With six seconds left in the game, and the Jazz up by just one point, Kobe Bryant had the ball…and it slipped from his hands. It was, in its very essence, the most appropriate ending to a game wrought with sheer carelessness and foolery. They lost to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday in much the same way they did tonight; with an excellent game by Andrew Bynum, but a so-very-so game from everybody else.
Aside from Utah’s Gordon Hayward, who scored a career high 22 points on 9-14 because the Lakers (ahem, Kobe Bryant and everyone else guarding the paint not named Andrew Bynum) barely paid him any mind. Bynum was the only Laker dialed in today – the Most Thought-filled player in a yellow uniform. Regardless of his 5-13 from the field for his 12 points, he had a career-high 23 rebounds, not to mention four blocks. He also played a team-high 38:40 minutes, but even despite the extended playing time, had the most energy on the team. If that knee bothered him on Sunday, he showed no signs of ill-effects tonight. The man had his arms outstretched, hands wide open and feet bounce-ready to grab every imaginable rebound available. Unfortunately, there was little help on the boards from the rest of the team.
Now let’s talk about THOUGHTLESS. First, the Lakers shot 38%, 31-82 from the field. Pau Gasol had 14 points in the first half on 4-6 but attempted just four more shots and made ONE in the second half. Why? Because the Lakers went 0-7 from behind the arc in the first two quarters, then attempted 13 more in the final two, hitting just four. Against a team like the Utah Jazz, who have but one Al Jefferson to contend with in the post, the Lakers decided to jack up outside shots instead of feeding the inside to get some easy points in the paint, or give themselves a chance to be doubled so they could kick out a pass for a wide open perimeter shot. It’s baffling, that at this point in their three-year long advantage in length, the Lakers continue to go away from what works. Inside-out – how difficult is it to remember this game plan, especially against a team who can’t match your size?
Second, they missed 51 shots and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, two power forwards, combined for just FOUR offensive rebounds. Ever since Andrew Bynum surged in his work on the glass, the efforts of Gasol and Odom on the boards have gone south. It’s as if they assume the rebounds had been re-assigned somehow, and that they would not need to exert themselves to pad that particular stat. Gasol averages 10.2 rpg. Tonight he had five. The Lakers, for the second game in a row, were outrebounded.
Third thoughtless item on the list – Kobe Bryant. He had six points in the first half, all from free throws. After attempting just one shot in the first two quarters, he went 5-17 the rest of the way. Did his 20 points, including a late-game three, help? Yes. The five assists? Certainly. The seven turnovers? Not so much. In some of those turnovers, he stayed back to complain about a non-call instead of running back on defense to help keep Utah from scoring. Was the officiating in tonight’s game any more questionable than the last game? Probably about the same. But as a veteran leader with a chance to help the team maintain some ground and rebuild the momentum from the last loss, he chose inopportune moments to complain. Save it for a timeout or during free throws, not when the opposing player who stole the ball from you has run off to score on the other end.
Next thoughtless item – the absent Laker bench. Without Lamar Odom’s 11 points, the combination of Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Luke Walton produced just eight points on 4-14 from the field, three rebounds and five assists (all from Blake). The reserves can’t seem to be trusted to maintain, let alone increase a lead, and it’s an area of concern moving forward. How can any of these players be trusted with the game on the line when the playoffs come around?
Lastly – 19 turnovers, because the 20 turnovers in the Denver game clearly weren’t enough. The Lakers had leads of 8, 9 and 10, but suffered at the hands of their own carelessness. Utah’s 13 steals accounted for some of that 19. The rest were moments of sheer negligence. There was a whole lot of dribbling, a whole lot of passing in traffic and a whole lot of handling the ball like a Faberge egg.
The Lakers let another win pass them by because they didn’t care enough to play better – plain and simple. Tomorrow they have to contend with an offensive-minded Golden State team, not to mention the likes of Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Portland in the near future. Hopefully the 17-1 version of the team shows up.
Pre-game Thoughts: The Jazz may be out of the playoff hunt, but overlooking this team would be the Lakers’ biggest mistake. They did lead the Lakers by 17 points in last Friday’s game. There’s no reason to think they couldn’t do that again tonight.
Half-time Thoughts: 34-40 – Well, that 10-point lead in the first quarter sure disappeared fast. They gained a little bit of ground, taking a six-point lead to end the half and keeping Utah at 34 points on 33% shooting. The Lakers’ shooting isn’t so hot either, though – 39%. Pau Gasol leads the game with 14 points and Andrew Bynum’s already got 11 rebounds. Kobe Bryant has six points from six free throws and has only attempted one shot. I’d say it’s because he’s facilitating but two assists in 14:40 minutes of play isn’t anything to hang your hat on. Hopefully the Lakers open this lead up in the second half. Give Gasol the ball. He’s feelin’ it!
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Please see above.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Please see above.