Five games, five straight losses. The Los Angeles Lakers failed to win again at home on Sunday evening, falling to the Philadelphia 76ers, 111-104.
When the annual ESPN regular season projections were released during the summer, maybe we all shouldn’t have been quick to attack their 12th place ranking of the Lakers in the Western Conference. Los Angeles currently sits at the 13th spot in the loaded 15-team conference, with a record of 13-18.
Sunday vs. Philadelphia appeared to be a very winnable game for even this Lakers squad. Los Angeles held the 76ers to 20 points in the first quarter, as Jodie Meeks scored six of his 15 points in the opening stanza against his former team. It was the next two quarters that would bite the Lakers. Allowing Philadelphia to light up the scoreboard for 32 points in the second and 34 in the third, the Lakers found themselves down nine (86-77) heading into the fourth.
At the end of the day, horrible shooting and countless turnovers disabled the Lakers’ chances at holding a lead in the final five minutes of action. Los Angeles turned the ball over 20 times during the game, which is almost an automatic death trap for any team, except the Indiana Pacers. Teams that play outstanding defense, such as Indiana, can afford a few extra mishaps on offense (i.e. throwing the ball away, losing the ball in the paint). But for the Lakers, who give up 103.6 points per game, keeping the ball on your end of the floor is essential. Los Angeles averages 14.9 turnovers per game, and allowed Philadelphia to convert on 18 fast break points, far too many.
After issuing a frustration statement on Friday about how the officials aren’t respecting the Lakers with the appropriate calls, I guess you can say Nick Young got what he was pleaded for. Los Angeles got their opportunities at the free throw line, and did what they were supposed to do. However, finishing 30-of-34 from the charity stripe wasn’t enough to make up for their horrid shooting from the field.
“Swaggy P” scored a game-high 26 points but shot just 2-of-11 from 3-point range. In total, the Lakers shot 12-of-37 from beyond the arc, proving they should probably pound the ball in the paint more often when their shots aren’t falling. The three critical backcourt assets for the Lakers (Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, and Jodie Meeks) shot a frightening 14-of-44 from the field (31.8 percent).
Perhaps a couple good signs for Lakers’ fans could come from the play of rookie Ryan Kelly and newly-acquired point guard Kendall Marshall. Kelly has been asked to play more minutes with the unbelievable injury plague that has swarmed through Los Angeles, and contributed 7 points off the bench. After all, this is way more than what we expect from Kelly at this point, so having the confidence to come in and be comfortable with the ball in his hands is a bit of a surprise, at least to me. Among many of the plays that Kelly was active and engaged, he converted on an impressive spin move in the post, and knocked down three huge free throws as he drew a foul on a 3-point attempt.
Marshall, the fourth string point guard that played 17 minutes for the Lakers, scored eight points and shot 2-of-3 from 3-point territory. People that are familiar with his game from North Carolina back in his NCAA days know that he was never a terrific shooter, so his play truly stood out despite the loss.
And…..then there was the dreadful blow that just seems inevitable this season. Lakers’ guard Xavier Henry attempted to execute on a 1-on-3 fast break and suffered a right knee injury, one that the Lakers are calling a “strained knee.” It appeared to be a non-contact injury, which is never good to see. Remember, Derrick Rose‘s recent knee collapse was also caused without contact. Henry played only four minutes and didn’t have a chance to contribute anything on the offensive end.
After the game, Henry implied that there may not be too much to worry about concerning the knee injury:
“I just landed awkwardly on my leg when I was about to plant,” Henry told the media. He also said that the knee feels “a little loose” and that it “kind of buckled.” There was minimum swelling after it occurred. “Worse things have happened,” Henry added. “All I can do is go (on Monday) to my MRI, see what they say, and go from there. I’m not very concerned. This is a plan and I’m just going to follow the course.”
We don’t have to think back too far to remember the last time a Laker experienced an injury and didn’t feel worried about it. Kobe Bryant went down with a non-contact knee injury and continued to play to finish the game, only to find out when he returned to Los Angeles that he had a fractured knee.
With the Lakers struggling at a time in their schedule that they should be feasting, this is NOT a time for another injury. It sure seems as if Henry could miss some action, considering their next matchup is the day after his MRI, Tuesday vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. Henry has been the second-leading scorer off the bench for the Lakers, averaging 10.1 points per game and scoring his career-high 27 points at the beginning of December.
It’s still only 31 games into a long 82 game grind, but the playoff hopes that I had for this Lakers’ team are dwindling by the day. If Pau Gasol can fight off the upper respiratory infection and be back by Tuesday, the train can get rolling in the right direction again.
But these are Mike D’Antoni‘s Lakers, a combination that has been known to be the most inconsistent team you could imagine.