Lakers, Bruce Willis Get Hammered in New Orleans


That ticking you hear? That's a clock counting down to the playoffs. The Lakers have only eight regular-season games left, and if tonight's contest - a 100 to 108 loss to the New Orleans Hornets - proved anything, it's that the problems afflicting the Lakers since the beginning of the season are still very much with them. When you consider the whole of these last five months, does it seem to you that the Lakers have improved? At all? At this point, shouldn't they have their act together just a little bit more than they do?

I know I shouldn't seek to extract too much meaning out of a single game. But when the full run of a team's flaws crops up in one 48-minute stretch in late March, it's hard not to see critical signs everywhere. These problems are real, and they're apparently not going away. Let's go to the post-mortem.

1.  Poor Outside Shooting. The Lakers aren't a terrible outside shooting team, but they're not a good one either. In fact, they're closer to the former than the latter. Tonight they made only 7 of 29 three-point attempts, and how do you feel knowing that most of those were clean, open looks? When the defense isn't there, and it wasn't tonight in New Orleans, the Lakers don't have the outside firepower to shoot their way back into a game. The hole they dug themselves by missing 17 of their first 21 threes was too deep to climb out of.

2.  The Bench. This will improve if and when Andrew Bynum returns to battle, but for now, the bench is le buttstank. They didn't score a point tonight until there was 2:48 left in the third quarter. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown just can't be counted on day in, day out. (Farmar got incinerated repeatedly tonight by Darren Collison.) Josh Powell, who airballed a six-foot baseline jumper, is sinking to Adam Morrison levels of badness. So where, one might ask, was Sasha Vujacic this evening? Good question, my friends. He got the tasty DNP-CD. Surely he couldn't be any worse than...

3.  Derek Fisher. Tired of hearing us talk about him? So are we. We'll stop as soon as he stops playing like this. His season-best offensive outburst in Houston proved to be as sustainable as you might imagine. He was back to his old tricks tonight, bricking 8 of 11 shots and playing his unique brand of, um, "defense." For anyone who subscribes to the Fisher = Clutch! hypothesis, note that he missed two wide-open threes in the last 30 seconds tonight, when a Laker comeback was still bit viable. By all means, let's give him 28 minutes a game while keeping Sasha nailed to the bench. 

4.  Pick-and-Roll Defense. It baffles me that the Lakers still, after 64 games of work, rotate so poorly on the high pick-and-roll. The Hornets exploited the slow rotations to get open three-point shots in the first half and to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line in the second. (In the second half, they shot an amazing 30 free throws. A few of those were off intentional fouls and questionable whistles. Most of them weren't.) This isn't quite the systemic failing as are the first three issues above - recall, for instance, the second half of the San Antonio game, when the switching and rotations were smart and energetic - but it flares up enough to be a real cause of worry heading into the playoffs.

The only highlight this evening was an in-game interview with a visibly and audibly intoxicated Bruce Willis. I guess he's in New Orleans filming a movie? Or something? It was difficult to tell. It's hard to understand a guy when he's on his 25th drink of the night. Good for him, though. He was clearly having a better time than we were.











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