THEY DID IT! THEY OUT-TANKED THE KNICKS! Take that Phil!
Since that win against the Pistons, the Lakers have lost their last three games, and eight of their last nine. Who has led the tank on such a dominant run? I'm glad you asked.
Tank Commander - Byron Scott
The Lakers' head coach ascends to the top of the tank once again, and to illustrate how, let's take a look at the end of Sunday's Lakers vs. Hawks game:
Screenshots courtesy of NBA.com
1) With a little over 20 seconds left in the game, following a full timeout by the Hawks, Scott elected to not make substitutions and stick with a frontcourt featuring noted defensive specialists Ryan Kelly and Carlos Boozer (at least Kelly was finally playing the 4 right?)
2) Schroder beats Clarkson, and Boozer attempts to help. Ryan Kelly is only just beginning his rotation from the other side of the basket/restricted area because..... I honestly don't know. Maybe he was worried about former teammate Kent Bazemore (who is 0-5 on the year from the spot he is standing in)? Did he think Boozer was going to contain Schroder? The last minute of this game needs a 2,000+ word oral history.
3) Kelly made it inside the restricted area to contest the shot! Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the tank, It was only in time to nearly land on Boozer as the two helplessly watched Schroder's shot splash through the net. You know what they say: offense to defense substitutions out of a full timeout within the final minute of a game don't win championships.
After Schroder scored, the Lakers desperately needed a basket to cut into the Hawks' 4 point lead with 13 seconds remaining,
Scott drew up this gem of a Wesley Johnson 3 pointer that glanced off rim, essentially ending the game.
Reading a book on Lakers history this week, I came across the fact that it was Scott who actually coined the term three-peat, despite Pat Riley famously being the one to trademark it. Those Showtime Lakers did not complete their three-peat, but with his third Tank Commander honors of the season, Byron finally gets to three-peat at something.
Bonus Vine: A look in on coach Scott, heralded leader of men, guardian of the Lakers way, using a late game time out to prepare and coach up his players.
Anti-Tank Mine - The Philadelphia 76ers
Sunday, March 22nd. The Lakers play against Philly at home on two full days rest without travel (their prior game is a home date against the Utah Jazz). The Sixers will be traveling West after hosting the Knicks on Friday.
The Lakers being less fatigued then the Sixers could be the type of x-factor that allows them score enough against Philadelphia's quietly decent defense (their 96.4 defensive rating is good for 5th in the league over the last 5 games) to eke out a win that Philadelphia has no incentive to contest.
With every Lakers win pushing them closer to falling out of the top five draft selections, and Philadelphia receiving the Lakers pick should that happen, Sunday looks more and more like a day that could be pivotal in whether or not the Lakers retain their pick. The Lakers tank needs to reload, and it needs some reinforcements.
Tank Reinforcements - Ryan Kelly
Ryan Kelly's inability to make layups- Heading into Sunday's game against the Hawks, Kelly had missed his previous 13 shots. The stretch big man bounced back a bit that night, going 5-12 from the floor...
But Kelly's misses this week were pretty special. First, there was his legendary sky hook against the New York Knicks that will surely be the inspiration for his statue outside of Staples Center:
Against the Hawks, Kelly (presumably confused by the site of a wide open basket) forgot to release the ball until it was too late.
Layups are generally considered to be an important skill for an NBA player to master. Ryan should get in the gym this summer and practice them, but it's fine if he wants to miss a few more this season to help oil the treads on the tank.
Tank Play of the Week
You had to know this was coming. Wesley Johnson with the most Wesley Johnson turnover ever late against Golden State. Wes has actually posted a turnover ratio of 14.6 this month, so maybe it should not have been unexpected, but shout out to Draymond Green anyway for helping out the Lakers tank:
A look at the bottom-five teams, the odds of the Lakers' keeping their pick, and a weekly sim. Courtesy of Tankathon.