It’s easy to pin-point the Lakers’ defensive woes because they’ve essentially been there since the start of the season. Much of it was disguised because the Lakers played teams who really aren’t that good. They’ve had problems with rebounding, mostly on the defensive glass where they continue to let teams get second chance points. The pick-and-roll defense has been less than stellar, opposing teams have gotten straight paths to the basket without any type of contest from guys playing in the interior, and when your main interior guys are 7’1 and 6’10 respectively, that’s a problem. We’ve seen Pau Gasol struggle on his defensive rotations, at times having to foul players around the rim, but more about him later.
Against the Rockets, the Lakers started out well, building up a double-digit lead only to watch them come within three points to end the half. In the end, the Lakers were scrambled on defense and had trouble guarding the perimeter, Houston having shot 10-22 from beyond the arc.
Speaking of perimeter shots, or lack of making them, the Lakers had a few problems on the offensive end. The team that averaged 112.5 points at the start of the season has failed to score 100 points for five straight games, shooting an average of 33-percent from the field and 26-percent from three point land over that stretch of games.
More recently, the Lakers’ offense hasn’t looked cohesive, part of it can be attributed to poor decision making, particularly down the stretch and perhaps even an overzealous Bryant. The efficiency stats might be against Bryant, opting to take the bulk of the offense upon his shoulders rather than facilitate plays for his teammates. Per Jackson, Bryant will shoot at will when the opportunity presents itself and it’s up to everyone else to be aggressive on offense, not just be spectators. Lamar Odom, one of the only bright spots after the game, scoring a season-high 25 points, exploited the Rockets’ match-up deficiencies early on, but couldn’t capitalize as the minutes started to dwindle. While the offensive flow was better than it had previously, it wasn’t enough to put the Lakers atop the Rockets.