I went to bed angry last night. It’s one thing to lose a playoff game. It’s another to come out at home in a series opener and lose like THAT.
The same things that the Lakers got away with in their first-round series win against Utah surfaced in Game 1 Monday night against Houston. It was a recipe for disaster.
Lazy defense? The Rockets will move the ball, find the open man and hit the shot. Bypass boxing out? Scrappy Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry and company will sniff out the loose ball and give their team extra possessions. Rely on perimeter shooting? Houston’s defense will make you work. Open shots are few and far between, and you’ll be more tired if you ever do get an open look.
There’s no question which team is more talented in this series. The Lakers have the most talented roster In the league. But the Rockets proved in Game 1 that great effort and execution can defeat great talent.
Call it rust from the long layoff between series. Or call It an off-night (the Lakers shot just 11 percent (2-18) from 3-point range to go along with 63 percent shooting from the line and 44 percent from the field.
Despite all of this, the Lakers never trailed by more than 11 and even led by 1 briefly in the fourth quarter before the Rockets closed the game on a 24-15 run.
So, now that I’ve had some time to blow off some steam via text messages to my brother, an e-mail to my dad and several ranting tweets and Facebook status updates, let me offer the an 8-step recipe of improvement to help the Lakers bounce back from this ugly 8-point defeat.
- Start Lamar Odom.
The Lakers are crisper with Odom and Gasol than they are with Bynum and Gasol (or Bynum and Odom) up front. It’s as simple as that. Plus, Bynum seems to pick up quick fouls almost every game relegating him back to the bench anyway. Let Bynum play with the second unit where the Rockets really have no backup center to defend him.
- Get Gasol involved early and often.
Pau gives the Lakers a mismatch whether it’s quickness against Yao or size and skill versus Scola, Hayes or Landry. They need to get him the ball on the low block and let him go to work. Bynum going at Yao is not the way to attack. Gasol is an all-star and a better passer if the Rockets choose to double-team.
- Make an effort to get to the free throw line.
I’m looking at you Kobe. Five free throw attempts is not going to cut it. Yao is a presence inside, but you still have to challenge him. Take the ball to the hoop strong and stop settling for outside shots.
- Give Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar more playing time.
Fisher is not a good matchup against the Rockets’ speedy point guard tandem of Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry. Brown and Farmar have the speed and quickness to stay with them and limit penetration. Fisher brings veteran leadership, but his minutes should be limited throughout this series.
- Pass the ball with a purpose.
There was too much stagnant offense from the Lakers in Game 1. The Rockets are a tough defensive team, but you make their job easier when the ball is sticking in one place.
- Make someone other than Yao beat you.
Offensively Houston looks into Yao Ming on almost every possession. The Lakers need to show Yao different looks to complicate things for him. Double-team him on the catch one time, on the dribble the next, play him straight up the next time. Frustrate Yao and you’ll stifle the Rockets.
- Shoot with confidence.
Ariza, Vujacic, Fisher, Brown, Farmar…when you have an open look from downtown, step into your shot and put it in. Don’t think about it. Don’t hesitate. Just shoot it. There’s no way we’re going 2-18 from distance again.
- Show some passion.
Somebody show me that you care. Remember the beatdown Boston gave you last season? Where is that team that was poised to make this postseason different? Give me an FU dunk on Yao. Give me a good clean, hard, playoff foul on Aaron Brooks the next time he slithers into the paint. C’mon now!
For more information, visit MattHubert.com.