Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Game 18: We Should Have Won vs. the Grizzlies

Posted on Lakers Nation's facebook: Our resident Lakers Nation 'fan' gave her take on the Lakers struggles last night in Memphis. What needs to change for them to get back on track?

(I like being referred to as the "resident fan"!! haha)

Here's the article:

On the surface, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies do not seem to have much of a connection; a casual basketball fan would remark that there is no storied rivalry, no bad blood, and that the Grizzlies haven’t even been in Memphis for very long (coming via Vancouver).

However, there are two storylines integral to Laker lore that entwines both of the organizations in vital ways. Pau Gasol played with Memphis for the first 7 years of his career before being traded to the Lakers in 2008. The Lakers received an All Star and the missing link to their championship hopes along with a 2010 first round draft pick. The Grizzlies on the other hand received the draft rights to his brother Marc, a few draft picks and three Lakers: Aaron McKie, Javaris Crittendon and Kwame Brown (good riddance). Many considered it highway robbery at the time and still do, but I’m not going to argue- the arrival of Pau brought with it three straight trips to the Finals and two championships, not to mention a number two option that Kobe trusts and respects.

The saga continues with Lakers hero Jerry West, also known as The Logo and Mr. Clutch. He is one of the greatest Lakers of all time, not only for his amazing contributions as a player but for his work in the front office as well. This is the man who orchestrated two separate eras of greatness, after concluding his own: Showtime in the 1980’s and Shaq/Kobe in the 2000’s. He is the one who traded a known quantity in Vlade Divac for Charlotte’s 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, seeing greatness and passion lurking underneath the skinny high school exterior of Kobe Bean Bryant.

He is also the one who will be honored with his own statue outside Staples Center next February to join the likes of Magic Johnson and the legendary Chick Hearn. While all of Lakerland was sad to see Mr. West leave for Memphis, he left an amazing legacy in Los Angeles and a great foundation for the team and front office. Mitch Kupchak has excelled for the past ten years due to the tutelage he received as an assistant general manager under Jerry West.

As for the game itself, I’m afraid it was terribly disappointing. I had originally planned to write a detailed, thoughtful recap of the Lakers-Grizzlies game, much like I did a week ago when they played Chicago. Unfortunately, I misplaced my diligent notes and had pretty much decided to ignore most of them anyway. I don’t see the need to dwell on a few amazing plays when the overall feel of the game and the outcome in particular was so dismal.

I thought the game started out well enough, but it was a telling sign for the evening that the only Lakers to score for most of the first quarter were Kobe and Pau. Derek had a nice little game; his parents had driven from his hometown in Arkansas, so perhaps he was putting on a show for them. I felt it was his most solid outing of the season so far. Ron also had a good game (we’ll get to the end in a moment); he was 2 of 4 from three point range, and 5 of 11 overall. He also had a number of hustle plays and just seemed to be working more diligently than he has. Even though the box score doesn’t reflect it, I felt very positive about his effort.

Barnes didn’t have a great game, and Shannon was struggling at first but he and Steve Blake became our second half saviors. Brown hit a beautiful, very long three pointer as the shot clock expired late in the 3rd, and followed it up with a fast break layup. Great energy, great plays.

Blake hit 2 threes in a row, and was 3-5 from beyond the arc. I felt like we had a great chance to win the game, especially after coming back from a 13 point deficit. Unfortunately, one of the problems was the number of shots that popped out of the basket. I couldn’t believe how many shots wouldn’t stay down; I don’t know if that is the fault of bad luck, of poor, flat shooting, or most likely a combination of the two.

The other problem was Kobe. Yes, I said it. I hate picking on Kobe, and I avoid blaming him for absolutely anything if possible. He gets a little too much leeway from me, but I just can’t help it: he’s my favorite and always has been. Last night though was terrible. 9-25. Airballs. One on five matchups. It was way too much 2006 Kobe and not enough 2010 Kobe. I’m not sure why he felt the need to take over as much as he did, but it seemed excessive.

I actually wanted the ball out of his hands a number of times… he would stop the ball movement and just start dribbling into defenders. Granted, his teammates didn’t come over to help much, but it just annoyed me. The one time I absolutely wanted him to shoot was at the end of the game. He had a great look, went up…. and passed to Ron Artest. I couldn’t believe it! No matter what Ron does, I will never say another bad word about him because he saved us in Game 5 against the Suns and of course Game 7 against the Celtics. That doesn’t mean that I want him taking the game winning shot if Kobe already has the ball in his hands and a decent look at the basket!

A little midrange jumper with a high arc, boom: Lakers win. But Kobe throws it to Ron. Ron’s attempt was blocked by Rudy Gay and the Lakers lost their third game in a row for only the second time since acquiring Pau in February 2008.

I’m not one of those fans who panics unnecessarily when the Lakers lose. I definitely get upset, especially if they lose a game I know they could have won. Last night was the first game of the season I felt that way. I was angry. It is one thing to feel as if the other team deserved to win, but it’s another issue to feel as if the game slipped through your fingers.

As much as I hate losing any game and convince myself that we can win everything on the schedule, I also know how unrealistic that is. The playoffs are what counts. Having said that, I do find it a bit troubling that they’ve now lost three in a row and five games overall. The Western Conference is looking much more difficult that I originally imagined, so playoff seeding and especially home court advantage is going to be crucial.

My heart would have sunk last year if I thought the Lakers had to win Games 6 and 7 in Boston. Maybe they could have, but it’s a frightening thought- one I don’t want to contemplate this coming June (knock on wood). The Lakers are known to slack off a bit in the early months and again in March/April, but they’ve been playing hard so far. I really don’t want to see them temporarily lose that competitive edge. It’s only five games, but it’s also already five games.

Tonight’s contest is going to be crucial. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers respond, especially in the second game of a back-to-back. The Rockets are tough opponents and it took a 3 from newbie Steve Blake to win on opening night. Hopefully the Lakers will buckle down, show up and play the great team oriented basketball we’ve come to expect from our guys.

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