I promise you, at some point this year I’ll begin one of these recap posts without prefacing the fact that this is a feeling out process for the Lakers. Unfortunately that won’t begin tonight.
The good news is the Lakers notched another W by beating the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies in an uneven contest.
The bad news is this one should have been over at halftime. I say should have because the Grizzlies really didn’t do anything all that well tonight except sprint to easy buckets after the Lake Show turned it over an astounding 27 times.
Let that marinate for a minute…
No NBA team should win with a stat like that. Unless that NBA team features the likes of Kobe Bryant and their opponent is without an All-Star like Zach Randolph. Fortunately for the Lakers that his exactly how the cards were dealt tonight.
No Z-Bo meant Marc Gasol was the lone low post presence for Memphis. Catching yet another break, the Lakers dodged that bullet as the younger Gasol had a horrible night missing all 9 of his shot attempts.
The older Gasol, that would be Pau, outplayed his brother like the first time those two must have gone one-on-one some years ago in Spain. Pau put forth his best effort of the season. Pau’s 13 and 15 were actually highlighted by one of his 4 dimes. On a break in the first half Pau flipped a sick behind the back pass to Andrew Bynum. To quote Stu Lantz, “Pau is a point guard trapped in a center’s body.”
While that was Pau’s best moment of the night, it was Kobe that had the highlight of the game.
Kobe threw down 2 of his game-high 26 on a vintage Mamba move. Bryant went baseline, took off on one side of the key, came under the hoop and threw it down on the other side. Who said he’s lost a step?
That was just one of many amazing buckets Bryant gave the Grizzlies. Though he fell short of scoring 30 for a 4th game in a row, Kobe killed it all night long. His 11 of 22 shooting will get the headline but Bryant’s 9 dimes were the real story. 6 of those assists came in a first half in which every Laker was involved.
Speaking of killing it, Matt Barnes is in straight assassin mode. Barnes has firmly planted his feet in the starting five. He followed his best game of the season by upping the ante with a double-double. Matt’s 15 and 10 were the result of his boundless energy. This is the active and aggressive Barnes we all thought we’d see when he first became a Laker.
Barnes’ recent outburst is marginalizing Metta World Peace more and more. After a season low 9 minutes against the Warriors, Mike Brown gave his “leader of the second unit” only 12 minutes of burn tonight. The end is nigh for Metta’s Laker days at this rate.
Yes, in the end a win is a win but there is no way the Lakers can expect to win on the regular with efforts like these.
Those 27 turnovers were symptomatic of the problems that still plague this sloppy offense. After dropping 56 in the first half the lights went out on the Lakers’ offense. The second half was hard to digest with the 4th quarter being downright inedible.
The Lake Show only hung 12 on the board in the 4th and it took them nearly half the quarter to even find the bottom of the net.
Also disturbing is how athletic squads like Memphis get out so easily in transition. If you were only watching passively you might have thought Rudy Gay was auditioning for the dunk contest. He was at the rim, all by himself, more often than not.
At least the Lakers are taking care of the teams you’d expect them to beat. After last year Memphis isn’t sneaking up on anybody. Still, without their best player this is the outcome you’d put your money on. A year ago this is exactly the type of contest the Lakers wouldn’t even show up for. Another indication that Coach Brown’s message is getting through.
Hopefully his message on taking care of the rock will also sink in. Even though this schedule is already taking its toll there is no excuse for such sloppy play on offense.
What is truly encouraging is that the players are starting to get comfortable in the offense as evident by Steve Blake’s improved play. In time all these issues will be resolved. I have confidence in that after seeing the last two games. They might have been fugly but they both ended with the Lakers on top. The focus is there, the execution just needs to improve.