Remember when the Lakers could score in bunches but couldn’t defend a lick? When scoring was not only the very least of this team’s issues, but a non-issue at all? Everyone could score, from Kobe at the top to DJ Mbenga at the end of the bench. Tonight, like the last game against Dallas, the Lakers couldn’t score if they were sitting on the backboard. And it wasn’t just jump shots they were missing. In one sequence, Andrew Bynum missed a hook shot from two feet away, so Josh McRoberts grabbed the offensive rebound and brought the ball up to the rim to drop it off, and it STILL didn’t make it inside.
It is moments like this that make us wonder if it’s just bad luck, perhaps an off shooting night…but two games in a row? It’s not a luck issue – it’s an efficiency issue, as in they have very little to none on the offensive end.
In the first quarter, the Lakers only shot 27% but still managed to stay within five points because they didn’t turn the ball over once in those 12 minutes. In the second quarter, however, they didn’t have a thing to offer but 17 points on 35% shooting and four turnovers, while the Heat scored 27 points.
The third quarter was more of the same, and the lead ballooned to 22 points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter until the Lakers finally started to get going. Bryant scored 14 of his 24 points in that final quarter, and the Lakers shot 52%. Unfortunately, by the time the Lakers got within 10 points, with still over a minute left in the game, Miami finally woke up to finish the job. The Lakers outscored the Heat 31-21 in the final 12 minutes, but by then, the damage they created for themselves in the first three quarters had already been done and there was no time left to recover.
According to the final box score, the Lakers shot almost the same percentage (42%) as the Heat (45%). They had the same number of assists (19) and almost the same amount of turnovers (Lakers with 14 and the Heat with 13). They even got to the line almost as many times (Lakers 16, Heat 18) and converted the same amount (13), and they even had a similar number of steals (Lakers 7, Heat 8), but the differences beyond that are quite glaring (see Low Points).
Pau Gasol – If there were ever a time for Gasol to be aggressive offensively, it would’ve been tonight against Chris Bosh. To be fair, Bosh isn’t a terrible defender, but Kevin Garnett he is not. Gasol tied with Lebron James to lead all scores with 13 points on 50% shooting after the first half. In the second half he scored another 13 to lead the Lakers with 26 points on 11-19 from the field. He even hit a three-pointer. If there were ever a bright spot to be found on as cloudy as game as tonight’s, Gasol really was it. Worn out from chasing Dirk Nowitzki all night on Monday, he only managed to score eight points. Tonight, Gasol was more active offensively, which is a welcome sight. If anything, it’s made us hunger for more of it. The downside, 1-4 from behind the arc, though it’s not the percentage that causes some worry, or at the very least, some question marks. Four attempts isn’t excessive, but for someone like Gasol who is so much more efficient from half the distance, it’s more than he should be trying in a game when most of the defense is probably concentrated elsewhere (ahem, Kobe on the perimeter). But let’s not rain on this Pau Parade. Tonight’s loss can be pinned on a number of factors, and Gasol would be the least of them.
Troy Murphy – The guy played under 10 minutes but was the only one, other than Gasol, who shot over 50%. He, in fact, went 4-4 from the field. He didn’t do much else, but on a night where his team couldn’t throw a stone into the ocean, Murphy did good.
Kobe Bryant – 8-21 for 24 points, not impressive. Seven assists, though, good lookin’ out. As he does most times against Shane Battier, Bryant struggled to get his offense going, and he did eventually in the fourth quarter when he shot 5-9 for 14 points and helped the Lakers cut the lead to a manageable 10 points. But as was the case with the rest of the team, no recovery could be made from their first-half woes.
Bench and Offense in general – Until Steve Blake gets back, or until a non-starter starts producing some offense CONSISTENTLY, the reserves will remain a low-point for the Lakers. That is the key word – CONSISTENCE. In Blake’s absence, no player beyond the starting five, has been able to score or even create plays that result in scoring. Save for the occasional lob to or from Josh McRoberts, or a pass here and there from rookie point guard Darius Morris, no one in the second unit is an effective playmaker. And though some will argue the need for an elite point guard again, I contest that, for the foreseeable future, the Lakers make the best of what they have and help the reserves learn a thing or two about ball movement, court awareness, etc. The team had an excellent ball handler and playmaker in Lamar Odom, yes. But seeing as to how he now resides in Dallas, the Laker offense is no longer his responsibility so we, like Odom, have to move on.
It’s unfathomable that a team with one of the best passing big men in the league in Pau Gasol, and one of the best players ever in Kobe Bryant can’t do anything about improving the Lakers’ stagnant offense. Was Miami’s defense good? Yes. Was it lockdown, Boston circa 2008 defense? No, but it did its job. By dribbling way the shot clock, making careless passes, shooting much too early, the Lakers reacted to the Miami defense instead of forcing the defense to react to them. Matt Barnes attempted two layups that were blocked (though I argue that one of those was actually a goal tend but who am I to contest the officials?…even though TNT showed it in slow motion over and over again, which clearly showed the missed call). After the first attempt, why not dunk the ball for a sure score and possibly even get fouled and get two shots?
Which also begs the question – what’s with all the jumpers? I alluded to this in citing Pau Gasol as the high point. The Lakers, especially Bryant and Gasol, have this effective post game, yet they felt the need to launch jumper after jumper. Bryant was 8-21 from the field, taking awhile (as in, not until the fourth quarter) to get himself warmed up.
Just looking at the percentages, without Gasol’s 11-19 or Murphy’s 4-4 from the field, the Lakers were 19-58 – 33%!
This game was doomed to turn out just as it did tonight, especially with the Lakers struggling to score so early on. Lebron James got just about everything he wanted in this game, the Heat’s 9-18 from beyond the arc certainly helped and they did all this without Dywane Wade. The Lakers were bailed out of Monday’s game against Dallas with Derek Fisher’s clutch three, but games like tonight are a reminder of just how much more cohesion this team is trying to establish. No one said it would be a smooth process.