Hailed early as one of the main beneficiaries of the Chris Paul trade, DeAndre Jordan made a visible effort to prove that he is a game changer. Every Kobe drive was met by his outstretched arms, and Jordan was rewarded with four blocks for the game. He did an admirable job frustrating Bynum, and played with an intensity that undoubtedly intimidated the Lakers.
But while Jordan did play well, the Lakers’ new system didn’t make it any harder for him. Both Bynum and Gasol were found on the wings way too often, and while it may not be such a huge problem for Gasol (he had a three pointer in the game), Bynum’s gifts are not being utilized if he has to work his way into the post from the outside in. And when the bigs did get close to the rim it was so crowded that Jordan was having a field day stuffing Laker layups.
Chauncey Billups (and his army of three-point bombers):
After clamoring about wanting to play for a contender, it seems Chauncey has found an appropriate fit in the Clippers. Hitting shot after shot, Chauncey silently destroyed the Lakers from the perimeter, not forcing anything and always reading the defense perfectly. To further aggravate the issue, the rest of the Clippers fared well from deep as well.
If the Lakers were trying to get over the stinging loss to the Mavericks last post-season, then letting the Clippers shoot nearly 50 percent from three certainly isn’t the way to do it. As Sebastian Pruiti pointed out, Caron Butler is one of the best in the game at shooting contested three pointers. When they are not contested, it can only make life easier for Butler, Billups and friends.
Keys to the Future:
Find an Offensive Identity:
After observing this game, it became readily apparent that the departure of Phil Jackson’s triangle has undoubtedly left growing pains for this Lakers team to deal with. There was no flow, no chemistry, and no cohesiveness; which ultimately led to no points. Quite frankly, it was very ugly to watch. If Kobe and the twin towers can find room to operate in the post as opposed to the perimeter, the Lakers will have a much easier go of things, and will relieve some pressure off of their less capable guards.
Rotate or Die:
Unless I missed the memo, the Clippers are not typically a great three-point shooting team. In fact, last season they shot well under 34 percent. The Clippers don’t have a roster full of Ray Allen’s and Reggie Miller’s, and yet, they looked as if they found the cheat codes to NBA Jam, shooting a staggering 13 for 28 from deep. The problem is defensive rotations, a concept that seemed to have escaped the Lakers on this occasion. If the Lakers continue to rotate and contest as poorly as they did against the Clippers, Lakers’ fans are in for a long season. These things take time, but unfortunately this year, time is short.
Kobe Needs Help:
While the Lakers have the offensive weapons at hand, they are largely dependent on the ball-handling skills of a capable guard, and at the moment, the Lakers only have one. Morris shows flashes of capability, and Steve Blake appears to have found a much better fit than the triangle. But the dearth of capable ball-handlers is a serious issue if the talents of Kapono, McRoberts, and Murphy are to be utilized. The total turnover count (21 in all) is the most telling stat of all.