Is there anything left to be said about the Lakers at this point? In what’s been the most frustrating season I can remember (even those post Shaq Lakers had an in his absolute prime Kobe while the post Magic teams seemed to compete harder more consistently), the Lakers lost again, this time to a depleted Bulls team missing Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. I’d call this rock bottom, but the Lakers dwell near the bottom these days so it’s difficult to really see shifts downward.
- Steve Nash shot the ball well, scoring a season high 16 points on 7-12 shooting. Nash looked more aggressive tonight and benefitted early from having Kobe initiate the P&R and look for him after penetrating the lane.
- Earl Clark, a surprise starter in Gasol’s place, continued to play well overall. 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and no turnovers. He didn’t get to the foul line and needed 13 shots to get his 12 points, but his play was solid on a night where many others was not.
- Ron played decent individual defense most of the night and was a plus on the glass grabbing 8 rebounds (3 offensive). Ron had a tough cover in Carlos Boozer, but did a good job bodying up the bigger man and bothering his dribble when he tried to back him down.
- Pau came off the bench had got a double-double with 15 points and a team high 12 rebounds. His shooting efficiency wasn’t great (6-14 from the field), but he did hit a couple of jumpers and show some life around the rim on a couple of plays.
- The Lakers won the rebound battle 50 to 40. Four players had at least 8 rebounds and, as a team, they did a pretty good job of getting after the ball on misses. Even though they allowed 14 offensive rebounds, they still cleaned their defensive glass fairly well considering the Bulls missed 54 shots.
- That’s it. That’s all I got.
- Dwight Howard needed to play with energy and, sadly, he did not. I’m not sure if it was another night where his back was bothering him, but he looked stiff and a step slow all night. On several plays he barely moved his feet defensively, didn’t challenge many shots in the paint, rarely helped on screens, and had a few plays where he barely jumped for rebounds. On one offensive play, he caught the ball diving hard to the rim and instead of trying to dunk the ball, double clutched and tried a lay up that missed badly. On nights like this, Dwight hurts more than he helps even though he did well to draw fouls on the Bulls’ front line and is still enough of a presence that he makes players think twice before attacking the paint.
- Kobe continued his poor shooting for the 3rd straight game. Facing Jimmy Butler most of the night, Kobe couldn’t get clean looks at the rim and settled way too often for long jumpers. His final line of 7-22 with an 0-6 from behind the arc pretty much tells the story of how he struggled to get to his preferred spots for most of the evening. And while Kobe did have 5 assists on the night, he also had three turnovers, most of them on jump passes where he clearly left his feet without a plan of what he wanted to do.
- Steve Nash was awful on defense most of the night, proving unable to cover Kirk Hinrich who went off for a game high 22 points on 9-11 shooting. Hinrich got Nash on skates multiple times, crossing him over to shake free for his jumper which he knocked down at a high rate. Can’t fully fault Nash though, considering the Lakers did a horrible job supporting him in the P&R by rarely stepping out high to show out on the screen and allowing Kirk to step into his jumper with good rhythm.
- In the game preview I mentioned that the Lakers would need to slow the streaky Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli as they’ve been key parts to a Bulls’ offense that can struggle to score. Well, the Bulls’ backcourt duo combined for 26 points on only 15 shots, with Belinelli doing some damage late with two key 3 pointers that essentially sunk the Lakers down the stretch. Both times the Lakers lost him as he floated around the arc and both times he knocked down the open shot. I’m not really an “I told you so” guy, but…well…yeah.
- The three point line was especially unkind to the Lakers on both offense and defense. When the Lakers were firing from deep, they couldn’t connect, hitting only 3 of 17. When the Bulls were shooting from behind the arc, they seemed to barely miss by knocking down 9 of 17. If you’re looking for a simple difference in the game, this would be it. The game came down to more than that, of course, but when you’re a minus-18 from deep the odds of you winning go down exponentially.
- Craig Sager’s suit.
- The team looked like they had broken spirits in a lot of this game. As I mentioned earlier, losing can create the type of fraying that can really affect a team’s chemistry. And while I’m not in the players’ heads or an expert on body language, they really looked like guys who weren’t enjoying themselves on the floor, even when they made a push in the third quarter to briefly take the lead. There’s simply no joy for this team when they’re on the floor and that, as much as the losses, is striking right now.
In the end, these are our Lakers. The look beat up, exhausted, and, with the losses piling up, like a team that would rather be doing anything else than playing basketball right now. They’ve only won twice in their last eleven contests and that surely has something to do with it. But it also looks like the combination of the expectations and the total underperformance of meeting them has sapped this team of their spirit. They’ll still compete when pressed, but in the crucial moments of recent games, they’ve simply fallen apart in the face of adversity. Again, these are our Lakers.