Lakers Blow Lead and Fall to Pacers
Posted by hiphopmama on December 2, 2008
LA Lakers 117, Indiana 118
On a night when Kobe passed 22,000 total career points, we shot over 50%, held our opponents to 45% shooting, and scored over 115 points, the best we could manage was a one point loss in a nail-biting affair. I wish I could point to some glaring error we made, a bad game for a key player, or even a poor game plan. Instead, all I can say is that, while we were a tad unlucky in the end, the things that defeated us tonight were the same things present in our wins; this time, we simply couldn’t overcome them due to a stalwart performance by a feisty team. That’s not a scenario I ever want to see again, particularly after the Celtics debacle last year.
Everything went pretty much according to form through the first three quarters. The Lakers were clearly the more talented team and showed it in bursts, accumulating a decent lead every so often only to see it evaporate due to some lax play and mental lapses. Kobe went on a tear to close the first half and open the second, scoring something like 14 consecutive Lakers points. Then, with the subs in (and Kobe on the bench), they went on a 17-0 run to end the third quarter, led by some great hustle play by Trevor Ariza and a spectacular lob from Odom to Bynum. They finished the third with 101 points and a 15 point lead, along with seemingly all the momentum.
When the Pacers finally started to turn the tide, it was because of our old friend, the turnover. There were four or five consecutive plays that helped spark the Pacers run, where we either turned the ball over or took a bad shot, leading to points off early offense for Indiana. It was an all too familiar sight with a less familiar ending. Whereas so far this season we have come out the better in close games, many of which saw us do something similar and fail to put teams away, this time the Pacers rolled with our every punch and played well enough to weather all the storms (enough overused metaphors for you there?). They even withstood another potential dagger from Kobe, who nailed a 21-footer to retake the lead as time wound down. He then missed another jumper, when he probably could’ve worked for a better shot for himself or someone else, giving Indiana one last chance to snatch the lead and the victory from us.
And they did. Their final possession was poorly run, with TJ Ford going nowhere in particular, Daniels missing a poor shot, and a scrum for the ball as time ticked away. Eventually, Troy Murphy got his hand to the ball and tipped it up. The ball did its own bit to ensure the drama lasted as long as possible by bouncing around a few extra times before falling through the rim as the horn sounded. The Pacers were jubilant, while the Lakers seemed to shrug their shoulders and head for the exits. It was a strange, strange ending.
What did I learn from this game? TJ Ford and Danny Granger are very good players. I always knew this in the abstract, but I got to learn it fully tonight, as Granger just chugged his way to a great game (32 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists) and Ford once again proved our weakness against lightning quick point guards. And for the Lakers? While it’s not the end of the world by a long shot, we still have a tendency to believe we can muddle through games and still come away with a win. I admire the confidence, but it’s gotta come with hard work and solid, smart play. That lack of discipline at the end of games that I talked about after the Raptors game reared its ugly head again, and, amazingly enough, it was our offense that let us down despite the fact that we shot 51%. Because we also had 16 turnovers, and many of them happened at crucial moments when we needed to solidify the lead we had worked so hard to build up. We are also still susceptible to being burned by front court players who can shoot from the outside, as Bynum in particular has not yet learned to track back out there and contest those shots. Gasol is guilty of this as well, and it was not really our undoing tonight, but the opening quarter again saw us give up repeated open buckets to players like Nesterovic and Murphy who can stroke it from the perimeter. Finally, our defense is still heavily reliant on creating turnovers, and when we don’t get them we are vulnerable. The Pacers only turned it over 13 times tonight and very little down the stretch as they made their run, so we could not use that to fuel the fast break and get easy baskets.
This wasn’t a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad loss (props to Alexander on that one), but neither is it the kind of loss you want to see from a team that aspires to unseat the Celtics as NBA champs. The word that kept repeating in my head was composure. Because you know Boston has it when the game is hanging in the balance (except against the Pacers, too…). Granted, we were unfortunate to see the ball bounce that way in the end, but we’ve been on the opposite side of that plenty of times and we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. Hopefully this will be a painful lesson to the Lakers that they can’t take anything for granted, no matter who they’re playing and especially on the road. They departed on this road trip full of good quotes about this being their first true “test” and aspiring to perform with flying colors. They almost did tonight, but a big time brain fart for virtually all of the fourth quarter kept them from sealing the deal. If they can use this as motivation to fix the problems still nagging at them, it will have served its purpose in reminding them that there is no room for complacency, whatever your record.
Oh yeah, I learned two more things tonight. One, Jim O’Brien looks like Grandpa Munster. Seriously, what is up with that hair?? And two, Marquis Daniels has the lowest eyes in the NBA. Combined with the dreds, he looks like Lil Wayne on promethazine. Thought you should know.