Lakers/Suns: A Dark Night in the Land of the Sun

Darius Soriano —  January 30, 2013

Wow. This one, really does hurt.

Much like the Lakers did against the Hornets yesterday, they built up a nice 4th quarter lead that looked to be enough to secure the win. And just like against the Hornets, the Lakers allowed their opponent to make a furious comeback as the offense stalled and defense allowed too many baskets. But unlike the the Hornets game, the Lakers — who lost Dwight Howard to another issue with his strained shoulder right in the middle of the Suns’ run — allowed the Suns to not only come all the way back, but to also take the lead and ultimately win the game 92-86.

Not exactly the way you way you want to start a 7 game road trip.

The game started with an energy that led to a lot of uneven play. The crowd seemed ready to erupt at any big play by either side, but neither team gave their fans much to cheer about. The Lakers started the game sloppily, committing 9 turnovers in the first period (remember that number) by mostly playing careless in the P&R trying to force passes. The Suns were sharper in terms of their execution, but weren’t accurate shooting the ball and thus they couldn’t really take advantage of a Laker team that hadn’t yet found their stride.

The 2nd quarter brought less sloppy play, but just as few made baskets. Both sides started to settle down, but with each team eased into their respective game plans, the defenses seemed ready to rotated and contest shots and neither side could establish the type of rhythm that would allow them to create any separation. The Lakers were starting to show that they were the better team as their bench unit started to produce some points, but by the time the half came to a close the game was all knotted up at 41.

As the game went on, however, the Lakers started to show their superiority. Their defense stayed locked in and did a pretty good job of contesting shots in the half court. Players were rotating to shooters and either contesting shots or making that player make another pass where another Laker was there to rotate. When shots were missed, the Lakers cleaned their glass and took the ball the other way. Once on offense, they did well to move the ball onto the open man, whoever it may be. When that Laker would make the catch he was quick to either put himself in scoring position or find a teammate that was. For the quarter the Lakers hit 13 of their 20 shots and turned a tie game into a 10 point cushion to start the 4th. Kobe, as in previous games had his fingerprints all over L.A.’s offense that quarter in handing out 4 assists, but it was Ron, Jamison, and Pau’s shot making (those three made 8 of their 10 shots in the period) that were key to turning Kobe’s passes into assists.

The start of the 4th period brought another quick run by the Lakers to push their lead up to 13, but there were also some troubling signs that were brewing. The Lakers started to turn the ball over more on offense, facing a Sun D that looked a bit more engaged. By the time the starters came back in, the Lakers still held a comfortable cushion but the game was already changing with the Suns D starting show a strong side zone look to take away Kobe’s post ups. And with the Lakers showing little player movement, the ball ended up sticking on one side of the floor to the point that when the Lakers did try to pass it was either a turnover or an action that led to a forced shot.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, the Lakers had issues containing the Suns offense. More specifically, they had issues containing Michael Beasley. Beasley had his jumper going all night and, in the 4th quarter, used both the J and some nifty drives off the threat of it to sink the Lakers. Beasley scored 10 points (5-6 shooting) in the final frame and simply outclassed Clark and Ron whenever he touched the ball. And while some of the shots he hit weren’t ones that you’d think would fall traditionally, and it certainly didn’t help to not have Howard help protect the rim, it really didn’t matter since he had it going so well.

So with the Lakers defense faltering and their offense sputtering, the Lakers turned to Kobe but he wasn’t enough down the stretch. He continued to find ways to make good passes, but the extra pass often led to Ron and he couldn’t hit the same shots he’d hit just a quarter before. When Kobe tried to take matters into his own hands by looking for his own offense, it almost looked foreign as he’d been mostly turning down his own shot all night in favor making the right read. He had a few good looks (including a lefty lay in attempt that would have tied the game in the final 30 seconds) but that slid off the rim as Kobe just winced. Game over.

There’s little to say about a loss like this besides it’s one that really hurts the Lakers. Not because it invalidates the style they’ve been playing or even necessarily because of the comeback nature. But mostly because the Suns were 15-30 coming into the game and with Dwight’s shoulder potentially an issue and the team really wanting to start the road trip off right, they found a way to lose a game they had a great chance of winning. These are the games you can’t give away if you want to climb the standings. But really, this is what this season has been like for the Lakers. One step forward, two back. They just can’t gain any traction. They’ll get another shot on Friday against the T’Wolves.

Darius Soriano

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30 responses to Lakers/Suns: A Dark Night in the Land of the Sun

  1. Lakers will probably end up like most of D’Antoni’s teams, with about 30-35 wins.

  2. ………………..

  3. Fad back to last night.

    About the 7 minute mark in 4th. Lakers up 17 with bench on floor. I looked at box score and the bench was a plus 80! Great time to play Morris, Ebanks, Meeks and anyone under 34 with back to back. Instead it’s Kobe, Nash, Dwight. Starters finished minus 34, bench plus 59. So tonight, Kobe was gassed, Nash Gassed, Pau and Metta worthless tonight and Dwight out. Lakers score like 13 points in the 4th and can’t defend anyone. Still no Morris, Ebanks or anyone under 34 on the court to give old players rest.

    Understanding your players and their age is a huge part of coaching.

    Just ask Popovich if you still think Mike D is not a large part of the issue!

  4. By the way, Popovich thinks Dantoni is a great coach, and has been unduly tarnished re his ability to coach Defence. Google it, I think you can still find the article.

    But I do actually kind of agree, with your general thesis, Lakers17, except for one thing. You need to use guys at the end of the game, who have experience at the end of the game. Dantoni has actually done a reasonable job of developing a few fresh legs guys, but one is injured (Jordan Hill) and the other (Clark) had a a kind of off night. And I don’t see, how it is realistic with the PT issues he has faced from the likes of Pau, and this relatively short window to mould these guys into a championship team, how there was the space to develop any other of the fringe guys sitting on the bench.

    And re last night, no coach in the world would have stuck a bunch of rookies and untested guys out there (last night) till the game was completely iced. When the game started to fall apart, Dantoni brought in Nash and Kobe to help close it out, leaving MWP and Gasol on the bench, which caused all the controversy. So there were non starters in there to close it yesterday.

  5. This is a Classic Mike D’Antoni Losing Attitude Loss.
    The players were not ready to play the game. There was lack of preparation.
    The players did not give it their all, their intensity, their passion.

    Substitute Gregg Popovich for Mike D’Antoni. Who do you think will have a winning team? The Lakers. Who do you think will have a dominant team? The Lakers. Who do you think would play with intensity day in and day out. The Lakers.

    Gregg Popovich has Old-Man Tim Duncan and Young and coming Center Tiago Splitter playing like clockwork. He knows how to utilize big men. Neither of them shoot 3 pointers.

    D’Antoni? He’s befuddled.

    D’Antoni wins at home because the home crowd acts like a 6th man for the team. He loses on the road because road wins rely on his skills as coach.

    A losing road record is the mark of a bad coach.

    Fire D’Antoni. He’s screwed up the Lakers enough.

  6. tough loss.I believe over-passing is the main culprit along with too few FGA.Ron is too inconsistent.

  7. Hey guys stop pointing out that Popovich is a great coach, that is like yelling wildly excited that a horse is a horse.

    Part of me even thinks Popovich beats out Phil Jackson in a lot of areas, he is truly one of the all time best coaches. But that has nothing to do with the Lakers, unless they play the Spurs.

  8. It actully think that the Lakers should shut down Dwight for the season, if there is any indication that that is whay his body needs to heal properly. The chance of even making the playoffs, much less making a run at the title is so small that it is more important to show commitment to Dwight’s health… and that might open the door for other roster shake-ups, as the Lakers start looking towards next year.

    Btw a lot of people over at the ValleyOfTheSuns forum saw something different in Nash’s game than most commentators on this site, they saw him “creating the whole game for the Lakers”, and “keeping the team together”.

  9. The quality of the blog, save for a few, really gets downgraded with all these posts that have nothing but criticism to offer. I wouldn’t mind criticism if it was a player being held accountable for his actions, but for a coach to be blamed (even on wins) for trivial things just amazes me. The 1st thing I thought before clicking the blog’s bookmark was “oh what could have MDA done now that Phil or Pop wouldn’t have done” … … … Really gets old, boring and downright annoying.

  10. In other news, as the Raptors/Grizzlies/Pistons deal becomes official, I believe its the 1st of many dominoes to fall. Regardless of what happens to Dwight’s shoulders I think a Gasol trade is imminent.

  11. Warren, they won’t be trading Pau. (1) they don’t know whether Dwight will sign on for more years. (2) they don’t know Dwight’s status for the remainder of this season. (3) they would need to get a C back in any deal, since otherwise you’d be seeing Sacre for 8 to how many minutes, depending on Dwight’s foul trouble, injury, etc.

    Lastly, the Pau remarks on this and the game thread are rather and simply misinformed. Do you folks not watch the game and/or read the play by play? Here, starting with the 3rd quarter:

    11:11 Pau Gasol enters the game for Earl Clark
    Played the rest of the 3rd quarter
    Started the 4th quarter
    6:56 Earl Clark enters the game for Pau Gasol
    6:56 Pau Gasol enters the game for Dwight Howard

    So Pau played all but 49 seconds of the 2nd half, and some of you folks are wondering why he looked a little tired late.

    Lastly, someone might ask just how and why Beasley torched MWP and Clark (he of the -10 on the night). There’s also:

    Markieff Morris personal foul (Jodie Meeks draws the foul)
    Luis Scola personal foul (Pau Gasol draws the foul)
    Michael Beasley personal foul (Pau Gasol draws the foul)
    Goran Dragic personal foul (Pau Gasol draws the foul)
    Michael Beasley shooting foul (Pau Gasol draws the foul)
    Jared Dudley personal take foul (Kobe Bryant draws the foul)

    And that’s how bad it was, as the fellow out there for 11:11 of the 3rd managed to draw 4 of the 6 fouls committed by the Suns during the 4th, i.e., if you are looking for why the team lost, Beasley torched MWP and Clark and for how inactive and stand around some were, one player, the guy who played all but 49 seconds of the 2nd half, was the one guy to draw 4 of the 6 fouls there in the 4th (so everyone else was either standing around or jacking up 3s).

  12. Stunned. And , looking at the stats, what jumps out at me is the 8-27 from behind the arc. My question is why so many threes? Metta could have built a house with all the bricks he threw out there. Hope Dwight is OK. Can only learn from this and move on.

  13. MDA rubbed it on Pau that he was moping and complaining all the time. Ok here’s the entire game, play it!

    Seriously, the relationship between LA and Pau needs to end. For the sake of them both. Pau got affected when he was traded for CP3, now he wants more minutes, etc. There is but one ending to this.

    Regardless of Dwight’s decision, Pau needs to go now. Be it injury or something else, things have to change.

  14. Wow blaming the loss on Pau? How about the the two assist from Steve Nash? How about the bricks by Ron Artest? How about the spectacular play of Beasly and the single coverage on him by the coaching staff?

  15. Very, very disappointing start to this 7 game road trip. To lose that type of lead to the Suns that late in the game, unbelievable. D-12 re-aggravating his shoulder was a factor, but not an excuse.

    Bottom line: I think very few of us thought the Lakers would go 7-0 on this trip. Personally I figured 5-2, so I’m still mathematically alive. So I’m sticking with that.

    Let’s go Lakers.

  16. Although I’m not at all a fan of D’Antoni, this loss was on Pau and MWP. The Lakers wouldn’t have been in a position where they have to win every game if not for D’Antoni, but this one game was only about 30% his fault.

  17. Why does Dwight staying or going or being healthy have anything to do with trading Pau? Either way, Pau is overpaid, disgrunteld and hasn’t played like a max level player in 2 or 3 years. I mean… WE ALREADY TRADED HIM! He’s damaged goods, man. If Dwight walks, we’re in rebuild mode. If Dwight stays, we’re in rebuild mode and building around Dwight. Either way, it’s not like having Pau on the roster is solving any problems. If we can get draft picks and an athletic swing man with a short contract, we have to do it ASAP.

  18. If David Stern had not intervened, last year’s trade of Pau and LO for Chris Paul would have gone down as perhaps the most lopsided trade in the history of professional sports. Last year, Lamar showed that he was finished, and this year it is Pau’s turn.

    When you struggle at home to hold off the Hornets and lose on the road against the Suns (during the only part of your season where you are playing “well”), making the playoffs as an 8th seed simply means extending your season for four more annihilations at the hands of the best team in the conference. What’s the point? Why wait to blow this thing up?

  19. Amazing how things turn around with just one game. Wasn’t it just 2 days ago when people were saying this team was going to win the title? That just after a “3” game win streak all at home. Never put so much trust into a team that has done nothing but crap inconsistency all year.

  20. Does anyone else notice how Metta always stop the ball movement? It never fails.Watch how when they pass to Metta, he pauses then 2 or 3 dribbles for a drive or 3 point shot.

  21. Missed free-throws by guys who are normally good free-throw shooters was a huge problem. The TOs need, need, need, to be cut down considerably. The Lakers were stuck at around 5-7 pt lead in the middle parts of the game, drew fouls and clanked the majority of them. Missed open 3s were a problem but that happens. It finally came down to one of two things. Either the team thought MWP could stop a sizzling Beasley, or the team was worried to bring the double and get beat by ball movement. In my opinion, if a player gets hot, you get the ball out of his hands with the double and then force someone else to beat you. Clearly this was not the opinion of the team.

    Anyone who is sure that MDA is at fault here, this a team of veterans with championship experience. Pau, Kobe and Metta have all gone deep into the playoffs, as you all know. Steve Nash is a two time MVP with deep playoff experience (I know he has only made the Conf finals, but not every team is the Lakers and Celtics with dozens of finals appearances. getting to the conference finals is an accomplishment most franchises aspire to). Dwight carried a team to the finals and has had one other deep run. The team is packed with veteran players and if at the end of game, MWP says he can stop Michael freakin Beasley, I might take his word on that. Frankly, Metta played excellent D on Beasley and got the ball loose. It just didn’t bounce our way.

    If you ask me, the biggest issue was the missed free-throws and a little too much hero-ball to end the game.

    I’d ask why Kobe spent so much time facing the basket. The offense gets humming with him in the post, and letting team movement create opportunities. Do they not want to overuse that option? Did PHX do something to convince Kobe to stay out of there?

    The team needs to do no worse then 4-3 on this trip, 5-2 is really the goal. This is still quite possible. The loss is bad, but salvageable. Finally, I think this is an improvement on what we saw from the team previously on the road. In the past the Lakers would hang around in the 1st, fall behind in the second and third. Not really seem to have any torque to make a move until a furious rally in the 4th brings them close but not close enough. In this case, the Lakers controlled the game until the last few minutes. They are playing as a unit with much more regularity. Cut down TOs, make your free throws and this game is over in the middle of the 4th. Interestingly, TOs and missed FT are fixed with focus.

  22. Three game home winning streak = Fool’s Gold.

    The Road strips you down to bare metal reality, and it’s ugly. 5-16 now.

  23. darius: #@!!!#?X!!! (game recap)

    these things happen when you got the 2-ply perforated on paper only championship aspiring/expiring team.

    not only is this agonizing to the laker following everywhere, has got to be another excruciating defeat flying in the faces of ownership to no avail. not a pretty picture. only hope will prevail.

    let’s move on.

    Go Lakers !

  24. misleading title i was busy in gotham last night….good thing too, seeing as how disappointed i wouldve been

  25. The only reason the Suns won last night, was because of their jerseys. Just saying..

  26. I’m not surprised by this in the slightest. The Lakers have been pretty inconsistent this year to the point where I usually predict them losing this type of game. Plus D12 is gone and Pau is griping.

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t have won this game. I’m just saying I’m not surprised that they didn’t.

  27. Nash once said that in pressure situations, his Suns teams did not have a defensive system to fall back on. I think we are seeing the results of not having a system in the fourth quarters of the past two games. Beasley was destroying the Lakers in one on one situations, and not a single adjustment was made….not a single double team, or an occasional blitz, or a quick trap on the perimeter……nothing was done to throw his rhythm off. NADA.

    On the offensive side, the Suns last night were hell bent on taking Kobe out of the post and packing the paint, even sending triple teams at him. In other words, the offense the Lakers were running so smoothly the past few games was taken away. It was a solid adjustment by Lindsey Hunter, a strategy that opposing teams will likely use with more regularity going forward. The Lakers could not make the Suns pay by hitting the wide open perimeter shots, and as a result, the offense spluttered as well.

    I blame the loss on the lack of adjustments on defense and the inability to hit wide open shots.

  28. LT Mitchell you are a genius. What u said is why we lost. If we hit all those shots Kobe kicked out we would have won by 15 and Kobe would have had 18 assists. Case closed. On to the next one.

  29. One thing I do notice in the fourth quarter is that no one slash to the pain when Kobe have the ball. It is like they’re scare of getting in his way, all they did was stand around which lead to jumper instead of driving the lane. When the do dive in, they usually end up with a foul ( Pau for example).