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Lakers' offense features little chemistry

January 15, 2012 |  7:25 am

With his arms pointing out toward the block, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant hoped Pau Gasol would cut across the lane to receive an entry pass. Instead, Gasol missed the body language, Bryant's pass went into traffic and the Lakers turned the ball over.

With his eyes darting toward the baseline, Lakers center Andrew Bynum shouted to Jason Kapono about moving into a passing lane on the perimeter so he could kick out of a double team. Nothing happened, so Bynum settled for a poor left hook that hit off the rim.

And with Bynum established on the low block, Lakers guard Darius Morris made perfect eye contact with him. But Morris' entry pass went directly toward Bynum's ankles instead of his hands.

These plays may appear isolated but they represent a much more complete picture of the Lakers' fragmented offense in their 102-94 loss Saturday to the Clippers, more than even Bryant's 42 points on 14-for-28 shooting. Regardless of whether Bryant fired good looks like he did in the second half or remained trigger happy in the first half, a constant remained. Despite the Lakers' Big Three in Bryant, Gasol (14) and Bynum (12) each cracking double figures, the offense hardly looked in sync. 

The Lakers mostly blamed the loss on the 50-42 rebounding disparity, particularly the 17-11 deficit on the offensive glass. But that effort is an anomaly compared to the rest of the season and arguably can be attributed at least partly to the Lakers playing five of their league-high 14 games in the past week. The Lakers' chemistry on offense, however, has remained flimsy and unpredictable all season. 

"It's moving in the right direction, but we have a ways to go," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. "We don't have a great feel of what we want all the time when it comes to different options. Sometimes when we forget for a second or third or fourth option then we have a tendency to look for someone to help us out. the guy who can always help us out is Kobe. Thats the thing we have to make sure we keep trying to guard against."

Although Brown said "there's no downside of having a guy that good" in Bryant, there's a downside on the Lakers relying too much on his production to carry the load. The formula worked in their recent five-game winning streak, which featured Bryant averaging 39 points on 49.7% shooting. But the troubling aspect goes beyond the 40 minutes a game Bryant averaged, a sharp increase from the 33- to 35-minute range Brown has hoped to play Bryant. 

Bynum continues to lack aggressiveness in fighting through double teams, while Gasol appears equally passive. Derek Fisher may have proven to be a capable distrubutor, but appears hardly effective in creating his own shot. Matt Barnes remains most effective moving off the ball and generating energy points, but that hinges on his teammates setting him up. And with everyone else struggling, Bryant took it upon himself to bail the Lakers out of a 55-47 halftime deficit when it was his three-of-12 shooting that partly contributed to the problem.

"We were struggling," Bryant said. "It seemed like we were dead in the water. I didn't get us off to a good start at all. I took the responsibility to generate some energy and get us back in the game."

Those 21 third-quarter points helped shrink the Clippers lead to 76-72, but hardly addressed the root of the Lakers' offensive issues. With Bryant facing double teams, nobody else seemed capable of shouldering the burden. 

And that offensive dysfunction has most infected the bench. The Lakers' reserves entered the Clippers game averaging a league-worst 21.3 points a game, and it just worsened. They combined for 15 points, and seven came from promising rookie point guard Darius Morris, who has been pressed into action with Steve Blake out at least three weeks with a rib/sternum injury. Meanwhile, Josh McRoberts' energy hardly rubbed off on his teammates. Troy Murphy appears too slow to even last more than a minute on the floor. And Metta World Peace has mysteriously moved away from the post after showing some effectivenes in that area. 

"We just follow the game plan," World Peace said. 

But with the Lakers' offense hardly working well besides Bryant, it's apparent they should alter that game plan. Or else they'll simply experience the same dysfuntion that led to their loss to the Clippers. 


Five things to take from Lakers' 102-94 loss to the Clippers

Steve Blake surprised about long-term injury

Photos: Lakers vs. Clippers

--Mark Medina

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