The Lakers blew an 18-point lead, at home, to the lowly Washington Wizards.
The only thing that could have been worse would have been the Jazz – the Lakers closest competition for the eighth play-off seed – defeating the Spurs tonight. Thankfully for the Lakers, the Spurs edged the Jazz in overtime.
However, the Lakers did not get away unscathed. The Rockets, Mavericks, and Trail Blazers all won tonight, thus gaining a full game on the Lakers.
The Lakers-Wizards match-up was a tale of two halves. The Lakers dominated the first, outscoring the Wizards 57-41. But the Wizards – playing for the fifth time in eight nights – dominated the Lakers in the second half, 62-43. In Los Angeles. Ouch.
The Lakers have now lost two games in a row for the first time since losing to the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies on January 21st and 23rd.
Tonight’s game marked the return of both Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, with mixed results.
Gasol pulled down eight rebounds in only 18 minutes of play, but during that time shot a disappointing 2 of 10. Bryant had a better game, scoring 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting and dishing out 11 assists, but he also had six turnovers, shot just 4 of 7 from the free throw line, and seemed uninterested in contesting Ariza’s many corner threes.
Still, it was good to see Gasol and Bryant back in the line-up, and Lakers fans have reason to hope for better performances once they shake the rust off.
While Gasol and Bryant may have been a bit off their games, conditioning was not generally an issue tonight. The Lakers were playing on three full days of rest, and Coach Mike D’Antoni went with a nine-man rotation. Their only explanation for the loss was that they thought they had the game won, and eased up.
The Lakers were led tonight by Dwight Howard, with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Howard looked strong all night.
Beyond the loss, a troubling aspect of the game was Antawn Jamison’s departure in the fourth quarter with an injured wrist. Hopefully it is not a long-term injury, as the Lakers cannot afford to lose any of their rotation players at this stage of the season.
In the process of beating the Lakers tonight, two Wizards set career bests. Trevor Ariza, the former Laker, connected on seven three-pointers, while point guard John Wall recorded 16 assists.
The Wizards are not as bad of a team as their 25-43 record would suggest, as they are now 20-15 in their last 35 games, and in addition to the Lakers have beaten the Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Nets, Thunder and Nuggets (twice) this year.
Still, there is no reason for the Lakers to blow a 16-point half-time lead at home to the Miami Heat, let alone the Washington Wizards.
The Lakers now leave Los Angeles for a four-game road-trip that will have them play Golden State, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Sacramento. All four are winnable games, but the two middle games are scheduled on back-to-back nights, and the Lakers have yet to sweep a back-to-back in 13 attempts this season.
It won’t be easy, but the Lakers are going to need to come back to Staples Center with three wins from the trip.
Lakers Player of the Game
Dwight Howard was clearly the Lakers play of the game tonight. Howard scored an extremely efficient 20 points (8-9 FG, 4-5 FT), pulled down 15 rebounds, handed out three assists and blocked a shot.
Howard has now grabbed at least 11 rebounds in every game since the all-star break, a string of 16 games.
Top Two Tweets in My Twitter Feed
“The reason D’Antoni was so upset: it’s too late in the season for such complacency, particularly when it’s happened too often before.” – @LakersReporter, post-game tweet
“I think Ariza just hit another three.” – @ForumBlueGold, half-an-hour after the game ended.
Monday, March 25, at the Golden State Warriors, 7:30 p.m. PDT