The Lakers wasted a tremendous opportunity this week to get back on track. They had two games against Utah and one each against Philadelphia and Milwaukee but they were only able to muster one win.
The loss against the Bucks essentially showed the country why pundits and Vegas had predicted the Lakers to have a win total in the low 30s this year. I don’t care how many injuries a team has – going down 14-0 in the first six minutes against the league’s worst team at home is inexcusable.
And the loss against the Sixers? That was a team who had just one road win all season and was suffering a 13-game road losing streak. Instead, the Lakers made Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young look like All-Stars in the loss.
The Lakers could have won 45 games this year and made the playoffs, but let’s be honest – these injuries haven’t helped at all. The Lakers used their sixth starting point guard in Friday’s win against the Jazz. The effort has been there, too. Guys like Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre, Kendall Marshall, Jordan Hill, and Xavier Henry have been doing their best all season long.
But that effort went away momentarily in the losses against the Jazz, Sixers, and Bucks. Those are games that can be won with effort alone. If the Lakers put the same energy they did in the Heat loss on Christmas, they would’ve been able to win.
In the Sixers loss, the Lakers outrebounded Philadelphia and held the Sixers to just 41 percent shooting. However, the Purple and Gold shot just 36 percent. They took 37 threes and made only 12 of them. They didn’t work hard to get good quality shots. They just bombed threes and missed them.
Then on New Years’ Eve, the Lakers were outrebounded by the Bucks, 51-39, and once again shot just 36 percent. Mike D’Antoni’s seeming disdain for Jordan Hill continued in that game as he only played him 11 minutes. That might explain why they were outrebounded by the fifth worst rebounding team in the league.
The Lakers finally woke up against the Jazz last night, though. Pau Gasol had a monstrous performance amidst the trade rumors of him going to Cleveland and Kendall Marshall became the newest point guard to elevate his stats under Mike D’Antoni. And let’s not act like he’s the next Magic Johnson – the Lakers were playing the Jazz. Nonetheless, it was an admirable performance by a guy who went from starting in the D-League to starting for the Lakers in less than a month.
The Lakers may have snapped their six-game losing streak this week, but now stand at 14-19 with a brutal schedule ahead. Kobe isn’t coming back anytime soon and Gasol’s days may be numbered. They need those two to make any type of run.
The rest of the Lakers season essentially becomes Survivor: Lakers Edition. Those who play hard, have a shot of staying with the team next year. Right now, guys like Hill, Farmar, and Henry have to like their chances of being wanted to stay in LA – that is unless of course they get contracts from elsewhere.
The biggest audition is Mr. D’Antoni’s. The proponents of #TankCity fail to understand that D’Antoni can’t afford to tank a whole season in favor of a draft pick. If the Lakers are bottom feeders and he loses his job, what good does a top five pick do him? He might as well have a gun to his head right now and the clock is ticking. D’Antoni needs to prove that he could at least coach this team to a .500 record. The more he wins with this roster, the more leverage he gains and the higher the chances are of him coaching the Lakers next year.
Maybe that’s why he played Marshall over 40 minutes in the win against the Jazz. His biggest strength is elevating point guards. Now that he saw what Marshall can do in a small sample, he’s hoping he can ride him to victory and a chance to coach next year.
This is a list of point guards that played under D’Antoni before he joined the Lakers. All of them had better numbers with Mike at the helm. A few of them (Lin, Nash, i.e) had their best years with D’Antoni. So last night’s performance was no surprise. It would’ve been a surprise if we saw the Lakers allow fewer than 80 points a game for a five game stretch with D’Antoni as coach. But point guards elevating their game? Been there, done that.
The Lakers won’t be playing against cupcakes much longer. After a home affair against the Nuggets, they play three “road” games in four nights. Tuesday and Wednesday features a Texas two-step at the Mavs and Rockets. Then, the team returns to Staples Center to play a road game against the Clippers on Friday.