The Lakers were 2 and 0 without Kobe Bryant as they headed into the valley of the sun. They were looking to make it 3 and 0 and get some “revenge” on the Phoenix Suns, but the Lakers could not get the Suns to set that night as they got routed in a 99 to 76 loss. But before you go jump off a cliff and declare that the Lakers’ hopes are over, read on to see why this is just a bump in the road to the playoffs.
– photo by AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin
As of now, the Lakers have played 14 back-to-back games. They are 0 and 14 in those match ups. And what surprises me is why that’s surprising to so many fans. What is the one thing that everyone knew going into the season? The Lakers are an older, veteran team. And when you put an older veteran team (one that has 2 of its star players out by the way), against a young, rested, athletic team that can shoot well and run hard, it’s easy to see how the Lakers could have lost that game going into it.
But don’t get me wrong, the Lakers completely get credit for losing that game (as does Phoenix for winning). The Lakers shot 33% overall from the field and a miserable 23% from behind the line. Ever hear the phrase “they live and die by the three”? Well it’s one that I always think about with this team. Against Sacramento the Lakers shot 43% from behind the line. Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and Metta World Peace all had crappy shooting numbers. But if you go into the box score even deeper you can notice a startling statistic: Phoenix shot 42 of 87 overall, while the Lakers shot a horrible 29 of 87. At the end of the day, the Lakers only shot 2 more 3’s than Phoenix and missed 3 less than the Suns. The ball just wasn’t getting in the basket for the Lakers.
So does that mean this is an anomaly or a dark omen on the rest of the season? I think it’s just a consistent anomaly. When you look at the fact that the Lakers just cannot seem to win a back-to-back game and they had one of their lowest shooting nights of the season (because they were tired), there isn’t really much consistency in the loss last night. At least, there is a lack of consistency with the way the Lakers have been playing recently. When you combine this with the fact that the Lakers did at least compete for 3 quarters, it’s just hard to predict doom and gloom off of 1 bad game.
However, there has been one point that has managed to rise to the surface on ESPN710 that angers me so much, I almost had to pull the car over. That point is that Mike D’Antoni should’ve gone deeper than his 7 man rotation against Phoenix. Okay, so let me get this straight. Steve Mason (who increasingly makes me angrier as I continue to listen to him) said that the Lakers should have gone further off the bench than Jamison and Blake to get Devin Eabanks, Chris Duhon, and Darius Morris off the bench for more than 3 minutes? The only player I would want off the bench that hasn’t been playing is Robert Sacre who always seems to play pretty well despite his very limited minutes. I just can’t see why Eabanks, Morris, or Duhon is better than Jamison or Blake. Sure, the shots weren’t falling, but they weren’t even falling for Steve Nash. As far as I’m concerned, you throw in Morris and Duhon off the bench, now you don’t even have defense for a chance of some miraculous offense that would not have won that game. Look, any way you slice it, D’Antoni’s hands are tied. He has 2 stars (Kobe and Pau) who are out. Jordan Hill would’ve been great in that game, but he’s out for the season. Now you’ve got 9 players out of a 12 man roster, and the players that are left are the misfit toys of the Lakers. When you combine that with the fact that Duhon, Sacre, Morris, and Eabanks combined for 1 point and 1 turnover, in 12 minutes (albeit in garbage time) I just can’t see how there can be any argument made that D’Antoni should’ve gone deeper than Jamison off the bench.
The way the Lakers played looked very similar to the way the Lakers lost in Denver. While yes Denver ran the Lakers out of the arena, whereas Phoenix just out hustled the Lakers and made their shots, the Lakers were in the same situation. They were on the road, in the second game of a back-to-back, and Pau Gasol was injured. There are some differences. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant, and they actually shot a lot better overall at 55%. The problem was the defense then, and even though it was a little better, the problem was defense against Phoenix as well. In a back-to-back game with a healing Howard and Nash and without Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, it’s easy to see how this game got away. What isn’t easy to see is how the Lakers will let this season get away from them. And once they’re in the playoffs, back-to-backs won’t be a problem.
Sam Accardo is a writer for Hefferbrew. He gets joy from listening to angry fans call in and criticize D’Antoni and make silly points as to why. The Lakers played badly in Phoenix, but no one wins ‘em all and it sure as hell wasn’t D’Antoni missing those shots. Keep checking back in for Utterly Fascinating updates and follow the @Hefferbrew for all your regular sports and entertainment updates.