Home > Uncategorized > That Was Almost An Encouraging Win by The Lakers Last Night!

That Was Almost An Encouraging Win by The Lakers Last Night!

It appears that while The Los Angeles Lakers are still struggling to overcome nagging issues that are undermining any ability to be successful that they are making progress figuring out how to play effectively together. But let’s not kid ourselves: Dunks, 3-point shots, critical plays at significant moments of the game were largely of greatest value to The Los Angeles Clippers. Final Score: Clippers 107, Lakers 102 (Box Score).

The game was stretching out to a commanding Clippers lead early, although The Lakers battled to keep it close, only down 7 after the 1st Quarter. With a 2nd Quarter flurry, and without Jamaal Crawford leading the way for The Clippers highly-acclaimed “bench,” the lead stretched quickly to 19 points! With Crawford, the game would have been beyond reach – never to see a margin of single digits in the 2nd Half, which a Lakers “too little, too late” defensive effort was able to accomplish last night (down to 4 points, even 2 points when The Lakers were forced to foul with less than a minute left to play).

What was almost “encouraging” about the loss?

Head Coach Mike D’Antoni used Antawn Jamison! Finally. But only for 3 minutes. No, that’s not it.

Head Coach Mike D’Antoni benched Pau Gasol in the 4th Quarter for lousy play reasons – no, wait… That’s right, Pau Gasol entered the game late, when Dwight Howard fouled out, just in time to lose the grasp of the basketball during a critical rebound opportunity. No, that’s not it.

Head Coach Mike D’Antoni came up with a brilliant strategy to start the game by mixing up the starting lineup again – inserting Ron Artest, I mean Metta World Peace (Sorry, Ron, I mean, Metta! Sorry! Truly sorry), in order to assist Dwight Howard defensively in the paint. It worked, for the most part – The Lakers did better last night in Points Allowed in The Paint. They did.

The Lakers didn’t quite play the team defense necessary to win a game at the NBA level, but they did do some things right – during parts of the game. Even for them to get down by so many points in the 2nd Quarter, there were changes to the offense and defense that brought them back from the dead, only losing that quarter 32-29.

Let your mind insert the play of Jamaal Crawford into your imagination and the game would not have been a fair fight: The Los Angeles Clippers are just better, overall, thatnThe Los Angeles Lakers right now. For now. For a little while. The Lakers still have time to figure out a better scheme of attacking the opponent on offense, and shutting them down with a defensive effort that spans 48 minutes – instead of 6 minutes stretches of each game, each half, where both seem to disappear and then reappear for whatever reasons.

The one bright light of the game for The Lakers was the unselfish play of Kobe Bryant! He shot 15-25 because nobody else could hit even the easiest of shots consistently. Of course, Steve Nash is still hitting 100% of his Free Throws for the season (“small sample size” – yes, I stole that from Eric Pincus). And that question is out there: Why doesn’t Steve Nash take more shots? He had a double-double: 12 points, 10 assists. So did Dwight Howard: 21 points, 15 rebounds.

So, what went wrong?

What was encouraging to me was that The Lakers were able to get DeAndre  Jordan and Blake Griffin in foul trouble early. Even Lamar Odom got 3 fouls, early in the 2nd Quarter. So, if that strategy was one of the things that The Lakers tried to accomplish then it was working – except Rony Turiaf played well for The Clippers. So did Matt Barnes – hot early, shooting cooled off, but he found defensive ways to make a contribution…

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard appeared to be the central focus of what The Lakers were trying to do, offensively.

However, the lobs to Jordan Hill from Steve Nash were awesome! Jodie Meeks played oddly – continuing to attempt to dribble to the hoop (unsuccessfully), since hasn’t shooting well at distance. Without “M333ks!!!” hitting 3-pointers, the ability of The Lakers to keep opposing defenses honest is hampered greatly. Defensively, Meeks did do some good things. But that was really all that the “team effort” of The Lakers last night illustrated: They did a slightly better job of playing defense for longer stretches of time, but still not consistently well from tipoff to final bell.

Offensively, Dwight Howard takes some crazy shots that have no chance of going in – I don’t get it. Just because you have the ball doesn’t mean you should shoot it. Kobe Bryant did a much better job of giving the ball back to Steve Nash, allowing him to command the offense. But what The Lakers did not appear to do, that really killed them, was communicate with each other.

It appeared to me that The Lakers were playing so tight that it seems that there is a “Blame Game” culture in their midst, where they are just going to let their statistics, their game performance, do the talking for them. It reminds me of the guy who won the fantasy football league I was a part of that just ended: He was 11-3, smoked everybody in the playoff rounds. But not once during the season would he make any “smack talk” which is a key component of “why” anybody would ever play the game!

So, if The Lakers and The Clippers were just going to show Los Angeles who was the best team by their efforts on the court, and not by trash talk, then…

The Los Angeles Clippers are the best team in the NBA!

Blake Griffin is currently the classiest guy in the league, staying beside the fans he flattened leaping out of bounds for a loose ball instead of racing back onto the court.

Chris Paul is a superior player to Kobe Bryant. Chris Paul is easily the best Point Guard in the league. Kobe Bryant is easily the best Shooting Guard in the league. But Chirs Paul may actually be the best player in the NBA! Can you tell I am not a fan of LBJ? And, if you care to know my opinion on the matter, Kevin Durant is the best Shooting Forward in the league – and likely its 2nd best player! But someday, barring injury, Kevin Durant may be regarded as the best player to have ever played in the NBA! Yes, better than Kobe Bryant, and better than Michael Jordan! Delusional? We will only know with hindsight, won’t we?

What else? Oh… 

Vinnie del Negro is a better coach than Mike D’Antoni.

Steve Nash needs to shoot more! Like Chris Paul…

The bench play by The Clippers by former Lakers players is better than that of The Lakers this year, even though the bench play of The Lakers is better this year than last year.

What can I say?

What do you want to hear?

Their were Lakers fans on Twitter last night that “wanted to go home” who were at the game! I would have given up body parts to have been at the game!

The Lakers made a run late in the 4th Quarter that got them close, but when Dwight Howard fouled out that appeared to “take the wind out of the sails” of any chance for the Lakers to tack a course to victory!

Kobe Bryant doesn’t have any ability to ever give up! He was awesome. But Chris Paul, head-to-head, burned him 1-on-1 to end the 1st Half, and again to seal the win for The Clippers late with the same stepback jumpshot at the top of the key!

In the “What if” category: If Kobe Bryant, 15-25, hadn’t gone 1-6 from 3-point range, might you then say he could have gone 4-6 from normal range with those shots? Those 6 points are the difference in the ball game. If Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace hadn’t each shot 1-6, and their 2-12 effort instead was 5-12, The Lakers win. If Blake Griffin doesn’t hit an uncontested 3-point shot, it’s a closer game. If Matt Barnes had cooled off sooner, it’s a closer game. If Caron Butler had kept throwing the ball to Kobe Bryant, it’s a closer game.

If Jamaal Crawford had played, The Clippers would have won a game vs. their arch rivals (?) in a blowout! And, he would’ve showed those who tried to mimic his extraordinary ability at performing a crossover dribble how it’s really done. But, in his absence, there was plenty of showboating going on. I’m still shaking my head that The Lakers defense got so bad during the 2nd Quarter that Rony Turiaf was able to join the dunk contest!

There is never anything that’s really all that encouraging whenever you suffer a loss; instead, it’s just an indicator of where you are, and what you need to overcome in order to perform better next time.

Takeaways: Kobe Bryant shooting for 30+ or 40+ points in a game isn’t the reason why The Lakers lose.

Needed Changes: The Lakers need to do a better job of communicating with each other, especially on defense but also on offense. Players need to stop guessing at what they should be doing on the court and actually step out on the court knowing what their assignments are, in order to achieve a successful result!

Suggestion: If the trend in the NBA is of successful teams having great bench play, then The Lakers need to continue to tweak their roster – maybe a roster like the following: Howard, Hill, Bryant, Morris, Nash with bench of Gasol, World Peace, Meeks, Ebanks, Blake. Odd man out: Jamison (still). If the observation is that players the caliber of LeBron James or Derrick Rose or Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant rarely ever find themselves riding “the pine,” then adjust accordingly!

What will The Lakers do? D’Antoni isn’t going anywhere. Next question. Trade bait? Mitch Kupchak made a lot of moves to bring key pieces to the roster that should fit together well. It appeared that they played best in an unhindered, free flowing style when Bernie Bickerstaff was the interim head coach after Mike Brown got fired. It appears that they really don’t play well in a structured environment and that to allow them to play spontaneously is a better way to move forward successfully.

W h a t   d o   y o u   t h i n k ?

The Lakers could do better setting screens for each other, but that requires communication. The Lakers could play a “lob city” game of their own, but that requires non-verbal communication. But their growth in the communication department took a step backwards last night. I never stop communicating at my job, as an Air Traffic Control Specialist. I never stop thinking of the different ways to say the same thing, especially when a pilot is having difficulty understanding a command, a simple instruction, a clearance. I never stop trying to make adjustments to the way I approach my craft because there is no pause button, no mulligan, no availability for a do over. The NBA is much the same way: a time clock and a defense that needs to be overcome in order to successfully guide the ball into the basket isn’t easy at the NBA level.

The Lakers are discovering that young legs, passion, effort, focus are significant needs to winning ball games that very few players on their team possess! I suggest that a starting lineup of Howard, Hill, Bryant, Morris & Nash with World Peace as 6th Man is their best opportunity at changing what they have been doing into what could become a winning formula.

Let’s go, Lakers! Let’s go!

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