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Ugly game

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Bizarre may well be too mild an adjective to describe the turn of events that marred the end of what appeared to be yet another classic confrontation between the Lakers and Warriors. As if the premature departure of All-Star Anthony Davis due to an uncalled hit wasn’t enough, the hoops gods managed to wipe off more luster from yesterday’s tiff by stacking one unfortunate circumstance after another with the outcome still on the line. Multiple challenges of whistles and game and shot clock malfunctions had close to a third of an hour enveloping a mere 15 seconds of live ball action. And as frustration grew, the contest wound up being robbed of any rhythm and excitement.

In retrospect, it simply wasn’t the Lakers’ night. They lost Davis after a mere quarter, and to argue that they missed him for the remainder of the set-to would be an understatement. Against the Warriors’ relative lack of size, they were robbed of a natural force on both ends of the floor; not for nothing did he put up 27-15 and 29-13 lines in their two other meetings with their Bay Area rivals this season. As fellow purple and gold stalwart LeBron James noted in the aftermath, “We tried to pick it up, but, obviously, there are some things we can’t do without AD.”

Needless to say, the problems with time were, from the Lakers’ standpoint, akin to adding insult to injury. And it wasn’t simply in the waning minutes of the encounter, either. Early in the fourth period and down by just six, they were victimized by the shot clock resetting and effectively providing the Warriors with an additional 14 seconds to try to get a basket. Then again, they know only too well the importance of making the most of the hands they are dealt. And, really, they have no one but themselves to blame for ultimately failing to do so.

In any case, the record is what it is. The Lakers are now 10th in West standings and unlikely to avoid the burden of having to claim a couple of play-in matches just to make the playoffs. They lost to the Kings and then to the Warriors even though they had two days of rest heading into both contests. If they had any sense of urgency, they would have been well prepared for their opponents, and for any eventuality they stood to face.

True, the sidelining of vital cogs — especially given the sterling on-ball defense of such notables as Jarred Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent — has hurt the Lakers. And, true, unremarkable coaching and unpredictable rotations haven’t helped. That said, they aren’t worth squat if they can’t play through these concerns. Forget about championship mettle. Considering that the bar has been set so low, fans would settle for simply competing.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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