The McTen: Another late-game collapse
January, 1, 2012
By Dave McMenamin
Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers' 99-90 road loss against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday ...
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
The Lakers were ahead of the Chicago Bulls by 11 with 3:44 remaining in the season opener, before the Bulls finished with a 17-5 run to end it.
The Lakers were down by just two to the Sacramento Kings with 4:24 remaining before the Kings ended the game with an 11-4 spurt.
And so, New Year's Day felt a little like the movie "Groundhog Day" as the Lakers once again stumbled down the stretch.
"To close out games, you need to be able to execute and that’s something we’re struggling with right now to be consistent at doing, is executing and getting our guys that we want to have the basketball at certain times at certain spots where they can be most effective," said Lakers co-captain Derek Fisher.
The Lakers were outscored 27-19 in the fourth quarter, allowing Denver to shoot 10-for-17 (58.8 percent), including giving up a 7-0 edge to the Nugget in fastbreak points.
"To win close games, in particular close games on the road, No. 1, you can’t play from behind the entire time, but No. 2, you have to be able to execute down the stretch and we weren’t able to do that which led to some of the runouts that [Danilo] Gallinari got out there at the end," Fisher said.
Pau Gasol could only shake his head at Los Angeles' 3-3 record to start the season.
"Those three losses were three games that we could have had. It’s very unfortunate when you let a team off the hook like we have in these three losses," Gasol said. "With this team and the talent that we have, we should have a little bit better record than we do now … Hopefully we’ll finish games off better than we have."
It's still bothering him.
"I’m fighting through it," Gasol said. "I’m used to it now. You get used to it. It’s not getting worse. That’s a plus, that’s a positive. As long as it’s not getting worse, I’ll be happy with it, I guess. It is what it is."
Gasol continues to wear a soft compression sleeve on the shoulder when he plays, but said there is still so much discomfort that he cannot sleep in certain positions without feeling pain.
"You have to make sure you get the rest necessary when we’re not playing, but it’s hard because coach needs us to be on the floor and execute and go through some stuff, so you just got to go through it and suck it up and just hope that one day it gets better somehow," Gasol said.
Bynum did not blame Bryant, however, and took responsibility for his own performance.
"I put the onus on me on that, being a little tired and not getting down the court," Bynum said.
Read the rest of the story for Mike Brown's and Gasol's reactions to Bryant's tough shooting night as well.
According to ESPN Stats & Information's Alvin Anol, Bryant has missed 22 shots or more 17 times in his 16-year career. His most recent egregious shooting night occurred on Jan. 8, 2010 against the Portland Trail Blazers when he missed 23 shots, going 14-for-37 and finishing with 32 points in the 107-98 road loss.
Bryant has missed 25 shots or more twice in his career. He missed 25 against the Houston Rockets at home on March 30, 2007 and he missed 30 shots (thirty!) against the Boston Celtics on Nov. 7, 2002.
Bryant left the arena after the game without speaking to reporters.
"I just feel confident out there and I’m just going out there as far as shots go, being aggressive," Blake said before the game. "I’m definitely more aggressive than last year."
Blake is averaging 8.3 points on 8.2 shot attempts through the first six games. Last season he averaged 4.0 points on 3.9 shot attempts.
"He can shoot the ball very well and he shot the ball very well for us tonight," Brown said. "He hit some big shots to get us back in it so I applaud him. He’s just another weapon that we have out on the floor."
The Lakers finished the game going 4-for-23 from 3 as a team (17.4 percent). Los Angeles, as a team, is shooting just 26-for-111 (23.4 percent) on the season.
"You can’t tell shooters to stop shooting because part of it is a confidence thing," Brown said before the game. "You just keep shooting it if it’s open. If it’s not open, hey, let’s swing the ball and get a better shot if the shot clock warrants it. But, keep shooting. We got great shooters."
Added Blake: "We got to be more consistent, but at the same time our teammates are getting us looks and we’re creating for each other and we just got to knock them down. It’s as simple as that ... If you’re open, shoot the ball. If you’re open, for the most part, and that’s part of your game then you have to shoot it."
"It is just tough to play here," said Bynum, who played 29 minutes. "I'll be better later in the year."
Brown did not want to use the altitude as an excuse, however.
When asked before the game if the thin air would be a problem, Brown said: "Only for heavy guys like me. Not for high-end athletes, no."
"It’s hard," Gasol said of the stretch of games. "It’s just been really hard, very demanding. It’s hard to go through, but I think we’ve been mentally and physically pretty strong about it and made a big effort because we’ve been putting hours in when we’re not playing into our offense, our defense, our principles and stuff since it’s such a new system for us. So, it’s been pretty demanding."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLA.com. Follow him on Twitter.