Except for the second quarter, the Lakers were right there, battling with the Dwade-less Miami Heat. They fell behind by as much as 16 points in the third quarter, but continued to inch their way back into contention, reducing the lead to half going into the fourth.
The Lakers outscored Miami in each of the final two quarters, getting as close as four points within the Heat. Lebron James and Chris Bosh managed to close the visitors out, however, taking the game, 109-102.
Pau Gasol – Gasol had another double-double with his 22 points on 9-15 from the field, and 11 rebounds. He also handed out four assists. It’s not a bad stat line, but Gasol should have had more chances to score from his sweet spots in the paint, rather than the rest of the team launching 25 three pointers and only converting 8. He played 21 minutes of the second half and only attempted eight shots. After a 5-7 first half, the Lakers should have exploited Gasol, especially in the fourth where he was 3-4 from the field.
Jodie Meeks – Meeks, the Mr. Consistent of this season, has shown no signs of slowing down his roll. He also scored 22 points, on 7-13 from the field, including 4-6 from behind the arc, and a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. Late in the game, it was his three that cut the double-digit Miami lead to seven, and another which cut the lead from seven points to four.
Bench – The Laker bench hasn’t been much of a story in these long losing streaks, but tonight they outscored Miami’s reserves 38-27, led by Nick Young’s 19 points. Had the starters not named Gasol and Meeks produced more than they did, this might’ve been a different game in the end.
Not Enough Help – In the few games they’ve won, and in the many games they’ve almost won, the Lakers’ contributions have always had a consistent balance. There are typically at least five players in double figures, and more than a couple big men with double digit rebounds. Tonight, Gasol, Meeks and Young scored 63 of the Lakers’ 102 points, but the remaining eight players who got floor time, couldn’t only muster 39 points combined. The starting front court of Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly, who has been playing so well of late, only chipped in 14 points combined. And Kendall Marshall, who is surely scouted carefully, only went 2-6 from the field for his six points, but did hand out 11 assists. Jordan Hill, someone who was once looked to for energy and production off the pine, scored just eight points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Free Throws – In a game that came down to the final minutes, free throws were huge and tonight, the Lakers went 13-21. They didn’t do as badly as Miami, who went just 11-23 from the charity stripe, but clanking eight free throws and then losing by seven in the end? It’s disappointing.
So Close – The Lakers have been so close to winning so many games this season. They could be at least .500 with the number of games they let get away because of one bad quarter, poor free throw shooting or a senseless lack of defense in the closing minutes. It’s not the blowout games that are disappointing. It’s these winnable games that they always have within their grasp, but can’t seem to pull together.
Two more games are left on this road trip – against the Magic tomorrow night, followed by a Sunday after at Madison Square Garden. Then the Lakers come home to meet the surging Indiana Pacers. We’re 43 games into the season, folks. Boy, is it a long way to the last game in April.