Culture of Hoops

Los Angeles Lakers get burned by Phoenix Suns


It’s getting harder and harder to watch the Los Angeles Lakers. They have occasional games—like Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves—when it looks like they may have found their stride, and then you’re quickly reminded that’s not the case.

The purple and gold found themselves in Phoenix on Monday, playing a Suns team who has surprised everyone lately. In the end, L.A. lost 117-90.

A sample of this game’s pace was established in the first quarter. By the second quarter, both teams were running at full speed, pulling up to shoot jumpers with no thought about driving to the basket. This is coach Mike D’Antoni’s game, and it’s what the Lakers hired him to do. But the complete lack of defense, mixed with the Suns’ red-hot shooting, was a recipe for disaster.

Gerald Green led the Suns with six three-pointers and 22 points, while Miles Plumlee had a career night with 17 points and 20 rebounds.

Pau Gasol returned after fighting off an infection, and you could tell that he wasn’t quite right yet, though it’s fair to say he’s lacked intensity throughout much of the season. Still, he shot 33 percent and grabbed only four rebounds in 20 minutes (and of course, only one of those was an offensive rebound).

Nick Young led the team with 19 points, while shooting only 35 percent. Jodie Meeks was the second highest scorer with 18 points. Shawne Williams tied his third highest scoring game this season with seven points.

What’s more, the only man who (by the numbers) helped the Lakers was Chris Kaman, with a +1 rating, and he can barely buy playing time these days (for reasons that literally no one understands, including him). Robert Sacre had a -2, and Jordan Hill a -3 … and these were the three players who helped the Lakers the most.

The important thing to notice is how these guys play in comparison to the rest of the team, including Gasol. All three big men work the paint, and look to get the ball near the basket. Hill led the team in offensive rebounds. In total, the Lakers only grabbed eight rebounds on offense, while the Suns grabbed 13.

In all, the Lakers had 39 rebounds, while the Suns had 62. Basically, the Suns just wanted the ball more than the Lake Show. That and the fact that for 20 minutes out of 48, Gasol barely even tried to do anything on offense or defense, and essentially took up space.

In some good news though, the team finished with only 11 turnovers, which is the lowest they’ve had since they played the Portland Trail Blazers on December 1st (they had the same number of turnovers against the Suns when the teams met on December 10th, which also resulted in a Lakers loss).

The improving turnover situation is encouraging, though they had these same numbers against the Suns last time, so it’s not safe to say that they are making permanent changes. Like many of the other games this season, whether or not the Lakers win will come down to how well they shoot threes since they’re (on the whole) reluctant to attack the rim or rebound. Guess you can’t blame the players when they’re being coached to catch and shoot.

It’s hard to see this relationship with D’Antoni reasonably lasting much longer at this rate.

For Jeremy Beren’s take from the Phoenix Suns’ perspective, click here.

Image courtesy of Scott Mecum.

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