Thoughts on the game tonight?
Coach Mike D’Antoni answered simply, “We needed everyone to be present.”
Everyone. Not just Steve Blake, who hit last night’s game winner and replaced Steve Nash in the starting line-up tonight. Not just the bench who, relative to previous games, did very little to make the difference they usually make. Not just Pau Gasol, who has been absent on this road trip completely. Everyone…and there lies the source of the Lakers’ four loss of the season.
There would be no stopping the Pelicans’ (I still can’t say it with a serious face), Anthony Davis, but he alone did not lose this game for the Lakers. Until the final four minutes of the game, the victory was still up for grabs.
Sure, the Lakers didn’t shoot lights out from downtown (or from anywhere else on the court for that matter), but they played steady defense and worked their offense enough to keep within striking distance…until New Orleans dealt the final blow, a 14-6 run that ended with a 96-85 loss for the purple and gold.
Anthony Davis – Incredible. That seems the only appropriate word to describe this second year’s game. Tonight he went for 32 points on 12-18 from the field, 12 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a game-leading six blocks. He’s able to score from midrange, finish at the rim, play defense – he can do it all.
Chris Kaman – Since he played his first game as a Laker, the term “Steady Eddie” comes to mind when it came to Kaman. He just has a very solid, fundamentally sound game. He finished tonight with 16 points on 7-13 from the field, four rebounds, a pair of assists and another pair of blocks. It’s a real wonder why he didn’t play a single minute in the fourth quarter, where he would have been of great use to his team.
Steve Blake – Blake followed his game-winning shot yesterday with another solid showing tonight, taking Nash’s place in the starting line-up. It seemed that every time the Lakers needed a shot, Blake answered. Behind by five points in the fourth quarter? Blake hit a three to bring the lead down to two. The Pelicans follow that with a 6-0 run? Blake answered with yet another triple, followed by a jumper. Blake scored eight straight points mid-way through the fourth quarter to bring the Lakers to within three points. Unfortunately, that’s as the close the Lakers got before New Orleans went on their 14-6 barrage.
Pau Gasol – 15/13, 12/7, 20/11, 16/13, 10/8, 2/12, 9/11 – these are Gasol’s points/rebounds in the first seven games. He seemed to be getting a groove before they left on this three game road trip, because since then, he’s done very little. Yes, he’s rebounding and in some cases, it is better than nothing. But “better than nothing” is not good enough for a two-time NBA Champion and team co-captain. It’s nowhere near enough, especially when he knows that this team is struggling. It’s so disappointing, watching Gasol look so reluctant to step into the paint and go to work. Tonight, D’Antoni decided to put him back into the game in the fourth quarter, despite Gasol’s 3-9 from the floor up to that point, and despite the fact that Chris Kaman was having a great game. But in the four minutes that Gasol spent in that final quarter, he shot 0-3 and didn’t grab a single rebound, didn’t hand out a single assist, didn’t block a single shot attempt. Gasol, in these last three games, has been unrecognizable.
Bench – Just 23 points from the reserves tonight, who didn’t have the same positive impact on the game as they usually have. They shot just 8-23 from the field, and didn’t look at all like their energetic selves. Perhaps they’re fatigued, tonight being the second night of a back-to-back, but the Lakers have 17 more back-to-backs, so they’ve got to learn to pick up the slack when those times come somehow.
Three Ball – 11-14 from three were not. They shot just 6-19 from behind the arc, which seemed to deflate the play of the reserves, who shoot most of the Lakers’ three pointers.
Free Throws – Methinks the Lakers caught Dwight Howard’s free throw bug, because 17-26 is not a great percentage when you’re trying to win a close game.
The Lakers need to find a way to win these winnable games, and this game was, indeed, winnable. They kept it close until the last few minutes, but couldn’t keep their bearings straight with so little as four minutes left in the game. Like D’Antoni said, to win a game, everyone must be present and the Lakers, for all the teamwork they used to win last night’s game, could not find a stretch of time in New Orleans where they could work together.