‘Killer’ remark is brushed off
Can a 53-13 team really lack a killer instinct?
That’s what Coach Phil Jackson suggested Sunday after the Lakers slipped past the Dallas Mavericks, 107-100.
It was another victory in a regular season filled with them, but it was symptomatic of the Lakers’ habit of playing down to a competitor.
The Lakers led by 15 points midway through the third quarter, but found themselves down six in the fourth, leading Jackson to observe that they had “perhaps a better killer instinct earlier in the year” and had “played around with teams at times.”
A day later, his players brushed aside the notion that they sometimes lack a killer instinct, or even a finishing touch. “Teams are going to go on runs and sometimes you give up a lead,” forward Lamar Odom said. “We expect it.”
Then, after a pause, he added, “We kill them at the end of the game.”
Kobe Bryant also wasn’t overly concerned about Jackson’s remark. “I think he’s using that to motivate us,” he said. “When we have an opponent down, we’ve been able to keep them down.”
Good opponents, yes, for the most part. Bad opponents? Not always.
The Mavericks are somewhere in the middle, comfortably wedged into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They uncorked a 21-2 run that started near the end of the third quarter mainly because their zone defense flummoxed the Lakers, enticing them into firing up a bevy of three-point attempts.
Almost predictably, the Lakers made only three of 14 from long range in the second half and got away from feeding the ball to Pau Gasol, who was a perfect 10-for-10 shooting in the first half. He had three shots in the second half.
“The zone took us out of our rhythm, really,” Bryant said. “He wasn’t able to get his touches in the post. We worked on it extensively [Monday]. It should be better.”
The results could be known as early as tonight. The Lakers’ opponent, Philadelphia (33-31), employs numerous zone defenses.
No price hike
The Lakers are not raising ticket prices for next season, a reflection of the struggling economy. The team typically raises ticket prices by about 5% to 7% annually.
Ticket prices for Lakers games will remain at $90, $115, $155, $220 and $260 for lower-bowl seats and $10, $35 and $45 for upper-bowl seats. Courtside seats will still be $2,600.
“With the current state of the economy, we feel that increasing ticket prices for the upcoming season would add to the financial burden that most families and individuals are suffering at this time,” Lakers executive vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss said in a statement.
“Although we are freezing prices for the upcoming season, rest assured that we will continue to do whatever is necessary to bring another NBA championship back to Los Angeles.”
Sasha Vujacic continues to struggle in the scoring column, making the Lakers much less of a three-point threat than last season, when “The Machine” was living up to his nickname and the streaky Vladimir Radmanovic could also sometimes fill up the basket.
Radmanovic was traded to Charlotte last month and Vujacic has scored in double figures only twice in the last 22 games.
Vujacic had only two points against Dallas, making one of six shots. He missed all four of his three-point attempts.
“He’s trying to hurry his shot,” Jackson said. “It’s a snowball effect.”
Jackson was quick, however, to defend other aspects of Vujacic’s game. “We look at Sasha as a guy who hustles and he plays scrappy defense. He can pass the basketball now,” he said. “He’s got more to the game than just shooting.”
Vujacic, who signed a three-year, $15-million contract before this season, is averaging only 5.6 points a game and shooting a comparatively dreary 34.4% from three-point range. He averaged 8.8 points a game last season and shot 43.7% from three-point range.