Despite losing their first two games, the state of the Los Angeles Lakers looks a lot brighter than it actually looks in the standings.
Both games could've gone the other way if the Lakers just paid more attention to detail. They were preventable losses that had easy fixes.
On Christmas Day against Chicago, the Lakers probably would have won if Kobe Bryant hadn't tried to do too much. It seemed like he was trying to carry his team on his back and as a result, he turned the ball over eight times and put up one of the worst game winning shots of his career with three hands in his face.
Also, free throw shooting for the Lakers was absolutely atrocious in that game. They shot 11-for-20 in that game, missing some key free throws down the stretch.
Kobe's turnovers and the Lakers' terrible free-throw shooting were small mistakes that the Lakers can reverse. They had a strong defensive performance and beat the Bulls in the rebound match.
Also, Mike Brown didn't even play Luke Walton and Matt Barnes in the first game. This coaching decision was a head scratcher. It's understandable that young players like Andrew Goudelock and Devin Ebanks did well to earn playing time during the shortened training camp, but Walton and Barnes are both veterans that could have helped the Lakers win.
Walton and Barnes both played at Sacramento in the Lakers' second loss in a game where the Lakers polished their free-throw shooting and turnovers. Once again, they out-rebounded their opponent, but still lost the game.
So what went wrong this time?
The Lakers just made one three-pointer out of 16 attempts. Meanwhile, Sacramento was on fire draining 50 percent of their threes.
Nights like these happen. The three ball doesn't go in while the opponent feeds off the home crowd and drains everything.
The Lakers played better than Sacramento overall. Guys like Metta World Peace stepped up off the bench. Coach Brown should consider starting him now after that performance. Pau Gasol almost had a double-double. Finally, Kobe put up 29 and facilitated the offense to a greater extent without turning the ball over.
It easily could have been a Lakers victory.
The Lakers shouldn't panic. They're still a playoff team that has a strong chance to have a top-four seeding. The veteran squad knows this and they are well aware that they need to iron out the minor kinks while continuing to play strong defense.
By paying attention to detail and not making stupid mistakes, the Lakers can turn this thing around. This means that the Lakers absolutely have to limit turnovers, polish the free throws and not take 900 three-pointers when it seems like the triple isn't going to work for them on a given night.
Perhaps the attention to detail will come along with more practices. Maybe the short training camp is hurting the Lakers. The old cliche states that practice makes perfect. Once team chemistry grows, the Lakers will make less mistakes on the court.
Coach Brown also needs to look into starting Metta World Peace over Devin Ebanks. He played well enough on Monday night to earn back his starting spot. He's a seasoned veteran and let's face it, we all want to hear NBA announcers saying "World Peace" more often.
Other than those minor tweaks, the Lakers should be fine. Andrew Bynum is coming back soon and he's going to be a major threat both offensively and defensively because of his size. The team is already out-rebounding opponents because of Gasol, Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts. Add Bynum to the mix and the Lakers become impenetrable in the paint.
Bynum's return from this four-game suspension will also put less pressure on Kobe on the offensive side of the ball. Bynum is a guy who can get the ball, pound it in and slam it home.
Speaking of Kobe, hopefully he will rely more on his teammates and not try to do too much during games. He needs to trust his fellow teammates. He has some really good ones. No more game winning shots with four guys guarding him, especially when Bynum returns.
So rest easy Lakers fans; it's way too early. The Lakers will make the playoffs, I can guarantee you that.
Can they win the championship with this team?
Most likely not. Their thickness down low is an asset, but the lack of quickness at point guard will hurt them against the Clippers and Thunder.
Only one midseason acquisition can mask that deficiency: acquiring Dwight Howard.
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