Lakers are not only playing with no heart, they're now playing with no brains. This team has no identity on offense or defense 75 games into the season. They finish 3-2 on this five-game road trip after a 109-92 loss to the Hawks in which they were outscored in all four quarters for just the second time this season.
Let's start on the defensive end. Look at these match-ups: Ron Artest-Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby-Derek Fisher, Josh Smith-Lamar Odom, Al Horford-Pau Gasol, and Marvin Williams-Kobe Bryant. Are any of those big mismatches for the Lakers? Is there really any need to double-team any of the Hawks unless they blow by their defender or are on fire? So why then were the Lakers so willing to double-team and leave the person they were guarding wide open? Derek Fisher constantly slacks in the lane and allows his man to sit at the three-point line for uncontested shots. Luckily for him, Mike Bibby hit just 2 of his 5 open looks. There was another instance where Bryant had Crawford one-on-one and was staying with his every move and along comes Odom to "help", leaving Josh Smith all day to hit a jumper. It's not even that the Hawks had great ball movement. The double-team came, they'd hit the open guy and that was that. The open looks allowed the Hawks to shoot 54 percent from the field.
If you look at Pau Gasol's stat line you'd see he hit 5 of 10 shots for 16 points and had 11 rebounds. That's right around his average for the season. You might even be tempted to say he should've got more touches. But numbers lie. Gasol bolstered his stat line with 7 points in the fourth when the game was practically over. He also had four turnovers. He also wasn't aggressive all game. He'd get his touches but he'd defer to guys on the outside. But worst of all - he mad Zaza Pachulia look like a superstar.
Add Pachulia to the list of role players that kill the Lakers. Put him right up there with Varejao, Jordan Hill, Quentin Richardson and Jared Dudley (among many others). At the half, Gasol had 7 points and 4 rebounds as compared to Pachulia who had 7 points and 7 rebounds. Pachulia finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He hadn't scored in double digits since mid-December and the 10 rebounds was a season-high. Pachulia outmuscled Gasol all night rendering him ineffective. This game really showed how badly the Lakers miss Andrew Bynum. It also reaffirms the 'soft' label given to Gasol by many. Unfortunately Bynum won't be back for at least another 10 days and who knows how he will be when he returns.
And of course the other huge problem with the Lakers has been the bench. The Hawks' bench outscored the Lakers' 48-22. 16 of the 22 came from Jordan Farmar. And that brings up the other huge issue. Derek Fisher. It's finally time to bench the veteran. In March he hit just 32 percent of his three-pointers and 37 percent from the field. Farmar on the other hand has hit nearly 40 percent from three-point range and 44 percent overall in March. And sure, it's not all about offense but it's pretty clear Fisher's not playing any defense either. At least Farmar can manufacture points and get to the rim.
Kobe Bryant was the only thing keeping the Lakers remotely close. He hit 9 of 15 shots for 20 points in the first half. He tried to facilitate in the second half, taking just six shots (hitting three of them) but his teammates let him down.
Phil Jackson needs to make some changes. I wish I could just once see him get angry and rip into his lackadaisical team. He should bench Fisher, Gasol and Odom after their pathetic display last night. Unfortunately, that would reward the bench players who, aside from Farmar, haven't shown they deserve to play either.The Lakers lost three in a row for the first time since acquiring Gasol at the beginning of March and are in jeopardy of repeating that feat. To avoid it, they will have to fend off the red-hot Jazz in LA on Friday. The Jazz have one of the best records since the All-Star break and are suddenly just a half game behind the Mavericks for second place in the West.