Victories for the Lakers are so few and far between these days that when they do happen (though you don’t want to feel like a total loser for rejoicing after a win against the mediocre Detroit Pistons), you hate to admit it – but you’re happy. Well, most of us are happy. They’ve had five wins in 12 tries – we were due.
Their last victory before tonight came against the Pelicans last Tuesday after the Minnesota Timberwolves ran them off their own home court, and before they threw away games against the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies. Tonight, similar to the game against New Orleans, they operated as a team (five Lakers in double figures), they moved the ball well, played decent defense and didn’t stop their efforts until the last buzzer of the night.
Jordan Hill was spectacular, as he’s been all season, and Steve Blake is really channeling his inner Stave Nash with the way he’s been running the floor since the All-Star point guard signed up for the injury list again, and because of this, the Lakers got their 114-99 victory, and the fans at Staples Center got their free tacos.
Jordan Hill – Wow. I mean, WOW. 24 points on 11-16 from the field plus 17 rebounds, and he made both of his free throw attempts. James Worthy mentioned that Hill reminds him of Laker Great A.C. Green. They were both proficient rebounders, defenders, and basically, work horses. When Hill is on the floor, he may not be the most talented, but what he lacks, he makes up for in hard work. Aside from refining that effective jumper that he worked on during the off season, he’s a natural rebounder.
Jodie Meeks – 19 points on 6-11 from the field, 4-7 from three point land that’s the Meeks we signed up for. He tossed in a corner three late in the fourth quarter and threw his head back as he ran to the bench. Inserted into the starting line to, essentially, take Kobe Bryant’s place until he returns, Meeks has done an admirable job, even leading the team in scoring.
Nick Young – Vying for the coveted Sixth Man of the Year award, Young is having a great start to his campaign with games like tonight -19 points on 7-13 from the field, including a pair of threes. He’s averaging 13 points ppg in this early season and has been a real energizer off the bench.
Ball Movement – Leading the charge in Nash’s place has been Steve Blake all the way. The Lakers had 33 assists on 47 made field goals, and Blake led the way with 16 all his own to lead the game, including a few highlight-worthy lobs to the ever-ready Wes Johnson. Right behind him were Pau Gasol, who handed out seven dimes, and Jordan Farmar, who send out five assists but was so active on the floor that it seemed like he collected more. In any case, when you lose one of the best point guards to ever play the game in Nash, you don’t replace him with just anyone, but Blake and company have sure done a great job nonetheless.
Strong Finish – The knock on the Lakers in almost every loss that wasn’t a blowout, is that they can’t sustain their effort until the end. Tonight, fortunately for them, this was not the case. After a so-so first half that only had them behind by six points, the Lakers exploded in the third quarter for a dominant 29-15 effort. They shot 60% in that quarter to the Pistons’ 28%. In the fourth quarter, they led by as much as 19 points and fended off any Detroit run.
Pistons Free Throws – 7-17 from the charity stripe. The Lakers only attempted 10 themselves, but they actually converted all 10. Detroit was completely abysmal at the line.
Not every Laker shone as bright as the other tonight, but since their collective efforts meant so much more to this win than a 2-8 night by Shawne Williams, it doesn’t seem fair to hold them to consider them low points. A win is a win.
The team has four days off until their next game on Friday night against the Golden State Warriors, who seem like they’ve played the Lakers about a dozen times since they met often in the pre-season. Kobe Bryant started practice with the team this weekend but, as usual, no definite date has been announced. Maybe this 4-day break is buying him some more time before returning against the Warriors? Far-reaching, for sure, but it never hurts to hope.