Archives For Game Recap

That about sums it up as far as the game against the Sixers goes. During the game Xavier Henry hurt his knee and did not return. Chris Kaman played on his gimpy ankle and looked solid in spurts, but didn’t see very much run overall. This left the Lakers with a group of healthy wings named Farmar, Meeks, Young, Wes Johnson, and Kendall Marshall. The bigs healthy enough to play sustained minutes were Hill, Williams, Sacre, and Kelly. At one point the team had a lineup of Marshall, Meeks, Young, Kelly, and Sacre. If you imagined that lineup getting important minutes during the 4th quarter of a close game, you get some sort of prize as being a masochist.

In any event, the Lakers aren’t a good team right now. Injuries have decimated them to the point that Xavier Henry’s MRI scheduled for tomorrow is actually a huge story since missing him for any extended period of time takes away the team’s back up point guard and one of the team’s better players to this point in the year. Read that last sentence again and you’ll have a better understanding of the shape the Lakers have been in this year.

I tweeted that at some point after the game and it also sums up the Sixers game for me. I understand the hope that a high draft pick is waiting for the team at some point this summer. This, however, does little to take away the sting of losing games like the one against the 76ers. Losing, for lack of a better word, sucks. Rationalizing the losses with dreams of the draft lottery going the Lakers’ way is nice, but, again, it doesn’t make nights like this any easier to deal with in the moment.

Really though, there’s not much else to say about this team at this point. You can point to coaching or the front office ownership if you want, but what Brian Kamenetzky tweeted at the top is the most basic truth about the Lakers right now. There are too many players hurt and not enough talent remaining to compensate for those injuries. After the game Mike D’Antoni reiterated that this team plays hard and fights, but still acknowledged that it isn’t enough right now. Beyond getting players healthy, I don’t think there’s a solution right now. Sure they can execute better on some plays and pay more attention to detail on both sides of the ball, but this is a talent league and right now the team doesn’t have enough of it.

At some point that will change. But right now, this is the Lakers’ lot in life and we all just have to deal with it.

Well, that was a better game than I had anticipated. But it’s worse when you root for the Lakers as they go down to the Jazz in a nailbiter, 105-103.

It was actually a close game throughout, although, for the most part, both teams seemed to be allergic to defense. Both teams’ rotations are awful and, sometimes, you wondered if they would just rather play XBoxOne instead of playing in this game. That or they had too much Christmas food. I know I did but I digress.

The Jazz killed the Lakers in transition; Utah had 25 fastbreak points compared to the Lakers’ 12. It was also frustrating to see the Lakers miss so many defensive assignments early (yes, the Jazz did the same thing but there’s a reason why they were 8-23 coming into this game).

The Lakers went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 97-96. Jodie Meeks would tie the game at 99. But the Lakers got careless in the next few possessions, as Meeks suddenly reverted to last year’s version of himself (which led to a Hayward three) and wasting a possession that resulted in a sloppy Jordan Hill turnover. Still, the Lakers were able to tie the game at 103 with Jordan Hill foul shots. Unfortunately, they didn’t box out Derrick Favors, who got the follow dunk with 2.1 seconds left. That was partly made possible by Gordon Hayward’s drive as they made the Lakers collapse. Lakers had a chance to tie or win but it ended with Meeks attempting a three from Dan Majerle range (a 35-footer essentially).

Young was a bright spot. He scored 21 points and was throwing fireballs for most of the game, going 10 of 17 from the field. But he fouled out halfway through the fourth; the Lakers could’ve really used his offense. Jordan Farmar played well, going for 16 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. Chris Kaman had great chemistry with Farmar, scoring 19 points overall. Hill ended with 16 points and nine boards.

The Lakers did have a chance to win the game but I wish the Lakers had a better sense of urgency as, again, they looked mostly sluggish early. And they got beat by the team with the worst record in the Western Conference. But give Utah credit. Hayward blasted the Lakers with 24 points and nine assists. They couldn’t stop Favors on the boards (18 points, 14 rebounds). And Trey Burke gave some good play in spurts (14 points, seven assists).

The Lakers have now lost four straight but they do have a four-game home stand coming up. They have Philadelphia on Sunday and Milwaukee on Tuesday. Their first game of the new year is a rematch against Utah. These are winnable games. Hopefully, they can get back on track at Staples Center.

Well, that was fun.

Without Kobe and without a point guard playing a single minute (the newly acquired Kendall Marshall was a DNP-CD), the Lakers beat the Timberwolves by 13 points to move back to .500 on the season. I’d say I saw this coming, but that would be a lie. The Lakers again played like the unpredictable, free-wheeling group they were before Kobe returned and put it on the Wolves in a totally unexpected manner.

The highlights and fun moments were plentiful, but what stood out most to me was the way this team played defensively. The ‘Wolves only converted on 33 of their 95 field goals (34.7%), including a pretty terrible 5-22 from behind the arc. If you want to know what that wretchedness looks like, here you go:

Wolves

That includes Kevin Love’s 9-18 from the floor, too. Take his night away, and the Wolves only hit 24 of 77 shots from the floor against a Lakers’ D that scrambled and hustled around the floor smartly to contest shots by the team’s better shooters while leaving the guys open who deserved to be. The result was a T-Wolves’ offense that never really got on track and struggled to produce points in the half court. Of course, the Wolves didn’t help themselves by playing lineups with multiple non-factors on offense for most of the night, but those are the guys they have at their disposal, so I’m really not sure what Rick Adelman was supposed to do.

While I’ll remember the D, most others will remember the balanced offensive night that had three Lakers score 20 or more points with the entire team shooting nearly 54% for the evening.

Nick Young was fantastic off the bench with a team high 25 points, including several big jumpers in the 2nd half that either stopped a Minnesota team that looked poised to make a run or pushed the Lakers ahead and really got the crowd (and his teammates) into the action. Xavier Henry was also fantastic, scoring 21 points on a very nice combination of long jumpers and nice finishes at the rim. Henry wasn’t particularly efficient (8-19 shooting), but his aggressiveness never waned and the team needed the pressure he applied to the T-Wolves defense.

For my money, though, the Lakers’ best player offensively was Pau Gasol. The big Spaniard had 21 points on 8-15 shooting while also dishing out a team high 8 assists to go with his 13 rebounds (6 offensive). Pau orchestrated the offense from the high and low post, making several good reads and acting as a facilitator on countless possessions. His ability to have the offense funnel through him was especially needed considering the team’s lack of point guards and the fact that he was able to get his teammates going while still being an efficient scoring option really kept the team’s offense balanced. He also had the most fun play of the night, hitting a big three pointer with the shot clock running down and then running back up the court celebrating a la Nick Young with a smile wider than we’ve seen him flash in some time.

And that may be the biggest takeaway from this game. The Lakers, while being counted out by nearly everyone and with countless reasons to feel down on themselves, went out and played hard, played together, and had fun. They’re back to being the underdog and while that’s not a familiar place for this franchise, it certainly seems to fit this group of players who revel in being able to outperform expectations and enjoy showing people that even with the odds against them they still know how to play this game. In the long run playing the spoiler isn’t going to get them any closer to the lofty goals the organization sets for themselves, but it will ingratiate themselves to a fan-base looking for some bright spots and who will cheer you on when you play hard and provide some entertainment while doing it.

For now, maybe that’s all we can ask for but if the team is going to deliver it we’re all going to love them for it.

The Atlanta Hawks dropped 67 points in the second half and held Kobe Bryant to just eight points in 32 minutes to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit and beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-100, on Monday night.

Al Horford led the Hawks in scoring with 19 points, but the team also received balanced scoring throughout the lineup as five other players hit double figures. One of those players was Kyle Korver, who hit three timely threes in a third quarter where the Hawks outscored the Lakers, 35-19.

The Hawks outrebounded the Lakers 16-8 in the third quarter. The turning point of the game came when the Lakers were up 60-55 and the Hawks grabbed three consecutive offensive rebounds in one possession. They ended their possession with a three for Korver, who extended his streak of three pointers in consecutive games to 94 and at the same time gave the Hawks plenty of momentum. Atlanta would eventually take the lead a few minutes later and never look back.

But the story was Kobe’s ineffectiveness once again. For the third time since his comeback, Kobe scored fewer than 10 points. He failed to make a three pointer today and is now shooting 2-for-15 from downtown. Once again, his turnover numbers were sky high as he coughed up the ball five times. Lastly, he only shot one free throw and it was on a technical. Kobe is known for earning calls and getting to the line. However, we have yet to see him get to the line more than 10 times in a game – something he did 28 times last year.

The Lakers did receive solid production from Jordan Hill, Xavier Henry, and Nick Young – at least offensively.

Hill didn’t miss a shot – going 8-for-8 and scoring 21 points. Young was money from long distance – draining five three pointers. However, he was the only player on the team to hit a three as the Lakers went 5-for-21 from long distance. Henry, meanwhile, scored 18 off the bench. That said, the trio combined for a minus-20 and struggled defensively – especially in the second half.

For the Hawks, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap were key contributors. Teague dished out 10 assists and scored 17 points and Millsap added 18 in the win along with four steals.

The Lakers have a quick turnaround as they head to Memphis for a huge Western Conference showdown against the Grizzlies.

 

 

In only his second game back from injury, it’s difficult to avoid making almost every bit of analysis Kobe-centric. So, win or lose, the focus will shift his way and the tone of the conversation will shift away from the what the team did well (or not) to what Kobe did well or not. On that note, let’s look at Kobe first…

Number 24 looked much better tonight than he did on Sunday, showing better decisiveness in nearly everything he did and making sharper decisions in the process. His pass/shot decisions were worlds better than what they were against the Raptors and that showed up clearly in the box score where he tallied 20 points on 6-11 shooting handing out 3 assists to (only) 3 turnovers (compared to the 8 he had against the Raptors). Kobe’s movement in the full court wasn’t much better than what he showed on Sunday (more on this later), but he was much more crisp in how he moved in the half court, making sharp cuts to the ball and in backdoor plays on several occasions and showing good change of direction on more than a handful of possessions.

These are the positives that come from this game; the easily identifiable progress he made from his first game back to his second. But just as some of these improvements were clear, so was the fact that integrating Kobe back into the lineup has (and will continue to) provide hiccups that translate to adjustments from the way the team was playing before.

I tweeted that after the game and while some may interpret that as a dig at Kobe, it’s really not meant that way at all. Throughout the game what became quite evident is that Kobe is playing a style that mostly suits what he’s most comfortable doing and those aren’t really things that fit snugly into the style the team was playing before he came back. Kobe wants the ball in the mid post or the shallow wing. He wants to post up and play out of the triple threat. He wants to work in isolation, survey the floor and either create a good look for himself or draw the defense and kick the ball to an open teammate. We saw all of this on full display against the Suns.

These aren’t bad things. In fact, in many ways they are extremely effective ways to play this game. Kobe knows this because he’s played this way for the majority of his career and has had a lot of success doing it. It’s just not the way the team was playing before he rejoined them in the lineup.

Before Kobe came back, the team relied heavily on dribble penetration from the point guard out of the P&R or hand-off sequences at the top of the key and hard dives from their big men after they’d set screens in either one of these actions. When the ball was penetrated via the dribble or a pass to the diving big man, either shots were put up in the paint or passes were made out to perimeter players who either took shots in rhythm or swung the ball to the open man against a rotating defense (which then led to an open or semi-open shot before a close out fully arrived). Against the Suns, this wasn’t happening as often. You only need to see the box score and notice that the team only took 18 three point attempts (making only 5, which is as much of a problem as the low attempts) to see that the offense isn’t producing the same shots it has in the past.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it is a thing. And that means an adjustment by players who have played one way for the first part of the season and now will need to start to play a different way. This will take time and while that time is passing, things won’t always look as good as you (or I) would like.

All that said, this game wasn’t lost because of the offense (at least not totally). Another quick glance at the box score reveals that the Suns made nearly 52% of their baskets while scoring 21 fastbreak points and 56 points in the paint. In other words, the Lakers’ defense mostly stunk. They couldn’t contain Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe all night and that duo combined to score 39 points while dishing out 14 assists. Add in Marcus Morris’ 22 points off the bench and the fact that the Lakers did not get enough stops is pretty obvious.

A lot of what the Suns did offensively was play at a tempo that bothered the Lakers. When Kobe and Pau shared the floor the team was at a clear speed deficiency. But it wasn’t just that the Suns outran the Lakers, it was that they out-quicked them too. In other words, the Lakers had severe issues transitioning from offense to defense (Kobe was a culprit in this, but so was Pau and several other Lakers who chased offensive rebounds but did not snare them) and that allowed the Suns to generate early offense. But, the Suns also used very good tempo within their half court offense to generate looks by attacking quickly and directly via penetration out of the P&R and off ball reversals when the Lakers closed out on shooters. These quick movements to the paint really bothered the Lakers’ defense and created a feeling that the team was often playing flatfooted against superior athletes.

This is another area where Kobe, in his current state of not yet having his full game legs, will need to make adjustments. Much like Gasol needs to (but still too often doesn’t), Kobe will need to position himself better defensively so that he can be in the right place at the right time to compensate for not having the burst he’d like to have. Over the past couple of seasons Kobe has lost more defensively than he has offensively, but coming off this injury he needs to compensate even more rather than just trying to gamble and hope it pays off. Because, while in the past those gambles may have worked and given him a sense that he could continue to try that style, as long as he’s a half beat (or more) behind those gambles will not work now.

This isn’t to rag on Kobe or blame the team’s defensive woes on him. An opponent doesn’t shoot 52% because of one guy. No one was particularly good on defense tonight and singling out Kobe would not be fair. I comment on him because he’s new and evaluating him is fresh, but the same trends of Nick Young and Wes Johnson committing bad fouls, Pau not helping well enough at the rim, and people not helping the helper when Hill leaves his man to block shots were on full display against the Suns and those errors cost the team many baskets.

All in all, then, this was a fairly bad loss even though it can be rationalized through the prism of adjusting to Kobe’s return and the Suns actually showing a lot of early season promise. There were certainly positives of Kobe playing better than he did on Sunday and the team finding good looks with him as a centerpiece shot creator. But there is still growth to be made and, much like in games before he came back, the team needs to play better defense consistently and can’t let bad offensive stretches define their effort level. These are things that already needed improvement but now that Kobe is back and the expectations for the team to play better are real, they really need to be better at them. Hopefully we start to see more consistency in these areas soon, especially since the adjustments that need to be made in other areas are very real.

*I didn’t mention this earlier in the recap, but this team misses Jordan Farmar something awful. Farmar was playing his best ball of the season when he got hurt and that makes it doubly worse, but just the simple fact that Blake is now the team’s only real PG makes finding suitable rotations quite challenging. One potential solution is to stagger Kobe and Blake more, but even that requires putting the ball in Kobe’s hands more off the dribble and the Suns game showed he’s probably most comfortable as an off the ball worker in the mid post and at the elbows. Ultimately, I am not sure where the team can go to get that creator and driver of the 2nd unit, but Farmar’s quickness on both ends of the floor is something that needs replacing but seemingly doesn’t have anyone to fill in. In other words, heal up quick Jordan. The team really misses what you bring.