The Houston Rockets downed the Lakers by settling down and doing all the right things in the clutch time. That's the issue for the Lakers right now, we don't get blown out by anyone - even when we're down 15 in a game (like Houston) we know the team will pull together and get it to a winnable position. Yet the games we've lost recent have all been lost in the clutch. Why?
5) Lamar Odom only hits 54% of his Free-Throws in the clutch. This will be a popular reason, but everyone remembers Hack-a-Shaq and right now Hammer-Lamar (okay, not perfect rhyming but cut me some slack here) is a good option for a team wanting to beat the Lakers.
4) Too much Kobe. This one you may not like but you have to admit it's true. Too much of a good thing transpires into too many forced Kobe jumpers over double and triple teams in the waning seconds. We become so one dimensional that it seems the only option is to go to Kobe late and then stand around while he saves us. The key is it doesn't matter who shoots the ball at the end of the game - as long as we get good shots and knock a good percentage down. Die-hard fans of Kobe will claim his 50PPG (clutch per 48) and 50% shooting justify his every shot, but they really don't.
3) Not enough inside game. Okay, you can definitely put a partial blame on the injury situation but the truth is we settle for jumpers at the end of the game - that usually means contested three pointers and tough fade-aways instead of strong drives to the hole. This means we must feed Lamar, 'Drew and Gasol (when they come back) at the end of the game just like we do early. The key for our big men is to do what teams like Houston demonstrated against us - when the defence collapses you kick out the ball and rotate for the open shot. Kobe needs to use his penetration deep in the game - this is hard when he plays heavy minutes, perhaps he needs more time off earlier in the game! I guess another tonic to too much inside game would be more penetration plays late, either way the jump-shot should be our second option rather than the first (or only) that it currently is.
2) What clutch players? The only top 50 clutch performer on this team is Kobe (I have as 2 but I won't say who I have as 1 right now for fear of public stoning), We get two more in the top 100: Lamar is about 99 (he would be miles higher if he could hit a free-throw when it really counts) and... Fisher who hits in around 75 (.04 anyone?). There's no-one in view after that. What does that give us? A 2-guard who specialises in the most difficult jump-shots on the planet, a 'tweener who draws fouls almost as often as he misses foul-shots and a 1-guard who hits shots from the outside but doesn't penetrate much. The way we win close games is because Kobe and Fish eat up free-throws at the end of close games if we are in front. We're real tough to beat if we have the edge.
1) Finally, my most significant reason for clutch failure late in the game? It's defense people. We don't get enough stops down the stretch. We seem to either leave 3 point shooters wide open after collapsing on anyone who comes down low or let ourselves get penetrated more easily than a ten-dollar.. well, you know what I mean. The good news to save our close game season is that whilst some of these things can't be worked on, defense certainly can. If help is coming it has to come quick and we have to rotate quick.
..with the sharpness..