Lakers Should Not Imitate USC Basketball’s Losing Playbook


What do an NBA team and a college basketball squad have in common? They don’t show up to finish a game.

The LA Lakers have unfortunately taken a page out of the USC book over the past week, allowing their opponents to do whatever they want in the second half.

The Lakers had the same problem in games with the Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets over the weekend. Then, last night, it almost happened again in a game at the Staples Center with the Detroit Pistons.

In all three games, the Lakers’ second half defense resembled the basketball version of the USC Trojans. All three opponents were able to score at will.

On Friday, in the second of back-to-back games, the Lakers offense managed just 23 total, second half points as Denver crushed them 105-79. Coming out of the break, the Lakers only scored eight points, probably their lowest quarter in history.

On Sunday, it was deja vu as the Rockets and Aaron Brooks blew into the Staples Center and handed the Lakers a 101-91 defeat.

Again, the Lakers were dismal in the second half, scoring just 37 points.

In both of those games, the bench was virtually nonexistent at both ends of the court. They were outmatched and outscored by both the Nuggets’ and the Rockets’ reserves.

Kobe Bryant played through both games with a painful groin pull and put up 19 and 18 points respectively, which is a low-scoring game by his usual standards.

Last night, the groin was feeling a little better, and he scored 40 points against the Pistons. But the bench once again nearly blew a 25-point lead.

With the Lakers up 88-63 going into the final quarter, Phil Jackson called upon his reserves to hold the lead so Bryant and the rest of his starters could relax.

Not so.

Andrew Bynum had to return at the 10-minute mark to replace D.J. Mbenga, as the Pistons were grabbing offensive rebounds and getting second chance points off of slam dunks.

With the lead down to 15 and the Lakers in foul trouble, Kobe Bryant was forced to re-enter the game at the eight-minute mark.

The Pistons whittled the lead down to seven points, 98-91. That forced Lamar Odom to return.

With the three starters—Bryant, Bynum and Odom—on the court, the Lakers secured a 106-93 win.

But it wasn’t easy.

All three were winnable games. Yet the Lakers, particularly their bench, lost two of those games. And these games in November count just as much in the final standings as the ones in March.

Everyone is pointing to the fact that Pau Gasol has missed all 11 Lakers’ games. Things, of course, will change with Gasol starting and Odom coming off the bench. Odom makes the bench stronger.

However, all teams have to deal with injuries in an 82-game stretch. The Lakers didn’t need Gasol on the court to beat the Nuggets and the Rockets. They just needed some extra effort and some heads-up play.

Bryant, as tough as he is, can’t do it all.

The Lakers have a dominant center in Andrew Bynum. If they work the ball into Bynum more and don’t settle for so many of these one-and-done jumpers, they can win games that they otherwise might lose.

In Denver, Josh Powell went 1-for-5, Shannon Brown 1-for-8, Adam Morrison 1-for-5, Sasha Vujacic 0-for-4. Meanwhile, Bynum, the forgotten man, was 8-for-13.

Many more games like that, and the Lakers’ season could be as huge a disappointment as the one the Trojans are having.

Let’s hope not.By