“The Lakers left their defense in Ontario,” my friend texted.
Looks like they dropped off their offense somewhere between Vegas and Barstow too, I thought.
Maybe they’re still getting over last night’s get-together in Sin City. Maybe all the experimental rotations are still confusing the chemistry. Whatever the excuse, the Lakers started the game well enough, then completely collapsed in the end, losing to the Sacramento Kings, 104-86.
Gasol-Kaman Tandem – They played the majority of their 22:23 minutes apiece in the first half, starting together for the second game in a row. So far, two games’ worth of the Lakers’ new twin towers is proof enough that this partnership not only works – it works well. The game opened with Gasol sending a lob from the top of the key to Kaman; a play they duplicated later in the quarter. Gasol and Kaman scored (13 and 12 points respectively), made plays (five and two assists) and kept their hands active on the glass (five and six rebounds). Gasol, especially, looks more comfortable playing in the last three pre-season games than he has in the last three seasons.
Nick Young – Young’s game is a little less refined than that of Kobe Bryant’s, but his footwork, ability to score from all distances, situations and body contortions, and most of all confidence are reminiscent of the Mamba and are just as exciting. Young’s been one of the more consistent players in the pre-season, and tonight he went for 17 points on 6-13 from the field, 2-5 from downtown, grabbed five rebounds, handed out a pair of assists and even got a steal. Young started in the small forward position and has certainly made a good impression on the coaching staff. If he continues this play before the regular season, his place in the rotation will be solidified.
Jodie Meeks – Finally! A relatively good shooting night for Jodie Meeks. With his threeball still warming up (let’s face it, he’s been lukewarm at best), Meeks did what he doesn’t do often – score at the hoop. In a series of cuts to the basket, Meeks was on the receiving end of hand-offs that earned him some easy scoring. He finished with a solid 19 points on 6-13 from the field.
Turnovers – After racking of 65 turnovers in their previous three games, the 10 mistakes tonight were a pleasant sight. The downside is that the Lakers had just two turnovers in the entire first half, but got careless in the final two quarters.
Defense – After allowing Sacramento to score 30 points in the first quarter, the Lakers tightened their defense in the second, allowing just 18 points before halftime. Unfortunately, short-term memory kicked in before the second half where the Kings rattled off 56 points. The score was 73-69 in favor of Sacramento after three quarters. It was a manageable deficit to start the final 12 minutes. But quicker than you can say turnover, the lead ballooned to 22 points, because not only could they not stop they ball, they couldn’t shoot it either.
Offense – Tonight’s offensive struggles didn’t mirror that of Sunday night against the Nuggets, when the Lakers tried to score from all over the floor, near and far. No. The ability to score this evening is due in large part to the 32 threes they attempted, and a mere eight of which they converted. Sacrament took 17 three pointers and scored on eight. Even Meeks, a three point specialist, is undergoing such disconnect with his longshot this pre-season, that he’s resorted to cutting to the hoop to get some easy layups. It’s a wonder why the rest of his teammates didn’t follow suit. Having done so might’ve won this game for the Lakers. The threeball was just too tempting, and as a result, Meeks went just 2-7 from downtown, Marcus Landry was 1-4 and Steve Blake was 0-8! After shooting just 38% in the first half, the Lakers finished the game at a paltry 35% from the field.
Rebounds – Outrebounded…again. A 50-38 disparity on the glass. Robert Sacre played 12 minutes at the center position and didn’t collect a single rebound. The team missed 55 shots and managed to get their hands on just seven offensive boards. There was talk on the radio after one of the Laker practices, that the coaching staff have asked the players to run back on defense as quickly as they can, often having to abandon their chance at an offensive board. Unfortunately in tonight’s case, getting back on D didn’t seem to make much difference because they were outhustled to the hoop regardless.
Steve Nash – Nash played just 8:34 minutes, sitting out the rest of the game due to a sore left ankle. Apparently, he’d felt pain in that area before training camp began. Hopefully this isn’t an indication of another lingering injury.
Lakers are off to China on Friday afternoon, and they’ll be there just over a week to play a couple of games against the Golden State Warriors. Here’s hoping another game of struggling O and D aren’t part of their travel plans.