The Los Angeles Lakers dropped their third straight road game of the season on Wednesday night. That 113-97 loss to the 3-8 Kings at the Sleep Train Arena leaves the Lake Show winless away from the Staples Center this season.
Sacramento isn’t exactly lighting it up this season. Heading into the game they were a lousy 2-8 and 2-4 at home.
So what’s stopping Kobe Bryant and the gang from playing to their potential on the road?
Mike D’Antoni’s facial expressions and perplexed looks of frustration said it all. His team struggled and posted just 41 points in the first half.
“The first half might (have been) the worst basketball I’ve seen in 10 years. I was in shock,” D’Antoni said, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.
It didn’t get much better down the stretch either. The tired Lakers starters got sloppy on defense and the Kings torched them for 41 points in the period.
It’s a result of the extra minutes for each starter being felt during crunch time. But that’s not the entire cause of the problem.
In the end, the minutes and tempo will become allies, not foes for the Lakers starting five. By the time D’Antoni gets his entire system in and the team gels with it, they’ll be better condition and better attuned to being gassed in the final period.
The fourth quarter is when games are won, not in the first half.
Kobe weighed in on the tempo and what needs to happen for the team to get better in this system (via Sam Amick):
You've got to kind of pick up the pace a little bit – particularly Pau. Dwight's (Howard) used to running - he's not in tip-top shape (because of April back surgery) but he will be. But Pau is used to kind of just laboring up the floor, coasting a little bit. And in this offense, you've really got to kind of put the motor on in the first few steps and get up the court.
How much would Josh Smith’s athleticism and ability to stretch the floor from the power forward position help this offense?
Pau Gasol, 32, has been rumored in discussion for the Lakers to obtain the services of the 26-year-old Atlanta Hawks forward. Marc Stein of ESPN re-ignited those rumors recently in his column on Nov. 16.
It makes sense given what D’Antoni is trying to do.
Meanwhile, the Lakers won five of their first six games after the end of the Mike Brown era in Los Angeles. While road struggles are an issue now, it’s not something anyone should get overly concerned with as the team will continue to get better under D’Antoni.
That’s especially true since Steve Nash will be back eventually. He ran the system in Phoenix for D’Antoni previously and is a key component to getting this train fully back on track.