From Andy Kamentzky, Land O’ Lakers Blog: The Lakers swore during Thursday’s practice nobody was looking ahead to Sunday’s showdown with the Celtics. After this debacle, I’m hoping it was the opposite. I’d like to believe everyone wasn’t just looking ahead, but actually played while picturing Celtic heads on the bodies of each King. In fact, I pray they all shared a group daydream where K.G. tried to punk Devin Ebanks over nothing in particular. At least that would explain getting outclassed by a bunch of schmoes. Otherwise, the loss is just embarrassing without even some unjustifiable form of justification offered. I’m not saying Sacto didn’t play hard and earn their keep. But man alive, did the Lakers play most of this game entirely disengaged. The boo birds were active for the first time in a while, and I wouldn’t say feathers were ruffled over nothing. Sacto is an awful road team — although really, they’re not very good in any setting — and should never nab a win on Laker soil. Throw in the fact Boston lost to Phoenix, and this was a wasted chance to gain ground in the race for home court advantage over as many teams as possible.
From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: No, tonight’s game has no real bearing in the argument that I found myself ensconced in earlier today, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention both the poor “clutch” performance of Kobe Bryant, and of the Lakers as a whole in tonight’s game. Kobe was 2-8 in the final 5 minutes of the game, and he shot worse the clutchier the situation got, going 0-4 with the score within 5 points. The irony is not lost on me, nor is it lost that three of those shots were desperation 3 point heaves in the final 20 seconds. Regardless, it’s an alarming trend we’ve seen throughout the season. Whereas in years past, the Lakers’ win column was filled with too-close games pulled out in the 4th quarter, we’ve been treated to a steady dose of come-from-behind fail this season. What that indicates won’t be determined until May. The popularly plotted course requires that I come before you and moan about the Lakers’ lack of effort. After all, the Lakers are infallible and any loss they happen to pick up is automatically a result of their lack of effort. Well guess what, I’m not buying it tonight. Call it a fluke, call it the miracle on Figueroa Street, but I think the Kings were simply the better team, for one night only. Were the Lakers looking ahead to Boston? Of course. Did they do a good job of getting back in transition, or moving their feet at all? Nope. Did they play a stupid brand of basketball replete with turnovers and poor offensive flow? Sure. And did they get killed on the boards? Absolutely. But I saw plenty of effort out there. Kobe wanted this game. Lamar Odom did, too. Pretty much anybody not named Pau Gasol gave it a good try out there tonight, and the Lakers still lost. That means just as little as it would if effort were the main reason behind the loss.
From Dave McMenamin, Land O’ Lakers: The loss was quickly framed in terms of the classic one step backwards, two steps forward mentality. “I think that sometimes [a bad loss] serves a purpose in itself, not damage,” Jackson said. “[It makes] guys get back, get back to their game, their aggressiveness and the nature that we’re trying to play the game.” It is a smart tactic to try and stop the bleeding instead of letting a loss linger, especially with a battle with Boston right around the corner. “It should intensify our focus against a team that we were supposed to beat at home, for sure,” Gasol said. “It’s a tough one to take but hopefully it will make us stronger and it will be useful for the next game.”
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: The story, though, was the Lakers’ surprising lack of defense, particularly down low. Andrew Bynum stood up and took the blame. “We didn’t even come out and defend the way we should have, myself in particular,” he said. “In the first half, I kind of disrespected Cousins and he got off to a blazing start. You can’t do that in the NBA. Can’t take a night off defensively.” Bryant had 26 points at halftime, but Cousins had 22 as the Kings led, 59-55. Dalembert came into the night averaging five points a game but made eight of 12 shots. “Their big guys came out and really took it [to] our guys, and carried the day for their team,” Jackson said. The Lakers appeared to have momentum after Odom spun baseline and dropped the ball off to Gasol for a dunk, bringing them within 93-89 with 3:18 to play. But they short-circuited on their next four possessions, Gasol making one of two free-throw attempts, Gasol having the ball stripped on a shot down low, Brown missing a three-point attempt and Bryant missing one too.
From Mark Medina, LA Times Lakers Blog: It’s not so much important to what degree Olajuwon influenced Bryant. It’s that it’s part of an ongoing effort in continuously finding new wrinkles to help him remain an offensive force. That’s revealed in the various ways Bryant has gotten on the scoreboard in the past six seasons. According to Synergy, most of Bryant’s offense during that stretch came in isolation plays, ranging from 29.4% to 38%. But this season, Bryant’s areas of scoring came in isolation (29.4%), post-ups (16.3%), pick-and-rolls (15.1%) and transition baskets (9.9%). Considering the jump from October, November, December and January in points per game (24, 27.2, 23.7, 23.7) and field-goal percentage (45.45%, 42.37%, 47.25%, 49.78), it also shows Bryant’s increased his level of efficiency. That’s why it’s not surprising that Bryant’s work with Olajuwon reflected both players’ appreciation for fine-tuning their craft.
From Dan Devine, Ball Don’t Lie: Odom’s wonderful play probably won’t be recognized with an All-Star berth, which is understandable due to the insane collection of frontline talent out west. But it’s also a shame, because he’s exactly the type of player that can make freewheeling contests like the All-Star Game more fun. When he’s got it going, as Kelly wrote earlier this week, Odom “might be the most aesthetically pleasing basketball player” in the league to watch. And like a liquid that takes the shape of whatever container you pour it in, he can slide seamlessly into just about any role the game would call for — including, as he showed during Friday night’s surprising 100-95 home loss to the Sacramento Kings, a crowd-pleasing playmaker capable of delivering pinpoint, whirling dervish, no-look feeds over his shoulder to streaking teammates like Pau Gasol(notes). Getting to see Odom display his remarkable fluidity and fantastic collection of talents by playing off of and setting up the likes of Kevin Durant(notes) or Blake Griffin(notes) would be a hoop purist’s dream. More likely, though, Lamar will once again wind up just outside the spotlight, his prodigious talents falling just shy of bursting into full view.