The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most frustrating teams in the NBA to watch as their road troubles continue to haunt them.
After defeating the Miami Heat Sunday March 4th, the Lakers headed out on a four-day, three game road trip facing Detroit, Washington, and Minnesota. Detroit and Washington are two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference with a combined record of 24-56. After having leads of greater than 15 in both games, the Lakers lost focus late in the third quarter, which carried on to the fourth, ultimately resulting in losses in both.
Their shot selection against these two teams when the game was down the stretch are baffling. Whether they were down by one or up by one, when the Lakers needed an important basket, they shied away from the hot hand, which was Andrew Bynum in both games, and chucked up 3-pointers. As the second worst 3-point shooting team at 30.1 percent, and one of the best at scoring in the paint, one has to question the coaching for not demanding that the Lakers continue to feed the post in the crucial stages of games. However, the lack of focus throughout the second half of the game falls solely on the players, and on the road this needs to change.
In Minnesota, things were somewhat similar to the two previous road games as the lack of focus was still a mystery during small lapses during the game. They showed an absence of concentration in the beginning of the game, but battled through it and were able to pull out a victory.
Despite the Timberwolves being without All-Star Kevin Love, who was battling back spasms before the game, the Lakers still struggled against the Timberwolves, who were led by center Nikola Pekovic, 25 points 13 rebounds, and rookie power forward Derrick Williams – who had an amazing game filling in for Love as he went for 22 points and 10 rebounds. The Wolves did everything they could to fend off Kobe and the Lakers, but in the end, Kobe Bryant’s 34 points and Andrew Bynum’s 26 points and 10 rebounds were too much. The Lakers escaped with the 105-102 victory.
The Lakers returned home Friday night and awaited their rivals, the Boston Celtics, for a nationally televised game Sunday afternoon. This game kicked off a tremendous eight-game road trip for the Celtics, who had the luxury of having a back-to-back without leaving the city as they took on the Clippers Monday night. The game against the Lakers started with the Lakers looking focused, determined, and ready to play, but the Celtics were not ready to roll over and die, and they played an impressive game after the first quarter.
Los Angeles showed great poise and confidence in each other as they overcame a five-point deficit late in the game, and managed to score the game’s final eight points to beat the Celtics 97-95. Kobe scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. However, the most amazing play happened when they were up by one. Kobe decided to pass the ball into first time All-Star center Andrew Bynum, who scored over Kevin Garnett to give the Lakers a 97-94 lead with 15.5 seconds left on the clock. This ultimately became the final score, but it was a milestone for the Lakers as it showed the fans, the NBA world, the Lakers players, and himself, that Kobe Bryant could trust the rest of his teammates with the game on the line.
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