Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lakers Visit the Alamo- Some Thoughts

What was Derek Fisher doing?

With the Los Angeles Lakers holding a 111-109 lead over the Spurs in San Antonio, and just 12 seconds remaining in the game, and the Spurs looking to inbound the ball in the frontcourt, Roger Mason popped out into the near corner to receive the inbounds pass from Matt Bonner. As Mason made his run to the corner, Derek Fisher tailed him, in great position to deny Mason a game-tying or game-winning shot. As Bonner’s pass came in along the sideline, Derek Fisher, as intelligent and savvy a player as there is in the NBA, uncharacteristically gambled by lunging for the steal, effectively taking himself out of the play. If only D-Fish had stayed out of the play!

Following the missed steal attempt, the ball got to Mason in the corner, with Fisher now behind him. As inexplicable as his ill-advised defensive was, Fisher’s next move was an even bigger head-scratcher. Now standing behind Mason, and with his own back to him, and Mason going up for a potential game-tying jumper, Derek Fisher backed into Roger Mason, who drained the 20-footer from the corner, and was whistled for a foul which put Mason at the line for the game-winning free throw.

It’s unclear exactly what Fisher was thinking- he may have been slightly disoriented and scrambling to get back into the play. Or he may have known exactly what he was doing, and his plan just didn't work out as he'd hoped. It’s probably safe to assume that he was absolutely livid and desperately looking to atone for his first mental slip-up, and figured that by running into him from behind, he'd give Mason two free throws for the tie, rather than allowing him an unguarded jump shot- a "professional foul". This may not have been the worst move had Mason not hit the jumper when Fisher ran into him. However, as the game ultimately played out, the bottom line Derek Fisher made two critical errors in the dying seconds in San Antonio, with one compounding the other.

A couple of additional thoughts on the Lakers:

With Kobe Bryant’s potential 3-pointer dagger, which capped off a great 8-point, 5-assist 4th quarter, which he classically followed up with the “Sam Cassell dance”, isn’t it becoming slightly ridiculous just how calmly and effortlessly he steps up and buries ridiculously tough shots in huge moments? Each of the past two nights, Kobe has hit a well-guarded 25+ foot 3-pointer, on the road against quality opposition. Other than Michael Jordan, has any NBA player ever conditioned us to expect him to hit every single shot that matters better than Kobe Bryant?

Finally, Josh Powell is a player. After being buried on the Lakers’ bench for the seasons’ first two months, Phil Jackson has had give Powell some consistent minutes with Luke Walton out of the lineup, and Powell is really making the most of them. In his past five games, Powell’s played 78 minutes (after playing just 96 in his first 17 appearances) and made 16 of his 27 field goal attempts (59.3%), including three straight in the final minutes in San Antonio as he and Kobe put on a pick-and-roll clinic (by the way, why was he taken out for the last three minutes?). Additionally, Josh Powell brings toughness and hustle, two qualities that were sorely lacking last June, to this Lakers team. Powell mixes it up in the paint, fights for loose balls and is generally prepared to do any dirty work that is needed. Glad to see Josh playing so well. Hopefully there is a place in the rotation for him.

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