Now let’s break this game down a bit. Do you want the good news first, or the bad?
Since it’s been a tough few days for Lakers’ fans, we’ll go bad first, and then try to put a positive spin on it afterwards, deal?
Negatives – Well, obviously the biggest negative is that the Lakers lost. The Lakers are now a pathetic 3-10 on the road, which is obviously not a good sign for a team that expects to be a title contender each and every year.
Next would be the fact that other than the “Big Three,” the rest of the Lakers can’t seem to find a rhythm or score. There appears to be a nice two-man game between Gasol and Bynum, but that’s as much offensive chemistry as we’ve seen as of late. Bryant goes on his scoring sprees, and dishes out the most assists for the Lakers (5.4), but there seems to be very little fluidity in the overall offense.
Troy Murphy gets the occasional open outside shot, and Andrew Goudelock is left to create a few of his patented floater shots for himself. Metta World Peace can’t seem to find the basket from any distance on the floor, and although we saw him play the role of playmaker in a few games this season, that has not been a mainstay for him.
Then there’s the Lakers’ biggest Achilles heel: defending quick guards. How many times have we heard “the Lakers got annihilated by (insert other team’s fastest guard here)” and lost? Too many to count. Derek Fisher is too old to guard these quick guards by himself, but even with help the Lakers still do not seem to be able to contain quick, aggressive guards.
Many times we’ll see Kobe switch on to them down the stretch, but at his age he definitely can’t keep up with those guys each and every night. He needs to save that kind of energy for the playoffs when the team will really need his defensive prowess to slow the opposition’s best guard. Yes, everyone knows that the Lakers are in need of an upgrade at the point guard position, but for now, a huge upgrade looks unlikely.
The Lakers need to find a way to collectively slow those pesky guards. Matt Barnes has had some success guarding smaller guards, so perhaps he can be of help, but overall the Lakers must find some way to help slow opposing explosive guards.
Finally, there is the Lakers’ lack of execution down the stretch. It’s hard to generate some fluidity on offense down the stretch when the offense during the rest of the game isn’t running all that smooth in the first place. Kobe is seemingly left to try and create down the stretch, but with teams’ defenses focused on stopping him, it becomes harder and harder for him to get a good shot or even create a decent shot for others.
What’s going on – Perhaps Kobe is dominating the ball too much at the end of games, or maybe other guys are not being aggressive enough. It is likely a combination of both. Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant have combined to come up with big plays in multiple fourth quarters of years past, but that chemistry has seemingly evaporated. Either Gasol is not looking to be as aggressive in crunch time, Kobe is forcing up shots, or he is holding the ball too long and being forced to pass with very little time left on the shot clock. Whatever the problem is, the coaching staff must address it and come up with multiple options down the stretch.
Against Philadelphia Kobe logged almost 44 minutes, a number that is much too high for him at this stage of his career. The Lakers must find some way to reduce Kobe’s minutes and maintain the team’s production while he sits.
Andrew Bynum has shown that he is capable of making big plays offensively and defensively in big moments, so the Lakers should strongly consider making him a focal point in crunch time. Bynum is a big, physical center who has multiple post moves and can score. He attracts double teams and fouls, both of which can benefit the Lakers down the stretch. He just needs to learn to read defenses and pass out of double teams quicker. Additionally, he must bring his free throw percentage (58.4 percent this season) up closer to his career averages of 67.6 percent if he wants to truly be relied on in big moments.
Next Page: The Good News