Lakers play phantom defense, don’t have ghost of a chance in ugly loss
The whiteboard inside the Lakers’ locker room spelled out the defensive plan in various shades of marker.
Find Kevin Martin. Watch Kevin Love’s outlet passes. Make Ricky Rubio a shooter and not a driver.
Fail. Fail. Fail.
At least the Lakers were consistent.
In a performance so appalling they were booed in the first quarter, the Lakers reached a new low Sunday night at Staples Center during a laughably lopsided 113-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Martin (27 points), Love (25) and Rubio (12 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds) made a mockery of the Lakers defense while helping the Timberwolves break the NBA’s longest losing streak against one team at 22 games.
There was no suspense after a first quarter in which Minnesota tallied 47 points with surprisingly little resistance.
“Forty-seven points in one quarter is outrageous,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “But we have to put on more pressure. I mean, we have to force them to take tougher shots.”
The Lakers may have lost more than a poorly played game. Point guard Steve Nash didn’t play in the second half after a flare-up of the back, hamstring and nerve issues that have bothered him since last season. He is scheduled to be examined by back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins on Monday.
“I’m trying to play through it, not miss any time and be smart and try to overcome what I can,” said a visibly shaken Nash, who limped his way to two points in 13 minutes. “But it’s taken a bit of a turn for the worse.”
The same could be said for the Lakers, who fell to 3-5.
The last time they had lost to Minnesota before Sunday, on March 6, 2007, they had a point guard named Smush.
There are greater indignities than trying to win with a no-name player, among them trying to win with your biggest name sidelined and your other big names showing their careers are clearly on the downswing.
Gasol continued to be largely an ineffective, jump-shooting mess. He finished with 11 points and made five of 12 shots, his attempt to shrug off recent poor performances with extra pregame shooting paying few dividends.
Hey, at least Steve Blake had 19 points.
More telling was the stat line of Lakers swingman Xavier Henry: two points on one-for-eight shooting with four missed free throws in four attempts.
The Lakers’ defense was even more horrendous. Rubio literally ran circles around the Lakers on the way to his triple-double. As if that wasn’t enough, he also had five steals.
Fans started showing their displeasure late in the first quarter, booing after Love made a fadeaway jumper to give the Timberwolves a 42-16 lead. Love and Martin combined to make 12 of their first 14 shots and Love scored 18 points in the quarter, nearly matching the Lakers, who had 23.
The 47 points were a franchise record, the most ever scored in a quarter by the Timberwolves.
In a bit of unintended foreshadowing, Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni questioned his players’ resolve about eight hours before tipoff.
“We have to get mentally tougher,” D’Antoni said after the morning shoot-around, “and I don’t think we’re mentally real tough right now for whatever reason.”
How might the Lakers go about that?
“Just keep telling them. Give them a shot of mental toughness. I don’t know,” D’Antoni said. “There’s no secret formula. . . . If they want to have a special season, then they’ve just got to do it.”
They couldn’t Sunday, another discouraging development in a season starting to fill with them.
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