The Golden State Warriors didn’t know what hit ‘em in the first few minutes of tonight’s game. The ball went up, the clock started and suddenly they were down 14-2.
Going 5-5 from the field to begin, the Lakers’ starters played like the veteran bunch they are. A ball-fake into a layup from Derek Fisher (14 points on 5-6); Pau Gasol (26 points on 10-19) from 15 feet; a step-back fall-away from Kobe Bryant; one from downtown by Lamar Odom; and Ron Artest all over Monta Ellis.
With fellow backcourt scoring machine, Stephen Curry, out with an ankle injury, Ellis was left to do the lifting for the Warriors, but it turned out much too heavy to carry alone. Despite an 18-point contribution from Dorell Wright, who filled in for Curry, Ellis only managed 20 points for the game on 9-20 from the field courtesy of some bona fide Artest defense.
After the first quarter, the home team led 34-14. With the Lakers’ reserves on the floor, the Warriors went on a quick 11-0 run to start the second quarter, putting themselves within nine points. It didn’t take long, however, for the Lakers to increase the lead back to a more “comfortable” amount, bringing in most of the starters to end the half. Bryant caught a defensive rebound, threw the ball cross-court to a waiting Matt Barnes, who swiftly handed it to a running Gasol. Odom popped the ball from David Lee then scored on a one-man fastbreak and suddenly the lead was back to 19. After 24 minutes, the Lakers led 56-38 and Odom already had himself a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, not to mention four assists and a steal.
The second half did not start out as smoothly as the first, with both teams opening the third quarter by turning the ball over. The Lakers, however, continued their efforts from beyond the arc, with Fisher and Bryant each hitting their threes and giving the home team a 17- point advantage before the final quarter.
The reserves, as whole, were not as efficient as they were in the first two regular season games, but Matt Barnes was the exception tonight. In a short span of time to begin the fourth, Barnes grabbed an offensive rebound, passed it to Steve Blake, who passed it to Gasol, who gave it back to Barnes for two. On the next Laker possession, Gasol found Barnes again for a hoop, and for his last shot of the evening, a three to give the Lakers their largest lead of the game, 107-75.
In his post-game interview, Odom referred to his former adversary as “my man, Matty Barnes.” From one blue-collar workhorse to another, this term of endearment is telling. Though they waged in a war of words (in 140 characters or less) after the Lakers played in Orlando last season, the two have a quality in common and the defending champions are better for it – they do what they have to do for their team and they couldn’t care less about their personal stats. Matt Barnes could have scored from Kobe’s cross-court pass, but he decided to reward Gasol with the points and gladly took the assist. He rarely gives up on plays, reaching for however many rebounds until there’s none left to grab. Barnes finished with seven points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal – a box score padder, much like Odom.
Barnes’ other former adversary, Kobe Bryant, continues to show improvement. When asked about the status of his knee, Bryant advised sideline reporter, Patrick O’Neal, “I’m 100% so stop asking me about it,” and it looked that way tonight. For the first time this season (including the pre-season), Bryant shot 50% from the field, going 8-16 for 20 points. He also collected seven rebounds and handed out two assists.
It was a good win for the home team, dressed for the first time this season in their Sunday whites. Gasol played the most, one second shy of 35 minutes, but Phil Jackson emptied his bench for the final six minutes, with rookies, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter scoring their first official points as Los Angeles Lakers.
3-0 to start the season. So far, so great.
Pre-game Thoughts:Someone…ANYONE, please guard Monta Ellis.
Half-time Thoughts:38-56 – The starters established a 20-point lead heading into the second quarter, but the Lakers reserves failed to protect what they built. The starters came back in, however, and quickly took that large lead right back. Lamar Odom already with a double-double, 13 points, 10 boards, four assists and a block.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game:After playing so well in the pre-season and the first two regular season games, the Laker reserves blew a 20-point lead in the second quarter.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game:Kobe Bryant is finally looking like his old 50% shooting self and Pau Gasol had himself another double-double, but Lamar Odom had his double-double locked up before the first half even ended. He finished with 16 points on 6-9, 14 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. He’s had a double-double in all three regular season games so far.