Another Christmas Catastrophe: Lakers Collapse In Crunch Time

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Something tells me that our first taste of the Lakers this season could be a small sample size of what to expect. The highly anticipated Christmas unveiling kept in step with what the last three weeks have been for the Lake Show – a rollercoaster.

With reigning MVP Derrick Rose bringing the Bulls to L.A. for the holiday you already knew it was going to be a battle. Early on the Lakers brought the fight to Chicago though. Kobe Bryant quickly showed that he wasn’t downplaying his wrist injury. Oh, no doubt he is going at it with a bum hand but it truly didn’t slow Kobe’s role in any way.

Bryant was every bit the aggressive and assertive apex predator that usually stalks basketball courts across the country this time of year. Up until midway through the second quarter it was Mike Brown’s team that set the tone.

Then D-Rose and the Bulls got it going.

Some sloppy play was expected to be seen around the NBA for the first couple weeks but that does not excuse the Lakers and their careless turnovers. Giving Rose more touches in transition is like giving Charlie Sheen an invitation to a party with an open bar. Things are going to get out of hand in a hurry.

Before you could blink the Bull ran the Lakers into the locker room with a 7-point lead thanks to 34 second quarter points.

After the half you could really see Coach Brown’s defensive philosophy coming into focus. With more time the Lakers have a chance to be a solid defensive team. The Bulls didn’t find nearly as many opportunities to run thanks to better ball security and rebounding.

Pau Gasol cleaned the glass with a solid effort that netted 8 boards. However it was the combined effort of Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy off the pine that helped compensate for the lack of Andrew Bynum. McRoberts and Murphy have barely been Lakers for a week but both know their way around a backboard. The two newest members of the frontline posted a combined 13 points and 16 boards.

But it was L.A.’s communication, contesting of shots and general activity on the defensive end that eventually opened the game up. Well…that and Chicago looking like Tim Tebow in an accuracy contest. The Bulls couldn’t buy a bucket scoring just 12 in third and were pretty hapless through most of the fourth.

Eventually the Lakers opened a double digit lead. Perhaps they got too relaxed with a lead late. Maybe it was just a case of Chicago wanting it more.

Whatever the case, the Lakers were left standing in the blocks once crunch time hit.

Chicago started to rediscover their shooting touch while also re-committing to defense. That trademark Thibodeau pressure picked up forcing the Lakers to revert to committing turnovers.

Still, you felt the game was L.A.’s to lose after Kobe hit a clutch, fall-away shot off a sick spin move. That might have been great for entertainment purposes because it didn’t faze Chicago at all.

The Bulls kept badgering the Lakers as Kobe committed a couple costly turnovers himself while McRoberts and Pau missed four key free throws. One of Bryant’s blunders help to setup Rose making an improbable one-hand floater over Gasol to seal the deal.

Just as the first half ended so too did the game. If you went down for your popcorn you might have missed the Bulls icing the Lakers late in an 88-87 Christmas affair.

Unfortunately we’ve become used to seeing the Lakers lose on this hallowed holiday. It has almost become tradition. However there are plenty of positives.

Coach Brown got a solid effort out of his team. While the offensive execution was mostly sloppy the ball moved and most of Bryant’s game-high 28 points came in the flow of the game.

Steve Blake has definitely found his confidence that went missing a year ago. He didn’t hesitate to shoot leading the bench with 12 points in 24 minutes.

Speaking of confident, rookie Andrew Goudelock is showing what he can bring to the table. Goudelock’s best asset could be very valuable to a team looking for shooters. Jason Kapono got no burn while the rookie from College of Charleston looked solid at point draining two of his three shots from deep.

As for some of those new roles the guys are learning. Some looked good while others are still mixed.

Devin Ebanks proved Coach Brown (and this blog) correct in his decision to give the second year man the start. Ebanks didn’t pass up open looks, hustled and played some nice defense as well.

As for the man he replaced in the starting five…you know…Metta something or another. Well, I hope World Peace didn’t leave his game with Ron Artest. There were some moments that made you think this experiment could work. Others when he looked just as lost as his time in Phil’s triangle.

As disappointing as today was there is no time to dwell on it. Tomorrow it’s up to Sacramento for the NorCal rivalry’s first edition of this season and then back home for Utah on Tuesday.

With this schedule the games are going to pile up fast which makes team trends crucial. Let’s hope today’s meltdown late isn’t a sign of things to come. There simply isn’t enough time for Brown and his staff to correct this issue. Everything will have to be done on the fly including Mitch Kupchak’s job.

GM Mitch has to be relieved to see his roster put forth a solid effort but he can’t be convinced that this is a championship caliber team as is. Something will have to be done to upgrade the prospects of the Lakers’ title chances. Otherwise we could be seeing a season filled with disappointing moments just like today.

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Tags: Andrew Bynum Andrew Goudelock Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose Devin Ebanks Josh Mcroberts Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Mike Brown Mitch Kupchak Pau Gasol Ron Artest Steve Blake Tom Thibodeau Troy Murphy

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