Not even an ejection could fire this Laker team up.
After playing through a 21-point deficit, the Lakers got to within seven points of the lead before the fourth quarter. They’d outscored the Washington Wizards in the second and third quarters and, with a bit of momentum on their side, could have taken over the final 12 minutes. But in true Laker fashion per this season, they clammed up instead.
Nevermind the strong, consistent efforts of Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks. Nevermind the contributions of the reserves. Nevermind the return of an effective Steve Nash and Nick Young. All were gone to waste in a game tarnished by carelessness.
The Wizards took the game in D.C. the last time these two teams met, and the Lakers couldn’t return the favor in a 107-117 loss.
Guard Play – Jodie, Jodie, Jodie – saves a ball from going out of bounds in the third quarter, tweaks his ankle but manages to get in place quick enough to receive a pass to hit a three pointer. The team’s most consistent player had another good night on the floor, finishing with 21 points on 7-17, not to mention four steals. Back from injury-status, Steve Nash and Nick Young put in a solid effort despite not having played for weeks. Nash, in 18:32 minutes, scored just five points, but handed out 11 assists and racked up four rebounds and three steals. Playing in only his 11th game of the season, we saw glimpses of what could’ve been. That’s all that Nash has been to the Lakers – a “could’ve been,” an “if only,” and “what if.” Young, finishing with 21 points on 7-16 and 4-9 from three, played like he hasn’t missed any games. Getting tangled up with Drew Gooden was his most notable moment tonight. The two were fighting for position, and Gooden yanked on his interlocked arm from Young. Unlike the game against Phoenix, Young’s teammates were quick to come to his aid. Pau Gasol immediately held SwaggyP back, while Jordan Hill faced off against Marcin Gortat, who appeared to have come to Gooden’s aid. Young knocked down his two technical free throws, and Hill and Gooden were ejected.
Pau Gasol – Gasol didn’t have a great shooting night, just 6-14, but he still managed to produce a double-double, 14 points and 14 rebounds, in addition to five assists. His 2-5 from the free throw line and five turnovers are relatively uncharacteristic, but the rest of his game was productive.
Bench – No matter how bad the Lakers as a whole have been this season, the bench has managed to shine through, win or lose. Tonight they outscored Washington’s reserves 54-36, led by Young’s 21 points.
Ball Movement – 32 assists on 43 made baskets. Funny what happens when Steve Nash is on the floor.
Points in the Paint – 58-40, in the Lakers’ favor. This has been a sore spot for the Lakers this season, but tonight they scored on higher percentage shots.
Rebounds – Both teams grabbed 44 rebounds, but on this rare night, the Lakers had more offensive rebounds (11) than their opponents (9).
Turnovers – Despite so many highlights in their favor, the Lakers couldn’t get this win and one reason is their carelessness. The Wizards racked up 20 turnovers, which the Lakers could have taken advantage of. Instead, they produced 21 turnovers of their own, giving 24 points to their opponents as a result.
Free Throws – 14-23 from the charity stripe tonight, 61%.
Defense – For the season, the Lakers are giving up an average of 108.7 ppg, good enough for second to the worst in the league, with only the Philadelphia 76ers who have lost their last 23 games. In their last 10 games, the Lakers’ opponents have averaged 23.8 ppg.
In order to avoid being the worst team in franchise history, the Lakers have to go 9-6 in their final 15 games. After tonight’s loss, they’re 0-1 so far. 9-5 over the final 14 – it doesn’t seem like a tall order, until we look at some stats.
To put this 9-5 goal into perspective, a few facts: The team’s last nine wins were spread out between January 3 and March 9, in which they played 30 games. This means that, on average, for every three games they won, they had seven losses. Anything can happen, true, but the way this season has gone, even 9-5 seems improbable.