Do you ever read a sport article and wonder if you watched the same game the writer did? After Game 5 between the Lakers and Nuggets I read this column by Sean Deveney of the Sporting News in which he criticizes Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and believes, "the Lakers' difficulties have clearly stemmed from the no-shows of their big men." That is certainly not clear to me and I've watched every single minute of this series.
I can understand how he could come to this conclusion. He brings up what he calls "an ongoing chicken-and-egg debate" of whether Kobe Bryant stifles his big men by demanding the ball or do the big men force him to take too many shots because of their inadequacies. It makes sense to bring up this debate when you look at the box score from Game 5. Kobe Bryant took 32 shots and Gasol and Bynum combined for just 19. Bryant nearly led the Lakers to a huge come from behind victory with 14 points in the fourth quarter but it was not enough. But the loss should not be pinned on Gasol and Bynum.
The problem with the Lakers is they have no legitimate deep threats. Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes are a combined 14 for 49 from three-point range (under 24-percent). Without that threat, it's rare Bynum and Gasol even touch the ball without getting double or triple-teamed. In Game 5, Bynum had 27 offensive touches and was double-teamed 16 times. He'd usually be guarded by JaVale McGee, then Ty Lawson would slink off his defender to double and Gallinari would be spying from the middle in case Bynum spun towards him.
Despite being swarmed by defenders he never turned it over as a result of a double team. He played within the offense and almost always found the open man. The result was that trio of Sessions, Blake and Barnes either missing shots or passing up open looks.
It was a similar situation for Gasol. He had 27 offensive touches, was double-teamed 9 times and turned it over once as a result of the defensive pressure. Deveney criticizes Gasol for staying on the perimeter but clearly Deveney hasn't watched many games this season. That's where Gasol plays. It's not exactly his preference but with Bynum in the post there just isn't much room for another big man to camp down there. If the two of them were that close together it would be even easier to defend them. So instead, he sacrifices and directs the offense from the top of the key. And for what it's worth he is quite good at that. He's averaging 4.6 assists in the series. On Tuesday he did miss a handful of midrange jumpers but he shouldn't be criticized for taking those shots. Those are shots he can and will usually make.
The big men do deserve some criticism for their defensive efforts. McGee torched them for 21 points on 12 shots and when Blake was matched up on Andre Miller they didn't provide some much-needed help defense.
"It would be nice if Gasol and Bynum were really as good as they sometimes look," writes Deveney. What would actually be nice is if their teammates could contribute so they could be more effective.