The bright side? At least it was a single-digit loss. Still, it was another loss the Lakers could have avoided. They decided, however, that they would give the lowly 11-33 Sacramento Kings, a great big confidence boost. On a night that Kobe Bryant surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon to be the 8th highest leading scorer in NBA history, the Lakers, again, fell short on their recent upswing. And here we thought they had turned a corner.
The Sacramento Kings, a whopping 4-16 record on the road, had nowhere to go but up, and with the play of their two big men, DeMarcus Cousins and Samuel Dalembert, they did exactly that. Known for his dissension and complete immaturity, Cousins displayed tonight that he is trying to grow up. Leading the Kings with 27 points on 11-19. 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, Cousins was all over what little defense the Lakers offered. He started a somewhat quiet war of words with Andrew Bynum, claiming that the Lakers center didn’t deserve to be part of last year’s championship. With the little that Bynum provided tonight, 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, it’s safe to say that Cousins’ bragging rights just shot up a notch.
Samuel Dalembert, who averages about 5 ppg, worked against the often defenseless Pau Gasol, and took advantage to the tune of 18 points on 8-12. Dalembert seemed to scarcely break a sweat against Gasol, shooting over and through the Spaniard in however way that he could, which wasn’t much of a challenge considering Gasol rarely, if ever, contested any of his attempts.
Kobe Bryant scored 21 of his 38 points in the FIRST quarter. It was a rare sight to see Bryant scoring so much so early in the game, when he has chosen to be a distributor in recent weeks. But he clearly had the hot hand, and the Lakers rolled with it for the first 12 minutes, as any team would have done with the hot hand of the evening. Unfortunately, Bryant’s early scoring spree may have gotten in the way of his teammates’ participation in the offense, which is a ridiculous, though very real, source of their lack of production. Bryant had been so conscious lately of making sure his teammates “ate first,” that they may have been thrown off by his sudden desire to take the first bite. Still, he shouldn’t be held responsible for the shortcomings of the Lakers big men. They had numerous chances to put themselves in a position to dominate in this game, but they chose to play lax instead.
Andrew Bynum didn’t have an awful game. He managed to get 12 points on 4-8, but his four measly rebounds and zero blocked shots left a lot to be desired. He fell victim to Sacramento’s crowding defense at the rim, but failed to counter with his own defensive presence on the other end. With such a positive streak of excellent play from Bynum, tonight would’ve been another great opportunity for him to impose his will on the trash talking Cousins.
Pau Gasol, a weak link in the Lakers’ defensive efforts, looked flat-footed and completely disengaged in this game. He scored just nine points on 4-11, missing attempts as he tried to be cute or creative when all he needed to do was DUNK THE BALL. His double digit rebounds, 11, look somewhat impressive, but he went stretches without even attempting to fight for a single board. At one point, the ball came bouncing his way and rather than grabbing the rebound, he ducked out of the way and Sacramento ran off with it. Gasol is, simply put, an enigma; he with superior skill and efficiency, with sometimes a sheer lack of mental and physical fortitude.
Lamar Odom, 0-7 from the field. It was a rare night of inefficiency from Odom. He’s been the Lakers’ most consistent player this season that tonight seemed like an illusion, a bad dream.
The only other bright spot for the Lakers was the play of Shannon Brown. Going 3-5 from 3PT, Brown had 17 points on 7-11, and was a key component to the late-game run that pulled the Lakers out of a 20-point hole. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and the home team just never got over the hump. They (and maybe the Celtics as well, who lost to the Phoenix Suns tonight) may have been looking past their opponents tonight in favor of the season’s first rematch since Game 7.
The hope is that tonight’s game is not an indication of their performance on Sunday. Though with these Lakers, there’s just no telling which team will show up.
Pre-game Thoughts: Tempting as it is, DO NOT look past this game to Sunday’s against Boston. Take care of business, one game at a time.
Half-time Thoughts: 59-55 – Kobe Bryant with the hot hand in the half, 26 points on 10-14. The only problem is that the rest of the team has gotten lost in the offense. Actually, the whole team is lost in their defense, allowing Sacramento to score almost 60 points on almost 60% shooting. They were out-rebounded, out-assisted and are lucky they aren’t behind by more. The Laker bigs need to get involved in all areas if the Lakers want to pull out a win before the big Sunday game.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: The Smallish Three – Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum should hope that voters deciding the All-Star Reserves skipped over this game. Yes, Kobe scored…a lot, early on, but he had the hot hand and it would’ve been senseless to keep the ball away from. These Laker big men’s duties haven’t changed from the last game – protect the paint and score inside. It’s BEEN the rule for the last three years, so why the short-term memory?
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: The young and feisty Sacramento Kings, for not letting a losing record (in general and against the Lakers) deter them from playing their game.