Why Can’t We Always Play This Way?
Posted by hiphopmama on December 23, 2008
LA Lakers 100, New Orleans 87
I don’t understand. How do we lose to the Pacers when we are capable of playing this kind of game against our closest opponent in the West? I understand that the Hornets were without Peja Stojakovic and Antonio Daniels, limiting their options especially offensively, but you can’t tell me that an injury riddled New Orleans with Chris Paul and David West is comparable to the Kings team that whooped us without their leading scorer. It doesn’t make any sense, but you won’t hear me complain if they randomly find the wherewithal to do the same against the Celtics on Thursday.
The game started innocuously enough. We played a fairly solid first quarter, holding the Hornets to 20 points and running our offense effectively. Aside from all the turnovers, that is. Chris Paul snatched six steals from us, five of them in the first quarter, and the TOs helped the Hornets stay in the game all night long by sparking the break. They went on a brief run to take the lead in to start the second, but after that it was all Lakers, who went on a 32-11 run to close out the half with a 19 point lead. As it turned out, Kobe exiting early in the first with two quick fouls was the best thing for the team, as the team really gelled with the subs on the floor and got us out of the doldrums offensively. Instead of standing around watching Kobe, they were passing, cutting, and shooting with remarkable accuracy. They still have off nights here and there, but even when they do, players like Ariza and Vujacic are taking shots within the offense rather than forcing them up at bizarre moments. Their contributions have helped the team cope without a back-up point guard as Farmar is injured, and will be for a while.
The second half had me worried, because we did something similar against them in the last game in New Orleans, building a large first half lead only to watch it almost slip away at the end. Fortunately, this time we played much smarter throughout the third and early fourth quarters, so that by the time the Hornets went on the inevitable run it was too late to matter. We were still lax in letting them get back in the game, but pulling to within 10 points with two minutes left was not enough for a team that was missing open shots all night long. Other teams have burned us with those same looks, but overall we played better defensively tonight, holding them to 41.6% shooting and rebounding the hell out of the ball. We only shot 44% ourselves, but second chance points and free throws kept us well in front.
The most heartening aspect of the game was how we tightened the screws in the second half. We still gave up a few too many open shots that we were lucky to see the Hornets miss, but we quit turning the ball over and finished the game with just 11 TOs after having at least 8 in the first half. That’s the second game in a row where they have done that, and I hope it continues, ideally for the full 48. Also for the second consecutive game, we briefly got physical with the other team to start the second half, and it worked well for us. Despite our reputation, we are not a soft team by nature, just by laziness, and our stock of seven-footers and deep bench make it feasible for us to bang bodies on occasion, especially to keep a pesky opponent in check during key stretches. It works especially well against younger teams like the Hornets and Grizzlies, but there’s no reason to think it couldn’t also pay dividends against more seasoned opposition, like, I don’t know, whatever team it is we’re playing on Christmas. Whoever they are, I’m sure they could use a little roughing up. I’m just saying.
The Lakers are a team that loves to toy with your emotions. It’s always been that way. Even during the three-peat, they would go through lapses that would have you pulling your hair out and questioning the stars, and then they would turn around and rip a team’s heart out with their bare hands. While we haven’t achieved that level of ruthlessness yet, this current squad is equally adept at inducing coronaries in its fans. They go through series of games where you believe they have completely fallen off the wagon and then follow it up with a dominating performance against a good team and revive your faith in them. In the past, they always rewarded your persistent belief. They have a long way to go to prove they will be as generous this time around, but I am still in their corner. Not that I have a choice at this point…
And a sick reverse slam by Kobe, just for kicks:
I don’t understand the reason for the weird soundtrack to some of these highlights, but I’ll take it in exchange for higher quality video.
Road trip complete, the Lakers return home having gone 2-2 on a tough 4-games-in-5-nights run that could easily have ended up 3-1 or better had those last second shots fallen. Those two losses were both deserved, though, I have to admit, and had those late game chances gone in and led to wins it would have felt like we stole the game rather than won it outright. Not that I mind or anything, but just to point out that it was definitely a struggle this time out. The good news is that we finished strongly, saving our best performance for last, on the second night of a back-to-back no less, and hopefully it will give us something to build on before our next game. One day off and then back to the grind. Who do we play again?