Five things to take from Lakers' 102-90 loss to Phoenix Suns
1. The Lakers' second-half effort was a waste. Credit the Lakers for a near-comeback in their 102-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. They cut a 27-point deficit to 11. Kobe Bryant scored nine of his team-leading 32 points to spark aggression. The team actually showed energy. But it came too little, too late. Pro sports don't have moral victories. With the game out of reach and the Lakers (18-13) hosting Portland (17-15) on Monday, they would've been better served waving the white flag and calling it a night.
2. The Lakers' defense regressed.The main reason? The Lakers tried to match Phoenix's fast-paced style. The only problem: The Lakers don't have the personnel to do that. That contributed to the Lakers committing 18 turnovers, including 10 from Bryant, conceding 21 fastbreak points and struggling to stay organized. As much as the Lakers need to manufacture easy baskets, they can't rush in executing their offense or else they'll get run out of the arena by quicker teams.
3. The Lakers look frustrated. Whether it was Bryant cursing at teammates during timeouts, Pau Gasol looking flustered on missed shots or Andrew Bynum protesting traveling calls, it's clear that the Lakers are losing their cool. They've proved resilient enough to come back, but it hardly appears the team feels together right now.
4. The Lakers have nothing outside of their Big Three. Of course, most of the success will always hinge on Bryant, Bynum and Gasol. But it's clear that the Lakers can't assume they will win so long as they play well. It's a huge burden to carry because at least one of the Big Three can have an occasional bad game. It also reveals how much this roster remains top-heavy. It's mind-boggling that the points posted by Bryant (32), Gasol (17) and Bynum (16) weren't enough to secure a win. But sadly for the Lakers, that's become the norm because of seasonwide inconsistency from Metta World Peace, Derek Fisher and the bench. The Lakers are doomed for failure if they can't change this. Their 5-11 road record shows they're not equipped to win a playoff series at this point.
5. Mike Brown continues shuffling his lineup. It appeared the Lakers found a solid bench rotation in Steve Blake, Andrew Goudelock, Matt Barnes and Troy Murphy to play alongside Bynum. Not so. Josh McRoberts made his first appearance in three games, while the Lakers trailed 24-14 with 3 minutes 24 seconds left in the first quarter. Then Luke Walton entered in the second quarter with 10:29 left, marking his first appearance since Jan. 10 against Phoenix. Then Jason Kapono arrived in the third quarter at the 6:46 mark, his first stint in three games.
Barring garbage minutes, there's no reason for Brown to keep shuffling rotations. He's had half a season to figure out his team and learn that his bench is filled with sub-par players. The aforementioned combination has proved the most reliable, which already took long enough to form because of Brown's overreactive lineup changes. No need to keep throwing the kitchen sink.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers point guard Steve Blake tries to chase down Suns point guard Steve Nash, who cuts off a screen by Marcin Gortat, right, during the game Sunday in Phoenix. Credit: Roy Dabner / EPA