Well, we’re here – the part of the year when these recaps of the previous night’s action will be all basketball, all the time (except for when there are NFL playoff games the night before). But today, all roundball. And you know what’ll get you in the mood for some roundball? Some… Roundball Rock:
Yes. That will do it. Anyway, here goes.
Bad Lakers + injuries = worse Lakers.
You thought the Lakers were bad before losing Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to injuries – and you were right. They were 15-18. That’s pretty bad. So you might think that without the services of (potentially) two of the best centers in basketball, plus an additional injury to backup big man Jordan Hill, the Lakers would be even worse. And you’d be right again! The Rockets handed the Lakers a 125-112 loss in Houston, L.A.’s fourth straight defeat.
The Lakers were already nothing special on defense, and essentially playing without a frontcourt last night, they were worse than ever, as one might expect. The Rockets scored those 125 points on 55 percent shooting, and nearly half of those (60) came in the paint. But Houston also shot 44 percent (11-for-25) from three, so there were more issues with the Lakers’ defense than just what was happening under the basket.
In fairness to L.A. – again, they were playing without their top three big men. No offense to Robert Sacre, but when we all imagined the possibilities for this Laker team before the season began, those ideas didn’t involve him starting at center (and hey, he managed 10 points – though he shot just 4-of-10 in the process – and four blocks, so, not all bad). Plus, the Rockets have been playing very well lately – last night marked their fifth win in a row, and James Harden (31 points and nine assists last night) has been everything the team could have hoped for and more. The Lakers probably needed an out-of-his-mind effort from Kobe to have a shot last night, but the Mamba was extraordinarily ordinary (8-for-22 shooting, 20 points) instead. This was not a surprising loss.
But part of why it’s not a surprising loss is because we’re now used to the Lakers being a mediocre-to-bad basketball team. And for all that’s gone wrong injury-wise, for all the coaching upheaval, for as much as everyone knew there would be an adjustment period while all the new faces figured out how to play together – this team should not be 15-19. Steve Nash, whose 10,000th career assist provided one of the Lakers’ few bright spots last night – said it best:
“There’s no guarantee [that the Lakers make the playoffs]. I think three or four weeks ago, people would have said, ‘Ah, it will get better.’ Now I definitely don’t think there’s a guarantee it will, so the only remedy is continue to work hard and give yourself a chance for it to get better.
“I obviously think with time, and that might mean through the summer, we can get better. But for this season, it’s definitely going to be a challenge to turn this around. … We got a number of things we got to try to improve on to get better, but one thing that we can’t accept is to take our foot off the gas and accept things. We got to continue to fight.”
For this team, with this kind of talent, who would’ve thought it would come to this? Not us. The Lakers still have so much potential. If everyone gets back, gets healthy, and gets on the same page, this group still has the chance to play some of the most fun basketball in the league, and win a lot of games while doing it. But they’re burning daylight, and the team doesn’t even appear especially close to fixing its issues. As of this moment, it’s hard to imagine a total turnaround, which is what’s needed to morph the Lakers into the title favorites most people envisioned, happening anytime this season.
Around the Association…
As bad a night as it was for L.A., it wasn’t a great night for the defending champs, either. The Heat lost to the Pacers 87-77, suffocated by a defense that ranks among the league’s best no matter whose efficiency rankings you look at. Dwyane Wade was excellent, scoring 30, while LeBron kept his 20-point streak alive, but the Heat scored just 25 points aside from those two, and LeBron needed 20 shots to net his 22 points. The Heat are just 7-7 on the road this season, while following a mediocre start, the Pacers are looking more and more like the team that grabbed the third seed in the East last season. Frank Vogel’s one of the youngest coaches in the NBA… and he looks more and more like one of the best.
Elsewhere: the Nets, despite this happening, routed the Sixers 109-89. (Andray Blatche, it’s worth noting, played very well, with 20 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.) The Nets’ Reggie Evans contributed our favorite individual stat line of the night, a quintessentially Reggie Evans line: 27 minutes, two points… and 23 rebounds. Good rebounding gets you a long way in life. The Bucks beat the Suns 108-99 in their first game post-Skiles – Brandon Jennings led the way with 29 points and nine assists. Finally, the T-Wolves topped the Hawks 108-103, as Nikola Pekovic practically made up for Kevin Love’s absence by himself (25 points, 18 boards).
College basketball upset!
Well, going by rankings, anyway – Pitt was unranked going into last night and coming off losses in its first two Big East games, while Georgetown was No. 19. But Pitt’s domination last night was so thorough – they crushed the Hoyas 73-45, in D.C., no less – that it’s hard to look at this as an upset, rather than a case of the better team winning handily. Pitt was ranked recently, after all, and Georgetown is now 0-2 in Big East play. Either way, let’s count it as an upset for now. Whether it’ll remain one in hindsight depends on how these teams go from here.
11 NBA games tonight…
…so you can count on another hoops-heavy morning roundup tomorrow. In case you’re not the biggest basketball fan, figured we should warn you now. Although if you’re not the biggest basketball fan, you probably didn’t read far enough to see this.
Photos via Getty