What a Merry Christmas it was at the Staples Center as the Lakers extended their winning streak to 5 games and defeat the New York Knicks. This was the second game back for Steve Nash and experts who predicted he would not make much of a difference were dead wrong. Nash has made this Lakers team gel perfectly on the offensive end as Dwight Howard is slowly getting back to his old defensive prowess.
The Lakers look to continue their strong play when the team travels to Denver on Wednesday night to face a Nuggets team seeking revenge after they got embarrassed by the Lakers less than a month ago. Dwight and Pau have been developing better chemistry while playing together which is exactly what the Lakers must have if they are going to contend for the title in June. Here are the grades for the Lakers’ Christmas W:
Steve Nash: A
Can’t say enough about the leadership and poise that Nash brings to this team. When the game is tight, Nash should have the ball and decide what the team will do instead of Kobe simply because Nash will make the best play instead of look to score. The best part is that the Nash/Howard and Nash/Gasol pick-and-roll will only get better as the season progresses.
Kobe Bryant: A-
Kobe took 10 shots in the first quarter and it seemed like he was going to get trigger happy like he did in Golden State on Saturday, but he stayed efficient and played his role well down the stretch. Kobe has now scored 30 points in 9 straight games and is quieting the doubters who believed the team could not win with Bryant scoring so many points.
Metta World Peace: A-
Even though Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points, they were some of the toughest 34 he has had to score in his career. Metta was challenging Anthony on every trip down the floor and set the tone for the Lakers early and often. After getting torched by Melo in MSG the last time these two teams played, Metta bounced back with a vintage Ron Artest defensive showcase.
Pau Gasol: B+
Solid day for Pau as he put the nail in the Knicks’ coffin with his emphatic dunk that put the Lakers up by 5 with under 10 seconds left in the game. That strong finish was exactly what Laker Nation has been begging to see more of from the Big Spaniard for the last two years. When Pau is aggressive and attacks the basket, he is a force to be reckoned with.
Dwight Howard: A-
The stat sheet won’t show it, but Dwight was awesome on the defensive end all game long. Not only did Dwight protect the rim, but he also boxed his man out right after, which has been a problem for the Lakers all season long. While Dwight did not get many shots up, he did go 6 for 9 from the free throw line and that is what he must do in order to prevent teams from trying to “Hack-a-Howard”.
Jodie Meeks: C
Tough shooting night for Jodie, but he brought the defensive intensity as usual and helped turn the game around for the Lakers in the 3rd quarter. It’s good to know that when his shot is not falling, the team can still rely on Jodie to play solid defense all game.