We'll start today with a bonus Burden entry: The schedule.
In the NBA, there are losses and then there are schedule losses. The losses are on a level playing field, with both teams having roughly the same amount of rest and recent travel, and therefore coming into the game with similar levels of fatigue, and then one team plays better than the other team. In a schedule loss, one team has significant advantages in recent travel and fatigue, making otherwise surmountable obstacles (a slight difference in talent, an unexpected performance) seem like Mount Everest. Schedule losses are not unexpected, nor particularly disappointing.
There are losses, and then there are schedule losses, and then there are LA to Denver back-to-backs. There is no more disadvantageous situation to be in than to be a team who plays in Los Angeles one night and Denver the following night, and no team makes that trek as often as the Lakers do. There are so many things wrong with this: Denver is 850 miles from LA, just over 2 hours by plane. Denver is in a different time zone. Denver's airport is in the middle of nowhere, about an hour from the city and where NBA teams stay overnight. And Denver is roughly 5,000 feet above sea level.
Playing a basketball game the night after you played another basketball game makes you tired. Doing anything at all the next day after you landed from a flight at 3:30 AM, and didn't get to bed until around 5:00 AM makes you tired. Playing at a higher altitude makes you tired. To have to do all of that and lose an additional 90 minutes because the Lakers' Pacific time home game starts at 7:30 PM PT and Denver's Mountain time home game starts at 7 PM MT (or 6 PM PT) is just insane and unfair and there's a damn good reason the Lakers are something like 1-120 in Denver over the last few years. The NBA really needs to stop doing this. If nothing else, a rule stating that no team should play a back to back that causes them to travel east across time zones should be allowed, or that the home team should have to modify their start time to accommodate a road team that played a significantly later start time the previous night, should be in order.
Jordan Hill - Another start, another beastly performance. Hill dropped 18 points and 15 rebounds (8 offensive!) and even managed to throw in three blocks. He was such an important influence on the game that Coach Mike D'Antoni brought him back in to the fourth quarter at the eight minute mark even though Hill was carrying five fouls. After not starting and (sometimes) not playing Hill, D'Antoni has now come to the conclusion that the Lakers cannot afford to not have him on the court at pivotal moments.
Steve Blake - Vino Blanco was once again fantastic, 15 points on 11 shots, continued excellence from three point range (2-4 on the evening) and 11 assists to go with a modest three turnovers. Blake is such a natural fit in Mike D'Antoni's system that the Lakers, truly and sadly, are better off with him captaining the team while Steve Nash rests up. Blake even pulled down six boards, completing a true do everything performance.
Pau Gasol's aggressiveness - I don't know that you'd say Gasol had a great game, despite scoring a team and personal season high 25 points and pulling down 12 rebounds, because it took him 27 shots to get there and he was just 1-5 from the foul line. But, considering the primary complaint against Pau in this and many other seasons has been his unwillingness to work for his own shot, we will compliment him any time he attempts to do just that. Pau's 27 shot attempts were the most he has ever attempted in a Laker uniform
Chris Kaman - Just 8 points and 4 boards in 19 minutes for Kaman, and he only shot 3-9 from the field, with the majority of those shots coming in his 8 minutes of first half playing time. He also turned the ball over too much (3), considering his minimal overall impact. Kaman's shot has suffered a fairly steep drop in productivity in recent games after he started the season scorching hot. Also, it might just be me, but it sure looks to me like Kaman is getting significantly less height on his jump during his jump shot recently, which might explain why so many of his shots are hitting the front of the rim.
Team shooting - Another game, another poor shooting performance from the Lakers. LA has done a very good job of distance shooting this season (ranked 7th prior to last night's game), but their shooting from inside the arc has been woeful all season, and last night's sub 40% shooting performance won't do their bad shooting numbers any favors. It was the 6th time in just 10 games that the Lakers failed to make 40% of their shots, and when you consider how many threes they are making, that number is just terrible.
Jordan Farmar - Considering that the Lakers are down one point guard right now, you would expect Farmar's impact on the Lakers to increase in Steve Nash's absence. Last night, your expectation would be horribly wrong. Farmar played just 14 minutes (only Shawne Williams played less), missed all four of his shots, scored just 1 point and doled out just 1 assist. Sometimes, Farmar looks like the best point guard on the roster (a sad reflection of how far Steve Nash has fallen), but he's been far more inconsistent than I expected, considering that he's pratically the old geyser of the new bench unit. He's been around the block and should be able to even out his performances.