2-for-18 from behind the three-point line, including Kobe Bryant doing his best Baron Davis impression from behind the arc (1-for-7). 5 rebounds from Lamar Odom. 2 fouls in the first 2 minutes for Andrew Bynum. A sleepwalking Derek Fisher.
There were several reasons why the Lakers lost 100-92 to the Rockets in Game 1 last night, and many of them seem like they were as much due to rust as anything else. Phil Jackson and his staff can’t just go into Game 2 with the same gameplan as they did in Game 1, however, because the Lakers have some fundamental flaws the Rockets are exposing. Even though the talent differential between the two teams is pretty substantial, the Lakers must accomplish these goals to keep this series from slipping away:
Get Fisher off the floor
One of the reasons the Lakers lost to the Celtics last June was Jackson’s stubborn refusal to replace Fisher with Jordan Farmar against speedy point guards. Fisher had a solid series against Deron Williams, but like last year against Rajon Rondo, Fisher’s lack of speed (especially laterally) is painfully obvious against Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry. Shannon Brown’s marginally better, but not the best facilitator on offense. Farmar’s been awful over the last month, but he was the best Laker PG last night in his short time on the floor (although that’s not saying a whole lot). 19 points for Brooks is simply obscene, and most of that was against Fisher, who played almost 33 minutes (going 3-for-10 from the field and finishing with a (+/-) ratio of -11, the worst of any Laker last night.
Challenge Trevor Ariza’s manhood
Ariza’s been a revelation this year, especially defensively, but he was a shell of his 2008/09 self last night. He looked downright frightened whenever Ron Artest was in his path, and seemed just as scared whenever he was given an open three. If Ariza doesn’t supply something in Game 2, the Rockets can focus even more on Kobe. Speaking of Mamba…
Don’t get angry…and I’m looking at you, No. 24
While Ariza could stand to get a little red-assed tomorrow night, Bryant needs to stop acting as if the rest of his team is garbage. The Lakers won 67 games during the regular season, but you still get the feeling that whenever his teammates miss four shots in a row Kobe gets flashbacks to the days when he needed to score 50 to keep the Lakers competitive. For everyone’s mental health, Kobe needs to come out in Game 2 in passing-mode, maybe take 2 or less shots in the first quarter and go for 6 assists. When the rest of the team’s cold already, it doesn’t help that Pau Gasol knows he’ll piss Kobe off every time he misses a mid-range jumper.
Two Red Bulls for Odom
Uh, Lamar? The playoffs are still going on, buddy. We all know you can handle the ball, but what’s made you so great lately is your help defense and willingness to go all-out for every rebound. Only 1 defensive rebound in 31 minutes?
Pray for something from Bynum and Walton
Luke Walton’s quiet absence has hurt the Lakers more than people have noticed, mostly because the Jazz were a broken team led by the most frustrated coach in the NBA. He should be back in Game 2, and his presence alone should help the Lakers run the triangle much more efficiently, which should hopefully lead to less than 31 shots from Kobe. Bynum’s been back for a while, but until he becomes more interested and defending than shooting (10 shots in 15 minutes? What is he, Mamba Jr.?) he’s near worthless. Yao Ming has an knee that surely will be bothering him in Game 2 after banging into Kobe; if Bynum can’t take advantage of Yao on both ends of the floor tomorrow you have to wonder if he’ll be of any use the rest of the series.
Take advantage of the officials
The series looks like it will go 7 games, which is exactly what the NBA wanted. With a 0-1 deficit at home, the Lakers are going to get calls tomorrow. That’s just the way the NBA is. Even though they have to shoot better than they did last night, there’s no way the Lakers can get trapped into shooting 18 threes in Game 2. They must drive and get to the line more than they did last night, and they have to make their free-throws (the Lakers went 12-for-19 from the line, while the Rockets went 20-for-29).
Don’t take home court for granted
The Lakers have felt like the Finals are their divine right since the season started. They’ll be heavily favored tomorrow in a game they pretty much have to win, but the Rockets are tough. Much tougher than the Jazz, and probably tougher than the Lakers as well. If the Lakers feel like they can just take the court and even this series, they’ll be mistaken. For that reason the first quarter is key. If the Lakers struggle early and end the first quarter tied or behind, they’ll be in trouble. If they pound the ball inside and stop settling for three’s, with Kobe tapping his inner John Stockton (stop laughing!), the Lakers should take care of business.