Win back-to-back road games…lose first home game back. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but neither does this Laker team. After a thrilling win in Cleveland, followed by a come-from-behind victory in Philadelphia on Steve Nash’s 40th birthday, the team returned to Staples Center and started the game flat against a Chicago Bulls team who they almost defeated if not for a buzzer-beating Taj Gibson layup.
Just two games ago, the Lakers hit18 three pointers against the Cavaliers, followed by a game against the Sixers in which they only allowed 21 points in the second half. Today, the Bulls started the game 10-0, with the home team needing four minutes and six attempts to get in their first pair of points.
Chicago led by as much as 15 points in the first half before the Lakers cut it down to six by halftime. That dreaded third quarter, however, found the home team down by 19 and despite a fourth quarter in which they only allowed the Bulls 15 points on 27% shooting, it was too late. Steve Nash didn’t even play the fourth quarter due to nerve irritation and the Lakers took in their 33rd loss of the season, 92-86.
Laker Bench – Four players came off the bench and outscored Chicago’s reserves 62-19. The player who led off the pine was seldom-used-but-now-often-depended-on Chris Kaman. Despite the hilarious memes out there showing him stretched across the empty bench in Cleveland, Kaman didn’t spend today’s game lying down. He led the game with 27 points on 13-23 from the field, 10 rebounds, a trio of assists and a pair of blocks. After the Lakers found it hard to scratch in the first quarter, Kaman put up eight points in four and a half minutes of play. If he had started the game in place of Robert Sacre, the team may not have taken so long to put up some points.
Helping off the bench was, and still remains since he was acquired, Kendall Marshall. With Steve Nash and Steve Blake clearly affected by their numerous injuries, Marshall has stepped in to carry their load. He handed out 11 assists and scored 13 points on 5-6 from the field, including 3-3 from downtown.
Jordan Hill had another good game, scoring 15 points on 6-12 and grabbing nine rebounds and two steals in the process.
Starters – Unlike their teammates off the bench, the Laker’s starters were not as effective and productive, which explains their slow start. Nash, Blake, Sacre, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly scored just 24 points as a unit. Kelly was 0-5 and didn’t score at all. Blake played the most minutes on the team, 40:18, and was only able to produce eight points, on 3-12 from the field, 2-6 from behind the arc, and hand out four assists. He did have three steals, but he also had five turnovers. He’s nursing countless ailments and after having played as much as he has the last couple of games, his still recovering body was bound to catch up with him.
Discontinued Efforts – The Lakers allowed the Bulls to shoot almost 60% from the field in the first quarter, but still managed to shoot 50% themselves. In the second quarter, they only allowed Chicago 38% shooting and in the final quarter, just 27%. If they could only sustain their defensive efforts over consecutive quarters, or throughout the game in general, they wouldn’t need to perform just last-second heroics to pull out a victory. They almost won in Chicago and they almost won this afternoon. But “almost” never got anyone anywhere.
Steve Nash – Nash played just over 21 minutes tonight, and after stating how happy he was in the last couple of games to be able to move so freely about the court, the irritation in his nerve has returned. He says he wants to play this week, but there’s no telling what his body will allow him to do much longer.
Up next is Tuesday against the Jazz, a team who, despite their struggles, has managed to beat these Lakers, not to mention the defending champion Miami Heat most recently. They have almost the same record as the Lakers (17-33), but with this Laker team, opponents’ records rarely matter. Let’s just hope they have enough players to play.