With another beloved teammate traded away, and news of a star player who may not return this season at all, not to mention the historic losing streak at home, the Lakers needed to experience something, anything, good to abate this painful season. Enter the Boston Celtics.
In their last meeting during the Grammy Road trip, the Lakers defeated their heated rivals, so in the first three quarters of tonight’s contest, it appeared Boston was getting ready for some revenge. With an 11-point lead going into the final 12 minutes, the Celtics could have finished off this downtrodden Laker team, but a line-up of reserves turned their fate around.
Jordan Hill, Jordan Farmar, Chris Kaman, and new teammates, Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, played the entire fourth quarter and not only cut down the lead, but went on a torrid run to create a large advantage of their own to defeat the Boston, 101-92.
Bench/4th Quarter – The Laker reserves outscored Boston’s bench 63-21. Despite the endless rotation of players going from starter to reserve, and vice versa, the Laker bench has been relatively consistent in their contributions to each game this season, and their contributions have been huge. Those 63 points were from 57% from the field. In the fourth quarter, they outscored the Celtics 38-18, keeping Boston to just 33% shooting while the Lakers shot 70%. They also hit 4-7 from behind the arc.
The New Guys – They say a first impression is a lasting impression, and Bazemore and Brooks have made a good one. They’ve been labeled the “Killer Bs” on the TWC Sportsnet page. Neither player had even practiced with the team before tonight; save for a shootaround this morning. It sure didn’t look it though! Bazemore chipped in 15 points on 5-10 from the field, including 2-5 from three. It’s a new career high in points for the young man from Old Dominion. He also handed out four assists and picked up two steals. MarShon Brooks put in 14 points on 7-11 from the field, and grabbed three steals; including one that ended with his fast break lay-in. Once a bench warmer for the Celtics before he was sent to Golden State, tonight was the perfect game for Brooks to debut in; showed his former team what they’re missing. One game isn’t a lot to go on for two new players, but they’re off to a great start so far. Their mere energy on the defensive end alone is refreshing.
Big Men On The Floor – Chris Kaman – Give the man a chance, and he performs. After collecting a slew of DNP-Coach’s Decision state lines, Kaman has spent the last few weeks in Gasol’s absence, reminding everyone he can still play. Tonight he scored 16 points on an efficient 7-9 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds. Jordan Hill – talk about a hard worker. He only had 10 points, but he had 12 rebounds, five on the offensive end and he blocked three shots. Pau Gasol – He’s baaack and looks pretty darn good. Gasol played just over 22 minutes tonight, and understandably so since it’s his first game back after sitting out two weeks due to a groin injury. Despite the unusually short minutes, however, he still managed 16 points on 6-12 from the field, seven rebounds, a trio of assists and a pair of blocks. He looked good out there.
Win – Yes, the Lakers finally won a game, but tonight’s victory was comprised of smaller victories that they typically concede to the other team. Points in the paint – they outscored Boston 54-50. In second chance points, they had 19 to the Celtics’ 16. In fast break points, a 12-5 advantage. Even in rebounds they were just one away from tying the Celtics at 46 boards.
Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly – Johnson and Kelly had strung together a few good games not so long ago, but tonight they produced next to nothing – Johnson with a single point, 0-4 field goals and 1-2 free throws. Kelly played just over 12 minutes, and except for three rebounds, a block and a turnover, his stat line was full of zeroes.
Turnovers – 18 giveaways that turned into 21 Boston points. It could’ve been so much worse.
New blood always seems to give the Lakers a little life (see: Kendall Marshall), but obviously two new players can’t mask the deeper issues that lie beneath. Yes the Lakers have two eager young men looking to prove themselves, but they’re also getting Nick Young back on Sunday and Xavier Henry soon after him. The new (see: recurring) problem will be playing time…again, and new rotations…again, until the games run out. With a victory being such an anomaly this season, however, let’s just enjoy this win and cross that 27-game bridge one 2×4 at a time.