Holes in L.A.'s D

If you missed it, Kurt Helin (he of Forum Blue and Gold fame) wrote a great piece for ESPN Los Angeles (they of housing-this-blog fame) on what has ailed the Lakers defense of late. Helin notes where the Lakers are currently breaking down compared to early in the season and some of the mitigating factors, ranging from the lack of Ron Artest to a run of games against teams with centers who can shoot (they'll see one tonight in Spencer Hawes). Still, much comes down to execution:

"...There are a few things going on. The Lakers have reverted at times to an ineffective defense used in past seasons: everyone collapsing into the paint to help out. For example, early in the second half against the Suns, Steve Nash came down and ran a drag screen (a high screen-and-roll very early in the clock) but used it only to get a switch, so Lamar Odom was now on the much quicker Nash. Then Nash drove into the paint off an Amare Stoudemire high screen -- Odom went with him, both Bynum and Gasol slid over to take away the rim, Kobe slid in and was one foot out of the paint trying to guess a passing lane. That all left Derek Fisher trying to cover three men at the 3-point line. So he stood at the top of the key. With four Lakers in the paint it was an easy kick-out to Channing Frye, who had plenty of time to drain an uncontested 21-footer... The Lakers have stopped "helping the helper" consistently -- if Bynum or Gasol goes to the rim someone needs to rotate to the open man. The Lakers have also seen a string of teams that thrive on the pick-and-roll (which is one reason there has been more Gasol and less Bynum for the Lakers because Gasol defends it far better) and the Lakers have never really defended the pick-and-roll well...

Against the Kings, who likely won't have Tyreke Evans, the Lakers will still have to mind guys like Beno Udrih and Sergio Rodriguez, both of whom have been effective this season for Paul Westphal and Co. Sacramento hasn't been strong on the road and will certainly miss Evans, but there are numbers suggesting the other guys can handle the floor when he's not on it. The Lakers can't take them lightly.