Lakers cognizant of inconsistency against Golden State
A week from now, the Lakers will embark on a five-game trip that includes matchups with three playoff- caliber opponents. That's why the Lakers better enjoy this week while they can. Their four games are all against sub-.500 opponents, including a back-to-back starting Monday night at Golden State, followed by a game Tuesday at Sacramento. Then there's a set of home games Friday against Minnesota and Sunday against Washington.
In the end, the Lakers always got the results they wanted this season against Golden State, taking three games so far. But that's not so much an accomplishment as it is a confirmation of the Lakers' season-series dominance since the 1994-95 season. The Warriors are 18-47, have had players miss a combined 389 games due to injuries and have called up five D-League players this season, the most of any team since the San Antonio Spurs during the 2007-08 campaign. No wonder Toronto forward Chris Bosh had plenty to say after the Raptors lost Saturday to the Warriors, marking Golden State's fifth victory in its last 24 games.
The Lakers haven't suffered that same fate, but the sausage-making process in two of the three contests has been far from pretty. The only exception entailed the first matchup, a 132-106 victory Nov. 28. It was a game that featured the Lakers' highest scoring effort since a 26-point victory in February 2009 against Phoenix, with seven players scoring in double figures and a punishable 62 points in the paint, led by Pau Gasol's 22 points and 12 rebounds. The other contests -- a 124-118 victory Dec. 29 and a 104-94 win Feb. 16 -- weren't decided until the final minutes, a habit the team wants to avoid so that it sustains its energy level and builds good habits for the final 16 games of the regular season.
The Lakers haven't suffered any consequences from their poor play against Golden State in their last two matchups, but they came close. In the 124-118 victory over the Warriors, the Lakers heard scattered boos around Staples Center for most of the game. They allowed Golden State to score a season-high 60 points on 55.6% shooting in the first half, trailed by as many as 15 points in the second quarter and as many as nine in the third quarter.
It wasn't until Kobe Bryant went on a second-half spree that the Lakers appeared in contention. But with Bryant scoring 27 of his season-high 44 points in the second half, even that wouldn't guarantee a victory until the final minutes. With the Lakers leading 118-115 with 1:22 remaining, Ronny Turiaf missed both of his free-throw attempts. Bryant and Gasol, who added a season-high 27 points, both iced two free throws each to put the game away.
It also took the final minutes for the Lakers to decide the eventual 104-94 victory over Golden State, marking a very sluggish way to come off the All-Star break. The game was tied, 89-89, with four minutes and 39 seconds remaining before the Lakers went on a 15-5 run and held Golden State to two-of-nine shooting during those final minutes. Bryant missed that game because of his ankle injury, but not much of the team showed up either. The Lakers committed 19 turnovers and had to fight numerous double-digit deficits, including a 14 points in the second-quarter and 11 points in the third quarter. Fortunately for the Lakers, they had Andrew Bynum (21 points) and Shannon Brown (first career double double for 27 points and 10 rebounds) make up for the lapses.
This time, the Lakers hope to just put Golden State away from the beginning.
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Pau Gasol and Warriors guard C.J. Watson eye a loose ball during play in the fourth quarter Tuesday night. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times