Fill-Em-Up: Kobe Off, Ron Out, Phil Denial

Because they are the Lakers, the notion persists that 0-2 sputtering cannot have been inflicted from the outside, that LA's a Ferrari in need of a fill-'em-up. In the cases of Artest's 'tude, Phil's 'trust' denial and Kobe's shot – which we'll study – even those unwilling to give the Mavs credit for causing the problems will have to agree that LA is in need of three trips to the service station.

Fill-‘Em-Up 1: DB.com's Nick Reed digs into NBA Stats Cube has some stats for Kobe versus the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs, as compared to his regular-season shooting:

Against the Mavs in the first two games, he's taken only 6.1 percent of his shots in the restricted area, and shot only 33 percent. He's shot mid-range jumpers on 49 percent of his shots and made 54 percent of them. His 3-pointers from the wing (as opposed to in the corner) are coming on 26.5 percent of his shots and he's making 39 percent of them.

Smile

For the regular season, The Drama Queen took 19.7 percent of his shots in the restricted area and made 60 percent of them. He took mid range jumpers 39.1 percent of the time and made 42 percent of them. He took wing 3-pointers 18.9 percent of the time and made only 32 percent of them.

So the Mavs (or Kobe's ankle or whatever excuse Team Mama eventually conjures up) have taken away the majority of Kobe's looks in the restricted area, and challenged the ones he is taking. Kobe is responding by shooting more wing 3's and long two-pointers. He's shooting 12 percent better on 2's and 7 percent better on those 3s, which you can chalk up to bad Mavs luck or bad Mavs defense.

Obviously, part of the Dallas gameplan is to "force'' (as opposed to "allow'') Kobe to shoot over a defender – and in a sense, doing so over the shorter Jason Kidd seems sort of inviting. Bryant also knows that Tyson Chandler is waiting in the lane to offer help defense, and is therefore more likely to end up out of rhythm and "settling'' for what appears to be a "good look'' … that is in fact about two-thirds less of a "good look'' (shots in the paint) than he was given by NBA foes over the course of the season.

One more observation, calculated up by DB.com's Mike Marshall:

In Game 1, Kobe's average distance of shot was 18.2 feet. The only "close-in'' attempts came from 4 and 7 feet.

In Game 2, Kobe's average distance of shot was 18.9 feet. The "close-in'' attempts? Just two more, from 9 feet and on a breakaway layup.

Kobe and the Lakers likely believe this is something they can correct themselves. The Mavs might choose to think they are having some impact here, even as Bryant as scored 36 and 23 in the two losses.

But credit and blame don't matter near as much as 18.2 and 18.9 feet do.

Fill-‘Em-Up 2: It's a reaction that makes it appear as though the inmates are running Phil JackZen's retirement from the asylum.

Lakers thug Ron Artest is reacting to his one-game suspension for Friday's Game 3 in Dallas – the result of his flagrantly dirty elbow/punch to the face of J.J. Barea – with insolence.



Artest was thumbed from Game 2 with 24 seconds left after the NBA's recently-crowned "Citizenship Award winner'' collected a second technical foul of the game with the bit of brutality.

There are jokes being made about how given Artest's poor showing in this series (especially in his comical attempts to shadow Dirk Nowitzki), the Lakers might be better off with Ron in street clothes.

Of course, JackZen's team needs all hands on deck right now … unless you really think Luke Walton removing his warmups for the first time all series is actually an LA plus.

In a normal world, Artest might issue an apology – if not to Barea, then maybe to his own teammates. … and if not for the suspension, then maybe because he's shooting 5-of-18 in the series.

But instead, after Thursday's Lakers workout, he repeatedly issued the comment, "Ready to move forward,'' no matter the question.

Fill-‘Em-Up 3: After Wednesday's Lakers loss, center Andrew Bynum announced that his team has "trust issues'' that are "deeply-rooted'' and include "all 13 guys.''

By Thursday, the Lakers had slapped Smiley Face stickers over Bynum's mouth.



"I thought he was speaking about ‘trusses,''' JackZen said, skirting past the issue, "and my dad wore a truss. I thought that's what he was speaking about. I don't know ‘the trust issue.'"

Giggly denials!

But humor won't fix 0-2. Nor will pretense.

Maybe the two-time defending champs are still a Ferrari, but the automotive industry hasn't made a car yet that runs on denials and giggles.

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