Five things to take away from Lakers' 115-108 victory over Washington Wizards
1. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom have different takes on his late-game shot in the Lakers' 115-108 victory Tuesday over the Washington Wizards. With the Lakers holding a four-point lead with 21 seconds remaining and 16 seconds left on the shot clock, most teams would wait for the shot clock to dwindle down and then look for a quality shot to ice the victory. Not Odom, whose missed corner three-pointer resulted in Washington guard John Wall grabbing a defensive rebound and the Wizards calling a timeout with 20 seconds remaining.
Once the Lakers huddled on the sideline, Jackson chastised Odom for the miscue.
"I asked him what he was thinking and he said I got selfish," Jackson said. "He did. It was a selfish move and it could've cost us the game."
Interestingly, Odom shared a much different version moments later in the locker room, suggesting it would've been the right strategy only had the shot gone in the basket.
I might hold it out, but it's two possessions. I can afford to take a shot like that," Odom said. "If I make it, we go up by three more. It was a two possesion game. Even if I miss and they come down and score, they have to foul. You win some, you lose some. I guess I lost that one.
In reality, the Lakers are fortunate Wall missed a long-distance three-pointer and that the Wizards called timeout to begin with, considering they flourished with the open floor. Considering how inconsistent the defense played, Odom's shot simply was not a sound strategy.
2. The Lakers' offense played inconsistently
Their 22 first-half assists reflected the ball movement that makes this team so fun to watch. It results in Kobe Bryant (32 points on 12 of 23 shooting) endlessly cutting to the lane and showcasing the athleticism that appeared more often in past years ("It's being more aggressive, just getting in the paint and making the defense do something."). It results in Pau Gasol nearly logging his second triple double of the season (21 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists), as the Lakers' early entry passes forced Washington to spread the floor, enabled Gasol's teammates to operate with more space and sparked easy scoring opportunities. And it results in Lamar Odom (24 points on eight of 12 shooting) filling in holes Washington's zone defense presented.
That all changed in the second half, as the Lakers managed only four assists thanks to what Jackson faulted for "guys were looking for their own game." Some examples: Odom's over-the-shoulder pass that resulted in a turnover, forced drives to the lane from Gasol and Derek Fisher that resulted in Wall blocks. And the Lakers committing two turnovers in the final four minutes.
"We'll just watch tape," Odom said. "Find out which plays are most effective and stick to the script. other than that we're moving on."
3. The Lakers' defense continues to be a problem
The Lakers may move on from their offensive problems as early as Wednesday when they play a "road game" against the Clippers. But their offensive problems also contributed to the team's inability to stop the Wizards in transition. Bryant offered a solution , saying the Lakers "need to get their ... back," but the team didn't follow through on that in numerous ways.
Besides the Lakers' individual-based second-half offense, Washington cashed 24 points in transition because of defensive problems that sound so tired to repeat: They didn't mark the perimeter, close off driving lanes and communicate effectively on screen and rolls. Washington's offense operates with little team concepts, and the points Nick Young (30), Gilbert Arenas (23) and John Wall (22) came off of those miscues.
"That's tough to defend when a team gets hot," Odom said. "Of course, we play a little bit better. Sometimes the name of the game is to win by any means necessary. Finding a way to do that is better than a loss."
4. The Lakers' mood appears foul.As soon as Jackson entered the locker room, he offered a succinct analysis that didn't exactly prove to be a ringing endorsement. "You really sucked the joy out of winning that one." When Lakers guard Shannon Brown analyzed the game, he couldn't fully accept the victory because of all the aforementioned lapses. "I have mixed emotions. I'm happy for a win, but we definitely didn't do the things we should do to close the game out." And when Gasol was asked whether the Lakers have gotten better in the past month, he didn't provide a definitive answer, but his criteria clearly shows the Lakers have regressed.
"As long as we continue to win and don't have losing streaks like we had a little bit ago [with four consecutive losses], I would say we're on right track," Gasol said. "If we lose games we're not supposed to and not play the way we're supposed to with the guys we have on our team, I would say we're not a better team."
Overlooking the Lakers' dominant win Friday over a punchless Sacramento, the Lakers have played since Thanksgiving with the unhealthy habits that plagued them for parts of last season. Bryant may have been crediting Washington's grittiness when he said he predicted an "ugly game," but that's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the defending champs.
"If you learn from the mistakes and you correct them, that's how you manage," Gasol said. "If you're growing as a team and you're improving. if you continue to make the same mistakes and you're falling in the same traps, you're not getting better. You're not being smart. You're nore progressing. Hopefully we understand."
5. Andrew Bynum's return can't come soon enough
That doesn't mean Bynum needs to rush it. But many of their problems will be solved whenever he returns, which Jackson somewhat suggested could come Dec. 14 at Washington.
"Maybe," he said. "Hopefully."
That would be welcome news for Gasol, who managed 42 minutes after resting his strained left hamstring for three days and catching up on all the fatigue that previously drained him. There's no question Bynum's return will entail a transition process with his conditioning, timing and chemistry with Gasol. But it will allow Gasol to return to his natural position and not make nights like a forgetful game against the Wizards a huge withdrawal from his energy stored for the long haul.
"I hope not," when asked if his heavy playing time will have long-term implications. "Hopefully I'll stay fresh and I'll be able to keep myself out of injuries and get to the end fresh enough to give my best."
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Credit: Lakers forward Lamar Odom, front, scores over Washington forward Yi Jianlian during the first quarter of the Lakers' 115-108 victory Tuesday at Staples Center. Photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, drives past Washington guard Gilbert Arenas, far right, to score on a dunk during the first half of the Lakers' 115-108 victory Tuesday at Staples Center. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images