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Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Bucks 98, Lakers 79: At the buzzer

By Andy Kamenetzky

After the game, the fans were in fact not saying "Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuke." They were booing. And I don't blame them. The Lakers certainly turned in a performance worthy of jeers. If a win over the Wolves sparked an angry speech from Derek Fisher, then tonight's lecture might be salty enough to make Bobby Knight blush.

The good (relatively speaking)
During the game, Khloe Kardashian tweeted she could tell her husband was sick. (And by concluding this info with ":( " you could feel the sadness.)  Well, Odom's night wasn't quite "Michael Jordan flu game," but his impact outweighed what was put forth by the majority of his presumably healthy teammates. Odom wasted little time making his presence felt, scoring the first six Laker points, driving layup from either side of the basket. The night was concluded with a 12/10/6 line, and I liked his energy even when the Lakers' fate was clearly sealed.

Odom also provided the best purple and gold highlight. After a one-handed retrieval of a long three-pointer from Ron Artest, he spotted his New York buddy running the baseline, then set up him for a layup with a behind-the-back bounce pass. Sensational, if ultimately the basketball equivalent of empty calories.

Was this a brilliant showing? No, but were any Laker awarded a gold star, I'd give it to LO by default.

The Bad (or really, the worst among a lot of choices)


Pau Gasol
There was a sequence in third quarter where, with seven seconds on the clock, Steve Blake drove the baseline before dishing off to Gasol at the elbow. El Spaniard proceeded to dribble for six seconds in aimless fashion, then passed the ball to a very surprised Shannon BrownUnlike Zack Morris, Brown isn't gifted with the ability to stop time, so his shot naturally didn't beat the buzzer. Not a great play from Gasol, who then proceeded to pick up a foul by falling on top of John Salmons. I mean, Gasol literally crunched the dude. LO then entered the game in his place.

The sequence basically summarized the night for Gasol. His stats (15/11) on the surface reflect an adequate night, but this is one of those games reminding why you can't judge a performance by the box scores. Don't get me wrong. Gasol had plenty of company among disappointing performances. In particular, Derek Fisher and Artest didn't bring a ton of firepower to the table. However, my standards are also higher for Pau than most Lakers. Seven offensive rebounds acknowledged, Gasol nonetheless felt disappointingly quiet on both ends of the court when his team really needed a boost.

Defense
The Bucks have one of the worst offenses in the league with Brandon Jennings, Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden in the lineup. All three were unable to suit up. While I did present a theory in November about the correlation between stagnant offense and Maggette/Gooden, it still stood to reason the shorthanded state would equal struggles scoring for Milwaukee.

Reason fell to the wayside.

Milwaukee shot 61 percent from the field in the first quarter (25 points), with seven assisted field goals, indicative of the unusual ease with which they operated all night. Earl Boykins may be a talented scorer, but this was his first 20+ game -- off the bench, no less -- in over a year. The timing of this explosion was no coincidence. Without question, there were also few miracle shots (particularly for the lil' fella), prayers drained as the clock expired or a blocked shot bounced back into a visitor's hands. But these shots should have been the kind pushing their deficit to 12, not padding a double digit lead.

Offense
As one would guess from the Lakers' meager point total and clip from the field (45.5 percent), this was not a night where the triangle made Tex Winter beam with joy. Assuming they were even running that scheme, because it was difficult to tell what the hell was being implemented on most possessions. The Lakers didn't just struggled to put the ball in the cup. They looked like a bunch of rummies introduced to each other at the rec, then told to compete against a pro squad. There was absolutely no synergy whatsoever.

At times, the game plan appeared to be taking turns in iso-mode, with passing expressly forbidden. At times, the team looked scared to shoot, with the ball clutched as if its release would cause the world to explode. Chippies didn't fall. Airballs were launched. A third chance possession fell to the wayside after Salmons cleanly picked Kobe while seated on his butt from falling. Later, Derek Fisher was actually rubbed out on a screen set by Kobe.

If the Keystone Cops fielded a basketball team for the policeman's tourney, I imagine their squad would have strongly resembled this crew.

Kobe's early shower
In fairness, I wanted to leave, too.