The wince on Dwight Howard’s face said it all. So did his raised shoulder. As did his constant pleas to teammates for help.
Bottom line, Howard felt incredibly frustrated over the lack of defensive help in the Lakers’ 117-110 loss Sunday to the Utah Jazz.
“We have to help each other,” Howard said. “When somebody steps up, the next man has to come over or they will get a lot of push backs. We have to help each other. We know how to do it. We’re too good of a team to let everything slip away.”
Yet, the Lakers have allowed everything to slip away for quite some time now.
The Lakers’ latest loss marks their seven defeat in the past 10 games. Defensively, the Lakers have allowed at least 100 points in five of the past six games. And against Utah, the Lakers conceded 54 points in the paint, 23 second-chance points and 19 fast-break points.
Guess who’s been left to clean up the mess?
“Guys have to understand I’m going to try to block shots and I’m going to help as early as I can and I’m going to be there,” Howard said. “We have to get each other’s back.”
That rarely happened.
The Lakers looked lost rotating out on the perimeter, resulting in Utah hitting 6 of 18 attempts from three-point range. The Lakers’ disorganization on offense led to the Jazz exposing their poor athleticism by running in the open court. Although D’Antoni refused to single him out, Kobe Bryant routinely avoided helping out on defense. There was even a third-quarter sequence where Bryant didn’t get back even to midcourt after protesting a non-call on the other end.
“He should be,” Bryant said when told Howard seems frustrated about the lack of defensive support. “He can’t do everything defensively. He’s doing as much as he can, changing shots and the things of that nature. But when teams are getting out in the break and laying the ball up so many times, there’s not much you can do.”
Other Lakers had plenty of ideas that suggested otherwise.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni suggested the players aren’t following the right schemes.
“We have to do a better job of getting back, getting your man and talking,” he said. “We don’t talk a lot and run our principles on defense.”
Lakers guard Chris Duhon questioned the team’s defensive effort.
“It’s not about X’s and O’s. It’s about effort, heart and getting it done,” Duhon said. “It’s baffling. Until we do it, we’re going to continue to lose. Until we come out and play hard and go after things and not expect teams to let down because of who we are, things are not going to change.”
Meanwhile, Howard’s vowed he won’t change his positive attitude, that the losing won’t divide the team and that everything will eventually come together. But Howard’s on-court body language tells a different story. It’s one that shows he’s fed up no one helps him out on defense.
“It’s been the story every time we lose. We have to help each other,” Howard said. “I’ve been telling you guys the same thing. If somebody helps, you have to help the helper. That’s what we didn’t do.”
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