Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

“It’s against his nature,” Kobe Bryant said about Pau Gasol. “He’s always very nice, very white swan. I need him to be black swan.”

Black Mamba to Black Swan – aid needed on the floor, over.

Copy that, Black Mamba.

Every time the Lakers take on the Houston Rockets, no matter what state either team is in, it’s a battle to the bitter end and tonight was no exception. Each team fought hard, taking turns firing at the other; so much so that a five minute overtime was necessary to finally determine a victor.

After a disappointing Sunday loss to the Celtics, the Laker big men were called out for failing to put up even the slightest ounce of fight against a hated (albeit quite good) rival. With Andrew Bynum out of the line-up for tonight’s game,  Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol (especially Pau Gasol), would need to make up some ground for the missing body. They needed to play, as they should anyway, like the skilled players that they are and thankfully for the Lakers, they delivered.

Pau Gasol answered Kobe Bryant’s need for his darker side to emerge. He fought for offensive rebounds and dunked over the crowd of Rockets around the hoop. He positioned himself on the other end to collect boards and prevent second chance points. He finished the night with 26 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. Except for some defensive lapses (which every Laker on the floor was guilty of at some point in this game), glimpses of Gasol’s black swan did appear. A slew of encore numbers would do the rest of the Laker company a lot of good. Hopefully tonight wasn’t his finale.

Flying alongside Gasol was a riveting 20-point, 20-rebound performance from Lamar Odom. It’s the second in his career and he added four assists for good measure. Odom hit two from behind the arc and just seemed to be in the right place at the right time to receive a pass from Derek Fisher for a jumper, a pass from Kobe Bryant for a swift lefty hook shot, and in one sequence grabbed a board from a missed Houston shot attempt, weaved around backtracking Rockets and scored on a pretty fingerroll.

As effective as Gasol and Odom were tonight, however, it is exactly these types of performances that drive people mad because (mostly with Gasol), it hasn’t happened as consistently as it should this season. Gasol and Odom combined for 36 rebounds tonight. They barely collected 13 against the Celtics. Was the competition a factor? Maybe, but mostly it’s just their pure and simple efforts.

Kobe Bryant, trying to get back to a more balanced game, collected seven assists in the first quarter before scoring a single point. He reached his 5,000th career assist tonight and finished with a double-double, 32 points on 13-25, 11 assists, six rebounds and a steal. Bryant’s offensive efficiency has really shot up the last few weeks. He’s been shooting 50% or better from the field and appears quicker on the floor.

Despite some strong play from the Lakers offensively in this game, however, they have much to work on defensively. With just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Odom hit a jumper that gave the Lakers a 96-90 lead. All the home team had to do was play three minutes of solid defense to win the game, but they failed to keep an eye on Luis Scola (24 points on 12-20, 15 rebounds) and Aaron Brooks (16 points on 7-19, eight assists) and next thing you know, the two teams were tied 98-98 and a 5-minute overtime was needed.

Fortunately for the Lakers, they were able to fend off Houston with a 16-8 score in that overtime and can take some confidence gained to Thursday’s game against the NBA-best record San Antonio Spurs.

With the possibility of Andrew Bynum missing from the line-up indefinitely due to a bone bruise in his left knee (does it ever end with Bynum’s knee?), the Laker big men will need to have one strong game after another, and the defense as a whole MUST improve. Defense wins championships. It’s not just a saying.

Box Score
Pre-game Thoughts:
No Andrew Bynum tonight. If there was ever an opportunity for Pau Gasol to redeem himself for playing with so little interest in the last two games, these next few contests without Bynum would be a good time. And it doesn’t matter that Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin take turns killing the Lakers, or that Luis Scola always seems to outwork whoever is assigned to him. It’s all about the home team’s attitude coming into the game.
Half-time Thoughts: 48-54 – Facilitator Kobe started this game, handing out seven assists before he scored his first points. He’s got 10. Leading all scores with 16 points on 7-12 is Pau Gasol. The Lakers created a 12-point lead, but a few defensive breakdowns in a row brought the Rockets to within striking distance. Houston doesn’t just go away, and if the Lakers want to win this game, they have to remember that.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: What’s happened to Ron Artest? He scored nine points on 4-8 but didn’t play a single second of the fourth quarter or overtime.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Three players had double-doubles tonight, but Lamar Odom’s 20 points and 20 rebounds take it. Where was THIS rebound-monger in Sunday’s game?!

  • Nice

    Nice game

    • LakerMarc

      From what standpoint? If anything it secured the frustrations that are even more plainly evident!

  • edsel pinoy 2

    this is no longer just Kobe’s team. each laker must play like each and everyone of them is just as valuable as the Black Mamba. specially Gasol. If each has Kobe’s fighter’s mentality this team will be close to unbeatable. Defense, defense!

    • LOL

      This is still Kobe’s team. Get your head checked.

      • 242LakerFan

        No, Edsel is right. It is Kobe’s team, but it’s not just Kobe’s team. And Kobe knows that. It pisses him off when he has to take over a game, win or lose. He knows he has the pieces around him which should afford him the luxury of not having to do it by himself. He knows where that got them in ’05 and ’06.
        I’ve seen him smiling and exuberant after a 17 point game they won on the strength of team play. I’ve also seen him fuming over a close loss when he scored 40+ but had no help.

  • Nick

    Still disappointed of the hard win but I’m glad we fought to finish.

    • http://TheLakerNation Pretnenders not Contenders

      Nicks a Lakers hater so why even write something so stupid supporting the Lakers under his name and think anyone is going to believe it. Lakers suck fag boy and there going down. Celtics Forever! Most storied franchise in basketball history and ther taking it again this year. Lakers maybe a close second but lets face it they are second

  • king-manu

    maybe phil realises now that we are better with bynum off the bench! gasol and bynum never really played well together, maybe because they did not play that much together. but odom and gasol is wirking, and its working good. really good their styles of play fit… but with bynum as bench player… a 13mio. bench player? look at our bench if odom starts…13,8mio, walton 5,2 mio and blake 4mio…. damn thats a lot of wasted money!!!

  • lakerslaland

    Damnn put D fish to the bench and put steve blake on the line up also LO… we need a speed and energy on our starter ….steve blake will give them sparks and the reason why blake i ain’t doing great cuz of phill everytime his on fire phill take him out of the game .. Artest ain’t the same person this season and last season he was hungry now he just playing poor basketball waiting for kobe to hand him a another ring ….Damn trade him already and put Matt barns in the line Up….

    Steve blake

    Kobe bryant

    Matt barnes

    Lamer Odom

    Pau Gasol

    And that LakersNation Are SPEED N ENERGY !!!!!

    • lakerslaland

      give mins to josh smith maybe he will sparks our bench Up

      • Barracuda

        I too would like to have “josh smith” come off the bench, and I am sure he would give us a spark, the only problem is he plays for the Atlanta Hawks.

      • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

        You meant Joe Smith?

        • 242LakerFan

          You know he means Joe Smith and I know he means Joe Smith, but does he know he means Joe Smith?

      • LakerMarc

        yeah you got the wrong dude

  • Ikjyot Singh Kohli

    Bottom line, Lakers won tonight because of one reason, Bynum WASN’T there, he didn’t play one minute, and that’s why we won..

    Kobe had 11 assists tonight, because all the other 4 players on the floor felt comfortable moving in and out of the post including Gasol when Bynum is not there, he’s a lag on the team, and everyone should realize this by now. He’s horrendous, he can’t rebound, can only score against people smaller than him (although Baron Davis did block him a few games ago), and can barely get up and down the court. The Lakers have gone to the NBA finals without Bynum, won the championship against Orlando without Bynum, went through all playoffs last year without Bynum, it’s time to trade him. Right now, other GM’S are convinced that he’s a great player, as long as we have them fooled like this, we should trade him, we can get some serious talent in return..

    Bottom line is I challenge anyone to look at game tape, of how Gasol, Kobe, and company play when Bynum is there and when he’s not, you can see how much more fluid everything is, oh yeah, and they seem to run the offense, 11 assists for Kobe people!

    • king-manu

      i agree 100% bynum has to go back to the bench or to another team…!! artest, bynum, walton, brown could give us some solid sf plus a big man, so we would not loose any height!

    • 242LakerFan

      Make up your mind, man. Is he horrible or is he a major trade asset? You don’t give up “some serious talent” for a “horrendous” player who can’t rebound or score on bigs.
      (Unless you’re Memphis, that is.)

  • edsel pinoy 2

    It is nice to see some anger in Pau’s game. The technical on him seems to make Kobe smile. Our immediate answer to this season’s disappointments is lighting up Pau’s butt so that he can play to his potential, wait, play to his potential and play tough. Black Swan signing out.

    • LOL

      Bakla ko

  • rondo

    Ikjyot Singh Kohli do you know what you are talking about? Who are you the General Manager? Any way do you know how to play? I really don’t think so. So you can’t be a good judge if don’t know how to play.

  • rondo

    Also fool! Talking about getting rid of Bynum after a game with a 6ft6in center playing Pau is real stupid! What’s going to happen when the game slows down and the team start playing the same teams in a 7 game series. Playoff if yiu know what that is.

    • Ikjyot Singh Kohli

      Whatever, instead of arguing, just watch the videos, look at the stats..

      Kobe Bryant is the smartest basketball player of our time, and has an eye for talent.. Kobe’s ideal center teammate is Gasol, as he’s gone on record saying. Kobe also has a keen eye for talent, he wanted to trade Bynum when the Lakers picked him up, because he could see that this kid has no potential, and low and behold he’s right. By the way, what exactly has Bynum done for this team? Has he contributed on a night-in and night-out basis, has he sparred with elements like Kendrick Perkins, Glenn Davis, Dwight Howard, or even Chris Kaman, NO! Only reason Kobe has calmed down about Bynum is because he’s been injured for the majority of his time here in L.A., so he hasn’t really played, so there’s no reason for KB24 to berate him more, but Bynum doesn’t understand the offense (as Phil himself has said numerous times), Phil himself has criticized Bynum’s HALF-COURT defence almost every game they have lost, case in point Boston. The Lakers lost to the Celtics because of DEFENSE, and half-court interior defense, where Garnett and Davis had their way with Bynum. You can’t fault Gasol on this. Gasol was not brought to the Lakers to play defense, he was brought to replace Kwame Brown and become an offensive weapon on the Lakers, which he has, if Kobe just passes the ball to him a bit more, like last night, when Bynum wasn’t there, which proves my point again….

      Bynum was brought to L.A. to plug the middle, but wait, Kupchak had to sign 36 year old Theo Ratliff to do that instead, after signing Bynum to a 60 million dollar contract, proves my point again.

      All you Bynum lovers like Stu Lantz have to be realistic, he’s not as good as you pretend he is, and if you want to know the truth, Phil doesn’t like to play Bynum either, that’s why the Lakers 4th quarter lineups have always been Barnes, Gasol, and Odom this season. The only reason Phil puts up with Bynum is politics to satisfy Jim Buss, P.J. doesn’t want to start a family feud like there was in 2004 when they lost to Detroit in the Finals. Check your facts man.

      But, just look at the stats man.

  • http://www.jackyang.info Jack

    It’s about time someone pointed it out to Gasol. Last night was the first time in months where Gasol actually looked like he wanted to score.

  • Laker Warrior

    Guys Paus man was 6ft 6 common any half legged moron 7 ft can score against a 6 ft 6 guy.
    Trade Bynum now . Go after Dwight next year
    Bynum is a PUSSY and is lazy . Kobe backed off him beause mnagment told him to. Jimmy Buss thinks he is going to devlope this kid. Kobe and Phil know whats up
    they just figure we can win with out this assole

  • rondo

    Laker Warrior :A couch potatoe calling Bynum lazy. One thing for sure Bynum is not a lazy man. I bet are more lazy and fat then Bynum. You don’t get your body that toned being lazy. Would you call Bynum a pussy in his face? I don’t think so.

  • Richard

    Carmello? Anyone?

    • LakerMarc

      NO!!!! Carmelo is not a Laker and can’t become one. NO!!!!!!

  • rondo

    Iksyot Singh Kohli: As an Ex Basketball Player, the more you talk the more i realize you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. Are You in the Lakers lockerroom to know anything thats going on?

    • Ikjyot Singh Kohli

      Guys.. I want everyone on here to recognize that lakersnation blogger “rondo” is an ex-Basketball player who possesses supreme knowledge of not only all things Basketball, but all things Lakers.

      He has shown me that Andrew Bynum is the greatest player to don a Lakers uniform, and is clearly showing it by averaging 20 points a game and 10 rebounds with 5 blocked shots, he’s our generation’s next Shaq.

      • 242LakerFan

        Glad to see you’ve come to your senses. I WAS about to suggest a name change to “Idjyot” but you’ve redeemed yourself.

        • 242LаkerFаn

          be nice, hacker.

  • Ronnie

    Like I said trade Bynum and artest and first rounder for melo

    • daboss1848

      and if ur Den GM, u say yes?

    • http://espn.com LakersFirst

      Sounds good, but not sure Denver would go for it (i’m being realistic). Denver has stated they want youth, expiring contracts and 1st round draft picks. Artest has long contract (3 years after this season), Bynum has 2 years (although there is a team option after next season) and the Lakers traded a #1 draft pick earlier this season to dump Sasha. If the trade you recommended were to interest Denver, you would have to throw in Caracter, Ebanks or even both.
      But hey, I’m a Laker fan, anything to improve the TEAM

  • Ronnie

    You have to because he will walk at the end of the season and they will get nothing but cap space and a hope that a big name will sign, which they won’t due to bargaining agreement/lockout. So they gotta do something, melo wants out

    • daboss1848

      well since they HAVE TO y give em an ron and bynum – give em luke, our trade exception and a couple 3rd round picks?

  • Ronnie

    Well salarie has to match, and Ron allegedly wants to be dealt so it’s a win win. Plus Bynum is injury prone. Salary wise this deal would have to include Bynum and a mid level money type guy (5 million) or odom and a mid level money guy but odom is an asset for is.

    • LakerMarc

      Yeah I was all for giving Bynum a break because let’s face it, its a very tough and physical game and big men take a beating and their big bodies get hurt. At this point, we are looking at the 4th straight year with an injury and I also think that his irresponsibility in handling his surgery right after the parade, and instead going on vacation and also to the World Cup games….CRAZY.

  • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

    Bynum lazy? Bynum sucks? The team’s defense made a 180 when he returned to the line-up. Bynum is a skilled center (has more moves than Dwight Howard, if you observe closely), he’s picking up his defensive intensity, and he’s young. His only issue is the occasional, albeit often, injury.
    .
    Pau is not a center. It’s not in his nature to bang with the huge centers down low. His strength is not in his girth. He’s the most skilled power forward out there. His only deficiency (which is fixable) is all mental. He didn’t win two championships for being the widest, heaviest, player out there. His finesse game is his game, and it’s gotten him two rings. It’s his attitude and approach to the game that needs adjustment sometimes. You can’t make a player like Pau replace a player like Andrew. Pau has filled in for Andrew, but it’s always been a temporary situation. Pau at at the 4 is much more dangerous than Pau at the 5.

    • dabοss1848

      very well said, Ms. Gonda.

      • daboss1848

        very respectful, i approve

        • dabοss1848

          u banned from shoutbox?

          • daboss1848

            lol – indeed… ur doing?

          • dabοss1848

            no not at all, can’t access your name via. shoutbox.

            Shoutbox not showing up at all – or “banned from shoutbox” notification coming up.

          • daboss1848

            shoutbox not showing up at all

          • dabοss1848

            try:
            http://cbox.ws/?n=4-3356162-8333

            let me know if it’s a success.

          • dabοss1848

            btw if u can’t see it clearly in the comment page
            (go to recent comments) & copy and paste the url from there – easier IMO.

        • daboss1848

          lol am i foolish for trusting? cannot display page

          • dabοss1848

            link didn’t work?

            & lol no, it should have popped up like this:
            (screenshot)

            http://i56.tinypic.com/2l8kkjp.png

          • daboss1848

            nothing – not on ie or firefox

          • dabοss1848

            i56.tinypic.com/2l8kkjp.png

            copy and paste (maybe link form not working)
            but not sure why even the screenshot won’t work

      • daboss1848

        lets clarify – screen shot works – but cbox didnt work – not from c/p or direct click

        • bostonSUCKS88

          what to do without boss in the cbox?

          • daboss1848

            lol

        • dabοss1848

          something wrong at ur current place w/ cbox then.

  • Ikjyot Singh Kohli

    Guys, Anna Gondo and Rondo are the enlightened Lakers fans..

    Recognize that Bynum was the sole reason for the Lakers beating the Magic in the finals 2 years ago (his bench support was transformational), and he’s the reason why the Lakers won last year too.

    Go Bynum!!
    Thanks Lakersnation!

    • 242LakerFan

      See, Idjyot-oops…Ikjyot, the more you read, the more enlightened you become. You have taken another step towards achieving Lakervana.

  • rondo

    All you Bynum haters are a bunch of stupid non inform assholes. Most of you clown would be ran out of The Lakers front office. Mitch if he read this nonesense would laugh in all your faces.