For the second time in two road games, the Los Angeles Lakers barely put up a fight and were easily vanquished. This can be forgiven and forgotten on the second night of a back-to-back against a Golden State Warriors team that looks the part of a very good contending team, but against the Dallas Mavericks, a team whose aspirations aren't much higher than the Lakers themselves, last night's contest served as a stark reality check regarding what we can and can not expect from this team on a nightly basis, especially on the road.
Nick Young - Since losing his starting spot to Xavier Henry, Swaggy P got his swag back. He was about 90% of what was good about the Lakers last night. He was the team's leading scorer with 21 points, and he only needed 12 shots to get there. You can't expect Young to be efficient very often, so it was kind of a shame to see the Lakers waste his excellent game so dramatically. But hey, watching the Lakers lose big while Swaggy P is knocking down shots is not the worst thing in the world. At least we were entertained.
Jordan Hill starting the 2nd half - Jordan Hill must be one confused man. Hill has spent what little portion of the season he has had on the court being absolutely dominant, according to his per minute averages. He's grabbed an insane percentage of the rebounds available and scored well on limited attempts. And the reward for his fine efforts has been an inconsistent place in the rotation, struggling to get minutes behind Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman. Last night, Hill had his worst single dose of playing time of the season in the first half, picking up just two rebounds and two points in six minutes of first half burn, and getting beat on the boards repeatedly by Dejuan Blair. So, of course, this is the game in which Coach D'Antoni decided to run Hill out there as part of the second half starting lineup. Still, anything that involves less playing time for Shawne Williams is a net positive in my book.
Bench Scoring - Once again, the bench unit topped the 70 point mark. Of course, this might be because the contest was never in doubt in the second half, leading to an extra dose of garbage time for which the starters do not normally play a role. But whatever the reason, the bench did at least prove that they will not be completely worthless in road contests. The bench consists mostly of role players, and role players, especially young ones, tend to thrive at home and suffer on the road. If the bench can score well on the road too, the Lakers might be alright once the starters get their act together. Speaking of which ....
The starters - I don't know that I can remember a single more pathetic, more impotent performance than the starting unit provided for the Lakers last night. Monta Ellis, a shooting guard who has never been known for efficient basketball, scored 30 points on 14 shots in 31 minutes on the court. Why is this important in relation to the Lakers starting unit? Because the Lakers starting five, including two Hall of Famers, could barely match the feats of just one Mavericks starter. The starting five combined for 32 points on 34 shots in 104 total minutes on the court, and Monta had those starters beat entirely on his own until some late garbage time scoring put the unit slightly ahead. Woof.
The defense - Giving up 120 points in a game is bad. Giving up 120 points in a game in which your opponent does not score in the final six minutes of the contest is legendarily awful. The Mavericks did score in the final minute to complete their tally of 123, but they had 120 with 5:45 left to go in the game, and that's a total that the Lakers just can not expect to match. The culprit last night was an aggressive double teaming and trapping defense which led to the Lakers being woefully out of position. I can respect the coaching staff's desire to sew chaos with random and unnecessary double teaming, but it became clear early on that Dallas wasn't interested in playing along. They just laughed at the Lakers efforts, made a couple passes, and then drained their wide open outside shot.
The road - In two road games so far, the Lakers have lost by an average of 25 points, and to be honest, the final scores of both of those games flattered the Lakers more than their opponents. As mentioned above, it is not unusual for teams to play better at home than they do on the road, especially young teams (and the Lakers, or at least the bench portion of the Lakers, are young). But this is ridiculous. And with Houston up next on the horizon, things might get much worse before they get better. The Lakers might need to 42-0 at home just to reach .500, and sadly, that ship has already sailed.