The Los Angeles Lakers blew a lead to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night and ultimately lost by a score of 114-100. Consistency hasn’t exactly been the calling card of the Lakers and their second half effort certainly proved to be yet another glaring example of how the 2013-14 NBA season has gone for them thus far.
While many people who enjoy narratives will look at this matchup and talk about Kobe Bryant taking 14 shots, making only four of them, seemed like the cause of their problems on a night when their frontcourt was having a good deal of success, it was undoubtedly the Lakers’ perimeter defense that was the primary cause of L.A. squandering their lead.
Al Horford and Paul Millsap may have been the two leading scorers for the Hawks, but their 19 and 18 points, respectively, don’t tell everything. Much of Horford and Millsap’s success against the Lakers came because they couldn’t contain point guard Jeff Teague.
Teague finished the night with 17 points and 10 assists on 6-16 shooting for the night. While his scoring was solid, it was his ability to facilitate after breaking down the Lakers’ defense that really changed the game. It didn’t matter which guard for Los Angeles was given the task of trying to stop Teague, the Atlanta guard was able to take control on what felt like every possession.
While you have to applaud Teague’s aggressiveness, this Lakers’ perimeter defense is going to continue to be an issue for them, especially with Kobe still not fully healthy. Bryant still looks slow on the perimeter while he’s still adjusting back to form, which hurts the Lakers on the outside. Certainly being surrounded by guards that are sub-par defenders doesn’t help Bryant or L.A., but Bryant is certainly the focal-point of it.
The worst part for the Lakers is that this isn’t a problem that’s going to completely go away. Even when Bryant gets back to full form, he showed obvious decline as a defender last season and one has to assume that will continue. Throw in the rest of the defenders on the perimeter, a group of guys with no history of turning it on defensively, and the Lakers are going to continually see their perimeter defense exploited as the year wears on.