Following Wednesday's win over the Clippers, Pau Gasol noted how the Lakers could undo all that good work by screwing up Friday's game.
Consider Wednesday undone. The Lakers lost 112-107 to the Rockets, their second loss to Houston this season.
Here are five takeaways...
1. Metta World Peace was L.A.'s best player.
I don't know what he ate for lunch today, but whatever it was, Metta ought to keep it on the menu. Dude was a force, particularly in the first half. Taking advantage of size mismatches provided by the Rockets' lineup, MWP was aggressive early, earning a pair of buckets with a pair of lefty drives. Given space to shoot from the perimeter, World Peace took advantage, drilling a 3-pointer from the left corner. He bulled his way from weak to strong, earning good post position for buckets, and at one point simply ripped a rebound out of Samuel Dalembert's arms for a putback. He finished the first half with 17 points on 6-for-9 from the field, plus a pair of assists and a steal.
In the second half, World Peace continued playing aggressively, putting up two more buckets in the third, making more good passes, and playing hard defensively. He finished with 23 points, four assists, and three rebounds.
2. Andrew Bynum again showed a lack of maturity.
Bynum's first half wasn't exactly tape-the-box-to-the-refrigerator-door material. Nine points on 3-of-5 from the field, but only three rebounds and a whopping four turnovers as he struggled to work against the extra attention sent his way by Kevin McHale. Nor was he particularly active defensively. In the third, though, things seemed to improve. Bynum earned his way to four free throws and had eight points in the third, and seemed finally to get fired up after feeling Dalembert pushed him in the back as he went up after a slick move off the right block. He started to go after Dalembert, but was held back by Josh McRoberts.
Unfortunately, he torched all that positive momentum with a move equally boneheaded to the one that got him tossed against the Rockets in Houston. After again abusing Dalembert in the post with less than a minute gone, this time from the other block, Bynum jawed at the Rockets' bench on the way back up the court, this after standing over Dalmebert on the other end after blocking his shot at the end of the clock. (That sort of taunt, for the record, is supposed to be a T. The officials let it go.) He was blown up for his second tech, and sent to the locker room.
Once again, he was tossed. Once again, he showed a total lack of respect to his teammates, who clearly need him on the court. Once again, he made questions about his maturity the No. 1 topic of the day. If Wednesday's 36-point effort against the Clippers was a step forward, this was easily two steps back.
On the other hand, as AK noted on Twitter, at least he didn't high five anyone on the way out. Baby steps.
3. Turnovers and transition D were a problem. As was 3-point defense.
While the Lakers certainly have had more egregious nights handing the ball over to the opposition, Friday they were certainly too loose, and it certainly felt like every giveaway led to a bucket the other way. In all, Houston scored 19 points off 15 Lakers turnovers, and also did good work punishing the Lakers for poor shot selection. They also destroyed L.A. on the perimeter, hitting 10 of their 17 3-point attempts. Chalk some of that up to deadeye shooting, but blame also goes to the lakers, who were slow to close, went under screens, didn't consistently run guys off the line, and at times, didn't recognize time and place. Marcus Camby, for example, stuck a 3-pointer in front of McRoberts to beat the shot clock. For whatever reason, McRoberts didn't close on Camby, even though the big veteran had no time to do anything but hoist.
Poor recognition was a theme for much of the night.
4. Kobe Bryant's shin was bothering him.
Houston rookie Chandler Parsons did solid work against Bryant most of the night, making him work for every inch. When isolated against him, Parsons used his length and mobility well, and didn't bite on the pump fakes. Still, the Lakers earned Bryant enough decent looks (and Kobe made enough good plays) to finish 8-of-20. Not the 63 percent he'd shot over the last three games, but hardly a disaster. The bigger problem was in his movement. As the second half wore on, his bruised left shin was clearly a problem, inhibiting Bryant's mobility. There were signs of limping, which for Kobe on the floor is the equivalent of the rest of us using crutches to get around.
Shins hurt. This is one injury everyone has to hope can get cleared up fast. Wouldn't hurt for the Lakers to avoid situations like tonight.
5. The bench did its part.
Here's the deal: L.A.'s bench isn't going to put up a lot of points. When they're on the court, starters are generally there, too, and they're expected to do the scoring. Moreover, Mike Brown simply doesn't have any instant offense available off the pine (or thickly cushioned chairs, technically). As a result, as a group they have to be measured in different terms. First, as they say in med school, they must do no harm. Check. From there, it's a question of impact and energy, and Friday they provided both. McRoberts finished two lobs on the run, and had a great steal-to-dunk sequence in the second half. he finished with six rebounds, as well. Matt Barnes couldn't buy a bucket (save a critical fourth quarter 3-pointer), but had 13 boards, four assists, a block, and a steal. Steve Blake did a solid job guiding the offense in the first half.
That's about all people can expect. The problem tonight was a too porous defense, meh nights from Gasol and Ramon Sessions, Kobe's limitations, and of course Bynum's ejection.