Howard's free throw woes were part of an bad first act overall for Los Angeles
Uh oh? After a promising opening first quarter, the wheels fell off for the Lakers heralded new unit as they dropped their second straight season opener, a stunning 99-91 loss to the undermanned Dallas Mavericks.
Even without Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks consistently out hustled the blase Lakers and took advantage of an atrocious 12-31 team performance from the free throw line. That figure includes a 3-14 performance from Dwight Howard, as Los Angeles fell behind by as much as 15 points in the second half.
Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists, but only shot 8 of 19 on the night. Kobe Bryant was a very efficient 11 for 14 for 22 points, but did not attempt a free throw and did not have a single assist.
Much too often, the hybrid offense Eddie Jordan was hired to help implement made the Lakers look stagnant and the fears of a slow perimeter looked valid as Darren Collison was able to consistently get past Steve Nash and Steve Blake into the paint. Even more disconcerting was the wild discrepancy off the benches as Dallas outscored the retooled Laker bench 37-17.
So maybe there is some carry over from the first winless preseason in team history. The same issues cropped up. There is obviously a learning curve and an adjustment period, so it is not time for a wild overreaction. But let's face facts: This could very well continue in the foreseeable future.
As Howard gets his legs (and lift) back, as Nash adjusts to playing in a half court dominant offense, and as Bryant gets used to being off the ball, the Lakers will have growing pains.
That said, I personally have a growing concern. For all of the additions the Lakers had, they will ultimately be the same version of themselves if Mike Brown continues to play this way. Steve Nash's best attributes are shooting and passing. Without the freedom to move, his contribution gets significantly lessened.
Pau Gasol is not a consistent knock down shooter. He can benefit more in this offense as a passer. We saw that tonight. But the reality is, this Lakers team can't watch Gasol lead the team in shots when the bulk are outside of the paint. Ironically, Bryant looked great on the offensive end, slashing to the basket and making a ridiculous jumper over Vince Carter in the second half.
So the opening act was a dud.
But like Broadway, the show goes on until further notice. That means, a rabid Portland crowd will be ready and waiting Wednesday night and hoping to send the high profile Lakers to their second straight 0-2 start under Mike Brown. No, it's not a must win. Yes, it is an early test of where this team will be early in the season.