This game started off about as poorly as it ended for the Lakers as they drop to 17 – 22 on the season. From the get go it was obvious that the Miami Heat were on a different level in terms of athleticism as they began the game with 4 straight dunks with little to no resistance from the Lakers. As the game progressed, though, the Lakers began to exploit their one advantage over Miami: their size down low. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol took turns having their way in the paint for the first half of the ball game and Miami had absolutely no answer for either Laker big man.
When the Lakers weren’t turning the ball over, they actually played solid half-court defense against the Heat and built a 1 point lead going into half time. The second half began and the Lakers were unable to get anything going on the inside as Miami’s undersized team was swarming like killer bees on defense by switching everything and making sharp, championship style rotations.
Mike D’Antoni continued to run a pick-and-roll with Steve Nash even though the Heat were smothering Nash every time he tried to go around a screen. Instead of posting up either Pau or Dwight, the Lakers continued to P-n-R until Kobe decided to warm up and take over down the stretch, but it was too little too late as the Heat cranked up the defensive intensity and executed on the offensive end to solidify their victory.
This was yet another moral victory for the Lakers at a point in the season when they cannot continue to replace actual victories with nugatory ones. As soon as this Laker team and their stubborn head coach understand that they will only win once they exploit their size advantage and dump the ball into the post every offensive possession, then they will finally mold into the contenders they are supposed to have been by now. Here are the grades for Thursday night’s L:
Steve Nash: C+
4 turnovers by Steve Nash? Wish it were a typo, but Nash made some peculiar decisions with the ball and was obviously overwhelmed by the athleticism of Miami on the perimeter. Without a screen Nash is unable to penetrate and create plays, but he can still be effective by throwing the ball into the post and hitting open 3’s once the double team collapses on either Pau or Dwight.
Kobe Bryant: D
The hot shooting down the stretch saved Kobe from getting an F, but 6 turnovers, 22 points on 8- 25 shooting, and only 2 free throw attempts is not a typical Kobe game. The Mamba was cold through the first three quarters and was having a tough time guarding Dwyane Wade on defense as well. Kobe eventually shot himself back into rhythm, but the Lakers become stagnant on offense and defense when Kobe continues to take long, contested jump shots instead of trying to get his big men going.
Metta World Peace: B+
Offensively, Metta had some good moments, but also had a couple “what the hell is he doing?” Metta moments. Great hustle from Metta all night as he had the impossible task of slowing down LeBron James. Metta did a decent job forcing James into his one weakness: mid and long range jump shots. Unfortunately for Metta, LeBron got into a rhythm in the 4th quarter and hit some crucial shots to seal the victory.
Earl Clark: C+
The stage seemed a little too big at times for EC, especially when he had to guard LeBron, but he did do a good job rebounding and hitting his 3’s while he was in there.
Dwight Howard: B
While he did take advantage of Miami’s inability to rebound, I can’t believe Dwight finished the game with only 7 field goals attempted in 38 minutes of playing time. There needs to be a better reason for the lack of shots other than the Heat fronted Dwight and rotated quickly or he was immediately fouled. I believe it’s a combination of the Lakers not force feeding Dwight down low as well as Dwight not fighting hard enough to get the ball. Whatever the reason is, the Lakers need to figure out how to get Dwight or Pau down low on nearly every offensive possession so they can exploit their size advantage or at least create open shots for the guards.
Pau Gasol: C+
As soon as Pau was playing center, the Lakers couldn’t stop Miami from getting to the basket. The key to the turnaround is how the Lakers play with Dwight and Pau on the floor together. There were moments late in the game when the big men took turns posting up and attacking and the offense looked fluid. If the team can somehow find a balance when both big men are on the court then this team will truly begin to right the ship, but until then they will continue to look clumsy on offense.
Antawn Jamison: B
Solid bench production from Antawn on both ends of the floor. Antawn is always at his best when he makes timely cuts into the lane and finishes with his unorthodox style. Those opportunities arise more off of post ups and forcing the defense to rotate.