Kobe Bryant, Devin Ebanks Can’t Lead Lakers to Victory in Vegas
After an 0-4 start to the preseason the Lakers were looking to get their first win on Friday night in Las Vegas, NV against the Sacramento Kings. The team was once again without Dwight Howard, but they did have Pau Gasol back in the rotation after he sat out the team’s previous game on Tuesday night. Before the game, coach Mike Brown mentioned that he would give several reserve players (Andrew Goudelock, Chris Douglas-Roberts in particular) some minutes with some of the regular starters to see how they performed.
With expected roster cuts coming up this weekend, it’s possible that this was the last chance for several players on the team to try and earn a roster spot. For players like Douglas-Roberts and Goudelock, it would be up to themselves to show the coaches that they’re worth keeping around.
The game started a bit slow offensively, and didn’t really pick up during the first 12 minutes of play. The Lakers had trouble getting anything to go in the basket, although they still looked decent offensively. The team was running a fair amount of Princeton offense sets, and looked much more organized on that end of the floor than in previous games. While they were unable to get very many of their shots to actually go in the basket, they still looked much more fluid than in the previous three preseason games.
One bright spot in the first was Kobe Bryant, who shouldered the bulk of the offensive load. Of the first 12 Laker points, Bryant was responsible for eight of them. The team also got solid production from Pau Gasol, who looked very active on offense after sitting out on Tuesday. While Gasol had trouble getting shots to fall (he certainly wasn’t the only one), his motion and activity on both ends of the floor was strong. Still, at the end of the first quarter the Lakers found themselves trailing once again, 27-20.
Things didn’t look much different for the Lakers at the start of the second, and they continued to struggle on offense. Defensively the team looked decent, but certainly not strong. Antawn Jamison had a few minutes of run to start the quarter but his preseason struggles continued. He has been unable to find his shot thus far in the exhibition season, and that certainly continued on Friday. The minutes that Goudelock and Douglas-Roberts did get were fairly productive. Unfortunately for Drew, every positive move he made seemed to quickly be followed by a mental gaffe or poor decision. After watching his performance in Friday night’s game in Las Vegas, it would be surprising to see him make the final roster.
L.A. picked things up towards the end of the first half, and got some decent outside shooting the last few minutes. Metta World Peace connected from outside a few times, and the team got a rare three-pointer from Devin Ebanks. Still, the Lakers found themselves trailing at halftime, 50-46.
The Lakers came out in the third hoping to finally overtake Sacramento on the scoreboard, but turnovers prevented the team from establishing any sort of lasting momentum. The Kings took advantage of all these turnovers by turning them into fastbreak opportunities that resulted in easy baskets. The Kings used the fastbreak to run the Lakers out of the building, and turn a four point lead into a double digit lead midway through the third.
Mike Brown reduced the rotation big time in the third quarter, keeping only regular roster players on the floor. For the first time in the preseason they looked like a team that wanted to win. Over the course of the first four games they seemed more concerned with running certain sets and minutes than a team concerned with getting a win. That seemed different in the second half on Friday, but didn’t do much to change the results. Things got a bit intense at the end of the quarter, as the energy level of the game certainly didn’t feel like that of a preseason game. Heading into the final 12 minutes the Kings were leading the Lakers 81-75.
Just as Mike Brown indicated before the game, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks were on the floor to start the fourth after sitting out the first three quarters. One player who took a step back on Friday was Robert Sacre, who had impressed the coaching staff up to this point of the season. He was in early foul trouble and had trouble getting into any sort of rhythm until the final period. He managed to grab a few boards and draw a charge midway through the fourth, but with Dwight Howard expected to come back on Sunday his minutes will probably take a hit very soon.
Another role player who played well for the Lakers was Devin Ebanks, who has been garnering praise from the coaching staff throughout the preseason. Ebanks looked strong offensively, hitting some long-range shots and displaying plenty of confidence on the floor. This was most apparent during one sequence in the fourth when he attacked the basket, had his shot blocked, but stayed with the play and connected on a baseline jump shot. This sign of maturation is something that we haven’t seen from Ebanks during games quite yet, but had heard rumors of at practice and from the coaching staff.
While the Lakers didn’t play terribly, the Kings had an answer for every run they went on. The loss L.A. suffered on Friday was more because of the Kings’ ability to match every strong play or momentum they could establish. While Los Angeles will look at the excessive turnovers (18) as a main reason for the loss, Sacramento did a superb job of answering every Lakers bucket with one of their own. In the end the Lakers remained winless on the preseason, falling to the Kings 103-98.
But all hope is not lost, as the team is looking forward to Dwight Howard’s debut on Sunday night.