By Craig Kwasniewski
The Lakers have attempted a shocking 90 freethrows in the last two games. I don't know what the record is for back-to-back games but that has to be close. 90 freethrow attempts!!! (See for yourself: 50 attempts against Dallas on Sunday and 40 attempts against Sacramento on Tuesday.)
There are two lines of thinking to this trend:
1. David Stern is *OBVIOUSLY* fixing games for the Lakers: Ahh yes, the whiner mantra from the likes of Suns fans, Kings fans and Warriors fans (who continue to refuse to believe that their beloved Warriors ever commit a foul.... EVER!). It's a easy excuse, the NBA's ratings have been down the past few seasons and Stern can smell an 80's resurgence with a Celtics-Lakers Finals. Mix in the Gasol deal and it's hard to argue against it.
Well except that the NBA just came off a major referee scandal last season and fixing a Lakers-Celtics Finals is the furthest from David Stern's mind.
2. Teams are getting *VERY* physical with the Lakers: It really started is last week's game against Portland at Staples. With Gasol's reputation of being soft along with the Lakers lacking any real enforcers, teams are starting to out-muscle the Lakers. Portland pushed and shoved Gasol out of his comfort zone on offense, relegating the Spaniard to the role of perimeter facilitator. Not really what the Lakers wanted from the 7-footer.
Immediately after acquiring Gasol, the Lakers were spreading defenses and picking them apart with open cuts to the basket and excellent perimeter passing. They looked unstoppable! Now teams are grabbing, clutching and pushing any offensive action in the lane, forcing the Lakers further away from the hoop. Against Dallas, they completely lost that offensive cohesion from earlier and spent most of the game dribbling into isolations in the post. Rarely did I see the ball flying around the perimeter... it was a Jeff Van Gundy offensive wet dream. All that was missing was a Georgetown center to clog the middle and travel.
Anyway, I see the freethrow explosion as more of result of the increased physical play. Just from watching literally 3 minutes of the Sacramento game, I saw 4 Lakers possessions result in freethrows from obvious grabbing and clutching.
BTW - one side effect from the recent physical play... a cranky Kobe Bryant. Maybe it's the constant bumps and knocks on drives or maybe it's the injured pinkie, but there's a new cantankerous and angry Kobe Bryant. He even had a mini four game technical foul streak going last week. Relax dude, you're on a top 5 team now!