When Jordan Farmar said the Lakers did not have an identity perhaps you believed him. Perhaps you thought it was true. But if you study the numbers two things will happen. You mind gets fuzzy with all that abject failure. And you will disagree with Farmar on principle. The Lakers do have an identity, clear as day. They are the bottom feeders of the NBA. A dreadful NBA team. Infighting and already on borrowed NBA time. Without pride and hopeless. But here is a question: how can the Milwaukee Bucks be seven games worse?
So here it was. Another game on the road- the Lakers have lost 20 out of 30- and they were being asked to somehow reverse their recent trend. And against a team who believes in post play and in defense. With Memphis, games are never beauty pageants but rather grind them out ugly games. Which is all the Lakers know these days anyway, ugly basketball, me basketball, surrender basketball. But the game started. And the Lakers were shooting 70% in the first seven minutes, because of Wes Johnson and Jodie Meeks, yet they were still down by seven. Their negligent perimeter defense plus turnovers led to Grizzlies points and their lack of rebounding led to second chance opportunities. The Lakers offense was ineffective, 12 points in the first 8 minutes. But after a Wes Johnson eighteen footer with two minutes left in the quarter the Lakers were only down by 4. But the Grizzlies outscored the Lakers 9-5, aided by a Tony Allen three, and two driving shots at the rim that were free throw attempts for James Johnson and Nick Calathes. The Grizzlies were up by eight at the end of the first quarter. They had 31 points. This for at team that is 28th in scoring.
The Grizzlies are not a complicated offensive team. They move off of screens and cut to the rim. The Lakers are not complicated on defense. They get caught up in screens and stand still. An eight point lead became 12. Without Chris Kaman (sore back) there was no offensive post player. Jordan Hill’s hook shot was off and the Lakers were reduced to the sum of their parts, small ball. For good measure Sacre was thrown in there but he is in over his head with Randolph and Gasol. Thus the Lakers were destroyed (again) in the paint. Marshon Brooks had a lively second quarter, making a three, going to the line and he kept the deficit at a manageable level. But then Sacre gave up ground to Zach Randolph on a 20 footer. He then missed a 7 footer himself. Marc Gasol made a layup. Wes Johnson missed a three. Marc Gasol made an 11 foot shot. The Grizzlies lead would mushroom to 15, then 18. Then 20. The Lakers defense was getting worse, their shot selection was getting worse, their effort was miserable. The Grizzlies scored 34 points in the quarter. They were halfway to 120.
Let’s examine the complainers. Pau Gasol said the team had no discipline. In the first half he had 5 points and 2 rebounds. 2 rebounds. He had as many rebounds as Marshon Brooks and Kendall Marshall, players six inches smaller than he is. Then there was Jordan Farmar who said the team did not have an identity. He had 5 points and 0 assists. He had the same amount of assists as Kobe except Kobe is home in Newport Beach. Other sterling stats at the half: the Grizzlies made 57% of their shots. They made 44% of their threes. On the year they average 34% on three point shots. They are the sixth worst three point shooting team in the NBA except for when the Lakers come to town. Hallelujah!! All playoff teams are circling that date on the calendar.
Another question: Wouldn’t it be a good idea for the Lakers and Bucks to have a three game playoff series for the #1 pick. (This is what happens when you have to watch a dreadful game, your brain starts to break.) What if in the NBA they traded coaches. The Lakers could trade Mike D’antoni for someone’s assistant.
The third quarter was no more dreadful than the previous two quarters. The Lakers couldn’t do much. The Grizzlies stopped playing hard, why exert themselves when they didn’t have to. Pau Gasol had his single highlight, a fadeaway shot over his brother as if they were in their driveway. Otherwise I kept waiting for the Lakers to trade him halfway through the second half and then I remembered you can’t do that. It is too late anyway. But too late for a buyout? What if D’antoni started an all guard lineup: Marshall, Meeks, Bazemore, Brooks and Farmar. (More brain breakage.)
How can you not like Jodie Meeks? He is not the most talented but he plays every possession like he is playing for his life. He is the only player who does not quit on his game and himself. Late in the third Meeks and the Lakers kept plugging away and the lead was 12 with three minutes left. But no defense on the perimeter and Courtney Lee hit a three. Wes Johnson missed a three. But Marshon Brooks hit a three and the lead was ten. Then the Grizzlies turned the ball over. What the…Jodie hit a three. The Lakers were down by 7. It’s funny how the Lakers play defense when they start making shots. Ryan Kelly tied up James Johnson. That would have been a good Vegas prop beat. The Grizzlies scored two baskets in a row, the lead was back to 11. Then 9. The Lakers outscored the Grizzlies by 10 in the quarter, though the Grizzlies were still shooting 51%.
In the 4th the Grizzlies defense hounded shooters. Being swarmed on offense was more than the Lakers could handle. It was just too much chaos. When the Lakers feel stress they jack up three point shots (and miss) because frankly they can’t do much of anything else. The lead was back to double digits with 8 minutes left. The Lakers got the lead to 5 with under a minute but Farmar was beaten off the dribble and Conley hit a floater. So much for identity, how about defending. He made up for it hitting a three with 17 seconds left to cut the lead to 3. But a little too late. Oh well. It was a valiant comeback but like John Wooden always said: there is a difference between activity and achievement. The Lakers lose by 5.