Is there any upper echelon team in the NBA that can lay an egg like the Lakers?
Denver came out at home in Game 6 with an energy that the Lakers just refused to match and they got their doors blown off. What was hard to swallow for Lakers fans was that Kobe Bryant spent the day throwing up and came out and put in a gutty effort (complete with one ugly flagrant foul) and their big men mailed it in.
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined to shoot 5-of-21 shooting night where neither seemed to contribute. For the last couple games the Lakers defensive rotations from their bigs have been nonexistent — nobody is protecting the rim. Bynum was back to his not sitting in the huddle, disengaged ways.
Coach Mike Brown was ticked after the game, via Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.
“We’re going to need more out our two bigs,” Brown said as the Lakers faced the reality of going from a 2-0 series lead to a Game 7 in Los Angeles on Saturday night. “They’re our second- and third-best players. We’re going to need a lot more out of those guys in order to win the series. But not just scoring wise. Defensively. Defensively to follow the game-plan discipline and do it with some effort and some energy and really just lay it out on the line.”
Kobe, you good with that?
“Of course I agree with that,” he said of Brown’s critique. “I talked with Pau a little bit after the game and I’ll speak with Andrew as well. It’s one of those things where psychologically you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position, where you have no other option but to perform. You have to emotionally put your back to the wall and kind of trick yourself, so to speak, to feel that there’s no other option but to perform and to battle, when you have that, when you have that mindset, your performance shines through, your talent shines through. It doesn’t matter what the defense does. It doesn’t matter because you’re emotionally at a level that is above that. That is the mindset that they have to put themselves in.”
For years, both Gasol and Bynum have done that in spurts — and they both very well may do that in Game 7 — but they are not consistent. And if the Lakers beat the Nuggets and advance, if they think they can take a night off against the Thunder and still have a chance to win the series they are kidding themselves.
I will make one point in defense of Bynum and Gasol — the Nuggets defense is collapsing on them and the Lakers shooters are not making them pay by knocking down outside shots when the ball is kicked out. In Game 6, the Lakers were 2-of-9 on spot three pointers and 6-22 on spot-up jumpers overall. In Game 5, the Lakers were 4-19 from 16 feet out to the arc and Lakers not named Kobe were 4-13 from three. Until somebody knocks down those shots and makes the defense pay for collapsing in, it’s going to be a rough go for Bynum and Gasol.