LOS ANGELES — The losses continue to stack up for the Los Angeles Lakers as they suffered their sixth consecutive lapse in a 110-100 defeat on Friday at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats lead by Al Jefferson scoring a season-high 40 points.
In their five previous meetings, the Lakers were victorious in each matchup against Charlotte. But on Friday that was not the case as Jefferson made sure of that by posting his seventh double-double in the last eight games, tying a career high and setting a Bobcats’ franchise record with his 11th straight 20-plus point output.
“He is good first of all,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said of Jefferson. “He’s been doing this to a lot of people and we tried a little of everything. We dug. We tried to play a little bit straight up at first. We tried to double team him. We tried to do different things.
“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit, but in the paint there we struggled a little bit and that kind of came out against a really good player.”
Jefferson was not the only problem the Lakers had on Friday as it was their team defense that allowed the Bobcats to shoot 52 percent from the field and outscore them in the paint 64 to 38 for the game. But for D’Antoni, it appeared to him that his team was not ready to go.
“They just weren’t ready to play, for whatever reason,” D’Antoni said. ” Whether it’s the end of January, who knows, but it’s not excusable. We just can’t do that, and we did it and we better learn from it real quick or it’s going to a be long season, and it already is, but it could be ugly and that the only chance that we have (to win) is to have 48 minutes of energy and we didn’t have it.”
D’Antoni also went as far as describing the team as “lifeless” in the first half. Overall, it has been a tough stretch for Los Angeles defensively as they have allowed their last 14 opponents to score over 100 points.
“It feels like a bad nightmare,” Jodie Meeks said of team’s recent struggles on defense. “It’s kind of the same story ending in losses, which is unfortunate but we can’t give up. We just got to keep it going.”
For Pau Gasol, the only way for the team to improve on defense is they take it as a personal task.
“We got to take it personally first,” Gasol said, who led the team with 24 points and nine rebounds. “Individually you have to make a commitment and make yourself accountable. Then make an effort to communicate and create an engagement on the floor otherwise it’s just going to be too difficult and every mistake now is a big load on our shoulders. We just don’t seem to bounce back well. We don’t seem tog e4t the right energy and the right mindset.”
Friday’s game began with a back and fourth first quarter that included seven lead changes. Gasol got it started early offensively for the Lakers as he scored eight of their first 12 points of the game. However the opening quarter belonged to Jefferson as he had 11 points with six rebounds as the Bobcats shot 57 percent from the field that gave them a 31-27 lead heading into the second quarter.
Charlotte stretched their lead as they used to a 13-5 run to start the second quarter that gave them a 12-point advantage. Los Angeles cut the deficit to five points midway through the quarter due in part to a 11-4 run that included seven points of Nick Young’s 21 points for the game.
But once again it was Jefferson and the efficient Bobcats’ offense that shot 60 percent for the second quarter that included a 10-2 run with nine-year veteran contributing five points heading into halftime.
The deficit increased in the third quarter as Charlotte built their lead to as much as 20 points. Los Angeles made a run that spanned from late in the third quarter onward through the start of the fourth quarter to cut the margin to eight points.
The Lakers did not get any closer than that as the Bobcats maintained a double digit lead for the rest of the fourth quarter.
So with another painful defeat added to the already deep loss column, D’Antoni sees an opportunity to improve with return of their injured guards in Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar possibly as early as next week.
“I think they’ll learn a lesson and I think next game out they’ll (compete),” D’Antoni said. “We’ll go get some energy guys back starting sometime next week, which will help us and we’ll be able to get a little bit better rotation.”
Friday’s loss also marked the first home loss to Charlotte since Jan. 27, 2009 when they suffered a double overtime 117-110 defeat.
Despite the Lakers losing yet another game, Kendall Marshall has continued to thrive as the team’s starting point guard as he had is 11th double-digit assist game and his ninth double-double in 15 starts.
The 22-year-old is now averaging 9.6 assists per game this season, which would rank him second in the NBA. Marshall has take full advantage of Los Angeles’ point guard injury situation.
But with the Lakers appearing to have their injured trio of point guards returning within a week or so, it could fog of Marshall’s place in the team’s rotation once they rejoin the team.
Photo Credit; Mark J. Terrill – AP
Bob Garcia IV
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