Lakers Dine on Another Slice of FAILcake

What's the opposite of "peaking at the right time"? Whatever it's called, that's what the Lakers are doing. This five-game road trip, when they were supposed to find their swag and sharpen themselves into playoff form, is now over, and it was a straight-up calamity. They lost three of the five games. Two of them - including tonight's brutal 92 to 109 slapdown by the Atlanta Hawks - were embarrassing routs. Monday's loss to the New Orleans Hornets would've fallen into that category as well but for a face-saving fourth quarter rally. I'd propose that the Laker season has hit its low point, but that might be wishful thinking.

Tonight's game was a workshop in how not to play team defense. The Hawks are a good offensive team. Against the Lakers' deplorable D, they looked like an unholy combination of the ‘97 Bulls and the ‘39 Wehrmacht. The Lakers couldn't stay in front of anyone. They didn't switch correctly or fight through screens. They allowed Atlanta to shoot well both inside and out. On the rare occasions when Atlanta missed, the Lakers failed to control rebounds. Responsibility for this comprehensive breakdown falls on every coach and every player who saw the floor.

The warning signs appeared early on tonight. Mike Bibby effortlessly shook free from Derek Fisher to score Atlanta's first seven points. Then the wings got going, with Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford draining wide-open looks. Then Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia started pounding the offensive boards and generating second chances. On D the Lakers were just lost, right from the jump. Only a series of difficult Kobe Bryant twos keep them in it, and that's not a sustainable way to run an offense. There was very little ball movement, and no post or outside threats.

By the second quarter the Hawks realized they literally did not need to guard Fish. They left him alone repeatedly to double Pau Gasol and crowd the paint. Pau, for his part, did not handle the double-teams well. He held the ball too long and made some poor passes. Pau's final numbers tonight (16 points on 59% True Shooting, 11 rebounds and 4 assists) aren't awful, but he didn't play well. He got knocked around something fierce by Pachulia and Al Horford. The Lakers needed better work from him, especially on the defensive glass.

In the third quarter, a semi-close game got blown open. The Hawks hit easy jumper after easy jumper. Kobe cooled off. The offense got turnovery. By the time the Lakers started connecting from the outside, mostly courtesy of Jordan Farmar, the game was lost. Not only could their defense not generate enough stops to allow a comeback attempt, but it actually got worse as they game wore on. Even Kobe and Ron Artest played crappy D, giving up easy driving lanes to Crawford and Johnson and letting scrubby Maurice Evans hit for 18.

Andrew Bynum was missed tonight. His size would've helped protect the rim and the defensive glass and absorb some of the punishment directed at Gasol. Also missed was Sasha Vujacic, who got yet another DNP-CD because of his snit with Brian Shaw. Honestly, this is a ridiculous state of affairs. I get that the coaching staff deserves a bit of deference, but can't these guys just talk it out like adults so we can all move on? Is the multiple-game benching really necessary? Sasha didn't pull a gun on someone.

Phil Jackson needs to get this team ready for the playoffs. That means getting Sasha back into the rotation and finding out if he can be a reliable contributor. It's not like the rotation is bursting with great options off the bench, and whenever Fish is on the floor the Lakers are effectively playing 4-on-5. There are more important issues in play than Shaw's hurt feelings.

 

Poss.

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

3FGA/FGA

2PT%

3PT%

EFG

TS%

OReb Rate

DReb Rate

PPP

Lakers

83

14

0.36

69

0.28

48

40

51

55

34

66

1.11

Hawks

83

6

0.18

67

0.27

59

41

60

61

34

66

1.31

Follow Dex on Twitter here.

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