LOS ANGELES LAKERS (25-28)
Lost in all the Kobe vs. Dwight vs. Mike D’Antoni vs. Dwight’s Dad drama and the continuing injury problems (Pau Gasol out for a long time with a torn plantar fascia) has been the disintegrating play of Metta World Peace.
Since a strong November from the arc (37.6 percent), MWP’s accuracy from downtown has slipped precipitously. 35.1 percent in December, 34.0 percent in January and – entering Tuesday’s home game vs. Phoenix – a truly putrid 19.0 percent.
Meanwhile, his overall efficiency also has plummeted, as you might expect. Through his first five games in February, World Peace didn’t crack 27 percent shooting. Pull a fan from the 300 level, and he might do better.
It’s not like World Peace is some tiny part of the Lakers’ offense, either. More than anyone on the team, he has enjoyed the perks of D’Antoni’s spread ’em-out, shoot-when-open philosophy, taking 11.4 shots per game. That’s good for second on the team.
Before the Lakers tipped against the Suns, I asked D’Antoni how long he thought he could stick with Metta if the slump continued.
“We’ll just go as long as it takes, because there’s really not any alternatives,” he said. “We’ll stick with Metta, and hope he’ll get it back.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but D’Antoni is right. The injury-depleted Lakers don’t have many options at the 3/4 beyond Metta, save dusting off someone like Devin Ebanks, which ain’t happening.
“That’s a slippery slope, because then what do you do? Take one, don’t take that one, take this one,” D’Antoni explained. “You’ve got to shoot when you’re open. He’s got to have confidence. I’ve got confidence in him, and people go through this. You stick with them, and make sure it doesn’t affect his defense and affect other things. You can overcome that as long as he’s taking good shots.”
Tuesday, MWP broke out of the slump – very temporarily, as it turned out – hitting four of six shots in the first quarter. Not surprisingly, the Lakers laid 30 on Phoenix in 12 minutes. But he was 2-of-10 the rest of the way. The Lakers got the win, but in completely unimpressive fashion.
Gasol and Jordan Hill are both injured, Howard isn’t healthy, and Steve Nash is yet to fully recover from his early season leg injury. World Peace simply has to be better, particularly if he is going to continue getting so many open looks. Which he will, because right now he can’t make opposing defenses pay. –BK
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (30-22)
Last week, I noted how the Warriors were embarking on a quartet of games that might serve as a bellwether for their prospects come playoff time. Obviously, nothing is set in stone by these results, but seeing them drop all four hardly raises collective confidence about what lies ahead for April and beyond.
Yes, Andrew Bogut, still unavailable during the second end of back-to-backs, didn’t play during the OKC and Dallas losses, but the bottom line is the Warriors are riding a five-game losing streak. It’s fair to wonder whether water may be seeking its own level for the season’s most surprising team.