Well, that wasn't fun on any level. Here are three takeaways from the loss.
1) From start to finish, the Lakers were off their collective game.
Typically, a Sunday evening game begins at 6:30 pm PT, but the ESPN broadcast moved the time an hour back to accommodate the preceding contest between the Heat and the Thunder. Athletes are often creatures of habit, which means his highly unusual start time requires an adjustment of sorts. The Lakers, to put it kindly, didn't adjust well.
From start to finish of this game, the Lakers alternated between looking out of sync and flat out disinterested. Offensively, everyone seemed completely disoriented, an odd sight so quickly on the heels of Friday's win over the Blazers, where ball movement flowed like cheap beer at a college kegger. Andrew Bynum enjoyed a dominant first half (18 points on six-of-eight shooting), but he also worked one-on-one, left to create successfully for himself. Clean looks created for a teammate were largely on short supply. (The prime exception being Pau Gasol, whose miserable night was often spent clanging often-exceptionally wide open shots, the type normally drains in his sleep.) This was also a night where we were reminded Kobe Bryant off ball with Ramon Sessions controlling the large chunks of the action will take some time before becoming a consistently smooth operation. Tonight, they didn't appear quite on the same page.
Of course, the Lakers are hardly strangers to slogging their way through ugly, offensively challenged contests. Before the Ramon Sessions era of wide-open scoring, this was basically the only way the purple and gold manufactured wins. Thus, they should in theory be well equipped to survive nights like this one. However, Players and Mike Brown alike have copped to a coinciding decline in lockdown as points have come more cheaply. Tonight was a prime example of the sloppy defense, but without the offense to bail them out. A lack of effort wasn't the entire culprit, a prime example being the night Rudy Gay's night against Metta World Peace. Memphis' small forward was run off screens much of the night, an approach that sometimes gives the bulky MWP trouble. Metta did his best, and worked hard, but was just ineffective.
But on countless possessions, the Lakers were just sluggish and/or lazy whether covering pick and roll, closing out, or especially getting back in transition. (Stop me if you've heard this before). I mean, Hamed Haddadi, he of the 2.1 ppg career average (which actually bests this season's 1.9) connected on five of his seven attempts. That lack of resistance Haddadi encountered from Bynum (among others) was emblematic of the ease with which far too many of Haddadi's teammates operated. Every Laker who stepped on the floor was guilty of miscues, carelessness or blatant apathy.
There were moments of hair-on-fire lockdown, especially during a 15-0 third quarter run. But by and large (Matt Barnes probably being the most deserving exception), the Lakers seemed determined to do as little on possible on D, and paid the price.
And finally, the Lakers just didn't play particularly smart, and that lack of intelligence was exemplified on a late-fourth quarter sequence involving Bynum. With a little over three minutes remaining, Mike Conley missed a nine-footer and the brick went straight to Drew, who to his credit skied for the ball. However, instead of doing the logical thing... like, you know, securing the rock... he emphatically tapped it out to an area of the perimeter where no Laker resided. The ball ended up in the Grizzlies' hands, and was converted into a layup by Zach Randolph.
All in all, it was a night the Lakers would just as soon flush down the toilet.
2) Steve Blake's funk has persisted since reentering the starting lineup.
The main reasons for Mike Brown to name Sessions his starter last Friday are fairly obvious. He's their best point guard. He was brought to L.A. to reside among the first five. And the more reps he sees with Kobe, Pau and Drew, the better the Lakers should be come playoff time. However, I also hoped Blake, who'd been playing like a dead starter walking while holding down the fort, might emerge a positive byproduct. Sessions-mania makes it easy to forget Blake had done a nice job quarterbacking the second unit in the games immediately leading up to the trade deadline. His points were fairly paltry, but Barnes and Bynum were the consistent beneficiaries of Blake the floor general. Unfortunately, his ineffectiveness as a starter has persisted, along with tentative body language. He quickly turned the ball over twice upon entering the game, and defensively couldn't stay in front of anybody. Save a 3-pointer during one of the many unsuccessful second half pushes, Blake would have been described as a ghost, expect he played too noticeably poorly.
3) The Lakers reminded they haven't been a truly dominant home team.
Yes, they've WON a lot of games and that's ultimately what matters. But they also rarely crush opponents at Staples, and there is a difference. The Lakers have a habit of letting bad teams hang around to turn games knottier than necessary. And a few of their "quality" home wins (notably Miami, Minnesota twice) at Staples have come against opponents missing key players. Put it this way: If the Lakers truly were a dominant home team, there would be more garbage time available for Devin Ebanks. Instead, he rarely removes his warmups, whether in L.A. or elsewhere.
Truly great teams often destroy opponents in their house, and we just don't see that much from this squad.
Bold play of the game: With the first half just about concluded, Sessions found the ball in his hands at the 3-point line with just a few ticks on the shot clock. Most players would quite reasonably fire a jumper. Then again, most players don't have Sessions' speed. Thus, he twisted his way through a sea of bodies, then put in a layup just before the time elapsed. In every sense of the word, that is a bold decision.