The Los Angeles Lakers fell for the final time this season, losing to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night. The Thunder defeated L.A. in five games, and will continue their quest for a championship on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.
Here are some Lakers' takeaways:
The only bright side to the Lakers’ loss was watching Kobe Bryant, who apparently hopped in a time machine before the game, explode for an efficient 42 points, including five, rim-rattling dunks. The Black Mamba showed his full, offensive arsenal that night.
The will and determination of Bryant that we have become so accustomed to were clearly on display. Unfortunately, though, it did not seem as if any other Laker came to play.
The Lakers lost three games this series by three points or less, despite leading in the fourth quarter in each of them. Their late collapses were due to a combination of clock mismanagement, untimely turnovers, a stagnant offense, and an inability to control the tempo of the game.
If the Lakers played even marginally better in each of the series’ final periods, they would still be alive in the playoffs. (In no way am I discrediting the Thunder; they earned all of their victories.)
With the insertion of Mike Brown into L.A.’s head coaching position after almost a decade of operating off of Phil Jackson’s system, the Lakers seemed to be confused and without an identity this season.
Under the Zen Master, the Lakers knew who they were. They ran the triangle through two Hall of Famers on offense, and played hard-nosed, team basketball on defense.
Under Mike Brown though, the Lakers can’t seem to make a name for themselves.
Brown has definitely brought a new commitment and passion to stopping opposing offenses, but their own offense seems to be highly questionable.
The Lakers’ sets seem to be primarily focused on post ups and pick and rolls, but have no real structure or fluidity to them past the opening sequences.
I agree that they need to be a half-court team (their size, age and lack of athleticism do not translate well to the fast pace style), but they have to develop a consistent and effective offense that complements the roster’s strengths.
You could also argue that the Lakers have not been given enough time to adapt to the new staff and system (especially considering the challenges that the lockout presented this year), but I think people from both sides of the aisle can agree that they will have to develop tremendously between now and October if they want to be contenders next year.
Mitch Kupchak’s lifeless facial expressions towards the end of the game said it all.
The Lakers’ management has a lot of decisions to make, and I would not be surprised if there was a complete upheaval in La-La Land this summer.
For the first time since the trading of Shaquille O’Neal in 2004, the Lakers organization will be experiencing a transitional period.
And, with Kobe Bryant being at the latter part of his career, the team should look to make major roster changes aimed at bringing in a supporting, title-contending cast.
Expect every Laker player aside from the Black Mamba to have his name on the trade block this offseason.
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