Posts tagged ‘Los Angeles Lakers’

March 7, 2011

“The World is Better Now Since the Heat is Losing”

by Jeeves

 

The title of this post is a direct quote from Dwyane Wade after the Heat’s latest “heart-breaking” loss to the Bulls. To me, it perfectly sums up the Heat and their legacy, to date. It’s deliciously self-centered and absurdly over the top.

Before jumping into the psyche of the Miami Heat, let’s take a look at some interesting facts. The Miami Heat’s record currently stands at 43-20 amidst a 4-game losing streak. Not bad, but not great. To put it in perspective, the Heat need to finish the season 19-0 to beat the Cleveland Lebron’s record from last season. It’s really quite incredible. The sum of the parts in Miami (Lebron+Wade+Bosh+the rest) will amount to less than the sum of the parts in Cleveland (Lebron+1/2 a season of Jamison+yeaaah, the rest). That’s all a far cry from their grand aspirations and the lofty predictions (will shatter the Bulls 72-10 record) of the pundits. The Heat are a great team against the dregs and the also-rans of the league. It’s against the upper-tier where they struggle. They are 1-9 against the Spurs, Mavs, Lakers, Celtics and Bulls, the 5 teams who appear to be their chief rivals in the quest for a championship. If you take out those 10 games from their schedule, they are scoring 8.5 pts per game more than their opponents. They’re basically blowing everyone else out. (As a point of comparison, the 1995-1996 Bulls had an average margin per game of about 12 points, against all comers).

Under normal circumstances, people would point to the fact that this team is still figuring out how to play with each other. People would note that beyond the Two and a Half Men, their isn’t much of a supporting cast and that it’s only a matter of time before they figure out some successful late game sets. This isn’t a normal situation, though. Instead of tempering expectations due to a litany of reasons, people (myself included) are enjoying the Heat’s struggles with a fiendish glee. You know what? I think we are fully justified in enjoying their misery. When a <del>team</del> trio takes to the stage in such an appalling manner, to celebrate the pure awesomeness of their union, they are not allowed to be offended when there’s a righteous backlash against them. When a troika of individuals proclaim themselves ready to win EIGHT championships, they are not allowed to bemoan their ‘us vs the world’ predicament. When a threesome of egotists start referring to themselves as the Heatles, they are not allowed to seek sympathy through the media. The Heat have sown the seeds of ill-will and hate and have to deal with the consequences. My advice to them: suck it up, and stop whining to the media that no one loves you. If you want the media and basketball fans around the country to stop feasting on your tears, then man up, stop crying and figure out how to win a close game. Until them we’ll all enjoy their tears of unfathomable sadness.

 

Advertisements
February 17, 2011

The Warts on the Lakers’ Three-Peat Bid

by Jeeves

As I’m sure everyone knows, the Lakers lost in Cleveland last night. The Lakers didn’t just lose any ol’ game, they lost to Cleveland. They lost to a team that was 2-38 over its last 40 games. They lost to a team who lost, arguably, their best player in the first 5 minutes of the game. Today, sports fans in Cleveland are a bit giddy, rightfully so, while their counterparts in LA are probably starting to hit the panic button on their Lakers’ bid to deliver Phil Jackson his 4th three-peat.

The fact of the matter is the Lakers are mired in a rough patch. They have lost three straight after getting man handled in Charlotte and Orlando. A fan of the team should be worried about those performances, but not for the obvious reasons. Yes, the Lakers lost three on the road in the middle of the season; I say big freakin’ deal!

Take the circumstances into account. They just ended a 7 games in 12 days road trip. They started the trip with wins at New Orleans, at Memphis and at Boston. Those are three huge wins, with the Hornets and Celtics representing two of the best home teams in the league. Then keep in mind it’s nearly the All-Star Break. I think its quite possible the Lakers lost some focus as the break approached, especially after notching those early three road wins. I mean, the Lakers didn’t even look like they showed up against Orlando. So the fact that they have lost three in a row, looking rather disinterested shouldn’t be shocking news. If they look this disinterested come playoff time, then yes, that’s a huge problem, but don’t overreact to this small stretch in the dog days of the NBA calendar.

What people should be worried about isn’t necessarily the fact the Lakers lost, but rather the way in which they lost. These last few games haven’t exactly revealed (as I think we’ve known it all along) but rather highlighted some of the flaws of this team. Let’s take a look at them in the context of the last three games.

I think the biggest issue regarding this current team and the one thing that could serve as a death blow come playoff time is that the Lakers are too willing to let Kobe jump shoot them out of games. It’s possible the team will take on a different mindset in the playoffs and this becomes moot, but right now if Kobe’s jump shot isn’t falling the Lakers are in trouble. Over the last three games, he’s shot 8-24, 8-20, 8-18; that all adds up to about 38%. It’s one thing if Kobe goes 6-24, as he did in the finals, while also taking 15 trips to the free throw line. The Lakers can survive those games. It’s games where he goes 8-24 without a single free throw attempt that hurts the team. In fact, over the last three games, Kobe has attempted 4 free throws, that’s it! Here’s the dirty little secret about Kobe. He’s not that good of a shooter; he’s shot only 45.5% over his career. (For a point of comparison, MJ, excluding his Wizards years, shot 50.5%). Kobe needs to get to the line to maximize his efficiency. His FTA per game have reached its lowest point since his 4th year in the league. It’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.

PG play is another weak area for the Lakers. Ramon Sessions, filling in for Mo Williams, had himself a night. He put up 32 points on just 16 shots; he went to the line 14 times. Unfortunately for LA, Derek Fisher has gotten old. He just can’t stay in front of point guards like he used to. When playing teams like Oklahoma City, they’ll have to rely on Phil to create an appropriate scheme to mask this flaw.

Los Angeles also struggles with extreme athleticism. OKC gave the Lakers a surprising run for their money in the playoffs due, in no small part, to their athleticism. Against the Bobcats, the other night, Gerald Wallace had his way with the Lakers. In the game before that, Dwight Howard, when he wasn’t turning the ball over, took complete control of the game. Again, this isn’t something the Lakers can miraculously fix. They can’t get younger and faster over night, but they can allow Phil to implement some defensive wrinkles to help.

Finally, the Lakers need to learn to rely on Pau Gasol more. He should be one of the focal points of the offense, especially when Kobe’s jump shots aren’t falling, but that’s just not the case. When you look at the Lakers’ team leaderboard of shots per 36 minutes (only looking at those with significant playing time), you have Kobe (big surprise) at number 1 with 20.7 attempts, Shannon Brown at 15.2 attempts, Pau at 13.2, Odom at 11.8, Bynum at 11.4, Barnes at 9.9 and Artest at 9.8. Maybe it’s just me, but I think Kobe is trying to shoulder too much of a load. Let’s look at it this way, Kobe takes nearly 21 shots per 36 minutes and makes 46%; Pau takes 13.2 shots per 36 minutes and makes 53%. It seems to me that the Lakers would benefit from the 53% guy shooting a bit more and the 46% guy shooting a little less. Over the last three games, Pau was only at 11.5 shots per 36 minutes while Kobe took 21.0 shots per 36. I’m not saying that is the only reason the Lakers lost, but their shot distribution is out of whack.

What needs to be taken out of this run isn’t that its time for panic mode in Los Angeles. This run needs to be seen for what it is. The Lakers let their effort wane a little, which allowed the team’s inherent flaws to be exposed. It’s up to Phil Jackson and the team’s leaders to try and mask those flaws in time for the playoffs.

February 2, 2011

Kobe Bryant and the Dominique Wilkins Game

by Jeeves

The other night against the Celtics, Kobe put up a fairly interesting stat line, one which I didn’t notice until now. For the game, (in the money stats) he had 41 pts, 0 ast, and 3 reb. The 41 points, while a high number, is clearly nothing out of the ordinary for Mamba. The lack of assists and rebounds, though, is what caught my eye. This line brought me over to the play index at basketball-reference, as I am apt to do, to see just how uncommon that game was.

I initially punched in (a minimum of) 40 points and zero assists as that was what caught my eye off the bat. Unfortunately, that search yielded far more results than I expected; 60 to be specific (since the beginning of the 1986 season, as the play index does not go farther back in time). Sunday’s game was actually Kobe’s third of at least 40 points with 0 assists; it pulled him into a first place tie with Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, and Glen Rice. So while 40 points with 0 assists is pretty rare, it isn’t as rare as I thought.

So I added in the rebounding component just to see what came out. With a set maximum of 5 rebounds, that list was pruned down to 14, which I think is something worth writing about. Kobe joined 13 others (nobody has been able to repeat the feat), the most recent of which was Michael Redd when he went off for a stunning 57-2-0 against the Jazz in 2006. Redd’s game is also of note, due to the fact that no one has scored more than his 57 without recording an assist (since 1986, which, again, is as far as the play index covers).

I’m unsure what to make of Kobe’s stat line in the grander scheme of things. Clearly, it’s a fairly rare achievement; one the NBA hasn’t seen in 5 years, yet I feel it would be foolish to say that his stat line is emblematic of the reason why the Lakers lost on Sunday. Yes, it makes for a nice rip job on Kobe, he hogs the ball and ices out his teammates which allows the Lakers to keep things fairly close, but it is disingenuous. In Kobe’s other two 40+ point, 0 assist games, his team was victorious, so perhaps there is no greater narrative and the meaning (but what does it mean???) to take out of it all is Kobe had himself an interesting game.

————————————————————

My ruminations over at the play index also helped me uncover what I will refer to from now on as the Dominique Wilkins Game. The Dominique Wilkins game is one where a player scores at least 35 points and fails to record an assist. ‘Nique is the all-time leader with 14(!) such games. I think it’s safe to say that he had at least another one of those games in his first 4 seasons which, unfortunately, aren’t covered in the Play Index. The Dominique Wilkins game has happened far more often (207 times since ’86) so here’s hoping I get to one day soon write a post about someone posting a Dominique Wilkins game.

January 16, 2011

Lebron Goes for "Cuddly Villain," Fails.

by npiller88

In the aftermath of King James’ most recent tweet heard round the world (“Karma is a bitch” in regards to his former team, The Cavs, who had the nerve to go on existing after his departure), it seems appropriate to take a closer look at James’ public relations identity as it changes from day to day.

With typical subtlety, James kicked his old team when they were down, explaining their recent misfortune (a 55 point loss to the Lakers) by invoking some greater power. If James intended to single out his former boss, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert (who famously ripped James publicly after “the Decision”), he had a funny way of showing it, by tearing down his former team after a loss of epic and embarrassing proportions. But the real question is, why would the karmic forces ever bother themselves with a Cavs game?

In any case, James seems to be having a little identity crisis. With each passing tweet (first it was hints at contraction, now this), we are starting to see a superstar consistently out of touch, at least to anyone living outside of Dade county. Is all of this intentional? Is he trying to carve out a villain role, a la Sir Charles, and then wait for his time to jump back into everyone’s arms? Time will tell, but right now it all seems inept. Whenever someone with such natural talent (and privilege, by virtue of said talent) tries to claim the “victim” mantle, it leaves a bad taste in peoples’ mouths. Beyond this is the creeping sense of elitism that seems to be finding a more prominent place in James’ tweets of late. His is the story of pure natural talent and the triumph of that talent. Why all this talk about eliminating unworthy teams that may just be giving a shot to the next great talent? Or for that matter, why all this pissing on the grave of the Cavs? It’s hard to be the victim and the victor. But he sure is trying.

Still, one wonders, does he want to be the good guy or the bad guy? He should probably figure it out before he tweets again.

January 13, 2011

Misery Loves Company: A Look at 50 Point Margins of Victory

by Jeeves

The Lakers’ spanking of the Cavs, last night, got me thinking, not about the newest bit of schadenfreude courtesy of Lebron (see Nate’s take of LBJ’s tweet), but rather about the sheer size of the margin of victory.

Quick anecdote time: I saw the 112-57 margin of victory on SI and pointed it out to my girlfriend. She seemed unperturbed by the 55 point thrashing and after a few seconds asked, “Is that a lot?” I responded, “In any [of the mainstream] professional sport[s] a 50 point margin is huuuge, whether it’s basketball or football or well, I guess in either of those two sports.” As she digested that comment, my mind quickly flitted to the relative difficulty of achieving a 50 point margin in those  sports and then to the frequency of such a feat.

So I thought today we could take a quick look into those two questions.

Higher Degree of Difficulty, Basketball or Football?

Before I spoil the ending, let’s first take a quick look at the factors that add to the degree of difficulty in each sport. First and foremost, it’s hard to score 50 points in the NFL, let alone win by that margin. Since the merger, the NFL has seen a score of at least 50 points on 84 separate occasions, including two overtime games. Two teams have never scored 50 points in the same game, if you wondering. It goes without saying that an offensive outburst like that is an uncommon sight, but as cliche as it sounds, it takes a team effort to win a game…by 50. The defense can’t just sit back and relax as the offense lights up the scoreboard. The fact that the most points scored in the post-merger NFL is 62 means that the defense has a small margin for error.

Depending on how you view these things, either strategy or the “unwritten rules” of football can also trip up a team on its path to a 50 point victory. Generally speaking, a team winning by an absurd margin will start to run the ball to bleed the clock, unless of course that team is the 2007 Patriots. Some teams do this so that they don’t show up the other team, while others do this due to sheer strategy. Either way the clock will definitely work against a team on its quest to a 50 point margin of victory.

A 50 point margin seems a little more reasonable in the NBA, at least in theory. A team scoring, say, 124 points doesn’t seem to be too absurd; heck, 26 teams have done that this year alone. A team holding the opposition to, say, 74 points doesn’t seem too ridiculous, either; that feat has happened 17 times this season. It’s just a matter of combining those two feats into one complete game.

The ability to score the necessary amount isn’t the largest obstacle for basketball teams. Without any statistical analysis or research, I would say that stretching the lead from a rather large 30 point cushion to the absurd reaches of 50+ is where the largest degree of difficulty resides. Teams will begin to sit their starters and stars when up by a large enough margin, say 30 points, which then puts the onus on the bench to finish the job. Yes, the losing team may begin to rest some of their players, but there is still a sense of urgency to not be fully embarrassed so the dregs of their bench may not actually see the floor.

So to answer my question, I would guess that it is harder to win by 50 in the NFL than in the the NBA.

The Payoff: Frequency of 50+ Point Margins

This now brings us to the the actual proof. Since the merger, there have been 9 games with a 50 point margin of victory. In the NBA, (according to this list) there have been 10 games (after including the Lakers-Cavs game). It seems that it is actually nearly as difficult to pull it off in either sport, with the caveat that there are 82 games in the NBA vs 16 in the NFL, so account for that as you wish.

Some additional fun facts:

  • The largest margin of victory in the NFL is 59 points, accomplished by the 2009 Patriots against the Titans and by the LA Rams against the Falcons. Both teams pitched 59-0 shutouts…ouch
  • The largest margin of victory in the NBA is 68 points by – well, I’ll put it this way, if this game some how was replicated this season, Cleveland would combust due to sheer happiness – the Cavs over the Miami Heat in 1991
  • The all-time offensive slap fest in the NBA, since 1986, occurred in 2000 when the Charlotte Hornets triumphed, if you allow me to use the term loosely, over the Miami Heat 65-56
  • I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that there will be a 50+ margin of victory in the NFL in 2019. The basis for my oddly specific prediction is the fact that since the merger there has been such a game in 1979, 1989 (twice actually), and 2009.