Morning Bell – 2.10.2009

Thing to Start With

I didn’t see a single minute of basketball yesterday.  I had to chaperone a winter crowning at a high school, obviously.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to talk about.

Thing to Address

This comment was pretty well thought out.  It questioned my theory that the Lakers are vulnerable to a strong inside attack, and made me think.  Let’s delve in to that.

First, let’s look at Minnesota, Toronto, and Portland.  These are obviously not championship caliber teams, and therefore can’t really matchup with the Lakers.  Hence, their inside games won’t really affect the outcome.  That’s easy to agree upon, right?  I mean, the Lakers had a big man score 20 against them in 4 out of 6 of those games and still won, so obviously those teams just aren’t good enough to beat the Lakers, regardless of the strength of their inside game.  Moving on.

Next we’ll look at Houston and Phoenix, good teams that might be able to win a playoff series.  For starters, one of the Phoenix games could be ignored as Shaq did not play.  However, in the game Shaq didn’t play, Amar’e Stoudemire went for 21 and 11.  In the game Shaq did play in, he, Amar’e, and Boris Diaw were all in double digits.  Houston, on the other hand, has seen Yao Ming held in check during their two matchups with the Lakers.  Well, kind of.  He went for 12 and 8 their first matchup (in 23 minutes) and 19 and 17 in their second.  Of course, Carl Landry had 12 and 6 during the first game and 20 and 8 the second game.

This leaves Boston, Cleveland, and San Antonio.  Boston is hard to make a case for being an “inside” team, as their main big man (Kevin Garnett) shoots 72% jumpers and their other post players are Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby.  Cleveland features players such as Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao playing large minutes at post spots, negating that position’s offensive production.  Yes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a good scorer, but as stated in the comment, he’s best when shooting jump shots.  The LeBron as inside threat is a fallacy.  Yes, he gets to the rim better than any other player, but this isn’t a true “inside game.”  When the Cavs need a basket, they don’t go to LeBron in the post.  They get him the ball outside and let him create.  You wouldn’t call Allen Iverson an inside threat just because he gets to the basket.  Not to mention, 61% of LeBron’s shots are jumpers.  San Antonio, as mentioned, has beaten the Lakers.  In that game, Tim Duncan scored 20 and had 10 rebounds.  In the game the Lakers won, he had 15 and 8.

Now, given all this evidence (along with two losses to Orlando where Dwight Howard had 18 and 12, then 25 and 20), I think it’s fairly easy to conclude that the Lakers do struggle with teams that have talented inside players.  However, for a team to beat the Lakers, they have to have more than just an inside threat.  They have to be surrounded by other players who are going to contribute effectively, not Wally Szczerbiak and Jamario Moon.  Orlando has that.  They have a guy in Howard who can punish the Lakers inside, and then they have Turkoglu and Lewis outside to make the Lakers pay for doubling down.  As much as I like Pau (he’s my favorite player in the League), he can easily be overwhelmed physically.  That’s why the loss of Bynum hurts so much.  He too is prone to being manhandled inside, but he’s still a pretty decent defender.  But the biggest problem is that his loss puts a bigger burden on Odom and Walton to be tough inside defenders, which isn’t their specialty.  Finally, the chance that the Lakers and Magic meet again this year is slim, but if they do, it’s for a title.  That doesn’t necessarily bode well for Los Angeles.

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