The Lakers needed this win. They absolutely, positively needed this win. They needed it for their confidence. They needed it for validation that they were starting anew. And they needed it as a reminder of how good they could and should be. But even when Miami was missing three-pointer after three-pointer, and their layups seemed averse to the bottom of the basket, the Lakers couldn’t capitalize. The win that they needed became another loss with which they must own up to.
16 turnovers in the first half will do any team in, and that’s exactly how the Lakers kept themselves from controlling this game to start. Carelessness and the complete inability to guard the paint was their demise, as the Heat had their way inside, and against every which way the Lakers tried to score.
Pau Gasol’s Return – Returning from a concussion he suffered against the Denver Nuggets five games ago, Gasol came off the bench as a way to ease himself back into game action after being out for a stretch. It’s been an option of discussion in the media to bring Gasol off the bench to sub in for Dwight Howard. That way, the two aren’t on the floor simultaneously looking for room to operate. Gasol finished with 12 points on 4-7, four rebounds, four assists and a steal. He had time on the floor with Steve Nash, and it would’ve been a perfect opportunity to run some screen and roll sets, but the Miami Heat defense was just that good, keeping passing lanes constantly occupied, so Gasol and Nash weren’t able to capitalize as much as they could have.
Dwight Howard – It wasn’t a 31-16 kind of night for Howard, but 13 points on 4-7 from the field, 16 rebounds, two assists, a block and zero turnovers against a suffocating defense were a good effort.
Close game – Neither team led by double digits, and the Heat didn’t pull away until later in the final quarter. Though moral victories mean nothing to the Lakers at this point in the season, they have to look at this game and know that they have clear advantages over this team and can win the next meeting. Kobe Bryant had an unusually bad shooting night against a stellar scoring spree from Dwyane Wade and Lebron James. It’s hard to take advantage of the strength in the middle, when the ability to spread the floor is compromised by an off night of shooting.
Turnovers – 16 turnovers in the first half alone for the Lakers led to 19 points for the Heat. Credit Miami’s defense, but place blame on pure carelessness as well. There is no excuse for committing five turnovers before the Lakers even scored their third and fourth points.
Kobe Bryant (first half) – 2-9 from the field in the first half for four points. It wasn’t a stellar night for the Mamba, and right after his new commercial premiered too. The new tagline reads CountOnKobe, and the team especially got what they wanted from him in the fourth quarter. Bryant hit 5-9 from the field, not to mention 3-4 from downtown, but it wasn’t enough to get them over the hump.
Paint ballin’ – 68-28, that is how much Miami outscored the Lakers in the paint. It was dunk after dunk, layup after layup with ne’er a gold jersey to contest.
Miami Defense – The Lakers simply couldn’t get around Miami’s defense. Steve Nash was constantly hounded, as each passing lane became more dangerous a place to throw the ball, and Dwight Howard could barely get to a thrown pass because Heat players surrounded him.
Loss – The road to .500 is a long one.
Two wins against bottom-dwelling and, at best, mediocre teams is encouraging until everything good that came out of those games turns into the exact opposite in the subsequent, nationally-televised contest against the defending champs. But this is nothing new for this Laker team. They’ve hit every roadblock that could possibly hinder a struggling team – injuries (lots of it and in various parts of the season), coaching changes, system changes, new players, etc. These aren’t excuses for their difficult season. It’s just their reality, and sadly, they haven’t handled it in the most effective ways.