Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Monday Counts, Too

Yell Louder
Yesterday in the Asso- ciation, the Lakers went into Dallas and took care of the suddenly hot home team. With Utah having a tough schedule down the stretch and Houston little regarded, it looked for all the world like everything was setting up for the Laker stretch drive, the one where Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant sing kumbaya and shake off the first 55 games of indifferent defense and intermittent effort. All they had to do was stay hot, stay healthy with this Pau Gasol-free (probably a plus, given how Mike D'Antoni offenses don't really have a great use for guys with his skill set) 8-man lineup, and start showing their bona fides. Or maybe just have Bryant use Twitter for more post-game smack talk.

But the funny thing about the Association is how games on Monday night, without national television exposure, count the same as the ones on Sunday... and in Denver tonight, against a deeper, better and fresher Nugget team, the Lakers took the pipe again, and fell back under .500, at 28-30.

I'd argue that they should have lost the Dallas game, too. In the fourth quarter of that one, the game devolved into Kobe Hero Ball, and with fresh legs after the All Star Break and Mark Cuban haterade filling his veins, he was able to deliver. But the nasty little fact about Bryant is that he's really not up to the hero role night in and night out anymore, mostly because the Lakers, well, don't really stop anyone on perimeter defense and don't have any shot blocking if Howard is in foul trouble, or off the floor because he's in bricklaying mode at the line, or just not possessing the conditioning or the effort.

Howard, by the way, is the lone Laker of note under 30, and the one that might force the franchise to amnesty Bryant to stay, because, well, he probably can. (And also can't really like playing with him, given that Bryant has more or less called his integrity into question this year for taking time off with injury.)

Anyway, the situation really isn't all that different, from day to day, because Utah lost a winnable game against Boston at home tonight, and still looks like a team that's one starting back court shy of a playoff spot. But the greater point is this: for the Lakers, the struggle will be the regular season, because they are not deep, not committed unless there's an audience, and not able to recover on back to backs. If they make it to the playoffs, they can certainly win any series; all you really need is a hot Bryant for four of seven games, and Steve Nash can certainly wake up the echoes for brief periods of time. I still don't like them, since Howard in crunch time defies liability, Metta World Peace is all kinds of terrible, and D'Antoni hasn't exactly coated himself in greatness with this roster.

But that's not the question now. That is, and remains, whether they can even get there. The jury's still out. (And the dream if a playoff season without these morose old pukes? Still alive.)

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule