Remember the classic anecdote about a frog trying to climb out of a well? The one in which the frog takes one step forward, only to take two steps back and fall back into the well? Well, there's no better mantra that describes the Lakers' season. Whenever the Lakers seem to be making progress, they fall back into their bad habits and start losing games.
After looking dreadful in two straight road games, the Los Angeles Lakers look to right the ship against the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis, a team swirling with trade rumors seemingly on a day-to-day basis, still boasts a 26-14 record and one of the league's best defensive units. Mike D'Antoni will need to figure out a game plan for the Lakers to crack this stingy Memphis defense - one that should rely on slowing down the game and getting more touches for Pau Gasol.
Why play so fast?
When asked about the reason for the Laker struggles, GM Mitch Kupchak recently blamed "a lack of effort" as the primary reason. That begs the question: if effort is the primary issue, why do the Lakers play so fast? With D'Antoni at the helm, L.A. plays one of the most uptempo styles in the league, ranking second in the NBA in pace factor at 94.7 possessions per 48 minutes. Yet, it's perplexing that a starting lineup averaging 33 years of age and two 7-footers would play quickly.
D'Antoni, with the help of floor general Steve Nash, needs to slow down the pace of play for the Lakers to regain effort on the defensive end, and ultimately, to be a more successful team. Keep in mind, LA, along with Milwaukee, allows more fast break points (15.5 per game) than any other team in the NBA. And with its current turnover rate at 14.0 percent, the Lakers will continue to get beaten back on defense if it doesn't slow down on offense.
Remember last year in the Olympics when Pau Gasol tore up Team USA for 24 points, 8 boards, and 7 assists, while almost pulling off the upset for Team Spain? It seems like an afterthought now as Gasol has been relegated to a more limited role off the bench in the Lakers' last two losses against Toronto and Chicago. Gasol, even with the recent knee troubles, is still a very productive player in this league and needs to get more touches for the Lakers to be successful again. For example, in each game this year when Pau has posted an offensive rating above 125, the Lakers are 5-2. Furthermore, when Pau scores less than 13 points per game, the Lakers are 3-12.
In tonight's matchup against his brother Marc, a great defender in his own right, look for Pau to play motivated and be looking for his own shot. If the Lakers can establish an effective post game in Memphis, that should slow down the game and give the Lakers much needed energy on the defensive end.