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Lakers lack proper energy and execution in 95-90 loss to Denver Nuggets

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Making his way toward the player's lounge, Lakers forward Lamar Odom stopped in midstep.

The images of Kenyon Martin's put-back of a missed free throw over Odom with 11 seconds left that cemented the Lakers' 95-90 loss Sunday to the Denver Nuggets couldn't escape him.

"Second time this year, right?" Odom said in disbelief. "What the ..."

This nightmare happened exactly two months ago when the San Antonio Spurs secured a one-point victory after forward Antonio McDyess boxed out Odom and tipped in Tim Duncan's missed 11-foot, fadeaway jumper before time expired. Even if the sequences seemed similar, Odom reacted differently. Following the Lakers' loss to San Antonio, Odom bounced the basketball once, held onto it and appeared in a reflective state of mind. Once the Lakers' loss to Denver became official, Odom punched the ball from one end of the court to the other, the ball hitting off a camera posted on top of the basket.

"I was so mad at myself because the same thing happened against San Antonio and we lost the game like that," said Odom, who blamed the miscue by failing to communicate with Ron Artest on boxing Martin out. "It was anyone's game to take and that's why they took the game."

Those images will stick with Lakers fans, particularly should they fall short in surpassing San Antonio in the Western Conference standings. The Lakers' loss to Denver makes that a stronger possibility, considering it drops the Lakers (55-21) to a 2 1/2-game deficit to the Spurs (58-19) and decreases the lead for second place over Dallas (53-23) to two games with six contests remaining. But team co-captains Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher kept an even keel, correctly pointing out that the Lakers' play and development boasts more importance than how they match up in the standings. The Lakers very well might not be having this conversation and instead could focus on their dominant performances since the All-Star break had Martin been called for a foul on his put-back, a play Lakers Coach Phil Jackson argued was a foul and Bryant said was a "no-call."

Odom will be the first to point out focusing solely on that play proves to be a fruitless exercise. Instead the Lakers' 17-1 start since the All-Star break and nine-game winning streak came to a halt because their inconsistent energy and execution set up the Lakers to be vulnerable to such late-game situations. On a day Jackson and Bryant equally lamented Tex Winter's prolonged induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and credited his willingness to offer honest critiques, the Lakers didn't exactly play the brand of basketball Winter envisioned as a key architect of the triangle offense.

"He would've had a few choice words for all of us," Bryant said of the team's performance, including his 28-point effort on 10-of-27 shooting. "To say the least."

 Lakers13_510 Winter could've gone down the list. The Lakers shot 42.9% from the field and survived the poor shooting woes simply because Denver barely shot better (43.9%). Even so, the Lakers didn't adjust well to the Nuggets in the post-Carmelo Anthony era to both new personnel (Danilo Gallinari scored 22 points on seven-of-13 shooting and Raymond Felton scored 16 points after a zero-of-six start) and a familiar face (Kenyon Martin had 18 points and eight rebounds). Pau Gasol's 16 points on seven-of-10 shooting and 12 rebounds remains a misleading statline considering his tendency to settle on mid-range jumpers and his four turnovers, including two on consecutive possessions late in the fourth quarter, a lapse Gasol blamed on his own carelessness and the Nuggets reaching in.

If that wasn't enough, Gasol plans to get an MRI exam Monday after landing awkwardly when Nene fouled him on a hard challenge with 9:17 remaining in the third quarter, which prompted Gasol to go to the locker room for treatment. "It was just a little sore because he jammed my [right] knee pretty good," Gasol said. Bynum's eight points on four of seven shooting could've been better had the Lakers passed the ball more and he showed more aggressiveness, clouding a solid defensive effort that consisted of 16 rebounds and three blocked shots. Odom should've been credited for his 13-point performance on five-of-10 shooting in the second half, but it's overshadowed by his four points on two-of-seven shooting in the first half and, of course, Martin's put-back.

"I told the team that we beat ourselves," said Jackson, before crediting Denver's aggressiveness.

That play was just one of many that didn't go right for the Lakers late in the game. It would've been nice had Bynum played more than 4:45 in the fourth quarter, but he said afterward he stayed out for precautionary reasons after tweaking his right knee following a collision with Odom. He also revealed he "didn't have any nutrients in his body and that I felt kind of weak," but he didn't elaborate any further. Still, the Lakers' loss goes beyond that. "Turnovers," Bryant summed up. Surely, the Lakers' 20 turnovers served as a stark contrast to the nine they averaged during their 17-1 run following the All-Star break. Gasol committed two of them on consecutive possessions. But it still goes deeper.

After the Lakers called timeout with 3:23 remaining, the team suddenly showed the intensity it lacked for most of the game. But inconsistent stretches in the fourth quarter made them vulnerable. Two consecutive misses from Fisher and Odom, Martin's put-back, Bryant's drive for a dunk, Artest's steal, the Lakers' three consecutive missed field goals, Bryant's steal, Gasol's put-back off Bryant's miss, Artest holding Gallinari to a shot-clock violation, Bryant's missed jumper that hit the side of the basket, Odom's three-pointer and Martin's put-back over Odom all reflected the Lakers' inconsistency.

Had the energy been there at the beginning of the game, those late-game plays wouldn't have been an issue. Instead, the Lakers fell to 4-4 during Sunday afternoon games, with Jackson believing his players don't properly prepare for themselves, Bryant expressing uncertainty and Shannon Brown believing the issue is overblown. There's no use in overblowing this loss, either. The Lakers are 17-2 since the All-Star break, after all. But the loss provides a tangible reminder that sustaining excellence requires the same methodical preparation and focus that's been mostly present since the All-Star break.

Said Odom: "It's time to start another streak."

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photos: (Top) Lakers forward Lamar Odom goes for a steal against Nuggets guard Raymond Felton, who got into trouble against the double-team defense of Odom and point guard Derek Fisher. (Bottom) Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tries to beat the engulfing defense of Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin on a drive to the basket. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
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17-2 PERSPECTIVE...


PRE 17-2 ~

For those watching carefully, the Lakers stretch of games since the all-star break included the last 3 or 4 where the plot line was becoming to comfortable. Wins against Phoenix, Clippers, Hornets, Mavs, and Jazz all included what I refer to as "championship momentum" within the games.

That pattern includes increasing focus and pressure as the game goes along. Accompanied by a deep, DEEP confidence in their own abilities, it leads to victories time and time again. BUT...

It also lulls them incrementally into a false sense of satisfaction with their overall energy. Eventually, they have a close game (3OT v Suns) followed by a big comeback win (Jazz) soon to be followed by a frustrating loss. It is a pattern they have displayed over and over again.

Nothing to panic about. In fact, it is frustrating that some folks fail to recognize that the human nature is not changed by multi-million dollar salaries. It is what it is.


POST 17-2 ~

I believe there is such a thing as a "good" loss (that's the coach in me talking). This loss will prove to help the Lakers refocus in a healthy way. I fully expect to see a more even spread of energy and effort on Tuesday. I see NO WAY the Jazz come close to owning any significant lead at all. It is what it is.

Mike

LakerMike: Thanks for providing a voice of reason amidst all the naysayers and trolls. I think you're spot-on about this being a "good" loss -- and, no, I'm not channeling our old friend Butler here. These Lakers need a good ol' fashioned wake-up call every 6-8 games. This was it.

To all the Nuggets fans out there: Congratulations. Your team played well today, and you got the victory.

To all the haters and naysayers: Enjoy each Lakers loss as much as you can (there aren't that many to enjoy), and I hope all of you feel the same sting you've felt year after year after year when the Lakers hoist another banner into the rafters.

Go Lake Show!

LakerMike

Exemplary post. Remember that all of a sudden the Lakers woke up this morning with a 3 game lead in the loss column against the Mavs, Heat and Celtics going into this 12:30 Sunday afternoon game. I said before the game that we have NEVER played this Nuggets team before, nor has anyone else they have beaten en route to a 14-4 record since the 'Melo deal. Regardless, this loss was overdue as was a sloppy game where the lid was on the basket for much of the game. No excuses; this is the NBA. I thought that the game was well officiated for the most part, with the exception of a few obvious calls that went against us, but we got breaks, too. They let them play today. Now that it's out of our system, let's hope that both Pau and Drew are fine and we'll see the Lake Show forge ahead.

I kinda figured there'd be at least one more loss before the end of the season. I'd rather it be Denver than San Antonio. There's still a chance that the Spurs could tank one more game before the Lakers meet them and the Lakers could get back a chance to get #1 seed in the West.

Or, if not, then the Lakers are still 2 games ahead of Boston, Miami, and Dallas in the loss column, so the loss doesn't hurt them too much.

It's funny, a couple weeks ago every sports commentator would have told you that San Antonio had the one seed wrapped up and there was no way Dallas could catch up to them, let alone the Lakers (who were behind Dallas at the time). Today, several commentators were talking like it was a done deal - the Lakers were GUARANTEED to pass the Spurs. I wonder what their line will be tomorrow...

Don't like it, really don't like it

but yeah OK, we got this... we all know the "after the not critical loss" verbiage.

Laker Mike,

Count me in on that one to that one also. I wish we would have won,but it didn't happen that way.But with a little more efford and less turn overs that wouldn't have happen.But even with those things taking place,the game was still in reach.So learn from it and next time,try harder and take better care of the bal,and they would be just fine.

Go Lakers!

this is a good loss..i am not bothered by it, what matter is that the team is healthy for when they are healthy, they are very dangerous in the playoffs...
4 stages of the Lakers game...
before all star break....Frustration
after all star break......Intimidation
playoffs.......................Domination
Finals..........................Jubilation

Aloha,

There has been a lot of talk about our lack of energy today. i may be mistaken but there hasn't been any mention that this was the 3rd game in 4 days. That can be tough on an older team, especially against a quality opponent. Fortunately there isn't any 3 games in 4 days in the playoff.

MH

where's mamba24? the priest made him the vp of cheerleading a few weeks ago. how old is he anyway? 16, 17 or 18?

Posted by: island priest | April 03, 2011 at 04:18 PM

On a stalkers time out...

Posted by: Kobeayashimarue | April 03, 2011 at 04:41 PM

Dude...What are you SAYING? do you have PROOF of this? or just commenting out your @ZZ.

Dude...the BLOGS on LOCK DOWN again?

I knew Denver are a good team after the trade. Lakers did not execute the D on the perimeter, basically that's where the scores of the Nuggets. Secondly, this NBA it really difficult to sustain 17-1 and continue winning at a season ending. As the saying goes, you win some and lose some. In losing, there is a lesson there in reviewing the weakest points whether in substitutions, in defense and reasons for T/O's. I don't think we lost grounds against Spurs or Bulls, there are still couple games more to go. Every game represents a pendulum for all competing teams, Lakers should take care of their remaining games and see where the pendulum falls by next week.

With regards to trolls, do we have to stoop down to their level? Choose the blogger that you wish to converse with and skip the nuisance pests.

I said it before, I was nervous about the new Nuggs since they have been on a tear since the Melo trade...

I tried to quell my concerns by going 'all in' and guaranteeing we would win this game...Well my spider sense was correct, and my poker skills were weak...So it was Crow Pie for dinner tonight...

With everything said, we are still in a great position at this junction of the season...I just wish we got start the Playoffs already, for the seeding is not really the main concern...

Seeing both Pau and AB hurting made my heart drop and my blood pressure rise...The last 6 games is worthless compared us not being 100% healthy to start the playoffs...Another big concern, seems it's open season on the Lakers, with everyone and every scrub playing thugball with our boys...

No matter what, we are the back2back champs, till someone takes it from us...

it looks like the lakers were watching the san antonio sperms game, and since they won the lakers thought "we'll just hand this game to the knuggets, get them in the playoffs". kenyon martin, who has that stupid permanent red lips tattoo on his neck, celebrated and yelled at the fans like they just won game 7 of the finals. aanywhooo, this could very well be a preview of the WCF, it looks like woody paige might be right after all with his matchup prediction, but not his delusional results. in all honesty, this denver team is very deep, and i would say has a slightly better bench. i say slightly for the obvious reason being LO, but overall the lakers would win in 6 max. finally, we can take that stupid red lips tattoo, and place it on the lakers behinds where k mart can plant his lips and we can point and laugh at him.

Mavs lost today, still keeping them at bay. Still 2.5 games behind LAL.

And LAL still has the Spurs at home, which SHOULD count as a Lakers win if LAL's really up for it.

Only concern then is the 1.5 game behind Spurs, oh an Chicago who's up 1 game on the Loss column.

This game could've bolstered the Lakers push, but I think this serves as a heat check for the team as well. Whatever this loss means, I'm sure LAL's got a good feel of how they should playing, considering they know how it feels to lose this game.

We lost because it was a 12:30 game. Period.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

i'd like to mention the dallas ponies have been falling apart ever since the lakers beat them down, and jason terry ran his thug mouth. if the ponies end up playing portland, i can really see nowitzki and clan exiting the first round.

Yeah just face yall got beat the new Nuggets havent played this team either thats what films for they sure make em stupid in LA LA. Ya got beat nuggets are a better team you all are so focused on getting the self proclaimed "black mamba" the ball 10 for 27 28 points yeah thats what I call production. He wouldnt have a third of those points if he didn't get every call for just screaming and the refs wearing a Kobe jersey under their uniform didnt give him the benefit of the doubt would have had around 22 points hes not overated. You got beat by the best team since the break the Nuggets lock down d and they struggled at the free throw line 16 for 28 and still beat you should have won by ten. Doesnt matter how much you win buy. Says its a good loss all you want you got beat see ya in the Conference finals and leave ya in the dust after that. BOOM!

The Lakers' schedule is brutal this month. ( games in 14 daus. The team and coaching staff have to be cognizant of the fact that going into the playoffs healthy is more important than seedings.

Typo above. Should be 9 games in 14 days.


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