Kobe Bryant was called for a charge, received two technicals in a row and was ejected with just over two minutes left in tonight’s game. As he exited off the court, he had some easily identifiable words for the officials that I’m unable to relay here. Maybe he was frustrated with the call. Maybe he was disappointed in the lack of effort from his team. At that point in the game, the Lakers were already losing big so what did it matter? Here’s what matters. The Milwaukee Bucks played without four major players. They’re one of the worst offensive teams in the league…and they just ran the defending champions out of their own home court. If the Lakers think they can cruise to the playoffs by merely showing up, they’ve got another thing coming. This loss wasn’t a poor officiating thing, or a bad shooting night thing. This loss was an effort thing and the Lakers had very little of it.
It’s time to stop hiding behind the “still early in the season” circumstance. We are a third into the season and this Lakers team looks nothing like their dominant adversaries, with the San Antonio Spurs sitting on just three losses, Boston with four and Dallas with five. They just didn’t seem to care today and they didn’t care to hide it. After going 6-1 on their most recent road trip and reminding everyone they were still the defending champions, the Lakers came home to Staples and made everyone quickly forget.
The Bucks led throughout the game, with Andrew Bogut (15 points on 7-9, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks) and Eran Ilyasova (17 points on 6-13, 11 rebounds) leading the way early on. In the end, however, the Buck who carried the team was reserve Earl Boykins, who had 22 points on 8-12, 4-5 from 3PT and John Salmons with his 20 points.
The Lakers played from behind for the most part, at times overtaking the lead for themselves. It rarely lasted, however, with the Bucks aggressive on offense (they shot 51%) and the Lakers soft on defense. Not only was the three-ball working for Milwaukee (8-14), but they were constantly getting inside with Boykins constantly passing and Bogut constantly receiving and converting. There was one team playing with energy and purpose tonight, and it wasn’t the team with fans sitting in the stands.
The only good thing that came out of this game for the Lakers was Andrew Bynum. Clearly above his momentary fill-in, Pau Gasol (15 points on 6-12, 11 rebounds) when it comes to defense, Bynum continued to show his progress on both ends of the floor. He rebounded a miss and quickly passed over his shoulder to a waiting Matt Barnes under the basket for an easy hoop. His hook shot looked smooth. In his fifth game of the season, he had six points on 3-4, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 21 points on 9-16, but other than Bynum and Bryant, everything else for the Lakers tonight was on the negative. Even Pau Gasol, who had 15 and 11 and Lamar Odom (playing ill) with 12 and 10, the Laker bigs looked small against the aggressive Milwaukee frontmen. The Lakers shot just 46%, missed 6-13 free throws, scored just 13 points in the fourth quarter and hit just 2-13 from behind the arc. The Laker bench, after outscoring Milwaukee’s 16-6 after the first half, was outscored 32-25 in the end. And though they forced 18 Bucks’ turnovers, they had 18 of their own. Assist to turnover ratio? 17-18 – abysmal. Ball movement simply halted, and for a team whose offensive success lies in their efficient passing, it was a foreshadowing of the embarrassing end. And when they weren’t passing enough, they were passing too much.
The Lakers just looked disinterested and with very little decorum than what’s expected from a defending championship team who just met with the President. There’s no telling what Lakers team we’ll see on Christmas Day, but as Phil Jackson said in his post-game conference, “They couldn’t play any worse than they did tonight.” Well, THAT’S THE HOPE.
Pre-game Thoughts: Bucks – consider this the appetizer to a Christmas main course.
Half-time Thoughts: 50-46 – Laker starters sleepwalked through the first half. The reserves came in with energy and defense – things the starters clearly lacked. Lakers are lucky to be down only four points, with the Bucks shooting 56% to their 48%. Ilyasova leading all scores with 13. Buck up, Lakers.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Every player in a gold and purple uniform.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Milwaukee Bucks – for showing the defending champs what professional ballers are SUPPOSED to look like.