The Lakers began a rough stretch of road games with an embarassing loss to a reeling Bucks team. Coming into the game, the cards were stacked against the Bucks. Coming off a loss to the Chicago Bulls the night before, Stephen Jackson was suspended for foul language and not leaving the court in a timely manner. Earlier in the week, they lost their best player, Andrew Bogut, to a possible season ending ankle fracture. The team was reeling. The Lakers, on the other hand, were on the upswing after their emotional victory over the Clippers. Kobe Bryant proclaimed the team had found their identity. We had found the Pau Gasol that won two championships. We found Ron Artest from his Indiana days. The Lakers had controlled aggression, coupled with late game execution.
That all fell apart tonight. Mike Dunleavy and Drew Gooden carved up the Lakers Defense. Let that sink in for a second. "They were the aggressor and more physical than we were," seethed Kobe. "Force the issue," Pau continually repeated when asked what to take away from the game, uncertainty clearly in his voice. After just one game, the Lakers are back on their heels, confused and unsure of what's next.
The Lakers actually started the game off well in the first quarter. Kobe couldn't miss from the field. The bigs were getting close looks in the paint. Kobe threw up a couple lobs for Bynum, one that was blocked by the rim, and one he laid in. McRoberts put in a vicious putback dunk. The lead was up to as much as 6 before Kobe and Bynum headed to the bench. The Strong Corner Offense was giving the frontline early looks close to the basket without double teams, just as it was designed to. As soon as they hit the bench, the next few possessions would prove to be the turning point:
- Goudelock Travel
- Goudelock misses runner
- Ebanks drives the ball and loses control and gives it up
- Lakers run out the shot clock
- Confusion on offense as Goudelock is forced to throw up a long contested jumper.
- Gasol's hook shot bounces off the backboard, Lakers turn it over with a shotclock violation
The next thing you know, the Lakers just gave up a 17-0 run. In the meantime the Bucks bench went to work. The ball movement for the Bucks was crisp, they easily found players cutting into the paint, and they made high percentage shots. In just these few crucial minutes with Kobe on the bench, there was a 17 point swing. As we can see in the gameflow chart found here, that 17 point swing made all the difference.
Give up 17 points to a sound defensive team (even if they were missing Bogut) is recipe for a long night. Mbah a Moute is still one of the best defenders in the league. For the rest of the game, they made life tough for the Lakers bigs. Although they lacked size (as evidenced by the Lakers getting 16 offensive rebounds), they were active in the passing lanes. They forced timely turnovers. What made matters worse, the Bucks offense was unstoppable. Drew Gooden put on a clinic. (Drew Gooden? Who? The guy who did this?) He was draining jumpers. He would get Pau up in the air on the shot fake and drive in for easy layups. He finished with 23 points on 9-15 shooting. The Lakers managed to put together a 30 point third quarter with Kobe shooting 5-9, but let the Bucks score 29 points. In the fourth, the Lakers managed to get within 4, but let the Bucks score on the next three straight possessions. The Lakers defense let the Bucks shoot 50% for the game. For a team lacking their top two scoring weapons, this was unacceptable. Get this, the Bucks, losers of the last 6 games playing without Bogut, have snuck into the playoff picture in 8th, while the Lakers are now out in 9th place.
Lakers Player of the Game: Kobe Bryant 27pts 8reb 9assists