…or, well, night. With the Hornets’ David West out, along with his 18.9 ppg, 7.60 rpg and 2.3 apg, New Orleans needed to dig deep to win this game and found they stood in shallow waters compared to the Lakers’ ocean.
Andrew Bynum, the team’s superstar since the All-Star break, found himself in foul trouble, but despite his absence for the majority of the game, the Lakers were still more than okay. Even after getting called for his fifth foul on a terrible Aaron Gray flop (and “flop” doesn’t begin to describe what that delayed dive was), Bynum soldiered on and scored 7 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, and managed to collect five rebounds and a block.
Pau Gasol, adding this game to his relief efforts for the victim’s of the Japan earthquake, had a 23 point, 16 rebound, 4 block type of evening. That’s an additional $23,000 (not to mention’s Magic Johnson’s promise to match Gasol’s contribution) to the $26,000 he offered from Friday’s game. Gasol channeled his inner Bynum tonight, working the glass and keeping watch of the paint. Chris Paul, who shot just 4-10 for his 10 points, was not as aggressive on offense as he usually is; hardly penetrating to the hoop as he often does, and maybe it had something to do with the seven-footer guarding the inside. Gasol was no slouch on the other end of the court, with 12 of his 16 boards coming on the defensive end. He challenged shots and managed to block four of them. And 9-14 from the field? Calling Gasol efficient will never get tired. That is what this player is.
And Kobe Bryant had another 30-point game on 11-25 and 7-8 from the charity stripe; adding to that, three rebounds, five assists, two steals and zero turnovers. He had 19 points on 7-12 in the first half alone, just torturing his former teammate, Trevor Ariza, who had the unfortunate task of guarding him. After Bryant hit a long three in the first quarter, Ariza dropped his hands to his sides as if to say, “what more could I have done?” Bryant was also alert on defense, intercepting a lob from Chris Paul and preventing the easy score for the Hornets, and received two free throws on the other end.
Despite having to continue re-establishing big leads throughout the game (because the Hornets’ were still trying to win), there was no danger to be felt for the Lakers. They shot just over 48% for the evening and their defense didn’t allow New Orleans to score more than 22 points in a quarter. Other than Carl Landry (24 points on 8-16, 10 rebounds), who always gives the Lakers fits, Emeka Okafor (14 points on 7-11, 11 rebounds) and Chris Paul with this nine assists, the Hornets didn’t get much from anyone else, which could be a problem for a play-off bound team.
The Laker bench continued to disappoint. Matt Barnes, 1-4; Steve Blake, 2-5; Shannon Brown, 4-10 – a combined 7-19 from the field. The reserves need to step up in a big way when the post-season begins. There can’t be any more games like tonight’s where so little production came from the reserves. Dallas is coming in on Thursday and it’s no secret how efficient and productive their second unit is, and if the Lakers want to remain above Dallas in those playoff seedings, their bench needs to have a greater impact on the game on both ends of the floor than they have been the last few contests.
Yes, Dallas will come in this week to try and take that second seed away from the Lakers, but the Lakers just need to continue to improve each time. With the Spurs losing against Memphis, that gap between the first and second spots in the Western Conference just got narrower. As false a hope as it may be to believe the Lakers could take over that top spot, there’s just no telling in this league. You never know…
Pre-game Thoughts: Just keep rolling, Lakers. The Hornets may have lost David West for the season but they’ve still got Chris Paul and the ALWAYS dependable, Carl Landry.
Half-time Thoughts: 41-57 – Andrew Bynum’s got three fouls already, but his absence from that foul trouble still didn’t help New Orleans much; not with Kobe Bryant still dressed in a Laker uniform. With Trevor Ariza on him, Bryant went to work and did in his former teammate with 19 first-half points. Much clicked for the home team in those first two quarters, and not just on the offensive end, where the Lakers won in the paint 28-16. The defense forced New Orleans to shoot just 37% from the field while the Lakers shot 49%.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Non-Killer B’s – Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown shot a combined 7-19 from the field and 1-7 from three. Reserves not named Lamar Odom need to step their games up in a big way.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol – Forced to play more with Andrew Bynum in foul trouble, the Lakers’ resident Spaniard did not disappoint. He must be feeding off of his fellow 7-footer’s post-All-Star resurgence because he had another huge night, and the victims of the earthquake in Japan get to benefit from it.