Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
The Lakers walked into Madison Square Garden Friday evening as a team that had little positive traction. The Lakers walked out of Madison Square Garden Friday evening as a team that has little positive traction.
The Los Angeles Lakers have now dropped to 9-14 on the year, giving them the 4th worst record in the Western Conference. Behind them? The Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and New Orleans Hornets. There jis still no Steve Nash running the point. Steve Blake isn't traveling with the team. Pau Gasol continues to rest his old, aching, knees. And now, after being being slapped around by the top team in the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks, in the 116-107 shellacking we find ourselves on the eve of discovering out the answer to the most riveting question of them all Friday night against the Washington Wizards.
How low can they go?
Losing to the Knicks came as no surprise. Carmelo Anthony played with a purpose, scoring 22 of his 30 points in the first quarter. Three triples, easy transition baskets, dunks, layups, mid-mpers... Melo got his however Melo wanted to take his. It was clear from the start that the Knicks were ready to attack the Lakers and weren't going to wait for the game to become theirs. They made it theirs from the tip off, something the Lakers have seldom accomplished.
The defense continues to be the issues of all issues (aside frohealth) for the Lakers. There's simply not enough resistance from the purple and gold to withstand professional basketball players scoring over 100 points against them on a nightly basis. In 7 of the last 8 contests the Lakers have given up over 100 points and have won only 2 of those games (Denver, New Orleans). There needs to be an adjustment made with the defense, though adjusting effort comes from within. No scheme can make a player try and become actively engaged.
Is this where you look at the coach and question if he's the right guy?
Is it on the players to give the proper effort as they're the bodies on the floor?
The Lakers need answers, and quickly. The 2012-2013 NBA season is beginning to slip away. Sure, all they need to do is slide into the playoffs and they have a whole new ballgame in their hands, but it's back to something many cited while watching Mike Brown coach the team. There's little to no progress.
When will there be progress?
When will the Lakers play a great game of basketball and not just ride a night of hot shooting?
It was another night of the Lakers getting little to nothing out of the point guard position. Chris Duhon ended the night with 3 points on 1-6 shooting and 4 assists. He also continued to be unable to hit Dwight Howard out of pick and rolls and put about as little pressure as a point guard can against a defense. By the end of the night Mike D'Antoni decided to give Jodie Meeks point guard duty, and while his overall effort is worthy of finding ways to give him minutes, he isn't a play-maker.
Can Steve Nash really make that much of a difference?
Dwight Howard had 20 points and... 7 rebounds. 7 rebounds? His effort continues to be a roller coaster of reasonably high highs and unreasonably low lows. His back is clearly effecting him negatively and it's becoming increasingly difficult to chart any sort or rhyme or reason regarding it. Still, he was efficient through the night with his 8-11 night. The two early fouls he picked up undoubtedly hurt the Lakers, who were unable to find traction on the defensive side of the ball while the Knicks got off to their 41 point quarter. A few nights ago Dwight Howard served as an anchor for the Lakers defense. He controlled the paint and demanded his teammates be better. Demanded that his teammates took pride in playing defense with the three-time defensive player of the year behind them.
Forget about the back, where's the center who was taking control of the defense?
Oh, and a quick shout out to Devin Ebanks who finds himself on the beast side of beast or burden after his performance, surely (perhaps he isn't a beast, but at least Simba when he was a cub). 15 points and 5 boards of the bench gets a nod.
The Knicks lost Carmelo Anthony to an ankle sprain (he is now listed as day-to-day) yet were still able to hang on. Once again the Lakers dug themselves a hole deep enough to climb out of to serve as the plot for Cliffhanger 2. Raymond Felton took whatever he wanted from the Lakers and ended his going with 19 points and 8 assists in a performance that had to have left Mike D'Antoni's heart going pitter-patter as he watched a point guard do good things. The importance of a point guard for a team is understated until you don't have any production out of the guy who's supposed to slice, dice, and cook up the opponents. All the years of watching Derek Fisher. All the minutes we've watched Steve Blake struggle to resemble a point guard more than a spot-up shooter. All the hope that was flushed away with Ramon Sessions.
So how did the Knicks survive the loss of their lead man? Steve Novak had a near perfect night for a player that's designed to pick the Lakers apart. His role: stand behind the arch and snipe the opponents. Well, trigger pulled. All of his 12 points came from deep, ending the night shooting 4-5. Tyson Chandler had a solid night for the Knicks as well, adding 18 points of his own but only pulling down 4 rebounds. And capping off where the Knicks found their scoring with the 'Melo man, J.R. Smith had 18 points on 7-14 shooting. Add it all up and the role players held their own and kept the lead just out of the reach of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
So here we are, with another loss that was much worse than the final score indicates, on a night of a wasted Kobe Bryant effort. Nothing new there. 44 minutes of play for Kobe as he opened the night up serenading the crowd. A game that looked like it was going to be a classic duel between two of the game's premier scorers wound up being anything but that. Kobe was doin' work though; he ended the 1st quarter with 13 points on 4-7 shooting and three of his own long balls to match Carmelo's opening. But as the game went on it simply wasn't enough. He ended his trip to Madison Square Garden with 31 points (10-24), 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 turnovers, and 1 back having spasms. Throughout much of the night he spent his timeouts with the Lakers training staff tending to his back, yet he played on. He battled. He clawed the best he could out of the hole the Lakers found themselves staring up out of. All for a loss, with a game against the Washington Wizards Friday night that may serve as the stage for the lowest of the lows for the Lakers.
The New York Knicks defended their home court Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. More questions, less answers, another game down the drain for the mauve and mustard.
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