Photo: Associated Press

The Lakers improved to 5-5 on the year as they defeated the Houston Rockets Sunday night in what was the most entertaining 48 minutes the Lakers have played all season. Kobe Bryant stole the spotlight of Pau Gasol’s 15,000 point milestone by registering his 18th career triple-double.

The Lakers looked very fluid on offense and were crisp on their rotations on the defensive end as well. Coach D’Antoni’s debut was postponed due to his knee injury, but he should be on the bench for Tuesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. Many analysts don’t believe this Lakers team can run up and down the court like the Phoenix Suns used to with Nash and D’Antoni, but they sure looked like they could last night against a much younger Rockets team.

Only two negatives from last night’s contest: Starters should have been subbed out earlier in the 4th quarter and, of course, no tacos for the Staples Center faithful. It’s gonna be tough to get tacos from here on out with this new system, but I know Laker Nation values the Larry O’Brien trophy over two free Jack-in-the-Box tacos……maybe. Regardless, here are the grades for last night’s game:

 

Darius Morris: B+

Great game from Darius last night as he matures into a solid point guard. Darius is playing with so much more confidence than he was early on in the season and his teammates will attest to that as well. Curious to see how he fits into this team once the Steve’s come back, but I for one would love to see Darius get to play more when we need a defensive energy boost against teams.

 

Kobe Bryant: A

Kobe messed around and got a triple-double last night against a solid defender in Chandler Parsons. As I’ve said before, Kobe just has a feel for this squad like he’s never had for previous teams. Really hope he can keep it up once Nash comes back and starts running the show; should be interesting nonetheless.

 

Metta World Peace: B+

Laker fans know how much better Metta is playing this year compared to last year now that he is in great shape. You can see the explosiveness and hustle that made him an NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Pau Gasol: B

Although Pau had a nice game where he became only the 10th European born NBA player to eclipse 15,000 points, he still falls victim to not boxing out which leads to smaller players diving in front of him for put back layups. Still, he hit his 18 footers that will be a growing trend with this new system and he showed that he is still one of the most skilled big men in the game with that sweet left hook of his.

 

Dwight Howard: A-

Laker Nation got a glimpse of what Dwight Howard will ultimately play like when he fully recovers from his back injury. This and-1 dunk off the Jordan Hill pass in the 4th quarter was something we could never see from Andrew Bynum last year because Dwight is just on another level when it comes to size and athleticism. I guess the 50% free throw shooting is the only negative we will have to live with, but when he’s dominating the game on both ends of the floor, you can’t really complain much.

 

Jordan Hill: B+

Take away the three turnovers and J. Hill would have played a perfect game. Still, Jordan has become beloved by Laker Nation because of the hustle and tenacity he brings down low inside the paint. Also, if he continues to hit that mid-range jump shot he will become a force for this team off the bench on both sides of the floor.

 

Antawn Jamison: B

Nice to see Antawn attempt the most shots off the bench. He is struggling to find his role on this team, but he is smart and savvy enough that he will eventually find his niche and become a key component of this Lakers squad.

 

Chris Duhon: B

Nice shooting from Duhon. We initially thought having the Steve’s out of the lineup would only be a negative, but this extended playing time for Darius and Duhon has been a blessing in disguise. We now have three point guards off the bench that can help lower the minutes that Nash plays.

 

Jodie Meeks: C+

It is clear that Jodie is at his best when he can catch and shoot, which he will be able to do frequently when the Steve’s return from injury. He also brings effort on the defensive end, even on this posterization, which is a must for players when their shots aren’t falling for them.

 

Robert Sacre: N/A

This has nothing to do with Sacre’s playing whatsoever, but he has finally filled the void left by former Laker bench player Ronny Turiaf. Laker Nation remembers having Ronny going crazy when the offense was clicking and now we see Sacre doing the same. I feel like every team needs a player like that to keep the energy up, team loose, and fans cheering loudly.