The Los Angeles Clippers looked every bit of the contender in their first battle with the Lakers of the season, pushing the Lakers to an 0-3 start. Things are NOT looking good for the purple and gold.
Despite Kobe Bryant filling up 40 points on 61% (14-23) shooting, the Los Angeles Lakers have still found themselves facing a dismal 0-3 on the year for the first time since 1978. For a season that was ripe with promise and hope there has been little to smile about for both Lakers fans and players. The Los Angeles Clippers simply out played the Lakers, taking advantage of 20 turnovers from the Lakers and looking in control from tip off to the final buzzer.
Before the game begun, the Lakers were already at a disadvantage with Steve Nash having to take time away from being on the floor as he tries to recover from the contusion on his left shin. Which is understandable. This is an 82 game season, and game 80 isn't going to make or break anything. However, with the team being so far low in the morale department, his presence definitely would have helped. From there, things just continued downhill. The game started with a ticky-tack foul against Dwight Howard that Chris Paul was able to draw, and the entire Lakers effort felt hamstrung as the night plodded along. Dwight had to tip toe defensively and see a reduction in minutes through the first half, Jordan Hill re-aggravated the herniated disk in his back, and the Lakers back court rotation was far from the norm to say the least.
For the Clippers, Chris Paul led the way with 18 points and 15 assists. While his scoring at times felt like an undertone, his presence was felt on both ends of the floor. Steve Blake had quite a match up with Paul and for the most part did as well as one could ask against the superstar, but there's only so much a Steve Blake can do against CP3, and clearly Paul was able to pick the Lakers apart as the game progressed. That whole tiger mauling the orange analogy that was in the game preview? Yeah, consider the orange obliterated. Pulp everywhere. Defensively it's hard to imagine Steve Nash doing any better than Blake, who has always been considered a "scrappy" defender (seriously, if you google search Steve Blake scrappy, you'll find plenty of content).
Maybe the most unfortunate thing for the Lakers is the fact that they not only lost, but they "held" Blake Griffin to 15 points and 8 rebounds. He can do better than that. Pau Gasol played Blake well, especially when Blake attempted to face up from mid-range to attack the rim. There will be nights where Griffin blows by his defender and zips right into the paint. This was not one of them. Yet, still, the Lakers took an L.
Metta World Peace looked like he was completely lost out on the floor. He was humiliated by Jamal Crawford early on, he continued to turn the ball over (he had 2 on the night), and the decisions he was making on the offensive end repeatedly killed any momentum the Lakers were trying to build up. For much of the game the Lakers were treading water and trying their best to break the 5 point barrier they seemed to have rammed their heads into. It simply never happened and eventually the 10 turned to 15, and that hill was too steep to climb. The fact that Metta took 10 field goals while Dwight Howard only had 7 attempts and Pau Gasol had 9 is a great place to start when looking at where the Lakers went wrong.
It appears to be a consistent theme in the Lakers season thus far. The Princeton offense, if being ran properly, ideally creates easy looks for the team as a whole. But, as has seemingly always been the case for the Lakers, after the first quarter rarely do sets appear to be running. It goes right back to the offense that the Lakers dealt with through last season, a form of hot potato that generally ends up with Kobe Bryant having to find a way to get the ball in the basket. That isn't sound offense, coaching, or decision making. It's paramount that the Lakers find a way to funnel their offense into the proper channels as opposed to letting MWP take the second highest amount of shots. Bluntly, it makes no sense at all when considering both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are on the floor, as well as Kobe Bryant. The combination of missed field goals and turnovers has made Metta World Peace a liability early on and his defense which is generally the balance point hasn't been above average. The issue, unfortunately, is that the alternative is playing Devin Ebanks in the small forward slot, which doesn't seem to be an appealing solution either as it stands.
Out of the 9 Lakers that played against Clippers, not a single one of them had a positive +/- on the night. Stranger, Jodie Meeks never saw any playing time and there has been no report of an injury. Has he already fallen out of favor with Mike Brown? An issue with last seasons Lakers squad was a misunderstanding on the bench of clear cut roles. This is already rearing it's head for the new look Lakers, with Meeks not receiving regular minutes, Devin Ebanks playing both the 2 and 3, Antawn Jamison looking good at times and below average at others, and Jordan Hill having his minutes and health fluctuate up and down. The Lakers clearly still have 79 games to straighten these things out but a show of progress would undoubtedly be welcome. Much more welcome than the odd ball lineup of Darius Morris, Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Antawn Jamison, and Pau Gasol was last night. There were many lineups to envision the Lakers running out as they mix and match their players, but that lineup would scarcely be at the top of any of them. Or on anywhere on it for that matter. The Clippers and the Lakers are two teams clearly working around different philosophies. Just an example, the Lakers bench played about 50 minutes in the game. Vinny Del Negro had over 100 minutes of bench players in and still had his guys working the Lakers over.
In the end, going 0-3 to start the season is a harsh awakening to a truth we all already know-- the Lakers are far from unbeatable. Things aren't necessarily peachy in the land of the Lakers, but on that same note one game doesn't equate to giving the team the necessary time to become a cohesive unit. In particular the fact that Steve Nash was out for the game should have been a large enough red flag to distinguish high levels of optimism that the Lakers would be able to pull off a win tonight without playing perfect basketball. Lost in all of the chatter and noise about the Lakers offense, and whether or not they should fire Mike Brown, is the fact that Kobe has been playing great basketball to start the season. He's currently averaging 30.7 points per game on 61.4% shooting, while shooting 50% from beyond the arch. Averages indicate that those numbers will drop a bit over time, but it doesn't change the fact that he is, in fact, a more efficient Kobe Bryant to begin the season.
Perhaps if the Lakers can figure out this whole defense thing, and how to hold onto the ball, they can enjoy Kobe Bryant and his many cuts to the rim. 'Till then it's just numbers without having any meaning behind them. Yay, Kobe is efficient this season. Now, go out and get a win Sunday against the Detroit Pistons. Show some pride in the product being put out on the court and get that first win out of the way. This should only get easier, not harder.
Though I thought that a loss ago, and here we are. Sunday, lets get after it. First Sunday whites of the season (oh boy).
|Final - 11.2.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Clippers||28||24||30||5||105|
|Los Angeles Lakers||23||24||20||10||95|
And that's all she wrote. Go ahead and check out the Clippers perspective over at Clips Nation, where they thoroughly enjoyed piling on the Lakers loss total after a convincing win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Enjoy it while you can, NBA. This team will get it soon enough.