The results of this year’s Christmas game were what most expected. The Miami Heat, behind the strength of their Big 3 were able to add another conjectural notch on their belt as they defeated the Lakers 105-99. The Heat, in the midst of their second title defense, have now won 18-consecutive games against Western Conference foes — but how they had to earn their win over the Lakers isn’t what many expected at all.
Christmas morning saw the Brooklyn Nets lay an egg against the Chicago Bulls, then the following game saw the the New York Knicks suffer an even bigger loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 17-point and 29-point losses, respectively, are the fate many expected the Lakers to suffer on Christmas afternoon without the likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and Steve Nash. Instead, the Lakers jumped out to a 10-point lead late in the 1st quarter, and ended the quarter up 27-21.
The Lakers weathered multiple storms and kept the game close on the strength of Nick Young’s 17-point second half, 12 of which came in the third quarter. “Just not backing down from the challenge,” said Young in his post game interview on TWC SportsNet about going toe-to-toe with James. “The coaching staff has been unbelievable with me, just working with me — instilling that confidence in me that whole half time and that got me going, when someone believes in you that much.”
Despite 11-2 and 9-0 runs, the Lakers were able to find the resolve to keep the game close against the team with the third highest average point differential in the NBA — they essentially use these runs to suck the collective lives out of their opponents. Instead, the Lakers found themselves down four with 1:26 left to play and a chance to win. They might have played hard enough to win, but the discrepancy in talent allowed for a Heat victory.
Nick Young had another great showing in the Lakers Wednesday night contest against the Jazz scoring 21 points with a huge 13-point 3rd quarter that kept the Lakers in the game. And for everything great Young did, the Lakers still failed to manage to leave Energy Solutions Arena with a loss. The Lakers completely under performed expectations. The Jazz are a team living at the bottom of the Western Conference, and the Lakers, typically, played down to their competition and blew another winnable game to another team they should have defeated.
“It’s disappointing,” said Mike D’Antoni to reporters on TWC SportsNet following the game. “They’ve been playing better, obviously, but we played hard enough. We missed foul shots that really compromised the game, we missed some layups. Things happen. I thought our guys played hard as usual, we had a good chance to win, we just have to get the next game.”
It’s the simple mistakes that allowed for the Jazz to record their ninth win of the season. Blown fast break opportunities. Missed defensive assignments. Missed free throws. Stupid fouls. There’s a huge talent gap between this Lakers team and a team like the Heat, but in games against teams without the mega superstars, those are the games this team absolutely must win.
The Lakers will have another opportunity to win against a struggling team in their next three as they’ll play the 76ers, Bucks, and Jazz at home. If this team is serious about trying to hold the front until the team regains Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake, these next three games are must wins. Having Pau Gasol back should help if he’s healthy.
The last two games were losses, but the feel of each loss were completely different. After feeling encouraged following the loss to the Heat, the team is back in shambles trying to figure things out again after the loss to the struggling Jazz. Back to the drawing board, they go, or they’ll be sinking to the bottom of the Pacific.
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