Anti-Flag and a lengthy discourse on the Lakers (also Peja)

By Jason Wojciechowski on November 20, 2009 at 7:00 PM

Just three games last night, the two on TNT and a Utah-San Antonio tilt. So with that utter lack of an intro, here's an Anti-Flag video.

Suns 103, Hornets 110: That's a disappointing loss for Phoenix, playing the Chris Paul-less Hornets, just a few days off firing Byron Scott. Jared Dudley shot 5-6 from three, but Channing Frye hit just four of his fifteen shots and the team got blown out on the glass: New Orleans grabbed 25 offensive rebounds to 24 defensive by the Suns. That's just a terrible showing. Amare Stoudemire was especially pitiful with just five boards to his credit. Peja Stojakovic, of all people, had five offensive rebounds, and Amare could only contribute five overall? Peja had a crazy game, by the way, hitting seven threes en route to 25 points, and he had 13 rebounds overall. Emeka Okafor added seven offensive boards of his own.

Jazz 90, Spurs 83: The Spurs are of course without Tony Parker, but Utah was playing without Memo Okur (and Kyle Korver, for what it's worth). George Hill scored 18 points in place of Parker, but it took 17 shots to get there, and he managed just two assists. He also fouled out. The two starting centers, Kyrylo Fesenko and Theo Ratliff, combined to take zero shots and grab two rebounds. Granted, they played a combined 24 minutes, but still: two rebounds? Ratliff at least did the thing he does best and blocked three shots.

Bulls 93, Lakers 108: The quarter-scores tell the story in this one. L.A. won the first by six, the second by five, and the third by six. They just pulled away over the course of the game. They never seemed to have a big run that put them up 25, they just scored 1.1 points for every one of Chicago's all game long. Most importantly for the Lakers, Pau Gasol came back and looked good, with 24/13 on 15 shots. He missed a couple of shots that he often makes, and he lagged behind the play sometimes, so his conditioning may not be all the way there yet, but his skill, quickness, and basketball IQ were all abundantly present. Ron Artest did his usual: 15/5/3 and three steals, and Lamar Odom went right back to his usual spot as the sixth man: 11/8/2 and a team-high +20 in the +/- rating. Whatever you want to say about +/-, being +20 when a big part of your job is leading a unit that prominently features Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, and Jordan Farmar is pretty impressive.

Two worries: Kobe had another bad shooting night (7-21), although he came close to a triple-double with 21/9/8, and his jump shot just doesn't seem there. As I've read elsewhere, if the Lakers don't have Kobe to spread the floor, they may be vulnerable to the kind of paint-packing defense that Houston employed to good effect, because Kobe's often on the floor with three of Artest, two of the three big men, and Derek Fisher. Fisher sort of has to be guarded at the three-point line, but he's not a huge threat, and with Odom and Artest, teams will live with them taking jumpers. They want them taking jumpers, because both of them can be erratic. So Kobe is often the only outside threat on the floor. If he's not able or willing to play a significant part of the game from out there, the offense could suffer. Much as the Lakers rely on interior passing to get easy looks, interior passing is tough when there's three or four defensive players standing in the paint.

So that's one worry. The other worry is that Andrew Bynum still absolutely refuses to pass the ball. He had zero assists and twelve shots in this game, and that's not atypical. You understand where he's coming from, psychologically. He has the quickness, power, touch, and array of post moves to go one-on-one with any center in the league, he can be forgiven for doing just that. Now, the numbers don't tell the whole story, because a fair percentage of his touches come from lobs, both successful and unsuccessful. The successful ones will result in dunks, and the unsuccessful ones usually resul in him having the ball very near the rim without the usual passing lanes that come from receiving the ball on the low block the traditional way. That said, he still starts making his moves without any thought to passing a frighteningly high percentage of the time. Given all the times he's been the beneficiary of creation on offense by Pau, Odom, and Kobe, you'd like to see him reciprocate.

Now, it's possible that he's just not that good a passer. The guys he's compared with make for an unfair comparison. Pau's one of the best, if not the best, passing big man in the game. Odom is an excellent and extremely willing passer from inside and out, and Kobe's passing is, of course, on par with all the rest of his skills. Pau and Kobe in particular are capable of keeping multiple outcomes in their minds when they make offensive moves. Either one can drive to the basket, post up, or face up in the midrange with the intention of shooting or passing, and change their minds all the way to the last second. Bynum doesn't seem to be able to do that. When he makes, say, a spin move toward the paint and encounters a late double-team at the rim, his only recourse is to try to go up over the guy. Pau or Odom is likely standing there completely alone, ready for an easy dunk, but Bynum's mind appears to have been set on scoring from the second he started his spin. The question, and I don't think any of us know the answer, is whether this is mental or physical. Is passing just not part of his skillset, or is he just not willing the way Pau and Odom are? I don't have any idea.

That was four paragraphs on the Lakers and I haven't even mentioned the Bulls. So let's see. Joakim Noah: 12/15/4/4/2. He's turning into a real stat-sheet stuffer, and his rebounding in particular is turning world-class. He did miss all three of his free-throws, though, and if you've seen his shooting "form", you won't wonder how that happened.