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Lakers 99, Cavaliers 104: What In The Hell

Hoooo boy. This should make for a fun All-Star weekend. If the Lakers resented having to field questions from the media after their loss in Charlotte Monday night, they're going to love the next five days, when the NBA press corps will be gathered as one with nothing better to do than pose the following queries approximately nine million times each:

  • "So... Lakers. You just lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Who are terrible in, like, a historic way. What's up with that?"
  • "Three-game losing streak, huh? That's not good. Do you think the front office should make some moves before the trade deadline?"
  • "Carmelo? Carmelo? Carmelo? What about Carmelo?"
  • "Wait, you lost to the Cavs? The team that lost 26 straight? LOL WUT?!"

Yeah, this is going to get ugly. I'm not sure where All-Star weekend is taking place this year, but hopefully it's someplace far away so the team can stay out of the spotlight. Let me just look that up to confirm.... oh. Ohhhhhh.

Putting tonight's loss in perspective requires more words than have been invented in the English language. If, rather than playing a game of basketball tonight, the Lakers had instead broken into the homes of every one of their fans and taken a huge dump on our living room floors, we'd all have had a more enjoyable evening. If there were a UN Tribunal for Crimes Against Basketball, nearly every person on the Lakers payroll would be locked up and awaiting trial in The Hague. It's tempting to say the season has hit rock bottom, but you know, I'm done underestimating the ability of this team to plumb new depths of embarrassment.

We're going to hear about this loss all season long, and possibly further. As well we should. If the Celtics or Heat had faceplanted this egregiously, we'd never stop reminding their fans of it, so there's no real option here other than to endure all the mockery hurled our way. Nothing but another championship will erase this stain.

So what went wrong tonight? Tempting though it is to say "everything" and leave it at that, I'm not letting us off the hook that easily. It's only right that we dig into the disgusting details. Hold your noses and let's get this over with.

1. Turnovers and transition defense. The Lakers turned the rock over 19 times. I mean, really. Here's how these TO's went down.



Bad Pass


Lost Ball


Offensive Foul


Offensive Goaltending


Three Seconds


The first two categories were the most damaging, as they allowed Cleveland to get out and score in transition. The champs did an unbelievably poor job of changing ends quickly, as a result of which the Cavs were able rack up easy points on the fast break. Ramon Sessions, who had a fantastic night, pushed the ball upcourt relentlessly and destroyed a flat-footed Laker D.

2. Bad shooting in the paint. Pau Gasol played really well, scoring 30 points and collecting 20 rebounds. His front court mates Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom played the opposite of really well. They combined to shoot 4 for 18, missing loads of easy looks near the rim. And it's not like they were having to shoot over Mark Eaton. For most of the game, the Cavs played Antawn Jamison and J.J. Hickson (both 6-foot-9) as their, uh, "bigs."

3. A disastrous night for Kobe Bryant. Kobe picked up two personal fouls in the first quarter, got tee'd up for stupidly arguing a call on which he rather obviously fouled Jamison, then when he reentered the game in the second quarter proceeded to play heinously the rest of the way. He took 24 shots to score 17 points, committed seven turnovers and didn't get to the free-throw line once. Yikes.

4. Crap defensive rebounding. The Cavs aren't what you would call a good offensive-rebounding team. They're not what you would call a good anything, but they're really not good on the offensive glass. For the season they collect about 23% of their own misses, which ranks 29th in the NBA. Did that stop them from piling up second-chance points on the Lakers? Gee what do you think.

In the first half tonight, the Cavs rebounded 33% of their misses and scored 10 second-chance points. Eight of those second-chance points followed offensive boards from Hickson or Jamison. Let me take this opportunity to remind you that these guys are both 6-foot-9.

5. All-encompassing defensive breakdowns in the fourth quarter. For most of the game, the Cavs struggled to score in their halfcourt sets. Their points, as observed, were coming in transition or on the offensive glass. But in the fourth period, the Lakers got blasted apart by Sessions running simple high pick-and-roll sets, one after the next. The perimeter guys couldn't stop dribble penetration. The bigs couldn't keep track of the roll men or rotate quickly enough. The Cavs thus rang up 1.20 points per possession in the fourth, their best offensive quarter of the game, to keep the Lakers' pathetic "comeback attempt" at bay.

Amid this grotesque circus of failure, I should note that Derek Fisher played by far his best game of the year. He scored 19 points on 12 shots, and I would've bet any amount of money you'd care to specify that he'd never put up those numbers this year. Well done, Fish. Sorry that it went to waste.

What does all this mean in the big scheme of the Lakers' season? Man, I'm not even going to attempt to answer that. In June, another title could make us pretty much forget what happened tonight. Or in May, we could say to ourselves, "There were signs all along that this team just didn't have it. I mean, look at what happened in Cleveland." I'm not going to pretend I know how any of this will turn out.

For now: bad times.











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Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.

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