Signs the Lakers' Problems Are For Real

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Signs the Lakers' Problems Are For Real

Well, the Lakers afforded themselves a respite from "Fire Mike Brown!" and all sorts of other drama. The afterglow of that home win over Detroit proved brief, though, as L.A. dropped an away game to Utah, 95-86, in which they were consistently behind. 

I and all the other geeks out there have been pinning Laker problems on the defense. Their offensive efficiency was fourth in the league (via ESPN) coming into Wednesday night's contest. 

Well, there are some other unsavory signs in Laker Land. After turning Detroit into a fine paste, L.A. forgot some of the offensive sets that worked well for them. Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold pegged one in particular, where Pau Gasol gets on the low block from the high post, after exchanging spots with Dwight Howard.

That kind of beautiful, fluid offense was in short supply against the Jazz, as L.A. shot a piddling 33 percent and gave up 18 turnovers. They stayed in the game, thanks to some dogged rebounding and adequate defending, but Los Angeles was ultimately done in on the offensive end.

The Laker offense often forces the ball into Dwight Howard, which isn't the worst strategy in the world, but also might not be the best one. Howard is a fantastic pick-and-roll player, but his one-on-one game is far from that level. 

When teams send a lot of help toward Dwight on the block—as the Jazz did with their starters—it can key an offense, leading to kick-outs that swing the ball to open shooters. Problems arose when Utah played Howard straight up with the hefty Enes Kanter, for example. 

When Dwight Howard operates against single coverage on the block, an offense can stagnate around his slow dribbles and balky fakes. Howard can also be a bit turnover prone, with tonight's five giveaways serving as an abject lesson. 

Spacing should be a challenge for the Lakers because they're essentially playing two centers at once. L.A. feels pressured to play their best guys together, and really, there aren't any good options off the bench. But it's going to be a challenge for Mike Brown to incorporate Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol into one, workable offense. 

Brown might be holding back on the pick-and-roll action until Steve Nash comes back, but perhaps he should give it a whirl right now. It's difficult to run an offense through Dwight Howard as something of a creator while also making use of Pau Gasol. 

Defensively, the Lakers did a better job, and Dwight Howard looked close to his old form on that end. They still gave up penetration that led to some easy kick-outs—most notably in Randy Foye's three consecutive three's barrage.

This will also be a challenge going forward for Los Angeles. Dwight Howard is an incredible defender, but you can't ask him to plug every leak. With Antawn Jamison and others ceding ground drivers, Dwight's a bit overworked defensively.

This is a salvageable situation for the Lakers, though it looks bad right now. Teams lose away games and Utah could well be playoff-bound. But Mike Brown needs to get his defense in order and his offense consistently moving. Based on the pressure and expectations, the sooner, the better. 

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