To be fair, it was only half a worst case scenario playing out in Sunday”s . Defensively, the Lakers did a very good job for most of the game, only stumbling on a few trips as the Spurs built momentum late. Still, if their performance in the opener was indicative of how they”ll play going forward on their end, the Lakers are fine.
The offense, though, was a total disaster, even if it wasn”t hard to see coming.
That the Lakers would struggle scoring points was pretty self-evident. They may have won the final two games of the season, but didn”t crack 37 percent from the floor in either. In last week”s win over San Antonio at Staples, save for an 11-point burst over about 150 seconds in the fourth helping swing the game, the Lakers were totally unproductive on that end. Save the final 12 minutes, the quarter-by-quarter breakdown of that game looked a lot like yesterday”s. With Kobe Bryant contributing only Tweets from Orange County thanks to the Achilles tear, the Lakers just don”t have anyone on the wing capable of breaking down a defense with his dribble. Nor are they an intimidating bunch of shooters, hitting only 35.5 percent of their 3-pointers, good for 19th leaguewide during the regular season.
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speaking, I hate the “We just didn”t make shots” explanation for a loss, because usually it glosses over a bunch of other shortcomings contributing to the bad result. Sunday, though, while a total lack of offensive rebounding (six off 43 misses, or 14 percent, well below their 27 percent season average) and a total non-lack of turnovers (18) were both big factors, the problems could be basically be summed up thusly:
They just didn”t make shots.
There are definitely criticisms to be made about the way some of them came — the Lakers didn”t generate many back-to-the-basket opportunities for Pau Gasol, for one. A particularly frustrating stretch came near the end of the third, when Gasol had DuJuan Blair on him, but was never dropped deep on the block. But overall, the idea the Lakers weren”t interested in going inside is belied by the tape. Watching again, they tried. A lot, and actually had more points in the paint in Game 1 (40) than the last regular season meeting at Staples (32). They looked for Dwight Howard, and got a few looks deep for Metta World Peace. The Lakers ran a variety of on and off ball action to try and make it happen, using sets very effective for them during the season.
The Spurs didn”t make it easy, though. They sagged off shooters — way, way off shooters — to make angles on entry passes tough to come by, actively fronted, sent extra bodies at Howard and Gasol. Many of L.A.”s turnovers came trying to push the ball through that gray and black thicket. The Spurs conceded jump shots, and the Lakers never made them pay. Without any ability to make the Spurs react to dribble penetration, L.A.”s options were that much more limited. It explains in part why Gasol spent so much time up high. Not only did they need to create space down low for Howard — having them both there just brought additional bodies — the Lakers had to find another way to get the ball into the paint. Gasol”s passing was one of the more effective vehicles.
Steve Nash had a night”s worth of clean jumpers all over the floor. MWP was 1-5 from downtown, including a few very poorly conceived hoists. Overall, the Lakers were 3-of-15. Last weekend, they generated 27 points off triples, on 33 percent shooting (not great, but better than Game 1).
No second chance points, only nine points off 3-pointers? That”s a losing formula for the Lakers every time out, before even touching on 10 bench points between Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark, Antawn Jamison, and Darius Morris.
Like everyone else, . What ways can he create cleaner entries into the paint? How can he best maximize those moments where Gasol is faced up against Blair or Matt Bonner (a matchup they attacked pretty well Sunday, actually). But if the answer for Game 2 is “Steve, this time when you have wide open 17-footers off the screen, make them,” or “Pau, knock down that conceded pick-and-pop jumper,” it would actually make some sense. Until those shots fall, I don”t see how they”ll do much better given all the limitations baked into their current roster.
Those are shots that just have to go down. And for four games, because at no point in this series do I expect Pop to do anything but bet the Lakers can”t beat them from the perimeter.