Five things to take away from Lakers' 109-89 loss to Charlotte Bobcats
1. The Lakers should feel embarrassed for their 109-89 loss Monday to the Charlotte Bobcats, but this games demonstrates the need for perspective
In the words of The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy, this was the "worst Lakers loss.....ever." Or at least for the season. I'll get into the nuts and bolts in latter categories on why the Lakers' eighth loss in the last 10 games against Charlotte fits that description. But let's first establish a few things on what this game actually means.
It's not healthy to view this through a sky-is-falling prism, pointing out that the Lakers need to trade their lineup or that the defending champions' chances to three-peat are already doomed. The Lakers had just gone through a 4-0 start to their seven-game trip and are less than a week removed from defeating the Boston Celtics in what served as their most impressive win of the season. But that's exactly the same reason why the Lakers and their fans shouldn't be as equally dismissive either, citing the Lakers' boredom and fatigue, Kobe Bryant's illness or other factors to shrug off this loss. What's more egregious isn't necessarily that the Lakers didn't bring a full effort, it's that this game perfectly captures how the Lakers address their preparation, effort and games in a situational manner.
The Lakers began the season 8-0 because of their adrenaline rush of defending a second consecutive championship, newcomers wanting to fit in and the new season sparking renewed enthusiasm. As soon as adversity hit, however, the Lakers maintained an even-keel attitude but developed shortcuts in their development, ranging from cutting corners on defense, forgoing the proper way to run the triangle offense and taking little pride in mastering the nuances of the game. Last week, with anxiety over the Lakers' play at an all-time high because of their inconsistency at home and inability to beat elite teams, the Lakers stormed out to a 4-0 start to this trip only to stumble to two consecutive double-digit losses. It's only human to allow complacency and fatigue to cause adverse play, but those excuses shouldn't fly. Whether the Lakers respond with a severe beat-down Wednesday at Cleveland or allow the league's worst team to embarrass them, the Lakers should be well aware that any string of progress can quickly turn the other way if they don't continue fine-tuning their execution.
2. Bryant's illness severely affected his play
Unless Bryant can't walk, he'll play. That's why it wasn't surprising that his missing the morning shootaround because of "aches" and "chills" did very little to convince Bryant to sit out. But there's no doubt the symptoms affected his play, ranging from his poor lift that contributed to a 20-point night on eight-of-20 shooting, little energy that led to his lazy defense on Gerald Wallace (20 points) and Gerald Henderson (18 points), and his poor concentration that contributed to his five turnovers. It's fair to say that Bryant should've sat out this one, but interestingly enough, he took pride in competing in a game nobody else had much interest in playing. Some examples: Bryant showed aggressiveness in weaving through traffic, but his missed drive resulted in Wallace converting an alley-oop on the other end. Bryant remained open on a wide-open three-pointer in the third quarter, but little lift resulted in the shot barely hitting off the front rim. A third-quarter pull-up jumper featured the same low lift that hit off the back rim. And at the beginning of the third quarter, Henderson beat Bryant off one-dribble and drove to the rack.
Their 13 turnovers contributed to 14 fast-break points for the Bobcats. Their absent interior defense allowed Charlotte to score 46 points in the paint, including 15 second-chance points. And they allowed the Bobcats to feature four players to crack double digits, including Wallace (20), Henderson (18), Boris Diaw (16) and Shaun Livingston (16). The root of this problem mostly points to the Lakers' fatigue level. That doesn't justify the situation. But it clearly showed that the Lakers aren't properly pacing themselves to make sure they have a mental edge.
Some examples: Livingston threw Derek Fisher off balance with a simplepivot before hitting a turnaround jump shot. Diaw hit a wide-open three-pointer with Lamar Odom nearwhere near to closing out. And Brown overreacted to Walace's pump fake and made little to recover, allowing Wallace to hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the third quarter. It was a stretch where the Lakers were outscored, 27-19
4. The Lakers didn't go inside enough
Just when it appeared the Lakers finally learned the foundation of their offense rests on the frontline and Bryant's clutch play, they immediately changed course and relied on outside shooting. Bryant's sluggishness is excusable, but the team's failure to set up Pau Gasol (17 points on six-of-nine shooting) and Andrew Bynum (nine points on three-of-six shooting) is inexcusable. With Bryant's illness getting the best of them, Gasol and Bynum should be seen as the main line of attack, but instead their 15 shot attempts is a small minority of the team's 80 total shots. Firing three of 19 from three-point range and allowing Ron Artest and Shannon Brown to combine for six-of-20 shooting isn't a recipe for success. With their shots failing to drop, those two specifically should've worked more to play facilitator than scorer.
5. How does Kwame Brown do anything against the Lakers?
He's the player who constantly frustrated the Lakers with his poor work ethic and sub-par set of skills, yet left the team giddy over managing to get rid of him in a deal that brought Gasol to the Lakers. The fact that he managed to score eight points on four-of-eight shooting says it all about the Lakers' effort.
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Photos: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant goes for a steal against Bobcats guard Gerald Wallace. Credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images. (Bottom) Lakers power forward Pau Gasol powers his way to a shot over Charlotte forward Boris Diaw. Credit: Chris Keane / Reuters.