Tonight could get ugly â€” Kobe has been suspended for tonight’s game by the league for the play on Jaric. While we could well argue that the league should just allow people to hit Jaric (Clipper fans will back that up), there was little doubt this was going to come down today. This play was almost identical to what happened against Ginobli, so the league had no choice but to be consistent.
Tough way to come in to take on the Bucks: No Odom or Kobe, plus last night Cook played 49 minutes, Evans 44, Smush 42, and the list goes on. Add to the tired legs the hard loss last night and weâ€™ll see how much fortitude this Laker team has tonight.
That fortitude has to start with finding a way to cover Michael Redd â€” last meeting he dropped 45 on the Lakers while shooting 61.6%, leading the Bucks to the win. He is one of the best shooters in the game, although he is weaker from the midrange on the right side of the court. But you canâ€™t give him good looks from anywhere, my guess that will fall to Evans and Sasha.
Overall the Lakers have to play better defense than the first meeting when the Bucks shot 54.7% (eFG%) and 43.8% from three.
Also in that game, Odom had 21 points and 13 boards, Kobe had 27 and Walton added 14 points. Those have to be made up somewhere â€” but even still the Lakers should be able to get some offense going. The Bucks are the second worst defensive team in the NBA, and are second worst in opponent eFG%.
Also, the Bucks are the worst defensive rebounding team in the league â€” Bynum, Kwame and others need to crash the boards, get a few easy ones on misses.
One thing to drool over tonight: Bucks PG Mo Williams will be a free agent this summer. The bad news is I think there is little chance the Lakers will be able to afford him.
Sometimes, I regret watching a game on TiVo after knowing the outcome because I just get frustrated. The double OT loss to Minnesota was one of those games â€” and there was plenty to be frustrated about. How hard is it to execute an inbounds play? When did Mark Blount learn to shoot threes? (That one is one of those where I say â€œgood on himâ€ for making the play, if you told me that the T-Wolves are going need Blount to hit threes to win the game Iâ€™d take that chance.) Why is the zone defense so baffling for the Lakers? Why canâ€™t they shoot free throws? How do you not know the shot clock? Then thereâ€™s â€œthe technicalâ€ or Phil not subbing out anyone in the overtimes when it was clear guys were dragging.
But, as you commenters noted, a lot of that comes back to the rash of injuries.
McKie should not be making inbounds passes, Luke Walton should be. He would have seen Cook standing unbelievably wide open with the chance to win the game. But, you say, Cook could not throw a pea in the ocean in that game (thanks Chick), even if he had gotten the ball he would have missed. But Phil didnâ€™t have Radmanovic to turn to as the hotter hand that night. And he didnâ€™t have Odom to take on Garnett, he had to go with Cook. The result was Cook having to play 49 minutes often matched against one of the leagueâ€™s best players, leaving the Lakers with other bad matchups, including on Blount.
Iâ€™m not trying to make excuses â€” McKie is veteran who should make better decisions. Cook asked for chances and needs to take advantage of them. Guys need to step up. But there was a reason that McKie has sat much of the last two seasons, reasons Cook is not given key defensive assignments. Right now the collection of injuries is forcing Phil to make player and matchup choices he would prefer not to, just because he sees it as the best option he has. We can question some of those decisions, and should, but there are not great answers on the current roster. And that is hurting the Lakers and costing them games.