As a Christmas tuneup, the Bucks game was a clunker for Lakers
One word said it all.
Kobe Bryant had slipped out a side door in an effort to avoid reporters Tuesday night, though he was eventually tracked down after leaving the Lakers’ locker room.
He didn’t have much to say about being ejected in the final minutes of the Lakers’ stunningly lopsided 98-79 loss to Milwaukee, offering a sharp “Nope” when asked for comment while walking briskly away.
It’s safe to say he wasn’t thrilled with anything at that moment.
Tuesday was supposed to be a tuneup for the Lakers, a chance to pummel a lesser team from the Eastern Conference before the Miami Heat rolled into town for Saturday’s showdown.
Instead, the Lakers meekly rolled over against the Bucks, who improved to 11-16 despite missing three key injured players — point guard Brandon Jennings and forwards Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden.
The Lakers scored 13 points in a pathetic fourth quarter, standing down as an already-surprising six-point deficit going into the final quarter turned into an embarrassment.
“I just don’t think we were strong,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “We looked weak out there physically.”
It was just the beginning of his critiques.
“Guys are doing things one-on-one in the offense instead of letting the offense work for them and making it much easier,” he said. “They’re making the game too hard.
“They ran some things [offensively], but a lot if it [was] forced. Guys got desperate and started running individual [plays.]”
And he wasn’t just talking about Bryant. Lamar Odom enacted an awkward spin move, Derek Fisher tried unsuccessfully to create offense and Shannon Brown lofted five fourth-quarter shots, including a step-back three-point attempt.
The Bucks were hot from long distance, no doubt, making eight of 14 three-point attempts, but the Lakers barely averaged a point a minute in the fourth quarter..
“I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen, like this tonight,” said Pau Gasol, fearful the Lakers were too concerned about Miami before playing Milwaukee.
The Lakers (21-8) might want to bring a stronger effort against the Heat (21-9).
Jackson told the team to stay home Wednesday, giving players a day to wipe clean the loss to Milwaukee.
After all, their Christmas Day performances have been nothing short of unpredictable the past couple of years. They got stomped at home last year against Cleveland, 102-87, but beat Boston two years ago at Staples Center, 92-83.
Even Jackson doesn’t seem to know what to expect.
“It’s a game you just throw out there. You don’t know what kind of effort is going to be done and how it’s going to play out,” he said. “I thought last year we got way too excited about the Cleveland game. We actually screwed up a game.”
Two years ago, the Lakers played well against Boston after losing to the Celtics in the NBA Finals six months earlier. “We were embarrassed,” Jackson said. “Guys wanted to prove something.”
The Lakers will play on Christmas Day for a 12th consecutive time.