Suddenly, the Lakers have dropped three games in a row, and the top seeds in the Western conference are not nearly as worried about facing them in the play-offs as they were just one week ago.
The Lakers’ six point loss to the Warriors tonight was not as close as the score might indicate.
The Lakers fell behind early, down by 12 after the first quarter and down by 23 after two. At the half, the Warriors were outshooting the Lakers 54% to 36% from the field, and 46% to 14% from beyond the arc.
What really killed the Lakers, though, was the opening 3:30 of the third quarter. Steve Nash came out blazing, scoring seven points on 3-3 shooting and setting up Kobe Bryant for another three-pointer. Unfortunately for the Lakers, during that same period of explosive production, the Warriors shot 4-4 from beyond the arc, outscoring the Lakers 12-10, and extending their lead to 25.
In other words, just when the Lakers were finally starting to hit their shots, they could not prevent the Warriors from hitting theirs.
The Lakers did not throw in the towel despite being down by 25. They chipped into the lead and were down by 18 after three quarters, and managed to get as close as six points, which was the final margin of defeat.
Despite the second half effort, it would be fair to ask how the Lakers could have allowed themselves to fall behind by 25 points in this game, when every win is crucial if they are to make the play-offs.
Despite the improved second-half play from the Lakers, the Warriors still outshot them 48% to 40% from the field, and 44% to 23% from distance, over the course of the game. These shooting percentages were the major differences in the game.
The Lakers were led tonight by Kobe Bryant, who had 36 points, eight rebounds, three assists and no turnovers. Steve Nash flirted with a triple-double, recording 21 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and no turnovers. Dwight Howard chipped in with 11 points and 15 rebounds – remarkably, it was Howard’s 17th consecutive game with at least 11 rebounds.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the loss wasn’t their only bad news – there was also bad news on the injury front.
Metta World Peace, who has not missed a game this year due to injury, left the game at half-time with a left knee strain, and did not return. It is unclear at this point whether he will be available to play Wednesday in Minnesota.
Further, neither Pau Gasol nor Antawn Jamison, both playing through injuries, looked good tonight. In his second game back after missing 20 with a foot injury, Gasol scored just seven points and grabbed eight rebounds in 23 minutes. Jamison, who sprained his wrist in the Lakers’ previous game, had just five points, one assist, and one rebound in 15 minutes of play.
And Steve Blake, who is not injured, played as though he were tonight, recording just three points, three rebounds, and one assist in 34 minutes of play.
On a happier note, there was one Lakers’ milestone reached tonight. By scoring 21 points, Steve Nash moved passed Jeff Malone for 77th place in career points, with 17,251. He is likely to move past Kevin Willis in his next game.
Tonight’s loss to the Warriors, coupled with the Jazz’s win over the 76ers, means the Lakers now have just a one-game lead over Utah for the final play-off spot. And Utah holds the tie-breaker over the Lakers, meaning that the Lakers now have no margin for error whatsoever if they hope to play in the post-season.
Wednesday in Minnesota now qualifies as a must-win game for the Lakers.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Kobe Bryant was tonight’s player of the game. His 36 points did not come very efficiently (11-27 FG, 2-10 3PT, 12-16 FT), but he got to the free throw line repeatedly, and he pulled down eight rebounds and dished out three assists, against no turnovers.
Top Two Tweets in My Twitter Feed
“Safe to say the Lakers didn’t respond to D’Antoni’s rant after Friday.” – @ForumBlueGold, early-game tweet
“I’m so jaded when it comes to this team at this point. Just shrug it off and move on. Tough loss. Looked bad. Yup.” – @LakersNation, post-game tweet
Wednesday, March 27, at the Minnesota Timberwolves, 5:00 p.m. PDT