Over the past twelve quarters, the Lakers have played well for two of them. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to win consistently and tonight – like Sunday – that poor play resulted in another loss, this time to the Jazz by a score of 86-85. Any hopes of home court in the West have now slipped away and the Lakers find themselves in a dogfight to stay ahead of their chief competitors in the East (while also falling 2 games behind the Bulls in the loss column). Just a frustrating night all around.
Really, this game was summed up quite well by 3ThreeIII in the comments:
Sometimes the ball does not go in.
Lakers shot pretty poorly, all across the board, with only Gasol (5-10) and Barnes (2-4) shooting even 50%.
Fairly uncharacteristic, and with Bynum (5-13) and Lamar (5-12) shooting poorly, we really cannot even say it was nothing but bad shots… We got the bigs the ball for 35 looks, and only got 15 of them to drop.
Shame to waste a good night (otherwise) by Bynum, with 39 minutes, a fantastic 23 rebounds (7 on offense) and a monstrous 4 blocks.
Honestly, as badly as the Lakers shot tonight (38% overall, and 20% from three point land), it is only the excellent defense that kept it close.
The bigs are healthy, Bynum is learning to be a BEAST game in and game out, and this is still just the regular season.
I am really looking forward to the playoffs.
There was, however, more to this game. The Jazz showed grit and effort throughout the entire night when the Lakers did not. Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward flashed a versatile offensive arsenal driving to both hands, moving well off the ball, and finishing both off the bounce and off his jumper to the tune of 22 points on only 14 shots. He also did quite well as a playmaker throughout the contest (and especially down the stretch), tallying 5 assists as the Jazz put the ball in his hands to create for his team. Meanwhile, the Lakers again struggled to control their defensive glass, surrendering 16 offensive boards even with Bynum (16 defensive rebounds, 23 total) doing yeoman’s work on the glass. Worse yet, on a night where the Jazz missed 51 shots no other Laker even had double digit rebounds with Pau (3 defensive rebounds, 5 total) performing especially poorly on the glass. Plus, the Lakers also had their second straight game of sloppy mishaps, committing 19 turnovers offense while also committing 22 fouls (which was one more than the normally foul happy Jazz committed). This three headed monster of bad qualities (rebounds, fouls, turnovers) truly did the Lakers in and it’s a wonder that this game was even close at the end.
The end of the game, however, was the kicker. In the last 1:17 Kobe Bryant hit two tremendous three pointers – the first to cut a 5 point lead to 2, the second to tie the game at 85 – that positioned the Lakers to win the game. With the game tied at 85, Hayward drove the ball into the teeth of the Laker D, earned a foul, and proceeded to knock down 1 of 2 from the line to put the Jazz up by a single point. Then, with 6 seconds left, the Lakers ran a play to get Kobe the ball at the top of the key. Kobe drove right, ball faked, tried to step through, and had the ball slip out of his hands for a turnover. Game over.
In the end, I’m disappointed with this contest and would have hoped that the team would have come out with more intensity. That said, the Lakers seem to have lost some of their pre-existing rhythm on offense and aren’t doing a lot of things well on that side of the ball. I think they could really use some time in the film room to identify some of their issues as they’ve clearly gotten away from the screening and off ball movement that fueled their offense during their run. Sadly, that time will have to wait until Thursday as they play at Golden State tomorrow and then visit Portland on Friday. At this point, I’m not too concerned but, again, I would like to see some of the sharpness return to their offense to match their still-very-good-defense. Tomorrow is a new day, folks. I suggest you let this one wash away.