To commemorate the NBA’s Noche Latina, let’s begin the post-game report with this…
No bueno, Lakers. No bueno.
They say a desperate team is a dangerous team and unfortunately, Miami was more desperate to win this game then the Lakers were not to lose it. There’s no telling who those guys were dressed in white, purple and gold, but they surely were not the team that ran off eight wins in a row before tonight.
That looked like Andrew Bynum in there, but with just one rebound before half-time, that couldn’t possibly have been him. The Bynum we’ve all praised during the winning streak for being a beast on the boards and a protector in the paint was certainly not the same man who had to be reminded before the third quarter by the coaching staff to START REBOUNDING. He grabbed 11 more boards in the second half, and scored 13 points on 4-5 from the field and 5-6 from the line, but he was more aggressive and engaged against a defenseless Hawks team on Tuesday than he was against a Miami Heat team riding a 5-game losing streak.
Pau Gasol played too, and there was no mistaking that was him on the floor since he barely played any defense on Chris Bosh. He got his 20 points on 8-16 but had only five rebounds? Five. FIVE. He averages double-digit boards but went for just a handful against Miami’s “bigs” – Chris Bosh, who needed to make a New Year’s resolution to rebound more; Zydraunas Ilgauskas, who can barely get up and down the court without going breathless; and Eric Dampier who does nothing.
Guilty on the glass as well was an all-to-familiar, underachieving, Lamar Odom. He contributed 11 points but needed 11 shots and two free throws to get there. But it wasn’t just his offensive contributions that lacked aggression and purpose. He, like Gasol, had just five rebounds for the game as well. Before Bynum’s rebounding tirade of late, Odom was the Lakers’ best rebounder. He knew where the ball was bouncing towards and his long arms are usually reaching for the rock in traffic so effectively that the opponents barely knew he was taking their possession. Tonight, however, the Lakers’ most efficient player this season just didn’t inject the team with the usual bolt of energy that he typically provides when he comes off the bench.
The Laker bigs combined for just 22 rebounds. Miami won the battle on the glass tonight, 46-37. If rebounds equal effort, then this game was won by the team who put in the most fight.
The player out on the floor tonight that was supposed to show Lebron James what “clutch” meant wasn’t his usual clutch self. Instead, Kobe Bryant shot 6-10 in the first half, and then went 2-11 the rest of the way. That Bryant only had two assists is indicative of his purpose tonight. He didn’t want to just win this game against the Heat. He wanted to win it himself if he had to.
Bryant didn’t, however, get to win it at all. He turned the ball over and the Heat took a two point lead. With a minute left in the fourth, and the Lakers behind by those two points, Bryant came out of the timeout with a full shot clock to work with, and hoisted a contested three by the Miami bench, which he missed. (Side note: Ron Artest rebounded that miss and attempted a layup, but a clear goal tend by Ilgauskas was not called. It doesn’t dismiss Bryant’s poor judgment, but still. It might’ve made a difference). The Heat scored on the other end again to gain a four-point lead. With still 46 seconds left in the game, Bryant lifted up from two feet behind the arc and attempted yet another three-pointer that hit the back of the rim. No offensive rebounds by the Lakers and Lebron James’ flop aside, it was all just uncharacteristic execution by a veteran leader on a veteran team.
The Lakers weren’t going to go undefeated after the All-Star break (though many of us wished it), and they went up against a desperate Miami Heat team who have been so down in the dumps that they really had nowhere to go but up. It’s just unfortunate that the Lakers had to be on the rear end of this desperation, but if we know this team to be who they have been for the past three seasons, a loss like this will probably push them harder to recover in order not to let it happen again.
While the Heat celebrate this win to give their wagon-full of fans a renewed hope to hang on to, Kobe Bryant is back out on the American Airlines floor an hour after the game shooting. That, right there – that’s what the Laker faithful get to hold on to.
Pre-game Thoughts: Every game after a long winning streak can be considered a “trap game,” but most especially if it’s against a team who’s on a streak of their own, even if it is of the losing kind. If the Lakers want to exact some Christmas Day revenge on this downward spiraling Heat team, they need to play as focused on defense as they’ve been the last eight games, while continuing to overpower a small Miami team with their size.
Half-time Thoughts: 53-55 – It’s been a back and forth kind of game with Kobe Bryant leading the way for the Lakers with 17 points on 6-10 and Chris Bosh for the Heat with 16 points on 7-11. Most glaring stat for the half? Andrew Bynum’s ONE rebound. After picking up 50 rebounds in the last three games, he was ONE in 16 minutes of playing time. WOW. The Lakers are shooting a solid 53% from the field but they need to battle for those boards and keep the Heat from running out.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Who WASN’T thoughtless on the Lakers tonight? Andrew Bynum’s 1-rebound half; Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom combining for just 10 rebounds; Kobe Bryant taking contested 3’s late in the game and early in the shot clock; Pau Gasol’s lack of defensive effort; Ron Artest’s missed layups. What happened to the team that won eight games in a row?
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Despite some missed layups and questionable overdribbling (which isn’t new for him), Ron Artest did do a fair job defending Lebron James into a pedestrian 19 points on 7-17 from the field.