I'm going to make this nice and easy. It was ugly. The offense, the rebounding, the
defense standing and watching, all of it. There was no good and probably some bad, but in the end that doesn't matter. It was just ugly.
So instead of making an entire list of ugly, I'm going to do something that normally we reserve for the end of a series. I'm going to give all of the Lakers a grade, because even though this was a team loss, some of them played well and some did not, and I think looking at this will be much more illumminating.
Kobe Bryant, C- This was a game where the Lakers needed Kobe to carry them, and 15 points just doesn't cut it. You can argue that he should not have to win a game by himself with this much talent around him, but the facts are the facts. The Lakers are very inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs. There is only one player that does not get rattled in high-energy situations on the road, and that's Kobe. I doubt that he could have won the game by himself, but Michael would not have let his team get blown out. LeBron would not have let his team get blown out. Garnett would not have let his team get blown out. Kobe has let his team get blown out-twice.
Pau Gasol, B He didn't have a bad game, but he didn't have a good one either. Don't let the 30 points fool you, because 18 of those came in the fourth quarter. Obviously Pau's game is not a physical one, but there is no reason that he should be slowed by 6-6 Chuck Hayes. The height difference alone should allow Gasol to shoot right over him.
Trevor Ariza, B- Ariza had a very quiet game, but so did Artest so that means that he did his job. Of course some of that definitely had to do with the offensive explosion from Brooks and Battier, but Ariza definitely shadowed him well. A little more offense out of him would be nice, but again it is not something that we should count on.
Lamar Odom, C+ He didn't give us much offensively and missed a few defensive assignments, but he was active on the boards until he went out with back spasms in the third.
Derek Fisher, D- Fisher got burned time and time again by Brooks. He also failed to knock down his shots while contributing zero assists. Jackson needs to seriously consider drastically reducing his minutes, at least for this series, because he is hurting the Lakers more than helping them.
Jordan Farmar, B+ Jordan had yet another solid game, this time as the first guard off of the bench. He played better defense on Brooks than Fisher, and didn't have any turnovers. I would like to see him start for the rest of the series as a confidence boost and for defensive purposes, and then bring UPS off of the bench for more offense.
Shannon Brown, A- When our offense was absolutely stagnant, UPS once again came in and tried to save the day, knocking down jump shots and driving to the rim as opposed to standing around like everyone else. I do not understand why PJ does not play him more. He has done nothing but good, and it seems like every time he comes in and gets on a roll, he comes right back out again.
Sasha Vujacic, D Sasha really has one job, and that is to spread the floor and knock down threes. Unfortunately he is in a giant shooting slump, and doesn't really bring much else to the floor. I'm not sure what the solution is other than shooting better, because we need Vujacic out there to get Kobe some rest.
Luke Walton, D- Walton just continues to frustrate, yet Jackson continues to play him heavy minutes. According to the box score he had 4 turnovers, but it seemed like so much more. Unless he is out there with scorers our offense becomes horribly stagnant, and his defense is porous at best. I'm not so sure that Luke should be a major part of the rotation
Andrew Bynum, F This might have been his worst game yet since returning from injury. His stat sheet was full of a bunch of zeros sans his 3 fouls. Some people are calling for Mbenga to replace him, but I don't think that this is the solution. Andrew just needs to commit himself to the defensive end, as he does not look comfortable on the floor right now.
Josh Powell, C The only reason he was in there was in there was because of the play of Bynum and the injury to Odom, so I don't really have much to say about him.
Phil Jackson, F In case you couldn't tell from my comments above, I feel that PJ managed this game horribly and that the majority of the blame for this loss falls on him. For starters, it is his responsibility to make sure that the team does not come out flat. Second, if a rotation isn't working, it is up to him to find one that does and stick with it, which he did not. Look above. An 11-man rotation is wayyy to long. This needs to be trimmed to 8 or 9. Also, splitting the point guard time evenly between DF, JF, and UPS just does not work. No one can get in a rhythm with only 15-20 minutes a game. Improvement from this game starts with the coach.
This loss does not make me worried about whether the Lakers will win the series, because I still think that we will. What worries me however, is the lack of focus and passion, and the throwing in of the towel that was eerily similar to Boston Game 6. These were things that the Lakers were supposed to have put behind them, but clearly they have not.
Also, losing Yao has made this Rockets team extremely dangerous. As Battier said:
"These are free shots. If we throw them up and they don't go in and we lose, then so what."
Because the Rockets have nothing to lose, the Lakers will need to come out focused and absolutely on top of their game for the rest of the series. As far as the Rockets are concerned, the have already won by taking this game in dominating fashion when nobody thought that they would.
The Lakers did not lose the series today, but they certainly did not do themselves any favors by prolonging it and placing the Boston doubt in everyone's heads yet again. Look for a big Game 5 from Kobe. Battier certainly is.
Go Purple & Gold!