Monday, December 19, 2011
Clippers 114, Lakers 95: Rapid Reaction
By Brian Kamenetzky
Actual footage from outside Staples Center following the Los Angeles Lakers' 114-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night:
In virtually any other year, a lopsided score in a preseason game would likely be ignored. This is not any year. The mood among fans surrounding this season's Lakers team heading into Monday night's preseason game was already dark. Fair to say the evening's events won't add any light.
Below are five takeaways from the game:
1. Kobe Bryant looked good physically
The score is the score and the aesthetics were bad, but is anything really more important than this? There will be plenty of time to worry about the bench, point guard play and more, but if Bryant isn't whole, none of it really matters. Monday, Kobe appeared relatively spry en route to his 22 points, whether working on the ball in the pick-and-roll or running from the weak side to catch-and-shoot from midrange. Even in his heart-stopping moment -- falling awkwardly on his right wrist after DeAndre Jordan swatted away a dunk attempt -- had a silver lining. Kobe showed some nice hops on the play, and if Jordan would have simply moved out of the way, Lakers fans would have had a nice highlight to offset the final score.
Perhaps the best sign of Bryant's health were his 15 trips to the free-throw line.
Yes, there were too many turnovers (seven), some coming off mishandled plays on the dribble, a problem he had during Friday's scrimmage as well, but a lot of that is related to the general difficulties the Lakers had executing their offense. Those are things that can improve with time. Had Kobe started this season behind the eight ball physically, that wouldn't change.
2. The Lakers look like a team learning a new system
The starters, particularly in the first half, were fine. But generally speaking, even with the high-end talent on the floor the Lakers appeared indecisive in their offense. (Things were even worse with the reserves.) They often got up the floor quickly, but when limited to the half court they took a while to make choices on and off the ball. Very little looked automatic. Of course, all of this should be understood. The Lakers are a team learning a new system while integrating new pieces almost daily, something that has gone a little under-discussed given all the action surrounding the roster. It is going to take time, and some regular-season games, for this to work itself out.
Not saying there aren't going to be problems or shortcomings down the road, but it would have been more surprising if the Lakers looked efficient offensively.
3. It's hard to gauge the defense, for many of the same reasons
Lakers coach Mike Brown won't be happy, but the same lack of cohesion they saw offensively shows up at the other end, and particularly in the third quarter when the Lakers turned the ball over nine times and were outscored 36-17, the horrible offense made it tough to maintain a solid defensive posture.
Before the wheels came off, the Lakers showed some decent activity on that side of the floor. Pau Gasol kept a lid on Blake Griffin, Andrew Bynum (despite rhythm-less moments offensively) got after the boards, and overall the effort seemed reasonable. Now the results have to improve, and fast.
4. The lack of a secondary shot creator is going to hurt
There were some good performances off the bench. Jason Kapono hit both his 3-pointers, Troy Murphy hit the only triple he took (from his favored spot at the top of the arc), and Josh McRoberts was a flurry of activity, running the floor and displaying some nifty passing skills. Devin Ebanks, starting the second half at small forward, had some of the only bright spots in the final 24 minutes. But the Lakers were short on ball handlers and shot creators before they shipped Lamar Odom to Dallas, and the hole felt acute Monday night.
Particularly until the Lakers reach some level of proficiency in their execution and can generate good chances without relying too much on one-on-one play, they're going to have some problems. Or they'll have to rely far more on Kobe to create for his teammates, which isn't a great option, either, given how much is already on his plate.
5. Metta World Peace as bench spark ... not a good debut
The forward formerly known as Ron Artest went 0-8 from the floor, 0-5 from 3, plus had a turnover and some curious moments.