Kobe’s much ballyhooed tweets had absolutely nothing to do with the Lakers 91-79 loss to San Antonio in Game 1 of their opening round series. The reason MDA rolled his eyes at the assertion that Kobe’s tweets were important is because he knows Coach Vino is correct. Their focus on offense should be and was post, post, post. The problem is that MDA thinks dumping the ball into the pivot is “Boring,” which explains the lack of variety in how the Lakers attempted to achieve this strategy.
The largest font on the Spurs’ calling card is defense. Sans @kobebryant in the lineup, the Lakers have one overwhelming advantage, their towering, super talented front court. The Spurs will not allow the Lakers to simply drop the ball from the wing into the post every possession. They will wait in the wings with double teams. These double teams will come on the catch, after one dribble, after two dribbles, or as a means of setting up a weak side dive by a defender to steal a skip pass. These strategies are not new. Pop and his team have won multiple O’Brien’s, as have many other franchises throughout the history of the NBA, utilizing these defensive strategies.
Pau and Dwight combined for 28 of the Lakers 73 field goal attempts. They made 15 of the 30 made field goals. They will need more shots attempts than 38% of the team’s looks. Despite his personal feelings on the subject of exclusive feeding of the big men, MDA needs to find more ways to move the ball, so they can move the defense out of their desired rhythm.
By moving the defense, the rotations and double teams towards the post require a bit more thought. They cannot designate a player to double according to the Lakers’ offensive spacing they studied and memorized via game films. They must react to the positioning on the floor. The playoffs grant a team one opponent to study, and one opponent to break down, so tendencies are more than obvious.
For instance, Pau lobs to Dwight from opposite high post.
If you notice the importance of variation, this isn’t exactly the typical play for the Lakers, but it does contain the basic elements of their regular offense. Pau is at the opposite high post of Dwight. Pau feeds Dwight for an efficient look at the bucket, in this case, a highlight slam. MWP even provides some much-needed support. After coming off of a Blake cross screen and flashing to the low post to create movement in the Spurs’ paint defense, he sets a second back screen to free up Dwight. Even if this play doesn’t end in a spectacular lob every time, this play should be the Lakers go to.
Pau operating from a position where he can shot, drive, or dime to a cutter. Dwight in the paint with deep position or moving towards to the rim for a jump hook or jam. MWP in amongst the trees setting screens and flashing for potential passes, using his position for layups and free throw opportunities. Jamison could rotate to either of these positions as well, including Pau’s in the high post since he is an exceptionally good jump shooter.
Ball movement can also hinder the Spurs ability to sit on the post. Here, Pau lobs to Dwight from the baseline in an alteration to their post entry passing, as seen here via NBA.com.
Variations on a theme to exploit favorable match ups define offensive success in the playoffs. The Lakers will need to use far more screens and better ball movement to make it more difficult for the Spurs to take away the post play of Pau and Dwight. Guards dribbling around the perimeter won’t force the Spurs to shift their coverages. Although the pick and roll remains a desired formula to attack the Spurs interior, the Lakers guards, whether by talent or health, are not equipped to succeed in this endeavor with enough efficiency to win the day.
79 points over 48 minutes, especially 15 in the first quarter, will only guarantee a quick vacation. Well conceived post ups on Spitter, Bonner, and Blair, however, will ensure a Game 2 victory and a better shot at the second round of the NBA Playoffs.