Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum stood on the sidelines after the game, their arms around each other as they chatted. There were some smiles, a quick laugh, and then they were off into the tunnel, extending their arms to shake hands with fans on the way. Were they going over their win? Perhaps sharing an inside joke? In any case, we’re glad they’re here…in uniform…together.
Maybe a three-game winning streak isn’t so impressive when compared to other teams in the league who have rattled off double-digit victory runs. But for a Laker team that’s got its starting line-up and reserve rotation finally straightened out, the games of late have been quite the big deal, with Andrew Bynum moving and playing like the talented big man that he is. In just over 31 minutes, Bynum scored 17 points on 7-13, had five rebounds and three blocks, showing off an array of offensive moves; backing down his guard and then hitting a turnaround hook, under the hoop reverse dunks, short jumpers. Defensively, Bynum has also come into his own, alert and ready to fight for boards, not to mention ready to block shots.
Happiest about Andrew Bynum’s return to the line-up is Pau Gasol. The Spaniard scored 21 points on an efficient 6-8 from the field; he took showing off his offensive arsenal. Once Gasol receives a pass standing in the mid-range, and he fires off his high-arcing jumper, it’s as good as gone for the opposing team. With his 13 rebounds, Gasol was on glass-watch, especially on the Hornets’ side, collecting nine defensive boards. With seven assists to add to his constantly-filled stat line, we’re reminded just how valuable Gasol’s touches are. He sent an interior bounce pass to a cutting Shannon Brown, rewarded an open Kobe Bryant in the corner, and then in one sequence, the ball went from Ron Artest in the corner, to Gasol at the top of the key, to Andew Bynum by the hoop for two points – a true triangle offensive set executed to perfection at the hands of the point guard wannabe big man.
It was questionable how effective, or even moble, Lamar Odom would be in tonight’s game after a fall during the Phoenix game produced a sore left shoulder. Considering Odom had 17 points on 8-13, plus 13 rebounds and a pair of assists and blocks, maybe it’s safe to say he’s doing ok. At one point, he had Hornet David West dancing as he tried to keep up with Odom criss-crossing the ball before finally deciding to shoot the jumper. Odom didn’t play like he was ailing from any injury. He was, as he’s been all season, a force with whom the Hornets could barely reckon with.
It was a close game for the most part, with the Lakers leading by as much eight points before the half, and then going up by 10 late in second half. With Chris Paul playing the facilitator role, former Laker Trevor Ariza got to work scoring 17 points on 6-12, include 3-7 from three point land. But no matter how much the Hornets continued to chip away at leads, a few times taking the lead themselves, the Lakers were still to much for them, especially one player named Kobe Bryant.
After surpassing Dominique Wilkins to claim the 10-spot on the NBA all-time scoring list a few nights ago, Bryant passed another legend whose moves he’s claimed to have imitated in his career – the great Oscar Robertson. On the same day he revealed in a New York Post article that the cartilage in his right knee is all but gone, Bryant moved on the floor like the younger old version of himself, with a healthy knee and non-taped, non-arthritic fingers. He scored on leaning and running jumpers all night long, weaving through traffic, leaving a trail of smoke in the face of his confused defenders. 25 points on 10-19, four assists, a steal and zero turnovers.
Ron Artest seems to be finding his way back into the groove, scoring 12 points on 4-8, and Derek Fisher, despite a tough 1-5 shooting night, handed out six assists and managed to get three steals. Matt Barnes left the game early with a sprained right knee, and soon after was followed by Steve Blake, who rolled his left ankle early in the fourth quarter. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, because with the team finally seeming to regain some momentum, now would be a terrible time to start collecting injuries.
Next up is a hot New York Knicks team. If the Lakers can play with the fire they did today, they could start a longer streak of their own.
Pre-game Thoughts: Lakers beat the Hornets by 25 in their last meeting in New Orleans – lather, rinse, repeat.
Half-time Thoughts: 46-51 – Lakers shooting 61% but they’re only up by five points because they’ve turned it over eight times. Kobe Bryant leads all scores with 14 points on 5-7 and Trevor Ariza leads the Hornets with 12. Let’s see if the Lakers can continue their hot shooting. In any case, they need to take better care of the ball and tighten up the defense.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Lakers’ free throw shooting has taken quite a hit this season. Tonight they went 18-26, a few missed in the closing minutes of the game.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant, who passed yet another NBA legend in Oscar Robertson, to become the ninth leading scorer of all time. Mamba is just sprinting up that list!