2010 NBA Playoffs: Point Guard Is a Point Of Concern For LA Lakers

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMarch 28, 2010

PHOENIX - MARCH 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in action during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 12, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Lakers defeated the Suns 102-96.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Speed kills, and for the number of times the Los Angeles Lakers have been decimated by opposing point guards they more than qualify to appear in the next public service announcement as the perfect example.

The Lakers' 91-75 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night was akin to viewing a horrible movie which is played constantly despite the poor quality. Soul Plane comes to mind.

Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant downplayed the loss to the Thunder, but under the circumstances it probably is better to move on to the next game, because there were very few positives to draw from this one.

Bryant had nine turnovers, Gasol was called out by coach Phil Jackson for his soft play, and none of the Laker guards were able to prevent Russell Westbrook from getting in the lane whenever he desired.

Regardless of which player took turns guarding Westbrook, he simply adjusted for speed or height, and continued his various uncontested forays to the rim.

The Thunder built their lead to 33 points, and the only drama in the fourth quarter was whether or not the Lakers would be able to crack the 70 point barrier and avoid their lowest point output of the season.

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I guess you could call that a moral victory, because there were few physical victories the Lakers could claim as Westbrook did his best Aaron Brooks impersonation in destroying Los Angeles with 23 points.

Laker fans are very familiar with Brooks because he almost single-handedly led his Houston Rockets to what would have been the biggest upset in recent playoff history.

Brooks exposed the major weakness in the Lakers' scheme, and despite being terribly under-manned, the Rockets turned out to be the biggest challenge in the Lakers' 2009 championship run.

If there is one single flaw which could spell doom for Los Angeles in their quest for a repeat it is most definitely their inability to defend smaller, quicker guards.

Derek Fisher's quickness has visibly diminished and backups Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown lack the discipline and focus to be difference makers defensively.

Talent is no issue for either Farmar or Brown, but they both have a tendency play the pick and roll horribly, and their communication once they have been beaten off the dribble is sorely lacking.

Los Angeles was able to mask this short-coming last season, but it will likely be a major point of attack for anyone hoping to defeat the Lakers in the postseason, and it must be dealt with.

Even Jackson acknowledges Fisher is not the answer, yet he is still reluctant to pull him in favor of his younger, quicker guards, even though the final playoff solution likely lies in Farmar and Brown.

To be fair, Fisher is very valuable to the Lakers in their hopes of repeating, but his worth is better realized in a reserve role, or entering the game in key situations.

It's important to remember the Lakers may not have won without the clutch shooting of Fisher in the NBA Finals, but it's just as important to remember the role his one game suspension played against Houston also.

When Fisher was forced to sit for his flagrant foul against Luis Scola, Jackson had no choice but to play Farmar and Brown in his place, and that likely preserved the Lakers' victory over the Rockets.

Jackson even admitted as much, but he still said he would have started Fisher had he been available, and even though Jackson is arguably the greatest coach in NBA history, his tendency to be stubborn could be deadly.

Luckily he does seem to realize the disadvantage the Lakers have against teams with quick point guards, and hopefully Oklahoma City gave him all the inspiration he needs for the postseason.

There is a chance the Lakers could be matched with the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, and even though they won three out of their four regular season meetings, Oklahoma City appears to understand the Lakers' vulnerability.

Although there is little chance the Thunder could upset the Lakers if the match-up does occur, the eyes of the NBA world will be on Los Angeles to see how they cope with what has become their achilles' heel.