So the Los Angeles Lakers lost, on the road. Nothing new. Kobe Bryant tried to win the game on his own in the clutch, and failed. Nothing new here as well. Dwight Howard aggravating his shoulder injury? Not fresh, but certainly the most worrying sign for the Lakers.
After three consecutive wins, the Lakers can afford to lose a game, especially on the road, where they have been awful this season. Or can they? At 20-26, they’re still quite a way out of the playoffs, not to mention needing the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers to lose a bit more than they have been up until now.
The Lakers entered the fourth quarter with a 10 points lead, and with 10 minutes to go, Antawn Jamison made it 78-65. Then the Lakers couldn’t score for over three minutes, then Dwight Howard hurt his shoulder, again. All the arguments about coming back too soon or not don’t really matter. If the Lakers feel like there’s a season to save, even a 80-90% Howard is better than nothing. Now he might be out for a few games once again, and that’s very bad news for a team that has gone 0-3 when Howard didn’t suit up for a game this season.
And with Howard off the floor, all the talk about Bryant trusting his teammates goes out the window. He finished with 17 points and 9 assists on a 7-17 shooting night, but it’s his performance in the final five minutes that was a bit more worrying, as he once again went to the only default option he knows: Shooting, and ignoring the rest.
Once Howard left the game, it became the Kobe Bryant show instead of a Lakers game: He took 7 of the team’s 10 shots, while the Lakers were outscored 19-8. Draw your own conclusions.
Bryant took four of the five Lakers’ shots in money time, making only one of them. He missed a layup that could have tied the game with 24 seconds left, he threw an air-ball earlier under some tight defense from P.J. Tucker. This season, Bryant has taken more shots than the rest of the Lakers combined in crunch time when the game is on the line (five points or less lead for either team), shooting 35.3% from the field while the rest of his teammates make 51.1% of their shots. More food for though for Bryant.
A rough January for the Lakers, despite the optimistic tone before the visit to Phoenix, and the 92-86 loss: The Lakers lost all 7 road games this month, he first time in franchise history they finished a calendar month with a record of 0-7 or worse in road games.
Pau Gasol got big minutes, 37 off the bench, but is clearly not happy about being the sixth man, despite playing plenty of time. He doesn’t have the same kind of aggression and dominance as he once had, or should have according to the theory that putting him in the post will fix everything. Gasol scored 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, going 6-13 from the field. Metta World Peace, once again the guy teams are happy to leave wide open, had a bad 6-17 performance, including 3-10 from beyond the arc, scoring 15 points.
The rest of this season depends on Howard being healthy. Without him, any chance the Lakers still have of making the playoffs goes out the window, and the trade talks start once again. Without him Kobe Bryant can’t help but try to win (and fail) games on his own, while the defense, not at its best anyway with Howard, becomes an even greater mess.