Pre-Denver, Lakers Look to Defense

After one quarter of play on Wednesday evening in Dallas, the Lakers had opened a 31-23 lead with relative ease, getting and making whatever shots they wanted on offense, while packing the paint and forcing the Mavericks to take long jumpers on D.

Nearly all of those deep attempts happened to miss early, with eight straight Mavs three-pointers coming out, which ultimately ended up being a bad thing for the Lakers.

“It was one of those games that was fool’s gold,” said Kobe Bryant. “Playing well offensively, you’ve got a lead, but defensively you’re making mistakes but they’re just not making shots. They started making shots and took over the game.”

In fact, the Mavs would go on to make seven of their next eight three-point attempts, drawing within four points of the Lakers at halftime despite continued solid offense particularly from Pau Gasol, who had 17 points at the half. And while Dallas started to hit shots, the Lakers weren’t able to fix their defensive break downs, continuing their struggles at closing out on shooters, often watching from inside the free throw line extended while the Mavs stroked four more triples and increasingly more shots inside before finishing with 12 triples, shooting a season-high 55 percent for the game and outscoring the Lakers 30-17 in the decisive third quarter, and winning the game 109-100.

“We were making mistakes all night,” Bryant continued. “We gave them some easy looks and (they) shot such a high percentage from the field because of our lack of defense and defensive recognition. We jut didn’t do a good job of that.”

Andrew Bynum, who hyperextended his right elbow and had a contusion on his ulnar nerve (funny bone) but said he’d play against Denver on Friday, called L.A.’s defense “lazy.”

“I’m quite sure if you look at the tape everyone is kind of stagnant and just staying still,” he said. “And we didn’t cut off the baseline, and had guys rotating, we were just playing lazy.”

Prior to Thursday’s practice in the Mile High City, Phil Jackson said that Bynum was fine, and will start on Friday evening, albeit with a big bandage over his elbow that Jackson quipped team trainer Gary Vitti loves to make. His attention then returned to L.A.’s lack of defense, which he had his team go through on film prior to practice.

“We’re going over some of that stuff so that the bodies get moving in conjunction with the mind,” he explained. “Sometimes we’re thinking it and not moving, so our reactions were really I thought slow last night in what we did.”

And why?

“The process, basically, is to understand where the help comes from so that the players that are on the ball in position to be off ball have security to know how they can play, so they can be as active as they want to be because (they know) where their help is coming from,” the Coach explained.

That’s the governing theory, but against the Nuggets specifically, things are a bit different because Denver runs so many screen rolls. Jackson still wants his team to “put bodies in front of people and make them have to shoot with a hand in their face,” but recognizes that it’s more about handling the pick and roll, not to mention trying to keep ‘em out of transition.

“Their game is an open court game,” Jackson added. “If they get you in the open court, get a defensive turnover or stop, they’re a much better team than if you’re scoring and they have to set up in the half court.”

How the Lakers are able to execute that defensive game plan is where Jackson thinks the game will be decided.