The Lakers have yet to win the second game of a back-to-back this season. Earlier in the year, the reasons for this failure were quite simple in that, the Lakers didn’t need back-to-back games to lose. They could have 2-3 days off in between and still couldn’t figure out how to win. The solutions back then were to get injured players healthy and then build team chemistry. The Lakers appear to have the chemistry issue somewhat solved, but the injury bug continues to bite, and tonight was the product of that still unsolved problem – a 99-76 rout by the Phoenix Suns.
No one new was injured, and that’s about the only high point to be gained from tonight’s game.
Short Rotation = Short on Energy – The player with the shortest floor time last night against the Sacramento Kings was Earl Clark, who clocked in for 27 minutes. Other than Jodie Meeks who played for 28, the rest of the Lakers played at least 34 minutes and Dwight Howard played over 40. Yes, it’s crunch time for the Lakers and Kobe Bryant will never be the first to use fatigue as an excuse for poor play, but the proof is in the pudding, or in this case the playing. Mike D’Antoni, despite having four players who played zero minutes last night, played the same 7-man rotation, until the game was well out of the Lakers’ hands, at which point he emptied his bench for the final three minutes. It was a chain reaction of one bad stat after another because of it.
No Ball Movement = Stagnant Offense – Except for Steve Blake, who shot 6-11 for his 13 points, no Laker shot over 50% and the team went just 33% from the field and 23% from downtown. The guys in purple had such little lift, they were missing layups and the field goals columns in the box score resemble that of an elementary school B-team’s stat sheet. Metta World Peace had 22 points last night on 10-13 and could only muster up 5-17 tonight. Dwight Howard, who only attempted six shots last night and converted four, took 18 shots against the Suns and only hit six. Steve Nash had another 19-point game but needed 17 attempts to get there. And Antawn Jamison, the star of last night’s contest for his 27 points on 8-14, scored just three points on 1-6 tonight. The Lakers’ offense had no flow and the ball had no one from whom to gain its energy. After 28 assists last night, the Lakers handed out just 15 dimes on 29 made field goals, topped off by the 18 turnovers that handed the Suns 22 of their 99 points.
Rebounds – The fourth best rebounding team in the league was outrebounded by the 17th place Suns, 55-45. The +10 came on rebounds on the defensive end for Phoenix, who only allowed the Lakers 11 second chance points compared to their 22. And due to their failure to control the offensive glass, the Lakers allowed Phoenix to score 18 fast break points.
The only other good thing about tonight’s loss is that the Utah Jazz were defeated by the New York Knicks, so the Lakers live to see another day in the eighth seed, plus get a three-day break before Friday’s contest against the Washington Wizards. With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol’s return still questionable, Mike D’Antoni needs to loosen his grip on this rotation, roll with the punches, if you will, and use fresh players off the bench; because if the Bryant/Gasol absence is extended, and this seven-man cycle continues, this Laker team may not survive another knockout like tonight’s.