Lakers Show Why They Are Pretenders Against The New Orleans Hornets

Steven ResnickSenior Writer IJanuary 7, 2009

The Los Angeles Lakers came into last night's game against the New Orleans Hornets looking to make a statement that they are now the team to beat it in the NBA due to the Boston Celtics slumping, but the Lakers couldn't take advantage of that and failed. The funny thing is that the Lakers didn't play a bad game either and it showed why the Lakers will again be pretenders for the title this year.

The first problem for the Lakers was that they lost Lamar Odom in the first half due to an injury on a Chris Paul drive to the hoop. During the time Odom out was on the court, he was making shots and making plays for his teammates. Once he was gone it was just the Kobe show again.

The second problem is, much like last year where Kevin Garnett and any other big man for the Celtics dominated the interior; David West was able to do whatever he wanted on any of the big man out there for the Lakers. He got both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in foul trouble. West finished with 40 points and 11 rebounds.

The third problem is that Derek Fisher is getting older he is not able to guard point guards that have quickness and with Jordan Farmar sidelined they don't really have a backup to turn to while he's out. In effect, Paul was able to get anywhere he wanted on the court. He ended up with 32 points, 15 assists, three steals and the most important thing, no turnovers.

The fourth problem for the Lakers is that Sasha Vujacic was only able to play a little over 10 minutes. The reason being he came in too aggressive and picked up silly little tick-tack fouls, which relegated him to the bench in crunch time when the Lakers were able to build up a six point lead, but then the Hornets were able to claw their way back and take the lead from the Lakers.

The fifth problem the Lakers had once Odom was not able to return was the fact that they had no one to pick up the scoring slack after Odom left. Gasol finished with 10 points in 42 minutes and Bynum scored 7 points in 35 minutes, but Odom had 12 points in only 12 minutes. 

The last problem I saw was in the closing minutes of the game the questionable shot selection by the Lakers and poor offensive execution closing the game. With the Hornets leading by seven with 1:40 to play, Kobe takes a wild three-point attempt that led to a long rebound and an easy layup by the Hornets.

I do understand that Kobe was in a groove last night, he did go 6-6 from downtown prior to that three he took, but usually when Kobe was attempting to take a three he was in rhythm for the shot and with the last one he just heaved it and it didn't come close to being made.

It was almost as if that was the signal for his teammates that they didn't have what it took to at least get the game closer. If the Lakers were able to score on that possession it would have made it a five-point game with plenty of time remaining, but the only team to score after that was the Hornets and they ended up winning by 11 points.

So let's recap what the Lakers’ problems are again and why they will continue to be pretenders. First loss of a third scoring option when Odom left with injury, second lack of interior presence for a solid big man (again Lakers too soft), Fisher can't guard the quicker point guards and lack of depth at the position, too many silly fouls from Vujacic, and lastly a questionable three-pointer taken by Kobe Bryant that symbolized the end for the Lakers.

Say, what you want about the Celtics who are struggling, but the Lakers still do not have what it takes to win a championship even with Andrew Bynum in the lineup. These kinds of problems the Lakers have is going to make it tough in the playoffs against a team like the Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, and Boston Celtics (if the Celtics and Lakers make it back to the finals).

I know Lakers’ fans like to talk about their team having the best record, which they do. They are a solid team, but they have too many glaring flaws that will make it tough to win a championship.


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