Why Los Angeles Lakers Should Panic After Game 1 Loss

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 31, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Mike Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers  confers with Steve Nash #10 in the game with the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on October 30, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Mavericks won 99-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images))  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers' season began not with a bang, but a whimper against the Dallas Mavericks on opening night. The Mavs walked out of the Staples Center with an easy 99-91 victory.

We all get it—it's just one game. All the new additions need to mesh. They're still learning the nuances of Mike Brown's hybrid version of the Princeton offense.


The Lakers have some serious problems, and they were on full display against a short-handed, scrappy Dallas team. Here's a rundown:


Dwight Howard Doesn't Look Right

To be fair, the man had back surgery in April, so he's entitled to the benefit of the doubt. But Howard had absolutely no lift against the Mavericks. Sure, his overall statistics looked fine—he finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds—but he clearly didn't have the same spring he showed in Orlando.

He had a handful of dunks, all of which barely got over the front rim. None were the powerful, backboard-shaking smashes we've come to expect. When Howard missed his first field-goal attempt as a Laker—a wide-open slam which he clanged off the back rim—it was clear that he was nowhere near 100 percent.

But an obvious lack of bounce wasn't Howard's only issue. He was also a step slow on his defensive rotations, particularly when helping on Darren Collison's repeated penetration into the lane.

All of that analysis is based on the old-fashioned eye test, but the statistics back it up: Howard had, by far, the Lakers' worst plus-minus figure at minus-13.

D12 may round into shape as he continues to recover from surgery, but right now, he doesn't look anything like he used to. Except for his 3-for-14 performance from the free-throw line, of course.


Quick Guards Can Still Kill the Lakers

What year is this? Since the bygone days of Derek Fisher, the Lakers have been vulnerable to quick guards with the ability to penetrate.

Darren Collison is one such guard.

Steve Nash has never been a terrific one-on-one defender, but he looked particularly overmatched against Collison, who got into the lane at will. Once he hit the paint, Collison either finished at the rim or took advantage of the Lakers' glacial rotations to set up easy scores. He finished with a tidy 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

As you might expect, Steve Blake didn't have much success keeping Collison out of the lane, either.

This is a very real problem for the Lakers, as constant penetration makes their big men vulnerable to foul trouble when they slide over to help or are forced to recover to their own assignments quickly. Howard, for example, fouled out against Dallas.

This is a huge problem because...


The Laker Bench Is as Bad as Expected

The Mavericks exploited L.A.'s lack of depth in a major way, crushing the Lakers in bench points 37-17. Individually, not one Laker substitute had a positive plus-minus, and nobody cracked double figures.

Steve Blake didn't defend and didn't score, while Jodie Meeks tallied just three points in 13 ineffective minutes.

Up front, Jordan Hill scored nine points despite going just 1-of-6 from the foul line. Maybe some of Howard rubbed off on him.

Antwan Jamison rounded out the Lakers' bench unit with an uninspiring five points in 15 minutes.

As a result of the Lakers' awful bench play, every starter logged at least 34 minutes. If that continues, there'll be serious health repercussions for the Lakers going forward.  


Metta World Peace Is Done

The artist formerly known as Ron Artest is not a viable NBA starter anymore. He might not even be a useful substitute.

World Peace made just one of his eight field-goal attempts, almost every single one of which was either awkward or ill advised. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who watched him struggle through the 2011-12 season, though. Even last year, there were clear signs that World Peace was in a very real decline.

He shot under 40 percent for the second year in a row and his numbers continued a five-year downward trend across the board. He still has the reputation of being a good defender, but tonight that reputation was thrown into question. He was constantly slow to rotate and couldn't keep his assignments off the glass.

Shawn Marion went for 11 points and nine rebounds, and the ghost of Vince Carter put up 11 points of his own.

In this case, Mike Brown can't afford to give Peace a chance. What's really scary is that there might not be any better options on the bench. 


Reality Check

With all the talent in the starting lineup, it'll be almost impossible for the Lakers to fall out of the West's top three. Howard should continue to improve as he gets his feet under him and the starters should learn how to play with each other over time.

But there's no question that some of the preseason concerns about the Lakers, especially the obvious ones about depth and health, are real.

L.A. isn't going 0-for-82. They'll figure some things out. But their season opener certainly revealed that they're far from a sure thing this year.


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