"Spread" offense teams.
In 2006 and 2007, we lost to Florida for two simple reasons -- (1) they had more bigs, and better bigs, than we had, and (2) we couldn't get those bigs off the court.
In 2006, we had the suddenly-emerging Ryan Hollins who could finish anywhere within 5' of the rim -- on or above the floor -- with his reach and quickness. Hollins gave a solid effort during that game, but, without reliable post moves, could not put Noah and Horford on the bench with foul trouble. Meanwhile, without bigs who could play them straight-up, Horford and Noah could cut, catch, and score on us at will.
In 2007, the same occurred, except LMR, while stronger than Hollins, and LMRAM, even with another year of experience, simply could not get the Gator bigs to burn energy and fouls on the D end, resulting in another premature exit for our guys.
Fast forward to now, where 2008 Pac-10 POY KLove is the closest thing L.A. has seen to early-2000s-level Shaq: a big-man who commands double teams and has the mass, strength, and moves to score through and in spite of fouls -- whether on 3-point plays or 2-shot fouls.
Add that to the always versatile LMRAM at the 4 and his growing slash and backdoor cut game (just not his outside spot-ups, ugh), the energy-drink games of AA2 and LMR off the bench, and we are better-equipped to handle the double-big style attack. Look at KLove's foul-drawing work against BLo Stanford in Game 1, and the same agaisnt RLo in Game 2, OT be damned.
Now? Well, we have a new problem, and it's one that football fans should know well -- the spread offense.
The teams that have hit us hardest this year have shared one common trait -- freakish perimeter speed and athleticism.
The teams that have been our toughest matchups have been the ones with the athletes and speedsters -- or one nightmarishly fast one -- who can break our guys down off the dribble and create, slash, or dish and catch us off-balance.
Texas with D.J. Augustin.
U$C with Davon Jefferson.
Cal with more slams than a Wack-a-Mole game at Chuck E. Cheese.
OK, that last one may have been a stretch, but come on -- whether it was from our own post-Cardinal fatigue or whatever, we let a LOT of perimeter players get inside the perimeter.
Those forays into the lane came from either DC or RW or JS getting beat by a series of screens and shoves, or our bigs not sliding over and cutting off the lane.
I've already commented on our perimeter concerns earlier in the year, but I think it bears continued examination...
...along with some thoughts on how to correct/ safeguard against it:
(1) Continued PG pressure.
As has been said before, by CBH and others, the entire defensive gameplan starts with DC. He is not only a one-man press breaker, but he's a one-man press, with spider-like arms and sprinter's speed on recovery (Thank you, Ma and Pa Collison!). Of course, both DC AND our newly-awarded Pac-10 DPOY RW are capable of disrupting opposing offensive sets just by challenging the PG right at the halfcourt line. Keep forcing the other team to start running their offense at 20-21 seconds left on the shot clock, instead of at the 25-26 mark, and it catches up to them.
(2) Renewed rebounding.
Stanford outrebounded us by 3 at our place. Cal, without Hardin, was only outboarded by 5. On a team with talented/ tested bigs like KLove, LMRAM, AA2, LMR, and inconsistent outside shooting from our Beloved Perimeter Trinity of the Father (DC), the Son (RW), and the Holy Shipp(!) (JS), rebounding not only gives us putback points (points which saved us against Cal in the closing minute) but leads to transition points -- points which, from here on out, are at a premium for us. As Pat Riley once said, no rebounds, no rings.
(3) Continued big-man hedging.
I think that I shall never see, a poem more lovely than a guard getting thumped against Mata's knee. Although we risk having our bigs out of position, a key part of our defensive philosophy, right up there with tight man D and doubling the post, is a big-man hedging on screen and rolls. I realize KLove can't do that all the time without being left on an island and the basket unprotected, but I would love to see more of AA2 in the game to do this against fast guards, and Keefe getting more time to do this, too. With 5 guys capable of rotating at the 4 and 5, I don't want us leaving fouls on the bench. If we can make it harder and harder for the opposing point guards to run screen and roll by having a 6-8, 235-lb or heavier guy force them back 5-7 feet every time, then let's do it. In particular, AA2 is probably the fastest big on the team behind LMRAM, so even if it occasionally results in a ticky-tack foul, I want his energy used up out there to help conserve fuel for our woefully short backcourt rotation.
If we can't maintain a full 40 minutes of perimeter pressure with out backcourt stalwarts, the disrupting force has to come elsewhere. One of our biggest strengths is, well, our strength. Let's use the strength where most teams would least expect it.
OK, enough from me. Feedback is welcome.