A typical night for Kobe Bryant and another very good game from Jeremy Lin didn’t help the Los Angeles Lakers win, losing 101-94 in overtime to the Denver Nuggets, as an awful Nick Young performance and the usual defensive weakness were too much for them to overcome over the course of the game.
The Lakers, except for the third quarter in which they scored 36 points, weren’t having a very good game offensively. They were held to under 20 points in the first quarter and the fourth, scoring just 11 as the Nuggets slipped past them to force overtime. In overtime, the defense crumbled, as the Lakers were limited to only 8 points. When the game wasn’t going in fast pace and allowing Jeremy Lin to push the ball on the fast break, the Lakers were really struggling.
Defense keeps dragging them down. They did allow only 86 points in regulation, their best defensive performance of the season, but this team doesn’t have a defensive anchor. Jeremy Lin is left completely alone against Ty Lawson, and the Lakers have no option of creating some help defense in any other isolation, because of how easy it is for teams to pick out the open passer and score easy points against them. It’s man to man all the way, and the Lakers don’t have the best bunch of defensive players, or at least guys who aren’t that committed to defense.
Lin didn’t have a good overtime, missing two free throws and going 1-of-2 from the field. Nick Young kept missing and the defense, well, it was the same as it has been all year. A bit of pressure and a bit of complexity to the Nuggets offense broke it down. You can’t maintain a successful team when there’s such a liability, all the time. Having Young and Bryant shooting without a conscience and creating a lot of opportunities for transition offense doesn’t help either.
Wesley Johnson and Wayne Ellington had some nice moments that will enter highlight films, but both of them don’t provide another scoring option for the Lakers to give Bryant or Lin someone to pass to. Nick Young? He is always a last stop anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. With a bench almost devoid of offensive talent, that’s what the Lakers need. More often than not, he delivers the goods with his unique style and arrogance that’s more contagious than annoying.
With a season that started out so badly, the pressure is on them to improve as a team instead of win. The playoffs might be a goal in the minds of some players, but that simply isn’t happening. The Lakers aren’t good enough for that. Missing Carlos Boozer gave Ed Davis an opportunity which he didn’t take advantage of. As easy as Boozer is to criticize, he gives the Lakers an inside scoring option they find very hard to do without, although that’s not a guarantee every game. The Lakers shooting just 3-of-24 from beyond the arc didn’t help either.
Kobe Bryant doesn’t change. He plays the same way and hits about the same amount of shots each time. It takes him 24 shots to reach 27 points. That’s not the way to lead a team, even if you are the best player. The Lakers looked their best when Lin (17 points, 5 assists) was responsible for handling the ball and attacking the basket on every opportunity he had. When the game slowed down, so did he, as another very good offensive game from him went to waste.