Another road trip, a different result.
The Los Angeles Lakers finished up their 4-game road trip on Tuesday with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies, bringing them to 2-2 since leaving Los Angeles. Three weeks ago, the Lakers fared pretty well in a 3-game road stretch by defeating the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons without Kobe Bryant. This time around, they suffered an expected loss in a blowout to the Oklahoma City Thunder and a disheartening second half defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.
Maintaining an undistinguished record of 12-13 in the first 25 games of the season, Los Angeles has been up and down since the return of their superstar, which many anticipated. Against Memphis on the end of a back-to-back, Bryant scored 21 points on 9-0f-18 shooting, including a clutch 3-pointer over Tony Allen late in the fourth quarter.
While their inconsistency on defense is not something anyone can get away with in Western Conference, there are two other issues the Lakers will look to touch up before they begin the next 4-game stretch heading into Christmas day.
To question if the Lakers would be a solid rebounding squad without the athletic force of nature in Dwight Howard, would be simply oblivious. Pau Gasol does have a size advantage over almost everyone he meets in the middle, and there’s something to be said about Jordan Hill‘s energy level when attacking the glass. However, neither have been as active as Howard on the boards throughout their careers. Majority of the basketball world downplayed Howard’s move to Houston, not wanting to admit it would be a huge loss in the frontcourt. In a nutshell, the team has no defensive identity in the paint, as we witnessed hard evidence during the road trip.
Offensive rebounding proved to be a fault for Mike D’Antoni‘s team against the Thunder, allowing the opposition to collect 20 offensive boards and 59 total for the game. Allowing that many second chance opportunities isn’t going to produce wins, which is why Los Angeles deserved the 25-point beating in Oklahoma City.
In Memphis, the Lakers got away with one. It was yet another horrific performance of securing the loose ball after a shot, as Los Angeles was out-rebounded by the Grizzlies 49 to 37. Despite the 18 offensive rebounds by the Grizzlies, the Lakers were able to come away with a four point victory. Morally, the Lakers can’t be too thrilled with the win, knowing that Zach Randolph played a sub-par offensive game by shooting just 7-of-22 from the field, Memphis’ starting point guard (Mike Conley) was inactive, and their defensive engine Marc Gasol still remains out with a MCL sprain.
Overall through 25 games, D’Antoni’s unit is mediocre, at best, on the glass. The team ranks 17th in the league in rebounds per game by hauling in 42.6 per night. The problem isn’t their skill, it’s their effort and intensity after opponents take their shots. Boxing out is becoming a rarity, and only kills the teams that play quality defense in the initial shot clock. Getting the stop includes securing the ball after the miss.
Key rankings for Los Angeles in first 25 games:
- Total Rebounds allowed: 29th of 30
- Defensive Rebounds allowed: 28th of 30
- Offensive Rebounds allowed: 29th of 30
The other alarming issue has to be the point guard situation in Laker land. With all three of the team’s rotational point guards being sidelined with injury, Kobe Bryant has had to be the one responsible for defending the opposing floor generals. Russell Westbrook is just simply too athletic, and there’s nothing wrong with that when talking about a 35-year-old veteran in Bryant. Kemba Walker played efficiently with Bryant on him as well, and once again, no shame in that. But the health of the point guards for Los Angeles needs to be ascending very quickly, because the long-term reality is that it’s too much to ask of Bryant right now.
Jordan Farmar received bittersweet news on Wednesday, as team doctors stated he will be out at least one more week. Farmar continues to recover from the torn hamstring and let reporters know that the injury has progressed tremendously, but still not fully ready for game action.
Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) and Steve Blake (elbow) remain out, and it’s not promising they will be able to contribute anytime soon. Blake will be out another five weeks at the minimum, while Nash chose to fly to Vancouver during the Lakers’ recent road trip to continue training and rehabbing. Oh, the age of the Lakers.
The aggressiveness of Pau Gasol, who D’Antoni believes is returning to an “All-Star level” after very solid performances against Memphis and Atlanta, MUST be seen on Friday night as the Lakers take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center. Recently snapping a very long losing streak to the Lakers, Minnesota’s A-game will be there. They bring it every single night, recently defeating the NBA’s best Portland Trail Blazers in a high-scoring affair.
The Timberwolves score 105.7 points per game (3rd overall), and rank 5th in rebounding. Based off the soliloquy above concerning Hollywood’s troubles, this game could get really ugly, very quickly.