48 points …. and the ripping begins.
Not only is that number going to rest in the memory of Los Angeles Lakers’ fans all through next season, but it will also serve as the page break in the document of Hollywood basketball. Losing by 48 points (142-94), the Lakers were scraped off the floor by their rivaled Clippers in their worst loss in regular season franchise history on Thursday.
loss disposal followed two extremely different tales that the Lakers gave us this week, defeating playoff-bound Portland on a last second layup and allowing Anthony Davis‘ Pelicans to pour 132 bird droppings on their heads two nights later. No need to grab your calculator …. that’s truly 137 points per game allowed in Mike D’Antoni‘s last two games. Many wouldn’t be surprised considering his reputation, but even that’s merely ridiculous and unfit for the most historic franchise in basketball.
Faithful fans that attended Staples Center on Thursday believing they were showing dutiful attitude supporting the purple and gold, should be rewarded with free tickets, merchandise, and a sincere apology from the players and entire coaching staff.
Tanking by choice is one path the Lakers have avoided this season, and rightfully so. This franchise has grown into the label of one that rebuilds through offseason acquisitions and mid-season deals, not by continuous draft commitments.
Accidental tanking by lack of talent is the reality we’ve been forced to accept, as appalling as it may be to watch. Thursday night was just another chapter that should be cut out, ripped up, and burned, as the Lakers had absolutely no answer for the Clippers’ athleticism, hustle, and determination to make a statement.
Beginning the nationally televised cooking, the Lakers appeared promising by jumping out to a energetic start behind Pau Gasol and his early establishment in the middle. While the Spaniard shot just 3-of-8 in the opening quarter, his offensive engagement provided his team with 10 early points and just a two point deficit, 29-27, heading into the second.
Gasol was even stretching his own versatility in the first period, scoring on fast breaks in a much more finesse manner than Blake Griffin. Okay, it was a bit of a travel, but don’t rain on this Tinseltown flood anymore:
Kent Bazemore, who has shot 46.4 percent from the field since debuting for the Lakers on Feb. 21, added a bit of his own athletic flair to the performance Lob City decided to bring to the game. Connecting on a difficult reverse layup in transition and adding six early points to help Gasol on the offensive end, Bazemore remained the spark that fans still deserve to see until the final buzzer sounds on the Lakers’ season.
In addition to the quality offensive execution for the Lakers in the first, they also did their part in forcing the Clippers to cough up nine turnovers. To begin a game, that’s rather impressive defensive intensity from a team that ranks 27th in turnovers forced per contest. Their hands were in passing lanes nearly every trip up the floor, and the team found a rhythm that may have suited them perfectly had it remained for the entirety of the game.
These are D’Antoni’s Lakers, and that alone should tell us that we shouldn’t expect the slightest consistency for 48 minutes.
The first quarter became the only bright light for Jack Nicholson’s lifelong attachment, as the Lakers were torched in the second quarter, which many NBA fans could deem as the least competitive quarter of basketball played this season …. on any level. Doc Rivers urged his Clippers to keep pushing the ball in transition and creating easy, open shots for each other, which they did. The Clippers used 44 points in the second to blow the game wide open by halftime, limiting the Lakers to just 13 during the span.
14 points from backup point guard Darren Collison in the second became the highlight of the Clippers’ imposing 63.3 percent field goal efficiency, compared to the Lakers only finding the bottom of the net with 5-of-20 (25 percent) field goals.
“They smelled blood in the water, and they killed us,” D’Antoni stated after watching the brutal performance. “We took a body blow (in the second quarter) and it looked like it took us to our knees. The air went out big time.”
From that point forward, all it became was a track meet for the Clippers, whose biggest concern was who to get alley-oop attempts for in the open court. Eight members of the Clippers reached double digits in the scoring department, with Collison leading the way with 24 points and Griffin joining him with 20 of his own, to go along with 11 rebounds and seven assists.
One of my offseason statements centered around Collison being a better option than Eric Bledsoe for this Clippers unit, and I’ll fully stick by that in the long run. Collison is, without question, the best and most underrated backup point guard in the league, and he adds a certain dimension to the team — perhaps just being back with Chris Paul — that gives their second unit a structure they’ve needed. Playing behind Paul in New Orleans and eventually stepping in as a starter, Collison gave the Lakers a second quarter they would surely love to have back.
Only three Lakers recorded double figures on the night — Gasol, Bazemore, and Henry — as the they combined for 50 points (53.1 percent of the offense) and together shot 17-of-34 (50 percent) from the floor.
Gasol, who is in the final year of his large contract and still has no idea what Jim Buss or General Manager Mitch Kupchak‘s intentions are for next season, sounded off on why the historic loss came about so quickly:
“It was just a terrible game on our part,” Gasol stated. “Turnovers, not getting back defensively and not moving the ball enough. We did not create plays for each other, and that is how it started to fall apart. But you can’t dwell on this game or it will really get you down.”
After the first quarter, the Lakers simply gave up all maximum effort defensively, not hustling back after turnovers or missed field goals. The following clip was the perfect example on Thursday of the team finally surrendering to what is headed to be the worst season the Lakers have ever produced:
Clippers’ center, DeAndre Jordan, grabs a defensive rebound off Jodie Meeks‘ missed jumper, and proceeds to take a dribble before giving up the ball to Collison near halfcourt. With Collison in possession for less than four seconds, Jordan outruns the entire Lakers’ lineup — for nearly 94 feet — and receives a coast-to-coast lob for a slam over Robert Sacre. Known for his defensive mind without any offense, Sacre wasn’t even motivated to contain the Clippers’ front court after the first quarter. Nobody was.
“I’m just glad this game’s over,” Sacre said after the blowout.
Squinting Ahead …. In Tears
Barring a ton of star resting by Gregg Popovich and Scott Brooks, the bleeding is about to expand for the Lakers.
After a Friday matchup with Brian Shaw‘s Denver Nuggets, who just snapped a six-game losing skid with a 115-110 win over Dallas, Los Angeles faces the mountain of taking on the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Don’t look at that as a small bump in the road, as they won’t just see those teams once. The Lakers will meet with the Thunder in consecutive games (one home, one away) before repeating the same sequences with the Spurs. The league wants to hurt some eyeballs apparently, as all four will be nationally televised as well.
Finally re-claiming sole possession of 15th in the Western Conference, the Lakers aren’t where they want to be, but where they need to be. Of the players on the current roster, the one’s that will be coming off the salary books during the offseason (before potentially re-signing) include Jordan Farmar, MarShon Brooks, Kent Bazemore (restricted), Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Jodie Meeks, and Nick Young (player-option).
Talk about a great deal of reloading the front office will be in store for.
The best way to approach this early offseason — missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season — will be to re-sign Gasol at a respectable price, persuade Young to return without a overloading him with undeserving cash, and dumping off 40-year-old Steve Nash. It’s becoming very plausible, however, that Buss and Kupchak are leaning towards giving Nash another year to prove his body can keep up with the overcoming talent at the point guard position. Us living in reality know that it can’t, but the decision-makers rarely take all perspectives into considering. Don’t believe that? Take a look at which staff member was hired on Nov. 12, 2012.
Drafting a promising rookie from the young (but loaded) 2014 draft pool, and signing youth through free agency that Kobe Bryant will be able to work with for one season.
Fans of the 16-time NBA Champions can be upset all they want about passing on Carmelo Anthony‘s talents this upcoming summer. It’s in the best interest for the team, Bryant, and ultimately the fans’ support, to wait for a true MVP candidate in 2015.
It’s going to be horrific …. until the Lake Show turns into the “Love Fest.” See you in 2015, Kevin.
48 points. Never forget.