Last night’s loss to the Heat was, needless to say, a tough one to stomach. The Lakers just aren’t supposed to lose these kind of games. A strong fourth quarter comeback, Kobe finding his stroke and a game-tying jumper from Kobe to send it into overtime usually equals a win. Not last night. The Heat were hot in overtime and didn’t miss a shot from the field or from the line, leading to their three point win, continuing the trend of close Lakers/Heat games.
Last night’s loss was compounded by the fact that they had ample opportunity to win the game, losing the first game of a three-game road trip in OT cannot be good for the Lakers’ legs considering they’re playing these three games in four days and tonight’s game is in Charlotte, where the Lakers have struggled since the Bobcats’ inception in the league.
Much like Darius said in his recap, last night’s game was all about the numbers. The turnovers, the missed free throws, the three point shooting and the 30-21 third quarter score. In the Lakers previous two games, the Lakers used the third quarter to fuel their victories, last night, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra threw a zone defense at the Lakers that seemed to confound them for the first six minutes of the half, forcing them to claw their way back into the game in the fourth quarter and play five extra meaningless minutes.
There were also the numbers 12 and 20, signifying the number of consecutive points scored late in the fourth and into overtime for the Lakers, and the number of seconds the Lakers had on the clock when Kobe was called for charging. Even as great as Kobe is, there is no reason the Lakers should ever have a stretch where Bryant scores 12 consecutive points. This suggests that he wasn’t getting the help that he needed. Gasol had more shot attempts than points, Ron Artest had zero rebounds and the Lakers, as a team, only had 15 assist – in a 53-minute game. Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register wrote a column on Kobe’s lack of help.
The Lakers lost because as good as Bryant was for 39 points – after coming to the arena early to refine what he called the “rhythm” of his shot – he wasn’t perfect. There was that late charging foul. There were too many occasions standing around away from his man on defense and watching Dwyane Wade’s penetration.
But the other Lakers weren’t quite good enough around Bryant in the way that superstars need.
That’s something Pippen understands completely from his days as a second star to Michael Jordan. Pippen talked after the game with Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw, who knows it well also from his many years as a role player helping Shaquille O’Neal.
Jackson understands it better than anyone from having coached all those stars, and he made the point afterward: “There was a time when we went away from him when he was hot.”
Also, Surya Fernandez of Hot Hot Hoops wrote this about the Lakers front court:
The Heat’s front line was just as important to the victory as well. Jermaine O’Neal was huge for the Heat when it mattered the most with some timely baskets and a charge on Kobe Bryant in overtime. Michael Beasley had his moments, playing more loose and confident than he has in the last few games. Beasley made better decisions with the ball and chose to pass instead of forcing the issue by taking a jump shot if he didn’t have a clear path to the basket. Udonis Haslem played the entire 4th quarter and overtime, snagging a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds while playing some solid defense against the Laker bigs.
Speaking of which, when Pau Gasol goes for 10 points, Andrew Bynum gets 12 points and Lamar Odom has 13 against flat footed Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Magloire then your team deserves to lose. There simply is no excuse to struggle to score when every other NBA team this season has taken advantage of the Heat’s biggest weakness in the paint.
Don’t get me wrong though, Kobe had his problems, too. With Artest spending most of the night on Dwyane Wade (27 points, 14 assists), Bryant just wasn’t disciplined enough to stay at home against Quentin Richardson who shot eight for 13 including seven three-pointers. From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog:
For someone who was so unwanted this offseason, the Lakers surely made Richardson look like a highly coveted man Thursday in a 114-111 overtime loss to the Heat. He scored a team-high 25 points on eight-of- 13 shooting, a huge increase from the 8.1 points he’s averaged this season.
The Lakers also committed 16 turnovers, which led to Miami scoring 19 points. After replaying the game, it’s apparent that these two factors could’ve been the most controlled. For all the credit Lakers guard Kobe Bryant deservedly got for scoring 39 points on 15-of-28 shooting, he was the main defensive liability in guarding Richardson, who scored against Bryant on all but two field goal attempts. Meanwhile, the team’s turnovers were mostly rooted in poor communication and lapses in decision-making.
If you missed last night’s game, Lakers.com has a running diary with all of the big plays by quarter with some analysis. Land O’ Lakers Andy Kamenentzky has more on last night’s struggles. Silver Screen and Roll had this enjoyable recap and the Orange County Register’s Basket Blog had this post about Ron Artest telling everyone to “beware.”
Overall, though, Artest sang a pretty cheerful note, even though the Lakers lost. He has an incredible 16 steals in his past three games against Carmelo Anthony, Danny Granger and Dwyane Wade. (Artest played a few shifts guarding Quentin Richardson but spent nearly his entire Thursday night on Wade.) Artest expressed excitement about just how quick he’s feeling post-plantar fasciitis and at a lighter weight suggested by Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.
“I’m feeling really good; I feel really, really positive,” Artest said. “I’m just happy that my feet are moving.”
He got left behind a few times by Wade, but Artest noted: “Not everybody’s Dwyane.” Artest suggested that if he could hang this well with Wade, imagine what he will do as the season moves on against anyone “who is not as quick.”
“Beware,” Artest said. “To everybody, beware.”
After last night’s game, Kobe Bryant commented on Dwyane Wade’s lack of help in Miami saying, “He literally had to make every play, had to try to penetrate and pitch in. That can wear you down. So hopefully, he’ll get somebody who can step up and make plays and give him a couple of plays off.” Also, ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard reported that Kobe and Lebron bought all of the NBA’s All-Stars “Beats By Dr. Dre” Monster Headphones. Kobe bought four all of the WC all stars and ‘Bron did the same for all of the EC all stars.
Now, I turn your attention to tonight’s game in Charlotte against the Bobcats. Queens City Hoops has an early preview for tonight’s game.