Winning ugly has begun to be sort of an unofficial theme for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. The team seems to be winning basketball games that aren’t the prettiest to watch, but they’re winning nonetheless.
Last night in Salt Lake City was no exception. The Lakers were able to squeeze out a 90-87 victory over the Jazz to give them their first road win of the season.
But once again the win didn’t come easy. The Lakers had to fight, scratch and claw their way to victory, and even then needed another 40-point effort from Kobe Bryant to nail down the win.
During the regular season, and even in the playoffs to some extent, how a team wins is always looked at. Wins and losses are obviously important, but with the 24-hour news system we currently have in place there always is something to be discussed and examined. It’s not enough just to win anymore, you have to win with style.
This Lakers team doesn’t have style. They don’t have grace.
The best way to think of the 2012 Lakers is to picture them as an old, beat up truck. The paint is scratched. The clutch is anything but smooth. But in the end it’s (usually) able to get the job done.
These Lakers are the same way.
Along the way the team often looks overwhelmed. They commit silly turnovers and can look stagnant on offense. But in the end, when it counts, they manage to figure out a way to win. Most of the time.
In the long run the win over the Jazz isn’t going to be one of those wins the team looks back on as a rally point for the season. In fact, I would be surprised if it’s remembered at all. But it’s another tally in the win column, which right now is the most important thing.
When you break down the game statistically there are many different questions that arise. The main ones are offensive.
Kobe Bryant scored 40 of the Lakers 90 points on Wednesday night. As impressive as it is that Bryant is scoring over 40 on consecutive nights in his 16th season, it’s not a good sign that the team is getting little to no production from the rest of their offense.
After Bryant’s 40, the next leading scorer for Los Angeles was Pau Gasol with 14. Center Andrew Bynum added 12 while Matt Barnes chipped in 11 of his own. The rest of the team, six players in total, combined for just 13 points.
To make matters even worse for the Lakers, two of those points belonged to starting point guard Derek Fisher. So the Lakers got just 11 points off the bench.
Even though they managed to win, that is a number that is very commonly going to result in losses. Especially when the team is up against a little stiffer competition than the Utah Jazz – who albeit tough and gritty, are obviously in the middle of a rebuilding process.
Another disturbing statistic for the bench from Wednesday night was the plus/minus. For those not familiar with this particular stat, basically it refers to how the team does when one particular player is on the floor. The Lakers starters were plus-42 on Wednesday night.
Now I won’t spend too much time ragging on the bench. It’s almost an accepted practice in the NBA for a team’s reserves to struggle on the road. Plus, the way the bench played Tuesday night against Phoenix was strong enough to allow them a clunker in Utah.
But just like after every other game this season, so far, there are still plenty of things to work on. They have trouble on offense moving without the ball. They don’t make it a commitment to find players like Gasol and Bynum in the paint. – at least not consistently. At times they play tough, hard-nosed defense that completely shuts down the other team. Unfortunately they seemingly spend just as much time watch the opponents carve up the paint and shoot uncontested jump shots.
You can bet that these are all things Mike Brown is looking to improve. After all, it’s only been 11 games. Even during a lockout shortened season, it’s only a small sample size.
The Lakers have problems to fix. But so does every other team in the league. At least, for now, they’re winning.