The Lakers shot better from the floor, made more three pointers, and took and made more free throws, and they still lost. Kobe had 29 points, seven assists and five rebounds while Dwight recorded a career high in rebounds with 26 to go along with his 14 points and they still lost. Steve Nash had a double-double, Ron looked a bit better offensively and Jordan Hill came off the bench with 13 points and they still lost. There were positives, but in the end, the Lakers still lost for the fourth time in their last five contests after reeling off five straight wins.
Despite the big games from Kobe and Howard coupled with the team shooting better overall than the Nuggets, the Lakers still found a way to end up in the loss column once again, and a quick look at the box score will tell you all you need to know — 18 Lakers turnovers and 17 Nuggets offensive rebounds gave the team 35 extra possessions that the Nuggets turned into points. The Nuggets had 14 points off turnovers, 25 second fast break points (some of the points off turnovers are included here) and 13 second chance points. The Lakers essentially gave the game away by giving the Nuggets extra possessions, which resulted in Denver taking 19 more shots than the Lakers on the night. So even though the Lakers shot better from the field, the Nuggets were still able to outscore the Lakers by the sheer volume of shots they were able to take.
And on those possessions that weren’t given to the Nuggets, the Lakers continued to struggle to defend. Ty Lawson was able to get into the paint at will, shooters took uncontested jump shots and JaVale McGee and Kennith Faried were able to get uncontested looks at the rim through P&R sets. The Lakers continue to fail to communicate on the defensive end of the floor with guys leaving ball handlers and missing rotations. It was very disorienting watching Lawson get free for a layup late in the fourth due to no effort on his own part. Both Kobe and Nash decided to leave Lawson for a cutting Corey Brewer instead of staying with the guy who was the biggest threat to score.
None of these problems are new, however. The Lakers have struggled on the defensive end for much of the season and still aren’t showing many signs of improvement. If you take a look at the beginning of Darius’ preview, everything he said in his third paragraph rang true tonight sans Dwight looking bad.
There are reasons the team hasn’t looked its best. These reasons are valid. Dwight Howard doesn’t look like himself physically on most nights. Pau Gasol is either in full decline (which, coming off his Summer in London seems far fetched, but is possible) or is a combination of dinged up physically and being misused offensively. Kobe and Nash are playing well offensively but must be compensated for defensively in ways that compromise the integrity of their defensive schemes. The rest of the roster is unbalanced and inconsistent in their performance from night to night. Add in an early season coaching change and what an upheaval like that means and this is the result.
At the end of the night, it’s another Lakers loss, and such is life these days. They’ll have to try and regroup tomorrow as they’ll play the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, another game that’s as must win as any game in January can be as Houston is another team that the Lakers are going to have to catch to make the playoffs. Hopefully the frustration settles, the defense tightens up, and the turnovers are cut down so the Lakers can get back to winning ways.