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Lakers Run Worst Endgame Offensive Set in History, Lose to Denver

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Phil Jackson should've called the timeout. Why he didn't, with the Lakers down two to the Denver Nuggets with 12 seconds to play, I have no idea. If Kobe Bryant had been in the game, that's one thing. In that situation, you know where your shot is coming from. The guys on the floor know their roles. But Kobe sat out tonight - for reasons that, depended on whom you asked, ranged mysteriously from fatigue to swelling in his right knee, though I personally suspect he didn't respond quickly enough to Brian Shaw's Facebook friend request - so the normal endgame playbook was unavailable. You have to call the timeout, to set up a play and to make sure everyone understands what their assignments are. If you don't, you might end up with a farcically inept offensive possession, something with essentially no hope of success.

Like, oh I don't know, an isolation set for Derek Fisher. Let's be clear about this: never at any point this season did I expect to type the words an isolation set for Derek Fisher. That's not an offensive play that should be run by the Lakers under any circumstances. It's not an offensive play that should exist in theory or practice. It's not really an offensive play, period, in that it doesn't offer a more than de minimus expectation of producing any points. It's Derek Fisher. He has trouble scoring when there's no one guarding him and he has four seconds to line up a wide-open jumper. When he has an actual, athletic defender on him, like, say, Carmelo Anthony? And he's forced to create his own shot - I really can't believe I'm typing this - off the dribble? At some point you cross the line from the sport of basketball into science fiction, or avant-garde surrealist theater.

Needless to say, Fisher's shot did not pass through the net for a dramatic, game-winning finish. Carmelo blocked it. Of course he blocked it. The Lakers lost, 96 to 98, and please, let's not speak of moral victories. Yes, the game was closer than expected, but I don't recall any of us complaining about "moral losses" when the Lakers eked out narrow wins over the Grizzlies and Bobcats. The Lakers have now lost five of their last seven games. This was not a meaningless L. They don't have home-court advantage in the West wrapped up, and although they're likely to secure it soon, is it really something they can take for granted? The way they've been playing the last couple of weeks, is there any game left on the schedule they're not capable of losing? I'm beyond fed up with the excuses that are made for this team. They need to start putting wins on the board. Unless they start playing substantially better, they're 100% capable of losing a first-round series.

Beyond the grotesquely incompetent endgame execution, there were two big factors in tonight's loss. One was the lack of efficient offense from anyone except Pau Gasol and Ron Artest. Here's how their production compared to that of their teammates. ("Shot Attempts" in this table includes two-shot trips to the free-throw line.)

Players

Shot Attempts

Points Per Shot Attempt

Gasol   and Artest

36

1.33

Everyone Else

61

0.98

For the game the Lakers scored 1.10 points per possession - a strong mark, especially given the absence of Kobe and Andrew Bynum. A lot of the offense, though, resulted from offensive rebounding, as the Lakers took advantage of Kenyon Martin's absence. Better shooting from the Laker guards, who combined for 37 points on atrocious 38% True Shooting, would have secured the win.

On defense the Lakers' problem, as it so often is against Denver, was in finding outside shooters. The Nuggets hit 11 of 25 threes, many coming when Laker defenders wandered away to double the likes of Malik Allen. It's appalling that this is still an issue 78 games into the season.

The Lakers are now 55-23, 3½ games ahead of Denver in the West and tied with Orlando for the NBA's second-best record. They fly to Minneapolis tonight to face the Timberwolves tomorrow, a game in which Phil does not expect Kobe to play. Meanwhile, somewhere in Los Angeles tonight, Jerry Buss sits and wonders, not without justification, how big a pay cut he'll ask Phil to take this offseason.

 

Poss.

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

3FGA/FGA

2PT%

3PT%

EFG

TS%

OReb Rate

DReb Rate

PPP

L.A.

87

13

0.40

85

0.26

36

38

41

50

37

79

1.10

Den.

89

11

0.36

68

0.32

43

44

51

54

21

63

1.10

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