Archives For Game Recap

If the silver lining to the loss to the Magic was the young players playing well while gaining valuable experience down the stretch of a close game, the loss to the Mavs offered some hints at improving group play from the starting group. After a Heat game that saw the Lakers’ starters struggle against the Heat’s top 5, the team’s first five had a stronger showing against the Magic one night later.

Last night, against the Mavs, the starters’ showing was even better:

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With only 1.5 seconds left and the game tied, overtime seems like a foregone conclusion. To not only lose, but to lose where the Lakers’ best defender is challenging a turnaround 18 footer from the opposing team’s Center (regardless of how good a shooter) is, well, deflating. I would normally take that scenario 100 times out of 100. Alas, it was not the Lakers night.

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The Lakers lost again. This, in and of itself, is not news. It is especially not news when they are on the road and playing a good team, as they did on Tuesday night, against the Heat in Miami. So, with the simplest of explanations, chalk this up to one team losing to a better team under circumstances in which that outcome was going to be pretty likely.

The bigger story, though, wasn’t just the team losing, but the side stories within the loss. Namely, that despite the Lakers finding themselves down big late, D’Angelo Russell could not get any 4th quarter minutes. After the game, Byron Scott had this to say about that development:

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It may not cure all, but the Lakers getting a win sure does make things go down a bit smoother. The night wasn’t perfect, but perfect can wait for another day. The Lakers needed a win severely, if only to ease some of their own frustrations.

Regardless of how good a win makes the fans feel, I can guarantee it feels better for the players. It is difficult to put all that work in and not see the reward on the court with actual wins. As much as performing well as an individual matters, these guys aren’t out there playing tennis or golf. They want their team to win. One only needed to see the look on the face of D’Angelo Russell in the closing seconds of this game (even though he was on the bench — more on that later) or the look on Julius Randle’s after the four previous ones (even though he’d played well in most of them) to recognize the difference.

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It should be noted, at the top, that few people thought the Lakers would win many games. In my season preview I wrote the following:

I think this team tops out at 38 wins and that’s with everything going right. When was the last time any NBA team had everything go right? When was the last time the Lakers did? That said, if this team wins over 30 games, they will simultaneously improve on last season’s win total by 10 wins and beat their over for Las Vegas.

A 10 win improvement on the 21-win dumpster fire that was last season might seem too optimistic right now. That’s where we are after the Lakers lost 120-109 to a Nuggets team missing one of their better wing scorers and their entire rotation of Centers.

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The Lakers lost their third straight game to open the season, a hat handing by the Dallas Mavericks by the final count of 103-93. Depending on your outlook, the game was either closer or not as close as the final score. I fall more on the latter side.

The Lakers started the game on the wrong side of a 15-0 run — an interesting response to Byron Scott’s criticism that the team was soft and not ready to play after losing to the Kings two days prior. After falling down by so many points early, the Lakers tried to battle back but could never get over the hump. Several times they cut the deficit to 8 points, but never really got closer than that; never really threatened the Mavs in a way to make it seem the outcome was seriously in doubt.

Recapping every detail of the loss is not important. I tell you this not because I’d prefer to avoid typing the words, but more because the reasons for losing are the exact reasons why the team lost the previous two games of  the year. Or at least variations of them.

The team cannot defend well. They have droughts of really poor offense. Rather than getting a key stop, the possession instead ends in a foul or an offensive rebound or a perfectly (poorly) timed mental mistake defensively which surrenders the bucket. Not enough players play well — in this case, Julius Randle needed more help — while too many players didn’t just play average, but very poorly.

The last part of the last sentence there is really me pointing my finger at Kobe Bryant. The 20 year veteran is not playing well. In fact, “not well” is generous. He’s been bad. Very, very bad. Don’t take my word for it, though. Take his. From ESPN’s Baxter Holmes:

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There is not really much to say about Friday night’s game against the Kings. The Lakers were bad, the Kings were not. The 132-114 margin of defeat reflects that, but also all the little things which go into winning, or, in this case, losing, basketball.

The missed rotations, the easy allowance of dribble penetration, the lack of helping the helper, the shoddy work on the glass, the bad shot selection, the sloppy execution, the poor screens being set, and so many other things that I’m just going to stop trying to explain it. When you give up 132 points, you did too much wrong. Scoring 114 may look nice, but it’s really just the shiny object on the ground to distract you from the fact you’re about to walk into a wall.

Analyzing this game for what it was, then, isn’t important. The Lakers were bad. Why they were bad are reasons we already knew about — or at least had strong hints at after opening night:

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It’s hard to be too upset after the Lakers Opening Night loss – at least it is for myself. I spent the night at Staples Center in the 300 level, taking in a night of hoops, a wealth of youth, and an energy I hadn’t felt in the arena in over two years.

The lack of electricity is understandable. The team racked up 48 wins over the last two years – a total that the Lakers reached or exceeded 36 times in single seasons in the franchise history. An apparent lack of solidarity in the front office, a lack of consistency at head coach, and a general lack of health among the players led to the two worst seasons in Lakers history. And while all of the problems weren’t resolved heading into this season, there are clear signs that the Lakers are starting to move out of their funk and into a more promising era of Lakers hoops – and it was definitely felt in the 45 minutes leading up to tip-off.

Staples was near capacity before the start of the game, and the fanbase was eager to see these new-look Lakers. “I’m just happy Kobe is healthy, man,” said David, a 19-year old fan who sat in my section. “I’m excited to see the rookies, too. But I’m here to see Kobe’s return.

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