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O HAI, Mike Brown: Further Thoughts On Lakers-Heat

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I'm old enough to remember when LeBron vs. the Lakers was a big deal. You won't believe this, kids, but in days of yore people thought this was a good matchup, a recipe for basketball excitement. Five straight LeBron victories later, few of them close, I think we can stop looking forward to these things. At least the NBA has stopped scheduling them on Christmas. If they stopped scheduling them altogether that would be nice.

Tonight the Lakers appeared to be nowhere near Miami's class. That's because they're not. The Heat are deeper, more athletic and unlike the Lakers have players who can make outside shots. It only took them a quarter and change to open a double-digit lead and make it all too obvious they'd be winning this one. The deficit was 15 at halftime and touched 23 in the fourth. The Lakers are now 1-5 on the road and have beaten only one team (the Utah Jazz) ahead of them in the standings. Those aren't the credentials of a championship contender, and at some point we have to stop using the condensed schedule and lack of practice time as excuses. They were rested up for today's game, and let's not forget that Miami was playing WITHOUT DWYANE WADE. They probably could've gone without Chris Bosh as well and been just fine.

This was the game, I suspect, that could make Laker fans start to turn on Mike Brown. It's not his fault that his team can't shoot threes, but there are large problems with this Laker offense. For three quarters it lurched along well below a point per possession. The passing was slop, there was very little creative ball movement, and nobody on the Lakers seems to know what they're supposed to do when a double-team arrives. The Heat didn't even double that often, but it seemed like whenever they did the doubled-up Laker attempted a crap pass that got picked off. Even after the Lakers put up 31 points in the garbage-time fourth they just barely finished above a point per possession for the game. I get that the systems are new and practice time scarce, but 16 games into the season no team with the Lakers' talent should be this bad at scoring.

As always seems to be the case these days, the Lakers had one reliably productive option. Tonight it was Pau Gasol, who looked like the Pau of old with 26 points, 8 boards and only 1 turnover. Kobe Bryant had 24 points but didn't shoot well until the outcome was already decided. Andrew Bynum did a poor job of finishing in close at the hoop. Everyone else was their usual terrible selves. The point-guard position, it's safe to say, has reached a dire state. Derek Fisher's game-winner over Dallas was a nice moment, but he's terrible. Darius Morris might be an NBA player one day, but for now he's terrible too. Can Magic Johnson suit up? He's 52 years old, but that's still younger than Fish.

The Heat did nothing fancy on offense. Just drive-and-kick, some pick-and-roll and sound passing nearly every time down. They cut the Lakers apart with three-point shooting and offensive boards. LeBron, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers combined for seven made threes. (By comparison, the Lakers as a team have gone a dozen straight games without making seven threes.) On the glass Miami simply scrapped harder and overcame a height disadvantage to recover 38 percent of their own misses. They racked up 15 second-chance points to the Lakers' four. LeBron's big night doesn't bother me so much, since he's LeBron. He has big games against everyone. The rest of the Heat, however, shouldn't be lighting up a Mike Brown-coached defense.

Since it's Pile On Mike Brown Night, we might as well talk about minutes too. Drew and Pau each played 37 and Kobe played 41. And keep in mind, this game was definitively over by the middle of the third. Even if there weren't another game tomorrow night - and there is, in Orlando - the Big Three should not have played in the final 10 minutes. You have to save legs when the opportunity arises. It's an important aspect of in-game coaching, especially in a condensed lockout schedule. Be smarter than this, Mike Brown. Losing by 11 counts the same as losing by 25.

Beat the Magic tomorrow and this two-game road swing will actually end up a modest success. Unfortunately, Brown's coaching decisions tonight made that less probable. Onward... I guess?










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