Lakers/Kings: How To Not Win A Game

Darius Soriano —  January 28, 2011

Coming into this contest I thought there was a great chance that this could be a trap game. With the Celtics coming into to town on Sunday, I thought it’d be very easy for the Lakers to only go through the motions versus the Kings, simply relying on talent in the hope that outclassing the woeful division opponent would be fairly routine. Well, let’s just say that I’m very disappointed to have been right as the Lakers fell 100-95, surrendering their momentum from strong wins in the past week and spoiling a night where Kobe passed Hakeem Olajuwon to become the 8th leading scorer in league history.

This game was lost on two levels.

First was on the defensive end. Rather than put the clamps on the Kings in the manner that they did the Thunder and Nuggets in their two previous wins, the Lakers decided to only play on one side of the ball. They continuously gave up open shots to the Kings and paid for it with made shot after made shot by the visiting team.

DeMarcus Cousins led the way, showing off his tremendous range as he consistently hit his 18-20 foot jumper as the Lakers tempted him to take that shot. After finding his rhythm from distance, he then took the ball inside and used a combination of power and touch to get off decent looks that even when decently defended (which was sporadic at best) he was able to knock down. The promising young big man finished the night with 27 points on 19 shots and collected 10 rebounds against the Lakers big men as no one seemed to have an answer for his versatile offensive attack.

But the poor defense wasn’t limited to the big men. The Lakers’ wing defenders didn’t do that great a job either as they consistently gave up dribble penetration, got beat on cuts when caught ball watching, and also gave up too many uncontested jumpers when they were forced to help in the paint due to their other mishaps. Quite the trifecta.

Really, the Lakers just weren’t hustling on that side of the ball. It showed in their rotations, it showed in their reactions to passes, and it showed on their defensive glass where they gave up 15 offensive rebounds.

The second area where the Lakers lost this game was in the performance of their big men. Typically a strength for the Lakers, tonight the combo of Pau, Bynum, and Odom couldn’t seem to gain any traction. Bynum had a solid game with 12 points (on 4 of 8 shooting), but only grabbed 4 rebounds in 27 minutes and was bodied all night by Cousins whenever he tried to exert himself in the offensive paint. As for Pau and Odom, they shot 4-11 (9 points) and 0-7 (4 points) respectively. And while they combined for 19 rebounds, they weren’t a presence in the paint on either side of the ball and played with little force against the Kings front line. Watching Gasol get outdone by Samuel Dalembert (18 points, 5 rebounds) was especially frustrating considering how much time they spent guarding each other in the 2nd and 3rd quarters (where Pau allowed Sammy to get to his spots so easily that it inspired a confidence that led to him taking fadeaway 15 footers and me calling him Hakeem Dalembert on twitter).

As for the other Lakers, Kobe had a good statistical game (38 points on 27 shots, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) and did his best to try and keep the Lakers afloat. He really did play a complete game and was playing so well (and was the only consistent spark for the team) that Phil played him the entire 2nd half in the hope that he could carry the team home. Shannon Brown also played well as he poured in 17 points on 11 shots and hit a number of big jumpers in the 2nd half in helping the Lakers cut the large deficits they faced in the final 24 minutes. But, just like Kobe, Shannon didn’t have enough down the stretch and the team ultimately fell short.

In the end, this game was just extremely disappointing. The Lakers, knowing what needed to be done to win the game, barely tried early and dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of late. I’m not sure if they’ll ever learn the lesson of playing harder for long enough for them to seize games against lesser teams but watching them go through the motions tonight was especially frustrating. Credit the Kings for making shots, stepping up, and seizing the game in the 2nd half, but I can’t help but point out that so much of tonight’s result was based off the Lakers playing a sloppy complacent game for most of the contest. When the Lakers finally decided to turn up the defensive pressure in the final frame, they outscored the Kings 24-15. It’s not a stretch to think that 4th quarter could have been reproduced in earlier portions of the game with the ultimate result being different. Instead the Lakers coasted and they got burned for it. Hopefully, Sunday will bring a different temperament and a victory.

Darius Soriano

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13 responses to Lakers/Kings: How To Not Win A Game

  1. I tend to think that people are too quick to blame complacency and/or boredom when the Lakers struggle, but in this case it’s hard to argue otherwise.

    Also, I can’t remember another time when Bynum, Gasol, and Odom were all so ineffective at the same time. Cousins is a real talent but to make Carl Landry and (especially) Sam Dalembert look like All-stars takes some doing.

  2. Back in Miami, early in the night, Lebron seized the opportunity to reprise his Cavalier superstar role: Wade and Bosh were injured. He ballhogged his way to 39 points (15-25 plus 10 free throws). The Heat, at home, squeeked by the lowly Pistons by one point.

    Here in LA, a little later, where Kobe’s superstar teammates were not injured, Black Mamba was not about to surrender to the James man without a fight. Kobe ballhogged his way to 38 points (13-27 plus 12 free throws), but his Lakers fell to the lowly Kings.

    Coincidence?

    In this game, the Lakers lacked the chemistry they had in provious wins: Lamar disappeared, Pau looked barely ordinary, and the usual suspects failed to make threes out of rythmn all night.

    Without the incredible offensive and defensive performances of big men Cousins and Delembert for the Kings, the Lakers might have squeeked through on this one–and Kobe would then have matched Lebron.

  3. @1–So this is Kobe’s fault (i.e., Kobe took his teammates out of the game by shooting too much early) or what are you saying?

    Did you watch the game? Kobe was forcing it a bit early, but if you saw how “on” he was in the first, I don’t know if you would have wanted anyone else taking the shots he was using. Moreover, he spent most of the 2nd and 3rd quarters deferring to his teammates. In fact, after the first quarter he never really went into “takover” mode, and wasn’t ball-hogging at all. He made a ton of good passes to Pau and Odom that mostly went to waste, as Odom couldn’t hit a bunny to save his life, and Gasol never went strong to the hole until the last few sequences when it was too late. Even then, Pau couldn’t hang onto the ball.

    That’s why I asked if you watched the game. Your comments suggest otherwise.

    The blame here lies right where the post says–the big men played like garbage, in particular Gasol. There is a common theme running through the games LA has lost to inferior opponents this year–Gasol has looked either disinterested or overmatched in nearly all of them. Tonight Pau was flatfooted, and showed little hustle or effort. It’s becoming a habit, and it’s getting old. It’s as if he overcame the “soft” label last year, and is coasting this year. I’m ready to crack the label back out. He has been “soft” pretty consistently for about 25-30 games now.

  4. drrayeye,
    Are you falling for the ‘Kobe is the problem’ crowd or is this all just a satirical view of this game’s outcome?

    To say the entire team – except Kobe – looked as if they were wearing cement shoes would be an understatement. I think what this proved is what Wilt Chamberlain proved in the 60’s…no one player can substitute for team talent and desire. Maybe they can carry a team for a short while, but not over any season or playoff.

  5. last night was yet another example of what we’ve seen now for 3 straight games, only last night, we were on the wrong side of it –
    LUCK
    I’ve said in our comments in our last 2 wins, that we were having some exceptionally good luck on our shots, LO’s crazy shot from under the basket going out of bounds is a great example. not only were our shots falling (a team wide “being in a zone”), but as usually happens when in a zone, the bounces were going our way too.

    so last night, we were on the wrong side of that and Sacto was for sure in a team wide zone. Cousins and Evans led the way. Cousins had to back up his talk from earlier in the season, and he got in a zone early and stayed in it.

    Normally, a zone doesn’t last the whole game, or be team-wide, but I think we’ve seen something sort of exceptional, 3 games in a row where one of the teams simply couldn’t miss. and for us, at least we were in 2 of those 3.

    Now, I have to admit that our 4th qtr comeback was exciting, and it fell apart on one play, the Kobe to Pau pass that resulted in Pau getting stripped, a turnover and the end of our run.
    I felt like the Lakers were almost relishing in this comeback, saying to themselves, “OK, we can do this, and this will be good experience for the playoffs and run up to them, learning how to make a good comeback from behind to pull out a win”. PJ was calling timeouts, the team made a calculated and determined comeback, and it was exciting to see. Only thing is, they (as Darius pointed out) had let themselves get too far into that hole.

    Now the Celtic’s, this game will not be a game of “who gets into a zone for the whole team for the whole game’ (at least I hope not, unless it’s us;)
    these “zone games” are not the norm, these last 3 games have been exceptions, (but fun to watch).
    Sunday’s game will be a grind it out, very physical, and very emotional game, let’s hope we’ve got the guts to take it to ‘em for the full 48 minutes.
    Sunday could be a game for the ages!

  6. Off-topic, but wow that Garnett play was an awful cheap shot, even for him. The funniest part of the video? When Frye gets in his face, KG steps up and starts barking back, knowing Frye’s as soft as toilet paper. But all of a sudden Gortat comes into the screen and shoves KG back, and you can see KG take a step back, fall silent, and suddenly he lets Steve Nash hold him back. Biggest (word that Cuban used to describe the Russian billionaire) ever.

    Kurt’s got a good clip of it over at PBT. A groin hit should be an automatic ejection.

  7. Kobe was great as usual,congrats on another milestone,others well not so great,Pau especially..

  8. C’s fan on here. Yea, I flipped back and forth between both games and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Trap games for both teams for sure. I’m a bit more surprised the Lakers weren’t able to focus at home and pull this one out. The Celtics normally don’t handle back to back games very well, so getting their asses kicked in Phoenix really isn’t all that surprising. Hopefully both teams regroup so we get a great game on Sunday. KG’s foul did border on a cheapshot -hopefully no suspension coming–at least not until after Sunday’s game. I think we could all agree that we want both teams at full strength.

  9. If a game like this happens one time a season on homecourt, its acceptible, but it has happened too many times now. I can recall the one against the Bucks and another against Memphis. There was also one against the T-wolves which they won, but played terribly. Whether you put great emphasis on the regular season or not, which most of you don’t here, this is so extremely frustrating and they should be ashamed of themselves. Lack of focus, effort and arrogance at its highest last night. I can not accept defeat in this way from this team.

  10. @ Stephen

    KG tested the Suns and the referees. To say he didn’t deserve to get ejected, is like saying you didn’t watch the whole game (you mentioned you flipped back and forth so I don’t know). KG got into it with Gortat early on and then slid underneath Frye on a 3 where it appeared Frye was injured.

    Fast forward to the 4th and that’s when the Suns and the refs were no longer going to tolerate KG or his antics. KG hit Frye in the groin and slid under him again on a 3. That could have been a serious injury and you’ve witnessed the backlash from when Bowen used to pull that rank.

    KG will have to be careful of his actions going forward, he labeled himself now as a player willfully taking cheap shots (instead of just setting moving screens).

  11. @6, Snoopy
    The video is in a post from Matt Moore, not by Kurt. And in the interest of fairness, it didn’t look like an actual punch, more like momentum combined with a total lack of desire to be nice and courteous. He may not have been trying to punch in the groin area, but he certainly wasn’t trying to avoid hitting Frye there either.

    And the end result is that Frye believes Garnett intentionally smacked him in the nuts. I can fully understand why that might make him a little angry, and why Gortat and the other Suns players felt a need to step in and back Garnett down.

    And I agree with Stephen. We should all wish for both teams to be at full strength and for both teams to play the best ball they can, with complete focus and full execution. Where I disagree with him is on the desired outcome. ;)

  12. Mindcrime (3),

    I watched the entire Laker game carefully–and almost every other game during the season and the off season for a number of years.

    As Craig said, it’s not just Kobe–this argument applies to any exceptionally dominant player in the NBA. To have winning team chemistry at a championship level, no one player can dominate the ball too much. It never has worked.

    Kobe flirts back and forth capriciously over that divide all the time–sometimes for better, but these days, mostly for worse.

  13. @81 witness—-Please go back and read my post. I never made a comment on whether or not KG deserved to be ejected, I said hopefully he would not be suspended and miss Sunday’s game. Just setting the record straight here.