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There were M-V-P chants for Kobe Bryant at the free throw line. There were cheers when Andrew Bynum rebounded a miss and dunked it in. Clumps of people dressed in purple and gold stood and applauded as the clock ran out and the Lakers collected their eighth victory in a row. Staples Center, is that you?

Nope – the Lakers were on the road in Atlanta to pick up where they left off the last time these two teams met. It seems like ages ago, but in their first game after the All-Star break, the defending champs pummeled over the Hawks in a 24-point victory at home. Tonight, they led by as much as 22 points and, despite a moment of slippage in the fourth quarter, went on to win by 14.

Kobe Bryant, continuing to climb the ladder of greatness with no end in sight, passed the legendary Moses Malone to take over the sixth spot on the NBA all-time scoring list. Bryant scored just 4 points in the first quarter en route to a 26 point, 6 rebound, 4 assist, 1 block, 1 turnover and zero fouls kind of game. There were no one-on-one battles that took the rest of the team out of the offense; no strange shot selection or defensive lapses on the Laker co-captain’s part. He, like the team, is being aggressive without being careless and it’s paying off in bunches.

Speaking of bunches, how about Andrew Bynum picking up rebounds like apples off a tree?! Tonight he grabbed 16 boards to go along with his 16 points on 8-10 shooting. He also had three blocks and altered countless shot attempts. Asked about his ability to change the game with little scoring, Bynum told John Ireland just after the game, “I’m putting a lot of energy on the defensive side of the basketball. On this team, that’s where I can fit in the most, and really really make a big difference and contribute.”

“Making a big difference” is an understatement. Bynum has changed the face of this Lakers’ team. Where they were overbearing offensively and competent defensively before, they are now just as menacing on the defensive end as they were with the ball in their possession. It’s not a coincidence that the Lakers are on a different level when Bynum is an active part of the game. The best part about his contribution now, however, is that since he’s already well-aware of his scoring arsenal, he’s gotten a renewed vigor for the game because he’s discovered what he’s capable of on the defensive end, helping him to become a dominant player all-around.

With all the talk of Bynum’s recent emergence as the Lakers’ newest defensive stopper, the other two veteran big men have continued their consistent play. Pau Gasol had yet another double-double to add to this collection this season, going for 14 points on 6-16, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. Atlanta’s Zsa Zsa Pachulia and Josh Smith tried to make it as difficult for Gasol to score as possible, but the savvy forward knows better. A spin move to a reverse layup here, a mid-range jumper there, a lefty-hook shot to follow – it was a tall order for Pachulia and Smith to completely shut Gasol down, which they obviously didn’t.

Lamar Odom came off the bench and contributed 12 points on 5-8 but had only two rebounds, an oddity for a board-hog like him. But Odom proved again tonight that he is as much of a nightmare to defend as his teammate Kobe Bryant. The Lakers’ sixth man can do it all from anywhere on the court – drive to the hoop for a finger roll, spot up from behind the arc for a three (of which he didn’t attempt any today but he can certainly shoot from there), rebound a miss and toss in a floater. What’s needed most from Odom now, other than what he already contributes on the floor, is to lead that second unit to more productive games.

The Laker reserves scored 20 points in the first half but failed to maintain a 22-point lead in the fourth, which brought the starters back to finish the game. In the second half, the bench scored just seven points, which isn’t nearly enough of a contribution. Steve Blake needs to do more than just run the offense. He needs to be an active participant of it. Matt Barnes will surely improve once he shakes off  the rust from being out for 26 games and Shannon Brown needs to be quicker about his intentions when the ball is in his hands. Too much dribbling will more than likely lead to turnovers.

The Lakers held Atlanta to just 16 points in the third quarter and defended them into two shot-clock violations. They’ve now gone 8-0 since the All-Star weekend, reminiscent of their 8-0 streak to start the season, and they’ve held teams to 87.0 ppg and 40.2% shooting in these last eight games. With a 24-11 road record thus far, they’ve already surpassed the number of away wins they collected last season.

Asked what the difference has been in the last eight games, Bryant replied simply, “We’re locked in.”

If the Lakers can maintain this locked-in mentality in all aspects of their game, they will be, as they have been lately, very difficult to defeat. Alas, with 17 games left in the regular season, still more tests await.

Box Score
Pre-game Thoughts: The Lakers haven’t won at Phillips Arena in Atlanta since 2007. Let’s see if they can keep their post-All-Star weekend momentum going by breaking that losing streak before it turns into the Rose Garden variety.
Half-time Thoughts: 57-49 – It was a shootout showdown after the first quarter, with the Lakers shooting 64% and the Hawks just as sharp at 60%. Atlanta soon discovered, however, that getting past the Lakers’ defense is no walk in the park. Kobe Bryant leads all scores with 15 points, passing Moses Malone to on the NBA all-time scoring list, and the Lakers bench outscored Atlanta’s 20-10. The visitors shot 58% in that first half, and the Hawks dipped to just 46% shooting from the field. If the Lakers can keep Atlanta from gaining any momentum, this game’ll be done before the fourth quarter.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Lakers’ bench unit to begin the fourth quarter – The lead went from 22 to 8 with a quickness because the Lakers’ offense suddenly unraveled, and their defense wasn’t far behind. The starters had to check back in with seven minutes remaining to finish the game. The reserves have to be dependable to close out, which they haven’t done these last two games.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant passed Moses Malone to take the sixth place on the NBA all-time scoring list tonight, but we can’t get enough of Andrew Bynum’s dominance. He only scored four points in the last game against the Spurs, but tonight, the young big man was as turned on offensively as he was defensively. It’s like the stars are finally starting to align for Bynum, and the Lakers finally get the benefit.

  • SHOWTIME4EVA

    SO FAR SO GOOD. NOW ONTO THURS. AGENDA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3JX5GNq2TA

    • SHOWTIME4EVA

      OH,YEAH. hey Anna! where you been?we didn’t get a post game from you on sunday.

      • http://writeon213.wordpress.com/ Anna Gonda

        Yeah, sorry about Sunday. I had a death in the family this past weekend and wasn’t able to catch the game or write the report after. My apologies =/

        • SHOWTIME4EVA

          aww,I’m sorry to hear that, Anna.stay up girl!!

        • Yep

          Sorry to hear that. Please accept my deepest condolences.

  • Betto

    Umm, they won it by 14. ;)

    Gratz Kobe on passing another legend, too bad C Webb is still mad at you or something, he didn’t gave much love.
    I don’t think the Lakers should feel bad about going to Miami and beat them down more, I don’t feel bad for them at all. I remember last summer, they took the stage like it was WWE, saying they were gonna get so many rings and ESPN adding on by saying that they might beat the bulls record of 72-10.. Lolz

    The Heat should hire Kobe in their game, 200k for last 2 mins and 500k if he makes the last winning shot. Since neither D Wade or LeClown can make a basket when it counts. 1-18 When the game is decided by 10 secs or less from what I heard and read.. Wowza!

  • Gugy

    Lakers looking great.
    Very excite for Bynum. I hope he really feels good and keep dominating the boards. This kid can make a lot of damage. Just ask the Spurs.
    I am hoping the Lakers finally found their groove and are taking the rest of the season seriously. I don’t care for HCA, but we should end up in second seed and wait for the Spurs in the WCF if they make that far.
    My feeling is this season we will play Chicago in the Finals and end up Phil’s career in a glorious way.
    Go Lakers!

  • LakerMarc

    I want to say The Lakers will win in Miami but I think all the drama and the talk from the media wil fire The Heat up….If the Lakers can beat The Spuirs so dominantly and convincingly,,,then the Heat should be no prob….but then again this is the Lakers….fingers crossed.

    • lakers

      yeah i feel the same way. kobe said this is a big challenge because the heat want to take this game as there comback game since they lost 5 straight

  • 123kid

    really enjoying the new defensive scheme. I think with drew being active, then it makes the rest of the team active. but dang i just wish the killer bees would stop giving up leads. I mean ill give some slack to barnes because he needs time to get his legs back, but it doesnt give any excuse to blake and shannon. I think if the killer bees really wanna impress PJ and the starters, then they’ll have their coming out party and show their talents in south beach. Miamis bench isnt so great, so it would be perfect to show up Thursday. Other than that, I hope they keep up the hard work and keep playing defensive championship ONLY laker basketball. i dont wanna see none of that South Beach one-on-one basketball.

    ONLY 2 MORE ROAD GAMES, SO KEEP UP THE INTENSITY!!!!!

    • Brown Hater

      I agree with your comments about Blake & Shannon. 2 game in row the starters should have been able to rest but the bench keeps blowing leads, even Phil is getting tired of their play which is why he sent the starters back into the Spurs game. Blake looks like he’s scared to shoot and Shannon never saw a shot he didn’t like well not until he dribbles the ball in place for about 5 seconds to the the defender lock in on him.

      • Short Dog Loc

        You still hear punk
        Brown is a down roll player
        Something you dont know nothing about
        Loser
        Brown all DDDAAAYYY
        Faaag

  • ilikebasketball

    anbody want to call me an idiot for wanting to trade blake?
    eat crow, ‘tards.

  • Dameon

    Wouldnt it be awesome for the Bulls to make it the finals and Lakers play them, think about it, Phil Jackson won his first coaching championship ring with the Bulls against the Lakers and will win his last coaching championship with the Lakers against the Bulls, truly iconic and meant to be!

    • yash

      too bad that wont happen cuz theyre not a contender yet. theyre like the lebron cavs.

  • SHOWTIME4EVA

    Kobe is taking his talents to South Beach on Thursday. If the Lakers lose, he won’t be crying in the locker room. I hope the Lakers fuckin SMASH on the Heat. GO LAKERS!

  • nimble

    Condolences for your loss..

  • Boococky

    I told you Anna their was nothing to worry about when the lakers were losing. Always remember championships are never won Dec. Now when the games are starting to matter you see the true champions. See if you can do better next year.

    • Anna

      Appreciate the “encouragement” but I told you before that I just report what I see in each game. If the Lakers were playing badly, then I relay that they played badly. If they played awesome, then kudos all around. Just calling a spade a spade, that’s all. But sure, I’ll try to do better next year.

  • fingerpointin

    Sorry for your loss Anna

    • Anna

      Thanks for your condolences, everyone.

  • berks 24

    dominique and the other commentator of yesterdays game was so boring..good thing it was the lakers playing..

  • Lakers can’t shoot

    With Odom being the most consistent he’s ever been in a long time, basketball analysts are now claiming Bynum to be the X-Factor. He is who makes or breaks the Lakers’ 3 peat run this year.

    • Short Dog Loc

      Whats up with your name
      This is a Laker site
      They might like you on the miami one
      If they have one
      NERD

  • Fuk The Haters

    The NBA and ESPN are starting to look ridiculous right about now considering they have been sucking Lebrons Kock all year, So I expect a lot of 8/5 action Tmrw. Lots of bad calls against the Lakers will be made. lots of Wade and Lebron driving and getting fouled every possession.
    I hope we win but i have a bad feeling!
    Go Lakers!