The Los Angeles Lakers did not start tonight's game against the Los Angeles Clippers well. They were down 10-0 in the first 4 minutes, and though the Lakers bench made a brief run in the 2nd quarter, the Lakers starters were atrocious from start to finish and the result of the game, and the season series, was never in doubt. It's rare that a basketball game can be reduced to a single statistic, unless that statistic is points. But tonight's game is pretty easy to figure out. The Clippers shot 16-30, 53.3%, from three point range. The Lakers shot 6-20, 30%, from three. That right there is 30 points. The game was lost by 24.
I'm not normally all that bothered when one team is the beneficiary of a hot shooting night while the other team struggles. These things happen, and when they do, the result is usually pretty easy to figure. It doesn't mean that the hot shooting team is better than the poor shooting team, at least as a one game sample. It doesn't mean that the poor shooting team is terrible. It just means that the ebbs and flows of a long NBA season will sometimes result in an ebb for you and a flow for your opponent at the same time. It's why only one team in history has won 70 games. But this game ... was not like that.
For one thing, tonight's contest delivered the Clippers their first season series win against the Lakers in 20 years. For another, all three of the remaining Lakers stars looked pretty terrible tonight. Steve Nash was repeatedly abused by Chris Paul on defense, and missed all four of his 3 pt attempts en route to 7 points on 9 shots. He had three TOs (including one truly abhorrent 3rd quarter pass) and only three assists. Dwight Howard had 18 points on 10 shots, but managed just 8 rebounds and was routinely beaten up on the offensive glass by the more active DeAndre Jordan, who had as many offensive rebounds as Dwight had defensive rebounds on the night. And Kobe, who's line ended up a semi-respectable 20 points (on 13 shots) and 11 assists, did a lot of his work after the game was no longer in doubt. His six turnovers all came in the 1st half and early 2nd half, as the Clippers built up a 20 point lead that would sustain the entire evening.
Kobe's turnovers ... they are a real problem right now. As teams adjust to Kobe taking more of a facilitating role, Kobe needs to adjust to their adjustments. Whether that means a return to more of a scoring Kobe, or it means ceding the offense to Nash more often, the fact remains that Kobe's TOs are just killing the Lakers right now. He hasn't had less than 3 turnovers in a game since before the Grammy road trip. He hasn't had less than 2 turnovers in a game since mid-January. He is averaging 4.8 turnovers in his last 9 contests, 4.25 turnovers in his last 16. Some of that can be understood and forgiven because Kobe has taken such an important facilitating role over the same period. But the Lakers are destroyed by turnovers because of their terrible transition defense, and they simply can not survive Kobe's current rate of profligacy with the ball.
So, that's it for a while. The Lakers enter the All-Star break with an 8-4 record over their last 12 games, but also 2-3 in their last five, including two absolutely prodigious beat downs at the hands of two of the teams we'd least like to see them lose to. They are four games below .500, 3.5 games out of the last Western Conference playoff spot, and teetering dangerously close to the point when it will be obvious that the season is over (because the season may already have reached the point of no return, but it is not yet obvious).
One thing is for sure ... combining this pathetic game with the truly terrible news regarding our beloved owner will ensure the funk we've dealt with all season long will be worse than ever for the next few days.