All streaks must come to an end…and thank goodness for that! That four-game skid couldn’t come to a quicker halt and frankly it doesn’t matter that it came at the expense of the hapless, defenseless Sacramento Kings. A win is a win, friends, and tonight the Lakers got it right from beginning to end and after the way they’ve begun but finished the last four games, it was a welcome sight.
Suffering through a sore hamstring since the Memphis game, Pau Gasol was questionable to play tonight. He arrived at Staples less than an hour before tip-off and reportedly had just seven minutes to warm up before the decision was made that he would play. If he felt any pain, he sure didn’t show it. Gasol had one of his most productive and well-rounded games since the Lakers’ last win, scoring 16 points on 6-8, grabbed five rebounds, led the team with five assists, and blocked three shots. The offense turned to Gasol inside often, as it should, and it allowed for a showcase of one of his greatest strengths – passing. He rebounded off of a Kobe Bryant miss and bounced the ball behind him and right back to Bryant for a hoop; threw a side pass to a cutting Shannon Brown for a dunk; threw a right-handed pass over his left shoulder to an unguarded Derek Fisher under the hoop. Good things happen when the offense begins inside and if the Lakers know what’s good for them, they will milk this strength for all it’s worth. Gasol led all +/- with +27 as well, and his best stat of all – just under 27 minutes of playing time.
Lamar Odom, ready and willing to fill in at center if Gasol had missed tonight’s game, was aggressive on both ends of the floor and he cited the Lakers’ energy and effective communication on defense as the source of their win. Odom, like Gasol, did a little bit of everything in this game. He scored 16 points on 7-13, had seven boards, three blocks and a steal. When Odom is active on offense, he’s virtually unguardable, especially when he snatches a defensive rebound and heads to the other end like a runaway train. When he is active on the defensive end, he thinks every available rebound is his.
Kobe Bryant, who hasn’t been shooting well of late, scored 22 points on 9-18, and he also handed out four assists. Bryant scored in a myriad of ways, tapping the ball from under Carl Landry’s arm and taking it all the way for a dunk, being held on a foul but managing to gather the ball just enough to toss it up to make it an and-1. The only anomaly in Bryant’s stat line tonight was his 4-8 from the free throw line.
The Lakers got excellent production from their reserves as well, a welcome sight after having fallen from grace in the last four losses. Shannon Brown led the bench with 14 points on 6-11, shooting closer to the hoop for a change since picking up his perimeter shooting this season.
Derrick Caracter, getting major floor time with Gasol injured, played just over 21 minutes and gave in his most productive performance to date with 10 points on 5-8; head faking and then scoring on a layup, stepping back for a jumper, then stealing the ball and tossing it to a sprinting Shannon Brown for a fast break hoop. He also collected four rebounds and two blocks. Phil Jackson emptied his bench and as a result, the Laker reserves contributed 52 points to the 113 final score.
Six Lakers scored in double figures. They had 27 assists on 47 made field goals and had just 10 turnovers as a result of their efficient ball movement. Points in the paint, 68-30 in favor of the home team. They shot 57% for the game and played Sacramento into a 40% shooting, 21 turnover kind of night.
It’s true, the Sacramento Kings can hardly be considered “contenders” relative to this Lakers squad, but it’s a team they were supposed to defeat and they did just that. In his post-game interview, Lamar Odom mentioned that there were lessons to be taken from their last four losses. He said that the team knows they lost games they should have won, but that those losses are reminders of what this team’s disposition should and shouldn’t be entering every game; reminders of how they need to carry themselves at all times.
With a team as talented and deep as the Lakers, it’s easy to lose sight of what it means to win when you haven’t felt often enough what it feels like to lose. Maybe that four-game losing streak was a blessing in disguise. If so, then we have 62 more chances to see just how big a blessing this dark week in November really was.
Pre-game Thoughts: The losing streak ends TONIGHT!…right?
Half-time Thoughts: 35-52 – Lakers playing a solid game on both ends of the court, albeit against a sub-.500 team like the Kings. The fact remains, they’re playing well enough to be ahead by 17 points and to hold the Kings to 33% shooting. We’ve seen this first half dominance for the Lakers before, though. Kobe Bryant is leading all scores with 16 points on 7-15, but Lamar Odom is doing it all – 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: No contest for this category tonight because the Sacramento Kings played pretty thoughtlessly throughout the whole game.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol – for playing through the sore hamstring and having his most well-rounded night in quite a while. Lamar Odom wasn’t too shabby either.