Lakers-Houston Post-Mortem: Lakers Far Worse Than Even I Thought

Pathetic, is all that I can say. Despite my opinion that the 2014-2015 Lakers are a bad team that will struggle to exceed last season’s 27-55 record, I thought that they would come out strong in their opener against Houston, motivated by the return of Kobe Bryant, the matchup against the former Lakers’ laughing man D-eeee Wight Howard, and the excitement provided by new starting point guard Jeremy Lin and first round pick Julius Randle. I was wrong an all accounts.

The tone was set for the game in the first four minutes, with Howard hitting a basket from far out of his range, five feet, and then three-pointers from another former Laker, Trevor Ariza, and James Harden, giving the Rockets an early 11-5 lead, from which they never looked back.

Kobe may be healthy, and he may be the same take-no-prisoners competitor, as shown by his fourth-quarter skirmish after an elbow to the face from D-eee Wight, who was called for a flagrant foul, but he clearly was far from having returned to shooting form, hitting on only six of 17 shots, and hitting not a single three-pointer, while scoring only 19 for the game. As a team, the Lakers fared about as well, shooting only 35.4% for the game, and 30% from behind the arc. Houston, conversely, had little trouble with the
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non-existent Lakers’ team defense, shooing 42.5% and 41.4% on three-pointers. The Rockets also out rebounded LA and their rebuilt front line, 47 to 36. Howard actually had a very poor game, hitting on only two-of-four shots the rest of the game after that early five-footer, hitting an expected 44% (seven-of-16) from the line, and recording only 11 rebounds and a single block. Of course, he was in foul trouble and only played 21 minutes of the game.

Prior to the game, I wrote how when the Lakers upset Houston in the first week of last season, they did it without Kobe, but with 55 points from the guard quartet of Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake, none of whom are currently playing members of the LA Lakers’ franchise, and how they needed big games from Kobe and Lin to make up for that scoring punch. Well, Kobe’s 19 combined with Lin’s disappointing seven on one-of-five shooing totaled only 26, with another 15 record at the guard spots from Ronnie Price, who continued his horrible shooting, hitting only one-of-seven, and

Jordan Clarkson, who provided an equally poor one-of-four. So, the guards scored 41, down 14 from that game last year, and the team lost last night by 18.

The need for Price to be on the court for 27 minutes is very disturbing. He clearly is not an NBA-caliber first or second string point guard, and if Lin cannot play 35-40 minutes per game, and if Clarkson cannot show he is capable of a solid 15 as a rookie, well, that 27 wins of last season will be even harder to duplicate.

And then there is the front court, and the injury to Julius Randle. Despite the losses of Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol, the Laker spinmeisters
told the basketball world that with Jordan Hill at center and new power forward Carlos Boozer, plus the rookie Randle, they’d do fine up front this season. Well, the undersized Hill will have defensive problems all year as the guy in middle, Boozer will score and rebound, but give up more points on the other end than he can add himself, and with Randle’s horrifying injury late in the game last night, he is likely gone for the year. One semi-bright spot was Ed Davis, who showed he also score and rebound, but who also fouled out in only 22 minutes on the court.

The team headed to Arizona after the game last time, and have the second game in a back-to-back to start the season tonight in Phoenix, where they have lost their last six. Phoenix has no one resembling Howard up front, with Miles Plumlee their starting center, backed up by Alex Lin, so those matchup swill be a lot more workable for Hill and Boozer. Phoenix does get tremendous effort, and lots of scoring and rebounding, from the athletic trio at forward of P.J. Tucker and Marcus and Markieff Morris. They will be without first round pick T.J. Warren, who has a broken thumb.

However, the Suns’ deep and dazzling backcourt, featuring Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, figures to give the Lakers fits. Bledsoe, a world class defender, will assuredly be guarding Kobe, and how well he can perform tonight, with the team’s and his poor start last night and with emotions running high and the injury to Randle, will give a really good glimpse into what is to come this season.

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