defender on Kobe and sacrificing in other areas. Why?? You WANT him to shoot. You WANT him to try and go off on you so that his teammates become resentful and disinterested.

While Trevor has done an amazing job on Kobe, it has come at the expense of getting some additional offense on the court and it has also been a disaster for whomever the two guard is for the Hornets. Whether it is Jack, Green, or Belinelli, that guy is now forced to check Artest, who has been a matchup nightmare for any of those guys due to his sheer strength and physicality. All you have to do is look at Artest’s numbers in this series compared to his regular season numbers to see what this cross matchup is doing. His has nearly doubled his rebounding average, increased his field goal percentage by seven percent and is scoring five more points per game.

People are so afraid of Kobe’s swift execution, but it is much worse to suffer a slow, methodical death at the hands of lesser players like Artest and Bynum. And that brings us to….

2.) Take Okafor off of Bynum

With all due respect to Emeka, this is just not a good matchup for you. Thankfully, he was able to get some offense going against LA late in game three, but all the effort in the world will not help him to win this matchup on the defensive end. It is purely an issue of size, not desire or will, and the coaching staff is kidding itself if it thinks that any kind of motivational talk or clever scheme can provide the remedy in this situation. The only solution is to move Okafor off of Bynum and to throw different looks at the big man for the rest of this series.

Start the game off by putting Landry on Bynum and Emeka on Gasol (he has done a fabulous job on him). Landry must always be behind Bynum, never attempting to front him or get angles on post entries, and as soon as Bynum gets the ball, a quick double forces the ball out of his hand. You live with making the Lakers perimeter players beat you from the outside. With Ariza on Artest, instead of Kobe, you use him to double as often as possible because he has the length to both bother Bynum AND to close out more effectively on shooters. At other times, you send CP3 down to double for three reasons: Fisher is their least dynamic scorer, CP3 can get steals, and if Bynum starts being too aggressive against the double team, CP3 can flop and get calls.

During the stretches when Bynum is on the court with the Lakers second unit, put Gray or Mbenga on him and force Shannon Brown or Matt Barnes to beat you from the perimeter. Go to zone for stretches against that lineup after made buckets and force them to be patient. That is not something the Lakers second unit usually succeeds at, as they tend to rush the offense and/or get out of it far more often than the first unit.

3.) Run, Run, Run…. and Finish!!

This is so easy to say, but in reality it is difficult to do against this team because you have to get stops and you have to get rebounds. In game three, the Lakers missed 39 shots, but they got the offensive rebound on 14 of those occasions. The Hornets did get 7 steals in the game, however, and were able to push in those scenarios, but unfortunately most of those opportunities ended in missed layups or long distance bricks. It sounds oversimplified, but they have to convert these opportunities for multiple reasons.

First and foremost, converting those opportunities leads to more points, and the team with the most points wins the game. Secondly, it gets the crowd involved (the Hornets crowd at least ( %&*$ the Lakers fans). That crowd was dying to get excited in game three, but a 2 for 13 showing from deep and more than half a dozen missed layups will not get the crowd into a frenzy. Lastly, made shots mean that the Lakers have to take the ball out of the basket and delays them getting into their offense.

The last point is the most important, as we saw the Hornets go into a quasi full court press on Friday night after some of their made buckets and free throws. They are not looking for steals as much as they are hoping to limit the options that the Lakers offense has on each possession. The triangle is a very fluid offense that adjusts to how a defense is playing it. The ball rotates to opposite ends of the court where the triangle can be reset in any number of different ways. If that offense can get set up with 21 seconds on the clock, it can theoretically attempt 3 or 4 different variations in that one possession. But if you can delay that and force them to use time getting the ball up the court, then you may only have to defend 2 or 3 different variations. Over the course of the game, that can make a huge difference.

This adjustment coincides with adjustment #1- as it kind of has a built in assumption that the Hornets have two ball handlers on the court, capable of attacking from either side of the court. If Jack and Paul are both on the court, then that means that one of those two will have to cover Kobe. Combine that with the fact that Okafor can not cover Bynum, and what you are faced with is a couple of intriguing possibilities, one of which includes a super small backcourt with a super big front court. CP3 and Jack pushing and creating, with Landry/Okafor/Gray controlling the boards and setting screens on either side of the offense.

Again, this is all just game plan and theory. The truth of the matter is that you can have the best plan in the world, but if your troops do not execute, then it is all for naught. A game plan can not make open shooters drain their shots, it can not make you hit free throws, or prevent a 7 footer from doubling his season total in three pointers made in one game. Sometimes dumb luck just rears its ugly head, but a better game plan ensures that it is going to take more than just dumb luck to beat you.

Notes From the Arena

  • I (Joe) am doing the recap. If anyone has anything they want to ask of the players after the game, post it in the comments and I’ll do my best to get an answer.
  • Season ticket sales are over 7500.
  • Monty sent in a formal complain to the league about a number of calls, specifically three-second violations that weren’t called against the Lakers. They agreed with some of it.

Notes From Monty’s Press Conference

  • Monty cancelled practice this morning and went to church with him family instead.
  • “If I could get a cortisone shot, shoot my knee up, I would sign a two day contract and play tonight, because I couldn’t get through a 10-day.”
  • “He jammed it last game, and I took him out early” – On Paul’s hand
  • “He’s a gamer. Sometimes I have to be his brains. We’ll see tonight how it goes, but he looked alright yesterday in practice.”
  • “He jammed his thumb. We’re thankful it wasn’t the wrist.”
  • Last two games we have allowed their bigs to catch in the paint. They are in the paint for more than three seconds. Put that on the record. It’s been embarrassing that they have been able to stay in the paint on offense.”
  • “We gotta get those guys outa the paint”

The funniest exchange of words was between an LA reporter and Monty on the idea of Okafor flopping on defense against Bynum-

Monty: “I hate the flopping that goes on in the NBA. It’s kind of sad. I feel it takes away from the game. These situations you don’t even have to. He weighs 310 pounds and he’s hitting guys in the chest. You have to move.

*audible coughs by what I think was a member of the Hornets pr staff warning Monty*

Reporter: “Why do you think they’re getting away with those calls”

Monty: “I’m not going to go there. I don’t want to get fined. You should get fined for asking me that. You’re trying to set me up.


Reporter: “I should get a raise for that”.

*awkard laughter resulting in awward silence”

Monty: “I’ll let that go…”

Here’s a video Monty showed his squad to inspire them-


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