If I could recap this game in one word, it would be frustrated.
Fans are frustrated with a home loss that the Lakers could have used to build on their back to back wins over Dallas and Portland.
The coaches were clearly frustrated by their players’ lack of effort on defense and their casual approach on offense.
The players were frustrated by the physicality of the Grizzlies, where tough defense and a patient approach on offense must have seemed like a turn in the torture chamber.
Frustrated. Everyone is feeling it right now.
Save for the Grizzlies of course. Give the blue bears credit in this game. They played harder and smarter than the home team. Rudy Gay paced his ‘mates with 18 points on 14 shots on mostly disciplined attacks off the dribble. He used his quickness advantage over Artest to get below the foul line and shoot turnaround jumpers that Ron tried to contest but couldn’t fully get to. OJ Mayo poured in 12 points in the decisive 4th quarter on hot outside shooting and strong drives to the rim and his 16 points for the game nearly doubled the output of the Lakers reserves (who tallied all of 9 points on the evening). When you add in Haddadi’s 10 points off the bench and Zach Randolph’s 10 and 12 rebounds from a reserve role, the Grizzlies bench gave their team a spark that the Lakers simply couldn’t match.
From the Lakers end, though, it was truly a lack of effort and commitment that did them in. Yes, some of the players point totals and shooting percentages look nice but when you look closer at the boxscore, you can see the red flags. Bynum had 4 rebounds all game and besides Pau’s 11 defensive boards no Laker had more than 3 defensive rebounds all game. The Lakers committed 16 turnovers, mostly of the lazy and weak variety where they either floated a pass or weren’t strong enough with the ball. Rather than doing work to establish the post or set good screens, the Lakers settled for jumpers or tried to do all their work after having the ball in their hands neither of which were very successful.
But it was the defense that really let the Lakers down. The rim went unprotected. Cutters weren’t bumped. Too many shots went uncontested. When the ball was turned over, too many Lakers watched instead of racing back on D. The result was too many easy shots and on a night where the Lakers couldn’t hit their own open jumpers, they didn’t have the firepower to overcome such poor effort. It got to the point that Mike Brown even sat Kobe in a key stretch of the 4th quarter trying to give his team some life only to bring him back in with under two minutes remaining because that didn’t work either.
And so everyone is frustrated. You, me, the coaches, and the players. But, when you take a step back the realization comes that games like this happen. Some nights the other team comes out hungrier, plays harder, and proves to be better on that evening. Such was the case for the Lakers in this game, just like it was for the Mavs this past Wednesday. Hopefully the team learns from this game and can turn some of that frustration into stronger play.