A funny thing happened on Halloween: Perhaps inspired by the children of America— who'd spent the evening taking to the streets in elaborate costumes, pretending to be ghosts and ghouls and ninja turtles rather than little kids—the Lakers decided to dress up as a team that can wring success out of the bad, dumb basketball they play on purpose. They won the middle quarters of their game against the Clippers by 13 points and entered the fourth up four. They were on the way to beating the mighty Clippers!
Then they sent the Clippers to the free-throw line 19 times in the fourth, against two FTs of their own, and lost by seven. A costume is a costume, after all. Dressing up like a pirate isn't the same thing as knowing how to pillage a merchant ship.
The Lakers are still playing bad basketball on purpose, in case you were worried they might stop doing that. Their shot chart from Friday night, with its 20 three-point attempts and its pleasant green-and-yellow color scheme, could almost fool you into thinking they played well, but they did not. They just made a few more of the atrocious long twos Byron Scott's presumably glue-addled game-"plan" has them chucking up with unconscionable frequency. They still took more long twos (29) than threes and layups/dunks combined (26). They still haven't gone a single game without doing that. This is still the basketball equivalent of taking a long, leisurely piss directly into your own gas tank.
Give the Lakers credit: Their brief proximity to success chastened them; they went out the next night in Oakland with a renewed commitment to dropping pianos on their own feet and calling it toughness, and lost 127-104 to the Warriors.
This shot chart is a real gem.
That's 26 attempts from the basket area and behind the three-point line, same as the night before against the Clippers—only this time, the Lakers managed to pump up 40 long twos, which is an impressive achievement in the same way that shooting an arrow into your own back would be an impressive achievement. If this shot chart were an item of evidence at a crime scene, Sherlock Holmes would squint at it, and Watson would go, "Damn, man, the victim must have been the dumbest motherfucker who ever lived," and Holmes would go, "No, good man, nobody is that fucking stupid; clearly he was under the influence of alien brain-control rays."
For some enlightening contrast, here is the Warriors' shot chart from the same game:
That is the shot chart of a good basketball team whose coach has not been in a coma since 1990.
A common refrain from Lakers defenders the previous couple of times we've made fun of the apeshit ridiculous basketball they're playing on purpose goes like this, basically: "Attacking the basket instead of jacking long jumpers is a good gameplan; the Lakers just don't have the players to make it work." There is a word for this kind of reasoning, and it is: Hahahahaha.
Chocolate cake is good. Making chocolate cake is a good plan. Unless the only ingredients you have are hot dogs and canned tomato soup, in which case making chocolate cake is a bad idea. A cook who attempts to make chocolate cake out of hot dogs and canned tomato soup is not a cook whose good plan was undone by bad ingredients; a cook who attempts to make chocolate cake out of hot dogs and canned tomato soup is a fucking moron. Even if it's true that Auguste Escoffier himself could not make a five-star meal out of hot dogs and canned tomato soup, it takes a particular brand of deluded shit-for-brains to take hot dogs and canned tomato soup and attempt to turn them into chocolate cake.
The Lakers' two best players, in some order or another, are Jordan Hill and the mummy who used to be Kobe Bryant. Their third best player does not exist. The Lakers have hot dogs and canned tomato soup, and Byron Scott wants to make the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s out of them. Even leaving aside the extremely open question of whether any team could succeed playing the Showtime Lakers basketball of the 1980s after the rules and paradigm changes of the past three fucking decades, the Lakers of today are not the team to do it.
A good gameplan is one that works for the particular players who will be running it, not one that works when you imagine it being run by some whole other group of guys with different skill sets. Otherwise I could write "Start Zeus At Power Forward" on a piece of paper, tape it to a clipboard, and proclaim myself a basketball coaching genius. That's a pretty good-ass gameplan! Too bad I don't have the players to run it.
The moral of this story is that Byron Scott is a dingus, the Lakers are the basketball equivalent of an incompetent, drunk jazz quintet falling down a spiral staircase together, and this is the most enjoyable thing happening in sports today. They're hosting the Suns tomorrow, and watching them try to insert the basketball into their navels is your duty as a lover of the rich and strange and mysterious human race.
Shot charts via NBA.com
Top photo via Getty