Lakers/Nets: L.A. Escapes Jersey with a W

Jeff Skibiski —  December 12, 2010

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Give the Lakers credit for what they haven’t been able to do in so many of their recent losses — close out games effectively. When playing the lowly Nets, though, this of course begs the question of why L.A. went down to the wire against them in the first place. As has been the case for far too many games this season, the Lakers were unable to build on their leads, relinquishing a 10 point halftime lead almost immediately and never pulling away from New Jersey until the final minute of the game.

Kobe didn’t shoot the ball well (9-19 for 32 points) in the first half, but his play in the third quarter and latter half of the fourth quarter was the big difference in the game. Bryant seamlessly shifted from scorer to facilitator down the stretch, including two momentum-shifting dimes to Gasol and Odom in the final two minutes. #24 said in his post-game interview that he felt like he needed to put his stamp on the game in the second half, which is exactly what he did.

Lamar also played exceptionally well in the first half and in the final minutes of the game (22 points, seven rebounds), showcasing all facets of his versatility, driving to the hoop with ease and connecting on a dagger three pointer that essentially iced the game for the forum blue and gold. Despite a few nice plays in the final minute and a half, Pau (15 points on 6-19 shooting) was mostly ineffective against Brook Lopez and the rest of the Nets front line. He still managed to pull down 11 rebounds, but the Lakers as a team were out-rebounded 45-42, including a 15-9 disparity in offensive boards.

Neither Pau nor Odom were particularly adept at stopping much of anything in the lane as the Nets held a 30-14 edge in points in the paint just by halftime, led by Lopez’s 25 points. The front court tandem of Anthony Morrow and Devin Harris didn’t shoot particularly well (6-17 each), but still combined for 31 points against minimal resistance in the lane. Not that this should come as surprising news for the Lakers as this has stood out as a weakness all season long. More disturbingly, L.A. allowed the Nets guards to dictate the pace of the game and the Lakers almost wound up paying for it in the end.

Overall, this game was more or a less wash in the grand scheme of things; little gained other than a W in the standings. Neither team shot well (42% for L.A., 40% for New Jersey) and the underachieving Lakers were lucky to walk away without suffering another early season loss to a subpar team. More than anything, I’d like to see them recapture some desperately needed momentum during the rest of this road trip, beginning with Washington on Tuesday.

Jeff Skibiski

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38 responses to Lakers/Nets: L.A. Escapes Jersey with a W

  1. “Kobe didn’t shoot the ball well (9-19 for 32 points), but his play in the latter half of the fourth quarter was the big difference in the game.”

    I think you meant, Kobe DID shoot the ball well . . .

    Can’t expect a lot more than that, right?

  2. I think we have to wait until the schedule gets tougher to see how the team is doing. Their schedule has been comically easy (second-easiest in the league as of today), and they need to be challenged to bring out their best. That said, no matter how poorly this team does, it’s going to be pretty tough to question them during the reg season, after what they pulled off last season.

    I’m wondering though, why did Kupchak decide to trade Mbenga/Powell for Ratliff? Maybe he’s better, but his reputation is that he’s basically guaranteed to be injured.

  3. Blizzard @ 2 – I have to assume you are kidding. How good does a team have to be in order for the Lakers to beat them? Aren’t the Bull good enough?

    As far as what the Lakers “pulled off last season”, they barely got past the Celtics by a very super thin margin after the C’s starting center tore up his knee and missed game seven. Let’s not count on that happening again.

  4. Fans are too harsh on our injury-riddled team. We’ve done well considering we haven’t had any big man depth virtually the entire season. The other 29 teams have NBA-level talent and every night they bring their A game to try and stick it to the defending champs. We should be grateful for our team’s winning record while we wait for key members to heal.

  5. An eFG% of 0.552 surely isn’t shooting poorly as Joe pointed out.

    A meh win against a meh team. Bynum needs to get back and the team needs to find it’s way out of their funk. Championship malaise or not losing HCA because of it won’t feel to great in June.

  6. @4
    Yeah, I know what you mean. The funny thing is, they haven’t played a single elite team, and basically lost to every mid-level team they’ve played. At this rate they’re going to get clobbered by Miami/San Antonio on Dec 25-28. I’m just saying, wait and see how they respond to that.

    Speaking of joking though … yeah, they just barely won their second straight championship last year. That was pretty weak, huh?

  7. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) December 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I’ll take 32 points on 19 field goal attempts from Kobe every game. 9-19 for a percentage of 47.4% is very good from the SG position.

    If we’re going to pick Kobe apart, I’d focus on the 6 turnovers.

    But really, the place to point the finger is well known at the moment: Front Court depth. Pau’s subpar play of late has continued every time he’s faced a big man with a pulse. Whether it is tiredness from too many minutes or something else bothering Pau, there’s no question that Bynum’s typically super slow recovery is killing the team at the moment.

    He damn well better be ready to suit up on Tuesday.

  8. is “R” doc rivers’ blog name?

  9. R, by what they “pulled off last season”, I think Blizzard meant all the ups and downs the Lakers went through last regular season, yet still bringing their best and kicking it up another notch during the playoffs. And it’s true, our home-heavy schedule has been largely weak thus far. But it’s about to get strong in a hurry.

  10. 8 – Haha! Nope, I’m a premier Celtics hater.

    That doesn’t change what I saw last June. Just saying our heroes squeeked it out and it could have easily gone the other way.

  11. Kobe definitely had a good shooting game, going 9-19. That’s 47% which is about 4% higher than his season average and 32 points on 19 shots is 1.7 points per shot. I think 1.5 and above is considered good.

  12. Anthony Morrow and Devin Harris would be considered the backcourt right? not the front court?

  13. @1
    You totally cropped part of Jeff’s words out.
    What he said was: “Kobe didn’t shoot the ball well (9-19 for 32 points) in the first half, but his play in the third quarter and latter half of the fourth quarter was the big difference in the game.”
    You only wrote “Kobe didn’t shoot the ball well (9-19 for 32 points), but his play in the latter half of the fourth quarter was the big difference in the game.”

    I didn’t watch the game, but even if he shot 9-19, he could still have a poor shooting for the 1st half, and made up for it during the 2nd.

  14. 9-19 is as good as we can hope for from Kobe. He isn’t going to shoot over 50%, and being just one make short of 50% is simply awesome for him.

    and am I the only one who is not the least worried about our team’s showing? sure I am worried about the minutes Gasol and Odom are piling up, but even that really isn’t news as we always seemed to be without one big during the regular season anyway.

    Utah, San Antonio and Dallas seem to be fairly great and will give us trouble, but if we can hold fort until Bynum’s return, we probably only have to go through one of them during the playoffs and that shouldn’t be too difficult when we’re at full health.

  15. Having a healthy roster makes a huge difference. just look at SA’s stupendous start to the season.

  16. On a side note to the game, I was there in person and the arena was at least 50% Lakers fans – maybe even more. It’s nice to have a home away from home over here on the east coast.

  17. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) December 12, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Realized that the sentence that we’re quibbling about was a bit badly constructed.

    The sentence seems to indicate that Kobe didn’t shoot well for the game with the fact that it puts the numbers before “in the first half” but I think the intended meaning was that he didn’t shoot well in the first half only.

    A confusing sentence, but the meaning is clear upon further review. Apologies for my earlier confusion.

  18. I know it’s pretty much bad to compare but the Celtics play Erden as their Center and are playing through a myriad of injuries, yet they are still number 1 in their conference. Those injuries don’t stop them from playing hard. That is what we really need. Just compete. And we need our bench to step up to negate Bynum’s absence on the floor. We don’t expect them to win every game. They’re humans. But at least like Kobe said they should ” muster up the energy and muster up the motivation to play every night”.

  19. My only point about the injuries is that the Lakers only have 3 players on the entire roster that play Center and 2 of them have been out for weeks. That leaves Gasol – who is pretty good at C himself but is more a natural PF – as the only player that the coaches trust to play C. That really hampers this team and can’t be overstated enough.

    This isn’t to excuse poor play, but it does help explain it I think. And those that want to ignore this or just slough it off because they’re frustrated with the losing should search for some perspective.

  20. #18 – Mark, It’s not at all bad to compare! Yes, the C’s started some rookie named “Erden” who is averaging 4 ppg, and still not only beat the Bobcats, but routed them. The Celtics also have injury issue; their geriatic duo the O’ Neals are both out of commision.

    Guess the rest of the Celtics didn’t get the memo that blizzard put out (see #2), that the Lakers obviously took to heart, that they should only play hard against teams that “challenge them to bring out their best”. Too bad for the Bobcats!

  21. I just wanted to make one further point, then I’ll let it go.

    Check out Kobe’s comments about the game. I don’t think he said anything along the lines of “wait’ll Drew gets back”. Nope, his comments were more along the lines of: “I’m (annoyed)… ” “We can’t just stand around and wait …” “We’re not doing a good job …”

    Who am I to disagree with Kobe Bryant?

  22. #21. I don’t expect anything else from Kobe. He’ll always take the view of what’s wrong can be fixed with the guys that are available to play. It’s that mindset that’s made him great.

    All that said, I don’t think anyone should take the view that Bynum being out is the only thing that’s wrong with the Lakers. But it certainly is *one* of the things. However, the continued need to use other teams as a benchmark when this Lakers team is the one that everyone is gunning for is a concept I don’t think I’ll ever really get used to.

  23. Reign on Parades December 12, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    I am actually perfectly fine with reserving all judgment of this team until Bynum returns. The only thing I’d caution is looking to him as a savior when Bynum himself seems unsure of his health.

    But the thing is when we had Bynum but couldn’t make 3s and guys like Kobe played hurt people were so frustrated with our struggles and not nearly appreciative enough of a top 3 defense that made up for all the lack of offensive execution.

    When we don’t have Bynum but could make 3s and always had our best offensive unit out (Kobe, Gasol, Odom + 3 point shooters) people seemed blindsided when it turned out we couldn’t just steam roll everyone with our #1 offense, particularly after long stretches of success (the undefeated start to this season, the honeymoon period after the Gasol trade)

    I think people need to realize that soon, very soon, we could see a complete Lakers team on both ends. Something we’ve seen only glimpses of out of this team over the past three years, and yet still produced 3 Finals trips and 2 Chips.

    People seem frustrated that this Lakers team isn’t playing to what they think its potential is, when they should really be frustrated that it can’t…

    yet.

  24. Everyone is waiting on Bynum’s return, it will be welcomed, obviously.
    But he’ll need some games to play himself into shape. It wont be 20/10s every night from the first time he laces up.

  25. @13 Kenny
    I cropped nothing. I cut and pasted exactly what was written. It was obviously edited after I posted.

    Even the way it is worded now is confusing. If Jeff is criticizing his first half shooting, then he should post his first half stats (1-6 for six points).

    To post his end game numbers (which are good) does not add to his point of Kobe’s first half struggles. Agreed?

  26. Kenny, the post was edited like Joe said. I remember reading that line and was pretty confused myself.

  27. I think Jeff’s point is solid. Essentially, he’s saying Kobe wasn’t that great in the first half, but pretty much dominated the second half and his play (along with Odom’s) in the second half and down the stretch effectively won this game. We can pretty much all agree on that, no?

  28. Escape from the pine barrens is right. I agree that we’re at a disadvantage with only one center (and a natural PF at that). On the other hand, Pau’s generally regarded as one of the elite bigs in the league regardless of whether he’s at the 4 or 5. We’ve got essentially the same line-up that we had a month ago when we were blowing through the competitiion and yet we’re now struggling against bottom-dwellers. Something’s out of whack and the season’s now, regardless of Andew’s amorphous timetable.

  29. #28. The only difference is that Ratliff is out too (which does matter and is more than just cosmetic, regardless of what stats he was providing), but your point is well taken.

  30. Artest:

    – Worst shooting percentage of any SF the Lakers have ever had.

    – Worst shooting percentage of any starting SF in the league right now.

    Thoughts?

  31. #29 – Darius, certainly agree about Theo, his floor presence spelled some relief for Pau and just the fact that he was there and ready to bang seemed to motivate others. What’s his timetable anyway, still a couple weeks out?

    #30 – Dustin, personally, I think that’s the biggest factor right now. His percentage seems to be trickling over into other areas. This may sound strange but I sometimes wonder if all his off-court activity, albeit it terrific, charitable, etc., might have taken away from his focus. Then again, maybe it’s just a mother of a slump.

  32. @ #31 – I was thinking the same thing.

    I am constantly hearing about how Artest wants to be a boxer, or a NFL player or something along those lines.

    I think he needs to keep focused on basketball and only basketball.

    What do you guys think the chances of him losing the starting job to Barnes are?

  33. 3.R wrote on December 12, 2010 at 3:09 pm
    Blizzard @ 2 – I have to assume you are kidding. How good does a team have to be in order for the Lakers to beat them? Aren’t the Bull good enough?

    As far as what the Lakers “pulled off last season”, they barely got past the Celtics by a very super thin margin after the C’s starting center tore up his knee and missed game seven. Let’s not count on that happening again.

    =========

    Oh god, not this again. You know, the whole subjective reasoning thing. Looking at the Celtics injuries, which were entirely contained to a second rate C injured for 1 game, as opposed to the Lakers who suffered through major injuries for the entirety of the season and the playoffs, including their far better C playing on 1leg and being completely ineffective on offense compared to his normal output. Not to mention the best player on either team, Kobe, being held down by injuries as well.

    All that said, the team they “barely beat out” was a Celtics team playing out of their minds, a team which could have (if they actually tried i’m sure) swept the 2nd best team in the East and 3rd best team in the playoffs in the Magic. Not to mention what they did to “el kingo,” Mr Lebron.

    Basically, the level to which you are underestimating the Lakers acheivements last year is mindboggling and nonsensicle.

  34. It’s hard to even come up with something intelligent to comment about right now. The getting-to-be-not-so-recent play of the Lakers is frustrating. Beyond the debate of how much these games matter and how much of it is health related it just sucks to watch them play right now. But I do.

    And as I do I remember the 09 playoffs and how frustrating this team was, how people swore they would never win, how furious they were and I remember 10 and how the team lost to the Celtics, lost to the Cavs, struggled with Phoenix and lost to a bunch of teams they shouldn’t have lost to.

    Somehow at the end of those seasons the struggle made the victory even sweeter. So I hold on, keep faith and wait.

  35. 33- 100% cosign with you. I surely am frustrated with the Lakers play as of late. But people are starting to go crazy now. Any team that can win four straight playoffs series against top level NBA teams deserves to be called champions. Period. There are no other qualifiers.

  36. Bynum is scared to come back because he knows if the teams overall play doesnt improve then the blame will be put on him. Although the team has struggled for a couple of weeks now, his return is spoken of like a messiah returning to save all. If the welcome mat becomes dirty then let the flood gates open, fans are already at his throat for him delaying surgery. When in fact the delay would not have had an impact at all if doctors knew that the procedure was going to be more complicated than expected. Cant say I blame the kid for sounding mentally checked out before he even checks in.

  37. >sounding mentally checked out before he even checks in.

    see, that’s the thing that’s most troubling about him. if he really had the heart for all this, he should be ‘champing’ at the bit to get back into the wars, but.