Simply put, the Lakers lost a game that they could not afford to lose.
The Lakers were leading by 13 points with 10 minutes remaining, but Phoenix somehow ended the game on a 27-8 run. All the good ball movement seen in the previous three games, and in the previous three quarters, went out the window in the fourth.
Nor was the trouble limited to just the fourth-quarter collapse and the devastating loss.
Dwight Howard was forced to leave the game with seven minutes remaining when he re-aggravated his shoulder injury. After playing well through three quarters, Dwight played a part in the first three minutes of the collapse (an 8-0 Phoenix run), but had to watch the final seven minutes of destruction helplessly from the bench.
Steve Nash’s return to Phoenix was surprisingly quiet. He scored 11 points on 3 of 8 shooting, and had just two assists. He also contributed four rebounds and a steal.
The Lakers were plagued by turnovers tonight, committing 19 in total, with Kobe Bryant responsible for six of them, and Pau Gasol for four. There were a number of lazy passes tonight, and multiple instances where guys just seemed unable to catch a pass, or hang on to the ball.
The Lakers were playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road, and it certainly showed in that fourth quarter.
The team shot just 43% tonight, and each Lakers player shot below 50% tonight with the exception of Antawn Jamison, who was able to score 13 points in 12 minutes on 5 of 6 shooting.
The Lakers also shot just 30% from three, and just 63% from the line.
Phoenix was led tonight by Michael Beasley, who scored 27 points on 12 of 20 shooting, with eight of his points coming in the final 5:09.
Kobe Bryant did have a couple of milestones tonight. With his nine assists in the game, he moved past Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and into 35th place on the all-time assist list with 5,664. And by playing in his 1,207th NBA game, he moved into a tie for 24th place with another Lakers great – former teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
Here is a closing, frightening thought: Tonight was the Lakers’ eighth consecutive road loss, and their first game of what will be a seven-game road trip.
Have the Lakers fallen back to square one? Or will they bounce back strong this weekend with their games in Minneapolis and Detroit?
No one has the slightest idea.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
No Laker played particularly well tonight, but the honour goes to Kobe Bryant, based primarily on his performance during the first three quarters. Kobe finished with a team-high 17 points, a team-high 9 assists, and 5 rebounds, although this was marred somewhat by 7 of 17 shooting and six turnovers.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“It was an absolute Greek tragedy for the Lakers in the fourth. Nothing went right. Absolute dumpster fire.” – @LakersNation, post-game tweet
“Lakers fans cheer up. Hour of Seinfeld is on channel 13 right now.” – @DuranSports, post-game tweet
Friday, February 1 at the Minnesota Timberwolves, 6:30 p.m. PST