The Lakers led by 18 points with just over seven minutes remaining in the game, but L.A.'s bench allowed the Wizards to mount a furious comeback, one that eventually cut the lead to a single point. After seeing this happen for the sixth time this season, Phil Jackson finally seems ready to do something about it.
Jackson said after this one that the comeback was on him, and that his second unit might be too young to handle the intensity of protecting a fourth quarter lead on the road.
"I think it was poor coaching, that's what it was tonight," he said. "Putting too much trust and faith in a younger group, the second unit, that perhaps can't hold it on the road. They can't withstand the fury or the tensity of a fourth-quarter game, so I'm going to have to change it up a little bit, I think."The poor coaching line may be a bit of a stretch where the lineup is concerned, but what Phil is saying here has some validity. It hasn't been a fluke that teams have been able to come back like this on the Lakers' bench players, especially when Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom are all out of the game at the same time.
Besides the fact that the younger players gave up the huge lead, there's the issue of having to bring the starters back in to close the deal, when physically and mentally they probably figured they were done for the night.
Bryant and Gasol began the fourth on the bench, and Odom sat down with just under 10 minutes to go. None of the three were very effective when they had to check back in at the 5:41 mark, and Kobe was especially cold, going 0-for-5 down the stretch before hitting a fade-away bank shot to put his team up three after Washington had cut the lead to one.
Phil admitted that it was a bad spot to put Kobe in, saying afterwards he thought that "mentally, he probably checked out." If Jackson makes the changes he's hinting at though, this problem -- along with the bigger one of the team blowing huge fourth quarter leads in the first place -- are likely to both become non-issues.