Most teams in the NBA are fighting to keep their positions in the conference a favorable one, looking ahead come playoff time. The Lakers, meanwhile, are fighting to maintain a .500 record and, as of today, are failing miserably…still.
Two weeks ago, these two teams met in Philly and the Lakers won fairly easily, leading by as much as 18 points during the game and winning by 13. But those were significantly different teams than those who played tonight. One factor was Jrue Holiday, who was not activated for play back then. He, along with Evan Turner, made a world of difference for the Sixers. Add two quick guards who can score with the best of them against a porous (Swiss cheese porous) Laker “defense,” and the ending writes itself. Another Kobe Bryant 30+ point game didn’t help, and the lack of ball movement was detrimental. The ball found hardly any energy tonight, especially from the hands of the team’s big men, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, both of whom did little offensively to make any impact at all.
Now the Lakers are back to where they’ve been for the majority of the season, a sub-.500 team.
Laker Bench – A negative factor in the beginning of the season, the Laker reserves have come through for the team in big ways. Three players managed to play off the bench tonight, led by Jordan Hill. 25 seconds upon entering the game, Hill picked up an offensive rebound and immediately scored. He hit his first four shots and had eight points in the first half, not to mention seven rebounds in just over 11 minutes on the floor. At halftime, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard had nine rebounds, combined. Hill finished with 10 points on 5-8 from the field (including a handy midrange jumper), and eight rebounds. Based on his hustle on both ends of the floor alone, it’s not a mystery why Hill has been chosen over Antawn Jamison lately. As a whole, the Laker bench outscored the Sixers’ reserves 30-24.
Turnovers – Just seven for the game.
Defense – Their pattern is starting to become more and more apparent. The Lakers play defense when they have to – like when they fall behind and need to catch up, or their lead is dwindling and they need stops to maintain a comfortable cushion. They have yet to play a game where defense lasted 48 minutes long, and though they’ve had success overcoming deficits of late, this will not always be the case and tonight was the perfect example. With under two minutes left in the game, Bryant hit a three pointer to reduce the Sixers’ lead to two points. They needed at least one more stop and then a basket to get on even footing and put themselves in a greater position to win the game, but in the ensuing Philly possession, Spencer Hawes got the opportunity to score from the same mid-range corner from which he’d done numerous time in this game, and STILL, Pau Gasol did not rotate quickly enough and the Sixers added to their lead. This “play defense when it’s necessary” habit that the Lakers have created is a slippery slope and if they continue to be negligent on that side of the floor, victories will become increasingly more elusive.
No Energy, No Ball Movement – The Lakers average just over 21 assists per game, and tonight, through three quarters, they handed out just 12 assists, seven of which belonged to Steve Nash and the remaining five dimes a collective of the other seven Lakers who’d gotten playing time by that point. They finished with just 17 assists on 37 made field goals for the game. The Sixers, in contrast, handed out 27 assists on 41 made shots. Note: Kobe Bryant’s 36 points on 14-29 from the field was great, if not for the donut under the assist column
Big-less – 18 points on 3-19 from the field, that was the shooting percentage of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol combined. Howard did have 14 rebounds and five blocks, but 1-7 from the field? Gasol scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds, not to mention handed out four assists, but that 2-12 from the field did not help.
Downtown Downer – 3-22 from behind the arc.
So far, 2013 hasn’t been the Lakers’ year. Among their list of things to work on, certainly the free throws have improved as have their turnover tendencies, but defense is a huge undertaking of which they all must invest their time and energy in carrying out. Otherwise, that record won’t stretch farther than .500.