Dec 13, 2012, 11:30 PM EDT
There were some who wondered whether the Lakers had hit rock bottom after losing in Cleveland to the 5-18 Cavaliers on Tuesday.
The answer? Nope.
Rock bottom officially came on Thursday in New York, where the Knicks absolutely destroyed L.A., leading by as many as 26 points on the way to a 116-107 victory, which dropped the Lakers to 9-14 on the season.
The reasons for this loss being as bad as any the Lakers have suffered this season are many, but it really boils down to the fact that the Knicks are a team playing like everything that L.A. aspired to be.
New York is a deadly offensive machine, one that plays together as a cohesive unit for the only result that matters, and that’s winning basketball games.
There’s a confidence and assertiveness in the Knicks’ game that we’ve only seen in brief stretches from these Lakers this season, and having it used against L.A. to blow them out in front of a national television audience, while showing the team just how far they have to go to reach the elite level that some teams, including the Knicks, have already reached at this early point in the season, will make this loss sting more than most.
The most disheartening thing for the Lakers might just be the fact that this game was essentially over as soon as it got started.
The Knicks lead the league in made three-point attempts per game by a relatively wide margin, so it doesn’t take a genius to decide to focus your defense on stopping New York from beating you from the outside. In fact, common sense would dictate that for the struggling Lakers to even have a chance at beating the team at the top of the Eastern Conference standings on its home floor, eliminating the momentum-swinging, game-changing shots from distance should be at the top of the defensive priority list.
The first two baskets made by the Knicks on the night? Wide open three-pointers, courtesy of Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks’ leading scorer had his way in the first quarter against the Lakers, largely due to L.A.’s poor defensive effort and rotations, but equally due to Anthony’s prior relationship with Mike D’Antoni.
Anthony had something personal to prove on this night, and the Lakers should have known better.
Instead, they let Anthony carve up their defense at will, while scoring 22 first-quarter points, on 8-of-9 shooting, including making all three of his attempts from three-point distance.
By the time Anthony was finished, the game had already been decided.
The Knicks put up 41 points by the time the first quarter had ended, while shooting almost 74 percent from the field in the process. New York led by 14 when all was said and done, and was never truly threatened the rest of the way.
Kobe Bryant tried to keep pace, and did so for a bit with 13 first quarter points of his own. But as is always the case in these types of games, when the Lakers act like they don’t know what they want to do offensively, Bryant takes complete control to try to make things happen.
There was plenty of hesitation from Bryant’s supporting cast, with a lack of sharp off-ball movement being the most glaring issue, and without players making moves to create space, or cutting with purpose to predetermined spots, the offense stagnated on more possessions than it did not.
Anthony finished with 30 points in just under 22 minutes of action, and was forced to sit out the bulk of the second half after suffering an ankle sprain. Word is that it isn’t anything serious, but with the game so out of hand, even with the Lakers getting within seven at one point, there was no reason to risk it.
It’s worth reminding that the Lakers were once again without Pau Gasol, and are still without Steve Nash. The horrific Darius Morris experiment at the starting point guard position was mercifully halted, at least for one night, while Chris Duhon got the start with Morris getting the DNP-CD.
But reserve big man Robert Sacre got some minutes, and Devin Ebanks played almost 34 of them, which further shows just how depleted this so-called team of superstars truly is at this stage of the season.
The Knicks keep on winning, but for the Lakers, it was the team’s sixth loss in its last seven games. The effort defensively is what’s most troubling, followed by the fact that offensively, Bryant will simply take matters into his own hands while abandoning the system entirely once he believes his teammates aren’t capable of providing the necessary support on a given night.
This was indeed rock bottom for these Lakers, given the quality of a Knicks opponent showcasing its talents against a team that was favored by many to be a championship contender. How long it takes for them to dig out of this hole, or whether they can do so at all, remains to be seen.
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