Maybe the Lakers are starting a new Christmas tradition: Don’t give in to a much-hyped game by playing heartlessly and showing exactly how little you care. Well, point taken, guys – you don’t feel the need to prove yourselves to a newly-formed team in Miami, but did you have to get blown out of your own home court…for the second game in a row?
The game STARTED well for the Lakers. Lamar Odom converted on Kobe Bryant’s lob with a thunderous dunk. He followed that with another slam from another Bryant assist. Then Derek Fisher came in and hit one from downtown, giving the Lakers a 7-2 lead…and that’s as good as the Lakers looked in this game. The remainder of this Christmas afternoon at Staples was as unbearable to watch as Megan Fox trying to “act.”
Miami’s big three played to win in front of this huge Christmas Day audience. Together, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh produced 69 points, 29 rebounds, 18 assists, and six steals. James alone finished with a triple double – 27 points on 8-14 (5-6 from 3PT), 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Ron Artest may have had intentions on defending and stopping James from going off, but after just two and a half minutes of game time, Matt Barnes subbed in after Artest picked up his second foul. Artest, like the rest of this Lakers team, is clearly still trying to find his game on both ends of the court, and based on what we’ve seen so far this season, he’s still got a ways to go.The Lakers’ big three of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom managed 48 points, 23 rebounds and 12 assists, but of these three, only Odom shot 50%. Bryant and Gasol combined for just 14-33 and the rest of the Lakers didn’t do much better.
Pau Gasol, considered the more dominant and skilled forward in every pre-game preview/article/report that pitted him against Miami’s Chris Bosh, was basically a no-show, with Bosh outplaying him from all aspects – the greatest difference being effort and aggressiveness. In 36:30 of playing time, he reverted back to the Gasol that everyone called “soft,” not fighting for or even positioning himself to rebound, forgetting his 7-foot stature and not even attempting to block shots (he could literally raise a hand without hopping and hinder attempts), cowering and letting his offensive dominance fall at the hands of Zydraunas Ilgauskas? Andrew Bynum’s return was supposed to invigorate Pau, was it not? He said it himself. But these last couple of games, Gasol has looked nothing like the player who holds a FIBA World’s MVP honor and two NBA Championship rings.
Andrew Bynum (six points on 3-5, five rebounds and one block) played his regulated 17+ minutes, but with the way Gasol was playing today, the Lakers might’ve afforded to play him more with Odom than with Gasol.
Kobe Bryant did what he could in this game – score (17 points), set up his teammates (7 assists), play defense (5 defensive boards and a steal), but something looked eerily familiar. He (and Odom in spurts) seemed to be the only one playing with a purpose.
“I think these games mean more to our opponents than they do to us. I think we need to get that straight,” a sullen and clearly frustrated Kobe Bryant said in his post-game presser. “We need to play with more focus and put more importance on these games. I don’t like it.” Amen, Mamba. You and thousands of Laker fans don’t like it.
“We know what we’re capable of doing,” Bryant continued. “That’s the problem.”
It’s a big problem.
When asked what it would take for the Lakers to start playing well, Bryant answered, certainly calling out his teammates, “I think individually you have to make that decision yourself, and what’s important. The game has to be the most important thing. You have to play every game like it’s your last, you have to be attentive to what’s going on and this is serious stuff. You don’t just have two rings and say we’re satisfied with what we’ve got. I’m not gonna let that slide. It’s your job. Show up and work.”
Bryant’s early exit in the Milwaukee loss was not just in response to a call. His technical today wasn’t just because they were losing. When Lebron James strolled into the lane right past Gasol for another layup, Bryant picked up the ball and threw it down in frustration as Gasol stood there and watched not two feet away from his captain. Bryant’s reaction was way past frustration; it was exasperation.
In his post-game press conference, Phil Jackson stated that he and the coaching staff were not surprised by the team’s performance today. He said they’re aware that they’re just not playing well. “Just be patient with us,” Jackson asked. “We’ll get it back in order and we’ll be fine.”
No, championships are not won in December, but habits and character are built throughout the year. At the present moment, the Lakers have picked up some terrible habits (losing big leads, unable to close in close games, playing unfocused basketball, etc), and the character they’ve built is one of disinterested arrogance. From here their opponents get stronger, more skilled and more determined. If the Lakers are looking for yet another source of motivation to play better, they won’t have to wait long. San Antonio and New Orleans are up next.
Pre-game Thoughts: Keep our Christmas merry, Lakers.
Half-time Thoughts: 47-38 – The Lakers look like they did against Boston in Game 7. Can’t get a shot in, can’t defend either. Miami’s getting everything they want. LO and KB leading LA with 8 points a piece, but Bosh is leading all scores with 18. Pau and KB a combined 6-21.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Lakers – no defense, no ball movement – it’s been the same old story time and again this season. When’s the attitude (and the execution to go with it) going to change?
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: As much as we’d hate to admit it, the Miami Heat came in to make a point and, well, they made it.