|This isn't what the Lakers had in mind. (Getty Images)|
There will be a lot of panic and finger pointing when people talk about the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow because that's what we do now.
In reality, the Lakers lost one game, looked pretty frustrated in the process, and lost to a Mavericks team without their starting frontcourt. And they did all of this at home. The problem for the Lakers isn't that they lost; it's the way they looked as they lost.
The Lakers played a very measured game. They took high percentage shots, they got to the free throw line and they moved the ball very well. If I told you before the game the Lakers would make 49.4 percent of their shots, get to the free throw line 31 times, and record 24 assists on 38 made field goals, you'd probably feel pretty good about their chances.
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However, the Lakers' measured game seemed to take away from the strengths of their best players. Steve Nash looked like a rookie point guard playing under Larry Brown. Kobe Bryant was a lot more Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton most of the night than he was himself. And the big man combo of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol weren't running up and down the court against Eddy Curry.
The Lakers ran 26 pick-and-roll plays on 105 measured possessions, according to mySynergy Sports. Why is a Steve Nash team running a pick-and-roll less than a quarter of the game? Where were the pick-and-roll heavy plays with Nash and Pau or Nash and Dwight? Where was the transition game for the Lakers?
There was a moment with a minute left in the third quarter when the Lakers hurried the ball up the floor, got the ball to a sprinting Pau Gasol, and got him a score as Eddy Curry trailed on the play. It took them 35 minutes to realize they should be running when Eddy Curry is on the court.
Maybe that's the reason the Lakers only had seven fast-break points?
Steve Nash shackles aside, you have to wonder if the Kobe we've seen in the past and the Kobe we saw tonight don't need some happy medium. Kobe was incredibly efficient from the floor. He scored 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting. The last time Kobe Bryant shot 78 percent or better in a basketball game was Dec. 16, 2001.
And yet where did that get Kobe and his Lakers? It didn't get him in the win column and it didn't get him to the free-throw line. Between Nash and Kobe, they combined for zero free-throw attempts. Dwight Howard attempted 14 freebies on the night before fouling out in his Lakers debut. Dwight also only made three of them.
If Nash isn't getting to do what he's so good at and Kobe isn't able to get free points at the free throw line while putting the opposing team into foul trouble the Lakers can take advantage of, are they really being used properly?
The identities of Steve Nash teams have been a free-flowing offense in which he's dissecting the defense before him. The identities of Kobe Bryant teams has been letting him go to work, get into a rhythm on offense, and put pressure on the defense from all over the floor.
Kobe scored efficiently but he wasn't a playmaker. He had zero assists for the 51st time in his career. The Lakers are only 26-25 when this happens. There has to be a better place for Kobe to work within the frame of this offense.
There also has to be a better place for Steve Nash to work within the frame of this offense. Despite Kobe's reputation as a gunner, his ability to make plays within the constructs of him freelancing does present a lot of matchup issues for the defense. Rotations end up being shakier and that leads to easy buckets for everybody.
To belabor the point, in the past 10 seasons the Lakers are now 3-7 when he doesn't register an assist.
So what's the answer for Mike Brown and his team's offensive balance? There will most likely be a hybrid of the high post Princeton sets and Nash or Kobe being allowed to create in their accustomed ways.
There were lots of problems for the Lakers in this game. The Mavericks wanted to prove they weren't to be overlooked. The defense of the Lakers failed to take away shots in the paint. Los Angeles shot 38.7 percent from the free throw line. They let Metta World Peace shoot the ball eight times.
But most important, they took their dynamic backcourt and stripped them of their comfortable roles that made them the desirable players we've grown accustomed to watching.
The solution to many of these issues lies in finding a balance in the way their backcourt attacks opponents and letting Nash and Kobe be Nash and Kobe.