And that is why you don't play two immobile centers at once. The Kaman-Gasol starters experiment that many were clamoring for throughout the year took place tonight, and led to a ton of predictable problems. For one, the supposed "rim protection" that one would imagine two seven footers could provide did not exist tonight, with the Blazers getting numerous easy dunks throughout the night. The two behemoths additionally looked terrified to venture out of the paint, leading to tons of open jumpers that the Blazers began to make as they pulled away in the second half. This fear of leaving the paint was not without good reason, however, as the majority of the time this either led to fouls (with the Blazers shooting 19-21 on free throws) or blow-bys for layups or dunks. Additionally, the transition defense was abysmal, a common theme this season, but exacerbated by the slowness of the front court on this night.
On offense, the supposed strength of this pairing, it was spacing death to play the two alongside each other, leading to turnovers to take advantage of the aforementioned awful transition defense. The two did not even shoot efficiently, with Gasol a forgivable 4-9 coming off of vertigo, but Kaman an atrocious 6-16 with zero free throws drawn. His offensive game is like the opposite of an ad for Viagra at this point, because he has no problems or conscience about getting it up. Gasol at least managed to pick up 7 assists, but even that was somewhat offset by his 3 turnovers. The overall tire-fire of this combination led to every single starter having a negative +/-, while every bench player had a positive one. Plus-Minus obviously has its flaws, but in this case it is somewhat telling. Just overall an awful combination that nonetheless should feel free to play together more in order to increase the Lakers' lottery odds.
Moving on to some positives from this game, SWAGGY-P! Nick Young came off the bench on fire, hitting his first 8 shots to contribute to the Lakers getting within two by the end of the first half. Halftime did not cool him down at all either, as he finished with 40 points (the second 40-point game by a Lakers player this season) on 15-26 shooting from the floor with 4-5 free throws and 6-13 on threes. Steve Nash was the other plus for Los Angeles, doling out 7 dimes in his first 10 minutes replacing Kendall Marshall in the first half to help keep the overmatched Lakers competitive. As an extra plus, he managed to go a whole half playing against Lillard this time without seriously injuring himself enough to have to leave the game. Baby steps, people.
Portland obviously got its fair share of plus performances in victory, with its two stars in Lamarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard leading the way with 31 and 34 points respectively. Aldridge went 1-5 to start the first quarter, but started to hit his jumpers and went 11-15 the rest of the way. Lillard embarrassed Lakers defenders all game, getting into the paint at will and earning 9 free throws in the process, hitting them all. When he decided he didn't feel like practicing his layups, he rained 5 of 10 threes on the Lakers just for a change of pace.
Overall, despite the negativity of the Gasol-Kaman pairing (of which the Kave Man made the understatement of the century in saying after the game "I didn't think it went that well, to be honest." At least he's honest), this was an enjoyable loss, with the fun of seeing Swaggy swag out and Nash tease us with what we thought the Lakers were getting that fateful July 4th almost 2 years ago. Such silver linings will have to suffice until next season. Only 8 more games to endure until we can put this season behind us.