Had the Lakers rolled into the Rose Garden on a hot streak, playing well, looking like the champs they are, it would be easier to chalk up Friday night's 107-98 loss to Portland to some sort of Oregon curse, an off night, or fatigue brought on from an all nighter soaking up a local jam band. Except they didn't, and they're not. So while it marked L.A.'s ninth straight loss in Portland's home building, I don't think it would have made a difference had the game been played on the proverbial neutral floor or even at Staples. They were thoroughly outplayed by a Blazers squad so thinned out by injuries they've spent half the season starting this Clyde Drexler Fathead in the backcourt.
As I wrote last night, the Lakers were out of sorts and out of balance, with Kobe Bryant taking 37 shots while the rest of the starters combined for 42. Mine, however, isn't the only reaction to Friday's events. With that, a smattering of stories from around the Interweb, starting with game reports from the LA Times, Daily News, OC Register, and The Oregonian.
As ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin notes, don't simply chalk up Kobe's bad night to the bum finger or tough luck. Portland's defensive plan, led by one-on-one coverage from Martell Webster, was key:
"...Bryant started off 5-for-8 from the floor, scoring on all jump shots. Instead of scrapping the one-on-one coverage, (Nate) McMillan stuck to it and kept Webster isolated on Bryant -- admirer on hero. It was a pretty simple plan and it's nothing new. The Celtics used it in the Finals against him, conceding jumpers so long as the paint remained as protected as the President. When Bryant got to the lane, they doubled and fed into Bryant's machismo as he tried to score one-one-two or one-one-three. When Bryant adjusted in the third quarter and started whipping it out to open 3-point shooters on the wing once he got in the middle, they went back to one-on-one coverage on him and lived with it if he still was able to contort his body like only he can to convert something down low. Portland opened up a 20-point lead before Bryant really got anything going close to the hoop..."
More Lakers links:
Around the blogs: Forum Blue and Gold weighs in on L.A.'s play over the last week. Silver Screen and Roll wonders about a 39-10 disparity in favor of the Blazers on the free throw line. It's been a while since one team dominated from the stripe quite like that. From the other side of things, Blazersedge acknowedges the gap but gives well-deserved props to Brandon Roy and Jerryd Bayless, as well.
Randy Hill of Fox Sports writes Ron Artest is gumming up the gears of the Lakers offense. I would disagree- before his injury, Artest was among the team's most willing and productive distributors- but would agree with one portion of his piece: "...(Lamar) Odom doesn't seem that comfortable playing with Artest," Coach B said. "A lot of people figured it would work since they were teammates in club ball or something. But Artest is built like a tank and loves to take guys who can't handle him into the post. That's a problem because Gasol or Bynum are already there and that's also where Odom loves to work." With Artest busy inside, Lamar spends even more time than usual on the perimeter, where he's good at taking slower bigs off the dribble. But having Ron-Ron taking his man to the block clogs the triangle offense's usually pristine driving lanes. L.O. has responded by taking nearly three times as many triples as last season..." I expressed similar sentiments a week or so ago.
Phil Jackson acknowledges some of Derek Fisher's shortcomings at age 35, but has no plans to take him out of the starting lineup.
In the wake of the Gilbert Arenas gun controversy, the Wizards have banned gambling on the team plane. PJ doesn't think that sort of thing is necessary, calling it a PR move that won't actually stop players from gaming.
John Hollinger looks at the stat lines of Kobe and Roy. Shorthanded or not, if the Blazers can replicate these sorts of numbers, the Lakers are in trouble.