For months, just about every analysis of the Los Angeles Lakers provided in this space had some mention of the potentially disastrous defense this team was going to put together. After all, last year's team was awful defensively, and the Lakers lost their two best defensive players from that awful team, so further descent into the pits of defensive hell seemed imminent. So far this season, it hasn't happened that way at all. As Walter pointed out yesterday, prior to last night's game, the Lakers were ranked 12th in defensive efficiency.
Of course ...
The Defense - ... last night's game will put a dent in that ranking. For the first time in a while, the Lakers defense was simply awful. Nene got whatever shot he wanted, and the shot he wanted was a dunk after taking one step and not dribbling. The Lakers rotations were poor throughout, and especially down the stretch, the Lakers simply had no answer for John Wall and his ever increasing acceleration. But then, the defense was aided in its awfulness by ...
The Turnovers - Last night wasn't the Lakers worst game, statistically at least, taking care of the ball, but I can't think of an evening in which the Lakers made so many egregious mistakes. There must have been 5-6 lame duck cross court passes intercepted, and every single one of them punished the Lakers with easy points for their opposition. The Wizards are a fast, young group, and they were always going to try to run the Lakers out of the building on the fast break. That's what made the Lakers' inability to take care of the ball so debilitating and demoralizing.
"360" dunks - Nobody on the team was individually poor enough to merit the category (because everybody chipped in to the issues which lost the Lakers the game, so instead we turn out attentions to one of my personal pet peeves: the 360 dunk. I'm not some kind of basketball miser or anything, but I've always been annoyed by the fact that pretty much every 360 dunk I've ever seen isn't actually a 360. Take last night's addition to the pantheon by one John Wall:
That's a beautiful, majestic, acrobatic dunk by one of the league's premier athletes. Despite it coming against my team, I was happy to have witnessed it. But that's not a 360. It's a 270 at best. Mathematics is a cold and unforgiving mistress, and she has been allowing folks to claim the 360 for lesser spinning dunks. In fact, I don't know that I've ever actually seen a true 360 dunk, because every single one I've seen looked an awful lot like John Wall's effort. And there's nothing wrong with that ... nothing except it's incorrect label.
Jordan Farmar - Farmar once again proved that when he's on, he's one of the two or three best active players on the team right now, and he was very much on last night. A team high 22 points on 9-11 shooting, Farmar was hitting from the outside, in traffic, and he also doled out 8 assists with just one turnover. On a night in which the rest of his team was pretty profligate, Farmar kept the ball safe and going through the net.
Wesley Johnson - Besides providing the Lakers highlight of the night with an outright rejection of a hook shot by a player who has at least five inches on our man, Wes provided pretty much the absolute best case scenario for his game. He played good defense, and he hit his three pointers. Many a player has made a great deal of money combining those two exact skill sets, and Wes is starting to look like he might be able to turn the corner and become the 3 and D player he was always meant to be.
Three point shooting - The team's one true strength, the Lakers were almost able to pull out a victory against the Wizards despite playing awful defense and turning the ball over 16 times. They did so by shooting lights out as a team from three point range, going 13-28. 14-28 would have been enough to make the game interesting, as Nick Young missed the Lakers last three point attempt to tie the game with 15 seconds left, but we can't be that choosy. Shooting this well will be good enough to win the Lakers some games if the team can clean up the aspects of last night's performance which really hurt them.