The Lakers have been a topic of conversation in the NBA lately, and not because of anything they’re doing right; mostly because of everything they’re doing wrong. The Lakers have been criticized often for being soft, apathetic or lacking effort on defense, but the one area they’ve always been able to fall back on to squeak out a win is their prolific offense.

The last few games, however, paint a different picture, and though they shot 51% in the loss to Miami and 49.4% tonight against Phoenix, they shot just 36.2% in Charlotte and 37.5% in Orlando.

One bad shooting night is not unheard of in the NBA. It’s a long season after all, but to have two brick-tossing games in a row in the year they are defending a title? Unacceptable. Is the stagnant offense dumbfounding and a bit concerning? Yes. Is it irreparable? No.

Kobe Bryant, reported to have arrived more than two hours before the game to shoot around, scored 21 points from only 16 attempted shots. Playing against the highest-scoring team in the NBA, the Lakers needed to pull out every scoring weapon they had in the armory and Kobe, their sharpest shooter, had to be on point.

Scoring first in the game on a turnaround followed by an and-1, Kobe’s game face was just as it was after his game-winning shot against Toronto — focused and very businesslike.

With 17 games left before the playoffs, and with two teams hovering over their first place seat in the Western Conference, Kobe is done having his fun and some of his teammates seemed to follow suit.

Andrew Bynum, coming off a 22-point game against the Raptors, was as active on both sides of the court as he’s ever been. On one Suns’ possession, he forced Steve Nash baseline, and upon his pass to a cutting Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrew, alert, rotated quickly to alter the shot attempt. Suns miss. Laker ball.

Offensively, Andrew may have only scored 18 points on 8-12 shooting (dwarfing compared to his higher-scoring feats in the past), but it was his way of scoring that was comforting. He went after offensive rebounds (5 of his 9 boards), he dunked on every opportunity he could, and hit his hook shots when they were available to him. Never one to create aesthetically pleasing shot attempts, Andrew scored definitively and we can only hope that this is not another teaser into the “what could be when he gets older,” but a taste of “what he WILL be” come mid-April.

All the starters scored in double figures tonight, with Derek Fisher and Ron Artest contributing a combined six shots from downtown. Pau had a good all-around game, but there is still something lacking in his play, both offensively and defensively.

At one point in the game, Pau met Amar’e on the other side and was called for a blocking foul, which resulted in a 3-point play for the Suns. Andrew was seen raising his arms up, either frustrated with the call or frustrated with Pau for not knowing any better. If you’re not going to take the charge, then contest the shot and make Amar’e earn two points from the free throw line.

Where Andrew is not interested in good-looking field goal attempts, Pau is the opposite, often choosing lay-ups and short-distance jump shots even when a higher-percentage dunk and a possible and-1 is available to him. Pau doesn’t need to be a defensive or offensive powerhouse or genius, but he can’t cower the way he did so often tonight to the likes of Amundson, who continually beat him to rebounds and flew by for quick lay-ups and putbacks. Amundson, who averages 4.5 rpg and 4.2 ppg, but got 10 and 11 tonight on Pau’s watch.

This 102-96 win was much needed for the Lakers, especially considering how well Phoenix plays on their home court. On a night where Alvin Gentry’s ejection (and for understandable reason as Pau’s hard foul might’ve been considered a flagrant) could have fueled a Suns win, and where six players struggled through hand injuries, the Lakers got the victory, and there was no need for Kobe’s last second keenness.

From where they stand, there is no time to monitor how well Dallas or Denver is playing. The Lakers are the masters of only their own fate. How far into the spring and summer they play is entirely up to them, because HOW they play from this late in the regular season will be a good indication of their effort and intensity when the real season begins.

Pre-game Thoughts: 0-3 in the previous road trip. Hopefully this next one starts out on a more positive note.

Half-time Thoughts: Great 20-6 run to end the first half! Hopefully it’s something they’ll build on.

Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Yes he got his 15 points on 7-11 shooting, along with eight rebounds, four blocks, three assists and two steals, and yes that hard foul on Amundson to prevent an easy two points was kind of a pleasant surprise from someone so mild-mannered, but something’s not right with Pau these days. He has appeared lazy on D, slow to rotate to his man, and no lift whatsoever. Hmmm…

Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant, and not because of any buzzer beaters. He led in practically every stat – most points (21 points on 7-16), most rebounds (10), most assists (8) and highest +/- (+15) Mamba came to play tonight!

  • truth

    I love your articles, thanks for taking the time to write. Great analysis of our so called “big men”

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Appreciate it, thanks!…Paul Pierce? =) JK!

  • trippleocho

    You should write all the post game reports! And this was a great win.

  • comeflywithme

    yeah Pau sucks these days all he had done was complaining about how many touches he got!

  • rudy t.

    i personally believe that in one of our future, “not so challenging” games, we need to make pau the star. you know what i mean? let him carry the team while kobe takes a load off. that way, both superstars get to benefit.
    i feel like pau’s tired emotionally and physically from the lack of touches. give the big dog a bone, you know what i mean?
    basics economics states that people respond to incentives. nowadays pau has nothing going for him except for “we barely won” games. we need to reward him and allow him to shine the way only superstars can.

    • expo

      He can have all the touches he wants… in Memphis!!!! People use to tell Kobe to shut up and play his position when Shrek was here, so Pau needs to learn how to do the same thing!!!

      • Pnoy

        If I am tall like gasol n bynm I would be ashamed that kobe 6″ shorter than them leads the rebounding…If I were tall like them I want to be a rebounding and blocking beast like dwight….but pau n bynum cares only to scores.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      I’m not sure what’s up with Pau lately. He’s been talking more than he’s been stepping up and just playing. It’s so unlike him.

      • expo

        He’s a pampered princess!!!

    • doodles

      He gets his touches but he doesn’t convert. If he is not converting the other players are less likely to go to him. It’s that simple.

  • doodles

    Terrible game last night. If they continue to play like this they will be out in the second round. As always way too many 3 point attempts and Pau not being able to finish at the rim.

    What’s with this guy? He doesn’t like to dunk? He would rather miss a layup? Jeez just put the ball in the hole.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Terrible game? Have you seen their 4 games before this one?! This game against the Suns looked way better relatively speaking. Hopefully they build on it.

      • laker realist

        yeah I actually thought the lakers played with great energy tonight. They played the game the right way and could have blown this team out if they didn’t have a little dry spell in the end of the third. Their getting geared up for playoff time. doodles you have no idea what ur talking about!

        • doodles

          It’s this simple. They are playing better than the previous four games, will give them that. But they are not playing championship level ball..

          Their opponent was the Suns. They should have blown them out but again they 1) failed to box out, 2) took too many threes, even on fast breaks, and 3) had poor shooting from the free throw line.

  • bigshotbob

    You failed to mention the fact that Kobe had 7 turnovers! It was also interesting to see Farmar being demoted to about 3 minutes playing time.

    • BringDFishBack

      He wasn’t demoted, he re-injured his hand in the 1st quarter.

  • pauer

    Did you guys notice how many different line-ups Phil put in?

    There was even and Adam Morrison sighting.

    • doodles

      Morrison should never play in a game!

  • Pnoy

    imagine of how many assist kobe had last night if those rim brickers made a very wide open shot, 10 0r 15? that is why lebron gets his assist because of mo and some great shooters!!

    • Pnoy

      and also he(KB) throw a lot to bynum and pau inside but the bigs couldn’t convert it..and an airball from ron and fish who hits the glass…if those players making it kobe should have averaging 8-10 assist a game, and will not be called a ballhog!

      • Eidraq

        i agree with you there..also when kb throws inside to the bigs, they fumble it upon the pass..that results in a turnover for kobe..for issues like that, pau needs to fix himself..they just all need to get on the same page..and some of bynum’s touches do indeed need to go to pau

        • Pnoy

          and they should deside like ron to play defense and get those facking rebounds, knowing that their playing with mamba as the scorer!

      • kobe-wan kenobi

        let’s be clear
        kobe is a ball hog
        u cant really argue that
        the fact is it does not matter
        because he dominates and wins like that, like mj did

        • http://www.facebook.com/thejahjah Green Flannel

          he can be a ball hog but kobe (since his MVP year) has elevated his game in so many aspects that if he wants to (like mj) he can get 8 assists and 10 rebounds. Kobe is a dominant scorer so its not like he is hurting the team’s scoreboard.

          • Pnoy

            like I said he can have 8-10 assist if not like last ngight , ron air ball, fisher hits the glass a good pass to gasol who has been block by amundson, kobe passes a very good pass to a open man but they don’t convert it most of the time..

  • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

    Both Kobe and Jordan have lingering hand injuries. You try shooting, dribbling and defending when your hand is throbbing. Kobe admitted to having difficulty handling the ball because of his hurt digits and Jordan didn’t get demoted. He could barely play with the injury to his hand. I’m sure they’ll both get better.

    • Pnoy

      I’d noticed kobe’s shot from 06 and earliest when he shots 5,6,7,8,9, 3′s in some games and of course the 12 3′s, the shot has been different from now…the follow through of his index is gone co’z we know it’s been taped. as for a shooter the index tip is the most important for shooting..

    • http://www.facebook.com/thejahjah Green Flannel

      lol i thought you were talking about michael. so i was like “uhh anna, michael is retired.” :) great article though.

  • papachango

    get off pau’s nuts

    focus on Farmar and fish!
    their getting killed out there

    • kobe-wan kenobi

      here u go the latino that needs to defend the spaniard

      pau shoud man up play hard and stfu
      this is kobe team

      simple

      • papachango

        get off kobes nutz

        • kobe-wan kenobi

          lol
          wake up …
          where have u been the last decade?
          watching soccer?
          kobe is the leader of this team
          i repeat
          pau shoud man up play hard and stfu

          go back nurturing pau’s nuts

          • papachango

            i love futbol

  • nickp

    you forgot to mention kobe’s 7 turnovers (most of the game)

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Like I said earlier, Kobe’s been bugged by his injured hand. Even he admitted it. He’s having a hard time handling the ball, hence all the turnovers. His shooting is barely coming back around, but his passes aren’t as sharp as they usually are. Hopefully he adjusts that soon.

  • https://openid.aol.com/opaque/4bdde368-2b97-11df-8b9f-000bcdcb5194 onlyone laker fan in L.A.

    Kobe was there early shoting where was Pau and Artest
    these guys miss free throws all the time. Bynum is hitting free throws better.

  • Alvin Gentry

    Vengeance is mine.

  • the ape

    i actually think fish is getting into playoff groove. of course we don’t expect him to be chris paul – or even the fish of old – but you can see where he’s gritted his teeth and making things happen.

    kobe is a hog yah, but a really smart one.

    although i feel the ultimate hog is still lebronze – who, by the way, i strongly feel won’t make the east finals

  • Purple & Gold Fan

    I know this if totally off subject but do people even remember that the Lakers went 7-1 to start the season without Gasol. I think Gasol needs to shut up and play.

  • papachango

    pass the ball inside let bynum dominate
    no more 3′s from fish,brown,farmar

    • Pnoy

      kobe dish to this 3 almost 10 times a game on a wide open 3, but barely made only 3 or 5…try watching early games and count how much could be the assist of kobe if this 3 guards hits those 3′s.

  • rudy t.

    is it safe to say that our lakers our currently planting seeds of doubt inside all of us? am i the only one worried? i need you guys to talk me through this, cause im really worried that we eventually won’t have a team to root for come june… *sigh*
    LET’S GO, LAKERS. WAKE UP! LET’S DO THIS!

    • kobe-wan kenobi

      oh well if you were coaching we sure would not pass first round
      fortunately you left and pjax came back…
      but u right
      this team is giving confidence to other teams
      which is not good at all
      we are having issues, probably even chemistry issues
      time will tell

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Only one way to find out. I’m worried myself, but being a fan simply won’t let me analyze it too much. We’re just not used to them not being a dominant force in the league. But like Kobe said in one postgame interview, you don’t win championships playing pretty and perfect all the time. Sometimes you have to grind it out and even if it’s ugly, if you get to win it all in the end and you played nothing but ugly games, are you really gonna complain? We all need to keep the faith =)

  • https://openid.aol.com/opaque/4bdde368-2b97-11df-8b9f-000bcdcb5194 onlyone laker fan in L.A.

    thats not the real Rudy T.
    lakers willbe fine