A gut-wrenching win on Wednesday, a head-scratching loss on Saturday, and finally the Lakers second road win of the season, came despite the Lakers completely wiping away an 18-point advantage in the third quarter, with 4:09 left to play in the fourth.
Just another stretch of games along the roller coaster ride that is the Lakers 2011-12, lockout-shortened season. The Lakers can breathe a collective sigh of relief, but how long will it last?
Any expectation for the Lakers to start the season should’ve been completely blanketed after every failed attempt to end the lockout. With the unfamiliarity of Mike Brown and his system, even for seasoned veterans, learning it all on the fly was a tall order to fill from the get-go. While the Lakers can use this as justification for their struggles early on, it’s an excuse that’s beginning to lose credibility, 21-games into the season.
To say the Lakers have (at times) lacked consistency, focus, and execution, would be putting it lightly. It really only scratches the surface of what ails the Lakers. The Lakers are hardly the team we’ve become accustomed to watching since their last big shake-up in 2008, after they acquired Pau Gasol. While we as fans have noticed the difference, so too have other teams. They’ve become just like any other team, vulnerable at both ends of the floor. The Lakers are no longer the crème of the crop when it comes to NBA offenses. In fact, their offense is average on most nights, and on a handful of nights, it’s been well below average. While their turn around defensively has been a bright spot so far this season, their defensive effort is still directly related to the amount of energy they exert during the entire 48-minutes they’re out on the floor—which some nights, isn’t enough to make a ripple, much less a difference in determining wins and losses.
The Lakers were the team with the inherent size advantage. That, coupled with simply having Kobe Bryant in the lineup, was what catapulted them to success. Who could ever compete with two seven-footers guarding the basket on defense and owning the painted area on offense? If the Lakers continue to look baffled on the court, any team can. As the aura of the Lakers big men begins to dwindle, the confidence of opposing teams only intensifies. The Milwaukee Bucks, even with a depleted frontline, were empowered once the Lakers went along with their run-and-gun style of play, instead of slowing it down in the half-court and getting the ball to Gasol and Bynum down low. Adding insult to injury, neither Bynum nor Gasol could muster-up the physicality required to get good deep position on the court. Instead of wrecking havoc for the Bucks, they allowed their offense to be disrupted. Gasol only scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, Bynum not much better with 15 points, and nine rebounds.