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Coping without Kobe
Lakers have learned to live, and win, without Bryant
Posted: Sunday June 11, 2000 06:14 PM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
This is a special edition of the NBA Week at a Glance. It will appear every day until the NBA Finals conclude.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Los Angeles Lakers are a different team without Kobe Bryant. Certainly, they're not as good with him out of the lineup.
They're still good, of course, as they showed in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday night.
They're just ... different ... when he's not around.
"There's less urgency," guard Derek Fisher said of life without the Lakers' 21-year-old star. "All of a sudden, we have to play smarter. We kind of have to slow everything down. And it changes us defensively."
| SI's Marty Burns |
Even down 2-0, the Pacers have reason to be optimistic heading into
Sunday's Game 3 at Conseco Fieldhouse. It took superhuman efforts from
Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal in each of the first two games to hold
them off, and Indiana is confident things will change now that its back
on its home floor. In addition, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant might not play
because of a sore left ankle. Here's how his absence could affect Game 3:
Weakens Lakers' half-court defense: Bryant is not only L.A.'s second-leading scorer and best penetrator, but he's
also its top perimeter defender. It was no coincidence that Indiana
committed just six turnovers in Game 2. Without Bryant to pressure the
ball and play passing lanes, the Pacers can get in their offense quicker
and find better angles for entry passes.
More looks for Miller: Though Bryant usually defends Mark Jackson, his absence could leave
openings for Reggie Miller and Jalen Rose as well. Brian Shaw did a
decent job of keeping Miller in check in the second half of Game 2, but he's
not as rangy as Harper, who would likely get switched onto Jackson. Rose,
meanwhile, wouldn't have to worry about Bryant's help D when he takes
Glen Rice off the dribble.
One fewer rebounder: The Lakers also would miss Bryant's rebounding. Indiana's slower guards
have had trouble keeping the long, athletic Bryant from hitting the glass,
especially on those long caroms that often result from errant perimeter
Bryant sprained his ankle in the first quarter of Game 2 on Friday night and did not return. No one knows quite what to expect for Game 3 Sunday night. He left the Staples Center in Los Angeles on crutches and was listed as day-to-day.
There is growing speculation that he will sit out Game 3 -- the Lakers are up 2-0 in the series -- to give the ankle rest and make him more readily available for the remainder of the series. Game 4 is not until Wednesday night.
Without Bryant, a second team All-NBA player and a first team all-defensive selection, the Lakers lose their second-leading scorer. He's the one the Lakers go to when center Shaquille O'Neal is bottled up.
When defenses pack in tight to keep O'Neal from dominating, it's Bryant who tries to disrupt the defense with slashes to the basket and good outside shooting.
Without him, the Lakers have to be even more patient in getting the ball into O'Neal, and O'Neal has to be even better in finding open men when he is double- and triple-teamed.
"They don't have a breakdown guy without [Bryant]," Indiana guard Mark Jackson said. "Plus, he's a superstar. You always miss that."
Offensively, the Lakers may not have to worry. Glen Rice and Ron Harper scored 21 points each in Game 2, though neither is the penetrator Bryant is.
Where Bryant may be most missed, though, is on defense. The 6-foot-7 Bryant often is put on the opponent's best ballhandler to disrupt the offense. He sometimes gets the best outside shooter.
The Pacers racked up 104 points against the Lakers with Bryant out for most of the game. That will win a lot of games, even against the Lakers.
The Lakers were 11-4 without Bryant earlier this season after he broke his hand. But this is the NBA Finals, against a team that was the best in the Eastern Conference.
If the Lakers are to pull this off, they'll need Bryant back in the lineup. And fast.
On to the NBA Finals Day at a Glance, which, on the day of the all-important Game 3, asks this: What is a retro basketball arena?
The answer: If you really want to build a retro basketball arena, you'd have to put a cage around the court, like in the old days. Somebody get Vince McMahon on the line.
| Still Shaq |
|Is he enough by himself? He has been so far. But with Bryant limited, if not all-out out, O'Neal will be sorely tested in this one.|
| Hoosier Hysteria |
|The good people of Indiana are basketball purists who think more of Bob Knight than of the NBA. Still, with native son Larry Bird running the Pacers, they're behind them. And you'll hear from them tonight. This is no Staples Center crowd. |
| That Ugly Five-Letter Word |
|Kobe Bryant laughed when someone brought it up the other day. But there are those who think the Lakers can pull off a S-W-E-E-P in this series. L.A. is halfway there. |
| De-fense |
|The Pacers have to find a way to at least slow the Lakers, who have topped 100 points in each of the first two games. But the Lakers should be worried, too. They gave up 100 points only 20 times all season. They've given up 100 six times in the playoffs, including 104 in their win Friday night. ||
| HOT: Shaq at the Line |
He's still not, say, Rick Barry. But O'Neal was 13-of-22 from the free-throw line in the second half of Game 2. That's 59 percent. Keep that up and he could eradicate Hack-A-Shaq in our lifetime.
| COLD: Reggie in the fourth |
In the first two losses of this series, Indiana's Miller is 0-for-6 from the floor and he's scored only two points.
| HOT: Lakers in the fourth |
While we're in the fourth, we need to point out how unstoppable the Lakers have been when it's counted: 19-of 31 (61.2 percent).
| HOT: Ron Harper |
The Lakers' old guy -- well, he is -- is 12-for-18 in the series (67 percent) and he's averaging 16.5 a game. Not bad for a guy who can't shoot.
| Conseco . A solid facility that reeks of basketball -- in the heart of one of the most basketball-savvy cities in the world. It's a good combination.
| Early start . Game 3 is almost two hours earlier than any of the other games. For you East Coast fans, that's a very, very good thing.
| O'Neal . Mark Jackson calls him the best center of all time. We're not going that far, but watching him in this Finals solidifies the notion that he's going to be dominant for the next decade.
| Sportsmanship . The Glance isn't saying we wouldn't use the Hack-A-Shaq "defense" if it came down to it. But we sure couldn't live with ourselves in the morning. This can't be good for the NBA's image.
| Double-technicals |
| Swish : They restore order and keep the hot-headed from getting overheated.|
Brick : Make up your minds, refs!
| Bird's substitutions |
| Swish : The Pacers have been in the first two games.|
Brick : He should've played Jackson more in Game 1, Miller more in Game 2.
| Jonathan Bender |
| Swish : The prepster-come-early is in the NBA Finals!|
Brick : Sitting on the bench, where he's been most of the year.
| Game 3 |
| Swish : It's a series, if the Pacers pull it out.|
Brick : It's not if they don't.
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