SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – The Lakers want to bring back Showtime, but that process at least for one game appeared like a slow crawl.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni motioned with his hands for his players to run up the court. They mostly walked. He encouraged his players to take open outside shots. They mostly missed. D’Antoni has envisioned Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol maintaining their inside dominance by running pick-and-roll sequences. They went silent.
Tally up the results, and the Lakers’ 113-97 loss Wednesday to the Sacramento Kings here at Sleep Train Arena hardly mirrors D’Antoni’s expectation that his team would score at least 110 points per game.
He had seen enough once the Lakers trailed 69-58 with 2:51 left in the third quarter. So much that before he addressed his team after calling a timeout, D’Antoni motioned to his brother, Dan, a newly hired assistant.
“This is awful,” D’Antoni said to Dan.
Hardly anyone would disagree.
Oh, there was Kobe Bryant going off for 38 points on 11-of-20 shooting. He scored eight quick second-quarter points to help mask the bench’s struggles. Bryant’s mobility and aggressiveness put cold water on any concerns regarding his revelation Wednesday on Facebook that his strained right foot and ankle is “still throbbing.” Bryant kept an otherwise ugly game at least close in the scoring column.
“Right now he’s playing the best I’ve ever seen him play or as good as he’s ever played,” D’Antoni said of Bryant, who entered the game leading the NBA in scoring (26.3 points per game). “It better not change.”
Other things need to change, though.
Outside of Bryant, the Lakers featured plenty of inefficiencies. Dwight Howard only scored seven points on two of four field-goal attempts, including an alley-oop lob from Gasol and a dump-off pass from Metta World Peace. Gasol found plenty of open mid-range jumpers, but posted only eight points on a three-of-10 clip. The Lakers’ 20 turnovers led to the Kings scoring 25 points off those gaffes.
Lakers reserve guard Jodie Meeks surprisingly kept the Lakers late in the game, scoring 15 points off a three-of-six mark from three-point range. But that wasn’t enough to for the Lakers to (6-6) overcome their other problems. Against the Kings (3-8), no less, a team that entered the game ranked 24th out of 30 NBA teams in total defense (allowing 100 points per game) and 26th in total offense (averaging 91.2 points per game).
Meanwhile, Sacramento boasted all kinds of scoring threats. They included the team’s starting lineup in Tyreke Evans (16 points), Aaron Brooks (11 points), John Salmons (13 points) and Jason Thompson (13 points). They included the reserves in Marcus Thornton (23 points) and Chuck Hayes (10 points). And they all contributed to going XX-XX from three-point range.
All of these issues contributed to the Lakers’ frustrations.
D’Antoni looked spry enough from recent knee replacement surgery to bark both at the officials for non-calls and players for not playing fast enough. Howard appeared frustrated when he accidentally swung his arm at Jason Thompson fighting for a rebound as the Lakers trailed 99-92 with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter. Howard also occasionally winced when Bryant shot the ball. Gasol seemed fed up both with his faulty shot and the team’s slow defensive rotations. Darius Morris appeared eager albeit overwhelmed with the heavy task as the starting point guard during the prolonged absences of Steve Nash (fractured left leg) and Steve Blake (lower abdominal strain).
Once it all ended, the Lakers simply trudged off the court.
They tried to look like the Showtime Lakers. Instead, they continuously gasped for air. At least for one game, it appeared nothing more than a tiring effort.