For five regular regular season games that the Lakers have played this far in the early season, there has been much debate around what worked and what didn’t after each performance. Call the Lakers fanbase what you want, but we are passionate about our team. On top of that, the fact that their roster, especially the starting lineup, appears as it is, the expectation to be great in every game is a bit of a reality.
I think it is healthy and constructive to analyze aspects from each game. Coaches and players do it to understand what worked well for them individually and as a team, most through watching film. In sports, this is how you prepare and grow your strengths in order to give your team the best chance for success, or in sports, a win.
Therefore, since the performances from the Lakers have been chaotic and up and down this season (and yes, I know we are only five games into the season), I would like to discuss and determine what worked, what failed and what we learned from Wednesday’s loss against the Utah Jazz so we can understand what we may see in the next couple of games. So, let’s get started.
Running The Offense Through Kobe: Kobe’s offensive approach has changed this season, in a good way. He is aggressive and less prone to taking forced shots. Kobe was rather quiet in the first half of last night’s game, but started to run the offense through his hands to close the half, which cut the deficit into single-digits. The amazing part of last night’s game was that despite the horrible effort and production the Lakers were playing with, they were still in the game. This had everything to do with Kobe’s will and determination to keep it this way, even though it meant him putting on a one man show to do so and seeing his worst shooting performance of the season (7-17). Dwight Howard had moments last night, but there was no domination in the paint that he could easily have on any given night.
Jordan Hill’s Energy: Jordan Hill was the only player in my mind, besides Kobe and his deadly determination, to provide any real consistent level of energy, especially off the bench. Hill came in and provided nothing but effort on the glass, which is everything you could ask from him. Hill had four points to go along with his 12 rebounds, seven of which were offensive boards.
What Didn’t Work
Bench Production: The Lakers’ bench continued to struggle to contribute offensively and defensively. The second unit was outscored by Utah’s bench 20-6 in the first half. Mike Brown continues to experiment with rotations and the new rotation that featured Metta World Peace as the shooting guard did not have game-changing results. Overall, the Lakers’s second unit put up a whopping 12 points, compared to the Jazz’ 36. I personally haven’t been a fan of using Antawn Jamison at the three, as I think he is better suited as a power forward. Also, to ask what everyone has been asking, have you seen Jodie Meeks lately? Meeks should get at least a chance on the floor, in my opinion.
Offense and Defense: The Lakers had five turnovers in the first quarter and shot 25 percent in a mere 17-point first quarter. Their overall percentage didn’t go up that much as the game went on as they finished shooting 33.8 percent from the field while shooting an awful 17.4 percent from three-point range. Pau Gasol, MWP and Steve Blake combined for 7-31 from the field. They once again showed low effort on the defensive end, giving up a 44.6 shooting percentage to Utah. Take Jordan Hill out of the equation and the Jazz controlled the boards last night. The Lakers once again turned the ball over at an alarming rate, with a total of 19, which Utah took advantage of with 19 points of those turnovers.
What We Learned
Synergy Is Still Forming: Towards the end of the second quarter, after Dwight made a pick for Kobe, Dwight rolled to the basket expecting a lob and Kobe threw a chest pass that sailed out of bounds. This is one example of the team not being in sync with each other. The miscommunication and timing issues are still apparent. This is an issue that has been called out by every fan, media member and even Laker player. Chemistry will progress as the season goes on and Steve Nash returns to the lineup. However, these miscues lead to sloppy turnovers and then to poor transition defense from the Lakers. Until chemistry solidifies, the Lakers must figure out way to limit these miscues. That’s my cue to Mike Brown.
Energy and Passion Must Be Permanent: For the first three games, the Lakers were sluggish on the court. They showed little passion or urgency on the floor. On Sunday, the Lakers came out ready to go. They were focused and aggressive. I know it was against Detroit, but it worked. Last night, once again the Lakers returned to their attitude of their first three outings, with the exemption of a couple of players. Their effort on defense was abysmal last night. I believe their lack of defensive focus took them out of the game offensively as well. This was evidenced during a too brief of a period in the third when their energy improved on both ends of the court, which led them on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to four. Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it faded away.
The Lakers are on the verge on stretching out their fans’ willingness to be patient. The thing that frustrates me the most is that there has been no progress. I know that after Sunday’s win the Lakers wouldn’t be perfect and suddenly have no kinks to figure out. However, there should be some sort of progress made in each game until it finally comes together. Starting the season 1-4 is new territory for Kobe Bryant and for the younger fans (last time was 1993). Therefore, as fans we can only hope that they are all at the drawing board trying to figure out a better plan of action.