Alright, who flipped the switch back to off? Someone tell that guy that the season’s not done yet.
There is nothing like a 0-3 losing record to make that 17-1 start post-All-Star break practically forgettable. After that unbelievable beginning to the second “half” of the regular season, with the Lakers beating to a mushy pulp every team who got in their way; where every analyst claimed no team could beat them; when Lamar Odom was playing head and shoulders above the rest to in campaign for that Sixth Man of the Year award, the defending champs decided to throw up a trio of stinkers that has all but made that dominating run seem like a mirage.
For a month and a half, the 4-game losing streak in November was a distant memory. The 3-game slide to end the year was a mere hiccup. The 3-game bad spell right before the All-Star break was a wake-up call. So how do we categorize the latest 3-game losing streak right before the post-season? Let’s call a spade a spade – this new streak is, in short, bad news. It should be a cause for some concern and it doesn’t matter how badly the Lakers ended last year’s regular season but still managed to take the title. This is a new season filled with much more challenging obstacles than last year’s championship run.
In the last four days, the Lakers have retreated back to their old ways – playing against the scouting report, showing very little interest in playing the right way, ignoring their strengths and forcing their weaknesses to suddenly turn a new leaf. If the Lakers are the hare, then Denver, Utah and Golden State are the tortoise; a contest between talent and effort, and we all know which quality won in the end.
The Lakers started the game 18-8, similar to their start last night against the Jazz. But after shooting 52% in the first quarter and allowing the Warriors to shoot just 24% from the field, the visiting bench entered the game and helped the home team get back into it. To say what a liability the Laker reserves are at this crucial time in the season would be an understatement. The only things the Killer B’s are eliminating are themselves…right out of the rotation. Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown have all but lost their outside shooting abilities, not to mention that spark that Phil Jackson always looks for the bench to provide. The only spark they’re igniting is a fire of confidence in the opposing team. 5-18 – that’s what the Killer B’s shot from the field today. The bench leader, Lamar Odom, didn’t have a great night either, going just 3-7 for his eight points and again with the single digit rebounds, not to mention six turnovers. The version of Odom in the last two games is eerily reminiscent of his inconsistent days last season, when there was no telling how much or how little would come from him. This season has been a world of change for Odom, being the most consistent Laker since October. Tonight, however, it was turnover after turnover, ONE offensive rebound.
And again with the zero offensive execution. Pau Gasol was 7-11 from the field for his 18 points and Andrew Bynum was 5-5 for his 13. Why, for the 100 millionth time, don’t these two 7-footers get more opportunities to score?! This strength in size thing that the Lakers have is such an exhausting theme to keep pointing out because the team doesn’t seem to grasp that it’s 100% foolproof…ALL DAY, EVERYDAY. They would rather attempt 19 three-pointers and miss 14, than give the ball to their big men who shot a combined 12-16 from the field.
The downside to Pau Gasol’s offensive performance? Again…again…again…his work (or lack thereof) on the glass. A defensive rebound to end the first half gave Gasol his 4th rebound when Bynum had, by that time, collected 13 boards en route to his 17. Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Gasol TOGETHER had 17 rebounds. There were moments in the game, where Gasol or Odom’s eyes merely tracked the trajectory of a ball, only to have them land or snatched by a Warrior who did more moving than watching. Gasol and Odom used to be rebounding machines. Are they…done with that aspect of their games?
The Warriors locked up this game when they went up by 19 points in the second half, and not even a late-game show of attempted heroics by Kobe Bryant (25 points on 10-20, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) could save the Lakers tonight; not when they start early but finish late; not when they hand out 17 assists but commit 17 turnovers; not when they get outrebounded by a team whose biggest player is 6’10″ and doesn’t even average three rebounds a game.
Next up are the Trailblazers at the Rose Garden. If these last three games are any indication of what is to come in that arena full of curses, the Lakers could be looking at a seeding south of that #2 spot. Maybe Dallas can’t possibly catch them. Then again, who knew the Lakers would get close to overtaking the Spurs a month ago? Just sayin’…
Pre-game Thoughts: Keep the turnovers to a minimum, help Drew on the boards and for goodness sakes, work the offense from the inside out. Golden State is a running/jump shooting team. Prevent run-outs.
Half-time Thoughts: 38-43 – Again with the early lead and again losing that lead. Again with the turnovers in bunches and again getting outrebounded by a team who has no business outrebounding them. Lakers shot 52% from the field after the first quarter but fell to 41% after half because the ball continues to get thrown away. Golden State is shooting just 39% but have had 15 more attempts because of 11 Laker turnovers. Andrew Bynum has 13 of the Lakers’ 24 rebounds, with Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Ron Artest combining for six boards. SIX rebounds from three forwards. Monta Ellis is getting anything he wants out there. Lakers defense always takes a hit when Bynum is on the bench.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: For the third game in a row, who WASN’T thoughtless other than Andrew Bynum?
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: The Golden State Warriors, for showing up teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trailblazers and now the Lakers. For a team not even eligible to play in the post-season, the Warriors showed more heart and more smarts than teams who seem to have gotten so overconfident that effort has fallen by the wayside.