I ate some ice cream tonight, and that was as good as it got for me watching this game. The Lakers came out lethargic for the most part, Mike Brown had some awkward rotations, and the Lakers couldn’t defend a thesis proving that 1+1 is 2. However, the Lakers starting bigs were efficient. Pau recorded a 17 and 12 line on six-for-11 shooting while Bynum chipped in 16 and 10 on seven-for-12 shooting. Pau and Bynum combined for 56 percent shooting while the rest of the roster shot 40 percent from the field. Pau and Bynum took advantage of the touches they were given and we even saw some nice interior passing between the two on a nice Pau over the shoulder pass to a cutting Bynum for an easy layup. Other then those two, it was awfully hard to find any good from tonight’s performance. Kobe was instrumental in keeping the game closer than what it should have been. Bryant scored a game high 32 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists.
The Lakers role players and reserves weren’t much help tonight, and haven’t been much help at all on the road this season. The Kobe/Pau/Bynum triumvirate accounted for 65 of the Lakers 90 points, more than half of the Lakers rebounds and more than half of the Lakers assists. Although the Lakers’ big three were tops for the team, they were far from perfect as Kobe, Pau and ‘Drew accounted for 15 of the team’s 18 turnovers (Kobe had 10 of his own — double-double!). And for the second straight game, the Lakers had trouble dealing with Marcin Gortat. In Friday’s game, Gortat got off to a great start in the first half, but they largely went away from him in the second half. Tonight, they continued to give Gortat in the third and no one had an answer for the Polish Hammer. Gortat scored 21 and 15 and looked like the best big man on the floor for the night. Also, a few bad rotations and poor effort on closing out on shooters — mainly Jared Dudley and Channing Frye — led to a combined 38 points and nine rebounds. Steve Nash was the driving force behind the Suns’ offense as usual, especially early. Nash got things going with seven of his 14 assists in the first quarter, helping the Suns get out to a huge early lead that the Lakers just weren’t able to overcome.
The Lakers were able to kind of make a game out of what looked as if it would be a blow out. This falls in the ugly category because it led to Kobe playing 40 minutes and Pau playing 36. The Lakers were able to bring the lead down from 25 to 10 more than once in the fourth quarter, and with the score just a few possessions away from the lead, Mike Brown continued to go with Kobe and Pau down the stretch in a game that was a lost cause from the beginning. Tomorrow, the Lakers will be playing their third game in four nights, and their second of a back-to-back against a very good Portland Trailblazers team, despite what their record says. Even though the game was closer than what it should have been, we never got the feeling that the Lakers might come back and win this thing as they never brought the lead below 10 points. It’s nights like this that Mike Brown is going to have to learn to rest his guys and hope things go better the next night — especially this season with the condensed schedule. This is an old Lakers team, and having your main guys playing 40 minutes on the first of a back-to-back in a game that was never really in reach just isn’t a smart way to handle the minutes and a basketball team. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Kobe and Pau will have tough nights, but Kobe has historically struggled against Gerald Wallace and Portland has a few formidable front line defenders to give Gasol some problems when he’s doing anything other than shooting that 15-footer. I’m just not a fan of the way Brown handled tonight’s minutes (not to mention the rotations earlier in the game). I’ll be interested in seeing how Brown manages Kobe’s and Gasol’s minutes tomorrow night.