The Los Angeles Lakers open up the “Dwight Howard and Steve Nash Era” with a tough L to the Dallas Mavericks 99-91.
It was one of those games that you knew the Lakers were in for a long night as the game progressed.
The new “Princeton/Read&React Offense” was fluid early on, as the Lakers jumped out to an eight point lead midway through the second quarter. The ball was evenly distributed for the most part, as everyone got their touches. But as the game moved along, shots stopped falling, not to mention players were getting fouled, but not connecting at the charity stripe, as the Lakers missed 19 free throws….SMH.
Newly acquired center Dwight Howard had 19 points,10 boards and one block, but struggled from the line going 3-of-14. You could pretty much tell in his range of motion that he’s not a 100%, and is trying to regain his feel for the game. Steve Nash was barely noticeable last night, scoring 7 points to go along with only 4 assists. As Kris Humphries (of the Brooklyn Nets) tweeted, “It looks so weird to see Nash play this much off the ball.” Nash has always been considered the ultimate orchestrator during his NBA career, but with a new offense, and a team that’s not geared to run (like Nash’s old teams), they’re going to have to incorporate what Nash does best into their offense eventually, if they want to be successful.
Kobe Bryant still looked a little hobbled by his ankle injury, not so much in his play, but the lack of aggression he showed. Obviously, with the bum ankle and trying to get his new teammates acclimated to the new system, he went with the flow of the game rather than go into his normal takeover mode. The Black Mamba finished the game with 22 points, and it’ll be interesting to see if he plays tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers (more than likely he will, especially since they lost last night).
Pau Gasol had a big night, scoring 23 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, with 6 assists and 3 blocks. He looked great in the new offense, mainly because it’s tailored to his natural style of play. If last night’s game was not an aberration for Gasol, then the Pau of 2008-10 just might be back.
The bench was was a somewhat mediocre last night, and needs to improve their production output to help out the ailing and aging starting line-up. Jordan Hill was great off the bench with his defense and rebounding, but needs to work on his free throws (like Howard), to become a truly valuable piece off the bench. Antawn Jamison will produce more points off the bench when he gets comfortable in the offense, and Jodie Meeks will be more of a presence from 3-point land as the season progresses. My only concern is what will you get from Steve Blake night in and night out? With Nash playing limited minutes, he must be effective and efficient when he’s on the court.
Now the TNT pundits believe that the Lakers new offense will hinder them (even though I somewhat disagree), the main concern for the Lakeshow right now is on the defensive end. We must not forget that head coach Mike Brown produced a top-10 defense last year with less talent, but just because they got better this year offensively, doesn’t mean they have to lose that intensity defensively. And just like Brown stated during the 4th quarter interview, they clearly lacked the focus and physicality needed last night to defeat the Mavs. With a healthier Dwight, and with Metta World Peace leading the charge on defense, perhaps the biggest obstacle for the Lakers will be how they fare against smaller, faster and scrappier teams.
But just like TNT color analyst Reggie Miller said, “It’s just one game.” Which means that they have 81 more games to eventually get in sync with one another, as well as develop the detrimental chemistry needed to make a long run into the postseason. Hopefully for Lakers Nation, that “eventually” begins tonight against the Trail Blazers.
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Written by Arthur Kai