Things to take away from Lakers' 88-87 loss to Chicago Bulls
1. The Lakers blew the game in the final two minutes. The Lakers 88-87 loss Sunday to the Chicago Bulls points to the horrible execution in the final minute. Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts both missed two fre throws. Kobe Bryant was wrongfully called for a personal foul on Luol Deng. Bryant committed a costly turnover. Derrick Rose then blew past both Derek Fisher and Gasol for a running-hook shot that gave the Bulls a 88-87 lead with 4.8 seconds remaining. Bryant could'n't provide any heroics, as his game-winning shot was blocked by Deng as time expired.
2. The Lakers can't handle the ball. Despite his relentless optimism about his team, Lakers Coach Mike Brown acknowledged being uncertain about whether the Lakers can reduce the 21.5 turnovers they averaged in two preseason games. They cut it to 16 turnovers, but it was a few too many, particularly in the final minutes.
3. The Lakers' early season success hinges on effort. This game hardly looked pretty, but it was winnable. This shows that the Lakers will have to simply outwork teams while still mastering Brown's system. The Lakers have the talent to do that, but they often lacked a grinding mentality in previous seasons.
4. Bryant maintained aggressiveness despite wrist injury. He didn't follow Fisher's prediction that he'd open the game by shooting a 22-footer to prove his right wrist is healthy. Despite not wearing any device to protect the torn lunotriquetral ligament, Bryant maintained his aggressiveness and showed that it wouldn't affect his play or shot.
Bryant finished with 28 points on 11-of-23 shooting shooting in 35 minutes, attacking the basket as he would in any other game. He drove in for a reverse layup past Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer and Noah. He ran high pick-and-roll sets with Pau Gasol. He looked comfortable shooting pull-up jumpers. He even stole a pass with his right hand and connected with Derek Fisher on a fast break.
It's obvious that Bryant's wrist injury at least partly contributed to his eight turnovers. He often committed those when he ran isolation sets that required a lot of dribbling. Bryant can mitigate that by limiting shots through spot-ups and off-the-ball movement. Still, it was a good showing considering the circumstances Bryant faced. That's why it's fitting Bryant puncuated the night by making a fall-away jumper that gave the Lakers an 87-81 lead with 54.6 seconds remaining.
5. The Lakers' defense appeared in flashes. The Lakers rotated their frontcourt so effectively to ensure Rose stayed out of the paint that he remained scoreless in the first quarter. But that effort didn't hold up as Rose finished with 22 points on eight-of-12 shooting. The Lakers appeared to communicate frequently on closeouts, but Chicago still went seven of 15 from three-point range. The Lakers showed effort defensively. They executed well at times in limiting Rose's drives, Chicago's inside presence and its outside shooting. But it wasn't always consistent.
7. McRoberts fulfilled his role. He received very little fan reception in his first start, and that likely won't change. But McRoberts proved dependable by chipping in with hustle plays and setting off-ball screens. One noticeable play involved him slipping through a screen that prompted Steve Blake to find him for an open dunk. A six-point performance on three-of-six shooting will likely become a norm.
8. Devin Ebanks looked comfortable in his first career start. He didnt make any noticeable mistakes. Ebanks also maintained his strong shooting with eight points on a four of five clip. Lots of great off-ball movement, catch-and-shoot sequences and post-ups. Many predicted Ebanks would improve this season, but not to this degree.
9. Steve Blake looks more comfortable with his shot and earns minutes during crunch time. It's too presumptuous at this point to state Blake's 12 points on four-of-nine shooting means he's overcome last season's shooting struggles. Blake, after all, opened last season by hitting the game-winning shot against Houston. He also missed three wide-open three-pointers he could've made. But right now, Blake appears to be more comfortable by taking open shots and pushing his shot out more on his release.
So much that Brown played Blake over Fisher for most of the fourth quarter. Part of this reflects Brown's desire to limit Fisher's minutes to keep the 37-year-old veteran fresh. But it also points to Blake's effectiveness in running the floor.
10. Matt Barnes should take some of Metta World Peace's playing time. By losing the starting spot to Ebanks, Barnes is now the third small forward in the rotation. But Barnes doesn't deserve playing zero minutes. World Peace isn't offering much, and putting Barnes in to take away some of those minutes would bolster the bench.
11. Andrew Goudelock and Troy Murphy bolstered Lakers' outside shooting. Credit Goudelock's confidence as a rookie in going two of three from three-point range for six points. Credit Troy Murphy overcoming his defensive lapses by scoring seven points on a three-of-five clip. It's always transparent how the Lakers' improved outside shooting already improves how they run their offense.
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Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol loses control of the ball as he's double-teamed by Bulls guard Richard Hamilton (32) and center Joakim Noah (13) on Sunday at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times