In the first game without Andrew Bynum, whose absence can last up to two weeks (so far as everyone has been told), the Lakers started lethargically on the floor in the first quarter before finally picking up their game in the second quarter.
On this Noche Latina at Staples, L.A.’s favorite Spanish representative, Pau Gasol, dominated quickly and accurately inside. Pau’s stroke of late has looked exceptionally smooth. He’s going at the basket strong, his mid-range jumper looks sharp as can be and even his free throws are finding their way into the hoop. Finishing the night off with 28 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and one block, Pau appears back to his usual, quiet dominating self. With the absence of Andrew for the next couple of weeks (hopefully no more than that), the quality of Pau’s time on the floor needs to be as efficient and pristine (minus the four turnovers) as it was tonight.
Kobe Bryant, who for the last few games has taken on the role of facilitator, locked in offensively in the first half tonight. His 3-point shooting has been somewhat M.I.A. since his return from injury, but tonight he launched and hit three 3-pointers in a row without breaking a stride. With 24 points on 10-17 shooting, not to mention four assists and three rebounds, Kobe’s obviously aware of what he needs to contribute without another scorer like Andrew on the floor.
Ron Artest chipped in 16 points on a rare, but welcome, offensive effort of 7-10, plus three steals.
Lamar Odom wasn’t as involved offensively as Andrew’s absence usually dictates, but his 13 rebounds and six assists are what make him valuable to this team.
The Lakers played excellent in all facets of their game in the first half.
Their defense was active, ball movement was intentional and crisp, and there was a visible fire in them, as if they wanted to show everyone who ever developed a doubt when Andrew left the game on Friday night, that they would not lose a step. They held the Wizards to only 33 points before halftime and had only five turnovers. When the third quarter began, however, it was as if a completely new team checked in.
The Lakers were outscored by the Wizards, 59-40 in the second half; the same Wizards who were riding a 10-game losing streak coming into tonight. It took the home team three minutes before scoring their first field goal in the fourth quarter on a Shannon Brown 3-pointer. And quicker than Gilbert Arenas can say, “Draw your weapons,“ a 25-point lead soon turned into just eight before that buzzer finally sounded.
In his post-game press conference, even through the radio, it was easy to sense Phil Jackson’s annoyance. Aside from his concerns about bench play and Andrew’s return, the one factor that troubles him most is something he shouldn’t even have to worry about; the Lakers sustaining EFFORT for an entire game.
There are 12 games left before the post-season. Of all the worries a coach could have about his team, his Championship team, his title-defending team, sustaining effort should not be one of them.
Pre-game Thoughts: No Andrew tonight, but it should be fine. There’s something to be said about familiar territory. Lamar should have a big game tonight.
Half-time Thoughts: 59-33 Wow! At this rate, tacos are guaranteed! Author’s Note: I was at the game, and when you’re there, even though the win matters the most…you still want the tacos. Besides, keeping the opponent under 100 points is never a bad thing.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Every Laker who played in the second half! You don’t allow the opponent to score just 33 points in the first half and then let them go off for 59 points after halftime!
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant who, together, shot 58% from the field to combine for 52 points! And Pau on free throws? 12-14!