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Sneaking Out The Backdoor

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Wow. Talk about winning a game you deserve to lose. The Lakers had no business winning last night against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats (who were 1-9 on the road and 5-12 overall coming into the game), but thanks to a pair of clanged free throws by career 78% free throw shooter Brevin Knight down the stretch, the Lakers escaped with a 99-98 win.

As the Charlotte players walked off the court in a stunned daze at how they blew the game, the Lakers sneaked out the backdoor of the Staples Center looking like they knew they got away with something. And they did.

This won't come as much of a newsflash to anybody that has seen them this year, but the 2005-2006 Lakers are not good. In fact, after watching last night's game, LAist is pretty sure they are not even close to being good.

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For starters, this is a team with no interior defense. They don't challenge shots in the paint, let alone block them, and they made the Bobcats' Melvin Ely look like Kareem Abdul-Jabaar as he poured in 20 points on 10-13 shooting and a seemingly neverending barage of uncontested jump hooks.

Kobe was typical Kobe last night, throwing up a 9-for-30 shooting performance, but draining 11-12 free throws including the game tie-er and game winner. On the offensive end of the floor, Kobe is still a double edged sword of unstoppability -- his opponent can't stop him from scoring in crunch time and his own team can't stop him from shooting on every posession the rest of the game.

But the real story about Kobe this season in LAist's mind is that the former All-NBA defender doesn't really play defense these days. Does anyone else realize that Kobe's steals and defensive rebound numbers are at their lowest in eight years? On a team whose defense is questionable to begin with, it doesn't help when your best defender is taking it easy on that end of the floor.

If there was a bright side to the Lakers performance last night, it had to be the continued solid play of some of the team's younger players -- particularly the guys coming off the bench. Turnover machine Smush Parker (0 assists and 4 turnovers last night -- sweet line for your starting PG) was clearly outplayed by Sasha Vujacic whose three point shooting kept the Lakers in the game in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Brian Cook has quietly developed into a decent offensive weapon with a solid mid-range jump shot and did an adequate job on the boards. Even Laron Profit continues to contribute off the bench, especially on the defensive end.

But when you are hyping the play of Laron Profit as a high point, you are not a very good team. Improving young players aside, the reality is that this Lakers team isn't headed anywhere near the playoffs this season and anybody that thinks so is fooling themselves. They may have climbed out of the Pacific Division basement with last night's escape, but LAist has a hunch they will be right back there soon enough.

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