The Lakers looked lost for the entire second half as they got blown out for a second game in a row, this time by the Phoenix Suns 117-90.
For the second outing in a row, the Lakers’ lack of a point guard began to take its toll. The shocking number to prove it? 12 assists and 11 turnovers. Even the worst teams don’t average less than 18 assists per game. The Lakers also shot 37% from the field, 30% from three point land, and a terrible 65% from the charity stripe.
Pau Gasol returned from a one-game absence due to an upper respiratory infection. The blowout allowed him to sit most of the second half, and in his 20 minutes he scored 10 points, and pulled down just 4 rebounds. In a game where the Lakers desperately needed him to play his best basketball, Pau only looked fired up for a few minutes in the second quarter. On one sequence, he fiercely grabbed an offensive rebound, and then jumped(!) to grab a defensive rebound on the very next play. He looked aggressive in the post, but he shot just 4-12, and forced up a few bad shots. For most of the game, Pau was a half step behind. It would have taken a gargantuan effort by Pau to keep the Lakers in this one, and it just didn’t happen.
The Lakers ran into foul trouble early, with 3 players (Xavier Henry, Jodie Meeks, Shawne Williams) getting 2 fouls in the first quarter. In 6 first quarter minutes, Xavier had 3 fouls.
This led to an early Ryan Kelly sighting, and the rookie played well. In just four minutes, he scored 3 points off an and-1 jumper and played good defense against the Suns’ Markeiff Morris. Despite his good play, Kelly would not be seen until the fourth quarter, where he chose not to be aggressive, and scored 0 points in his 5 fourth-quarter minutes.
Foul trouble continued into the second quarter as the Lakers amassed 15 fouls in the first half, which led to 22 free throw attempts by the Suns. Mercifully, they only picked up 4 in the second half, but throughout the whole game, calls were just not going the Lakers’ way. The most egregious example that comes to mind is the refs violation of the “no blood, no foul” rule. Pau Gasol was posting up against Miles Plumlee. He made a swing-through move, and because Plumlee was playing such tight defense, Pau’s eye smashed into his face, drawing blood on Pau’s eye. The referee was standing about 5 feet away, staring at the play, and no whistle was blown. There was blood, but no foul.
Pau exited the game, and the Lakers were down by 19. This was yet another awful third quarter for the Lakers. For the second straight game, they made just 3 field goals, and scored a pathetic 17 points.
The Lakers simply couldn’t mount a fourth-quarter comeback as the Suns were shooting lights out from beyond the arc (14-32). Gerald Green hit 6-11. In comparison, the Lakers made 6-10 threes, with their 3-point leader being Jodie Meeks at 2-5.
The only other Laker to hit more than one three-pointer was Nick Young, who went 2-6. Swaggy P struggled to find a rhythm in Phoenix as he shot just 6-17. He scored 19 points, but 15 of those came in the first half.
Xavier Henry did not pick up any fouls after the first quarter, but he drew plenty. He shot 14 free throws, but unfortunately made just 7. He finished with 13 points on 3-12 shooting with 6 rebounds and 0 assists.
Shawne Williams played a nice first half, as he went to the rim aggressively and hit a catch-and-shoot three, leading to 7 points and 4 rebounds. He finished the game with 7 points and 6 rebounds.
Jodie Meeks scored 18 points on 6-15 shooting and his 2 three pointers. He missed a shocking 3 free-throws, and got a layup attempt absolutely stuffed by Miles Plumlee.
Speaking of Plumlee, he had 11 points and 11 rebounds by halftime. He finished with 17 points and 20 rebounds. That’s a career high in rebounds. Yes, the Lakers gave up yet another career high to a non-star.
Mike D’Antoni gave the press a doozy of a response when he said that if Lakers fans are discouraged (after these 2 blowouts), they should find another team to root for. He has a good point, but he did not say it in a press-friendly way. I believe he’s trying to say that if a Lakers fan is discouraged by a team without point guards or Kobe getting blown out by two good teams away from Staples Center, they don’t have any business being a Lakers fan. Lakers fans know better than to doubt this team’s grittiness and fight, and realize that the current available players can’t give great performances night in and night out. So it was really a roundabout way of complimenting the Lakers fan base, and emphasizing the injury woes.
With all the offensive shortcomings, it was really the defense that killed the Lakers. They rotated slowly and left the Suns’ elite three-point shooters wide open way too many times. The Lakers simply looked lost on defense, and were not communicating with each other. If they are going to put themselves in any position to win games without a fluid offense, it has to start on the defensive end. And the Lakers are just not doing it. They are in no position to give up 117 points if they want any chance to win a game.
The Lakers play the Heat on Christmas Day, and the Lakers will probably get blown out again, this time at home. The Heat are easily a better team than both the Warriors and the Suns, and won’t want to get embarrassed by losing to a (13-15) Lakers team without Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Kobe.
The biggest concern for this game is not the Heat themselves, however, but Jordan Farmar. In his return he will see extended minutes with the starters. Given that the hamstring is such a delicate injury to return from, it is possible that we could see a re-tear, causing him to miss even more time. The Lakers desperately need a point guard back (Kendall Marshall is far from ready), and Farmar’s health is much more important than this game, so I am hoping that when Farmar does play, he doesn’t overdo it and re-injure himself.
I want to wish a Merry Christmas to all of our readers and thank you all for support!
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Jordan Hill had a quiet, but effective game. In just 14 minutes, he scored 7 points on 3-7 shooting and grabbed 4 rebounds, 3 of which were offensive. Hill was the lone man to play as he had been before the loss of the point guards, and it’s perplexing that he only got 14 minutes of playing time.
In a game where they got out-rebounded 62-39, the Lakers could have used his presence down low.
Wednesday, Dec. 25 at 2:00 p.m. PST vs. the Miami Heat
This is an article by Joey Rudin. You can follow him on Twitter: @J_Rude24