Last night, the Lakers sprinted to a victory, stepping on the dejected bodies of the Cleveland Cavaliers on their way to a win. Tonight, they were faced with an uphill challenge; each 10-foot ascent followed by a 5-foot drop. Yet they refused to let up, no matter how quickly the younger climbers seemed to pass them by. These young Golden State Warriors are runners. They beat their opponents with their own carelessness, and then score time and again with their speed. But these veteran Lakers know a thing or two about patience and pace, and while they waited (maybe a little too long) to sprint over the final stretch, the Warriors just plain wore themselves out trying to outrun the old guys.
And the Lakers did look a step slow, especially compared to these young Warriors who live on fastbreak points and transition threes. At the heart of Golden State’s offensive engine is Monta Ellis, who burned the Lakers for 38 points on 15-26 (4-7 3PT). The man couldn’t be stopped. He shot over and around every purple uniform he met and played like he was all alone on the court. It didn’t matter who or how many defenders the Lakers threw at Ellis because, truth be told, they were invisible to him. The downside, however, is that he played all 48 minutes of the game. After scoring 31 points in the first three quarters, how much gas could he have in the tank, especially when he has to guard Mr. 4th Quarter, Kobe Bryant?
The outcome of the game swung in both teams’ directions all night, with Golden State maintaining leads that ranged from a single point to 14, and the Lakers playing catch-up to stay within striking distance. When the fourth quarter came around, however, Lamar Odom put his team atop his sore shoulder and got to work.
Entering the final 12 minutes of the game, Odom had scored a whopping…four points. Then he hit a couple of layups, made a couple of jumpers, rebounded then dunked a miss by Andrew Bynum and suddenly, the Lakers had the lead. Odom finished with 20 points on 8-13 and nine rebounds.
With just over 6:30 minutes left in the fourth, Kobe Bryant subbed back in and it was as if Odom handed over the imaginary baton to their anchor. Bryant didn’t waste any time. He drove in, tossed the ball up against the glass – swish and 1, his bandaged finger waving in that Dikembe-like fashion as he hit the ground and slid back. He followed that with a fadeaway jumper, then an assist to Ron Artest for three, and then he hit a three himself. After scoring just nine points in the first half, Bryant went off for 30 in the second, going 13-21, with six rebounds, four assists and three steals to end the night. He had five turnovers in the first half, yet only committed one in the second.
The Lakers shot 51.2% from the field and assisted on 26 of their 42 made field goals, scoring 46 points in the final quarter. They outrebounded the Warriors by 20 boards, with Bynum/Gasol/Odom alone combining for 34 rebounds to Golden State’s 27. There is much to improve as far as turnovers go (tonight they had 13, which isn’t awful but they could stand to take better care of the ball), and the defense (transition D in particular) needs reinforcing, as they gave up 53 points in the first half, and over 50% shooting to Golden State for the night.
After a few blowout wins, the Lakers needed a game like this to test their mettle. Unable to close some rather close games in most of their 11 losses, the defending Champions have since constantly had to prove themselves…to themselves and they’ve proven a lot in this six-game winning stretch.
With a 29-11 record, the season is almost half done. It appears the Lakers, as a team, have turned a corner as far as effort and focus go. Hopefully the last stretch of inconsistency has served its purpose and left…for good.
Pre-game Thoughts: This isn’t going to be a 55-point blowout, as tempting as it would be to hope for it. The Warriors can run and they can score quickly, so the Lakers need to limit their turnovers or Golden State will surely make them pay for it.
Half-time Thoughts: 45-53 – Monta Ellis has 23 points and Kobe Bryant has 5 of the Lakers’ seven turnovers. Guesses as to which team leader is going for an efficient night? After going on a run led by the play of Pau Gasol, the Lakers allowed the Warriors to get right back in with a slew of turnovers. L.A. gave up 20 transition points! Gasol leads the L.A. with 14 points, but Andrew Bynum’s only got seven, as the Lakers didn’t utilize their bigs until the 2nd quarter. L.A. better get their defensive rotations together or Golden State will fast break them to death.
Most Thoughtless Play/Player(s) of the Game: Been avoiding this for awhile because they do more than just score, but it’s got to be said – Steve Blake and Derek Fisher have lost their shot these last few games. Even though neither is relied upon to provide the bulk of the offense, they still need to find SOME efficiency in their field goal percentage.
Most Thought-filled Play/Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant-Lamar Odom tandem – as Bryant sat the first six or so minutes of the final 12 minutes, Lamar Odom just took over, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter alone. If he’s not chosen as an All-Star this season, even as a sub, there really is no justice to that event’s voting system.