Did we miss the adjustment period? The orientation? The grand tour? Because the Lakers, with all the new personnel on the roster, played like they’d been playing together for months. For a second or two, you could easily forget that the team is still missing its starting center, which speaks loads about the depth of this team. It is still just November, but the defending champions, four games into the season, appear focused and almost completely in sync (save the 19 turnovers of course). They led by as many as 29 points en route to their fourth win in a row.
The home team didn’t waste any time when the ball went up at center court. For 5 ½ minutes, they scored freely and from every which way, all the while keeping the Grizzlies to two measly points from two free throws made by Marc Gasol.
In the battle of the Catalan big men, tonight’s victor was big brother Pau Gasol. Recently named Western Conference Player of the week, Pau is many things his brother is not – smooth in his movements, extremely skilled and a walking double-double. Whether it’s bouncing an interior pass to Lamar Odom for a driving layup or going baseline for a one-handed reverse dunk of his own, Pau can absolutely do it all, which is what he has been asked to do. With Andrew Bynum still weeks from a return to the floor and with Bryant still recovering from surgery himself, Pau has been as dominant as he can be and the Lakers are 4-0 because of it. Tonight he finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists.
Also lending a hand to compensate for healing teammates is Lamar Odom, for whom we are running out of words to describe – monster rebounder, three-point shooter, relentless defender? Whatever role he is asked to play on the team, he plays it with every bead of sweat that falls from his forehead. Tonight, he went 6-7 from the field (3-4 from three-point range), collected eight rebounds and led the Lakers with six assists.
Kobe Bryant (feeling 100% so just stop asking) gave O.J. Mayo an in-game workout that only he could conduct. The young guard was charged with defending the two-time finals MVP, and he tried…and tried…but with very little luck. Towards the end of the second quarter, within a two minute window, Bryant drilled three 3-pointers in a row. He had 23 points on 7-13 from the field and O.J. Mayo wore himself thin playing defense, managing only 8 points on 3-11.
The Lakers Reserves, fondly named “Renegades” by Phil Jackson, took over most of the second half as the starters looked on from the bench, and they sure put on a spectacle. Matt Barnes, admittedly still familiarizing himself around the Laker offense, channeled his inner Lamar Odom and padded the box score with 16 points, 14 rebounds (nine offensive), and two assists. If there was an opportunity for second chance points, Barnes was there to collect the offensive board tonight.
Shannon Brown continued showing off his offensive weapons, going 3-3 from downtown, 6-7 overall. Steve Blake managed 10 points on 4-6 plus three assists, including a perfectly-timed lob to Devin Ebanks for a thunderous dunk. Collectively the Lakers bench outscored the Grizzlies bench 50 to 30.
If not for the 19 turnovers, the Lakers would have played a nearly perfect game, clicking on all cylinders on both ends of the court. Despite the Grizzlies bringing the lead to as manageable a size as 15 from 29, the home team poised themselves and got the win.
Pre-game Thoughts: Gasol on Gasol; Mayo on Bryant; Artest on Gay – so many match-ups to observe tonight.
Half-time Thoughts: 46-73 – The Lakers are literally steamrolling over the Memphis Grizzlies. Phil Jackson has played every active on the bench. Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers with 23 points on 7-10 (3-4 from three).
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Other than Derek Fisher and the two rookies, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, every Laker has committed a turnover to total 19 turnovers!
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Matt Barnes, a rebounding machine tonight with 14 and he still managed to score 16 points. Barnes is fitting in tremendously with the Lakers.