Friday, March 30, 2012

A Rivalry Brewing, Lakers vs. Thunder (3.29.12)

Kobe Bryant has always maintained that rivalries are born in the playoffs. If so, this coming postseason is going to be great if the Los Angeles Lakers meet the Oklahoma City Thunder. Last night's game against the Thunder continued the hard fought battles of past matchups. Although the Lakers lost 102-93, the game was for the taking down to the final minutes. After barely squeezing by the up and coming Thunder in the 2010 playoffs, the Lakers have had some trouble fending off the troublesome threesome of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. While this rivalry is still in its early stage, a meeting this postseason will transform the matchup into must see action every time they meet for the next couple of years. Every second will be hard fought. There will be star matchups. There will be hard fouls. There will be trash talk. There will be huge shots. Most of all, this brand of basketball will be a prime example of tough, exciting basketball for both basketball purists and casual viewers.

While the possible playoff matchup looks promising, last night highlighted some Laker deficiencies that may come to haunt them later on. The Lakers struggled with their pick and roll defense and Russell Westbrook absolutely demolished them in the second half due to this shortcoming. The Thunder are intent on avenging their prior playoff loss, and although they started slow, they eventually wore the Lakers down and won the game. The Lakers came out hot, with beautiful ball movement, nice cuts, and great finishes at the rim. The Lakers were very efficient in the first quarter, shooting 14-26 with 9 assists on the 14 made baskets. This ball movement and early activity allowed the Lakers to stretch the lead to led 30-18. The Lakers ended the quarter on a 22-7 run and looked great. The Thunder's big 3 shot a combined 4-17 in the opening quarter. The Lakers forced some tough shots and had active hands to tip passes and bother shots.

The second quarter was a different story though. Derek Fisher came in and gave the Thunder a nice spark off of the bench, scoring 9 points during his five minutes of action. The Lakers started the quarter 0-8 and didn't score until a Matt Barnes layup four minutes into the quarter. The Lakers ended up 1-10 until Kobe came back in with 7:39 to play. The Thunder were able to cut the deficit to just 6 points in this stretch, making the score 26-32. The Lakers closed out well, shooting 6-10 for 17 of the 19 points they scored in the entire quarter. However, the Thunder matched their productivity during this span and finished the quarter with a buzzer beating jumper at the top of the key by Ibaka. The Thunder won the quarter 26-19 and they only trailed by 5 to enter the half. The Thunder got some easy buckets off of 11 offensive rebounds during the second quarter.

Bryant and Sefolosha exchange words.
(Courtesy TNT/ NBA)
Throughout the first half there was a lot of talk going on. One notable instance was between Kobe Bryant and Thabo Sefolosha. With 20 seconds left in the half, Kobe was at the top of the key and he crossed over from right to left. Kobe went up and got fouled on his wrist during the shot. Sefolosha adamantly denied having fouled Kobe. Kobe and Sefolosha then began to talk for about a minute straight. They talked smack before the free throws, in between the free throws, and after the free throws on their way back down the court. Unlike many teams in the NBA, the Thunder are not intimidated by Kobe Bryant or the Los Angeles Lakers. Their previous meeting this season was also full of smack talk, with Kobe and James Harden going at it. The confidence of the Thunder is sky high; they fully believe in themselves.

The third quarter was where it all fell apart for the Lakers. Russell Westbrook absolutely torched them, shooting 6-9 for 17 points and dishing out two assists. Westbrook attacked the rim hard, and this allowed him to set up his pull up jumper. Westbrook hit four of his six shots coming off of a pick and pulling up at the top of the key or either elbow. The Lakers pick and roll defense could not stop Westbrook. Most of the time they sagged off as Westbrook came off of the pick. This is usually the correct play against the streaky shooting Westbrook, but Westbrook was hot. When the Lakers did step out hard on the pick, Westbrook would blow by the big man and finish at the rim. Essentially Westbrook put the Lakers in a catch-22. With a minute left in the third, Kobe got into another round of talking with the opponents. This time, it was during a Bynum trip to the line. Kobe walked over and inserted himself into the conversation between Fisher and Westbrook. It seemed like Fish was giving some tips for Russell, since Russell was matched up on Kobe defensively. Kobe had some fun with the situation, and he talked to both Fish and Westbrook for the entire trip at the line. Westbrook sealed his hot quarter with a huge 3 pointer to end the third quarter. With 2.9 remaining on the clock, Westbrook raced down the far side and pulled up at the wing for a 3. He swished the shot and carried some huge momentum into the fourth quarter.

Although Westbrook killed the Lakers in the quarter, the Lakers caught some unlucky breaks. The Lakers got their hands on many balls, tipping passes and tipping rebounds, however, they seemed unable to come up and control the ball. The Thunder scored on multiple occasions after the Lakers would tip a pass and the ball would land in perfect position for a Thunder layup. By the end of the quarter, the Lakers were outscored, 34-19 and they trailed 78-68. Mike Brown commented on the loose ball conundrum during the start of the fourth quarter commercial break interview. Brown stated, "They are coming up with every loose ball, every offensive rebound, and they are just outworking us. They are a little quicker to everything [...] that's the difference in the ball game." The Lakers looked a half step slow on many of those loose balls, and it cost them many opportunities. Playing against the young, energetic Thunder, the Laker just seemed to get beat to the loose ball every time. Also noteworthy was Pau Gasol picking up his fourth foul early in the quarter. Without Pau, the Lakers offense was not as smooth and free flowing as it had been up to that point. Backdoor cuts and high low post feeds were no longer available due to Pau's absence.

Perkins delivers a hard foul on Gasol.
(Courtesy TNT/ NBA)
The Thunder came out hot and blew open the fourth quarter. They started the quarter 5-7 and Westbrook and Durant each had highlight worthy dunks during this stretch. The Thunder led 88-70 with 7:30 remaining. Metta World Peace came up with some huge 3 pointers and the Lakers cut the lead to 96-87 with 2:30 to play. The Lakers went on a 15-5 run during this stretch, but they would squander their biggest opportunity of the game. Coming out of a timeout with two minutes remaining, the Lakers could have cut the lead to 7 with plenty of time, however, Pau Gasol held onto the ball too long and was unable to get up a shot as time expired. This shot clock violation cost the Lakers a possible comeback opportunity. The Lakers once again got within 7 with just over a minute to play, but Westbrook answered right away with a huge jumper that put it back up to a 9 point lead. Pau ended up taking a hard foul on the next possession from Perkins. Pau pump faked and Perkins came down with an elbow on Pau's neck. Pau and Perk both stared each other down and the resentment was tangible. This would be the last scuffle and the Thunder would hold on to win 102-93. The Lakers won the quarter 25-24, but it was not enough to overcome their horrible third quarter.

The starting five of the Lakers did not play their most efficient game. Kobe led the way, going 7-25 for 23 points. Metta shot 3-13 for 9 points. Sessions had a quiet 3-6 for 7 points. Pau went 4-11 for 13. Only Bynum had a good game, going 10-15 for 25 points. Obviously the Lakers need to shoot a lot better to contend with the Thunder; however, matching the Thunder offensively is not the answer. The Lakers need to step up their defense, especially on the pick and roll. Russell Westbrook finished 13-27 for 36 points. Many of these points were directly due to pick and roll opportunities. He shot it when the Lakers sagged off and he drove it when they came up hard. The Lakers need to get back to the basics and get their defensive rotations back on time. Surprisingly, Durant and Harden were both relatively quiet, with 21 and 9 points. If the Lakers saw these numbers before the game, they would surely have figured they won the game.

After this game, and a heated meeting earlier this year that featured Bryant and Harden talking some major smack, it seems like these two teams are destined to meet in the Western Conference Finals. Hopefully the Lakers can get their act together and prevail like they did in 2010. The Lakers won that series 4-2, with four of the six games decided by 8 points or less. If they do meet, Kobe will have to admit that a true rivalry has been established. For basketball's sake, I hope it happens.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mike Brown's Correct Decision to Bench Bynum (3.27.12)

While Kobe Bryant showed maturity and wisdom after his questionable benching against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, Andrew Bynum fully displayed his lack of regard for his teammates, the game of basketball, and the authority of Mike Brown Tuesday night. Kobe wisely stated that his benching was the coach's decision and he left it at that. He did not ignite any controversy and he seemed to accept the demotion with grace. Kobe Bryant definitely has the clout to call out Mike Brown on these types of things, but he kept his mouth closed and focused on winning the next game and working towards another championship.

The exact opposite can be said of Andrew Bynum's disastrous night. While Bynum has definitely improved as a player this year, his immaturity and arrogance have made some headlines throughout the year. Getting tossed out of the Houston game a week ago, Bynum cost the Lakers a win as the Rockets pounded the glass and killed the Lakers with second chance points. While that ejection may have been questionable, his game against the Warriors was outright disgusting. Bynum has admitted on multiple occasions this year that he has not played his hardest throughout certain games. This game was one of them. Andrew had many instances of being late on rotations and giving up easy buckets, jogging down the court and failing to get in position on defense, and notably just seeming disinterested. While everyone will focus on his horrible three point shot that prompted his benching, there were some troubling signs earlier in the game that foreshadowed this moment.

The Lakers opened the game with aggressive play. They attacked the rim early and fed the post often against the small ball Warriors. Pau Gasol dominated the glass with 8 rebounds in the first 8 minutes. At this point, no other Laker had a rebound besides Pau. This may have been an aberration, but for Andrew Bynum not to have a rebound in the first eight minutes, something is wrong. Offensively, Bynum was active early. He received many post up opportunities. He cashed in on a beautiful alley pop as Kobe was in the far corner and lobbed it up and Bynum spun off his man and slammed in the alley oop. A minute later Bynum crashed the offensive glass for a nice putback, gathering his first rebound of the game. He finished the quarter 3-6 for 8 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist. He had a nice quarter, but his work on the glass needed to improve.

Bynum sat to start the second quarter. Josh McRoberts came in for him and provided a nice boost of energy with tough defense and smart offense. Bynum reentered the game with 5:56 left in the 2nd quarter. On his first defensive possession, Bynum was lazy and did not close out on David Lee. Lee hit a wide open 17 foot jumper. A minute later, Pau shot a jumper from the top of the key, Bynum worked hard on the glass to gather the offensive rebound, but the Warriors gathered it. The Warriors went down the floor, while Bynum jogged back. Dorrell Wright scored an easy layup because Bynum was not protecting the rim. A minute later, Kobe mishandled the ball. Kobe was on the near side driving baseline and went through his legs for a step back, but the ball bounced off his hand and out of bounds. Bynum was on the far block as Kobe turned the ball over. He immediately looked down as the ball went out and he threw his arms down in disgust. This demonstration was a definite sign of frustration.

The end of the half was pretty ugly for Andrew. With 2:51 left, Bynum was once again lazy on the pick and pop. Bynum shadowed the point guard, and the guard passed it back to Lee; Bynum was late on the recovery and Lee jabbed left and went right. Bynum fouled Lee as he shot and Lee sank both free throws. After the free throws, the Lakers came down and Pau received the ball on the far side elbow. Pau lobbed it to Bynum on the near side low block. Bynum got stuck under the rim and tried to reverse it; but his shot was blocked by Lee. Instead of hustling back on defense, Bynum stared at the ref for a couple of seconds and then jogged down the court. The Warriors raced down the court but didn't score. At this point, the telecast announcers, Stu Lantz and Bill McDonald, called out Bynum for not hustling back on defense. The next offensive possession, Kobe had the ball on the near side wing. Pau cut to the near side low block and Kobe fed him the ball. The Warriors were in a 2-3 zone. Pau held the ball as he surveyed the defense. Bynum was on the far side low block, with Richard Jefferson blocking him out. Pau jabbed and pumped for six seconds on the low block. Not once did 7'2" Andrew Bynum cut or move to the open space of the zone while 6'7" Richard Jefferson stood in his way. As Pau shot a fadeaway, Bynum drifted toward the free throw line while Metta World Peace crashed the offensive glass hard. Bynum stood upright the entire possession and just watched. Bynum definitely took this play off and he did not assert himself for an easy post entry. The next defensive possession, Bynum did not show on the pick and pop, and the guard had an easy wide open jumper and nailed it. Following that, the Lakers came down and Bynum posted up on the far side low block. Bynum called for the ball and he received it. The Warriors immediately doubled and he made the right pass, swinging it to Pau at the top of the key. Pau then swung it to the wide open World Peace in the corner. Metta missed and Pau crashed the glass and corralled the offensive rebound. Bynum stood and watched the entire time. Pau missed the putback and Bynum slowly jogged back down the floor as the Warriors hit an open 3. Once again Bynum posted up and Kobe fed him on the far block. Bynum was immediately doubled, but he went up strong and made the shot while getting fouled. Kobe promptly went over to Bynum and gave him a strong high give and slap on the stomach. It was obvious that Kobe was trying to pump up Bynum and get his head in the game. However, Bynum looked disinterested. Bynum's lack of focus was highlighted as he clanked his free throw off of the backboard and missed. Bynum has great form for a big man. This free throw clank was definitely a product of Bynum not focusing. Bynum finished the quarter 1-3 with 2 points and 2 rebounds. This put him at 4-9 for 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. Bynum's lack of rebounds were the biggest indicator of his lack of effort. Couple that with his soft defense and the signs were all there for what would happen in the third quarter.

The Lakers began the 3rd up 55-48. The announcers reported the comments of the coaching staff during halftime, "Simple as focus." The coaching staff repeatedly stated that the Lakers needed to keep their focus. Obviously this was directed at Bynum. On the first play of the half, Bynum didn't show on the pick and roll and Klay Thompson hit an open jumper. The next defensive possession, Bynum showed on the pick and roll and Thompson missed the 3. Kobe gathered the board and raced down the court. Bynum ran hard with Kobe. Kobe went to the rim and tried to lay it off for Bynum, but the pass was low and went off of Bynum's leg. Bynum slapped his hands and pointed up, indicating that he wanted the lob. Bynum's effort was there, but his frustration once again boiled to the forefront. At the 10:15 mark, Bynum reeled in his fourth rebound and passed it to Sessions for the outlet. Sessions ran up the far side and stopped at the wing. Bynum caught up to the play as he ran down the middle of the floor. Sessions swung the ball to Bynum at the top of the 3 point line. Instead of running the motion offense, Bynum immediately caught the ball and fired up an ugly 3 point shot. Mike Brown immediately called over McRoberts to sub in for Bynum. Before a dead ball could arrive, Bynum was also beaten down court by Davide Lee, giving up an easy fast break layup. McRoberts came in and gave great energy and made some plays. Bynum sat for the rest of the quarter. With Bynum on the bench at the 4:46 mark, Stu stated, "Even if he had made the shot, you have to take him out. You cannot let the end result dictate what you are gonna do. If it's a bad shot, it's a bad shot. That's the way you send a message." Every basketball player takes a bad shot at one point or another, but this was egregious. Andrew Bynum rarely shoots 3's, unless it's a desperation heave at the end of a quarter. There is no excuse for Bynum to catch the ball with 16 seconds on the shot clock and fire a 3 point shot. The Lakers ended the quarter up 79-72.

Bynum reentered the game to start the fourth. Bynum was featured on the first possession but he missed. He hit MWP for a lay up on the second play, but MWP missed. Bynum played some good defense on Gladness and altered his shot on the following defensive possession. Blake grabbed the rebound, went up the court on the far side and stopped at the wing. Blake saw MWP establish post position in the middle of the lane and made the correct decision to swing the ball to the trailing Bynum at the top of the 3 point line. Almost exactly mirroring the previous setup for his 3 point shot, this time Bynum faked the 3 point shot, dribbled right and spun back left into the lane. Bynum shot and scored; however, World Peace was called for 3 seconds in the key. Instead of feeding MWP for the easy post lay in, Bynum decided to let his inner guard come out and play, and once again this was not the right decision. On the next possession Bynum established post position, made a strong move, missed, got his rebound and was fouled on the putback. Bynum missed the first free throw and Bill commented, "He just kind of went up there, didn't look like he had a whole lot of focus on that one." Bynum validated this statement by abandoning his normal free throw routine on his next shot. The ref tosses Bynum the ball and he took one bounce and quickly shot. Although he made it, it was obvious that Bynum was not entirely focused. He did not go through his normal routine of two bounces and a breathe in breathe out release. The next defensive play, Bynum was out of position and Rush drove by Blake on the far side wing and dunked the ball. Mike Brown had seen enough. McRoberts was quickly subbed in for Bynum at the 9:10 mark and Bill stated, "Andrew Bynum needs to get his head back in the game," to which Stu replied, "Well it's not gonna happen tonight." Andrew would not step on the court for the rest of the game. Bynum sat glued to his chair for that entire span. He laughed with some of the young guys, and he jokingly showed his follow through on his shot. He did not stand to join any of the huddles and he just lacked interest in the game. Bynum finished with 23 minutes, 4-13 shooting for 11 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. Kobe closed the game with two difficult jumpers and the Lakers held off the Warriors 104-101.

After the game Bynum continued to display his immaturity. He stated, "I don't know what was bench worthy about the shot, to be honest with you. I made one (against Memphis) and I wanted to make another one." Bynum then commented on his lack of support while sitting on the bench, "He took me out of the game, so I just sat where he put me." Bynum cemented his arrogance with this statement, "I guess, 'Don't take 3's' is the message, but I'm going to take another one, and I'm going to take some more, so I just hope it's not the same result." Bynum obviously needs to grow up. His lack of effort during the game was reprehensible even before the errant shot. His 3 point shot served to solidify his horrible night. His comments after the game confirmed his immaturity and lack of respect. Andrew Bynum is a great up and coming player. His desire to be featured on offense is obvious. However, it's nights like these where red flags go up concerning Andrew's future. If Andrew wants to carry the torch from Kobe sooner rather than later, then he needs to give 100% all game long. When Kobe has a bad game, no one questions his effort level. Some may question his shot selection, but no one ever questions his effort and desire to win. Andrew must play hard every second he is on the court. Not doing so hinders his much needed impact on the game and the organization. Andrew Bynum will be the next star of the Los Angeles Lakers. He needs to understand the responsibilities of being that star.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mike Brown's Questionable Decision to Bench Kobe (3.25.12)

While watching the Laker game last night, I held onto hope that the Lakers would be able to come back from their deficit and win the game. The last time they met Memphis, they pulled off this feat after trailing by 17 points and forcing double overtime for the win. Kobe Bryant played 52 minutes that game. Bryant played the entire second half and both overtimes. The very next night, Kobe played 48 minutes to pull out a win over the Hornets. Both of these road games required heavy lifting from Mr. Bryant and he delivered the goods. The point is worth repeating, Kobe Bryant played 100 minutes in back to back games on the road. Very few people on this planet can do such a thing, but Kobe can.

This point leads me back to last night's Memphis game. With 5:32 remaining in the game and the Lakers down by fourteen points, Mike Brown decided it would be a good time to sub in Metta World Peace for Kobe. After spearheading a 15-0 run in the third quarter to get the Lakers only down by three to start the fourth, it seemed like the Lakers were heading in the right direction. Kobe went off for 12 points and had 1 assist in the quarter on 4-4 shooting. To start the 4th, Kobe cooled off, going 1-3 with 1 assist and 2 turnovers. The Grizzlies swelled the lead up to fourteen points by the time Mike Brown decided to sit Kobe down for the first time in the half with 5:45 remaining.

This was a very interesting decision given Kobe's ability to come up big despite the minutes he has accumulated. Mike Brown later stated, "I just decided to make a sub." Usually Mike Brown gives in-depth responses with plenty of statistical evidence; however at this point, he was succinct and unapologetic. He later brought up Kobe's minutes and indirectly implied that he did not want Kobe to play the entire second half. The Lakers went 3-11 during this opening stretch and played some horrible defense. Steve Blake was absolutely burned by O.J. Mayo during this stretch. Mayo went off for 10 points on 4-4 shooting with two assists. Bynum was not a force in the paint and the Lakers gave up second chance points and easy layups. The final play before Kobe sat down was an iso on the far baseline for Kobe. Kobe shot his patented fadeaway and came up short. The Grizzlies got the rebound and were on a 3-0 break for the easy layup. I repeat, a three on zero fast break. The Lakers were sleeping and they got caught. So Mike Brown, with his infinite wisdom, decided that a change was needed and he benched Kobe for World Peace. The benching of Kobe at this point completely surprised me. I felt that the Lakers needed a kick in the butt defensively. Bynum needed to be pulled aside and be reminded that he needs to protect the paint. A defensive change was needed, but taking out Kobe was the wrong play. Brown could have subbed Metta in for Blake, leaving Sessions, Kobe, Metta, Pau, and Bynum.
Kobe sits on the end of the bench.
(Courtesy Fox Sports West/ Los Angeles Lakers/ NBA)

However, Brown's sub seemed to work. The Lakers went on a mini-run and got the game within 8 points, 93-85. However, almost three minutes had run off the clock with Kobe sitting. With Pau at the free throw line at the 3:05 mark, the crowd began to repeatedly chant, "We want Kobe!". Mike Brown decided to listen and he sent Kobe over to the scorer's table after Pau made his first free throw. Because Brown was late with his decision, Kobe could not check in until the next dead ball. Pau sank the second and the score was 95-87. O.J. Mayo immediately came down and burned the Lakers with a 3 right in Peace's face. Bynum came down and scored on an iso post, making the score 98-89 with 2:20 remaining. On the Lakers next possession, Pau was fouled and Kobe was finally allowed to check back in with 1:51 remaining. Allowing this minute to run off definitely hurt the Lakers. Without the best closer in the lineup the Lakers lacked the firepower to go on another 8-0 or 10-0 run. Pau made both free throws and the score was 98-91.

Kobe checks the scoreboard.
(Courtesy Fox Sports West/ Los Angles Lakers/ NBA)
Kobe came in for Peace and the Lakers once again looked confused with their rotations as Tony Allen hit a long two in the corner over Kobe, 100-91. So with the game on the line and a minute and a half left in the game, how did the Lakers respond? Pau forced a horrible entry into Kobe on the far wing, and the pass was stolen. Game over. Kobe jogged back down the court and Pau seemed to have a pleading look on his face as he realized his mistake and wished he could take it back. Kobe never even got a chance to be productive with the game on the line. The Grizzlies came down and Marc Gasol nailed a wide open 20 footer after the Lakers once again did not rotate well, stretching the lead to 102-91. Sessions made two free throws after being fouled and the Lakers secured another Grizz miss. Kobe drove baseline to dunk the ball, and Tony Allen got away with a blatant foul with 34 seconds left. Kobe's sure dunk would have made the game 102-95. Instead the Lakers inbounded and Pau air balled an 8 foot fadeaway. The Grizzlies ran out the clock and Bynum threw up one last 3 that surprisingly went in. Lakers lose, 102-96.

Mike Brown's questionable decision to sit Kobe probably cost the Lakers a greater chance to win. Kobe's only shot attempt was a blocked (fouled) dunk attempt. The Lakers scored 10 points in the four minutes that Kobe sat, and they finished with 7 points in the final 1:51 that he was in. Sitting Kobe at the 5:45 mark may have been a decent idea if Kobe had only sat for a minute to catch his breath. However, we have all seen Kobe power through and finish games without needing rest. Kobe did not look winded when he was benched and he was definitely pissed as he sat on the end of the bench. Mike Brown could just have easily called a timeout if he truly felt that Kobe was tired after playing the entire second half. Instead Brown wasted the potential opportunity of Kobe getting hot and spearheading a comeback. Even if Kobe didn't get hot, he would still attract plenty of attention and could get guys easy open shots.

Defensively the Lakers were just lazy. They couldn't come up with stops when they needed them the most and the Grizzlies hit some big time shots. Overall, I place this loss on the defense and Mike Brown. Brown needed to make sure that the Lakers stepped up their defensive presence. On a night where Kobe was an efficient 7-15 for 18 points, Brown should have ridden him the entire way home. Kobe finished with 38 minutes on the night. Would 42 have been that much worse? The Lakers have a day off today and have a short flight to play Golden State on Tuesday. These lost opportunities will probably cost the Lakers the coveted 2 seed as the Lakers now trail the Spurs by four games. The Lakers will get three opportunities to cut into the Spurs lead in the coming month, but that may not be enough. For now, the Lakers let another one slip away. Although their home record is outstanding, this home game was needed, and they collectively blew it.

Kobe decided not to make a big deal out of the situation, stating, "If you guys are looking for a story, I'm not going to give you one." This positive attitude is promising and is a definite sign of a superstar who is focused on winning. Dodging a chance to inflame the controversy, Kobe understands the bigger picture. Mike Brown probably won't make this a habit, and hopefully he has gotten the tinkering bug out of his system. Let the closers close Mike. Win or lose, you want your best players out there. Hopefully the Lakers get their act together and come out strong in their next pivotal home game against the Thunder.