The Spurs played like the best, and the Lakers played like the team who used to be the best. They lost four games in a row, then went on a 6-1 road trip. Pau Gasol was huffing and puffing, then Andrew Bynum came back to relieve him. They got their butts whooped by Milwaukee and Miami, then started tonight’s game against San Antonio with some energy and life…and then they folded over and looked into the eyes of their third loss in a row. Nothing seems to be working for this Lakers team.
After rattling off a 13-2 record to begin their season, the Lakers have since decided to execute alternate plans – stop moving the ball, stop going inside, stop running the offense, stop playing defense, start mouthing off to officials, cower in pressure situations; in other words, do the exact opposite of what they did last season but, oh wait, still expect to win and win it all. Tex Winter must be throwing things at his TV watching this team play.
Kobe Bryant, after getting ejected from the Milwaukee game, and then after sounding off his frustrations after the loss to Miami, shot his team out of tonight’s contest. After hitting his first four shots of the night, Bryant missed his next 13 and finished 8-27 for his 21 points. He had just ONE assist and five turnovers. If he planned to make an example of himself to teammates, he sure set a bad one. Tonight’s version of Bryant wasn’t the same anxious player from last season’s Game 7. Back then, Bryant claimed he tried to do too much because he wanted to win so badly. But even despite a terrible shooting night (6-24), he still managed to contribute in other ways – 15 rebounds. Unofficially, rebounds are a good measure of effort, and that night against Boston, Bryant’s effort overturned his shooting efficiency. That wasn’t anxious effort tonight on Bryant’s part; it was senseless selfishness.
Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the Lakers’ bread and butter, left their team famished in this game. A true advantage in every sense of the word, when Gasol and Odom are getting to hoop, passing to cutters and rebounding as easily as they breathe, the Lakers are unbeatable. They can average double-digit rebounds in a heartbeat. Tonight, however, 6’7” center DeJuan Blair scored 17 points and grabbed 15 boards compared to Gasol and Odom’s combined 18 points and 17 rebounds. Either they are not getting any touches, or are just not being aggressive enough. Either way, it’s not helping.
The Lakers didn’t take advantage of their advantages (which seems to be the consistent source of their 10 downfalls this season). They didn’t exploit the Spurs’ small inside presence (Blair at 6’7” vs. Gasol at 7’ or Bynum at 7’1” – COME ON!). They didn’t capitalize on Tim Duncan’s 2-point (on 1-7), four rebound game, nor did they capitalize on Manu Ginobli’s 3-12 evening. They got to the free throw line 22 times and missed six.
And after all of these missed opportunities, there lie even bigger concerns – they’re not playing like they’re defending a championship. They’re barely playing anything that resembles TEAM ball at all. Their captains, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, constantly complained about calls and, as unfair as it is, turned the officials against them. Talk about losing your clout. The reserves, once depended upon to bail out their starters, have fallen off the radar.
It’s not a question of whether or not the Lakers are TRYING. It’s a question of what exactly it is they’re TRYING to do. If they’re trying to win another championship, they need to either revisit their old system (that worked. Heck, it got them two titles) or execute a new and effective one. It is a whole new league with 29 other new-look teams. Either way, it needs to happen quickly, because if the Lakers continue to play like they’re waiting around for April, they may not even make it far enough to play then.
Pre-game Thoughts: Forget Christmas Day. Today is a new day and the Lakers face the NBA best record-holding San Antonio Spurs. Heed Coach Dave Miller’s mantra – E.F.T. – Energy Focus Toughness
Half-time Thoughts: 44-42 – It’s been a spirited game so far with each team playing up then playing down, each taking turns getting the best of the other. The Lakers look more energetic and much more zoned into this game. Tony Parker leads all scores with 14 points. Pau Gasol leads the Lakers in points (9), rebounds (6), assists (4) . Kobe Bryant, after making his first four shots, has missed his next 10. Lakers doing their job on Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli who are a combined 1-12.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Difficult not to accuse the entire Laker team tonight, but Kobe Bryant shooting 8-27 and handing out just one assist = winner.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: San Antonio’s DeJuan Blair who, at 6’7” played bigger and stronger than the Lakers’ 7’ and 6’10” frontcourt.