Sometimes, its just your night. The basket looks a mile wide, nearly every shot you launch finds the net, and the three balls rain down like hail in a thunderstorm. Those are good nights ... unless you somehow still find a way to lose despite your good fortune. Such was the plight of the Los Angeles Lakers tonight in the nation's capital. Despite a fantastic outside shooting performance, the Lakers could not stop giving the ball way to an athletic Wizards team hell bent on punishing them in transition, and they refused to guard Nene at all. Add it all up and the Lakers lost one of their better offensive games of the season, which is surely a tough pill to swallow for a team fighting like hell to get above .500.
The consistency of narrative throughout this contest was remarkable. Starting from the opening tip, the Lakers defense was constantly a step slow and a rotation behind. On any other night, were the Lakers defense to be this poor, LA might have found themselves on the wrong end of a true beatdown, but tonight, the Lakers fought back with the one true weapon in their arsenal, hitting three point shots. LA hit 6-9 threes in the first quarter, and only marginally cooled down from there, ending the contest at 13-28 after Nick Young's 28 foot game-tying effort clanged out with 15 seconds to play.
But when you need 50% shooting from distance as a team to remain competitive in a basketball game, something has gone horribly wrong with your defense. Tonight, the story was two fold: turnovers (on some awful, awful passes ... how many cross court lame ducks can a team throw in one night) leading to transition buckets for a Wizards team with a healthy edge in athleticism, and an unstoppable force in the middle who goes by one name: Nene. OK, unstoppable might not be the right term for Nene's night, because it indicates an effort was made to stop him, and that the effort failed. Instead, we saw a parade of possessions in which Nene caught the ball, took one step without dribbling, and completed an uncontested dunk. The Lakers interior defense was awful, and the rotations to help just were not there. In the second half, the Lakers compounded matters by over-rotating (on one play in particular, a Lakers defender was quick to close out on Marcin Gortat from 20 feet, leaving Martell Webster, who was responsible for four of the Wizards' 6 made three pointers, wide open for the easy conversion).
So, the Lakers fall below .500 again and start off their short Eastern Conference road trip with a loss. Still, there is something to be said for being able to watch an entertaining game in which both teams knocked down shots down the stretch. Sure, the Lakers lost to a bad team in a bad conference, but that's not the end of the world these days, making these fun but ultimately fruitless nights a lot easier to stomach.