At this point in the Lakers’ progress, any win is a good win, and it doesn’t matter whether they earned it during the first half, the second half or by maintaining an effort throughout. Last night against the Rockets, the Lakers started exceptionally well but couldn’t finish. Tonight, they spent the first half fumbling through their offense, and then came back after halftime looking revived and energetic – they were a completely different team.
This is the caveat with these Lakers right now – they’re enigmatic, a little schizophrenic; you never know what kind of game they’re going to play until the ball goes up at center court. Thankfully, the game they decided to play tonight was a winning one.
Kobe Bryant reached another milestone, Dwight Howard played an all-around great game, Antawn Jamison stood in (admirably) for Pau Gasol again, Chris Duhon played like a veteran point guard and the bench really came through to make sure they contributed to the success of this contest. The Lakers as a whole pulled through in the second half what they failed to do in the first, and because of it, they’re closer (again) to .500.
Second Half Effort – It really was a tale of two halves tonight for the Lakers. In the first two quarters, their offense sputtered, and with only eight assists, it’s no wonder they shot just 17-40 from the field for 47 first-half points on 43% shooting. There was barely, if any, ball movement, and based on Mike D’Antoni’s philosophy that the ball should find energy, it’s not surprising how stagnant the Lakers were to start the game, because they played with hardly any. They gave up 10 offensive rebounds to the Hornets in the first half, which led to 12 second chance points.
The Lakers came out of halftime, however, looking more aggressive than they had all night. They opened the third quarter with a 13-0 run that gave them a 10-point lead before the Hornets even put up their first points in the second half. They distributed the ball, handing out 16 assists on 20 made field goals and scored on 8-16 from downtown.
Their defense was feistier, forcing seven turnovers while only committing four of their own in the final 24 minutes. Dwight Howard got in the way of every blue uniform attempting to score at the rim, and multiple Lakers couldn’t keep their hands from the chance to take the ball away from the home team (seven steals in the second half). The Lakers only allowed the Hornets to score 39 points on 41% shooting as well. No sharp-shooting Ryan Anderson would deter them.
Kobe Bryant – 30,000th point on a floater – that is the Mamba, the youngest player in the NBA to reach such a milestone. Having to compensate for injured teammates, Bryant did a little bit of everything again tonight, in the midst of his truly amazing milestone. He finished with 29 points on 10-17 from the field, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and just a single turnover. He moved like a young gun out there – harassing opponents with his defense and then making the unfortunate soul assigned to guard him look like a rook.
Metta’s Milestone – Overlooked by his enormity of his Bryant’s place in the NBA record books, MWP had a historic night of his own. As reported by Mike Trudell at Lakers.com, World-Peace became only the sixth player in NBA history to collect 12,000 points; 4,000 rebounds; 1,000 three-pointers and 1,500 steals. He shares this honor with former Indiana Pacers teammate, Reggie Miller, Gary Paryton, Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce and, of course, current teammate, Kobe Bryant. Not a bad group to be part of.
Team Win – The starters and the bench – tonight’s was a great GROUP effort. Aside from Bryant’s huge historic game, the rest of the starting line-up put up double digits with MWP’s 11 points, Howard’s 18, Jamison’s 15 and Chris Duhon’s 10…assists, that is. Duhon played 33 minutes, handed out 10 dimes and didn’t commit a single turnover. Steve Blake’s injury is unfortunate, but the Lakers are lucky to have a veteran in Duhon to back Steve Nash (whenever that return may be), who is familiar with D’Antoni’s system, can score when given the opportunity and isn’t a sloppy ball handler. In 15 games this season, he isn’t even averaging ONE turnover per game.
The Laker reserves also got it done, outscoring the Hornets’ bench 27-16, and were part of the surge in the final quarter that gave the Lakers their sizable lead. Jordan Hill, despite losing minutes in the last few games, came out and played a solid game, chipping in nine points, eight rebounds and a block. Jodie Meeks put in a trio of threes and Darius Morris received a pass from Bryant at the end of the third quarter and buried a corner three to give the Lakers a 13-point lead going in the final quarter.
Turnovers – If you can believe it, the Lakers committed just nine turnovers for the night.
First Half – See Second Half Effort above.
Having Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Pau Gasol out – That may be the low point for awhile.
It was a win that the Lakers needed tonight. Was it against a quality opponent? It doesn’t really matter. With the Win-Loss column looking the way that it does, the Lakers will take any way they can get.