Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on March 25, 2013 in Oakland, California.
Against the Golden State Warriors, Kobe Bryant came out ready to play. He had eight points in the opening quarter, and he finished with 36 points in the game. His teammates, however, were only present in body at the opening tip. The Lakers only managed 16 points in the opening quarter, and the Warriors outscored Los Angeles 28-16 for the first quarter.
The hole grew to 23 points by halftime, and the start of the third quarter witnessed the Lakers down 75-50. From those depths, the Lakers fought back to lose by only six points: 109-103.
But how did the Lakers allow themselves to fall into a 25-point asteroid-sized crater?
First of all, they couldn’t make a shot to save their lives. At halftime, the Lakers were shooting 35.6 percent from the field, and they were shooting an abysmal 1-7 from behind the arc. To add to their frustrations, Golden State shot 55.3 percent for the half and made 6-14 from three-point land before the intermission.
With the score 75-50 in the third quarter, Lakers fans from Santa Barbara to San Diego could not fathom an entertaining finish. Miraculously, the Lakers would cut the game into a nine-point affair with slightly less than three minutes remaining.
The Warriors only scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, as a combination of missed shots and increased Lakers defense intensity tipped the home team off balance. With 11 missed Lakers free throws added to the drama, the Lakers may well view Monday’s loss as a missed opportunity.
“Defensively, we seemed to be a step behind and didn’t really have answers from an execution standpoint,” Bryant said after the game.
That optimistic view of the Lakers letting one slip may not be easy to accept for anyone who witnessed the game. Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson combined for 66 points, 16 assists, and 14 rebounds. The trio of guards controlled the game for the first three quarters, and that early domination allowed the Warriors to survive a late surge by the Lakers.
As the Lakers returned to their hotel rooms late Monday night, they were on a three-game losing streak for the first time since the calendar was flipped to January.
To make matters worse, Metta World Peace felt a sharp pain in the back of his knee and did not play the entire second half. World Peace did not have anything further to share with regards to his injury, and he said he would be evaluated by the training staff in the coming days, but he would share his thoughts on Wednesday’s game in Minnesota.
Also on the injury front, Bryant played every second of the second half, and he only came back from a severe ankle sprain on Friday. With Pau Gasol not yet up to speed following a foot injury and Antawn Jamison playing with a sprained wrist, the Lakers are continuing their season-long injury motif through to the final games of the 2012-13 NBA regular season.
The constant injuries combined with the most recent slew of losses scared a segment of the fanbase.
After the game, Bryant reminded all the panicked heads, “The reality is [that] we’re in a better situation now than we were a month ago.”
That may be true, but where the Lakers end up in a month from Monday is far more important than where the Lakers were a month ago.