Shooting blanks

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
12:14
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
With about three minutes left in Wednesday's loss to the Mavs at Staples, the Lakers were a shocking 0-16 from beyond the arc. The last time L.A. was shut out from downtown in a playoff game was May of 2001, against Sacramento, a nugget I noted via Twitter.

Almost immediately, Kobe Bryant buried a triple.

Good news, I guess, but quickly the responses came back. "But there goes their perfect game!" lamented "rumdood." Yes, Wednesday night's parade of failure included failing to fail in the most interesting way possible, insofar as disastrous shooting statistics are concerned. In the end, after Ron Artest kicked in with a completely meaningless three of his own with 27 seconds remaining (call it his grand finale before his ejection-prompting iron claw on J.J. Barea), the Lakers finished a robust 2-0f-20 from 3-point range.

(Add that to a miserable 11-of-20 night at the free throw line- pull any of the 18,997 in the crowd at random, and they're likely to do just as well- and the Lakers clearly suffered a horrible shooting night on nearly every level.)

On its face, the 10 percent figure appears fluky, but unfortunately for the Lakers, not as much as it should. Take away Kobe's 5-for-9 in Game 1, and the rest of the team shot (wait for it) 10 percent from beyond the arc. Unusually low, too, but for the Lakers to be struggling from the perimeter over the first two games of the series is not a shock. During the regular season, they were 17th in 3-point percentage, and 26th in long 2's (16-23 feet). Point being, this isn't a new problem.

Normally, the Lakers compensate in large part through excellent play in the paint, but as it's been throughout the playoffs, Pau Gasol was unreliable Wednesday night, to the point the Staples Center crowd booed him during the third quarter. His inability to produce with any sort of consistency only exacerbates the team's shooting woes. If Pau can't command a double on the block- or at least attract a lot of eyes- as he has through his tenure in L.A., the Lakers have more trouble creating space for their shooters, only decreasing the likelihood of converting from outside. If they can't hit from outside, Dallas has little reason to do anything but pack their defense as close to the basket as possible, making it harder for the Lakers to move the ball and play to strengths.

I didn't expect 10 percent bad, but have noted for a while how an inability to hit shots would at some point cost the Lakers. They have a chance to fix it (and will surely be better Friday, almost by default), but anyone counting on a vast improvement could be disappointed. As Phil Jackson said before Game 2, the expectation is teams will shoot their average over the course of a series.

Of course, he was talking about Dallas and how their strong 3-point percentage in Game 1 wasn't an indication the Mavs would bounce the Lakers from the series by bombing from downtown. They'd find their mean. Except the same thing about the Lakers, and L.A.'s season averages aren't that good. Rick Carlisle will happily bet L.A. can't shoot it's way to four wins in five games. Will a move back to normal, or close to it, be enough to swing momentum for the Lakers, given how Dallas also has areas they can point to and expect improvement, particularly heading home? In past years, the Lakers had enough margin for error to get by, despite erratic production from outside.

Now, particularly with Gasol gone haywire and so many other issues also on the table, they clearly don't.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0