Thanksgiving week has undoubtedly been the wildest for the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2013-14 season thus far. Every time it seems like the perfect moment to get excited about this team, something goes awry. As soon as you are ready to give up on their chances of being a playoff contender, the bench comes alive and you instantly become indecisive.
Well, it may be time to put all the chips on the Lakers being a solid playoff contender.
Sunday, Nov. 24th vs. Sacramento Kings — Win (100-86)
What stood out: The thought heading into this season was that the Lakers’ frontcourt would be massacred by opposing big men, considering they had lost their defensive anchor in Dwight Howard. Contrary to popular belief, Pau Gasol proved that he can still play efficiently against the athletic centers in today’s game. Despite having a rough year shooting the ball entering Sunday’s game, Gasol outplayed Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins by scoring 20 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and shooting 8-of-16 from the field. Gasol and Jordan Hill were the only players in double figure rebounds with 10 and 13 respectively.
Bench scoring: Being the highest scoring bench in the NBA, the Lakers’ second unit didn’t disappoint, outscoring Sacramento’s bench 40-26. Los Angeles’ bench was led by none other than Xavier Henry, who has been the definition of inconsistent this season. On occasion, Henry will show up on the offensive end and provide a huge 20-plus point night for the Lakers (21 points on Sunday), but disappear for the next couple games. To illustrate how “hit-and-miss” Henry can be, consider the following: He has tallied four games with 15 or more points, eight games with 5 or fewer points, and one scoreless game. When he comes to play, this team’s depth makes them tough to beat.
Tuesday, Nov. 26th at Washington Wizards — Loss (116-111)
Reason for defeat: In a game where the Lakers connected on twice as many 3-pointers than the Wizards (LAL – 13, WSH – 6), Washington was able to come out on top due to their 20-point advantage in points in the paint. Directly after holding DeMarcus Cousins to a mediocre night, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, and Shawne Williams simply had no defensive answer for Nene and Marcin Gortat, a frontcourt duo that scored 45 points on 19-of-30 field goals.
Also, it’s important not to forget that Washington is now home to a star in this league. Point guard John Wall had his way with the Lakers on Tuesday, proving why he is worth every bit of the $80 million that he signed for in the offseason. Wall scored 31 points and dished 9 assists to lead his team in both categories. The x-factor that the Lakers couldn’t slow down was wingman Martell Webster, who played 43 minutes and put in 4 3-pointers to bolster Washington’s offense even more. Los Angeles’ offense wasn’t too much to blame for this loss as they did manage to score 48 bench points and shoot 53 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from beyond the arc. Any other game, this would equal victory, right? Not when you allow your opposition to score 109 points just from their STARTING LINEUP.
Wednesday, Nov. 27th at Brooklyn Nets — Win (99-94)
We very well could have witnessed the most disappointing Lakers’ win of the season. Leading by 27 at one point in the first half, it looked as if the Lakers would provide the final embarrassment that would drive Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd out of a job. But, those who realized it was the Lakers, knew that something would hold them back in the second half.
Moments after the 2nd quarter began, Jordan Farmar drove 3 3-pointers into the Nets’ heart to open up a 43-18 lead for Los Angeles, who were wearing their new Hollywood Nights uniforms for the first time this season. The quarter indeed became all about Farmar, as he continues to show why he Mitch Kupchak made a wise decision to reach out to him after not playing in the league for the last two seasons. Farmar finished with 15 points, but wasn’t even the largest contributor off the bench. That recognition belonged to the kid with the most swag in the league, Nick “Swaggy P” Young. Young was determined to shoot his way out of his struggles, and did so by scoring a game-high 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting. In fact, Young was the main reason the Lakers’ bench was so strong in this game, as the second unit scored 52 of the 99 points for Los Angeles.
The story of the second half was the Lakers’ meltdown defensively, allowing Mirza Teletovic and Joe Johnson inch the Nets back into the game. Teletovic knocked down a series of outside jumpers and tough interior buckets to eventually give Brooklyn the energy to tie the game after trailing by such a substantial margin. Lakers’ fans can be thankful for the costly turnovers by Paul Pierce, however, as Wesley Johnson was able to pick off one of Pierce’s passes to lead an uncontested fastbreak and push the Lakers ahead in the final minutes of the game. Los Angeles was able to hang on and survive at the final seconds, allowing Pierce to get off a good look at the potential game-tying 3-pointer that didn’t fall. Many would wonder if Steve Blake and Xavier Henry knew how to defend Brooklyn in the final seconds of action after sneaking into the Nets’ timeout huddle.
The Lakers will travel to Mo-town after Thanksgiving to visit the Detroit Pistons on Friday evening. This will be Los Angeles’ final meeting with the Pistons this season, keeping in mind that they defeated Mo Cheeks’ group at Staples Center on Nov. 17th. Detroit is 6-9 on the year, but have won two of their last three games. Losing at home on Wednesday to the Chicago Bulls in a game where Luol Deng scored 27 points and Taj Gibson shot nearly perfect from the field (11-of-13), you have to imagine the Pistons are going to be ready to regroup at the Palace.
No, we will not see the Black Mamba return just because its Black Friday.