But what offense was Bryant going to run for Bynum, Gasol, or the rest of the team? The Lakers, as a group, are not familiar with what Brown wants to run, and it shows. After the game, Brown admittedly shared part of the blame with team for their offensive shortcomings.
“We took jump shots,” said Brown. “We didn’t execute and I have to do a better job of putting [the players] in spots so they can execute. They have to do a better job of understanding what our plays are, because we don’t have a ton, and we have to understand who can score for us, and who was scoring for us.”
Without a point guard to dictate the tempo of the Lakers offense, you’re left with Bryant to act as playmaker for himself and his teammates. Bryant’s first instinct isn’t to drive the ball, at least not anymore, and especially on the tail end of a back to back. If no one moves off the ball or gets in position to get an easy bucket, there’s no incentive for Kobe to pass, opting to take matters into his own hands.
Yet, with 2:30 left on the clock, Bryant wasn’t the only one shooting from distance and missing shots. Everyone had their chance to create offense and each time, fell short. Here’s the sequence.
Lakers 90, Nuggets 90 with 2:30 left to play.
Kobe shoots a three-point shot, misses. He’s cherry-picked at the other end, resulting in a ridiculously easy transition basket for Denver.
Pau with his back to the basket, pivots to the rim for the two-pointer, misses. Nuggets turn the ball over. Kobe and Pau run a pick-and-roll. Bryant’s pass gets intercepted, resulting in another easy transition basket (a layup) for the Nuggets.
Lakers 90, Nuggets 94 with 1:20 left to play.
The ball inbounds to Blake who passes to Bynum. Bynum fumbles it, still Lakers ball. Kobe takes another quick three-point shot, misses. Denver rebounds and scores.
Blake gets it to Bynum, who’s fouled, but misses both free throws. Lakers then start fouling, Metta World Peace takes a corner three, misses, is followed by another Kobe three, who also misses. Then the ball lands in Bynum’s hands who takes a mid-range shot, and, wait for it, misses.
Final score Lakers 90, Nuggets 99.
It’s a disappointing loss, because it was one the Lakers could’ve completely avoided. It was an ugly game from start to finish, and everyone is partly to blame. Before the Lakers, as a unit, can achieve greatness, they have to get back to basics and fundamentals. Taking care of the basketball, making free throws, not settling for outside shots, and running a cohesive offense are all things the Lakers need to work on. Not having the benefit of a full-length training camp, pre-season games, or even enough time to practice in between games, seems to be having an adverse effect on the team. There’s still time to turn things around, but the offensive execution has to start with Brown, be modeled by Bryant, and emulated by the rest of the team.