Life is just too funny sometimes. Tonight's 100-95 loss to the Sacramento Kings is just the latest example. Not Jerry Seinfeld funny, or Tina Fey funny. More like Albert Camus funny. The Los Angeles Lakers have always specialized in the absurd, and this year, they seem quite willing to put the "ridiculous" in absurd.
Did you know that, after tonight's loss, the Lakers are 18-6 at home? They lost a very important and very embarrassing match-up against the Miami Heat on Christmas Day, and that qualifies as an anomaly. Want to know why? Because Miami is a good team. All the other losses in Staples Center have the opposite in common; they all occurred against teams with losing records. And, in the majority of cases, we're not even talking the scraping along almost at .500 guys. The Lakers have lost against three of the worst 10 teams in the league.
In and of itself, that is not absurd. What makes it absurd is that the Lakers are defending champions. What makes it absurd is that the Lakers have the third best record in the league, the third highest scoring margin. What makes it absurd is the 29 point beat-down of the Utah Jazz not three days ago, or the 10 point win in Denver which came before that. The Lakers are not a bad team, far from it. Despite their struggles, my guess is that a good chunk (perhaps even a majority) of objective observers would consider them favorites to end their season with a June victory. In the meantime, if a friend wants the Lakers to help guilt trip an ex girl-friend to come over so that he can beat her as revenge, the Lakers would probably be like "Sure, Whatever" (this is a literary reference, people. Any actual interpretation of this action is horribly offensive and terrible).
Nothing matters to this team right now, which is why they have no problem taking a dozen eggs and smashing them all over each other's faces. And it must have been a Baker's dozen, because they saved one egg for me.
No, tonight's game has no real bearing in the argument that I found myself ensconced in earlier today, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention both the poor "clutch" performance of Kobe Bryant, and of the Lakers as a whole in tonight's game. Kobe was 2-8 in the final 5 minutes of the game, and he shot worse the clutchier the situation got, going 0-4 with the score within 5 points. The irony is not lost on me, nor is it lost that three of those shots were desperation 3 point heaves in the final 20 seconds. Regardless, it's an alarming trend we've seen throughout the season. Whereas in years past, the Lakers' win column was filled with too-close games pulled out in the 4th quarter, we've been treated to a steady dose of come-from-behind fail this season. What that indicates won't be determined until May.
The popularly plotted course requires that I come before you and moan about the Lakers' lack of effort. After all, the Lakers are infallible and any loss they happen to pick up is automatically a result of their lack of effort. Well guess what, I'm not buying it tonight. Call it a fluke, call it the miracle on Figueroa Street, but I think the Kings were simply the better team, for one night only. Were the Lakers looking ahead to Boston? Of course. Did they do a good job of getting back in transition, or moving their feet at all? Nope. Did they play a stupid brand of basketball replete with turnovers and poor offensive flow? Sure. And did they get killed on the boards? Absolutely. But I saw plenty of effort out there. Kobe wanted this game. Lamar Odom did, too. Pretty much anybody not named Pau Gasol gave it a good try out there tonight, and the Lakers still lost. That means just as little as it would if effort were the main reason behind the loss.
How about some credit for the Kings? They don't often have much to be happy out these days, but tonight saw quite a few impressive performances, none more so than the big man trio of Samuel Dalembert, Demarcus Cousins and Carl Landry. If you were to take odds on those three out-performing Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on the night, you'd be a rich gambler right about now, but since outperform they did, the Kings victory is not so hard to understand in context. To a certain extent, these guys were allowed to take too much (especially Landry's 7 offensive boards), but they also hit a number of fantastic shots. Cousins did work early, and I'm convinced Hakeem "The Dream" exacted revenge on Kobe Bryant for passing him up on the all-time scoring list by possessing Samuel Dalembert in the 2nd half.
Throw in a nice evening from Omri Casspi, and a solid game from exactly no one outside of Kobe Bryant's first half, and I think the Lakers were beaten soundly tonight by the nearly undefeated combination of one team's good night and another team's bad night. Add in the whole "Lakers seem to play worse when they are well-rested" thing, the "Lakers are old and can't get back on defense when their offense blows" thing, and you've got a wonderful recipe for a loss to a bad team at home.
Before we bring the evening's events to a close, I'd like to bust a few myths:
- Somebody out there somewhere is going to make the case that Kobe Bryant shot the Lakers out of this game. He came out with 11 shots in the first quarter, and ended up with 27 shots. Was he gunning to get 13 points early and get passed Olajuwon on the all time scoring list? Yes. But the dude hit 8 of those first 11 shots, and spent a good chunk of the rest of the game doing nothing but playing the facilitator role. Even in the 4th quarter, he routinely passed out of double teams until the very end, but nobody could make shots down the stretch
- Lamar Odom had a terrible, terrible game, but he did NOT disappear. I think LO actually played the hardest of any Laker tonight. He got beat to too many rebounds, but the Carl Landry's of the world always give him trouble, and his defensive effort was a notch higher than his teammates all night long. We've been spoiled rotten by Lamar's consistency this season, and tonight was just a bad night. He wasn't less aggressive, or less decisive. He just couldn't hit shots, much like the rest of the team.
- Pau Gasol's myth remains rightfully unbusted. He was terrible, and not in the "I'm trying my best and nothing's working" way that we give LO some sort of credit for.
Stats are on the way, re-load in 10 minutes.