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Good signs from Lakers' offense in win against Rockets

It's going to take time to get comfortable, but there good signs in the Lakers' offense that can be built around.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Houston Rockets last night on a Steve Blake game-winner which is surely the lasting impression of the game. Honorary mention to Houston's perimeter defense struggling, which has been another talking point after Blake stunned the Rockets.

The Lakers broke the game open in the first quarter and dropped 64 points on the Rockets. Some of it was Houston's fault, but the Lakers offense showed promising signs throughout the game. The team is still learning how to play together and under control, something the second half of the game and a blow 19-point lead can attest for, but if the team can identify plays that work they can start playing evenly throughout a games at a time, not halves and quarters.

This is a core of players who did not play under Mike D'Antoni last season, so it will take time for things to come together. But the blueprint sometimes glitters through on how the team can find success.

We'll start and end with this Playbook play on an inbounds play. Jodie Meeks and Wesley Johnson set two off-ball screens to create an open lane so Jordan Farmar can swing to the corner and (ideally) end with an open look:


Patrick Beverley is knocked off-balance by the screen and the Rockets' defense has to react to Farmar:


Nobody closes out, however, and Farmar sinks the wide open jumper. The play won't, and shouldn't, always create a high-quality shot. But it's a good play for the Lakers to lean on in these situations:


Video of the play:

Farmar had a big first half and his off-ball offense is something the team can build on. Here, Farmar is in the paint and cutting baseline as this Lakers' set begins.


Wesley Johnson cuts down and sets a screen on Beverley, freeing up Farmar to swing around to the three-point line:


Xavier Henry steps into Beverley's path and sets a second screen:


Finally, Jordan Hill sets a third screen and Farmar is alone at the break to drain the three:


Video of the play:

On a last Farmar, and Lakers' offense note, let's take a look at this pick-and-roll. Mainly because it proves D'Antoni's point that the screeners need to dive hard to the rim to help the Lakers' floor spacing and catch defenses out of position:

Jordan Hill sets a screen for Farmar and will roll into the middle of the key. Omer Asik is helping Jeremy Lin over the top of the screen to help contain Farmar:


This forces Omri Casspi to rotate in front of Hill to stop him from diving straight to the rim. Casspi was guarding Wesley Johnson, who is now waving his hand at the top of the break, completely alone:


Farmar passes to Hill and kicks out to Johnson. Notice how the entire Rockets defense has been pulled away from him? It's also important to note that Chandler Parsons is stuck in the corner because Xavier Henry is spotting up, but the play happens too fast for him to adjust his positioning between both players. Johnson makes the shot to end the first quarter on a high note:



That's why having a "dynamic force" rolling to the rim that can force opponents' defense to make mistakes is so important to D'Antoni's system. Video of the play:

The Lakers haven't find the kind of success they did last season out of HORNS sets, but D'Antoni is still seeking sets and combinations that can make use of the combo. The latest success story came on a play the team ran for Dwight Howard last season.

Pau Gasol and Johnson set up at the elbows and Steve Nash passes to Gasol to swing around the key:


Nash sets an off-ball screen on Parsons. Nick Young cuts away from the corner to the top of the break and James Harden shoots over the top in case Gasol is ready to find Young. That's a natural reaction to everything happening on the floor during this play:


Harden clears away from Johnson's lane to the rim and it ends with a nice dunk. Just like old times:


Video of the play:

These are all good ways to organize the offense and play to the team's strengths, but it's going to take time for the team to comfortably run these sets without looking like lost puppies at times. There was some good and there was plenty of bad. The Lakers are lucky to escape with the victory with 24 turnovers, for example.

But having things that work comes in handy. We'll end where began, with an inbounds play we looked at earlier but with Blake instead of Farmar:


There's your wall of screens while the shooter in this play swings away from the defense and toward the wing to catch and shoot:


Howard does a good job of reading the play and challenges the shot. Blake is too far away to have his shot altered, and while the defense did a better job of trying to recover on the play, it was still too clean of a look to change.


Video of the play:

That's the ballgame. Worked early, worked late.

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