Rapid Reaction: Wizards 106, Lakers 101

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
7:07
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Wow.

Just ... wow.

Typically, these postgame reports are presented with a series of takeaways from the game. After this loss, however, delving into the finer points feels like an exercise in pointlessness. The bottom line is a bunch of bottom-feeders stole a 21-point lead from the Lakers, along with every ounce of optimism and momentum gained from Sunday's win over the Miami Heat. That afternoon, which felt potentially seminal at the time, now feels about 100 years ago.

A recent string of wins and reasonably improved play have sparked some outward displays of confidence from the Lakers, who like to insist they're a good team. Well, good teams put away bad ones, whether on the road or in their own house. The Lakers might not be good on the road, but whatever "home-court advantage" the Wizards had in this game was minimal at best. Andray Blatche gets booed on a regular basis (and he's not the only local player working the town's nerves). The crowd featured a lot of purple and gold. And Kobe Bryant actually received "MVP" chants during a trip to the stripe. Doing battle inside the Verizon Center hardly qualifies as entering the proverbial hornets nest. Thus, whatever issues theoretically plague this team outside of Staples shouldn't have applied this evening. Beyond the fatigue of playing the second end of a back-to-back (sorry, but that's life in the NBA), there were no factors working against the Lakers during the second leg of this three-game roadie.

Except, of course, themselves.



The issues start at the top and stem all the way to the bottom. As he's the team's undisputed leader, there's an onus on Kobe to exercise the same judiciousness with his second-half shot selection as he shows during the first. Before intermission, he was rock solid, attacking the basket, putting up jumpers in rhythm and making great use of head fakes to earn multiple trips to the line. After intermission, he was flat-out gunning, forcing wild shots and absolutely tuning out his teammates possession after possession. The timing of the Lakers' fall coincided almost precisely with his touch turning ice cold. This team takes its cues from Bryant, and when he goes into "head down" mode, unless truly necessary, it typically brings out the worst in everyone.

Having said that, I'm not pinning this loss on Kobe. Not after watching a collective collapse on so many levels. With the game completely in hand and the ice wraps waiting to get placed around knees, the Lakers completely and unforgivably unraveled in just about every facet possible.

After turning the ball over just five times during the opening two frames, they turned it over FOUR times during a 90-SECOND SPAN in the third quarter. Each of these gaffes was converted into a score by the Wizards, reflective of the Lakers' insistence on shooting themselves in the foot with a bazooka. Andrew Bynum lost the ball seven times and struggled mightily getting rid of the ball out of double-teams.

The Wizards also outrebounded the Lakers 50-42 and snagged 17 of those boards on the offensive glass. Trevor Booker had eight offensive rebounds himself, which bested the rebound total of every Laker except Pau Gasol (15). For a team as talented on the glass as the Lakers, that's a matter of getting outworked. And these guys haven't earned the right to get outworked. Not this season, and especially not 24 hours after a loss to the freakin' Pistons.

Metta World Peace and Derek Fisher combined for 12 points on 3-for-12 shooting. After chipping in 18 first-half points, the bench finished with just 21 in all.

Transition defense, always an issue, grew sloppy and disinterested. Closeouts were late. Absolutely no resolve was on display.

My God, they even allowed Nick Young, the only player in NBA HISTORY to score more than 3,500 career points (3,810) with less than 350 assists (319), and with more career 3-pointers (336) than assists, to become a playmaker. Six assists for @NickSwagyPYoung? Six? That's like, his monthly total!

Ridiculous on all counts.

And finally, Mike Brown needs to regain control of his team. Players need to be held accountable for not adhering to the game plan. (I'd like to assume what happened during the second half didn't match instructions on the white board.) That means getting in the offending players' faces and, if need be, benching them for a few minutes to prove he's serious. Nobody should be above the law, and this is a time when a coach is needed to prevent a snowball from gaining too much speed down the hill.

This was ugly, and needs to addressed in swift fashion.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 4.9 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2