Things to take away from Lakers' 100-91 loss to Sacramento Kings
1. The Lakers closed out in ugly fashion. The Lakers' 100-91 loss Monday to the Sacramento Kings came in different circumstances than their previous loss to Chicago. In the season opener, the Lakers blew an 11-point lead with two minutes left in the game. In the second game, the Lakers cut their deficit to two points after trailing by 14. Yet, they still blew it.
The Lakers made ridiculous mistakes in the final minutes that could've ensured them a victory. The Lakers made one field goal in the final 3:48. The Lakers granted the Kings seven free throws in the final three minutes. And they lacked the ball movement that led them to cutting the lead in the first place.
Forget any learning curve. These mistakes have nothing to do with a system. It has everything to do with the Lakers lacking fundamentals and losing their late-game composure. The result: the Lakers are 0-2 for the first time since 2002.
2. The Lakers' defense regressed. The Lakers surely have plenty of issues, but here's one that wasn't expected. The defense. Those persistent problems in closeouts, transition defense and rotation awareness on pick-and-rolls remained somewhat minimal in the Lakers' loss to Chicago. But in their 100-91 loss Monday to Sacramento, it remained an ongoing issue.
They trailed 49-40 at halftime, after allowing Sacramento to shoot 52.6% from the field and 40% from three-point range and ending the half on a 9-0 run. Those numbers hardly improved in the second half. It's easy to blame the shortcomings on the inevitable fact that the Lakers can't really stop young point guards (Tyreke Evans). But it mostly involved the three aforementioned issues.
Coach Mike Brown's defensive principles are similar to last season's schemes even if the system itself is different. Defense also points to effort. So there's no valid excuse for this one.
3. Kobe Bryant's shooting worsened. Finishing with 29 points on 10-for-24 shooting appeared to have more to do with his rhythm than his actual wrist injury. That's because his movement remained aggressive and he finished with only two turnovers. Instead, this strictly points to Bryant's shot selection. He remained trigger happy even when his shots didn't fall. It's one thing to remain patient while developing a rhythm. It's another to refuse to make adjustments when shots aren't falling.
Bryant is also taking too many risks with his wrist. Slamming home a right-handed alley-oop from Devin Ebanks and clapping hands in frustration over a foul can only add more pain to it.
4. Metta World Peace has standout performance. After a ridiculously awful preseason and season-opening performance, World Peace suddenly looked like another player. His 19 points on eight-for-14 shooting, four rebounds and four assists all pointed to his ability to make timely plays.
World Peace scored eight consecutive points in the second quarter through jumpers and putbacks. He blocked and saved a shot that led to Bryant throwing an alley-oop lob to Pau Gasol. And when he drew an And1, World Peace kissed his biceps. His movement and conditioning still looks spotty. But World Peace somehow managed to find his rhythm and make the right play.
5. Pau Gasol remained inconsistent. He had some decent sequences, such as lob from Bryant, a beautiful up-and-under and a timely feed to World Peace. But Gasol's 15 points on seven-for-12 shooting and nine rebounds hardly appeared enough. He posted only two points and two rebounds in the first 15 minutes, a disastrous recipe considering Andrew Bynum's absence. Gasol can't blame this on any right shoulder injury that required him to wear a sleeve. He didn't play aggressively enough for a full game.
6. The Lakers' backcourt struggled. Whether it was defending Evans or providing outside shooting, neither Derek Fisher nor Steve Blake offered much. Fisher's three-for-10 showing reflects his continual discomfort level since remaining understandably behind on conditioning because of a busy summer during the labor negotations. Blake's 0-for-4 showing is head-scratching considering he started out with a stronger touch.
7. Matt Barnes should not be behind Luke Walton on the depth chart. Barnes' three fouls proved costly in the end. But that hardly justifies Brown's decision to put Luke Walton in the game ahead of Barnes, even if Josh McRoberts was injured and Gasol was in foul trouble. Barnes at least offers hustle points and energy. Walton offers missed shots and zero speed.
8. Troy Murphy is a good pickup. Yes, he surely has limitations, such as having enough speed to chase a loose ball. But for the veteran's minimum, the Lakers are surely getting their money's worth. His eight points, eight boards and a block either came on outside shots or hustle points. As much as the Lakers struggled offensively tonight, Murphy still remained solid.
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tries to drive past Kings guard Marcus Thornton on Monday night in Sacramento. Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images / December 26, 2011.