Just when you thought it was safe to get excited…the Lakers lose to a sub-.500 team. It’s a familiar scenario, yes? No matter who the Lakers are coached by and no matter who is on the roster, when the time comes to play a bottom-dwelling team, that team somehow finds their inner beast and makes it a point to play better, try harder. The Sacramento Kings were 3-7 going into tonight’s game. The Lakers defeated them in the last meeting (in which they played without a suspended Demarcus Cousins), but tonight they exacted some revenge, and the Lakers have only themselves to blame.
It doesn’t bode well for the visitors when the their two big men follow a 40-point and 26-rebound effort with a night in which they had no positive impact on a game. It’s also not a good sign when Kobe Bryant must shoulder the bulk of the scoring (more than one-third). And when the turnovers rear their ugly heads, it’s hard to do anything good.
HIGH POINTS (short and quick because the low points are a rather long list):
Kobe Bryant – It was another efficient night for Bryant, who scored a game-high 38 points on 11-20 from the field, including 5-9 from downtown. He was a relentless scorer tonight, as he usually is when the rest of the team is slow to pick up the slack.
Metta World Peace – When the Lakers have needed something to wake them up, an MWP three seems to do the trick, as it did today (for a short time anyway). Behind by seven points late in the game, MWP received a pass from Pau Gasol and he turned a seven-point deficit into four. He also had six rebounds, a block and just one turnover.
Jodie Meeks – He’s ALIIIIIVE! Whatever Meeks ate this evening, whatever routines he performed pre-game, lather-rinse-repeat. Meeks had 15 points on 5-9 from the field, with 3-6 from downtown.
No Bigs Deal – After such a huge night in their win over the Brooklyn Nets, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard barely made any ripples in the flow of tonight’s game. They combined for a mere 15 points on 5-14 from the field. Despite Gasol’s corner three, there wasn’t much that the Lakers’ big men contributed. Last night they joined to grab 26 rebounds. Tonight – 18. Versus Demarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, Howard and Gasol should have overpowered their counterparts, which brings us to another issue…
Points in the Paint – There is no excuse for the Kings outscoring the Lakers 50-22 in the paint when they’ve got the likes of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol on the floor, but it was layup after layup for Sacramento and the Lakers did very little to stop them.
Turnovers – After controlling their mistakes in the previous three games, the Lakers finished the first half with 13 turnovers and committed seven more for a 20-turnover kind of night. The Kings were just as guilty, with 17 turnovers to their name, but instead of taking better care of the ball and taking advantage of Sacramento’s mistakes, the Lakers played just as harried and took ill-advised shots that came too early in the shot clock, providing more misses and more defensive boards for the Kings.
Defense – The Lakers kept the Kings to 46% shooting for the first half, only allowing 42 points. Instead of continuing to capitalize on this respectable defensive effort, Sacramento followed their mediocre first half with a 63% shooting second half, in which they scored 40 points in the final quarter. Instead of locking down on defense further, the Lakers did the exact opposite and let their opponents run freely.
Balance – The Kings had a lot and the Lakers had very little. Sacramento had six players in double figures, led by Marcus Thornton’s 23 points. The Lakers had three players in double figures and their bench was outscored 49-19.
It’s hard to accept the Lakers’ most recent upswing when they follow it with a dip such as tonight’s loss. They still have a lot to learn, are still operating with an incomplete roster, and still need to awaken their defensive instincts. Was the last 5-1 record a sham? Of course not – they are definitely better than they were 7-8 games ago, but it’s obvious they’re still missing a few ingredients to make this season really cook. For anyone keeping track, the Lakers are 0-3 on the road, but they’ll get another taste of tough play on Friday against the Grizzlies in Memphis.
Until then, Happy Thanksgiving, Laker Nation!