After the Utah Jazz beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Utah Jazz forward, Paul Millsap said, “They did it to themselves.”
Of course Millsap was speaking just to this particular loss, but in reality it is also why the Lakers have had a disappointing season to this point.
It’s pretty astonishing when you think about it: the Lakers are stacked with more stars than a celebrity dance show, and are led by a coach Lakers’ ownership deemed better than 11-time NBA champion, Phil Jackson, and last night they lost to a team with one of the most dismal road records in the NBA.
The Lakers are 1-4 in their last 5 games, and 2 of those 4 losses were to teams with losing records. In other words, the Lakers seem to be getting worse, not better. The Lakers are now 9-12 for the season overall, and 4-7 under new head coach Mike D’Antoni. I know Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will be back at some point, but even then it is hard to imagine the Lakers as serious title contenders.
In fact, if the playoffs were to start today, the Utah Jazz would have the worst road record of any team in the playoffs… and the Los Angeles Lakers would be watching the playoffs from their sofas at home.
And while many are saying the Lakers’ offense is fine, it is there defense that is broken, I beg to differ.
As I watched the game, I was taken by the extreme differences in offensive philosophy between the 2 teams.
Jazz Scoring Distribution:
o 46% of the Jazz offense was points in the paint (54 points)
o 18% of the Jazz offense came from the free throw line, a benefit of inside play (21 points)
o 15% of the Jazz offense came from the 3-point arc (18 points)
Lakers Scoring Distribution:
o 30.9% of the Lakers offense was points in the paint (34 points)
o 13.6% of the Lakers offense came from the free throw line (15 points)
o 41% of the Lakers offense came from the 3-point arc (45 points)
Again, 15% of the Jazz offense was 3-pointers, 41% of the Lakers offense was 3-pointers… with all those long rebounds, it is NO WONDER the Jazz outscored the Lakers on fast breaks 19 to 4!
For all the talk about the Lakers poor transition defense, I would say the Jazz can’t fast break if they don’t have the ball. While Dwight grabbed 16 rebounds that game, Kobe had zero. This is as big a problem for the Lakers as their turnovers as both give the ball to their opponents to let them run on the Lakers.
The rebounds Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill will grab will be near the rim. The long rebounds from errant 3s and long 2s though, those are the rebounds players like Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo grab up for their teams. The Lakers have no one assuming that role, and it is hurting them.
For example, with 3 minutes left in the game the Lakers made a 7-0 run to make it close, then allowed the Jazz to grab 3 of the last 4 rebounds of the game, effectively killing their run. Not even the mighty Lakers can score if they don’t have the ball.
If the Lakers are going to stick with D’Antoni’s system, they are going to have to stop looking at rebounding as Dwight and Pau’s job and make it a team responsibility.
Speaking of Pau, trading Pau Gasol for “stretch 4” like Andrea Bargnoni of the Toronto Raptors so the Lakers have a power forward who can shoot 3 pointers and fit in D’Antoni’s system just feels like they are dumping the wrong person.
It’s hard to imagine the answers to the Lakers’ problems can be found on a 4-17 team. And it’s even harder to believe that record is only five games worse than the Lakers’.
Speaking of quotes, I was pretty dismayed that D’Antoni seemed to have blame for the loss for everyone but himself.
”We’re not doing it. We’re not running back. We’re not doing the little things. I just don’t think we’ve had a gut-check moment yet. At some point we’re going to draw a line in the sand and that’s it, you have to fight. It seems like things happen on the court that get us down. Are there possessions we just throw away? Yeah. We have too many guys who will take a possession off.”
Funny, but these very same Lakers were doing these things when Bernie Bickerstaff was coaching them earlier this season.
The Lakers have a system, but do they have a coach? It seemed like D’Antoni spent trying more time trying to coach the referees than he did his own players.
For example, the Lakers made a late run and with 1:10 left in the game the Lakers were just down 5 points, 110-105… but they seemed absolutely leaderless. At one point Jazz analyst and broadcaster, Matt Harpring exclaimed about the Lakers, “What are they doing?!” The Lakers allowed the Jazz to run the shot clock down to 5 seconds before fouling. Harpring then commented that the Lakers seemed to have no direction; some were not fouling and others were looking about like, “Shouldn’t we be fouling them?”
It just made me think of how much the New York Knicks have improved since D’Antoni left town — on both ends of the floor.
Maybe the most interesting quote of the night though, came in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter. With 5:06 left in the game, broadcaster and analyst Matt Harpring told the television audience that he talked to Jack Nicholson before the game… and Jack said, “It’s not too late to bring back Phil.”