After an uneventful night in Los Angeles where Andrew Bynum got ejected and the Lakers gave away a game to the Houston Rockets, the Purple and Gold were blown out of the water at Phoenix against the lowly Suns.
What to make of this loss?
This might sound like I'm making excuses for the Lakers, but sometimes there's just nothing a team can do when the opponent is making every single three-pointer.
The Suns were 14-of-29 from beyond the arc. The game was tight up until late in the third quarter when the Suns went on a barrage of triples and extended the lead.
They had 99 points by the end of the third quarter.
There's only so much the Lakers can do about that. When you're hot, you're hot. The Suns weren't missing tonight and nothing much can be made of that, especially when one looks at the way the Lakers played without Kobe Bryant.
They had Devin Ebanks starting and he played a career-high 32 minutes and did pretty well for a guy who hadn't had at least 10 minutes of action since January 13. Ebanks scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Once again, can't complain, given the circumstances.
The Laker bigs were also solid. Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 53 points and 31 rebounds. Metta World Peace was also active for the second consecutive night, scoring 19 points and Ramon Sessions dished out nine assists.
It looked like a winning box score for the Lakers. They just had the misfortune of seeing the Suns catch fire from downtown. Their three-pointers accounted for 42 of their 125 points. That's almost one-third of their point total.
This loss also exemplifies the importance of Kobe Bryant for the Lakers. He's an exemplary defender and would've been able to defend some of those outside shots. Ebanks, on the other hand, is inexperienced and the Suns torched him.
Last and probably least, the Lakers were playing the second game of a back-to-back and they had to fly out of LA late last night after their game against Houston. They lost an hour because of the time difference and arrived in the wee hours of the morning in the Valley of the Sun.
The Lakers have struggled playing in the second game of back-to-backs this season when they've been on the road. It's not easy to play in a 66-game, condensed schedule and it's been hectic for the team. In fact, the team is just 5-9 on the second game of back-to-backs when it's been on the road.
With all of these excuses having been made, though, it's important to mention that the Lakers defense has hit a rut throughout the last month. They're simply not as dominant as they were in the beginning of the season.
Perhaps it's complacency or Mike Brown's new freedom granted toward his teammates in terms of calling plays. Whatever the reason, they're not as active anymore and the numbers show it.
Before the All-Star break, the Lakers allowed 100 points or more on just seven occasions. Since then, they've done it 14 times and tonight was their season-high in points allowed.
The following table exemplifies the collapse of the Lakers defense since the All-Star break:
|Lakers Defensive Collapse||Opponent PPG||Opponent FG%|
A possible explanation for the increase in points per game can be that the Lakers' opponents are now shooting almost six more times per game. The Lakers have been playing more fast-paced basketball ever since they acquired Ramon Sessions, and this explains why that number has increased.
What it doesn't explain is the increase in opponents' field-goal percentage. That's on the defense and it must improve. At times Lakers defenders look lackadaisical and complacent, which explains questionable losses to Washington and Detroit earlier this season.
The team must get its act together in that sense.
That being said, tonight's loss must be erased from the team's memory because the circumstances were too dire and the Suns weren't missing.