Stray Bullets: Spurs vs. Lakers

I'm having a dilemma right now.  I'm trying to stay sane while battling an internal fight over what to think of the Lakers and their up and down play.  I'm usually very laidback and positive about what to expect from them.  I look for the reasons why they will win rather than why they won't.  I want to have faith.  To believe that come Playoffs, everything will be fine, but there's a part of me that wonders if it's that simple.  I'm having an identity crisis with my Lakers fandom.  It's because the Lakers have no identity right now.  I don't know what kind of team this is.  I'm not even sure if they know.  There have been too many up and down performances, or inconsistencies on both ends of the floor to pinpoint anything they should be able to rely on. 

For me, it's not about just win and losses right now.  It's they way the choose to lose.  Are they a good offensive team?  A good defensive team?  They've shown flashes of being a good defensive team, and we know what they are used to be on offense, yet it only feels like they are just a team coasting by on talent.  I don't understand how, overnight, the Lakers can go from a team that seems to finally realize their potential on offense again to a team that ignores the system together.  Or going away from being the team that led the NBA in 3 pt. FG% to allowing wide open 3-pointers that Lakers guards allow because they're lazy or caught looking.

In the past two years, we knew we could rely on the Lakers being the best offensive team in basketball.  That spectacular offense,coupled with good defense, made them Champions last year.  But win or lose, we knew what we were getting night in and night out from them.  Some people questioned their effort, but they were always a smart team.  There was always something to fall back on - something they always did well and knew.  What is there to fall back on right now?  Where is the smart play?  What is this team especially good at right now, besides being talented?  We still don't know the answer.  77 games in. 

I'm hoping the Playoffs and it's raised intensity will be the cure.  It's what the team wants us to believe.  So, I give in.  I'll put my faith in them.  I'll rely on the cliches like they want us to.  I have no choice.

  • The main problem is the Lakers just aren't playing smart enough every game.  We see it in spurts, but that's not nearly enough to overcome the effort we're seeing from every team.  Our talent from 1-12 is no longer overwhleming enough to not play through these funks playing stupidly.  Shots will fall more often than not sometimes, and sometimes they'll all brick.  What else can this Lakers team do to counter that?  Play smarter.   

    For instance, on a night when Pau is killing the Spurs, why do the Lakers go 5-6 possessions in which Pau barely gets a glance at the ball?  You know when it happens, because then Pau decides to set high screens or flash in the pinch post.  He's basically telling his teammates that he'll do whatever he needs to get the ball in whatever spot he can.  Luckily, his shot seems to have returned, but the offense is so much better when he's in the low post. 

    Kobe has to shoulder a lot of the blame for that.  It's not all his fault, but the others fall in line when Kobe makes a concerted effort at doing something.  I'm not one to bemoan his shot attempts, but when he's off, there really shouldn't be any reason he and the rest of the guards are trying to shoot their way out of cold spells.  Not when Pau is 13-20.  Not when the deficit is widening when the Lakers brick shot after shot, while failing to get stops.  Pau was getting buckets, or getting to the line.  The Lakers let the gap get big when they went away from Pau, then caught up when they went back to him.  When the Spurs went on their run in the 4th, the Lakers went away from Pau again.

    In the past two season, that was never an issue.  The Lakers stuck to what they did well. 
  • Throughout this year, I've been fine with the offense not being as good.  I expected it with Bynum's starting, and Ron's addition.  The Lakers seemed to want to transition into being a defensive team.  I am completely on board with that re-branding.  But when Bynum is out, and the offense still isn't clicking all of the way, it points to a bigger problem.  A problem made even bigger if the defense is regressing.  What if Bynum can't come back?  Through any of the issues on offensive fluidity, his defense and rebounding will be needed to beat the teams contending for the Title, and could take the Lakers to that next level on defense.  I'm not sure they can continue to struggle on offense and win it all this year, if Bynum remains out.
  • Does anyone else feel, like I do, that Jordan Farmar's and Shannon Brown's impending contract situations have ruined their play?  I'm not too keen on the fact that our first two guys off the bench are basically auditioning for a possible gig elsewhere, and doing horribly at it.  Given the problems with the bench right now, the Lakers can't afford to go into bench minutes with a deficit on the scoreboard.  They are giving the team nothing right now. 

    From the Los Angeles Times:
    " 'You want to play basketball, man,' Farmar said. 'All of us want to play. All of us know we're good enough to be on the court. It's just a matter of the situation we're in and the team. That's the hard part of our sacrifice.'
    Farmar and many of the bench players would like a few more minutes to find their groove.

    Against the Spurs, Farmar played 15 minutes 36 seconds, Brown 17:29, Walton 7:56 and Vujacic 6:30.

    'You might miss two shots and have a terrible game,' Farmar said. 'You go 0 for two, 0 for four and you didn't contribute. But, had you played 20 more minutes, you might have gone eight for 10. You never know how it's going to unfold.

    'It's tough, especially if you're playing good defense, getting your hands on balls and doing other things. You want to feel like you're helping the team in a positive way.' "

    I'm a person who feels that the team wouldnt lose that much by giving Farmar more minutes with the starters.  Not because he's earned them, but because Fish hasn't been so great himself.  Unfortunately, we've seen too many 0-for nights with no defense being added for us to believe that that a good game one D here or there warrants "20 more minutes."  Earn the minutes.  Take them from Fish or Shannon.  Don't expect them to just be given to you, Jordan. 

    When the bench is playing well, the Lakers win with ease.  Hopefully Luke's return, and Sasha's being let out of the doghouse can improve the bench situation.  Bynum's return would help even more, but who knows what is going on with that.

    I know Kobe can right his wrongs.  I know Pau can.  I also feel Lamar will have some huge games, some disappointing ones, and some so-so ones.  Or that Ron will have more great defensive games than ones like yesterday's against Manu.  They're good enough to fix thier issues.  We've seen them flip the switch.  But their approach to it is affecting the rest of those not good enough to turn it on and off.

  • I'm glad Sasha is out of the doghouse again (or so it seems).  He might have his issues, but he can make entry passes, tries on defense, and even rebounds in his minutes. He can't do any worse than Shannon or Farmar have done recently.  Let's hope he's allowed to roam around in the yard more.  
  • Did you hear Jeff Van gundy say that Pau taking the Grizzlies to a 50+ win playoff appearance was "just as good" as anything he's accomplished in LA?  Right?! 
  • He also wondered if Tony Parker should come off the bench when he returns because George Hill was playing so well.  Huh?
  • I'm tired of seeing double techs because the refs are too stupid or confused to get it right.  Call me a homer, but if what Ron Artest was doing was worth a foul, then it would have been called.  Instead, Manu gets to throw elbows because he doesn't like it, and Ron gets a T also?  How is that logical?
  • Wake me up when the Playoffs start.  Unless the Lakers absolutely rout their next 5 opponents, I'm not sure too much would impress me.  Just take a look at the opponents...would a win over any of them erase the doubt they've given us heading into the playoffs?  Even a struggling Denver?
  • I don't want this post to seem like I'm really losing faith.  It's just tough watching the Lakers lose by not being as smart as they are, then relying on rhetoric for a reason to brush the problems aside, when there are problems that haven't gone away - that the Playoffs might not be the cure for.  I don't want this team to fall back on cliches.
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