Since this is the NBA and not, say, platform diving, there are no style points awarded with wins. Which is good, because while the Lakers were doing something with a high degree of difficulty â€” a back-to-back in Texas â€” they got the win that was far from graceful in Houston. And weâ€™ll take it.
We learned some things too, like that the Lakers and Rockers are pretty evenly matched. Two games decided by a total of five points â€” the Lakers could have won both or lost both with just a couple breaks (whether the late threes fall or not). A split is about right, but youâ€™ll never convince me that the fates donâ€™t decide some NBA games.
What else have we learned?
Good. The Lakers can play team defense â€” they held the Rockets to a team offensive rating of 98.44 (well below the Laker opponent season average of 106.2). To be fair, the Lakers caught a break with McGrady going out, he was shooting 57.1% eFG% and was the only Rocket for the game over 50%.
The Lakers do play good defense in stretches, although I donâ€™t think theyâ€™ve put 48 minutes together yet (see the lapses in San Antonio the other night for the perfect example). As kwame a. and others have pointed out in the comments, there are some bad habits the Lakers have â€” they are doubling off cutters or doubling early off guys on the perimeter and leaving shooters wide open for threes. But, the effort is there compared to previous years and in stretches the Lakers can do it, they just need to become consistent.
Bad. Luke Waltonâ€™s play since being asked to come off the bench. He has shot 4 of 17 in the last three games, made 10 turnovers, looked more lethargic on the boards and last night played horrible defense on Bonzi Wells (Radmanovic helped some with that last one). Phil Jackson was frustrated enough to sub Mo Evans in over Luke late in the fourth quarter last night. Iâ€™m not in his head, I donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on there, but he needs to snap out of it.
Good. The second unit. The Lakers starters basically played the Rockets even last night (each starter was -3 to -5 for the night), but it was the bench that stood out and took control of the game in the second quarter (and had a key run to end the third quarter). Bynum was a team-high +10, but he couldnâ€™t out rebound Farmar â€” they both had 9. The Lakers depth is going to win them a number of games this year and that was one of them.
Bad. Turnovers. Itâ€™s really simple â€” 6 first half turnovers, big Lakers lead at half, 13 second half turnovers and the game is in doubt until the clock runs out. Whatâ€™s disturbing is the number of turnovers from veterans who are making bad decisions â€” Kobe, Walton, Odom and Fisher accounted for 13 of the 19 turnovers. (Granted, that group handles the ball a lot, but some of those were pretty terrible choices.) Yes, this should get better as the year goes on, but it needs to be a point of emphasis from the coaches, it will not get better on its own.
Good. Rebounding. The Lakers are the eighth best defensive rebounding team in the league right now, and leading the way is Andrew Bynum, who is grabbing league high 23.8% of the boards when he is on the floor.
Bad. Phil Jacksonâ€™s attempts at humor.
Good. Being 4-3 after that gauntlet of a start. Right now the Lakers are actually 9th in the Western Conference and are on pace to win about 46 games, but those numbers (and the offensive and defensive stats) are dragged down some because of the quality of opponents the Lakers have faced. Outside of the Timberwolves, the Lakers opponents have a record of 33-10 this season. Doing well against these teams bodes well for the future.
Thatâ€™s a good note to end on.