After the blowout loss to the Clippers on Monday night the city of Los Angeles was seemingly turned upside down. The long subdued little brother rose up and punched big brother square in the jaw. The punch-drunk Lakers had two days to think about it before taking the court Wednesday night looking to reestablish their place in the L.A. hierarchy.
While the Lakers didn’t manage to get the win on Wednesday night they certainly gave their fans a lot more cause for optimism. There were certainly plenty of problems that the team still needs to fix, but overall the effort was much better than the one that they gave Monday night. And, as many pundits liked to point out after the game – Kobe Bryant didn’t play Wednesday night.
There are several things to take away from the Lakers pre-season series with the Clippers. First of all, the Clippers are a good team. While in the past two straight losses to the Clippers would have most Lakers fans ready to leap from the nearest bridge, it’s not quite that dire when you lose to this reloaded Clippers squad. This certainly looks like a team that could compete for a top three seed in the Western Conference, so losing a close battle with this team isn’t necessarily a huge disappointment.
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One of the bright spots for the Lakers in this game was the play of Andrew Bynum. The young center was playing in his last game for awhile as he is scheduled to begin his five game suspension this Sunday against the Bulls. Bynum scored 26 points and pulled down 11 rebounds against a physical Clippers frontline. He also managed two blocked shots on the defensive end, and looked fairly loose running the floor. While Bynum has shown flashes of brilliance during his career, he still has been unable to sustain this high level of play over an extended period of time. Unfortunately due to his suspension we won’t know if he’s going to sustain this for another week and a half.
Next was the encouraging play of Pau Gasol. While Gasol didn’t play great on Monday, he turned it around with a solid performance Wednesday night. He looked more aggressive and eager, even demanding the ball in the post at some points. However, that’s where the Lakers guards, both young and old, need to improve. The post entry passes were once again poor, and it led to turnovers that resulted in fastbreak points for the Clippers.
Once again the main problems for the Lakers on Wednesday night were the same issues that plagued them on Monday. Too many turnovers and poor defense doomed the Lakers in both pre-season games. After turning it over 21 times on Monday the team came back and handed the ball away 22 more times on Wednesday. To make matters worse for the Lakers, the Clippers turned those 22 turnovers into 30 points. To help put this into perspective – the Clippers scored as many points off turnovers as the Lakers scored in the entire fourth quarter.
As the team prepares for the regular season opener on Sunday afternoon there are still plenty of things to work on, but also a few signs of optimism. The team’s two rookies, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock, both had several encouraging moments. While both did seem a tad overwhelmed at times, that’s to be expected with rookies. Once they are able to garner a little more experience and allow the game to come to them they could be very positive additions to this Lakers team.
Obviously the main point of emphasis for the Lakers these next few days will be defense. They gave up 30 or more points in three of the eight quarters they played against the Clippers, and gave up 28 and 27 in two of those remaining five quarters. The team will need better closeout defense on outside shooters as well as an improved transition defense once the regular season begins next week.
After a shortened pre-season there is plenty of questions that still need to be answered, but ultimately the bottom line is that every team is still 0-0 come Sunday.