Forget all that talk about the Lakers’ offense being under construction. Every aspect of the team is in need of renovation.
The last three games have featured some truly forgettable offense on the Lakers’ behalf. For the first three quarters against the Indiana Pacers Mike Brown’s team looked like they suddenly remembered how to put the ball in the hole.
Problem was that focus on offense brought on a total lack of defense. L.A. jumped out quickly on Indiana with a strong first quarter on both ends. Then the wheels came off.
More of the same problems were surfacing as Darren Collison walked into the key then hit open Pacers who buried good looks all night. On the night the Pacers shot 46% from the field including a sickening 55% from deep.
Unfortunately for Coach Brown his team’s defensive collapse wouldn’t be the worst of his problems. After three quarters of effective offense the Lakers reverted to their usual form. More of the stand-around-and-watch Kobe Bryant operate technique was employed. More of those costly turnovers and wasted possessions surfaced. Those are all the symptoms that ultimately amount in, you guessed it, another fourth quarter collapse.
How a veteran team like the Lakers continues to be so shaken in the clutch is beyond concerning. It’s depressing.
How the Lakers can keep losing despite strong showings by Kobe is equally troubling.
Bryant finally got some of those reduced minutes Brown has been promising. 33 points in 35 minutes was far from an off-night however. These days it’s what is necessary just to keep these Laker games interesting.
What would help Kobe is for another Laker to step up and contribute on offense. Tonight Matt Barnes answered that call with 14 points coming from pure activity. Barnes didn’t shoot well but attacked the hoop, got to the line and filled the lane when the Lake Show got out in transition.
But keeping with the theme of the night, as Barnes rose Pau Gasol sank.
There is just too much give and take with this team. Pau’s production continues to dip as he falls further down Coach Brown’s offensive wormhole. Gasol keeps settling for jumpers and rarely catches the ball with his back to the hoop these days. 8 points on 4 of 12 shooting is a line you’d never see associated with Pau. Of course you also wouldn’t expect Gasol to dish out 10 dimes. This kind of awkward production is no doubt a result of Gasol trying to find his place in the offense. To be sure he dropped some sick dimes that led to buckets but he’s got to get his own on a night like this.
Hopefully the offensive rhythm will come in due time. However there is no timetable on playing with a sense of urgency.
Where is the passion? Where is the commitment to playing consistently on both ends of the court?
Just as the Lakers show improved offense, they relax on defense. This game showed every shortcoming that plagues this team. There is a general complacency that settled in after the Lakers had a double-digit lead in the first quarter. That complacency is far too present this early in the season.
What the Lakers can learn from how the Pacers played tonight is that there is no substitution for effort. Indiana worked hard on every possession. From an offensive stand point the Pacers have a balance the Lakers can only dream of. 6 Pacers in double figures and not one over 18 points as the Lakers picked their poison each time down the court on defense.
Coach Brown is already calling for extended practices. The urgency necessary to win these games isn’t sinking it with some desperate tactics early. Figuring out the offense was a big problem but suddenly remaining focused on defense must be priority as well.
What is truly troubling is that even if this team had championship talent they still wouldn’t be giving a championship effort. There is far too much contentment on the court and not nearly enough commitment. Changes must be made. With the way things are going the Lakers will be fighting just to make the playoffs, forget about making any kind of a deep run.
A little effort goes a long way. Tonight the Pacers gave the effort necessary to win while the Lakers gave an effort necessary to keep it interesting. Interesting might make for good ratings but winning makes for better headlines. Coach Brown’s schemes still need time to take shape but there is no excuse for not giving it your all.