The Los Angeles Lakers lost the first contest of a four game road trip concluding back to back 114-100 against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.
Behind a 21-4 run, the Hawks outscored the Lakers 35-19 in the third quarter, a period where they grabbed seven of their 12 offensive rebounds in comparison to the Lakers 1.
It was a game of two halves for the Lakers and in the second half their struggles were very efficiently exploited by their opponents.
They have now lost four of their last five games and following this loss it is very clear the Lakers are far from being a threat even with Bryant fully fit.
Here is where the Lakers lost the game:
Kobe Bryant struggled once again since returning
The referees did not call a foul on this illegal play by Dahntay Jones at the end of the Lakers-Hawks encounter last season at the Philips Arena, which prompted Bryant to express his anger in the post-game interview about how he could not wait to get revenge.
So as the Lakers prepared to face the Hawks, I certainly anticipated the Black Mamba to bring something special onto the floor tonight.
However Bryant appeared flat, shooting 4-14 from the field and 0-5 from long range in his return to the Philips Arena. He was sloppy with his ball handling early with 3 of his 5 turnovers coming in the first three minutes of the contest.
Whether they were designed plays from the bench or decisions made on the court, there were one too many Kobe isolations this game. He played an inefficient two-man game with Pau Gasol in the opening minutes at the top of the key, a period of play where no other Laker would really touch the ball to make an impact on the possession.
We all know Bryant is not going to stop taking shots and be a complete facilitator, from last season we also know how capable he is of doing both effectively. But being the point guard of the team and returning from injury, he is got to take the shots which he gets and not try and create tough shots for himself.
Lakers certainly missing their point guards
The Hawks’ on-ball defense got tighter in the second half and with their opponents missing all their three-point guards on the roster, the Lakers offense started to lose its way.
Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Xavier Henry and Jodi Meeks have all been sharing the point guard duty but as the results show none of them have been able to be successful given all the names mentioned above are players who are more of scoring threats.
Steve Blake prior to an elbow injury was having a career year passing the ball recording double digits assists in more than 10 games this season and none of the players have been able to replace him.
Even a mediocre defensive team can get the Lakers offense to stall simply because there is not enough ball movement on the floor for them to create good open looks.
Jordan Farmar is close to 100% and even travelled with the team on this road trip. According to reports he could play right now but the Lakers are being very cautious and making sure he returns on a long term basis and delaying his return to allow him to recover completely knowing they are not going to have their duo of Nash and Blake for some time coming.
Lack of made three point shots and slumping defense in the second half
Any team having Kyle Korver, the player who currently holds the record for most consecutive games with one or more 3’s, in their roster you know your defense has to stay at the perimeter. The Lakers did just that, doing a good job of guarding a 3 in the first half especially on Korver leaving him without a field goal in 4 attempts in the first half.
However this defensive effort did not carryover after the break. The Laker defense slumped in the second half. They presented the Hawks, especially Al Horford with easy mid-range looks on the pick and roll, they gave open good looks from long range and did not box out enough, giving away a lot of rebounds on the offensive glass.
The Hawks beat the Lakers at their own game behind Korver who hit three of his four attempts from long range after the break and it wasn’t only him shooting daggers from beyond the arc. The Hawks made 11 3-point-shots as a team with 8 of them coming in the second half.
Meanwhile among the Lakers, nobody made a three-point shot in 14 attempts except Nick Young. He shot 5/7 from behind the three point line and at the same time had a great game with 23 points shooting 50% from the field and 4/4 from the free throw line.