Sunday’s loss to mighty Lebron James and his Miami Heat will probably be a tough pill to swallow for the Lakers simply because the game was theirs to win. Despite the dominating performance of James and Dwyane Wade, a few miscues and lack of discipline down the stretch really killed the Lakers chances to stay competitive at the end.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers vs. Heat game:
Yes, it’s really about the turnovers.
Through three quarters, the Lakers committed 7 turnovers. In the fourth quarter alone, the Lakers coughed up 8, and ultimately lost control of the game towards the end. Some may credit Miami’s ball hawking ways, but, at least in this game, it looked more like the typical mental lapses that have plagued the Lakers all season. Yes, the Heat jumped a few passing lanes to disrupt the Lakers offensive flow, but some of those passes seemed lazier and forced.
Poor rebounding led to Miami getting second, third and fourth chance opportunities.
It’s almost impossible to beat Miami in a straight shootout, but one weakness (if there really is one) in the Heat’s roster is its lack of size and ability to crash the boards. Ranked 3rd in rebounding compared to Miami’s horrid rank of 30 (yes, that’s right, they are dead last), the Lakers should have dominated the glass. However, Miami crushed the Lakers on the boards 38-29 and there were a number of sequences where the Heat were given multiple opportunities to score on a single trip down the floor.
Earl Clark is earning his stripes, while Metta World Peace seems to be in free fall.
“Easy” Earl has embraced his new starting role and has not disappointed, averaging 12 points and nearly 9 rebounds over the last 10 games, while providing speed and athleticism for the slow starting squad. Along with Kobe Bryant, he has been one of the few players on this Lakers roster to bring consistency each game. While Clark is prone to some mistakes (due to inexperience), his game seems to be evolving every minute he steps on the floor, regardless of the opponent.
On the other hand, Metta World Peace seems to be in somewhat of a tailspin, and has failed to crack the 50% FG shooting mark for 13 games now. Some poor shooting decisions on MWP’s part is the most glaring reason for the slump, but he is even missing open looks. Let’s hope he can break out of this slump sooner than later.
The Lakers chemistry is simply not there every game, or even every quarter.
With such an injury-plagued season, building any type of rhythm with the merry-go-round of players coming in out of the lineup is tough. When this season is done, an argument could be made-especially when it’s time to negotiate with Dwight Howard during free agency-that this team was simply not healthy enough to put together a deep run in the playoffs. It’s not an excuse for the Lakers poor play, but it should be a consideration. Anyone that has played team sports knows that chemistry, along with talent, correlates with success.
With that said, it was amazing to see how well the Lakers played for 36 minutes against Miami, sans Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill. Ball movement, communication and efficient basketball really forced the Heat to play at a higher level. Remember, coming in to Sunday, the Lakers had won 7 of the last 9 games, so they really are getting it together.
Unfortunately, the Lakers may be out of time to really prove to everyone what this team can do.
Despite a 4-3 Grammy road trip, the Lakers are still in a good position to make the playoffs.
It’s not the end of the world, yet. Most critics and fans didn’t expect the Lakers to beat the Heat, but they played the kind of basketball that caught everyone’s attention. The Grammy trip was, for the most part, a success. However, the Lakers will need to continue to win on the road in order to keep up with the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers.
Having a bit of luck also helps, and on Sunday, Lady Luck delivered two big losses from Houston and Portland, compliments of the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic.
The Lakers have two games left before the All-Star break, and both are a must-win against the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers. If the Lakers can finish strong, it may be a strong indication that this team has really put the pieces together and are primed to compete for a playoff spot.