The Lakers dropped their first of four straight home games against a 76ers team that was previously 1-13 on the road.
For the second straight game, the Purple and Gold lost to a team they were expected to dominate, and this time it was at home. Despite playing tough, and making progress in some key areas, the Lakers just didn’t have enough in them to come away with a win against a hungry 76ers squad.
Again it’s not like the Lakers were outplayed – they even won the rebounding battle 55-49 – it’s just that a team cannot sustain a high level of play when its lineups are constantly shifting. Pau Gasol was out of the contest again with his upper respiratory infection, Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake are still weeks away from returning (not to mention Steve Nash), and now Xavier Henry’s health is in question as he left the game early with a “strained right knee.” He will have an MRI tomorrow (Monday) , and we will know then whether he will miss significant time.
On top of that, Mike D’Antoni has not figured out how to use Chris Kaman, who after playing well against the Jazz saw just 10 minutes (4 pts, 3 reb, 2 blk).
Wesley Johnson is in a major slump. He was 0-3 from the field and had just 4 rebounds in 19 minutes.
While the Lakers made 12 three-pointers, it took them 37 attempts to do so (32.4% shooting). Nick Young was 2-11 from 3, Jordan Farmar was 1-5, and Shawne Williams – who was 3-7 – missed a wide open, game-tying 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in the ball game. The bright spot was Jodie Meeks, who hit 4-8 from deep, but all his makes came in the first half.
Despite Nick Young’s struggles from 3, and from the field (6-21), he still put up 26 points by going 12-12 from the free throw line. He was constantly attacking and looking to a draw fouls, mostly because he has been frustrated with what he feels are too many no-calls in favor of whoever the Lakers are playing. This was good at times, as he did get to the line 12 times, but mostly it hurt the team – trying to force the issue led to his 6 turnovers. He made two bad offensive plays near the end of the game and just about killed any momentum the Lakers had.
Jordan Farmar is still rusty, as he shot 3-11, and made a few uncharacteristically bad decisions, but he looks like he’s almost in shape. He had 8 assists in 30 minutes of playing time, and looks on track to be a terrific play-maker off the bench once Steve Blake returns.
The good news: New guys Ryan Kelly and Kendall Marshall played decently and showed promise. Kelly had 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks, was perfect from the floor and the free-throw line and played solid defense. Marshall scored 8 to go along with 3 assists and 2 boards, and hit a deep 3-pointer when the game started heating up in the 4th quarter.
The better news: Jordan Hill had a monster game. He ate up the boards and the put-backs, racking up 18 points and 13 rebounds (6 offensive) and shot 6-9 from the charity stripe. He ran the pick and roll with Jordan Farmar to perfection, and seems to be finding his role again.
The best news: The two areas that hurt the Lakers in their previous loss were shored up: free throws and rebounds. The Lakers shot 88.2% from the line (30-34) and won the rebounding battle. Although they still gave up 17 offensive rebounds, 9 of those were in the first quarter, so the Lakers showed improvement for most of the game.
The sobering bad news: The Lakers had 22 turnovers compared to 11 for the 76ers. The Lakers also gave up 52 points in the paint. Recently, the most telling stat of all has been the disparity in field goal attempts between the Lakers and their opponents. Tonight was no different as the Sixers shot 11 more times than the Lakers. Their field goal percentage wasn’t a whole lot higher (4.2% difference) and they made 6 less threes than the Lakers, but they made 8 more shots overall, and that was the difference in the game.
Looking ahead, there is hope. If the Lakers are going to turn it around before their stars return, now is as good a time as any. Their next three games are at home, and their next two are against bad teams (Milwaukee and Utah). If they can win at least one, and get this bad taste of playing hard and still losing out of their mouths, they just might be able to get things rolling and be in a good position to make a push when the likes of Kobe, Pau, and Steve Blake make their way back onto the court.
Lakers Player of the Game
Easily Jordan Hill. He was solid all night, and put up some terrific numbers. For a player whose playing time varies so much game to game, Jordan looked very comfortable on the floor. He ran the pick and roll extremely well with Jordan Farmar, and set the tone on the glass, where the Lakers had been getting dominated. The Lakers need this type of production every game, even if it isn’t the same gaudy numbers, if they want to right the ship.
Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. PST vs. the Milwaukee Bucks
This is an article by Joey Rudin. You can follow him on Twitter: @J_Rude24