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The Lakers’ lethargy and lack of urgency was puzzling, given their precarious play-off position.
The Lakers looked good in building a 13 point lead midway through the second quarter, but then they relaxed, became sloppy, and allowed the Bucks to get themselves back into the game by half-time.
Still, the Lakers held an 88-87 lead with just under nine minutes to go, but they then allowed the Bucks to end the game on a 26-15 run. During those nine minutes, the Lakers handed the ball to Kobe Bryant to take contested shots, failed to get stops on defense, and were generally out-worked and out-hustled at both ends of the floor.
The Bucks, whose play-off position is already fairly secure, somehow seemed to want the game more than the Lakers, whose play-off position could not be more tenuous.
A significant part of the problem was that Steve Nash left the game midway through the third quarter with a hip spasm, and did not return.
In the 23 minutes Nash did play, he scored 16 points on just seven shots, and recorded six assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block. There was a two-minute period at the beginning of the third quarter where Nash did not look good, turning the ball over three times, but he was generally playing great, and the Lakers were moving the ball very well with him on the floor.
When Nash left the game, the Lakers lost their way on offense, and relied heavily on Bryant down the stretch. Sometimes that strategy works, but tonight it did not.
The Lakers, who had been showing great promise as recently as two weeks ago, have now lost four of their last five games.
To make matters worse, it was revealed after the game that Bryant has been playing with a bone spur in his left foot, which became inflamed tonight. Bryant actually left the stadium with the aid of a crutch, and is going to have his foot examined in Sacramento.
It is not known at this time whether Nash or Bryant will be available to play the Kings on Saturday, but the early buzz is that there is a better than 50/50 chance that each will be available.
Each Laker who played tonight had at least one problematic aspect to his game, so there is no point in listing all of them. But it needs to be mentioned that Earl Clark has now gone scoreless in three consecutive games, spanning 40 minutes of play. He has shot 0 of 8, with just eight rebounds, in that time.
I wonder whether it might be time for Coach Mike D’Antoni to give Clark’s declining minutes to Devin Ebanks, in the hope of catching lightning in a bottle, just as D’Antoni did a few months ago when he brought Clark off the bench.
If there was any good news for the Lakers tonight, it was that Dallas and Portland each lost as well. But the Lakers’ loss means that a Utah win in Portland Friday night would drop the Lakers down to ninth place, and out of the play-off picture.
The Lakers need to right their sinking ship in a hurry, and the surest way to do that is to play with a sense of desperation in Sacramento that was sorely lacking in Milwaukee tonight.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Any selection for player of the game tonight is going to be problematic, but I’m going to go with Dwight Howard.
For the second night in a row, Howard’s poor free throw shooting was an issue, as he shot just 3 of 10 from the line tonight, following on a 7 of 17 game yesterday. That’s simply not good enough.
And yet, aside from his free throw shooting woes, Howard did score 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and recorded 15 rebounds, three blocks and two assists. Further, in a game when the Lakers had 18 turnovers, Howard had only two of them in 38 minutes of play.
Howard now has 11 or more rebounds in 19 consecutive games.
Top Two Tweets in My Twitter Feed
“The theme Dwight harped on after the Lakers’ loss: ‘We have to help each other on defense. That’s the biggest thing.’” – @KevinDing, post-game tweet
“Can’t recall a Lakers’ season like this in my lifetime. So many pitfalls done unto them & of their own doing. Crazy.” – @ForumBlueGold, post-game tweet
Saturday, March 30, at the Sacramento Kings, 7:00 p.m. PDT