LOS ANGELES — In the first game after head coach Byron Scott had made a few changes to the starting lineup, it was still much of the same result as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to their third consecutive loss 104-87 to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers got off to slow start offensively shooting 25 percent in the first quarter with just seven made field goal attempts. This included going 1-of-7 from 3-point range, and Kobe Bryant shooting 2-of-7 from the field. Anthony Davis led the way for the Pelicans with eight points and four rebounds.
Los Angeles picked up their offense a bit in the second quarter shooting 43.5 percent from the field, with Wesley Johnson scoring eight of his 10 first-half points. However, New Orleans maintained their grip on the game with their lead never falling lower than six points.
Things worsened for the Lakers in the third quarter as the Pelicans took complete command of the game after Nick Young‘s 3-pointer cut the deficit to 63-57 as they went on a 16-2 run to end the quarter. Los Angeles cut the deficit down to 83-71 with 8:54 left in the fourth quarter after a 10-0 run, but New Orleans kept them at bay for the rest of the way.
Ronnie Price in his first start of the season in place of Jeremy Lin scored just three points on 1-of-4 shooting with three assists and one rebound in 26 minutes played. Ed Davis in Carlos Boozer‘s spot had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting with seven rebounds and two blocks in 30 minutes on the floor.
The Lakers are now 2-9 at home on the season, which includes going 0-9 against Western Conference opponents. Here are five things we learned about them from Sunday night’s loss:
Kobe Bryant’s focus
Like the rest of the team, Bryant struggled with his shot in the first half going just 3-of-10, and only had two free throw attempts. The 16-time All-Star was trying to find anyway possible to get himself going, and even grew openly frustrated when he did not receive any foul calls on a few of his drives to the basket.
His shooting woes persisted in the second half as he shot just 3-of-8 for just six points, with one assist, and two turnovers. It was not a memorable game by any means from Bryant, but he voiced his commitment to the team following the loss calling their current state a “process” that they must get through.
“It’s a process. I am a naturally competitive person. These moments from the outside looking in I know everybody is waiting for a blow up,” Bryant said. “Honestly I really enjoy the process and challenge of it. Not everything is going to be great, champagne, and celebrations.”
“You got to go through the hard stuff too. If this was the Titanic, I would go down with that (expletive).I am not jumping off.”
Ultimately for Bryant, he feels this is the time where he will find out the true identity and makeup of the team.
“This is where you’re going to find what your identity is going to be,” Bryant said, who had 14 points in Sunday’s loss. “You will find out if who is going to be competitive and step up.”
Third quarter issues
It has been no secret this season that the Lakers have had their fair share of struggles in the third quarter, which they have allowed an NBA-worst 29.2 points.
This trend continued against the Pelicans on Sunday night as they scored 29 points on 60 percent shooting (12-of-20), and finished the quarter on a 16-2 run. New Orleans shot the ball even better in the fourth quarter as they went 63.2 percent (12-of-19) from the field with Anthony Davis scoring eight out of 23 points for the game on 4-of-5 shooting.
Scott thought much of the team’s second half defensive woes were directly correlated to their poor shooting in the game.
“I was (satisfied) at the beginning. The first half I was pretty happy with it,” Scott said. “I think in the third and fourth quarter we obviously let it get away. I think a lot of that is because we weren’t making shots. When you’re not making shots, all of a sudden it puts that much more pressure on you on the defensive end.”
“We just have to try to stay focused for 48 minutes, and sometimes that’s hard to do when you have young guys out there.”
For Nick Young, it came down to the team’s effort on that end of the floor he is hoping to see vast improvement on moving forward.
“As a team we have to play harder,” Young said. “We have to play like we want to win every night. It’s tough, but you have to trust yourself and go out and play.”
Jeremy Lin’s struggles continues
In his first game off the bench, the 26-year-old struggled to get acclaimed to his new role as he had just three points on 1-of-5 shooting with four assists, and three rebounds in 20 minutes played.
“(I) just try to be aggressive. It didn’t work,” Lin said. “I didn’t play well tonight, and I’m capable of a lot more. I believe that. It’s just a matter of being able to do that, and finding a way to do that.”
Through the first 21 games of the season, it has been a roller coaster ride in terms of production from Lin with nights that he is a complete non-factor to games where he an effective player. In his own eyes, Lin feels strongly that his play so far this season is not representative of the type of player he is.
“No,” Lin said sternly. “Not even close. I don’t think so at all.”
Lin said the reason for Scott moving him to the bench was because he wants him to be in the right place defensively, and get this teammates more involved on offense. He also added that the point guard position is a “tough balance” between initiating the offense for both himself and his teammates but “it is the equation that I got to figure out.”
Bryant’s advice to Lin through this rough patch of his career is to keep working through it.
“I am sure he feels down about it,” Bryant said. “Then after that you accept it and deal with it, and go out do your best from that point forward.”
Scott stated following the game that Lin understood the reasoning behind the change. He also has not discussed with his point guard when he could return to be a starter as he expects to use the new lineup for somewhere between the next 10 to 15 games.
Nick Young’s shooting woes
It was a rough start shooting-wise for Young as he missed his first six shots that included going 0-for-3 from 3-point range. Young early on in the game was settling for long range shots. This continued in the second quarter as he was not much of a factor offensively, and had just two points that came on a pair of free throws.
Young did not make his first shot of the game until midway through the third quarter on a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. Following that make, the 29-year-old continued to struggle to find his rhythm as he finished the second half shooting just 3-of-7 from the field for 11 points.
Although it was a night that Young led the bench in scoring with 13 points for the seventh consecutive time, his main focus was on team’s lack of energy and focus on the court.
“We came out with the right mindset,” Young said. “But during the game, players see shots not falling, that plays a major role in your confidence out there too. We tried to pick it up on the defensive end, it wasn’t all one sided.”
Young has been a consistent scoring option off the bench for the Lakers since he returned from his surgically-repaired thumb. Sunday was just a matter of the team missing their shots.
Carlos Boozer unhappy
When Boozer first arrived to Los Angeles in July, he had full belief that he would be the team’s starting power forward this season. However that position was taken away from him by Scott following the team’s 113-96 defeat on Friday night against the Boston Celtics.
Scott stated that he did not talk to Boozer prior to the game about the decision as he already knew, which he felt the move did not sit well with the 12-year veteran.
“He wasn’t happy about it, which made me happy,” Scott said of Boozer’s reaction to the new bench role. “Because if he was happy about it, then I’d know right then that it doesn’t mean nothing too him. He wasn’t real happy or talkative today.”
Boozer played well offensively in his limited role off the bench scoring 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting with six rebounds in 23 minutes. That said, he appeared to be bothered by the switch following the game as he quickly left and did not speak to reporters.
It will be interesting to see what unfolds with this new situation given this is a new challenge for Boozer in the tail end of his career. Will he step up his level of play or is this the start of him fading out?
Photo Credit: Danny Moloshok / Associated Press
Bob Garcia IV
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