My goodness. It’s as if the Lakers take some sort of sadistic joy from building up our hopes, then proceeding to crush them viciously. I thought I was ready; I thought I was prepared. I tweeted before and during the game things like,
I thought that maybe the Lakers might, at best, keep it close for about 6-10 minutes, then get blown out in the 2nd and 3rd quarters and get a nice 20+ point thrashing on national television. Since the team’s perimeter defense had been terrible for weeks, and the interior defense would be non-existent without Dwight, Pau, and Jordan Hill, I figured the Lakers would give up somewhere around 125 points and score nowhere near enough to keep up.
Instead, the Lakers gave us a genuinely good performance in a 105-108 loss, and almost as good as you could expect from a team so short-handed. They still loss, and a loss is a loss at this point in the season, but this Laker season has gone so horribly awry that I feel like we have to take the moral victories where we can. The Lakers had plenty of chances to win this game, but just could not close the deal late in the game, even considering it was a game that never should have been that close.
Tonight was a night where Live by Kobe; Die by Kobe was very much on display. Early on, Kobe could not hit anything from mid-range, beginning the game shooting 2-9 and missing a lot of jumpers that he normally makes. Plus, his defense was AWFUL, giving up three backdoor cuts for dunks/layups before the half. Then half way through the fourth, Kobe started bombing threes 3-4 feet behind the line, or as I like to call it, Chris Duhon Territory. Between his shot-making and several assists, Kobe helped bring us back into the game, but just couldn’t close the deal on a heavily contested three point shot to tie.
Metta World Peace had a tremendous game, going off for 23 points, 8 boards, and 7(!!!) steals. Several of his steals were in the backcourt as well, fighting for extra possessions and earning easy buckets that the Lakers so desperately needed. Highlight of the game was probably as Darius described it…
Nash was his regular self, racking up 9 assists and 3 turnovers, making several risky passes. However he shot only 6-12, and several of his misses were head-scratching, like a reverse layup that he has made probably hundreds of times, and a jumper in the lane that barely grazed the rim.
The star of this game for the Lakers, however, was Earl Clark. Clark, who had been getting only spot minutes for the entire season, came out and played with an energy and level of activity that had become uncommon in this Laker season. Most of his games in Summer League and pre-season were of the “activity without achievement” variety, but he took the opportunity afforded to him by the injuries and played the game of his career, finishing with 22 points on 9-12 shooting, 13 rebounds, and some excellent defense.
The Lakers as a whole decided to turn on the D in the 4th quarter, holding the Spurs to 23 points while scoring 30, including holding the Spurs scoreless for six straight possessions in the 4th. They were undermined several times by some questionable calls by the officials, but showed some fight and emotion that they hadn’t showed for the previous three quarters and basically the entire season. But give credit to the Spurs, who as usual ran a fairly potent offense, led by Tony Parker with 24 points and 6 assists. The Spurs unselfishness with the ball also murdered the poor Laker perimeter defense, shooting 12-25 from three, including four from Stephen Jackson (before he got tossed by picking up two technicals in about 1 minute).
Kobe said before the game that each game represents an opportunity to grow and to learn, and despite the loss, the Lakers hopefully have found some things that they can focus on and get better:
- Earl Clark! My goodness, maybe it’s lightning in a bottle, but anyone who can give you 9-12 shooting and 13 rebounds in 28 minutes needs minutes. I know ESPN has him listed as a small forward, but his defense and rebounding at power forward and center helped keep the game within arm’s reach when Kobe wasn’t hitting. If he actually can play small forward, he may be the wing defender that the Lakers could use to back up MWP. His outside shooting seems to come and go, but his activity and defense are sorely needed.
- Jodie Meeks got BURIED this game. His recent shooting slump is probably to blame, but he’s bringing little positive to court on defense as well, and D’Antoni only saw fit to play him six minutes. Even if his shooting is not on, he needs to bring the energy on defense every night, same as Darius Morris.
- Antawn Jamison had a decent night if you ignore the fact that he missed all five three pointers he took and played god awful defense 50% of the time he was on the floor. Jamison missed every single three and made every single two point attempt, while adding 8 rebounds, a block, and a steal. I’ve said it time and time again: Jamison is not a spot up three point shooter. He never has been; he never will be. Using him as such is a travesty and giving away possessions to the other team. If D’Antoni can find a way to get Jamison the ball on the move, cutting toward the basket, he is the best at making those unorthodox scoop shots.
- The Lakers need to look themselves in the mirror and ask why they can’t play the type of D they played late in the fourth quarter every minute of every game. Is it effort? Is it intensity? Is it focus? Clearly, this is a problem with both players and coaching staff, because we see time and time again guys blowing their assignments, or sometimes being confused as to who to cover on a PNR. Good defensive teams react almost automatically as a group, whereas it appears the Lakers have to think about every single defensive decision they make. Who is to blame? I cannot say, but the Lakers are not going to do anything this season if they don’t clean up their defense.
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