Houston 101, Lakers 91: Kobe Bryant's groin was one of many painful things
Well, that sucked.
THREE GOOD :
-Andrew Bynum: He was LA's most effective player on the floor, hands down. 21 points on 8-12 from the floor, 11 boards, five blocked shots. Over the course of the second half, he was growing fairly frustrated with a lack of touches. So was I. Bynum only had one shot in the third, two in the fourth. It wasn't for lack of effort, the Lakers simply didn't have the patience to work the ball inside. Defensively, he got caught up in the ragged play of the Lakers from time to time. Certainly he didn't show enough respect for David Andersen, who finished with 19 points on 9-14 shooting, but as a team the Lakers were lacking in that regard. Nor was the Andersen-inflicted damage all on Bynum. Some of it, as you'll see in the video, was on the coaching staff, some on team rotations.
-Shannon Brown: The only notable spark off the bench for the Lakers, who were shorthanded (no Pau Gasol, gimpy Kobe Bryant, no Luke Walton). 12 points on 4-6 from the floor, three boards, three dimes. I certainly would have liked to see more from him than the 15:25 of PT Phil Jackson gave him. Not necessarily because he clamped down on D (effective P and R defense is a team thing), but rather for his offensive spark. Derek Fisher was very active early on the defensive end, but just as it was against Houston last year, he was brutal offensively. That's where the damage was being done, and Brown was far more effective on that side of the ball.
-Ron Artest: 8-16 overall, with three triples on five tries. 22/6/2 with three steals. Overall, it's a pretty solid line. It wasn't 48 minutes of consistent brilliance, but a) that's a lot to ask of anyone, and b) he was clearly not the problem Sunday night. Plus, I promised "Three Good." Feel free to include the very warm, very well-deserved standing ovation given to Trevor Ariza before the game when he was awarded his championship ring. It was a classy moment from Lakers fans for a guy who earned such a reception.
THE NOT LIMITED TO THREE BAD:
-The back court, save Shannon Brown: From a guard-centric POV, not a night for the purple and gold time capsule. Derek Fisher had issues at times checking Aaron Brooks, but that didn't necessarily bother me. In part, because most players can't stick anybody that fast. In part because I thought he also had moments on the defensive end, whether against Brooks or just in general. But mostly because I think Fish's offense actually hurt the Lakers considerably more than his D. It wasn't necessarily that Fisher went 3-13 from the field (although make no mistake, that hardly served as an asset), but the shots he was missing. Pull up J's in transition. Early three's in the clock off little ball movement. A driving layup where the impending block was visible a mile away. Fisher's obviously past his prime, but has often been able to offset that age through smarts developed over the years. This wasn't one of those nights.
Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic were a combined 2-9 off the bench, the latter especially guilty of some infuriating shots, the worst an immediate step back jumper that neutralized the good that came from tracking down Lamar Odom's downtown miss. I'm no roundball expert, but I would have... I don't know... utilized more of my brand new 24 seconds. But that's just me.
As for Kobe Bryant, this was pretty tough sledding. 5-20 from the field for just 18 points, along with four turnovers. Health may have played a role in his struggles (more on that later), but assuming his body wasn't the literal "explanation," I thought Kobe's problems also were the result of forcing action, particularly while working his post game. BK and I have both praised his efforts in the paint this early season and by and large, I think it's been a terrific asset for the Lakers. But as we saw Friday against Denver and tonight, teams have begun adjusting to this approach. Kobe needs to be aware of this and make adjustments of his own. I don't think we've seen enough recognition from 24 over the last two games.
The Rockets may be height-challenged, but you wouldn't know it from the
numbers after the dust cleared. 60-38 in Houston's favor, including a
baker's dozen on the offensive glass (which led to 16 second chance
points). Depending on who you asked, it was a matter of... Inferior
effort... Poor recognition of flight path... Lucky bounces at times for
Houston. Bynum even likened the team to headless chickens. ("They're
running out and then we're all over the place on the defense. We've
got guards trying to box out bigs. Bigs trying to box out guards.
We're all over the place.")
Any and all of these reasons- and maybe even others- could be held liable, so it's best to just correct them all.
-Lamar Odom: Just five points, matching his tally for fouls and turnovers. Even worse, he only took four shots all game and none during the second half, which simply isn't acceptable. Period. I've said many times over the years that LO's career is often evaluated/criticized too heavily by his ppg. Considering everything else he does, I don't think it's important that he scores eighteen per night rather than fifteen. What is important, however, is that he remains a continual threat to score and stays aggressive enough along those lines to make an impact. Even taking into account his six assists, Odom still has to be more active on the offensive end. Tonight's output just won't cut it.-Ball movement: 23 assists look pretty good, until you realize that seventeen came during the first half. And ten of that seventeen happened in the first quarter, the frame the Lakers succeeded most at creating opportunities for others. From there, everything kinda fell to pot. Generally speaking, when a squad this skilled at whipping around the ball endures a half sporting just six assists, the issue tends to be settling as opposed to working the Spalding for the best shot possible. Tonight was no exception.
Fish commented on what went wrong for them offensively, and the lack of discipline they showed as a team. Summarizes things pretty well.
"I think we respected Phoenix's pace more than we did Houston, even though our coaches told us that this is a team that loves to play in the open court. I don't know if we really took that message to heart. We did take some early shots that did allow them to kind of stay in more of a flow game. They didn't always have to score against our set defense and so that's definitely a mistake we made, and I'll take some of the responsibility for that. Because we aren't doing some things on our execution in the half court, I think we have several guys that rhythm offensively and sometimes in transition that might be your best chance to get a good open look, but your heart's not in it because it's probably not the best shot to take at the time. So there's a little bit of a cat and mouse game with some of our guys. Ron's been a victim of it, and we've had some other guys, including myself, who have kind of been in and out offensively. So I think as we improve in our halfcourt execution, then you won't see so much inconsistency with taking early, quick shots."
"Yeah. But I think a big part of that is knowing and trusting that because we will execute offensively, those play opportunities will come back around. We've always fought that, though, with teams that I've been on here because we have so much talent. Every night, everybody's not going to be happy and from time to time, you're going to think about your own performance, you're going to try do to a little bit more. You wouldn't be here (in the NBA) if you didn't try to assert yourself and be aggressive. Tonight was just a night where it didn't work out well for us."AK
One Big Thing:
-Kobe's groin: I have no idea how bad it is. If it was terrible, Kobe wouldn't let on. He says he won't miss games, but whether that's the best thing, I have no idea. What the Lakers can't have is a lingering problem with another muscle pull. Groin injuries, like Pau's hamstring, are slow to heal, easy to re-injure, and can suck the athleticism out of even the most athletic of players. That Kobe had his shot blocked three times tonight can probably be attributed to the bum muscle. The Lakers have been hit with early season injuries pretty hard. Pau is yet to suit up (in something other than a suit), Bynum has missed a pair of games, and now Kobe's groin is flaring up. They need to get healthy.
Kobe, on his groin, the game, and early season concerns (he uses that term very loosely). Asked how he feels, he responded "I've felt better." So have Lakers fans, hearing the words "Kobe" and "groin" in the same sentence:
Bynum, on his night, and LA's issues on both sides of the ball. It seemed he was reasonably frustrated with a lack of touches, but to his credit deflected numerous chances to get deep into that question.
Phil Jackson, on the game, Kobe's groin, defensive rotations, and the like. You'll be interested in his responses both to questions about why he stuck with Fish as much as he did, and also what the problem was with their defensive rotations on Andersen:
Lamar Odom, on the rebounding advantage of the Rockets:
Artest, on the game: