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Analysis: Teams adjusting to Lakers' defense

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Dec 4 2008 2:57AM

PHILADELPHIA -- Over the last few games, the vaunted Lakers' defense, the defense that looked like it was going to turn a great team into a dominant one, has shown some holes.

Last Friday, the Lakers allowed the Mavs to shoot 51 percent from the field before holding on for a 114-107 win. On Tuesday in Indiana, they allowed the Pacers to pick up 24 second-chance points off of 19 offensive rebounds, with Troy Murphy winning the game appropriately with a tip-in at the buzzer.

Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the Lakers allowed the normally anemic Sixers' offense to score 102 points while shooting 49 percent from the field. The Lakers were able to rely on Kobe Bryant to help pull out a 114-102 win, but it wasn't nearly the pounding you would have expected coming into the game.

The Lakers are still doing the same things that they've been doing defensively, but teams are adjusting.

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"Teams have seen the way we're trying to play defense this year," Derek Fisher said after the game. "So, instead of doing things where it allows us to load up and keep them to the sideline and baseline, they're trying to bring a lot more action to the middle of the floor and trying to do a lot of stuff in transition where we can't get bodies set and people in the position that we want them to be in."

Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young did the work in the middle of the floor, getting into the lane and combining for 36 points on 15-of-30 from the field.

Meanwhile, Andre Miller did damage in transition. Miller's teammates got the point guard easy lanes to the basket by setting high screens on Fisher before the Lakers' defense had set up. The quickness of the action kept the Laker bigs from cutting Miller off, and he got to the bucket to the tune of 26 points on 11-of-21 shooting.

"These offenses are geared to handle the type of defense we're running and we're just a little bit late," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said afterward. "Too many layups, too many points in the paint."

In total, the Sixers outscored the Lakers 54-50 in the paint. Philly also picked up 17 second chance points off of 12 offensive boards to help keep the game interesting. After the game, coach Phil Jackson didn't hesitate to point out that Andrew Bynum (three boards) was outrebounded by his smaller teammates.

Of course, the Lakers' defense wasn't all bad. Pau Gasol's length was too much for Elton Brand to handle. Brand was unable to get any good looks at the basket and finished with a season-low three points on 1-of-7 shooting.

The Lakers' defense bent, but it did not break. When you have Kobe Bryant on your team, bend and not break is usually good enough on a lot of nights. Bryant led all scorers with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, hitting several big buckets in the fourth quarter when the Sixers were trying to come back like the Pacers did (from 16 points down in the fourth) the night before.

"When Kobe shoots the ball that well, we'll have a good shooting percentage," Jackson said, "because he's going to take most of the shots."

With Bryant leading the way, there's no doubt that the Lakers are a strong offensive team, but Fisher believes that that strength can cause complacency on the other end of the floor if they let it.

"It's a gift and a curse," Bryant said. "We do know that we have the ability to win games and score points when we need to score points. But, we all remember too vividly how far that got us last year. It got us far, but not far enough."

Jackson clearly agrees, and he clearly wasn't happy with his team's defense on this night.

"We are what we are, I guess tonight, a good offensive team," the coach said.

Fisher believes that now it's the Lakers turn to adjust.

"The chess move is back on us. Now we adjust and we keep figuring out how we hold these teams down under 100 points and do the things that we need to do."

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