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Monday, April 18, 2011
The Lakers vs. the Hornets' pick and roll -- Looking to Game 2

By Brian Kamenetzky

First things first: The Lakers are neither scared of, nor unaccustomed to, defending the pick and roll.

"Most teams see it as our weak point," Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person told me Monday after practice in El Segundo. "For instance, the second game we played in San Antonio, they ran 79 pick and rolls. So we know what that system is. We know [Hornets] Coach [Monty] Williams played in that system. He coached in it. I was his teammate in San Antonio. He went to Portland, and they run a lot of pick and rolls up there as well, so he carried it over to New Orleans."

"We knew coming in that we were going to face Chris Paul and the pick and roll," Person continued. "Over the course of this year when we played New Orleans, I don't think it was a concern. It's only a concern if you do things improperly, or out of the system that we determine is best [for us]."

You wouldn't know it based on Sunday's effort, but the Lakers are actually among the best in the league in defending the pick and roll. Via ESPN Stats and Information, when guarding the ball handler in P-and-R sets this season they ranked sixth in points per play and tied for fourth in adjusted field goal percentage. Against the roll man, again the Lakers were very good, ranking in the NBA's top five in both categories. Not Sunday. In Game 1, whether it was Chris Paul (1.5 points per play) or others (1.43 ppp, primarily fueled by Jarrett Jack), the Lakers essentially surrendered twice as many points per pick and roll as they did in the regular season.

Still, don't expect sweeping changes. As Kobe Bryant noted following Sunday's loss, the Lakers never gave themselves a chance. "We didn't do the coverages defensively that we were supposed to do. We just didn't do them. I don't know if we forgot about them, or if it was lack of effort to execute them, but we didn't stick to our game plan."

In Wednesday's Game 2, they aim to fix that. Among the points of emphasis:

When it looks right, Person said pick-and-roll defense should look a lot like a zone. "If you’re defending a high screen and roll, you have one guy in between the basket, one guy trailing [over the screen] so [the ballhandler] can’t shoot a three. They can go downhill and the other three guys are in an elongated triangle at the end." Everyone is ready to help, and Bynum is there to seal off the paint.

And despite Sunday's P'n'R carnage, the Lakers still found reason to be encouraged by their system itself, assuming it can be executed properly. By Person's unofficial count (he didn't have his numbers in front of him), the Lakers held the Hornets around 30 percent shooting on pick-and-roll sets defended properly.

Meaning the Lakers believe they were effective when following their rules, they just didn't follow them nearly enough.