Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 117-107 loss Friday to the Washington Wizards at Staples Center:
1. The Lakers defense still remains terrible. So much for the Lakers vow that they would avoid becoming the Lakers team in franchise history. Instead, the Lakers (22-46) took a step closer into nearly replicating the 1974-75 season where they finished a 30-52 record. Even on a night where the Lakers boasted plenty of energy on offense and more depth, they still hadn’t solved the issue that has plagued them all season. Defense.
The Wizards featured a flurry of scorers posting double digits, including John Wall (28 points), Bradley Beal (16 points), Al Harrington (15 points), Drew Gooden (11 points), Trevor Booker (10 points) and Trevor Ariza (10 points). Washington shot 10 of 24 from three-point range, while posting 27 fast-break points, 18 second-chance points and 18 points off turnovers. It seems easy to blame Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. But that overlooks a few things. He opted for a bigger lineup by starting Pau Gasol and Robert Sacre, while giving significant playing time off the bench to Jordan Hill. Though that accounted for XX points in the paint and a close rebounding battle, the Lakers’ effort level on defense mostly looked the same as it has all season. In other words, the Lakers’ effort was mostly non-existent until they had the ball in their hands.
2. A near fight ensued Boy, that escalated quickly. After attempting a floater, Nick Young got wrapped up with Drew Gooden, who then swung Young around before falling to the ground. Young then pushed Gooden when he was on the ground. Gooden pushed back, but Pau Gasol immediately stepped in and moved Young away from the fray. Then Jordan Hill pushed Marcin Gortat and wrapped him up. Friday Night Fights? Not exactly. Officials ejected both Gooden with a flagrant foul type 2 and Hill with a technical, while Young still stayed in the game with a technical. But the episode quickly died down after Hill intervened, a potential sign of growth considering no one stood up for Young during an altercation two months ago in Phoenix.
3. Steve Nash looked in mid-season form. He would’ve made Allen Iverson proud. Despite sitting out for the past five weeks without completing a full contact practice, Nash provided glimpses of the former two-time MVP. His XX points on XX of XX shooting and a season-high 10 assists in XX minutes represents a small sample size. But Nash still captured his greatness within that framework. His first possession entailed finding an open Jordan Hill inside. Nash then threw a behind-the-back pass to Nick Young for an open 3-pointer. When Nash reentered the game with 3:44 left in the third quarter, he provided even more magic. He dished out more assists that set up Robert Sacre for two dunks and a 16-foot jumpers, while Jodie Meeks converted on an easy layup. Nash threw more dazzling bounce and behind-the-back passes that would’ve resulted in assists had his teammates made open shots. Nash played so well that he even exceeded the 16-minute limit that D’Antoni originally envisioned.
4. Hill provided solid energy. So much for showing up late Thursday for the team photo, falling out of Mike D’Antoni’s favor and missing the past 10 games because of a hyperextended right knee. Beyond preventing a near fight between Young and Gooden, Hill also posted a solid nine points on 4-of-7 shooting and 14 rebounds. He played so well that he even started the second half in place of Sacre, whom D’Antoni often chose, citing superior defense and work ethic. But in his first game back in more than a month, Hill provided everything that made him among fan favorites with endless hustle plays.
5. The small forward spot remains in flux.
On a night Wesley Johnson missed the game because of an upper respiratory infection, Kent Bazemore didn’t take advantage of the starting nod by scoring only three points in 11 minutes. Instead, Young and Xavier Henry seemed to try to top each other. Young posted a team-leading 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting in 29 minutes through a flurry of drives to the basket and pull-up jumpers. Henry dropped 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting. Each proved a mixed blessing. Young brought endless offensive energy, but he often took too many shots. Henry burst to the basket with unyielding speed, but that sometimes that amounted into forcing the issue. It wouldn’t be surprising if D’Antoni continues tinkering with this position.