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Slight edge for Lakers

Justin Marville

Slight edge for Lakers

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NATION basketball reporter Justin Marville previews the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association’s Premier League playoffs by looking at the first round series between Lumber Company Lakers and Roll-A-Way St John’s Sonics.
Of course, the easy thing to do here would be to cite Lakers’ three league titles, speak at length about their vast wealth of postseason experience, then detail the champs’ superior depth before writing off St John’s as mere playoff fodder in an expected 2-0 sweep.
But I don’t subscribe. And I suspect a certain set of Gall Hill residents don’t either.
No matter how you look at it, this is going to be one tough series, so much so that I believe this showdown would have been the best finals match-up available, given the current playoff field.
That said, Lakers still have to start as favourites – though not heavy ones in my eyes – as their combined playoff experience and the ridiculous depth of their bench aren’t points to scoff at.
This is a team that knows all about winning when it matters most, having now gone to eight straight postseasons while appearing in five of the last six league finals – winning three of them, including last year’s.
And this outfit is even better than the 2011 version after adding future national swingman Mark Bridgeman and heady point guard Akeem Williams to a bench which already boasts a top ten player in Ricardo “Howard” Jemmott and Keefe Birkett, the country’s top marksman.
Efficient offence
Together with Andre Lockhart, Adrian Allman and Ian Alexander, they combine to form the league’s most dangerous yet efficient offence – one predicated on quick ball movement, the ability to consistently knock down long jumpers and the speed of its players to take advantage of every transition opportunity presented.
There’s just one problem though: that same offence can get very one-dimensional with all those jump shooters as only three players on that supposedly deep roster can routinely create their own shot.
As Warriors exposed in both regular season match-ups, Lakers can be prone to prolonged droughts once you’re committed to chasing their guards off the line and sending them towards the paint as most of them lack the ability – and desire – to finish in traffic around the ring.
This option would actually be ideal for Sonics if they didn’t feature the world’s two worst shot-blocking six-foot-nine forwards ever in Akeem Marsh and George Haynes, but that isn’t to suggest that their perimeter players should forget about directing the Lakers guards toward the painted area.
And it’s not like the champs could counteract that action by driving and dishing for big men Omari Corbin, Ormond Haynes and Andre Boadu, none of whom list efficiently scoring contested attempts around the basket as one of their strengths.
Then, they have other problems – big problems that are only intensified by the presence of both Marsh and Haynes on the same frontline.
Lakers have always had their fair share of issues defending big frontcourts, or even rebounding against them, and Sonics own the biggest and best one in the game right now.
A handful
Marsh alone has proved a handful (see last year’s 45-point explosion) for the Husbands men, who’ve found it near impossible to check the skilled forward since his days with schoolboys when he almost engineered an epic first-round upset in 2008.
Pair him with Haynes – another top five player – and Lakers are basically in a quandary as to how to defend Marsh in his favoured high post and yet still deal with a low-post beast that is Haynes around the ring.
Ormond Haynes, probably the best defensively among Lakers’ big men, is too short at 6’1” to bother either Marsh or Haynes, who can both shoot over him easily.
Jemmott won’t be able to consistently come over for his trademark weak-side blocks either, as it means he will be leaving one of those Sonics forwards under the ring alone with a guard that has rotated from the perimeter.
That leaves the Lakers with the option of playing zone (something they have totally abandoned for three seasons now) or having their guards sag off Sonics’ perimeter players to help congest the paint (something Lockhart does against anyone he marks even without instruction).
It’s here that this series is going to be decided (well, this and Sonics’ ability to limit turnovers) as Sonics are going to have to make enough outside shots to keep Lakers’ guards honest or make them pay for clogging for the key.
And that means head coach Terry Inniss absolutely cannot deploy anyone on the perimeter outside of guards Jeff Trotman, Chiamaka Browne, Stefan Clarke and Rommel “Earth” Garnes – the only real deep threats on this Sonics roster.
Then, when Inniss is eventually forced to put Dwayne Kellman, Philip Harewood and Shane Whittaker on the court, it has to be as a “small-ball” power forward to spell either Haynes or Marsh, because neither is good enough on the perimeter to warrant Lakers’ attention past ten feet from the bucket.
Sonics shouldn’t go any deeper in their bench either, or risk having Lakers’ “always-ready” guards feast off the turnover-prone Damien Waithe and Kevin Mason.
PREDICTION: Lakers to win.
I don’t like going with the champs to win this one when almost every variable on the court is pointing to a series win for Sonics, as depth is usually not an issue in the playoffs when rosters rarely go past the ninth player.
But George Haynes isn’t 100 per cent, and I don’t trust Inniss to keep his several non-shooting threats from playing perimeter positions. This series will also come down to maximising possessions, and no one does it better than these Lakers.