Another Close Game Slips Away Late

Darius Soriano —  November 15, 2013

That pretty much sums up how I feel about this game. In what is becoming a trend this season, the Lakers played a hard fought game and kept the contest close only to fall short at the end as the other team made the tough plays while they themselves fell short.

This game it was Zach Randolph who played hero for Memphis hitting tough shot after tough shot against Jordan Hill while the Lakers tried, unsuccessfully, to play their P&R game against a Grizzlies’ D that can still stiffen with a game on the line. Randolph scored 14 of his game high 28 points in the final period, working over Shawne Williams early and Hill late with a flurry of contested jumpers and unorthodox scoops and hooks around the basket.

If you are looking for positives on the Lakers’ side, they came from the guards as Jodie Meeks (25 points, 10-16 shooting), Nick Young (18 points on 7-14 shooting off the bench), and Steve Blake (9 points, 10 assists and only 1 turnover) all played aggressive, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them. All deserve credit for playing to their strengths, but I especially like that Meeks was able to bounce back from a poor game in Denver and that Blake continued to play a very strong lead guard with Steve Nash out. Both guys are having pretty good years and even though there are some down moments, both play with a spirit and competitiveness that is contagious.

That’s about the most positive thing you can say about this team right now. They play hard most every night and that allows them to compete. If their execution could catch up to the effort they give they’d probably have a few more wins in the ledger. Instead, they fall to 4-7 on the season and show glimpses of being a good team but offer more moments when you wonder if they will really be able to do much more than stay close in games before Kobe comes back.

And make no mistake, this team misses Kobe. Not only did the head coach say so, but it’s clear that as the season progresses there’s a hole in leadership and production from a top tier player. Whether Kobe comes back to be that guy is an open question, but through the first part of year it’s clear that Gasol (who has played okay, but not up to a level the team needs from him) and Nash (who was playing poorly before his injury knocked him out of the lineup) are not those guys.

Instead this team relies on the composite effort from multiple role players, needing several of them to play to (or above) their ceilings each night to win. Against Memphis the team got that from Meeks, Young, and Blake, but did not get enough from any of the Farmar (zero points, 6 assists), Wes Johnson (zero points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), and Xavier Henry (zero points, 1 rebound, 1 assist) trio. When that’s the case, this team will need bigger performances from Gasol and Hill, but tonight did not get them. The duo combined for a respectable 22 points and 18 rebounds, but with Randolph’s big night and Marc Gasol producing a line of 18, 8, and 8 it’s easy to see why this game was a loss.

Darius Soriano

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34 responses to Another Close Game Slips Away Late

  1. MDA, Lakers front office and Kobe may float “We need Kobe” notion, but that is useless energy. Lakers could and should have won tonite with the players they had on the floor. Bringing Kobe into conversation distracts discussion about the improvement active players need to make as a team to win games. Like tonite, vs sactown and motown upcoming. Winnable games with players available to MDA.

  2. Very disappointed on Farmar with 1 point in 2 games and nothing from Johnson, Henry and Gasol in 2nd half..

    This is like experts said a 12 place team at best.

  3. Jump shot after jump shot. pretty frustrating to watch. That offense takes everyone away from the basket. Shouldn’t 7 footers be down on the block 3ft from the basket then outside the free throw line 12 ft away? It’s hard to watch that’s for sure!

  4. We could all be disappointed, but I choose to see a team coming together. We may not win enough of these early – and tough – games, but the players are beginning to shake themselves out. Our rotation players will continue to be a bit up and down (more down on the road) and it would seem only Steve Blake is steady enough not to be called a rotation player on this team, with consistent energy being provided by Jordan Hill.

    Well – a team of rotation players surely won’t make the playoffs in the West. We definitely need a Kobe Bryant to pull things together. We do, however, have a group of NBA players who will fight and claw every step of the way. As they settle in – and the schedule evens out – I believe we will find our sea legs. That really is what this year is about.

  5. Farmar’s minutes are slipping even with Nash out. He had 6 assist and was positive +/-. But he had a couple bad sequences in the early 4 qtr that may have triggered MDA to sit him down sooner rather than later.

  6. People lose sight of what this year is – a transition year for the next 2 free agencies where we can acquire stars. I can’t guarantee you Lebron or Melo, but 2015 sounds pretty exciting with Aldridge, Rondo and Love all possibly Free Agents.

    Craig has reservations on Melo, as do I but he is the perfect storm for the Lakers. Somehow needing an offensive personality, the Lakers might be better off signing Melo in 2014 and waiting for 2015 to happen. If Melo himself doesn’t see this scenario, then he can re-up with the Knicks. No harm done.

    If Kobe is healthy enough to be a force this season, the Lakers might make moves for 2014 Free Agency (as it is the nearest).

    But lets not lose sight that we’ve already won more (not in games but in finding future members of our team) that what we expected to get and do this year.

    11 down, I have a feeling we will go 71-0 next. Such is my optimism.

  7. There’s a fine line between optimism and delusion.

  8. At 4-7, we are tied for league’s 2nd-most losses (Cavs) and next only to the Jazz (worst in league at 9) … Its not crazy to think that you only need to go 46-25 to win 50.

    Brooklyn and New York are 3-5 themselves. But they’re in the East.

  9. A lot of points made that echo my feelings. My biggest disappointment has been Farmar. High hopes preseason and early on, but the last few games have looked horrible. Like he’s forcing the issue too much and not knowing how to keep in synch with the rest of the team.

  10. I thought Farmar was the best player on the team according to some here. LMAO. Once a 3rd string pg always a 3rd string pg. Commendable that he came back for less money but he is still a scrub. He keep doing rhe same things that make me hate him back then and he dont have the excuse of the triangle holding him back.

  11. I hope we dont over achieve with hot shooting,we miss the playoffs,(kobe is definetly coming back so no playoffs will give him good rest healing and strength time)we kill it in the draft get rid of gasol pick up a strong(non superstar free agent reasonable price then get our franchise player in 2015 to maybe win a title in kobes last year(who knows if he still has it he might do a one year reduced contract for another title)and our newsuperstar(kevin love)can take us thru some years.

  12. Oh nash and blake?outta here too.we dont need a high scoring point gaurd in the western conference.we need a defensive athletic high assist guy to slow down(you cant shut down) the westbrooks currys and parkers.farmar can stay as a 3rd string point and shooting gaurd play making back up when need be.

  13. Steve Blake; is garbage!!! he is slow, and dribble the air out of the ball. NY did not touch the ball for 5 minute in the fourth quarter. Steve is blind, when it come to Young. A shooter should not have to work so hard’ to get his shot off. run plays for Young, get Young open. Oh all u people that is in love with WJ, AH. ZEROS. They brought NOTHEN!!!! And WJ starting for what?. Points wins game. STARTING LINE UP SHOULD BE JF. MEEK,NY,JH, AND CK. PUT ALL THE OTHER SH&T ON THE BENCH.

  14. They need to trade Gasol before he looses all value.

  15. I predicted 6-9 through 15 games and we still should be able to do that. All is not lost yet! I, like Craig W, above see a team that is coming together and battling hard. If Kobe can come back and be 85% of what he was, then I still believe that we have a playoff team.

  16. West Coast Ram,

    I believe Gasol has already lost alot if not all of his value. He is shooting below 40% and its not even attractive for teams right now. Not to mention that his contract requires atleast 2-3 guys on contract just to match.

    There are only a handful of teams left that have the pieces to get him, but even others are finding it hard to convince themselves he can save them if he can’t produce on an empty team like ours. Referring to stars.

  17. MDA is just a horrible coach. He is improvising as the game goes on. He simply does not get the players well prepared for the games. What is all this non-sense about experimenting what line-ups will work, and adjusting from game-to-game? A coach should do that during practices, if you still can’t figure out, there is this tool called advance metrics. Do the homework. When players are playing games, fans pay tickets to get in, and cable fees to watch, so put the best available products on the table. No improvising from game to game. You don’t explore match-ups during the game, you do that with scouting reports. Fans might not know enough to buy into that non-sense, but players know, and soon they will loose faith in the team, then the words spread out among players with rival teams. Top free agents will shy away from Lakers in 2014, maybe even 2015 because of domino effect.

    Lakers’ FO needs to swallow the pride, go out and get guys like Brian Shaw, Byron Scott, coaches with a system, with the real purple-and-gold heritage and pride. Or try the new generation of coaches who utilizes the advance metrics. MDA is a proven failure in NY, and Nash is too old to bail him out, the good old Phoenix days are long gone.

  18. Schedule: This is a very easy schedule stretch. Last night’s game was not a good start. We are now in “12th” (the pundits prediction). Sunday’s game – Detroit at home is about as easy as they get.

    Playoffs: I am not giving up and will continue to root, but I am not seeing this “coming together” stuff. I see inconsistent line ups (experimenting), inconsistent performance (think of the Farmar extremes), and lack of identity (our identity is a team who wants to score a lot of points and can’t). A review of the points for and against stats of all the teams yields results about as bad as it gets for the Lakers. We have a really bad differential, and we are trying to play at a fast pace, yet our scoring is weak, although we use that as our excuse for giving up quite a few ppg. Most teams who can’t score are trying to hold down the pace. We are executing a plan that feeds right into the formula to beat us.

    5D2: You have succinctly nailed many points in two short paragraphs. There are some who might cringe at your first sentence, but then you simply back that statement up. After reading your post I feel the same way I do after a Metallica concert. That is – that I just watched someone “Lay It Down”. Nice work.

  19. The Lakers are a sub .500 team. As long as Kobe is out they will lose more games than they will win. They just don’t have enough high level talent to be anything but a sub .500 team. D’Antoni can do a few things differently, but the end result won’t change much. I know its hard to watch, but this is our team. The do compete hard most nights. That is why they will keep most games competitive. But closing and securing wins consistently requires a degree of talent and know how our guys lack right now. And I personally don’t expect Kobe to make the big of difference considering all the circumstances.

    I agree with WWL. This is a transistion year. If the team can net a high quality draft pick and a quality free agent (not necessarily a star) this summer I’ll consider this year a success. I’m not rooting for them to tank. They don’t have to.

  20. Love how people blame the coach for the record – saying “if only we had Brian shaw, pj, some other purple and gold retread…” without any regard for the roster and the fact that you have 2 hof players who are injured (Bryant should still be 2nd/3rd team all nba if his achilles heels fine and if Nash was healthy he would still be a 12/10 guy who’s offensive skills would seriously help defray his defensive shortcomings – its a lot easier to play defense and setup when the other team has to pic the ball out of the net after you’ve scored. For those that are whining about MDA and defense – you’re right – he doesn’t coach it – Kurt Rambis (purple and gold retread) does and the Lakers have looked measurably better on that end this season than last despite not having Howard.

    This team isn’t that great w/o its healthy starting backcourt ( I don’t get how true “fans” somehow expect it to be otherwise ) – and I don’t think anybody expected Pau to drop off a cliff like he has. W Howard gone I thought he’d be way more aggressive and soak up those extra shots but he’s shown nothing this season – he certainly can’t lead a team like Nash or Kobe (at least Nash apologizes for his bad play because of his injuries, whereas Pau always seems to justify it after the fact (my right foots hurts, now my left foot is hurting because my right foot was hurting, I had a respiratory infection, i’m an apathetic 7 footer coasting on the last year of his contract yadda yadda yadda…). Sigh – he doesn’t have a prob being the main guy on a bad/small market team ala memphis but he just doesn’t step into the spot light and take over when needed to. Whoever mentioned it earlier was right – he’s playing his way out of his value for sure

    Reality is w/o Kobe and Nash, this team is going to suck and be inconsistent – and thats okay it happens. Thats the nature of the league when you have injuries But at least effort is there despite how frustrating it can be at times and at least all players on the roster are trying. If everyone was healthy, this team could very easily be in the hunt for a 4-8 playoff seed, they’ve already shown that w good games against all the good teams. It’s just hard to be consistent w/o your stars

  21. Well, Johnson is not in the starting lineup to provide scoring, that’s what Pau, Blake and Meeks are supposed to do. Johnson is in the starting lineup to add length, athleticism, defense and shot blocking. Add in a healthy sprinkling of Hill getting offensive boards and boom that’s supposed to be the offense.

    K-man has been a complete mess the past few games, he is out of control. For some reason he still fancies himself as a starter…which he is not.

    The Lakers will be better off when players accept the fact that they are what they are…a team full of role players. No one on this team is a star, no one! Every player on the team is one dimensional: they can score but can’t defend, they can defend but can’t score, they are 7ft but can’t control the paint, they are slow and old with the mind to play the game but not the body.

    This coach loves offense, which is why I think he would be a perfect assistant coach in charge of offense. He does not manage the ebb and flow of games well. Case in point: Shawne had played reasonably well (better than the last nine games) when the coach sent Hill to the scoring table during a crucial point in the game. Before Hill could get in, Williams hit a 3pter he then hit back-to-back 3’s. Memphis called timeout and when game continued, Shawne was left in the game. Memphis scored and the next play Williams shot another 3 that missed. The coach sent Hill to the scoring table again; Memphis scored again. Two-three minutes went by before he could get Hill back in the game, momentum permanently sided with Memphis.

    Yes, Young scored 6 points in the 4th but they could have used defense and rebounding in the waning moments of that game. Wesley, Farmar and Henry did not receive any appreciable time in the 4th. One cannot contribute when on the pine. Note to coach: You can substitute offense, defense to win a game. Try that next time the game is close. When players know that’s why they are inserted or extracted from the game they tend to shore up the area in which they are deficient.

    Some people would rather lose via a blowout rather than in a close game. I’d rather not lose at all, but if I have to I’d rather lose in close games. At least the team can learn from close losses, because there is nothing redeemable in blowouts.

    Players have to know that they can have bad offensive games and still find their way onto the floor. Otherwise, they’ll press and try to make something happen which more times than not will put them back on the bench; and thereby fulfill a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  22. I will use the Robert format in replying:

    Pau: He does not have much trade value right now, as WWL said and as Aaron said would be the case much earlier. Kaman, Hill, Meeks and maybe Young and Blake are the trade chips for youth/low picks if the Lakers go that way at the deadline.
    MDA: My view of him has not changed. I am not impressed, but I don’t see him as the main issue right now. Robert does make a reasonable point about pace. For all the talk about MDA adjusting to his personnel and changing his sets around, the two main hallmarks of SSOL ball, playing at a fast pace and shooting 3s, have been in place the whole time and still are. The Lakers are 3rd in Pace Factor and lead the NBA in 3PAs (that total is jacked up a little by the fact that they have played 11 games, but they were high in that category last year as well.
    However, they are making them this year, so far. The Lakers are hitting 3s at a .407 clip, 7th in the NBA. But I think 4-7 is a very reasonable performance for this team and this schedule.

    As to the D, Rambis is probably helping some and as we discussed in preseason, having younger legs on the perimeter helps a lot. The perimeter D is obviously better without Kobe and Nash, and even Metta is more of a smallball 4 now. The interior D is dreadful without Howard, and ZBo and MGasol chewed the Lakers up last night. Hill gives you what he has and moves well, but he has short arms for an NBA big. That said, MDA should have, and did, get dinged for not starting Hill immediately. As 5D2 suggests, all one has to do to see that Hill is better than Williams is look at Basketball Reference. These are guys who are in their mid-20s and have track records. Fit matters–that is why Omer Asik wants out of Houston. But teams like the Lakers need to use their best guys.

    Team: I mostly agree with T. Rogers, Robert, Aaron, and the KamBros: it is still about quality talent. Detroit is 3-5 and comes here tomorrow, so sure, the Lakers can beat them. They are 1-2 on their West Coast trip. But they have Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Brandon Jennings. Jennings would start for the Lakers, and any of those first three would be the Lakers’ best big. It is what it is.

  23. Off Topic and obviously I’m putting the cart before the horse here in several instances, but I’m just having some fun with it –

    During Rick Fox’s interview with Kobe on NBA TV, he brought up, through his last question, an interesting subject that I’ve heard many Lakers fans – and even fans of other teams – discuss. It’s easy to see – through his demeanor – that even Fox tried to mask/phrase the question differently – “When you’re holding your 6th trophy … are you passing the baton in that MVP Trophy as well or are you holding that one as well?” Peep It –

    I viewed this question – and maybe some viewed it differently – as Rick really trying to ask Kobe whether he’s ready to give up the keys to the car and hand over the reigns of the organization to a younger, and at this point, better player. IMO, this happens to be the elephant that’s in the room in correlation with the Lakers making a huge splash within free agency in either 2014 or 2015. And while we all know that the Dwight situation may not be the best example, we got an inclination, immediately, from Kobe about his thought process in regards to the Lakers being HIS team.

    So while Kobe answered Rick’s question in a diplomatic way – as if he’ll really have the opportunity to win number 6 with THIS team – I personally find his answer hard to believe. And by stating this, in no way, shape or form am I trying to disrespect the legend. It’s just that I have a hard time believing that Kobe – even at this point of his career, with his ego (in a good sense because every superstar athlete needs to have one), determination and after having to take a backseat to Shaq during his earlier championship years – would be okay winning a 6th championship, while at the same time having someone else walk away with the finals MVP.

    As hard as I’ve tried, I just can’t picture it because as long as he views himself as playing at an elite level – remember, he said himself that he wouldn’t even bother sticking around if he’s an average player – the Lakers will always be his team and I doubt that he would allow anyone else to snatch up the finals MVP if he’s garnering his 6th chip.

  24. Have a long post stuck in mod, but I wanted to add that I agree with T Rogers on Kobe. No knock on Kobe, but putting it all together on both sides of the ball and looking at MPG, I don’t expect that his impact will be massive. He is 35 coming off an horrific injury.

  25. jerke: “purple and gold retread” What’s up with that? These are guys who we all love and contributed to titles. They are not retreads. Where is your appreciation of what has been accomplished? You can go ahead and question whether they would be a solution, but calling them retreads is not fair.
    “Love how people blame the coach for the record” In my case it is partially. We have little talent, so the upside is limited without regard to who is the coach. However some of us feel that MD was one of the major reasons that DH left, so part of the lack of talent is due to him. AJ is not here for the same reason. Matt Barnes is not here because of Mike Brown. So our coaching decisions have led to a departure of talent.
    ““if only we had Brian shaw, pj” Nobody is saying that. This year – we could have the Kundla/Riley/Jackson all coach the team together and it is not resulting in anything too great. The issue is the future, and what makes the team attractive for FAs to come here. I think MD is a minus for that. Carmello and Dwight would agree. And Steve Nash’s vote does not count.
    If Kobe comes back soon (the date seems to be slipping), then we “could” still turn things around a little, but whether we do or not is not that huge for the future (unless u are rooting for tanking). The important thing is to get the right leadership in place, and then acquire the right talent. With the existing FO, coaching staff, and roster, we do not have a good start at that, in that we have liabilities that exceed equity. That statement is from a “basketball” perspective of course. The financial aspects of the team can continue to be milked for years.

  26. @Fern

    Once a 3rd String back up, always a 3rd string back up…

  27. I’m enjoying this team. I like seeing the ball movement. I like the communication. I like seeing long athletic guys get back to disrupt the inevitable fast break. I like the high pace. The grit of guys like Blake, Hill, Meeks and Henry. I like the athleticism of Johnson and the weird version of Nick Young. He’s a gunner but seems to see his teammates better. Kaman is doing with his ability what I expect. I like this team. Is this a good team? Hell no! But, a few of these players are building trade value. A team can use a Steve Blake, a team can use Jodie Meeks. Teams can use a Chris Kaman. So, anybody good that the Lakers don’t see themselves keeping past this season may be moved to help build a future. I do not expect this current crop to be a good team and I personally don’t want them to be that good. Let Kobe recover, let him develop the game he’ll need to carry him through the coming phase of his career and let the FO see what he has left. We are going to need to be smart about what Kobe costs in relation to the salary cap. Let’s get one of the top 7 players, and if our FB&G luck holds, we can get a top end pick via lottery results.

    Please, no Melo. He is worth the money he would get. He is not worth the salary cap implication. Kobe, a stud from the draft, and two top-end FA in either of the next crops and Kobe does have a chance to hold another trophy before it’s over. I can see both the studs in OKC leaving that scene. Durant looks frustrated to me and Westbrook seems like he wants more shine. Love loves it in LA. There will be studs available.

    There is no great player who does not think they would look great in Forum Blue and Gold. Even if you grant Howard the label of “great”, I’m sure he thought he looked good in those colors, he’s just Dwight with the corny sense of reality. The guys coming up in free agency, the one’s worth hitching on to, they get it. They will come. We just need to enjoy the moment, let the process happen, and stop thinking that a different coach and a little more elbow grease will get it done this year. This is what the Lakers of 2014 are, and it is what the Lakers of 2014 should be.

  28. @Jerke i agree on 99% of it. The team miss Kobe more than Nash,Blake is been a worthy substitute, at this stage i dont think Nash has the ability to be a 12-10 guy anymore, i thought he had before the season started. I also thought that Pau had it in him to be a 18-10 guy again now that he have what he wanted, be the main focus on the post really dissapointed in that. Whenever Kobe comes back Meeks and Hill needs to stay in the starting lineup. The team looks like a rudderless ship. We do have the fundation for a good team beyond this season, thats what im more interested on at this point.

  29. @fern – you’re right of course. Kobe being in changes the entire complexion of the team and makes it simpler for other guys to get looks simply by being a threat on the floor. As for the coaching, all I’m saying is that roster is what it is – and bagging on the coach because he didn’t play hill enough before as if that’s what fixes all woes is innane. So Hill plays more now and averages a double double or whatever – great for him but it hasn’t resulted in proportionally more wins and reality was MDA got comparable production spreading the mins around previously. Now people bag on the coach for not leaving shawne in or whatever, or they were calling for Blake to be run out of town when he didn’t play good at start of season. How do you expect the coach to manage consistent rotations/game flow when none of the players (who are all career bench players aside from Kman) when he can’t get consistent production from any of these players certainly this early in the season. As for the call that Shaw etc…I don’t see Denver doing that great (w a lot more talent than Lakers) and just an fyi – but not everyone who reads this board is a die hard Lakers fan – therefore lambasting me for not being appreciative of former players and viewing them thru rose colored glasses vs how they actually are in reality is …. Well whatever lol. I just enjoy basketball, and Darius runs a great site and I enjoy his writing. Don’t consider my opinion to be borderline trolling to Laker Nation simply because I’m trying to be objective about the team on the court. If everyone is healthy and some bench guys get consistent, this team is a 4-8 seed and has a punchers chance if they catch fire. But right now they’re just going to be bad and maddeningly inconsistent and thats a direct result of the personnel regardless who’s coaching etc…

  30. Fern,
    That’s what this year is all about – starting a new foundation. I too think we have more than we might have expected. Kobe coming back at the 3 would seem to be a good compromise, except that there are so many long, athletic 3s in the west/league that it will be tough on him.

  31. Durant and Westbrook are locked up through ’16, and ’17, respectively. They may have ETOs that I am unaware of.

  32. jerke: Nobody called anyone any names other then your use of the word retread towards former Lakers. I said that no coach would be the solution this year. I also said (as many others have) that I do not think D’Antoni is our long term solution. You like to defend him. Fine – tearing down Shaw and PJ does not bolster MD. Results are results. Let’s look at the Knick results and the Laker results and the fact that Melo and DH did not like him. Explaining all that away, as not his fault – well – go for it. Speaking of facts – Denver is 3 games up on us in the loss column, they beat us, and they have 2 major players out with injury. So yes be objective. The Lakers aren’t that good. The reasons why are debatable and that is part of what the board is for. PJ and Shaw have nothing to do with the current problem or the future solution. Half of that sentence applies to MD.

  33. Mello and DH didn’t like MDA. I hardly think that counts as a definitive view of his relationship with his players. Melo and DH are incredibly self centered players and think all things should go through them. They are also, if not single-dimensional, at least players with great gaps in their game. MDA does require players to play together, PASS the rock, and shoot when open – not exclusively. The two ‘superstars’ mentioned don’t like it when the ball moves around and they are expected to be part of the process and not the end point of that process.

    MDA is generally well liked by his players. My guess is that Lebron would love to play for him, but he is not a selfish superstar.

  34. coach because he didn’t play hill enough before as if that’s what fixes all woes is innane

    No one said that playing Hill would fix everything. But the evidence that Hill should be playing (I have introduced it here multiple times) was, and is, clear, and if you add that to the issues MDA had with Hill in NY, MDA deserved, and got, criticism for not using Hill more. End of story.

    As to Blake, there is not much point on having a 33-year-old PG on a team in the Lakers’ situation, unless the guy is really, really good–which Blake isn’t. He competes hard, and he has done a nice job since Nash went down, but I doubt that he will be on next year’s team.