The conundrum of finding a way to get these Los Angeles Lakers playing like the elite talent they are made a guest appearance just in time for Thanksgiving, and the Sacramento Kings completely outplayed the Lakers in the 113-97 loss Wednesday night. The Lakers played flatter than the plains of Nebraska and the Kings pounced on the opportunity to add their third victory on a troubling start to the season.
Kobe Bryant's hot shooting kept the Lakers in a game that they had no business even playing in, going off from deep 5-9, and drawing a foul from beyond the arc (he missed one of three in that series of free throws). Bryant finished the night with 38 points on 11-20 shooting, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds. Oh, and 7 turnovers.
This was an awful game from the Lakers who looked like a group of mainly 30-something-year-olds on the second game of a back-to-back who had just played 38+ minutes the prior night. Because, they were. It's a middle of November game, with no Steve Nash or *gulp* Steve Blake, but this was an unacceptable effort.
Things that should never happen: Jason Thompson scored more points than both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Chuck Hayes and Jason Thompson combined for more points than the Lakers' "superstar" front court. James Johnson and his fancy glasses had as many assists as Kobe Bryant and Darius Morris together. 20 turnovers. Of course the Lakers turn the ball over 20 times after seemingly cutting down the charity giveaways. Hold onto the ball? No need. This is a time of giving, all and all, with Thanksgiving upon us so here you go Sacramento. Looking at the box score there's plenty to pick apart about the Lakers effort, but it's really just as simple, and correct, to say they were outplayed wire to wire by a team that could care less how many "accolades" the starting unit has combined. It's easy to say that teams show up to play the Lakers, and perhaps they do. With all of the hype surrounding the Lakers, and the bitterness many have towards the purple and gold, it makes sense to want to go hard at them to make a statement.
But the Lakers need to be accountable. 82 games a season. Every game. Every quarter. There's still a lack of commitment to greatness that shows. There's no reason in the world that Dwight Howard finished the night with 7 points and 9 rebounds on 3-4 shooting. The up and down effort of Howard will likely remain a key in the success of the Lakers as he works his way back to being 100%. The forty minutes he played the prior night showed every time he tried to post and would simply be pushed further out to mid-range. Considering he put in another 40 minutes in a terrible losing effort, we can only hope he gets to that 100% mark soon. Very soon.
The Lakers bench is still a far cry from what it looked like on paper. See why that on paper caveat exists? Jodie Meeks did his part, for perhaps the second time this season, but the rest of the bench? Antawn Jamison is a non-factor. He had 0 points on 0-2 shooting, no rebounds, no assists. However, he played only a limited stretch against the Kings, a total of 5:27 on the floor. D'Antoni's rotation heavily relied on Chris Duhon, Jodie Meeks, and Jordan Hill. Between the three of them they scored 19 points. The Kings bench, however, had absolutely no problem being effective. Marcus Thornton alone has 23 points, outscoring the Lakers bench singlehandedly. Tack on Chuck Hayes (10 points, 5 boards), Isaiah Thomas (6 points, 2 assists), James Johnson (6 points, 5 assists), and Thomas Robinson (4 points, 3 rebounds) and the Kings reserves blew the Lakers bench out of the water. I'd say it sank the Titanic, but the way this bench is playing, it'd be something more along the lines of poking a hole in their inflatable raft.
Mike D'Antoni was none to happy with the effort from his new team, even going as far as to say "The first half might have been the worst basketball I’ve seen in 10 years" and called their effort "Muppet Time". MUPPET TIME! However, if there's one thing to harp on in the game, how about the 4th quarter? The Lakers gave up 40 points to the Kings and only had a pulse because Jodie Meeks (15 points on 5-9 shooting) came alive for the Lakers, and Kobe Bryant was doing Kobe Bryant things. Pau Gasol, again, was taken off the dribble by the opposing bigs. Both Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins took Pau Gasol to Skate Express routinely, and by the 4th quarter Gasol looked exhausted in his effort to try and contain his man. Brook Lopez was able to do the same last night against Pau and clearly the Kings were fully aware of Pau's deficiency in this area.
What more is there to say? The Lakers were rocked by the Kings, in Sacramento, on a back-to-back, in November. These things happen and leave a terrible after-taste. So let's be thankful on this Thanksgiving holiday!
Let's be thankful that Steve Nash, essentially, hasn't played at all this season. 1.5 games under Mike Brown serve as no indication of the Nash that will return under the tutelage of Mike D'Antoni. His status as being out "indefinitely" is worrisome, definitely, but when a bone is fractured it doesn't just magically heal. This is an injury that will test patience, but in the end, should make his return that much sweeter.
Let's be thankful that Kobe Bryant is playing out of his mind. Stats aside, just watching him play at this level has been amazing. His focus seems to be on another plane of existence. The hard work he's put in now going into the 17th season of his career is clearly paying off as this season feels like a culmination of everything that is Kobe Bryant. Shooting the ball with the intention of murder, using his footwork to free up his shot, driving to the rim on those germaKnees, working in the post and taking advantage of unfortunate defenders, working the two-man game with his pal Pau Gasol, and the few drive and dish plays to Dwight Howard are ever reminiscent of his worth with another otherworldly talent he once played with.
Let's be thankful that Dwight Howard is even playing the game of basketball at the level he is. This is a player who many projected wouldn't be playing basketball till December or even January. This is a man who had major back surgery and couldn't walk without the assistance of a walker a few months ago. Even worse, the player we traded away for him, Andrew Bynum, is now rumored to possibly be out the entire season. Yes, Howard's effort wanes from game to game, but it's still amazing to see him wearing a Lakers jersey. The years of yearning became a reality.
Let's be thankful for being fans of a franchise that desperately wants to be a step above. Plenty of franchises penny pinch away title chances, or refuse to pull the trigger on trades that could reshape their future, but the Lakers are not one of them. This is the franchise that delivers at every opportunity, and while it's difficult to be patient, there are still 70 games to play this season. Let this group of Lakers grow, learn, and even more importantly... become healthy. The Buss family, with Mitch as their hired hitman, has once again delivered for the fans (and, for themselves). It isn't always a smooth ride, but it isn't all bad either.
The Kings defended
their castle Sleep Train Arena and sent the Lakers with plenty to think about with a tough back-to-back starting Friday. Games against the Grizzlies and the Mavericks coming up will be great challenges for the Lakers after this slop fest, but even in the face of a disheartening loss, there's plenty to be thankful for.
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Check Sactown Royalty as they bring in Thanksgiving with a big win against the Lakers.