One Step Up And Two Steps Back

Kurt —  March 28, 2007

Honestly, I’m of two minds on last night’s ugly loss to Memphis.

If this were December I’d tend to write it off as just a bad shooting night. Every team throws up a couple dud games over the course of a season, this could be just one of those. Just forget it and move on.

But it was the way they lost it, and when they lost it, which makes it hard to do so in this case. They actually played decent defense against everyone not named Kinsey on Memphis and held the Griz to 45.8% (eFG%) shooting and 20% from three as a team.

What grated me was best summed up by the Daily News’ beat guy Ross “not the one from Heroes” Siler in his blog:

It takes a discipline to break a zone that the Lakers don’t have. They missed Brown’s interior passing, as Jackson cited after the game. They also missed having Vladimir Radmanovic to rain 3-pointers and force the Grizzlies out of that zone.

At one point this season the Lakers were disciplined on offense and had George Karl and others calling them the best passing team in the NBA. Guys moved without the ball and made the extra pass for the easy basket. The injuries tripped up that momentum, and the Lakers appear nowhere close to getting it back — there was so little movement off the ball last night it didn’t look like the triangle.

Maybe Kobe’s streak blinded me and other fans a little — I thought he was dragging this team back into the light. As the streak went on the defense improved a little and other guys started to step up on offense. Then Memphis goes into a zone, Kobe goes cold and rather than step up everyone else went into hibernation. You beat the zone by attacking its soft underbelly, and Bynum is the best offensive big the Lakers have, yet he was a non-factor. And Odom, ugh. Really I could go into a long list of players, or break down the patheticness of specific possessions, but I couldn’t stomach rewinding the TiVo to do it. I just wanted to push “erase.”

I hate to put a lot of stock in any one regular season game, but I think the Houston contest Friday night will be a very good measuring stick for this team. I’m not near saying this team can’t find its stride heading into the playoffs, but Friday night we’re going to see what the Lakers look like against a team playing at a playoff caliber right now, with its pieces healthy and starting to make a push. After that we’ll have a pretty good idea of what lies ahead in April and May.