Lakers/Bucks: Undone By The Defense

Darius Soriano —  January 28, 2012

Boxscore: Lakers 89, Bucks 100
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 103.5, Bucks 116.3
True Shooting %: Lakers 51.9, Bucks 59.9

The Good:
There’s only so many times Kobe can appear in this space it be a good thing for the team. Sure, it’s great to have Kobe playing at a level that rivals his peak in his 16th season and after accumulating so many career minutes. But the fact that he continues to be the Lakers’ best player night after night is a bit of a concern considering the balance that’s needed for this team to be the best it can be.

But Mr. Bean certainly deserves the recognition as he was mostly splendid again, pouring in 27 points on 10-21 shooting while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out 9 assists. His 4 turnovers and 1-5 shooting from behind the arc were black spots on his night, but they were relatively minor transgressions on a night where he was clearly the Lakers’ best player while doing everything he could to carry his team to a win.

Kobe wasn’t alone in playing well, though. Andrew Goudelock put together his second straight solid game shooting 5-10 for 13 points. The rook was aggressive in looking for his shot, never lost confidence even though he missed his first couple of outside shots, and worked hard on defense (though he could still make some better decisions on that side of the floor). Derek Fisher also gave a solid performance, knocking down 3 of his 5 shots from the floor and mostly playing under control – a couple of bad decisions to attack the rim and a bad post entry pass that stood out not withstanding.

The Bad
A while back, I wrote that the Lakers had seemingly made defense a major part of their team identity. I wrote a glowing piece about them bringing their hardhats to work each night and building their success around getting stops. Where that mindset has gone is anyone’s guess but it’s certainly not been true lately and certainly wasn’t tonight.

The Lakers’ D allowed the Bucks to shoot 50% from the floor and gave up countless good looks to every member of the Bucks. The Lakers allowed dribble penetration too easily, didn’t hustle back in transition, and didn’t bother rotating to shooters with any consistency. The result was too many Bucks getting the shots they wanted on any given possession with the resulting good looks leading to made baskets, increased confidence, and then even more made shots.

All you need to do is explore the boxscore for countless examples. Drew Gooden outplayed both Pau and Bynum by scoring 23 points on 15 shots both from the post and from the perimeter when the Bucks went to their pick and pop sets. Mike Dunleavy hit 6 of his 8 shots for 15 points, making the Lakers wing defense look silly on several occasions. Ersan Ilyasova also scored 15 points by hitting 7 of his 9 shots with smart cuts off the ball and slipping into gaps in the Lakers perimeter defense to get wide open jumpers. I could go on but you probably get the point by now. The Lakers defense (especially Bynum and Pau) just didn’t do their job and allowed a Bucks team that normally struggles to score to find their stride.

Of course, you don’t lose simply because you play poorly on D. The Lakers offense was also quite poor on the evening especially when dealing with ball pressure. After the Lakers had success early in the game going into post, the Bucks picked up their defensive intensity, started to pressure the ball, and blew up the Lakers offense with a combination of active hands and quick feet. They rotated to shooters, cut off passing angles, and made the Lakers work for every shot. The result was Pau going 6-18 from the floor as he worked mostly from the elbow (though, even from the post his shot was off and bothered too easily as he hunted foul calls more than he did good shots).

The Ugly:
I could have included these two in the section above but thought Barnes and MWP’s lack of production deserve special recognition. The Lakers’ small forward duo combined to go 3-13 from the floor and couldn’t hit a jumper to save their lives. Their poor play on offense – even with Pau struggling – was a major factor tonight because it was often their man that roamed on D and doubled the ball when it went into the post.

Sadly, though, their play only highlights (again) the roster issues this team possesses. In season’s past, if the Lakers were having issues at SF, they’d slide Kobe up to forward and let the back up SG play next to him to form the Lakers wing attack. However, this year, the Lakers don’t have a viable back up SG and thus on nights where the SF isn’t producing, Kobe plays heavy minutes anyway but doesn’t get any support from a wing partner. The result tonight was Kobe playing 42 minutes, the Lakers still losing by 11 as MWP, Barnes, Ebanks, and Kapono played a total of 54 minutes but only contributing 8 points. On many nights this is the complaint of L.A.’s point guards, but it’s an issue with the small forwards lately too.

The Play of the Game:
In an effort to wipe this game from my memory, I have nothing to share here. Adding video, even of a Bucks play, would only allow this stinking to live with me for longer than I’d like.


Darius Soriano

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