This game could have ended in the third quarter. The starters could have been resting comfortably on the bench, with ice wrapped around their knees, cheering on the reserves as they dove in for the final kill in the last 12 minutes of play. Alas, three starters subbed out late in that third quarter and suddenly, that 19-point lead turned into three. In 3:27, the Lakers managed to do everything wrong and the visiting team merely took advantage. Fortunately for the home team, not even late-game errors (three-pointers with double-digit time on the shot clock with your team leading, Kobe and Lamar? REALLY?) or 30 points from the Wiz’s hot shooting Nick Young, could give this game away.
The Washington Wizards arrived at Staples Center with a 0-10 road record. Suffice it to say, even with scoring machines like Gilbert Arenas (23 points on 8-17) and rookie, John Wall (22 points on 7-14), the Lakers could have won this game in much easier fashion than they did, and they could have distributed a more even amount of playing time, with a back-to-back to consider. Instead, every starter played over 30 minutes, with the already overworked Pau Gasol logging in another 40+ minute kind of night.
It was another game on auto pilot for fill-in center, Gasol. In his 42:32 minutes, he managed another double-double on the cusp of being a triple-double. He scored 21 points on 7-18, grabbed 14 rebounds, handed out eight assists and blocked five shots. The three days of rest since the Lakers’ last game must have done Gasol’s sore hamstring some good because he didn’t appear to move with any difficulty.
Lamar Odom was, as he is to most teams, a force with whom the Wizards could not reckon with. He had 24 points on an efficient 8-12, in addition to seven rebounds. He scored in just about any way he tried – dunks, baby hooks, layups. Odom is 7th in the league in field goal percentage with 58% and it’s no surprise, considering his ability to get inside and score in the paint.
Kobe Bryant was high on the offense today as well, scoring 32 points on 12-23. In the second quarter, he headfaked then tossed a left-handed floater into the hoop, and in the third, sent a long three that gave the Lakers a 17-point lead.
The Lakers led by 13 points at the half, and managed to lead by as many as 19 in the third. In the first half they shot 56% and assisted on 22 of 28 made field goals. The second half, however, was a different game for the home team, who shot just 12-39 (31%) and assisted on only four more field goals for the entire 24 minutes. It’s not difficult to determine how the Wizards cut that large lead. The Lakers finished the evening with 45% shooting.
Defense wasn’t a huge factor for either team tonight. At the half, both teams shot over 50% and managed to pass the century mark in points.
It wasn’t an impressive win for the Lakers, but it was a win nonetheless. Now they begin a 7-game trip away from the comforts of Staples Center, not counting tomorrow which begins with Blake Griffin and the Clippers on the Clippers’ home floor. Andrew Bynum should be back soon (here’s hoping) and the defending champions get to test themselves on the road and meet the President of the United States along the way. Maybe he could provide them with some much-needed focus.
Pre-game Thoughts: Lakers had three days of rest after their win against the Sacramento Kings. Injured or not, every opportunity to get some downtime is a welcome relief. Hopefully the team is ready for Gilbert Arenas and rookie sensation, John Wall.
Half-time Thoughts: 56-69 – Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom are leading the charge with 18 and 17 respectively. Pau Gasol’s got 8 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists – triple double possibly? The Lakers are shooting 56% and they’ve got 22 assists on 28 made field goals – excellent! Unfortunately, they’ve allowed the Wizards to shoot just as easily at 54%. Washington’s Nick Young leads all scores with 19. Defense can lock up this win in the third.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Lakers bench, who squandered a 19 point lead in the third quarter to allow the Wizards to get within three points before the fourth. Simply inexcusable.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: The Lakers big three, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, who combined for 77 points, 26 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals.