One stat will tell you all you need to know about the Lakers last-second loss to Philadelphia: The Lakers bench was -70. Think about that for a second: the 76ers were 70 points better when the Lakers bench was on the floor.
The Lakers didn’t lose because Andre Iguodala hit a three pointer as time expired or that Trevor Ariza didn’t to foul him. It never should have come to that. The Lakers were up by 14 at the start of the fourth quarter.
But as it did against Dallas Sunday, and as it has done for about a month now, the Lakers bench gave that lead back. A blowout game became a close game, one where whoever hit the big shot won. Tuesday it was the 76ers turn.
Phil Jackson is talking changes. Albeit he is talking about them in his vague Jacksonesque way.
"We're just not coming out and really attacking and playing aggressive in the substitution role and that's now become prevalent and it's become an issue," Jackson said.
The problem is partially personnel — the two best players off the Lakers bench this year were Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, and now both of them are starting. The return of Andrew Bynum will put either the big seven footer or Odom with that second unit again, and either will help a lot.
However, what is frustrating is the mental focus of the reserves. At a couple points during the fourth-quarter run, Jordan Farmar played a two-man game with Josh Powell while Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were on the court watching the play. That is not option number one. Jackson puts Gasol out with the second unit because he is an offensive player on a roll, scoring at a very efficient rate. But against Dallas he got three second half shots, against Philadelphia just five. He has been the Lakers best offensive player the last couple weeks, but in the second half they just go away from him.
It’s easy to look past that in December, when teams are still learning. But the playoffs are now less than a month away. Now is the time that championship teams stop making silly mental errors. Now is when good teams put bad teams away, not let them hang around.
Maybe the Lakers will learn the lesson from the last two games. Lakers fans had better hope so if they want to have a parade.