Los Angeles Lakers: Not Getting Any Better Before the Playoffs
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Watching this Los Angeles Laker team turn the ball over time after time, leading to fast-break points in the other direction, must frustrate Laker fans 54 games into the season.
Against Charlotte last Saturday, it was Steve Blake with back-to-back silly turnovers that led to fast-break points.
Against Golden State on Sunday, it was comedy of errors punctuated by so many silly turnovers and fast-break points that Golden State, one of the worst teams in the league, was able to come back and threaten the Lakers.
The Lakers were no better against New Jersey on Tuesday night, losing a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. New Jersey tied the score with 1:30 remaining before Kobe Bryant broke it with a fall-away jumper. The Lakers pulled it out in the end after New Jersey missed a free throw and they survived a sloppy last 30 seconds redeemed only by Kobe’s three-pointer.
The only consistent thing about the Lakers is their sloppy inconsistency.
When it isn’t turnovers, it's giving up big leads. Against lowly Golden State, Stu Lantz observed, with 1:30 left in the half and the Lakers leading by nine points, that the Lakers needed "to win the last minute and a half by two, three points or so, not let the Warriors win it and go into [the half] with a little of momentum themselves."
After a couple of quick Golden State baskets, Lantz quipped, "So much for the Lakers winning the last minute and a half." The Laker starters gave up eight straight points, reducing their lead to one. However, for a spectacular full-court sprint by Ramon Sessions at the buzzer, the Lakers would have been shut out in the final minutes. After all their superiority on the boards, the Lakers only led by three at the half.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
For the half, the Lakers’ bench outscored Golden State’s bench 17-8. With a three-point lead, it meant the Laker starters were outscored by the Warriors’ starters by six points. The starters should be embarrassed, especially in a home game.
The second half was no better. It was punctuated by turnovers, fast-break points by the Warriors and a general look of confusion from the Lakers offense. The Lakers either went one-on-one or overpassed the ball because no player felt confident taking a shot. Mike Brown’s offense should be called the "Wooden Indian" offense because most of the time his players stand around much like Cigar Store Indians of another time.
As the 2012 season comes to a conclusion, the disarray on offense is an indication of an early Laker exit from the playoffs.
While the Lakers may be able to escape with victories over Charlotte and Golden State while committing an excess of turnovers, they will not fare as well against teams like the Thunder and Spurs. The negative effects of turnovers are magnified in the playoffs. Controlling the tempo of a playoff game requires controlling the ball. A team cannot control the ball if it is turning it over all the time.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
While many sports fans maintain that the slower tempo of the playoffs will benefit the Lakers, it ignores the fact that a slower tempo will also expose the weaknesses in Brown’s "Wooden Indian" offense.
Standing around against good defenses will cause turnovers and fast-break points. By reducing the number of shots taken, it lowers scoring. The Lakers cannot use a "grind it out" offensive strategy in the playoffs if they are shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers.
Offensive rebounds are much harder to get in a slowly played playoff game so turnovers become even more of a factor in the outcomes. Turnovers and a lack of offensive rebounds spell disaster for any NBA team. The Lakers are no exception.
Against the Thunder, Laker fans saw what happens when the Lakers stand around and telegraph simple entry passes that lead to steals and a cascade of fast breaks in the other direction.
And it’s not going to get any better.
With few practices and a questionable Andrew Bynum (who knows whether he will be healthy or moody after supposedly being fined), the new mix and match of lineups will only lead to more offensive disruption and a further inability to find an offensive rhythm.
Throw in the effects of Kobe and Pau Gasol playing too many minutes, it does not bode well for the Lakers’ playoff hopes.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Right now, only six games separate the Lakers from 10th place, two positions out of the playoffs. If the Lakers lose to the Clippers on Wednesday, they will be tied for first place with the dogs of war biting at their heels.
This team needs leadership and none appears anywhere in sight. Brown has proved so far he is not capable of inspiring his players. In his case, the question now is not whether he can inspire them, but whether the team will mutiny before the season is over. At the least, he will continue to suffer from the backbiting of players unhappy with their roles and minutes.
The test for the Lakers comes with three games against the Spurs in the last two weeks of the season.
Their place in the standings and all hopes for a deep run in the playoffs will be answered by the Spurs games. On paper, the Lakers match up with the Spurs better than they do the Thunder.
For one, age is not a factor against the Spurs. Tony Parker is not as fast as he once was and Tim Duncan is making Gasol look young. However, this age factor is offset by coach Gregg Popovich’s masterful handling of his lineup and minutes played by his aging stars this year.
And they signed Stephen Jackson to guard Kobe as he did so successfully in the Spurs championship run in 2003. Popovich’s preparation for the playoffs has been masterful.
It is likely the Spurs will be a rested team looking forward to playing the Lakers to make a point, as they did when they blew out the Thunder a few weeks ago. And no matter the outcome, the Spurs will have the home-court advantage over a Laker team that has been a disaster this year.
If it's not the Spurs, it will be the Thunder in an early round. Neither is a matchup Laker fans feel good about.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?