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Lakers lose Game 1: The morning after

May 5, 2009 | 10:35 am

Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter of Game 1 Normally, a really good breakfast burrito takes care of the stomach queasiness the likes of which many Lakers fans felt rolling out of bed this morning after the Rockets knocked off the Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals 100-92 Monday night at Staples.  The eggs, the bacon, the potatoes.  A little avocado, and salsa, balanced with just the right amount of grease.  It's like magic.

Food alone, though, may not be enough, such is the nature of this morning's "hangover."  In last night's breakdown, I wrote that big picture, I haven't lost any faith that the Lakers will eventually win this series, but this isn't a flashback to Game 3 in Utah last round.  The Rockets are a solid, disciplined defensive team, meaning the Lakers will have to perform at a higher level in Wednesday's Game 2 to even up the series.  In the meantime, I'd caution against two lines of thinking:

  • Don't blame rust.  No question, the Lakers didn't look sharp spending a week on the sidelines between games.  This was especially true through a first half in which the Lakers shot under 40% (33% in the first quarter) in part because they repeatedly missed clean, open jumpers, even as they settled for too many of them.  But to focus on that is too passive a response, and doesn't give the Rockets enough credit for what they did well to defend their own goal. The Rockets forced Kobe Bryant and his mates into a tough shooting night, and it wasn't by accident, as's Kevin Arnovitz points out. (Great link. Click it.)
  • The Lakers were, by their standards, pretty bad, but don't assume that the Rockets used every bullet in the chamber.  Phil Jackson said it, so did Kobe and Pau GasolSome form of "it would be hard to play worse."  To some extent, that's true.  I doubt, for example, that the Lakers will shoot 11% from beyond the arc on Wednesday, and the Lakers are too talented to turn in a repeat performance.  But Houston has some room to grow, too.  They weren't stellar from behind the arc (29%), Luis Scola wasn't a big factor offensively.  The Lakers outrebounded the Rockets, pulling down 12 from the offensive glass.  Again, to think that way is too passive, and counts on the other guys to do LA favors.  The Lakers can't simply assume they'll be better on Wednesday.  They have to identify where things went off the rails and get proactive (offensive discipline is a good place to start).  I'd like to think that's how they're looking at things this morning. 

Plenty more to read from around the Interweb below the jump. 

Johnny Ludden, Yahoo! Sports:

"...The Rockets had lost all four of their previous games with the Lakers this season, collapsing in the final quarter of the past three. After Monday, however, it was the Lakers who were answering questions about their toughness. Andrew Bynum played only six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. Pau Gasol delivered an uninspired game that looked like it had come straight from last season’s NBA Finals..."'s Daily Dime....

JA Adande:

"...And Chuck Hayes? Well, you couldn't even find a box score by his locker. He said he doesn't even bother to read them anymore, because they don't reflect his contributions. "What he does, it does show up ... just in winning and losing," Morey said. The most deceptive part of the halftime box score was the zero points (on zero shots) down the row from Hayes' name. He beat Pau Gasol for an offensive rebound, which led to a Ron Artest 3-pointer that banked in. On another possession, after Artest dribbled around in circles and then launched a 3, Hayes grabbed the rebound and the Rockets wound up with a 3-pointer by Brent Barry. That's six points right there attributable to Hayes.

And what about points prevented? Hayes stands 6 inches shorter than Gasol and Andrew Bynum, yet neither could budge him an inch when they tried to back him down. Tree stumps are short, too, but have you ever tried to move one? Gasol gave up and ran a give-and-go with Trevor Ariza instead. Bynum threw up an awkward-looking hook shot that didn't have a chance of going in..."

Eric Neel:

"...There was a lot of talk about Houston's defense in anticipation of this series, and it was stout on Monday, hounding Bryant with doubles, switches and help from start to finish. But the key to this series may be what the Rockets can manage offensively, and how far they can stretch the Lakers' defense out of its comfort zone.

A maturing and aggressive Brooks, like last year's Rajon Rondo in Boston, getting more and more confident game by game and series by series, may be a crucial part of that effort as this series unfolds. We know Yao Ming and Ron Artest are the focus of the Houston offense, but with Yao Ming blocks Lamar Odom contributions from Brooks, the Lakers will not be able to concentrate in any one area or on any one player..."

Locals:  Kevin Ding, OC Register.  Bill Plaschke, LAT. 

Ramona Shelburne, Daily News, on Kobe's approach through Game 1:

"...Four years ago Kobe Bryant would not have passed the ball to Andrew Bynum.

Not with Shane Battier pump-faking in the air, not with the Lakers trailing in the third quarter of Game1 of the Western Conference semifinals, and certainly not when the rest of the country was spending its evening discussing how LeBron James had run away with the MVP voting earlier in the day. But this Bryant has learned a few things in his 13 seasons in the NBA.

Passing and putting the ball in his teammates' momentarily shaky hands might have helped contribute to the Lakers loss 100-92 to the Houston Rockets Monday night at Staples Center, but it is the only way for the Lakers to win this series.

Monday night, his teammates just missed...

...If there is one thing he has learned in his 13 seasons in the NBA, it is that there are some places even an MVP cannot go alone.

That there's a reason the league MVP hasn't won the NBA title since 2003.

"Usually the better teams throughout the course of the playoffs are capable of shutting down individual players," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Because that's what it takes to win a championship."

To even think about a championship after Monday's debacle, Bryant will need to keep passing, keep trusting, keep doing all the things that got the Lakers 65 wins this year but left him as a distant second in the MVP race."

The "other" guys...

The Dreamshake:

"...The first three quarters went as planned.  The Rockets played hard, had a lead, and Kobe had yet to really bring down the house.  It was the same song that had been sung in the four regular season match ups between Houston and L.A.  But in each of those contests, the Lakers had blown the Rockets out of the water in the fourth behind a thunderous wave of scoring from Bryant.  Nobody expected tonight to be any different. 

We all waited for it.  Our fate was certain.  Kobe was bound to erupt at any moment and take over.  He was going to dribble up the court and find Pau Gasol.  Then he was going to rise up behind the Spaniard and knock down a three like it was practice.  And then, as usual, he was going to jog back down the court with that casual slouch in his shoulders, like it was all a joke.  Rockets fans had seen it too often.  So we waited.  And waited.  But then something strange happened. 

Nothing went according to plan..."

Houston Chronicle's Rockets Page