The Lakers appeared ready to mail in this final pre-season game. The energy (or lack thereof) was evident in their movement (or, again, lack thereof). They lollygagged about the court, rarely running any offensive sets. It’s no surprise they didn’t score their first field goal until the 8:19 mark of the first quarter. And their team defense, when there was any to be seen, was completely transparent, other than Ron Artest (who played the power forward position in place of Lamar Odom) continually stripping David Lee of the ball.
The Lakers played like they were looking three days ahead to opening night. A win or loss this evening was of little to no importance to the grander scheme of the upcoming regular season, and they just needed to come in and get out, while avoiding major injuries.
Taking clear advantage of the Lakers’ complacency in the beginning of the game was Golden State’s Monta Ellis. Ellis made up for playing so few minutes, due to foul trouble, in last night’s loss. “Sharp shooter” doesn’t begin to describe the Warriors’ guard. He can literally put the ball in the hole with amazing consistency from anywhere – from behind the arc, midrange, penetration. In the first half alone, he scored 27 points and finished the night with 41 on 16-30 shooting.
The Warriors led by as many as 15 points and looked primed to leave Ontario, CA with a victory against the defending champions. In the third quarter, however, the Lakers began to play to win. A back-to-back set of and-1’s from Pau Gasol (12 points, eight rebounds, and five assists), a three from Kobe Bryant (22 points, seven assists), a layup from Matt Barnes, and a long two from Derek Fisher brought the Lakers to within four points, 69-65. Though Golden State took back a 10-point lead to end the third, the depth of the Lakers’ roster waited to re-emerge.
To start the fourth quarter, Artest was joined by Sasha Vujacic, Steve Blake, and rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, and what a quarter of comebacks it was. The Warriors hit an offensive drought, more attention was paid to hot-shooting Ellis, and the Laker reserves took advantage.
Ebanks, ready to pounce from the left shoulder, scored on a putback of a Vujacic miss. Steve Blake, though left with a zero in the points column, handed out six assists; one to Vujacic for a quick catch-and-shoot which brought the Lakers back to within four points. Vujacic, who finished with 11 points on 4-10, hit two free throws to tie the game at 85. After Caracter’s layup in traffic, the Lakers had taken an 87-85 lead.
The rest of the starters returned to the floor after the lead had been taken. Unfortunately, the Warriors fought back to a 98-89 lead. With less than two minutes left in the game, and the Lakers behind, it was Mamba time. Bryant scored six straight points and then assisted on a Shannon Brown three, making it 98 all.
Unable to hit what would’ve been a buzzer-beating game winner from behind the arc, Bryant and the Lakers entered overtime. Artest and Brown scored seven points in OT, good enough to give the Lakers a 4-4 record in the pre-season and, hopefully, some positive momentum to enter into next Tuesday’s contest against the Houston Rockets.
And here we are on the brink of another long season of Championship Lakers ball. The road to a threepeat begins three days…on Ring Night.
Pre-Game Thoughts: It’s the last pre-season game. Just get out…unscathed.
Half-Time Thoughts: 52-45 – Lakers are not as sharp on the offense as they were last night, shooting just 42% compared to Golden State’s 61%. Monta Ellis is on fire with 27 points already. Kobe leading the Lakers with 13 points. Bad news – Luke Walton re-aggravated his injured hamstring and will not return, which is a real shame considering how well he moved and played last night.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Pau had some nice putbacks and he was 6-6 from the free throw line, but he appeared disinterested tonight; making lazy passes in traffic, unable to accept passes (both very uncharacteristic of him), and the rebounding effort, though he had eight, was definitely missing. He wasn’t completely thoughtless, but he wasn’t as mindful as we’re used to seeing him either.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Shannon Brown, starting at the two with Lamar Odom opting not to play tonight, had 18 points on 6-9, including 4-6 from downtown.