From Zach Harper, CBS Sports: Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers lost by two points to the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were a very good team last year and are trying to figure out their way with Danny Granger sidelined for months, so it’s not a horrendous loss by any means. However, the Lakers were at home against a struggling team and really should have pulled out this victory. Even with Kobe Bryant battling the flu, the Lakers had more than enough chances to take control of this game and put themselves over .500 at 8-7. A big reason why the Lakers couldn’t get anything going offensively or put points on the board was their atrocious free throw shooting. Los Angeles made just 23 of their 43 attempts against Indiana. That’s a paltry 53.3 percent. Bryant and Pau Gasol were off the hook in that respect, shooting a combined 17 of 19 from the line. Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace, Darius Morris and Antawn Jamison shot the rest of the 24 attempts, making just six of them. You can’t even blame it all on Howard, even though he was 3 of 12 from the line. The other three players all went 1 of 4, respectively.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The Lakers’ instability at the all-important point guard position in Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense continues: Steve Blake is out at least two more weeks because of his abdominal strain. Blake had an MRI on Wednesday, and D’Antoni had previously expressed optimism that Blake might be back this week. Instead, he’ll tack on at least another seven games to the eight he has already missed with the injury. The Lakers hope starting point guard Steve Nash will be back before Blake, though Nash’s return from a fractured fibula remains uncertain. Fill-in starter Darius Morris shot 0 for 6 from the field and 1 for 4 from the foul line with no assists in the Lakers’ two-point loss to Indiana on Tuesday and continues to struggle to mesh his athleticism with team execution.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: Mike D’Antoni doesn’t like to linger much during news conferences these days. Considering he’s less than a month removed from knee-replacement surgery, it’s understandable he has taken an approach in which he’ll expend energy only if it’s absolutely necessary. Talking to reporters doesn’t rank high on his energy priority list, even with D’Antoni possessing a personality that allows him to spin a yarn with the best of them. Yet there he was answering the last question of pregame availability before the Los Angeles Lakers played the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday with a thoughtful response when a writer wondered how Kobe Bryant keeps it up the way he does 17 years into his career. “The one thing you have to say about Kobe is his intensity, and that goes a long way,” D’Antoni said. “As your body gets older, you lose it mentally. You don’t want to train. You’re just tired. You got a lot of money, and you know what, it’s hard. Kobe is not going to let that happen to him. He’s too intense and too much of a champion.”
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: When the Lakers were done throwing rocks at the backboard Tuesday night, there were so many questions to answer. Then the biggest of all shoved its way through the crowded chaos of a foundering offense, Pau Gasol’s continued backspin and Steve Nash’s never-ending leg injury. What does Dwight Howard think of all this? The more the Lakers lose, the more likely he’s a one-year rental. He didn’t come here to take seven shots a game (Memphis last week) or four shots a game (Sacramento, also last week). It has taken him the last two games to get 21 shots, or roughly the same number of attempts Kobe Bryant gets in three quarters these days. Howard also didn’t leave behind the smoldering ruins of the Orlando Magic to be an also-ran in a conference that seemingly threw an intentional walk to the Lakers after Oklahoma City dumped James Harden a few days before the season began. Yet, Howard hasn’t been a focus of the Lakers’ offense the last four games, three of which have been, predictably, losses.
From Actuarially Sound, Silver Screen & Roll: Tuesday night’s ugly loss to the Indiana Pacers was a microcosm of a more disturbing trend that has emerged: Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard may not work well together on the court. The idea of a physically dominant center paired with arguably the most skilled big man in the league would seem to be a great fit, but the results are beginning to suggest otherwise. Exhibit A would be Tuesday night’s first half. The Lakers began the game with their typical twin-tower lineup and found themselves down 10 in first quarter. At that point Mike D’Antoni went to the bench and replaced Howard with Jordan Hill. The Lakers closed the quarter by outscoring Indiana by six points. To start the second quarter the Lakers went with Howard while Gasol took a much needed breather. During that stretch the Lakers continued to chip away at the Pacers’ lead. The Howard-Gasol frontline dug the Lakers a hole, and the other line-ups worked the rest of the night to dig out of it. That is the reason that all the starters finished with a negative plus/minus stat while the bench players all finished in the positive.
From Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated: As the chart indicates, in 2008-09, Gasol’s first full season with the Lakers, 44 percent of his field-goal attempts came at the rim. By comparison, just 16 percent of his attempts came on shots from 16-to-23 feet, commonly referred to as long twos. So far this season, 47 percent of Gasol’s attempts are long twos while just 27 percent have come at the rim. That’s a massive shift away from high-efficiency shots to low-efficiency shots, a trend that slowly developed over the last two seasons before accelerating this year as the Triangle Offense became a memory. To make matters worse, Gasol is hitting just 40 percent of his long twos this season, his worst mark during his time in Los Angeles. This tells us that Gasol was right to raise the issue. The Lakers have had three coaches in 14 games and it’s been one series of adjustments after another. Another major adjustment is upcoming: the re-integration of point guard Steve Nash after he recovers from a leg injury. There’s a lot that’s unclear about the Lakers these days but Gasol’s effectiveness isn’t one of them. What he’s doing now isn’t working. He’s putting up his worst numbers, playing at his worst efficiency levels, taking (by far) his worst collection of shots and missing more than ever. The Lakers would have a much bigger problem if Gasol wasn’t sounding a siren in these conditions.