Lakers Finally Snap Nearly Season-Long Losing Streak

All right, guys, I've come up with a great play on words for you. You're gonna love it. You ready? Here goes:

The Lakers last night were "Pau-less" but not powerless. Ha ha! I know, right? My jokes rule. I bet there's gonna be a little something extra in my paycheck this week for that one.

But enough with my side-splitting japery... we have a game to discuss, we do.

Putting the Friday night Dallas horror show behind them somewhat, the Lakers posted a near-rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. The game was close for a half, but a 22-0 Laker firestorm in the third quarter sucked the oxygen out of the Hawks' upset bid. Sucking of a different kind took place in the fourth courtesy of the Laker scrubs, whose lousy play forced the starters back in for mop-up duty and shriveled the margin of victory to eight points.

I've plenty more thoughts about the game I'd love to share with you, but to read them you're gonna have to click below. Come on, dude, just humor me.

For a couple years now, the Hawks have hovered in the second tier of the NBA's caste system. They're nothing amazing and don't have much depth, but they can scare the true contenders when their jump shots are falling. Such was the case last night in the first quarter, when Joe Johnson went completely batshit insane.

Johnson can shoot like a mofo, and with 3:15 left in the first he'd scored 18 points on 7-for-8 from the field. Kobe Bryant had initially been assigned to guard him but had been roaming for steals, and Johnson punished him for it. Phil Jackson soon decreed that Ron Artest should instead take the assignment, and the switch worked out splendidly. Ron's more physical defensive style more or less neutralized Johnson, who shot 1-for-8 the rest of the way.

300px-joe_johnson_new_jersey_medium

With their primary weapons system eliminated, the Hawks struggled for pointage. One of two major problems was the Lakers' height. Atlanta surrendered an inch or two at nearly every position and could never find good inside looks. The long J's kept dropping for another quarter or so, but that wasn't going to last all night. For the game, the Hawks scored a respectable 1.09 points per possession - full game stats can be found below - but that figure is skewed by fourth quarter garbagio time. At the end of the third, by which time the outcome was no longer in doubt, the Laker D had held them to less than a point per possession.

Turnovers were the other big difficulty for the Hawks. A full fifth of their possessions ended without their getting a shot off, and numerous of those led to Laker runouts and dunks. Atlanta's not an especially turnover-prone team, having posted the league's sixth-lowest turnover rate last year, so credit the Lakemen's snarly D.

Turnover_medium

Kobe tore things up pretty nicely with the ball in his hands. He found the shooting riddim that had eluded him so far this year and finished with 41 points on 34 shots. (FYI, I define the term shots to include missed attempts that draw a shooting foul.) He and the other starters all moved the rock with purpose and precision. In both the second and third quarters, the Lakers sliced apart the Hawks' defense to the tune of more than 1.40 points per possession.

Bynum had a good game that could have been great. He was guarded primarily by the shorter Al Horford, who had no hope whatsoever of bothering him. Andrew missed several easy looks at the rim but still threw in 21 points on 17 shots. He collected only three boards, which obviously isn't enough, but several times he kept plays alive with tap-outs.

Odom_medium

Lamar Odom, for his part, is the early-season MVP of this team. He once again played a marvelous all-around game with a stat line to match: 11 points, 8 assists, 14 rebounds (four offensive) and a game-high plus/minus of +19. His sparkling play and Pau's absence both remind us how so very screwed the Lakers would be without him.

 

Poss.

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

EFG%

TS%

Off Reb%

Def Reb%

PPP

Lakers

101

16

0.29

84

56

60

34

67

1.17

Hawks

20

0.29

89

49

55

33

66

1.09

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