Jay-Z officially has nothing on the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. kicked off a 7-game roadie last night with a terrible, terrible road loss to the Phoenix Suns in which they blew a 3-game winning streak and a 13-point fourth quarter lead. Unfortunately for Mike D’Antoni’s squad, this Suns team was probably the least intimidating opponent they’ll line up against before they return to Staples on Feb. 12 against, you guessed it, the Suns.
Here’s how the rest of the road trip looks:
- Friday, Feb. 1: at Minnesota, 17-25
- Sunday, Feb. 3: at Detroit, 17-29
- Tuesday, Feb. 5: at Brooklyn, 27-19
- Thursday, Feb. 7: at Boston, 22-23
- Friday, Feb. 8: at Charlotte, 11-34
- Sunday, Feb. 10: at Miami, 29-13
This was one the Lakers, now 20-26 and 4 games out of the No. 8 seed, needed to have with only 36 games left on their schedule. Sure, they’re far from out of it, but it only gets worse from here on out — other teams vying for that No. 8 seed out West, teams like Houston, Portland, Minnesota and Dallas, all have more home games remaining on the schedule than L.A., which is scary considering the Lakers’ 5-16 road mark is third-worst in the conference.
With a 10-point lead heading into the fourth and later a 13-point margin in that quarter, this one was there for the taking at U.S. Airways Center. But the Lakers lost that crucial fourth 29-13, letting Michael Beasley, clearly Phoenix’s only scoring option, torch them for 27 points. L.A. committed 20 turnovers to Phoenix’s 12, and Lakers players were guilty of watching Kobe Bryant go 1-on-5 at points late, rather than adopt the heavy-passing approach that was working for them the past few games (and earlier that night, as Bryant dished out 9 more assists).
Dwight Howard’s shoulder is a problem I only expect to get worse throughout the season — he only played 29 minutes last night, less than Pau Gasol and Earl Clark. And with Howard’s woes at the FT line, teams are only going to continue to hack away. Gasol looks lost on both ends of the floor, his confidence clearly shaken by his no longer starting, though he did play 37 minutes Wednesday.
Where the Lakers can find bench scoring, outside of Gasol, is also an issue; Antawn Jamison did drop in 13 last night, but the only other bench player, minus Gasol, in D’Antoni’s 9-man rotation to register any points was Steve Blake with 2. And the 3-point struggles continue — the Lakers shot 8-29 from outside, with Metta World Peace missing 7 of 10.
Defensively, the Lakers are slow (and third-worst in the West in points allowed), and offensively, amazingly a team with 4 future Hall of Fame talents lacks an identity. Will Kobe dominate the ball or distribute? Well, last night, he did a little of both, but if the past week or so is any indication, he needs to assume a PG-like role, therefore counting on Nash, World Peace, Gasol, Howard, Clark and Jamison to translate easy opportunities into points.
I’m still not sure what to make of my preseason Finals representative out West. But if one thing’s certain, it’s becoming more and more clear this team will be watching the playoffs from home.
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