The collective response of the Lakers to Sunday’s 99-87 loss in Houston was as predictable as their lackluster effort going into the contest … And we’ll get to what Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant had to say momentarily.
But as for the Mother’s Day letdown, Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register summed it up quite nicely:
“The Lakers are a deep and talented team, good but not dominant on defense, not quite what they would be if Andrew Bynum were feeling big and strong, and above all not experienced enough to bring stellar focus if the circumstances don’t prompt them.”
That’s about as concise and accurate a statement about L.A.’s state as there was after Game 4, though one could argue that future circumstance of the playoffs will indeed bring out that focus. Yet and still, Sunday’s circumstances certainly didn’t prompt the Lakers, even if they should have: Yao was out, and L.A. relaxed; Yao was out, and Houston was (entirely) galvanized (like Orlando without Dwight Howard in Game 6 vs. Philly); L.A. was very, very loose before the game, and Houston had its collective back pressed firmly against the wall; the Lakers’ lax attitude crushed their hope of playing good help defense; etc., etc.
Indeed, for whatever reason, the Lakers occasionally need to be prodded before they unleash the kind of games that they’re so obviously capable of. They’re so talented that, in games where they don’t mentally feel challenged (“Oh, no Yao? We got this.”), they assume they can turn on the afterburners eventually.
That’s what Phil Jackson reiterated after practice, before explaining once again that the primary goal in Houston was to regain home court advantage, and that he expects his team to respond on Tuesday just as they have all season to losses (including in the playoffs after tough defeats at Utah in Game 3 and vs Houston in Game 1). In truth, there’s no evidence to contradict that sentiment, especially now that the Lakers have seen what the Rockets can do without their 7-6 center.
Kobe faced the music as well, getting between 654 and 657 questions about the Lakers’ heart.
“We didn’t understand the type of energy Houston was going to come with, we didn’t have that recognition,” he said, implying that the team now understands quite clearly. “That’s disappointing … But just get back to work. Win tomorrow. That’s all.”
It’s probably not Kobe who needs to understand that the intensity level needed to match that of a wounded dog in Game 4, but if he’s not worried about getting it out of his teammates in Game 5, should we?
To watch the complete Jackson and Bryant interviews, CLICK HERE.