Games like tonight have become cliché for the Lakers: Keep the game close, tie or take the lead as the end draws near…and then cue momentary lapses in judgment and let the opponent have the win. When will it change?
This was a completely winnable game, with the Washington Wizards and Lakers (sad to say because it hasn’t been the case in years) having close to the same record coming into tonight’s game (the Lakers at 7-7 and the Wizards at 5-8). No lead went to double digits and neither team was shooting lights out. The Wizards didn’t overpower the Lakers offensively, winning the first three quarters by margins of 2,2, and 1, and tying in the fourth. The difference came down to two simple issues: defense and turnovers. The Lakers didn’t do enough of the first and did too much of the second, and that cost them a victory. Washington won it 116-111.
Jordan Farmar – What a waste of a solid game. Farmar was the Lakers’ star tonight, scoring 22 points on 9-11 from the field, 3-4 from downtown, eight assists, a steal and one turnover. He was the hot hand on the team and was one of two players who finished with a + on the +/- column (along with fellow reserve Nick Young).
Offense – The Lakers’ issue wasn’t scoring tonight. There were, in fact, seven of nine players who scored double figures. The three ball was really working for them, mostly in the first half when they went 8-13 from behind the arc. They also moved the ball well, collecting 30 assists on 44 made field goals. Those were the only stats that kept them in the game at all.
Pau Gasol – 17 points, six rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. Gasol could have collected more rebounds, but it was an all-around good game for him. The stat that’s suspect are his five turnovers to lead the game.
Shawne Williams – Williams has been an anomaly for the Lakers, able to do a few good things some of the time, but isn’t doing enough more consistently. He hits a couple of threes in games, and then doesn’t do much else. Tonight he went just 1-7, 0-4 from three, two rebounds, two assists and a turnover. Perhaps he’s getting more playing time due to Chris Kaman’s absence, but he has to figure out a way to be more effective when he’s on the floor, because right now, all he’s doing is taking up someone else’s minutes.
Defense – I suppose after three nights in a row of good defense, the Lakers hit their cap because tonight, there was so little to be seen. The Wizards scored so easily, overpowering the Lakers in the paint 56-36 because there was no one in there to stop them from putting the ball in the hole. Washington shot 72% in the first quarter. Had the Lakers’ three point shot been ineffective (they went 6-9 in those first 12 minutes), the Wizards may have led by more than two in that first period. Moreover, the Lakers allowed yet another player to have a career night, with Nene scoring 30 points and point guard John Wall going for 31 points and nine assists.
Turnovers – Defense was a key issue in this Laker loss, but the turnovers just exacerbated the inevitable end. 17 turnovers gave the Wizards 28 points and a 21-7 advantage in fastbreak points. The very worst turnovers came towards the end of the game when the Lakers had a chance to take the win. With just over 90 seconds left in the game and down just a single point, and with possession, they committed a shot clock violation(!). About 60 seconds later, still with a chance to tie being behind by just three points, Steve Blake, who has been the Lakers’ backbone so far this season, made a bad pass that resulted in Gasol fouling John Wall and increasing the Wizards’ lead to five points.
Inability to Close – It’s happened in five of the Lakers’ eight losses, where they had a chance to close out a game that was within striking distance in the closing minutes, and couldn’t pull out the win. It’s difficult not to wonder what could have been had their closer been on the floor in those losses.
Next up are the struggling Brooklyn Nets and yet another back-to-back for the Lakers. Can the Lakers take advantage and go into Thanksgiving with a victory? With this team, there is really no telling.