High on a dominant win against the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday, the Lakers should have won this game easily. Maybe they didn’t want to show up their former assistant coach, Kurt Rambis. Maybe they know they can still get by with just a few players turned on. Or maybe they need to start thinking like defending champions again.
This game produced a long list of coulda, woulda, shouldas – could’ve created more quality shots; would’ve had a better scoring percentage; should’ve rebounded more. In the end, the Lakers got what they wanted – another win, and the fans got what they wanted – a still perfect record. But in between these wants remain a laundry list of items to work on. #1 on the list should be FOCUS, no matter the opponent. Just as they played against Toronto, dumbing down their game against lower-tiered teams, so they appeared to do against Minnesota.
23 points, 24 rebounds – It looks like Pau Gasol’s stat line, or maybe Lamar Odom’s or possibly Kobe Bryant’s. It’s Kevin Love’s stat line and 24 boards (11 on the offensive end) for an opposing player is too much to give up. Gasol had just three boards for practically the entire first half and in the end, the Lakers were outrebounded 54-42 (26-14 offensive).
As much of a factor (or more like THE factor) as Gasol (18 points on 8-13, 10 rebounds) has been the last few games, he was a non-factor in the first half of this game. He did not appear himself tonight, unable to catch and then hold on to passes that came to him, unable to pass properly out of double teams, and absentee effort on the glass.
Lamar Odom, plagued with fouls (he reached five before the end of the game), could not find a rhythm in his shot until the second half, but still managed a respectable 15 points on 7-12, eight rebounds, three assists and a block).
Kobe Bryant, on fire before the second half, produced 23 first half points and finished with 33 for the night. He shot from everywhere – downtown, mid-range, at the hoop. It was a sight for sore eyes watching him move and shoot seemingly without pain.
Yes, last Friday’s game against the Raptors seemed to challenge the Lakers enough to play an almost perfect game against Portland (and for the rest of the season, we hoped). It was probably the team’s most well-rounded game so far. But it’s a long season and as perfect as we’d like the Lakers’ record to remain, it’s an unrealistic expectation. There will probably be more games where the Lakers appear disinterested as they appeared this evening, but there will also be games where the Lakers will dominate. The hope is always that they play the right way, but in the meantime, 8-0 is not a bad way to start.
Pre-game Thoughts: This SHOULD be an easy game to win, but the last time anyone thought that, the Toronto game happened. Let’s just hope for the W.
Half-time Thoughts: 52-58 – Well, thank goodness Kobe Bryant’s playing. He’s actually the only one who seems mildly interested in winning this game, as does Matt Barnes, who’s been a spark off the bench. Bryant’s got 23 points in the half. At the rate and quality of the Lakers’ play in the first half, we may be looking out for a 40-point night.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom – Maybe they exhausted themselves after that triple-double and double-double performance against Portland on Sunday, because tonight, Mr. Consistency and Mr. Versatility didn’t join the party until well into the second half.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant, of course. Sensing that his team needed him, he poured in 33 points and grabbed six rebounds. For the Wolves, Kevin Love absolutely went out there and reminded Coach Rambis exactly what he can do – 23 points, 24 rebounds (11 offensive), five assists and a block. If tonight doesn’t get him more playing time, who knows what will.