Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers puts up a shot under pressure from Nazr Mohammed #48 of the Chicaog Bulls at the United Center on January 21, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Lakers 95-83.
The Lakers may have Kobe Bryant, but their offense down the stretch is terrible and their defense isn’t much better. When the game is on the line, the Lakers fail. They miss shots. They turn the ball over. They simply do not execute.
For having the "best closer in the game," they have the worst closing game in the league.
On Monday night, the Lakers were outscored 26-14 in the fourth quarter. Kobe shot 1-7 during the final 12 minutes.
When the final buzzer finally sounded to end the misery, the Lakers had scored 83 points in 48 minutes.
The Bulls hold opponents to an average of 89.3 points per game, and the famed coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive mind combined with the hall-of-fame talent on the Lakers was not enough to even hit that mark.
Not only is D’Antoni’s defense in question, his offense looks pathetic.
With seven minutes remaining, the Lakers were tied at 75-75. During the final seven minutes of the game, Chicago outscored LA 20-8. Earl Clark, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol were the only three Lakers to record a point.
Dwight Howard did not take a shot, and Kobe missed all three of his shots and added a turnover during the unwatchable stretch.
"It’s agonizing to watch," D’Antoni said after the game. "Our offense is ugly."
Before the game, D’Antoni announced that Gasol would play a bench role on the night and for the foreseeable future. Gasol was not pleased and even suggested a trade was possible prior to the game.
When the ball was in play, however, there was no question as to the Spaniard’s commitment to the team. Gasol had more points (15), rebounds (12), and assists (2) than Howard (8, 9, 0), who played four more minutes than Gasol. The two big men recorded the same number of blocks (2), and Gasol had two turnovers to Howard’s four.
Gasol played less and performed better than Howard, but that does not mean Gasol can earn his way back into the starting five anytime soon. D’Antoni confirmed Gasol’s move to the bench was here to stay.
If Howard was not in foul trouble, Gasol would likely not have played all 12 minutes of the final quarter either. The first game Gasol does not start and does not finish is nearing, and if (or when) that happens, Gasol’s reaction after the game will be worth studying.
Next stop for the Lakers is Memphis on Wednesday. If they go 0-3 on this road trip, there may be a pink slip or a trade waiting by the time they land in Los Angeles.
Nash summed up the team’s performance neatly: "Today, we competed. We just weren’t good enough."