The Lakers hoped to start off 2011 with a win. Unfortunately, the Memphis Grizzlies spoiled the first game of the new year beating the defending champs 104-85. Despite winning two previous games, the Lakers have been troubled as of late losing games by large margins. Recently, L.A. lost to the Bucks by 19, 15 to the Heat on Christmas day and now 19 to the Grizzlies.
The Lakers defense was about as stagnant as their offense against Memphis. Despite a valiant effort by Kobe Bryant, who went on a scoring binge dropping 17 of his 29 points in the third quarter, the Lakers turnovers (20) cost them. Turnovers coupled with a disappointing defensive effort allowed Memphis to pull away when the Lakers got as close as two points in the 2nd half.
Oddly enough, L.A. shot a higher field goal percentage (46%) than Memphis. The problems continued on the offensive end with limited ball movement. Bryant had 22 field goal attempts; no other Lakers had more than 9 shot attempts.
The Lakers success has always been with superb ball movement. Despite a seemingly lethargic defensive effort, the Lakers hurt themselves by not executing the offense as evident by just a mere 13 assists on 33 made field goals. Furthermore, the champs were out-rebounded 37-44 by a tenacious Grizzlies squad; who were on the second night of a back-to-back.
While it was a disappointing loss, the problems are easy to identify. Phil had some criticism of the team’s lack of ball movement and Kobe agreed, telling the L.A. Times: “He was right,” Bryant said. “I totally broke the offense, but I did it intentionally because I felt like we needed to get something started because what we were doing just wasn’t working. I tried to kick-start it, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. When it works out, great. When it doesn’t, I take the criticism for it but I have thick enough skin to be able to do it.”
Despite the recent struggles, the Lakers will need to focus in on the upcoming games against Detroit on Tuesday. Phoenix on Wednesday and the Hornets on Friday. The general consensus is that the Lakers will indeed fix the issues at hand, but the real question lies is will they figure it out in time for home court advantage come playoff time?