There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…
After two weeks and seven games on the road, the Lakers returned to the comforts of Staples Center to face a Phoenix Suns team who recently rallied in the final minutes of their last contest to beat them in the end.
Looking determined to prevent the same ending, the Lakers got off to a hot start in the first quarter to take a 30-22 lead, in which they shot 60% from the field. They finished the first half shooting 54% and led 56-47. Metta World Peace looked like he’d gotten his shooting touch back, Dwight Howard was dominant on both ends, and the team handed out 18 assists on 22 made field goals. It was a recipe for success that should have been followed in the second half.
Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurred and the Lakers played probably their worst quarter of the season, scoring just nine points to the Suns’ 24 in the third. Luckily, a collective effort in the final 12 minutes got them over the hump to win, 91-85.
Dwight Howard – 19 points on 8-15 from the field, 18 rebounds, a steal, two blocks and just a pair of turnovers in almost 41 minutes? THIS is the version of D12 the Lakers need to survive the rest of this season. He was a force tonight with whom the likes of Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O’Neal could not compete. It wasn’t just his offense that helped win this game. Howard was huge on defense, protecting the paint, altering shots, blocking shots – he did a little bit of everything tonight. How about he plays WITHOUT a headband for awhile?
Antawn Jamison – Tied for leading scorer of the game, Jamison poured in 19 points on 8-16 from the field, grabbed 10 rebounds and injected a whole lot of energy into the game and eventually into his team. Jamison is an opportunistic scorer, getting offensive rebounds to increase the chance of scoring, and tonight he led the team in this stat (four off reb). He was also the finisher of the play of the game, with Kobe Bryant grabbing a rebound off a Phoenix missed shot, and sending a diagonal pass to a running Jamison who dunked to finish the first half on a high note.
Metta World Peace – If anyone was due for a good game, it was MWP. He scored 17points, 2-3 from downtown, had eight rebounds, four steals and a block. In one sequence, he literally just took the ball away from Michael Beasley and ran off with it.
Kobe Bryant – Eight assists in the first half despite zero attempts from the field is an odd stat line for Bryant, but that those eight dimes helped the team stay involved and engaged was the perfect contribution. Bryant may have over done it a smidge with the passing frenzy though, because he racked up eight turnovers as a result. He also only handed out a single assist in the second half, and finished with just four points. When the Lakers had their scoring drought in the third quarter, Bryant was 0-5 from the field.
Steve Nash – Nash didn’t have a terrible game. He had an almost double-double, in fact, with 10 points and eight assists. If only he’d punish the opposing teams more.
Turnovers – Granted, Phoenix had the same amount of turnovers, but 19 giveaways is absolutely not the way to win a game. Those 19 turnovers turned into 27 Suns points.
3rd Quarter – It was as ugly as the box score says it was. The Lakers scored just nine points on 3-20 from the field for 15% FG, handed out just a pair of assists and gave up an 11-point lead that turned into a 6-point deficit. It was as if the first two quarters never happened, the way the game plan was just completely abandoned.
It’s Phoenix – A team who is 17-36 for the season shouldn’t be giving fits to a Laker team with as much talent and skill as this team does. Phoenix has solid players, but they are a bad team who the Lakers should have put away early.
It was a good half and one quarter for the Lakers tonight, but this turning the focus on and off is a tired and wasteful habit. The team coming in on Thursday is nothing like the Phoenix Suns, and it would bode well for the Lakers to stay engaged the entire game if they want to give themselves any chance of winning, and at this point, EVERY game is a must-win if they want even a glimmer’s hope of making the playoffs.