Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Break’s over people. All-Star weekend has come and gone (as is Carmelo Anthony from Denver – FINALLY) and the post-season is clearer and closer than ever on the horizon. Forget the injuries. Forget the losing streaks. Forget the puzzling subpar play in the first 57 games. That three-peat is incumbent on what the Lakers do from here on out.

Before the game this evening, Assistant Coach Brian Shaw wrote, “Roll Call” on the locker room board; a way to ask the team, “Who’s in this to win this?” And based on tonight’s performance, they’re off to a good start.

Every Laker who got some floor time scored, from Pau Gasol who played over 33 minutes to Joe Smith who played just under six. The home team played defense from the first quarter until the buzzer sounded, refusing to take their collective foot off the gas, leading by 21 points at the half, then by 26 after the third en route to a 24-point victory. Atlanta shot just 34% after two quarters and 37% for the game. The Hawks managed to score just 54 points in the first three quarters.

“We told the guys to bring whatever their talent is to this team; whatever they do to bring it, from this point on to the rest of the season,” Shaw said to Michael Eaves. Well, bring it they did, individually and as a team.

Andrew Bynum attempted three shots in this game and only managed to convert one, plus a handful of free throws for his five points. But he had 15 rebounds and three blocks, not to mention a slew of shot attempts by Atlanta that changed directions merely because he challenged them. The Lakers have not only wanted Bynum to learn to be a great defender in the post; they want him to embrace this responsibility as a real protector in the paint. What better time to develop then excel in this important role than now, with still two months left before the playoffs?

Pau Gasol, the resident double-double man, had 14 points on 4-9, not to mention 10 rebounds. It may not have been a huge offensive night for the All-Star, but he sure had fun out there, especially in moments that called for a seven-foot point guard. Gasol led a couple of fast breaks, dribbling quickly down the court and then passing to a running teammate. In these instances tonight, that teammate was Ron Artest (11 points on 4-7).

Kobe Bryant had a somewhat quiet 20 points on 5-11 and led the team in assists with five. He didn’t need to be a hero tonight. He just needed to play loose. He and co-captain Derek Fisher (10 points on 3-7. 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) set the tone from the first second in this game. Bryant stole the ball early in the first quarter, and then threw a pass to Fisher who hit a jumper. A minute later, Fisher received yet another pass from Bryant and converted on a wide open shot. It can’t be said enough that this Lakers team goes where their captains go. If it’s a three-peat this team desires, they are well-led by Bryant and Fisher.

The Lakers also received a sizable boost from their reserves, who contributed 44 points, 21 rebounds and seven assists. Even bench players Joe Smith, Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks were called to the floor. Shannon Brown, who has appeared then disappeared offensively this season, had 15 points on 6-9.

Asked if tonight’s contest was a statement game, Bryant replied, “It’s not about statements. It’s about playing the right way.” That “right way” calls for a consistent effort on defense, working their inside game and taking advantage of their size, no matter who they play. The only team the Lakers have to worry about is themselves. Every player in a gold uniform had a hand in winning this game and in the end, something as simple as re-establishing their roles and remembering what they bring to this championship defending team can create a world of difference in their play.

“This is all about us. It’s been about us all season long,” Brian Shaw said. “Other teams – we’re not concerned about them. If we do what we’re capable of doing, nobody can beat us.”

The Lakers have 24 more games to steer this ship in the right direction again, but that’s only if every crew member does his job, and does it well.

Box Score
Pre-game Thoughts:
It’s not quite a clean slate, but nothing can be done with the 57 games that are now behind us. All that matters for the Lakers now is how they play in these final 25 games before the playoffs. Learn from the past, but continue to look forward.
Half-time Thoughts: 33-54 – Save the nine turnovers, to say that the Lakers are dominating this game so far would be an understatement. They’ve absolutely owned the Atlanta Hawks so far with Derek Fisher leading the team with 10 points. Andrew Bynum’s already collected 11 rebounds and Kobe Bryant’s got five assists. With a game tomorrow, cementing a win as early as possible will benefit the Lakers, but it will take a sustained effort on defense (Hawks only shot 34%), good ball movement (12 assists on 18 field goals so far) and better care of the ball (already have nine turnovers.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: 18 turnovers? At least the Lakers show well from the free throw line.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Andrew Bynum – Maybe he’s finally getting it. Helping the team isn’t always about how many points you score or how many shot attempts you get up. For Andrew Bynum tonight, it was all about the defense; contesting shots and cleaning up the boards.

  • 1234567

    great win. and i like brian shaw’s message of taking a role call. but i am still a lil concerned for losing theo to the rest of the season and still concerned for ron. losing theo def puts a strain on pau and drew’s minutes. i know he doesnt play much, but just losing 2-3 min from him every game will definitely tire the big men. and then ron, man hes just too much up and down. quick turnovers, silly fouls, and a lot of his shots were not smart (i.e. wide open lane but instead takes a paused 3 pointer and then wide open lane again and does a fading 2). ron is a strong guy and needs to think of a ok if i make a mistake offensively, then i needa be perfect defensively and limit my guy to half of what he averages. honestly deep down it was a great win, but if the lakers wanna continue to get a better 2nd half of the season, they need more games like this but pretty much a lot of perfect basketball. overall, i still hope for the lakers to add another big body or miraculously get a trade for ron.

  • John Robertson

    Is this the start of a great run by the Lakers? They must.

    I hope the team will maximize now their full strength and know their roles

    Please stop coasting, give your all every game

  • xtro

    i still think they need to trade or sign a big body.

    • http://yahoo jaydubb415

      Im glad we won but i hated that we blew them out why because alot of people on here n off here will think we don’t need a trade when i feel we still do it would be cool if we could leave portland with marcus camby but he put it out there if he gets traded he will retire.Now i don’t know if he meant if they send him to a shitty team he will retire or just in general.Now he could mean any team period but portland doesn’t seem to want him cuzz his name has came up in a few trade scenarios????

    • ilikebasketball

      we need a fast defensive minded pg. not a big man.

      but for blake and ronn maybe we can get a bench big man and a good pg

  • ICE CREAM MAN

    24 = ?
    Hours in a day.
    Kobe’s number.
    Show called 24.
    24 Hr. of Lemans.
    24 Hr Fitness.
    ?????

    WRONG!!! There is 24 Games left in the season and if there was ever a reason to turn it up is NOW. All games are very important. Too bad we are not in a better position in our wins and losses (you see why it is important to always beat at least the bad teams). Now we can’t afford to take a night off, especially if Boston, Miami, San Antonio lose.

  • Chi-Town Walt

    Great game last night keep up the intensity

  • XTRO

    team needs a backup center. open your wallet dr. buss.

  • sancho

    Good win, but I am not impressed yet. The Lakers need to keep this up from now until the 3peat. We need another BIG.

  • http://searchingforslava.blogspot.com/ Dave M

    Late in the game, I’m watching and trying to figure out who that is that just subbed in and I realize it’s Joe Smith, haha. Anyhow, encouraging win, nice post and here’s a shamelsess ploy to milk the last few drops out of an ill-conceived Searching for Slava post before moving on the next, equally ridiculous one. http://tinyurl.com/674beo2

  • xtro