The Lakers waited two minutes too long to give a damn on D.
The Lakers, down 17 in the third quarter, were down by 3 with 10 seconds remaining. Nash gave the ball up to Kobe, who created his own three on an isolation play, but it fell short.
The loose ball came out to Earl Clark, who put up a desperation three, but he could not recreate the magic of 30 seconds earlier, when he hit his first three pointer of the season to keep the Lakers within striking distance.
A loss is a loss is a loss. In the end it doesn’t matter that the Lakers made a valiant comeback that fell just short. The cold hard truth is that they are now 15-20, in 11th place in the western conference, and 4.5 games out of a play-off position.
The most maddening aspect of the game was that the Lakers held the Spurs to just seven points in the game’s final seven minutes, but allowed 101 in the game’s first 41 minutes. For most of the game, they allowed 2.5 points per minute, but when they decided to play defense they were superb.
Tonight, the Spurs shot 12 of 25 (48%) on three-pointers. If you watched the game, then you’ll know that most of those shots were wide open.
For their part, the Lakers shot only 8 of 27 (30%) on threes, with Antawn Jamison going 0 of 5. In a game where the Lakers were forced to play small, some solid perimeter shooting would have helped.
On a positive note, the Lakers committed only nine turnovers tonight, which was a big part of why they were able to get back into the game.
The Lakers were led tonight by Earl Clark, who had a break-out game, and who will surely continue to get significant minutes as long as Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Jordan Hill remain injured, and who will likely continue to get some minutes even after they return. He was phenomenal – see below.
The other Laker who played amazingly well tonight was Metta World Peace. In addition to scoring 23 points (10 of 22) and grabbing eight boards, Metta had seven steals on the night – that is a rare accomplishment.
Unfortunately, the memory of Metta that is sticking with me post-game is his two-on-one break with Kobe Bryant in the game’s final minute, when Metta kept the ball, and came up empty….
Steve Nash contributed tonight with 14 points (6 of 12) and nine assists, while Kobe Bryant had 27 points (10 of 24), five assists, and four rebounds. It has to be said, though, that there were several plays in which Bryant looked totally uninterested in defending his man.
If D’Antoni were to play Kobe for 30 minutes a game instead of 40, but Kobe were to go 100% at both ends of the floor, I am convinced the Lakers would be further ahead – if only because it would be such an emotional boost for his teammates.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
No doubt about it, the player of the game tonight was none other than Earl Clark. With the three big men out again tonight, Clark stepped up, and stepped up huge. In 28 minutes of playing time, Clark scored a career-high 22 points on 9 of 12 shooting, and his baskets showed great touch from all over the court – he made nice drives to the basket, hit his mid-range jumpers, and even nailed a three with 32 seconds remaining that brought the Lakers back to within three.
In addition to all the points he scored, Clark played like a big man, pulling down a team-high and career-high 13 rebounds, and bothering the Spurs’ big men on the defensive end. Clark even contributed three assists on the night.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“Not to beat a dead horse, but the Lakers are the only team in the league that goes small, and still can’t guard the perimeter.” – @LA_SportsTalk, mid-game tweet
“There were times when the Lakers seemed deflated tonight, but the energy from Earl Clark really helped boost them. They fed off him.” – @LakersNation
Friday, January 11 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, 7:30 p.m. PST