Five things to take from Lakers' 98-87 loss to Miami Heat
1. The Lakers' offense remains a mess. The Lakers can boast all they want that their foundation rests on their defense. But the Lakers' 98-87 loss Thursday to the Miami Heat shows their poorly run offense has too many areas to fix. Aside from Pau Gasol's 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting, the Lakers featured very little offensive chemistry. Kobe Bryant couldn't find his shot. Andrew Bynum was plagued by foul trouble, collecting his second foul with 5:20 left in the first quarter, and his 15 points on six-of-13 shooting doesn't tell of his poor passing on double teams and ineffectiveness in the post. Aside from Troy Murphy's surprising eight points on a four-for-four clip, the Lakers' bench appeared disorganized.
The problem extends to the Lakers' willingness to fire outside shots early in the shot clock (Bryant, Metta World Peace), inconsistent post aggression (Bynum) and unfamiliarity with the offense and rotations (everyone). The Lakers can lament the learning curve all the want but eventually the players will have to repeatedly execute it. Lakers Coach Mike Brown might also want to hold back on adding more plays. It just confuses them.
2. Gasol played aggressively. He entered the Heat game averaging 15.9 points on 52.4% and 9.5 rebounds, solid numbers that point more to knocking down mid-range jumpers and grabbing easy loose balls. Against Miami, Gasol appeared more intent on scoring. On one play, he fought through a triple team and knocked down a set shot inside the paint. On another, Gasol moved off the ball with such purpose that he found himself open on the perimeter and sank a three-pointer. And then there was a right hook shot on the block in the third quarter that epitomized his versatility.
In one instance, Gasol glared at Matt Barnes for overlooking an entry pass in favor of swinging the ball to Bryant. Of course, the Lakers' ideal scenario involves everyone producing offensively. But with the offense appearing disorganized, it proved to be a somewhat encouraging sign that Gasol played with more aggression.
3. Bryant had little energy. Remember all that giddiness surrounding Bryant's stretch when he scored at least 40 points in four consecutive games? Yeah there's a reason why it wasn't a good idea to rely so much on his efforts. Even if the Lakers would like to compile as many wins as possible, the team needs to conserve Bryant so he's ready for the playoffs and so that the Lakers' offense doesn't solely rely on him.
4. The Lakers had no answer for LeBron James. So much for James being sick. Or Lakers Coach Mike Brown knowing a thing or two about defending his former star. Barnes surely hustled on James, but that hardly proved enough. James' 31-point effort on 12-for-27 shooting, eight rebounds and eight assists show he plays much more aggressively when Wade's out of the lineup. It also reveals the Lakers' worrisome problem that someone such as Metta World Peace no longer appears equipped to defend such a player.
5. Brown shouldn't play his starters in the fourth quarter. Brown says he wants to make sure he doesn't burn out his players. He also says he wants to lower Bryant's minutes. So yeah, it totally makes sense that he played all of his starters heavy fourth-quarter minutes despite trailing Miami, 77-56, after three quarters.
Spare me the whole rationale that the Lakers are compensating for lost practice time. They have a back-to-back game Friday at Orlando. There's no way the Lakers can come back from such a deficit. And even if Bryant's banked three-pointer, steal and dunk cut the lead to 10 with two minutes left, the Lakers still lost. Brown said on Wednesday that he'd like to play Bryant at around 33-35 minutes a game. In a double-digit blowout to Miami, Bryant played 41.
Several Lakers have publicly suggested that Brown's working them too hard. Some have privately said that in more blatant terms. Playing the starters heavy minutes in a blowout loss hardly does anyone any good.
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