Well, it’s happened. The much-ballyhooed three-game losing streak of the Pau Gasol era happened after yesterday’s loss in Orlando, the same Arena they ended the previous season. There would be no champagne dripping off of their faces as they left the arena, just a third loss in as many road games, the first time they went 0 for 3 on a three-game road trip since the 04-05 season. There isn’t much I can say about last night’s game that everyone else on the web already touched on. Here are clips from what writers and bloggers had to say about yesterday’s game, starting with Darius’ opening paragraph from his recap:
In what has been an all too familiar theme of late, the Lakers fought back from a deficit, had a chance to win a game, and came up just short. The Lakers just didn’t have enough plays in them at the end of this contest to make up for the plays they gave away in earlier portions of the game. And so, for the first time since acquiring Pau Gasol a bit over two full season’s worth of games ago, the Lakers have lost three straight and find themselves in a position where there are a lot of questions and not a lot of easy answers. In a way, this game was a microcosm of the Lakers entire season. The Lakers played well in spurts, and despite facing deficits as large as twelve, they were effectively in this game for most of the contest. They have the talent and the fight to come back in any game and they showed that fight in the 4th quarter today. But the issues that have plagued this team for most of the season were present throughout the game.
But the shooting… good Lord. As a team the Lakers had an Effective Field-Goal Percentage of 40%. That’s poisonously bad. Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Jordan Farmar – four of their key perimeter shooters – combined to shoot 14 for 41 (34%) on two point shots and 4 for 15 (27%) on threes. Of the backcourt guys, only Shannon Brown (an EFG of 50%) found the hoop with acceptable regularity. For the three-game road trip, the Lakers shot 14 of 58 (24%) on three-point attempts.
This is not aberrant. The Lakers aren’t a good shooting team. They’re an average shooting team that’s worse than average on threes. And this, to me, is where the “flip the switch” hypothesis starts to wobble. I get you can summon greater effort and intensity in the playoffs. You can defend harder, you can shorten your rotations, you can fight for rebounding position with more verve than you bring on an afternoon in early March. But how do you just decide to start making shots? Outside shooting isn’t a function of effort. It’s a function of being good at shooting.
When things start to unravel — like they clearly are with the Los Angeles Lakers — perspective can be a funny thing.
Kobe Bryant seems to think there’s nothing wrong with the first three-game losing streak in more than two years. After all, he scored 39, 26 and 34 points, respectively, in those three games.
Pau Gasol, who has averaged less than 14 points in the three losses, has a different take. He believes the defending NBA champions have been thrown out of sync because one guy again has become too dominant in the offense.
And guess who that guy would be?
“Kobe is a great player, the best offensive player out there … but at the same time, we need to find some balance with our interior game, develop it a little more, moving the ball and changing sides,” Gasol said gingerly, knowing he was treading on sacred territory by questioning Bryant and the offense of coach Phil Jackson. “We need to get focused on that a little more, to find balance, to find some flow.”
The Lakers have an offense problem, not a defense problem.
Look at some numbers from Orlando’s box score:
- 41.1 percent from the floor.
- Individually, Rashard Lewis was four-of-13, Dwight Howard six-of-14, Nelson five-of-14.
- Vince Carter finished with 25 points on five-of-10 from the floor and 13-of-14 from the stripe, but two of the field goals and 10 of the freebies came over the first 12 minutes.
The Lakers pressured the ball, blocked shots, and forced turnovers. After a bad first quarter, they held a red hot Orlando team to 65 points over the final three quarters. The defense was more than good enough to win.
Except the Lakers were held to 37.5 percent from the floor, 29.4 percent from beyond the arc. As has too often been the case of late, their offense devolved into a series of quick shots or one-on-one isolations. Ball and player movement were rarely to be found. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers were completely Kobe-centric. A loose count says 16 of 22 trips saw Kobe take the first shot. He made a lot of them, including some tough ones. Classic Kobe. But it wasn’t enough, and put the Lakers in a position where he was either going to win it or not. The supporting cast can’t be expected to support when so rarely made part of the process.
Because this game (at least its ending) resembled Game Four of last year’s NBA Finals almost to a tee. Barnes’ three gave Orlando a six-point lead, but the Lakers found a way once again to cut into it thanks to the Magic gifting some points back to them.
Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter and Dwight Howard all missed a free throw in the final minute of the game, giving Los Angeles a faint glimmer of hope. As the Magic learned last year, the Lakers will take that glimmer any time they can get it. Bryant hit a contested three in the corner and then a two-pointer with his foot on the 3-point line to make it a one-point game with 12.9 seconds left.
Orlando was crumbling a bit at the end, but what made this game different than the Finals was that the Magic found a way to pull it out in the end. Confidence gained.
“I’m worried about what we can do to win ballgames. I’m not worried about streaks,” said Gasol, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds. “I’m worried about what we can do to win another championship as a team.”
The effort was substantially better than a pathetic offering two days earlier in Charlotte, but it didn’t stop the Lakers from getting swept on a three-game trip for the first time since 2004-05, the last time they failed to make the playoffs. Nor did it prevent them from incurring their 18th loss, one more than they had all last season.
Getting to the postseason is an obvious non-issue this season, but holding on to the top spot in the Western Conference suddenly isn’t such a given. The Lakers (46-18) are only three games ahead of hard-charging Dallas, which has won 11 consecutive games.
From The Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog:
With each altercation, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant stared at Orlando forward Matt Barnes with stone-cold silence. Bryant gave Barnes the stare after tussling with him over a rebound in the third quarter, drawing a double technical foul as a referee stepped between them. Bryant gave the Barnes the stare after he dunked over him off a tip in. And Bryant gave Barnes the stare when he pretended to throw the ball at his face during an inbounds pass, something that didn’t make Bryant flinch for even a nano second.
Bryant’s didn’t appear to say much, at least to what was visible on the television screen. But he didn’t need to because his body language said it all. Through Bryant’s stone-cold stares, he reminded Barnes who he was and that nothing was going to intimidate him. Of course, when it’s all said and done, the Lakers walked away as the losers, dropping a 96-94 decision Sunday to Orlando. And despite Bryant’s many late fourth-quarter points, his team-leading 34 points came on 12-for-30 shooting with Barnes mainly drawing the defensive assignment.
The question everyone wants addressed (other than the identity of Ron Artest’s hair stylist) might have been delivered with a counter-punch,18 games from the playoffs.
Are the Orlando Magic better than they were last season and can they win the NBA title this time?
The Magic hit back when the defending champion Lakers unleashed their full fury and beat them 96-94 on Sunday at Amway Arena.
Sure, you can get a temperature reading on the Magic by listing their latest, greatest victims: They’ve beaten the Boston Celtics (twice), Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers while going 18-5 in the second half of the season.
But attaching a face to the Magic evaluation makes it even more meaningful, if not credible, especially when it’s Lakers coach Phil Jackson’s.
“I think they’re as good, maybe better, a little better than they were last year,” Jackson said.
Pau is right, but I don’t think he should’ve questioned Kobe in the media.
Pau played through last Summer after a long championship season.
I think he’s tired.
Is that Kobe’s fault?
i have to admit that the last 3 games have been frustrating to watch, but i dont think we should worry too much. while it is true that our guards miss many easy shots i think we all know that this is just a stretch of bad luck and its good that we have it now and not during the playoffs.
its not like were taking that many contested jumpers, were missing wide-open shots (especially artest). things will change on that end even more when sasha gets back rested.
i think it would be good to play andrew and lamar a little more and give pau some rest. he is not soft, he is simply tired from playing too much. we basically run every posession through him and when we dont he is the guy who has to be in a good position and get the rebounds. dwight howard chills on many posessions and tries to stay fresh for when it counts while pau is the centre of what were doing as a team.
same thing can be said about kobe. we should try to limit his minutes now, as long as we can still stay at the top of the western conference. lamar is playing really well at the moment, and deserves more playing time as well as more offensive opportunities.
even though we are losing right now, i am quite sure we will repeat this year. we seem to play the good teams very close and everytime i see kobe standing at the 3point line and not contesting a shot i think to myself: “there is no way he wouldnt contest this shot if we were in the playoffs right now…” and then we lose by 1 point. dont panic, we will come out on top again
I for one am so tired of Pau Gasol questioning the Lakers offense continuosly going through Kobe. To say that Pau Gasol didn’t get touches against Orlando would be false. He got touches, but Orlando did a good job of pushing him further away from the basket which history has shown usually makes Pau ineffective. No good defensive team is going to allow Pau to catch the ball, survey the floor, jab steep for 3 seconds, back his defender down for another 3 seconds without at least bringing a help defender.
Pau, if you want to be more involved, find a way to go quicker with your moves and get on the offensive glass. Kobe Bryant is our best option on offense and should get the touches especially late in the game when I get nervous to see Gasol at the free throw line.
youve got to read KD’s piece
Matt Barnes = Kobe Stopper. I’m just joking, I’m just joking.
For real though, you can still get in Kobe’s head, which shocks me, because he’s a 14-year vet now. It aint like he’s 23 anymore. Even though he doesn’t talk shit, he’ll throw an elbow after a play, stare at cats, and even be more aggressive than usual when he feels like he has to make a point, when someone like Matt fucking Barnes is talkin’ reckless. I’m surprised at that.
Anyway, Gasol is making a valid point. There’s no reason Kobe should have taken 30 shots last night. On the flip side, Gasol’s not totally in the clear, because there are plenty of times when I expect him to be more assertive, but he’ll defer, and leave it to Kobe to save the day. I wouldn’t put too much into them losing last night, though. Orlando isn’t a championship team, I don’t care what anyone says.
My thing remains…what are the Lakers gonna do about point guard? People continue to criticize Fisher, but noone is stepping up to the plate, so Fisher can be a backup, which I think would be great, if LA could actually use him in that role. He has a lotta mileage as well, but they don’t trust Farmer (for good reason) or Shannon Brown (he’s a basketball player, not a PG, which can be a blessing and a curse, depending on how you view it). Even with these factors, I wouldn’t panic too much if I was a Lakers fan (thankfully, I’m not). You know I had to add that last part in, Phil.
I’ve been concerned about the offense the whole season – it hasn’t ever really looked that fluid and we have relied entirely too heavily on isolations. Still, I’d like to see Pau man up and say “I need to finish inside, not get frustrated, and play through contact” rather than constantly whining about how the ball isn’t moving enough. At some point, you’ve got to either put up or shut up.
Andreas G. says
From KD’s article:
“Times are not nearly as troubling as a three-game losing streak would have some suggest, but the Los Angeles Lakers are in need of a significant philosophy adjustment if they are to glide to consecutive NBA titles.
That last bit is important. As presently constructed, playing as we saw over the course of this three-game losing streak and as we’ve seen them play before, the Lakers can topple the Magic, Cavaliers, Celtics and any number of Western secondary options that might be thrown their way. As is, as is now, they are the champs, and they are playing well enough to win the championship in June.”
@ 4 and 7 I disagree, and I agree more with 6.
I think Gasol is right. The 3 Kobe launched at 87-90 and the fallaway airball soon after that were very poor shots, taken too early in the shot clock. Also, people seem to forget that the Lakers were in position to tie in part because Gasol scored twice on tip-ins in crunch time, after Kobe threw up bricks. The Lakers need to work two-man sets sometimes in crunch minutes–not just isos.
New post up. We’re talking offense…again.
John Morris says
One thing I didn’t see was Philly-Faddle showing any dislike over the way his team played. He will chew some ass here and there but the way they played in the first quarter and the way everybody was standing around at the end of the game watching Kobe try to win it warranted a time out – even from Phil.
I feel like going to the post in the games when the other team is more physical on the block can be a wasted position at times. If the refs aren’t blowing the whistle you have to try something else. We I see Pau and Bynum struggle for position, try to back their man down and then fling up some crap shot wishing for luck or a whistle it kills me. Also, those two have been losing the ball with alarming regularity lately.
Either way I’m not too worried. I prefer they are constantly questioned throughout the regular season. It keeps them improving – not getting lucky or relying on Kobe to bail them out. Sit on it Lebrat, Stan Van Gundy and the whole Celtics squad.
Did no one see Pau rolling to the basket after his pick on the last play???? Dwight helped on the screen so Kobe wouldn’t have a path to the basket giving Pau a perfect path to the basket. With six seconds left, all that would’ve stopped Pau was a roaming Jameer Nelson and a late Vince Carter. There’s no way Pau would’ve gotten anything less than two free throws had he gotten the ball. It might’ve left three or four seconds on the clock with the Magic having the ball, but I would much rather have them figure out another Courtney Lee run to the hoop or Vince Carter taking a contested 20-footer. It’s been plain sick to watch Kobe this year with the game on the line, but he misses sometimes. Hence overtime in Milwaukee. That might’ve been “his shot” but while he says he makes nine of ten of those, Pau can make ten of ten dunking uncontested at the basket. Pau has a better FG% than Kobe and he needs to be respected. Whenever I watch ESPN, Mark Jackson or whoever says Gasol is the most talented big man in the game. Then he should be taking more than 13 shots a game. And Kobe should not be taking 22. If that changed to 15 and 20, the ball would go into the triangle more, the team’s FG% would go up and Kobe might just get rid of a couple forced shots a game. The ones he actually misses. Kobe wants a ring more than anyone on the Lakers, but he won’t be the only one wearing one when they do.