The Masked Mamba era is over. So too is the Lakers’ three-game winning streak on the road. One streak that still has legs is L.A.’s two game slide against short handed teams.
I’d call tonight’s 107-104 loss to the Rockets inexplicable but these meltdowns are all too common for Mike Brown’s bunch. Once again the Lakers lost a double-digit lead, coughing up a fourth quarter advantage after losing Andrew Bynum to ejection.
With one minute left in the third, Baby Bynum showed his ugly mug, mouthing off to a ref and getting the double-technical toss. On his way off the court Young Bynum gave the fans in the front row high-fives, smiling the whole way. His immature actions aren’t going away anytime soon. Just like Kobe’s jumper doesn’t look like it will be returning in a timely manner.
Bryant is now mask-less. The nose apparently healed enough that he no longer needs to rock the Rip Hamilton. His shot is still nowhere to be found.
What is also missing from this team is the killer instinct necessary to finish off wounded animals like the Rockets. Without a full compliment of their top players you’d have thought Houston would be easy prey. Not when it comes to these Lakers who lose leads and pray for Mamba to bail them out late.
Kobe took game honors with 29 points but his 10 of 27 shooting wasn’t anything to be proud of. It wasn’t until Houston had all the momentum that KB24 found his rhythm. But for the Lakers Kobe’s clutch scoring was too little too late.
The Lakers came out of the gate strong, scoring 40 in the first. It was looking like they were going to crush the Rockets. Problem was they believed that was going to happen without having to try. After the first quarter the offense was inconsistent and the defense irrelevant.
Goran Dragic was getting into the lane with ease, setting the table with 13 assists one of which found Courtney Lee for a big three that made this a one point contest in the fourth. Not that Houston needed the help but the home scoreboard gifted the Rockets an extra point. A seven minute stoppage to correct the error occurred but by then it was obvious who was going to win this one. Houston ripped off a 13-0 run to take the lead for good.
This disturbing pattern of blowing leads, letting up late and losing to lesser competition has been around all season for the Lake Show. At this point I think we know just who this team is. They’re incapable of playing a focused 48-minutes against opponents they should be beating with ease.
On the glass is where the Lakers almost always have the advantage. Tonight that was not even close to being the case. Pau Gasol was a complete non-factor in the paint. He dropped an efficient 21 points on 14 shots but pulled down a paltry 4 boards.
Bynum’s absence was sorely missed. L.A. could have used a defensive presence in the paint late. Come to think of it they could have used any type of defensive effort at all. All of a sudden the Lakers’ defense that was so stellar is fading away when they need it most during the playoff push.
Ramon Sessions has brought a spark to this team. No denying that. His 14 and 4 off the bench were impressive. However that spark isn’t catching a blaze.
The Lakers are still a flawed team in the clutch, relying on Kobe to do everything while not putting forth any consistent effort on D. It is a formula they’ve mastered, losing leads then praying for Bryant to bail them out. It’s also a recipe for certain disaster. Much like what we saw in Dallas last season. Here’s hoping we won’t have to see it in Dallas again tomorrow night.