While the superstar center has been prone to some atrocious free-throw shooting (we highlighted this is a recent article, and pointed out that it just might be his fault the Lake Show lost to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night), L.A.’s problems run much deeper than that.
For instance, in a tightly contested match against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday evening, the Lakers allowed Russell Westbrook to score 27 of his 33 points in the first half and never gave themselves a chance to climb out of that hole.
Don’t blame DH12 for not trying, as the big man played 41 minutes, shot 9-of-17 from the field, 5-of-7 from the charity stripe, pulled down 18 boards, dished three dimes and swatted a shot attempt.
Those are extremely respectable numbers and would usually highly contribute toward a win, if the rest of the team, aside from Kobe Bryant, were able to provide some backup.
Sure, Dwight had his struggles (four fouls, six turnovers, anchored a team defense that let anyone into the paint), but we’ve come to realize that the superstar center isn’t going to carry a team all by himself.
He’s an excellent 5 that is capable of incredible defense and making shots around the rim, but he needs his perimeter players to help keep their man in check and make outside shots to open things up, plus put points on the board.
The Mamba was able to accomplish this (35 PTS, 11-24 FG, 3-4 3PT, 9-10 FT, 3 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL, 2 BLK), but the Lakers were practically playing 2-on-5 when reserve guard Jodie Meeks was on the bench.
With both Steve Nash and Pau Gasol out of the lineup, coach Mike D’Antoni was forced to plug in Chris Duhon and Antawn Jamison at their respective positions, plus Metta World Peace.
It was certainly an undermanned Lakers unit, and they were completely outmatched by Kevin Durant, Westbrook and the rest of the elite Thunder squad.
Before we hit the panic button on the currently 9-11 Lakers 2012-13 season, we need to see how they play in D’Anonti’s system with Nash running the point for 30-plus minutes a game and a healthy Gasol fighting through his knee tendinitis.
Until then, L.A. is going to be humbled by the West’s best, and no player, especially Howard, should be receiving too much criticism for the losses.
While everyone can and should be striving to improve, the jury is still out on this squad and will be until the potential playoff lineup has had some time to get on the court and gel.