So many missed opportunities.
A 13-point lead in the 4th with exactly 10 minutes to go and the Lakers seemed poised to begin their 7-game roadie on a positive note. Finally, they would snap their 7-game road losing streak. Finally, they would gain a game on the 8th seed in the West since the Rockets lost in Denver. Finally, the Lakers would actually turn the proverbial corner and start playing consistently.
The Lakers overcame a first half riddled with 12 TOs and exploded in the 3rd, shooting 65% from the field. They protected the rock, only giving it away twice. They outscored the Suns 32-22 with 4-5 on threes. Antawn Jamison closed the 3rd and opened the 4th registering 10 straight points to give the Lakers an insurmountable lead.
Then, the roof caved in.
The Suns went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 5 as the Lakers focused more on the knockout punch shooting and missing 4 threes over that span. 6 TOs and 8-17 from the field marked the demise of the winning streak and a chance to win one away from Staples. After Dwight hit the floor with another shoulder issue, Kob and Pau tried valiantly to keep the Lakers in it, but the prospect of two straight 4th quarter collapses proved too difficult to overcome. The ball stopped moving and the Suns double teams found a rhythm that upset that of the Lakers. A three by Jared Dudley tied the game at 82, and the Lakers needed to only execute their offense. Two straight TOs and a missed three by Kobe let the Suns build a four point lead and inhale all of the momentum.
Kobe scored 17, but only had 9 assists, which could be attributed to the ball starting in Nash’s hands to highlight his return to Phoenix. It is also a reminder, as Gatsby ironically mentioned in his ESPN bumper interview, that holding onto the past and the successes of the past won’t help this team. Steve provided 11 points and 2 assists in his homecoming, hardly the Nash the fans remember, but he has a different role in purple and gold. As Pau struggles with accepting his, he started the game visibly affected by Mike D’s perplexing comments about his new 6th man to the media. He still shot 50% from the field and scored 14, but his 5 assists never translated to the post ups that helped hold of the Hornets. Although he played the 4th out of necessity due to Dwight’s injury, the ball never found him to take advantage of his size or skill set, which could have easily have been remedied by a timeout and a quick conversation.
This bubbling feud might be something to keep an eye on, considering former dog house residents Jamison, contributing 13 points in 12 short minutes, and Jodie Meeks also saw the quick hook as the lead shrank early in the 4th. Mike D has rarely been accused of bridging the gap and actively fostering close relationships with players he doesn’t quite get along with, which could spell disaster on this monumental Grammy road trip.
A bumpy start to the road trip and an end to the winning streak should not re-energize any mass fan exodus. Even Kobe realizes exactly what this means.
We r on track. Gave one away tonight, let it slip away from us but I like how we are playing as a team. It will all come together this way.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 31, 2013
No, not another moral victory, just an honest evaluation of a tough loss to swallow. The Lakers choked, but it isn’t the end of the world. They are 3-1 in this latest, but definitely more successful, incarnation of the Lakers. It’s appropriate that they crash and burn in Phoenix. Now, they just need to rise from the ashes and try again.