THE LAKERS INDEX
As per requests, the Lakers Index is a look into each game sorting through the good, the bad and often, the ugly of Laker games. In analyzing below the surface, we can document the spur of the Lakers shortcomings and/or spark for their successes.
Final Score: The Los Angeles Lakers over the Minnesota Timberwolves 106- 101
You think Kobe Bryant cares about his team’s abysmal road record? Kobe came out with his usual shoot-first killer mindset amid one of the worst starts away from Staples in recent memory. The Black Mamba fired a season-high 29 shots covering all points of the court; historically a negative, Kobe converted on almost half his shot attempts for a solid 35-point outing. Likewise, judging from his two assists, he wasn’t looking for his teammates to get the team on track. Despite his few untimely turnovers (three) leading to some easy buckets for the Timberwolves, Bryant willed the Lakers to a victory even in the face of what looked like another major late game meltdown. He took it upon himself to ensure his team wouldn’t let another road game slip away when he clinched the game as he slithered by three defenders pulled up and nailed a vintage ten-foot teardrop. As if he hadn’t showed us enough from the old trick bag, Kobe was also an unprecedented five for nine from beyond the arc whereas the rest were only three for ten. In the end, Kobe Bryant, being the ultimate competitor he is, was the X-factor in this one and wouldn’t allow his team to go down after an embarrassing outing the previous night in Milwaukee.
The Spaniard took a lot of heat following his recent uninspired play, but, like Kobe, he came out tonight with a purpose. Pau Gasol backed up his poor performances by setting the tone early offensively, dominating the interior and giving the Minnesota Timberwolves fits. His six for eight, 14 point first-quarter set up his extremely efficient 11-25, 28 point total. Though his six boards along with the entire Lakers’ rebounding statistics (they were outrebounded 24-7 in offensive rebounds) need to be addressed, Pau looked like option number two of old, a performance that will need to be more consistent for the Lakers to remain relevant. Defensively Gasol allowed for too many easy points in the paint, particularly at the hand of Kevin Love, which can be attributed to his soft play down low. All in all, without Pau’s inside/out offensive spark opening up Andrew Bynum and others, the Lakers would have relied solely on the output of Kobe Bryant.
The Offense/ Breaking the Streak
For the lone reason the monkey is off the Los Angeles Lakers’ back, scoring over 100-points as a team should be praised. Somewhere Phil Jackson is scoffing at what used to be a presumed stat under his authority. But for this team, finally the puzzle pieces began to fit offensively tonight as per the original plan. With Bryant, Bynum and Gasol combining to score a cool 84-points, the Lakers finally achieved what they had set out to do offensively: score in the interior with Bynum and Gasol to unleash Kobe Bryant. Still, something must be done about the other players who have not yet been held to the same standard.
A Rare Road Triumph
Now a shocking 2-7 away from Staples, the Lakers hope to build momentum on an otherwise disappointing headline for the Purple and Gold this season. With any luck the team has inoculated the jetlag and can improve and improve fast as the next six of seven games are scheduled for their annual East coast tour. Strap on your seatbelts.
Metta World Peace’s 2012 Season Debut in the Starting Five
Coming into tonight’s game there was talk that Metta World Peace might slide back into the starting five line-up to act as a catalyst for the Lakers’ sluggish offense. Though the option was reasonable, World Peace didn’t leave anything to be desired. Going 0-4 with only a pair of free-throws to draw from tonight, it was obvious he wasn’t the elixir. The “World Peace “don’t shoot the ball moment of the game” emanated in the third-quarter just as the team saw their 18-point lead evaporate, Metta hoisted up a 20-foot fade-away in the grill of a defender that resulted in an air ball and Timberwolves fast-break. A dreadful night to say the least; safe to say no arm flexing from MWP in this one.
As per usual, the Lakers gave up more turnovers than their opponent. The more alarming stat? LA again didn’t get one fast-break point to the Minnesota Timberwolves 16. Transition defense needs to be addressed if the Lakers hope to compete with more athletic and quicker teams.
The team received a healthy dose of scoring from their big three; but excluding Andrew Goudelock, who seemed to provide more impressive plays than his seven-points communicates, the Steve Blake-less bench was a non-factor. The Timberwolves’ bench outscored the Lakers bench by a whopping 52-15. In order for the Purple and Gold to be more balanced and relieve Kobe of his overwhelming minutes-played, the bench needs to be able to command the game when starters rest. When Steve Blake makes his comeback, the bench will improve, but until then, it needs to be able to keep the team afloat.
The 18-point lead is inexcusable against a team already celebrated for their signature comebacks. It’s one thing to build a first half lead of this size and have the opponent gradually chip away, but it’s a different story when the lead evaporates in a matter of minutes. No doubt this will be a speaking point of Coach Mike Brown in the practice tomorrow. Don’t forget the last minute near implosion that saw the Lakers eight-point lead dwindle to four in the final seconds due to errant passes and sloppy play.
The In between:
Undoubtedly a game Andrew Bynum and company will and should be proud of. Nevertheless, along with Pau showed moments of being soft under the basket and didn’t go after enough boards causing many second chance opportunities for the Wolves. Drew is the defensive anchor of this Laker team and for the group to continue their success defensively; they need their big man to be more active and show more energy. Other than a few easy shots around the basket going awry, Bynum had resilience scoring in a game that asked a lot from him.
Kobe watch: B+ Only because he’s Kobe Bryant and he creates very high expectations for himself. He shouldered the offensive load and set the tone for a fraught offense to play desperate. His untimely turnovers and chaotic moments at the end of the game, attributed to the unnecessary nervous moments. But in the end, he closed the game and sealed the deal.
The Clutch Factor: A The dagger field goals late, showed why Kobe Bryant is still the go to down the stretch.
Pau Gasol: A- The big man had the aggressive instinct straight of the gates and it’s something Laker fans want to see more. At times his interior defense was shaky against a forceful Love, but ultimately key shots in important moments earned Gasol a lot of the credit tonight.
Andrew Bynum: B Andrew got his 20-point game, but was more passive than the Lakers would like, reflected by his single digit rebounding. In any case, he did an effective job demanding attention (at one point he was tripled teamed and kicked it to Kobe for a wide-open three) and altered shots.
Offense: A- Finally the big three for the Lakers did what fans had hoped they could do. The sets looked more organized as evident by a manageable 12 turnovers, while touches inside were as frequent as they have been all season. The 50.6% field goals made and 18 free-throws helped as well.
Defense: B- The Lakers kept everyone in check barring an outbreak by the always intense Kevin Love who had 33 points and whatever he wanted offensively. Ricky Rubio was quick and was surgical with his high basketball IQ, but was held in check from the field, 2-13 for five-points, attributed to the Lakers paint presence. The only real negative is how LA lost track of Michael Beasley, who scored 18-points, evidently using the Lakers for his coming out party. Oh, and allowing an 18-point lead to evaporate is inexcusable, too.
Stat stuffers: B- Rebounding and Turnovers aside, with the exception of Kobe, the Lakers were less than stellar from the outside, points allowed off turnovers and fast break points. As soon as the Lakers smooth out the wrinkles in these categories, the offensive flow can work in their favor.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: B A seemingly lopsided offensive night ruined Ricky Rubio’s premiere against the Lakers. Though Kevin Love proved his contract-extension is much deserved, his teammates allowed the Lakers to have what they wanted for ten-minutes in the third-quarter in which they dug themselves an 18-point hole. In contrast, their resolve and fight was admirable considering the team hasn’t won against the Lakeshow since the other Kevin, Kevin Garnett roamed Target Center.
Next matchup for the Lakers and final points: The Lakers play the Charlotte Bobcats back at Staples Center on Tuesday. Though the Bobcats have had a pedestrian season up to this point, they are still one of two teams with a better head-to-head record against Los Angeles. Look for Kemba Walker to make an impact in his Hollywood debut, but there is no reason the Lakers shouldn’t continue tonight’s offensive momentum.
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