Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer penned a very intelligent look at the Lakers' offensive imbalance and season as a whole. Some terrific points raised, and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend giving the link a click. Particularly catching my eye was his description of the recent 0-3 roadie:
Los Angeles has lost three in a row, for the first time in more than two years. The first time since Pau Gasol became a Laker. The first time since, really, a three-game losing streak would mean anything to this team since Shaquille O'Neal was a Laker.
But they also lost to the Heat by three in overtime. That's a swing-either-way game. They were thumped again by the Bobcats, but that marks the seventh time in nine attempts that Charlotte has beaten the Lakers. The Bobcats have their number. It's over. They also won't see them again until some time next December. Then on Sunday, the Lakers lost to the Magic by three. Another either/or game, because as much as I credit the Magic for this win, these close games can go either way. It's usually your rooting interest that deludes you into believing otherwise.
So, clearly, this is the three-game losing streak that isn't. Or, probably, it's the three-game losing streak that really doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot.
There wasn't anything the Lakers were doing in this streak that they haven't been doing all season.
A very observant point. The "Pau era" streak met its end not because the Lakers suddenly became more vulnerable, but rather because they could no longer outrun mounting, unsolved issues.
People being slow to acknowledge these issues doesn't make them any less real.
For example, the Lakers are still often described as an offensive juggernaut, capable of dropping triple digits on opponents in their sleep because of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, and even Derek Fisher. That reputation remains strong enough to obscure a hard truth: The Lakers are having trouble scoring points, and these last three road games were no exception.
They averaged 105.9 points in November. 104.1 in December. 102.9 in January. 98.3 in February. And 102.5 in March, but that includes an OT game in Miami pushing them into triple digits. In the meantime, they've yet to clock a month at last season's 106.9 ppg.
Are there mitigating factors in these diminishing returns? Sure. You could note pace, number of possessions per game, injuries preventing continuity, Artest's immersion into the triangle, etc. They are all contributing elements, but they don't change the fact that these Lakers are not the Lakers of 2008 and 2009. These are not the chemistry-rich cats lighting up foes like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
In other words, they're not quite the Lakers team folks associate with the "Pau era streak" to begin with. They're not performing well against elite teams or division leaders. They haven't been as strong on the road as they were last season. Their celebrated depth has taken a hit from bad health and lingering ailments. And they can barely pass the ball without turning it over of late.
In the meantime, Dallas has won a dozen straight and is breathing down their necks for a conference lead once considered impossible to steal.
The Lakers are among the league's best defensive teams (look it up -- their points-allowed-per-100-possessions is second only to Boston's), and I still think they're capable of repeating, but they're struggling on offense, and there is no question the defending champs haven't played nearly as well as the team chasing last year's title. For all the ballyhoo about the "Pau era" streak ending, I'm amazed the Lakers were able to maintain it as long as they did, playing as inconsistently as they have this season.
In certain ways, the "Pau era" streak felt like an illusion, and I can't help but think there is hidden value in this piece of Lakers history becoming history.
The streak was arguably the last bit of invincibility projected on and by this team.
I doubt the Lakers actively took confidence from the mark, but I wonder if its inglorious end won't drive home the reality of where the squad sits right now, and of what needs immediate fixing to start playing in a way more fitting of the streak they achieved..
(A final note: Of the four title teams PJ coached in L.A., only one endured a three-game losing streak. It came during the 2001-2002 season and two of the losses were played without Shaq. I'm not sure there's anything to truly "take away" from this tidbit, but I thought it was worth mentioning.)