Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. Another week in Laker Land has come and gone, and once again, fans are having to remind themselves to stay calm and carry on. As has been the norm this season, the past week was filled with some great highs and some horrible lows.
From injuries, to short-handed victories, to parental guidance, here is a recap of the Lakers past week.
Good – Winning in Brooklyn with no Front-Court.
The week started out pretty well for the Lakers. They went into Brooklyn short-handed knowing Dwight Howard was out with an injury and that Metta World Peace was suspended for the game. Things got worse from there as Pau Gasol was injured with about five minutes left in a tightly-contested game (more on that later). This left the Lakers with Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison as their only front-court players to try and close out a key game on the roadtrip.
From everything we’d seen this season, there was no reason to think the short-handed Lakers would go on a 10-0 run to close the game against a quality opponent on the road, but that’s exactly what they did. The impressive 92-83 win was a great confidence-boost for a team desperately in need of one.
Bad – Ow Gasol.
Not everything that happened in Brooklyn was positive for the Lakers. Unfortunately, recently demote big-man Pau Gasol suffered a partially torn plantar fascia in his already injured right foot. Gasol is now expected to miss six to eight weeks, but was trying to look at things positively when he took to Twitter to discuss the injury:
@PauGasol: I’m hoping to recover asap so I can be back with the team and keep fighting until the end of the season. #GoLakers #AlwaysPositive
Pau was considered a near-lock to be traded at the deadline, due mainly to the fact that Coach D’Antoni can’t figure out his rotation or how to get his two talented bigs playing together. However, this injury should put a stop to any trade talk involving the Spaniard. The Lakers up-hill climb into the playoff picture becomes even more difficult with the former All-Star sidelined.
Ugly – MWP is MIA.
One of the things that has really stood out in the past couple of Laker games, especially the losses, is just how much Metta World Peace is struggling lately. In three games this week (MWP was suspended for the fourth), the man formerly known as Artest has shot a horrendous 10-38 (26%) from the field. MWP also had just ten rebounds in those three games, a paltry 3.3 per game average for the Lakers starting forward.
Defensively, Peace hasn’t been much better. While getting torched by Lebron James doesn’t make him any different than any other defender in the league nowadays, Metta struggled mightily against Paul Pierce in Boston. Wheelchair Paul was able to get rolling early on offense and ignite the Celtics in their blowout win over the Lakers. Speaking of Boston…
Ugly – The Entire Boston Game.
If you wanted to find a reason for this particular Laker loss, you could probably choose from one of fifteen or so. Porous defense? Check. Lack of rebounding? Definitely. Zero energy from your All-Star Center who may have only been playing to shut your All-Star Shooting Guard up? Checkmate.
The worst part of this game was probably the fact that Boston of all teams was the squad who go to enjoy beating down the Lakers. Let’s just chalk this up to being a bad game on a long roadtrip and forget it ever happened. Any objections? Didn’t think so. Moving on.
Good – The Charlotte Comeback.
Now I know a lot of people really look at this win as a loss and find it hard to look at anything positively in a game that the Lakers trailed by 20 against the lowly Bobcats, but hear me out people. First off, a 20-point comeback in the sixth game of a seven game roadtrip is not something you should dismiss, no matter the opponent. This is the NBA after all, so most of these teams are talented enough to win a couple of good games and (almost) nobody is expected to blow a 20-point lead at home.
The Lakers really looked great for most of the second half, with Kobe dissecting the defense with his shot and passing ability, and Dwight Howard dominating the fourth quarter defensively for what seemed like the first time as a Laker. Criticize the effort all you want, but a win is a win, especially this season for the Lakers. With all that being said…
Bad – Being Down 20 in Charlotte.
Okay, now that the optimist got his point out I’d just like to state the Bobcats are probably the only team in the league you expect to blow a 20-point lead. Which means they’re terrible. Which means that even though a comeback like that is great, being down 20 to a team like Charlotte just shows how bipolar this Laker squad can be. This was the second time this season the Bobcats gave the Lakers a win in a game they had a huge lead, meaning the already bad Laker record could look much worse.
Bad – Mike D’s Rotation, Again.
I know I ranted on this last week, but I still for the life of me cannot understand the thought process Mike D’Antoni must go through with his rotations. How does a head coach in the NBA not realize that size is important in this league? How does Mike not think about putting Robert Sacre into a game when Dwight Howard sits, even after the Celtics and Heat are pounding the Lakers on the glass? Boston and Miami are two of the worst rebounding teams of all-time.
D’Antoni also has a penchant for leaving the bench in about a minute or two too long when they play well, giving them just enough time to undo all of their good work. It’s beyond frustrating and this is more a venting than anything, but I think most Laker fans would agree that Mike D might not have any clue what he is doing sometimes. Hopefully he realizes sooner than later that this isn’t NBA 2K13, and offensive-minded units won’t win you games against good teams.
Ugly - The 4th in Miami.
Speaking of Mike D’s rotation issues, the fourth quarter against the Heat was a prime example of leaving bench player in for too long. In what was essentially a must-win for the Lakers, D’Antoni went with his second unit for a few minutes longer than he should have, allowing Miami to seize control of the game. The Lakers started the fourth turning the ball over multiple times, and it didn’t help the cause that the starters came back into the game and started doing the same.
In the end, Los Angeles committed a whopping eight turnovers in the fourth, while forcing Miami into exactly zero. That’s not going to get it done on the road against the defending Champs. The fourth quarter also saw the Lakers go back to the hero-ball offense that grinds everything to a halt and makes this team almost unbearable to watch in the half-court. Just like the game in Boston, the fourth quarter against the Heat is something to forget.
Good – Surviving the Grammy Trip.
While most Laker fans and pundits agree Los Angeles needed a 5-2 record for the annual Grammy roadtrip to be a success, the Lakers came out with a 4-3 record. In past seasons, this trip has been an indicator of what we can expect from the Lake Show the rest of the season. While this season’s trip was up and down, a winning record on a road trip is a step in the right direction for a team that has struggled away from home all year. The Lakers are going to have to win games on the road to just make the playoffs, and hopefully to make some noise once they get there.
Teams need success they can draw from once the playoffs arrive, and games like the comeback in Charlotte and the short-handed Brooklyn victory should give the Lakers some confidence.
Ugly – Kobe, Dwight and Papa Howard.
One of the most interesting things from the roadtrip was the drama surrounding Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. After Pau went down with his injury, the sense of urgency surrounding the team was greater than it had been all season. Kobe came out and basically said that the Lakers didn’t have time to wait for Dwight to recover, followed by Dwight coming out and saying Kobe isn’t a doctor, all while Laker fans everywhere rolled their eyes at the soap opera.
This time, instead of just going away like most other Laker stories this season, the Bryant/Howard issue took a left-turn into the land of comedy. Dwight Howard Sr. spoke with the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, saying among other things that his son and Kobe needed to have a sit down to discuss their issues. Howard Sr. also went on to blame Coach D’Antoni for not controlling things and keeping all the drama in-house. I think it’s safe to say that we can all agree this is getting to the point of embarrassment for the Lakers. Here’s hoping the drama goes away, Dwight plays like the old Dwight, and Mike D’Antoni gets fired.
Since returning from injury in the Boston game, Dwight Howard has been a shell of the shell of himself that he was originally this season. Get all that? Don’t get me wrong, even at 70% Howard is still the most intimidating center in the league. However, it’s impossible not to notice the drop-off in his game this season as compared to what fans were used to prior to his back injury.
That drop-off has gotten even worse since Howard’s return from injury. In three games since his return, Howard is averaging 12 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Solid numbers, sure, for Emeka Okafor. But this is Dwight Howard we’re talking about. The main issue with Howard seems to be that he lets his offense predicate how he plays. When Howard gets touches early, he tends to try harder to dominate defensively.
The Lakers have realized this, force-feeding the big man inside even if it’s to the detriment of the team, in hopes that it will inspire him to play defense. But when Dwight doesn’t get shots, well Dwight doesn’t really care. This all sound familiar? It should, because it is the same problem the Lakers had thought they solved by trading away Andrew Bynum. It will be interesting to see if Dwight can tough through this injury and be the player the Lakers need him to be to have any success this season.
Good – Kobe Turning the Clock.
By now, everyone has seen Kobe’s thunderous slam over Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace in the fourth quarter of the Mamba’s first game in Brooklyn. ESPN has shown it on a continuous loop since it happened, and the video has probably been retweeted a million times by now. If you are one of the three people who haven’t seen it yet, all you neeed to know is the fact that a 34-year old in his 17th season can do this in the middle of a game is absolutely incredible.
That dunk was just another reminder that we need to enjoy watching Kobe on the court, because sooner rather than later, his highlights will be just a distant memory.