The creation of "The Moment" is as much art (a term used with appropriate looseness) as science (see previous parenthetical).
The trick is in finding a particular snapshot accurately capturing a game's larger theme. Whether we succeed or not, that's the goal. The Lakers, unfortunately, have throughout the season shown a particular disdain for our assignment, often displaying so many faces over 48 minutes finding the meta in the micro can be tough. If you think their inconsistency drives you nuts, try dealing with it under deadline.
What makes Friday night's 98-83 loss to in Charlotte unique is, unlike most night's the difficulty wasn't in differentiating between the good moments and bad, having to change a story on the fly because of late-game heroics, having to adjust to a game with a helter skelter ebb and flow or one simply without identity. Tonight, save the first six minutes or so the Lakers were consistently and monumentally awful. The tough part was determining which moment best encapsulates the awfulness.
It's akin to wandering through a landfill searching for the most offensive piece of trash.
Each time I thought I'd found it, the Lakers managed to come up with something more. I'll take you through the evolution of tonight's "moment:"
-With 5:43 to go in the first quarter, an Andrew Bynum layup put the Lakers up 20-13. The Lakers looked prime to make an offensively limited team play catch-up for most of the evening. Instead, a 10-2 run highlighted by a missed Pau Gasol dunk and a Kobe Bryant turnover gave the Bobcats a lead. The Lakers would get it back by the end of the quarter, but the writing was on the wall. At this point, I thought "I have my moment, if the Lakers lose."
-The Second Quarter. A 12-minute "moment" of godawfulness. Jordan Farmar started things with a turnover, and it went downhill from there. The Lakers would add eight more before the half. Meanwhile, the offense went totally dormant against Charlotte's pressure. At one point, the Lakers went nearly six minutes between field goals scored in the halfcourt. Overall, they managed only six buckets and five free throws in a 17-point frame. Particularly frustrating was the way in which Charlotte seemed unwilling to take advantage. Despite L.A.'s largess, the Bobcats only produced 12 points off 12 Lakers turnovers in the first half and themselves seemed unable to score, yet still led by six at the half. At this point, I thought I had my moment. Again. If the Lakers lose, of course.
Coming out of the locker room, the Lakers put together perhaps the three worst minutes of the season. Kobe misses a three to start things off. On the other end, penetration leads to a wide open look for Boris Diaw. Charlotte by eight. At the 10:20 mark, Ron Artest dribbled to nowhere in particular, then threw the ball through Gasol's big shoes for a turnover. On the other end, Gerald Wallace hits a wide open three. Charlotte plus-11. Gasol then walked up the floor, and tossed up an incredibly lazy pass picked off by Stephen Jackson for a breakaway dunk. Followed by another Gasol turnover on the next trip, dribbling the ball off his knee.
On the KCAL broadcast, Stu Lantz sighed. "They're starting to feel sorry for themselves," he said.
By the 8:30 mark, after Wallace canned another three and finished off a layup, running Charlotte's lead to 17, I was starting to feel sorry for myself, too. I knew I had to sit through another 20 minutes of "action."
I have seen the Lakers play casual, I have seen them play bored. This was the first time this season I thought the team was basically phoning it in. Or at the very least, was connecting to the operator. Had the Bobcats played better basketball through the rest of the quarter, they probably could have produced a white flag.
At least I had my moment, because it was pretty clear they weren't going to win.
Before the game, Phil Jackson tried to tweak Gasol, who has undoubtedly been playing below his All-Star standards of late, saying he'd "been weak and sickly" of late before adding the caveat his power forward has been working through a cold.
Pau did little tonight to prove him wrong after a strong start over the game's early minutes. Except Jackson probably would have been wise to apply that tag to his entire team. Tonight's effort in Charlotte was absolutely weak and sickly. Was it because they got into Charlotte late after a tough OT loss to Miami the night before? I'm sure it didn't help. I can't believe it explains everything we saw Friday, though.
Weak and sickly, indeed, but for Lakers fans, it just made them sick.