Lakers problem isn’t starting -- it’s finishing

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol during a game against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The Lakers are having problems this season -- that’s not news with their 17-24 mark halfway through the season.

Coach Mike D’Antoni has opted to move Pau Gasol, against his will, to the bench. Monday night, Gasol was productive against the Chicago Bulls in a reserve role, scoring 15 points with 12 rebounds.

The game’s result (95-83 Chicago) emphasized what’s really wrong with the Lakers this season. With the score tied at 69 after three quarters, the Bulls went on to out-score the Lakers by 12 in the final quarter.


The issue isn’t how the Lakers start games or halves but how they finish.

The Lakers can’t close out games. They can’t get defensive stops when they need them. They don’t seem to hit the crucial basket or free throw. They turn the ball over at the most inopportune moments.

This is what the Lakers have been doing all year, and though the team may be better trying to separate Dwight Howard and Gasol as much as possible, both are going to play in the neighborhood of 30 minutes a night. Their time on the floor together can be managed without demoting Gasol.

Whether Gasol starts or not, the Lakers need to learn how to close games, and time after time, there hasn’t been any real suggestion that the team has begun to learn how to do that.

Gasol won’t be happy coming off the bench, but then again, he wouldn’t welcome D’Antoni keeping him out of the action.

It’s a flawed situation if the D’Antoni truly doesn’t believe that Gasol and Howard can complement each other.

If the Lakers are going to pay Gasol $19 million to play a bit part, a midseason trade begins to make a lot more sense.



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Email Eric Pincus at and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.