This is the first time we can say it this season – the Lakers cruised past their opponent. They actually cruised. They started the game steadily, built up their lead slowly, maintained their collective efforts on both sides of the court, and as hard as they played, didn’t appear to break a sweat (figuratively speaking of course).
Without gig men David Lee and Andrew Bogut on the floor, the Laker bigs had their fun in the paint. The Golden State Warriors are one the worst defensive teams in the league and one of the worst rebounders and it was on full display tonight. By halftime, Andrew Bynum had already scored 21 points because the Warriors simply didn’t have anyone who could challenge him, nor the Lakers’ excellent ball movement (led by Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace) and efforts on the glass. With every purple uniform engaged in tonight’s game, Golden State never had a chance.
The eight-point halftime lead ballooned to 21 points, and despite the Warriors not exactly playing like the Spurs, the Lakers won because they stuck to their game plan from beginning to end.
Pau Gasol – When we say he did everything tonight, we mean he did everything. It wasn’t just the efficient scoring (22 points on 7-16, 8-8 from the free throw line) that helped the Lakers get their 40th victory. Gasol was as active a playmaker and defender as he was an offensive threat. Sure his mid-range jumpers, layups and dunks are always such an impressive sight, but his passing is also one of the best of any big man in the league. He sees everything. He saw Bynum in the paint and rewarded his excellent positioning with lobs and quick passes for easy scoring. He made eye contact with cutters like Ramon Sessions and Devin Ebanks and reacted with a quickness that resulted in uncontested layups and dunks. In one play, he was mid-fall, but managed to hand the ball off to Bynum before he hit the ground, and the center rewarded his efforts with a dunk. Gasol got his 11th assist of the game in the opening minute of the final quarter with a lob to Josh McRoberts, and finished the evening with the fifth triple double of his career – 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 dimes. What a well-rounded game for Gasol, who also added three blocks and didn’t commit a single turnovers in almost 35 minutes of playing time. It’s no surprise he led the game with a +24.
Metta World Peace – Right behind Gasol in the “doing it all” category was MWP. 18 points on an efficient 8-14 from the field, 2-4 from downtown and nine assists. World Peace played decoy out there, actually drawing the Warriors’ defense (can you believe it?) and then passing the ball out to divers and shooters. In one sequence, Gasol passed the ball down to MWP from above, and MWP split the defense and dropped the ball off to an open Bynum who scored on a dunk. MWP was as engaged in the game as we’ve ever seen him, and he looked like a floor general out there; he and Pau seemingly giving the Laker point guards the night off. Impact in the game? Second only to Gasol with a +21 for the night.
Andrew Bynum – After the first quarter, Bynum had already scored 17 points on an nearly perfect 7-8 from the field. He might as well have been playing out there by himself because the Warriors’ defense was but a ghost of an effort against him. The last time Bynum was in Golden State, he was benched for attempting a three pointer early in the shot clock. Tonight, he left such foolish ideas at home, opting for converting lobs, dunks and spin moves around Mikki Moore. He finished with 31 points on 12-14 from the field and hit all seven of his free throws. He added nine rebounds, an assist, steal and block in his efforts and credited teammate Pau Gasol during his post-game interview, for always finding him.
Matt Barnes – Just call him a stat filler because that’s what he is. Barnes didn’t score in bunches tonight (just six points), but he had nine rebounds, handed out four assists, had three steals and didn’t have a single turnover. He was the third most impactful player on the court with a +12.
Ball movement – The Lakers are one of the best passing teams in the NBA and tonight they showed why. In the first half alone, they assisted on 17 of 20 made field goals. For the game, they handed out 34 assists on 37 made shots. With such great ball movement, they kept their turnover total to an acceptable 14.
Garbage Time – When was the last time the starters and even key reserves sat out the final minutes of a game? It’s been awhile, for sure, but today it finally happened – an all-bench line-up. Mike Brown cleared his bench and, with the exception of Kobe Bryant, didn’t have a single DNP on the box score.
Other than the slow recovery on a fast break, there wasn’t much to criticize about the Lakers tonight. If anything, the low point is the fact that this effort wasn’t seen last night.
The Lakers earned their 40th win of the season, and have just three more games left before the playoffs. Kobe Bryant went through some running and shooting drills tonight before the game, and depending on the effects on his injury tomorrow, we may see him on the floor as early as Friday in San Antonio. With the Western Conference seedings constantly changing, we may not know the final top eight until the 66th game has been played by all. What a wild season it has been!