Sharing of the ball is working for Lakers
After sleepwalking through the first half of the Western Conference finals, the Lakers have thoroughly stomped on the San Antonio Spurs over the last six quarters with a precision offense built around Kobe Bryant.
In taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Lakers have done an excellent job of sharing the ball in establishing a balanced attack against the Spurs’ slow-reacting defenders, led by Bryant’s 24.5 points per game average on 55.3% shooting.
San Antonio, which had the NBA’s third best overall defense during the regular season in giving up 90.6 points per game, has struggled to get a consistent defensive feel.
That’s why the Lakers have averaged 95 points with four players scoring in double digits and seven averaging at least seven points in the series.
The key has been the Lakers’ spacing, movement and timing.
Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Vladimir Radmanovic and Derek Fisher have rarely been caught standing still and as a unit, they have played with a cocky knowledge of the Spurs’ defense over the first two games.
With San Antonio choosing to defend Bryant most of the time with a single defender (normally Bruce Bowen and at times Ime Udoka), the Lakers have thrown a variety of looks at the Spurs and kept things fresh by keeping everyone involved in the offense.
And, one play from the Lakers’ fluid triangle schemes that has consistently burned the Spurs doesn’t even have Bryant involved.
It starts with Odom passing the ball into the right post to Gasol, who is defended by Tim Duncan. From the top of the key, Radmanovic runs to the free-throw line and sets a screen for Bryant, who runs from the left side of the key toward Gasol.
With the Spurs keeping an eye on Bryant, Odom slides into the key to set a back screen on Radmanovic’s defender. Then Gasol, one of the game’s best passing big men, completes the play with a simple toss to Radmanovic, who is usually open after making a cut to the basket around Odom’s screen.
Two points for the Lakers and Bryant never touches the ball. But that’s just one of several plays that have worked for the Lakers.
Coach Gregg Popovich has to have a headache trying to figure out a way to defend the Lakers, who have shown so many variations of their triangle offense, it’s scary.
But in the NBA, things always change and hot offenses at home often lose their touch on the road in the playoffs.
Don’t be surprised to see the Spurs finally turn to an aggressive-double team approach and trap Bryant whenever possible in tonight’s Game 3.
Then the pressure will be on the Lakers’ role players who will have to prove they can still execute offensively on the road.