The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Houston Rockets tonight by a final score of 107-104, and frankly, I'm tired of documenting all the possible descriptions. The Lakers lost because Kobe Bryant made all the wrong plays down the stretch. The Lakers lost because Andrew Bynum has the maturity of the ProjectX kids. The Lakers lost because they were out-hustled down the stretch. The Lakers lost because they relaxed after building up a big lead. The Lakers lost because they began to underestimate an under-manned opponent. Every last one of them a statement that has become cliche because of the sheer number of possible applications.
Then there's my least favorite of all, the one that is the most applicable. The Lakers lost because they found out what works and made sure to stay as far away from it as humanly possible for the rest of the game.
The Lakers scored 40 points in the first quarter. That's a lot. They did it with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol being unstoppable. They did it with Kobe Bryant taking catch and shoot jumpers within the flow of the offense. They did it with good ball movement creating wide open mid range shots for Pau Gasol. They did it with strong outside shooting from their small forwards. They did it with the type of high-level cohesive offensive strategy that is completely sustainable (except for the SF shooting part). So of course that was the last we saw of that the rest of the game.
Houston spent much of the next two quarters crawling their way back, just like every team in the history of the world who gets down to the Lakers by double digits in a professional basketball game.The Lakers could play against 4 ladybugs with a grasshopper at center, go up by double digits within the first 90 seconds, and the insects would still mount a comeback. Then, Andrew Bynum went and got ejected for mistaking an NBA referee for one of his buddies to whom he just wouldn't shut up. What happened next? The Lakers found another successful strategy to avoid utilizing.
At the start of the 4th quarter, Mike Brown handed the keys to the Lakers offense to Ramon Sessions in earnest, and Ramon took her out for a test drive that would put him in pole position for the Indy 500. Running a steady and consistent dose of high pick and roll, here are the first nine possessions of the Lakers' fourth quarter:
- Ramon Sessions layup
- Metta World Peace step back foot-on-the-line two pointer (It's funny cuz its true)
- Troy Murphy tip in
- Ramon Sessions misses 9 foot jumper
- Troy Murphy 3 pointer (Ramon Sessions assists)
- Ramon Sessions layup
- Pau Gasol gets free throws (on a Sessions pass)
- Ramon Sessions makes 20 foot jumper
- Pau Gasol layup (Sessions assists)
That's 16 points on 9 possessions. After that, the Lakers inexplicably went away from the same play which had been successful 7 OUT OF 8 TIMES in favor of another step back three from Artest (which missed badly) and a contested 18 footed from Pau Gasol (which went in). Then, Kobe Bryant checked back into the game, and Ramon Sessions' name is not mentioned again in the box score for the rest of the game.
It's on Kobe. It's on Drew. It's on the whole damn team. It's on the defense. It's on the offense. Honestly, I don't care who it's on. They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So how fucking insane does that make a team that stops doing the same thing over and over again when they want the same results.
The Lakers know how to do what works, and when they do it, they look unstoppable. Tonight, they found a brand new option that hasn't been available to them in a long, long time, and were just as quick to throw that away, too. Forget the old adage about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks. How do you teach him to stop doing the ones he knows?