Ron Artest slapped the ball from under Ty Lawson’s arm, Steve Blake grabbed it, passed it to Artest, who passed it to a sprinting Shannon Brown – dunk.
With 4.3 seconds left in the first half, Kobe stood by the Denver bench and heaved a one-handed pass to a running Lamar Odom, who caught then tossed the ball against the backboard – goal.
Pau Gasol was trapped in the corner. He passed out to an open Kobe Bryant, who threw a no-look pass to Ron Artest standing under the basket, who passed it to an open Lamar Odom – dunk.
At one point in the game, the Lakers were shooting 61% and they shot 50% for the night. They weren’t getting lucky shooting from every which way. They were just getting higher percentage shots. There were passes that led to wide open looks; passes that led to other passes; passes that led to passes that led to assists. Out of 38 made field goals, the Lakers handed out 29 assists, which means that 76% of their makes weren’t lucky – they were created.
It’s no surprise that the Laker who handed out the most dimes was Lamar Odom. Odom passed out 7 assists to add to his 14 points from 7-10 shooting, not to mention six rebounds, a steal and a block. In search of any source of consistency in this pre-season, the Lakers need only to look to their prized sixth man. Having played the most (three seconds shy of 32 minutes), Odom has been the exact opposite of what he is continuously accused of – inconsistency. And statistics aside, Odom is playing with a fervor and purpose that is usually not seen until the playoffs. Opposing coaches may want to strategize against more than just Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Kobe Bryant only shot 5-13 from the field, but his conditioning and timing post-surgery are clearly on its way up. His catch, turnaround, stepback fadeaway appeared more fluid and rhythmic tonight than it has the last couple of weeks. He not only sustained almost 25 minutes of play, he was productive with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
The Lakers reserves contributed 43 points, 17 rebounds and six assists, but the standout bench performer was rookie Devin Ebanks. He has been compared (often) to Trevor Ariza, but it is not just his resemblance that’s uncanny. Ebanks hustled for loose balls, converted offensive rebounds into second-chance points and wasn’t afraid to try for the steal. If he continues with such effort, he won’t sit on the bench very long.
Tonight’s game was a positive sign that 1) the veteran players don’t appear to need more conditioning (other than maybe Kobe). 2) The five new players look almost fully assimilated into the system.3) the regular season is almost here.
Pre-Game Thoughts: Back at Staples Center. The last time the Lakers won in this building, they got a nice shiny trophy.
Half-Time Thoughts: 51-63 – Leading by a dozen, the Lakers are finally starting to look like a team preparing to defend their title. Shooting 58% from the field, the home team looks sharper on the floor and Kobe Bryant is finding his rhythm. Bryant already has 11 points and it’s no surprise that Lamar Odom is leading in the assist category with five.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Both teams for collecting 41 turnovers! Lakers with 21 and the Nuggets with 20. Sloppy.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Lamar Odom can’t get enough praise, and Kobe Bryant has finally started to look like his old self, but tonight’s honor goes to rookie, Devin Ebanks – 14 points on 5-8 from the field, 7 rebounds, and 24 minutes of hustle.