Is This As Good As It Gets?
Posted by hiphopmama on December 14, 2008
Minnesota 86, LA Lakers 98
My thoughts on this game? Meh. That’s all I got. They didn’t really earn more than a syllable either for good or bad. The good news is that they held an opponent under 100 points, and by a considerable margin. The bad news? They did it against a team with one of the worst offenses in the NBA. The Timberwolves aren’t exactly a powerhouse, so it was to be expected that they wouldn’t score like gangbusters on us. Still, credit where it’s due, we did buckle down more than we have in recent games and held them to 36.1% shooting. How much of that was due to good defense as opposed to bad offense is open to interpretation, although I will say the T-wolves missed a number of open looks.
Once again the offense didn’t look particularly potent, besides the decent numbers put up by Kobe, Pau, and Andrew. Kobe’s shooting numbers (9-for-24) weren’t particularly astounding, but he had a better game than he’s been having and put the Lakers on his back when the team needed him. His 26 points came at key moments and in spectacular fashion, keeping the team going when we were getting stale. Andrew had a nice return to form tonight too. It wasn’t his greatest performance by any stretch, but it was a solid game after a number of off nights. He was just one rebound off a double-double, going for 14 and 9 plus 3 blocked shots. Gasol was consistent yet again, if understated, in his 18 points, 11 boards, 6 assists, and 3 blocks. Looking at those numbers, I’m not sure how I could have anything to complain about with his performance, but I still feel like he could be more aggressive on offense. If they would allow him to go to work in the post on a more regular basis, that would go a long way toward solving that problem.
I’m going to have to coin a new term for the way we play, where we beat up on a team in stretches and then proceed to give up the lead multiple times over the course of a game, because I’m tired of writing it all out. For now I’m going to call it the Laker Logjam, because it seems like we just get too much going at once and then can’t keep up with ourselves. Or maybe I’ll just go with SpongeBob Lakerpants because our defense is as porous as the little yellow dude. (I know that’s the second time I’ve used that joke, but I like it so bear with me.) Either way, it was the story again tonight. There is no excuse for not putting away a team like this, yet we never got beyond a brief 15 point lead, and the game was much closer than the final score indicates. For most of the game it hovered around a 5 point lead with occasional bursts to get it to 8 and even one or two lapses that lost us the lead. Then, miraculously, with about five minutes to go in the fourth we decided to show up. It was like somebody flipped a switch and we went and got it. Granted, it was relatively easy because it was against a limited Timberwolves team, but at least we put in the effort when it counted and got the W.
Still, it’s disconcerting to watch us go from hot to cold and back again so quickly and with such reckless abandon. And because our defense isn’t up to snuff, our hots aren’t as effective as they might otherwise be. All of a sudden we could run an effective trap when sitting on a 12 point lead with 1:20 left in the game? I just don’t get it.
But I’m not going to harp on the defense too much because I can see that they’re working on it. It is so far from a finished product that you’d be hard pressed to even call it a “product” at this point, but it’s in the works. It’s no longer that they’re not trying. The problem now is that they haven’t mastered the system of full rotations which was implemented, but they’re at least hustling to make it work. Because they haven’t quite figured it out yet, they are scrambling way too much on defense, which of course leads to open lanes and easy shots. The double teams don’t always seem to come at appropriate times and guys run haphazardly at the open man, often with two Lakers sprinting to cover the same player. Minnesota wasn’t able to burn us for it. You can be sure the better teams will.
The best of those better teams, the Celtics, is currently cruising at 22-2 (approaching the 26-2 NBA record) and on a 14 game win streak. Meanwhile we mope along to marginal victories against Minnesota and Sacramento (if we’re lucky). Kobe and Phil keep saying that the real test will come in the Christmas day game against Boston, but playing down to the level of your opponent is not the mark of a champion. And anyway, I suspect it won’t be as easy as they think to get up for a rematch with the Celtics. In this league you tend not to get away with lapses of the sort we have been given to. It’s a long season with lots more games to go, but I am still very wary about this team. I hope and pray I’m wrong. (No highlights available yet.)
And now the fun begins. We have New York at home on Tuesday, and then we embark on a four game road trip to Miami, Orlando, Memphis, and New Orleans, with two back-to-backs thrown in. Then, after one day of rest, we have the big Celtics game on Christmas to round out the week. Depending on how you look at it, we were either fortunate or unfortunate to come out of our last road trip at 2-1, and that was against the Pacers, Sixers, and Wizards. Miami and Memphis might not be the cream of the crop, but on an extended road trip they will certainly put us to the test. Dwight Howard will be a good gauge for how Bynum is doing, and Chris Paul will push our perimeter defense to the limits. So all in all, I’m rooting hard for three wins, but I’d be satisfied with two. Settling like that is not something we should have to do with this team.