By Craig Kwasniewski
We're walking a fine line between NBA Blog and Laker Blog, or as regular contributor and Clipper fan, Chris Tagawa has said, "Lakers, Lakers, Lakers. That is all I ever get from this site."
So rather that tell give a review of the Lakers-Sonics game I just attended and talk about Kobe's return, Ronnie Turiaf coming up huge or Lamar Odom continuing his incredible start... let's look deeper into how Seattle played and what adjustments were made in the game.
Early Blowout: The Lakers had a 20 point lead at one point in the first half. It looked like a cakewalk and a great chance for Kobe to rest up in the second half. Seattle looked like the 2005-06 squad that played zero defense and shot a bunch of threes.
Defensive Adjustment: Seattle made some adjustments in the second quarter. First, they doubled on Lamar Odom in the post and played him to his weaker right hand. Despite Rashard Lewis' length, Odom was able to get involved early in the game. By bringing the double team, Odom was forced to play more on the perimeter. It was Odom and Bynum posting up and creating from the inside that got the Lakers an early lead. This adjustment hurt some of the Laker momentum.
Later, Seattle mixed in some zone defense to disrupt the Lakers offense. This also changed the pace of the game and removed a lot of the backdoor cuts that Luke Walton and other Lakers were getting. The zone seemed to confuse the Lakers a little bit, who started throwing careless cross-court passes that the Sonics easily picked off. Maybe the early glow of a 20-point lead played a part, but the Lakers were lacking patience in the Triangle and went fell into relying on "Kobe-on-Five."
With Kobe not nearly at full strength (rejected by the rim on a dunk, airballing a driving lay-up), the "Kobe-on-Five" hardly workd.
Offensive Adjustment: Seattle went to small-ball and exploited the Lakers apparent lack of speed. Their offensive set was the basketball equivalent of a "Shotgun, Five-Wide." Seattle stretched the defense by running pick-and-rolls outside the three-point line with 4 players running the perimeter. The screen-and-roll activity drew attention from the defense allowing the two off-ball perimeter players to spot up for open three pointers. Chris Wilcox, Damien Wilkins or Nick Collison roamed the key area looking to grab long rebounds for put-backs.
Wilcox's athleticism caused the most trouble for the Lakers. He would simply out-jump the likes of Odom, Cook, Radmanovic and Bynum for rebounds. It wasn't until Jackson countered with the equally athletic/active Ronnie Turiaf that Wilcox was neutralized.
The adjustments almost worked as Seattle was able to rally from twenty down and actually had a five point lead in the 4th quarter. There was a long stretch were it seemed as though the Lakers had no defensive answer for Seattle's spread offense. Ridnour, Watson, Lewis and Allen all took turns hitting jumpers moving all around the perimeter, creating space and mismatches.
In the end, the hustle play from Turiaf helped rally the Lakers, especially two huge blocks as Seattle was threatening late in the game. Seattle lost, but these adjustments could help in Sunday's rematch at Key Arena.