For the third game in a row, John Ireland asked the Laker chosen for his post-game interview if this game just played was the best team win they’ve had all season. Either 1) John is finally running out of questions or 2) Teamwork has been so prominent in every win that John can’t help but ask.
Unless our eyes have deceived us these last few days, the reason for these dominating wins is owed, in large part, to efficient TEAM WORK.
Teamwork on defense — staying active and alert, helping on double teams and then recovering quickly back to your man.
In his post-game interview, Jordan Farmar cited their greater attention to detail on both sides of the court as a source of their recent success. The Lakers will never have a problem scoring. The entire roster is full of scorers, but it was forcing eight Utah turnovers and grabbing seven steals that got them that 15-point lead in the first half, not just their 48% FG. And as far as the Lakers’ inability to defend quick point guards, like Deron Williams, who was held to 3-9 shooting tonight? What team finds it easy to defend Chris Paul, Steve Nash or Deron Williams one-on-one? Good job on D-Will this evening.
Teamwork on offense — less isolation and more ball movement. With 19 assists, but 17 turnovers for the night, it wasn’t the Lakers’ cleanest game. The 19 assists, however, were distributed by eight different players (Brown, Gasol and Vujacic each led with four), a glaring comparison to a Jazz team who thrives on Deron Williams’ direction (he alone had 10 dimes).
A small reason for the Lakers’ recent wins without Kobe Bryant in the line-up, is the spread of ball-handling responsibilities. In the triangle offense, there is no need for a pure point guard, which is why it’s always so baffling when “experts” cite this position as the Lakers’ greatest weakness when it’s not a position that their offense necessitates.
Tonight, as it was against Portland and the Spurs, the Lakers won by tapping into their other strengths not named Kobe Bryant. They played up to their size (47 points, 30 rebounds between Odom and Gasol), their bench didn’t just fill in minutes for the starters (Farmar had 18 points, 4-4 from downtown and Sasha had more assists, 4, than points, 3) and they didn’t lose their focus or their stride when the lead went from 20 to 12.
In one exciting sequence, Sasha Vujacic stole the ball from C.J. Miles, ran down the court, passed to a sprinting Farmar who passed to a trailing D.J. Mbenga for a crashing dunk. When Gasol and Odom are sitting on the bench watching a line-up of reserves swell the lead to 15 points in the first half (obviously not garbage time), the night had to end well… and it certainly did.
This 3-game winning streak is not a long one. It can barely be called a streak when compared to what this team has accomplished before. But it was a streak of wins against terrible odds (the losing streak in Portland), against a (finally) healthy play-off contender (San Antonio), and against an exceptional home team (Utah); all double-digit wins and all without their young starting center and best player.
These wins were for their injured teammates who couldn’t join them on the court. It was for their hustle all week long. This win was for everyone who wanted to count the Lakers out.
Pre-game Thoughts: Kobe still out, Andrew still out, and Lamar has a sore foot. In one of the most difficult arenas to play in, this will be a close one.
Half-time Thoughts: 15-point lead against the Jazz IN Utah. If the Lakers win this game, it will be their most impressive win to date.
Most Thoughtless Player of the Game: Luke Walton, 0-5; Ron Artest, 1-7; Derek Fisher, 2-6?
Most Thought-filled Player of the Game: Pau and Lamar had dominant games, but tonight’s going to the Machine, Sasha Vujacic, for his four assists, two rebounds and three steals. See? There’s more to the game than the 3-point line.