Portland snapped the Lakers' ten-game winning streak, outscoring the visitors 33-24 in the pivotal fourth quarter. Brandon Roy returned to the lineup after missing the teams' previous matchup in Los Angeles and proved to be the difference, sparking the Blazers with 20 points and 12 assists.
Over-passing. Kobe Bryant has been like a kid in a candy store since the addition of Pau Gasol, being content for most of his time on the floor to set up teammates, not look to score. Having all these weapons to play with does have its downside, though; and that's what Lakers fans have seen in the last three contests: passing up wide-open jumpers, trying to force the spectacular pass between three defenders, and getting caught up in the air with nowhere to go because of a pass-first, shoot-second mindset. As one commenter on my last post said, the Lakers have basically been toying with their opponents, and it caught up to them in Portland last night. To start another winning streak, LA needs to abandon the Globetrotter mentality and settle for the safe play more often.
The Lakers' front line continues to impress, as Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol have been basically averaging double-doubles. Odom finished with 17 and 12 in a losing cause, while Gasol added 15 and 9. If LA can continue to control the glass, they will remain one of the dominant teams in the West for the foreseeable future.
The Lakers host Jason Kidd and Dallas on Sunday. Here's two things the Lakers need to fix to come up with a W:
1. Shoot the ball better from outside. 5-27 from three (18.5%) just isn't going to get it done. Culprits were across the board: Kobe was 2-8, Derek Fisher 0-6, Sasha Vujacic 2-8, and Jordan Farmar 0-3. Outside of Fisher, this group has been shooting well lately, so look for improved numbers on Sunday afternoon.
2. Better offensive execution and balance between Bryant and Gasol. These two stars need to blend their games more. If Bryant establishes himself early as a scoring threat, it will open up the middle for Gasol. Instead, Lakers possessions have basically consisted of Kobe dribbling around the perimeter trying to find a way to throw it inside...or worse, running an isolation for Gasol and everyone else standing and watching. Bryant's still the best player in the league, and using him as a point guard or decoy for long stretches while Gasol tries to do all the scoring is a waste of this combination of talent.