The way the Lakers have been playing in their post All-Star break 17-1 run might just be the best basketball this team has played in the past four seasons. That's saying a lot considering how good this team has been and how well the last few seasons have ended. I can't think of any stretch in which this team has looked so in tune. Everyone who sees regular playing time is making a contribution. Of course, Kobe and Pau are their typical All-World selves. Lamar Odom is on his way to 6th Man of the Year. Even better, X-Factors Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest are impacting the game like All-Star starters.
Production from talent like that alone is enough to win most nights. They're closing out close games, eating up leads, playing tough defense, and rolling supposed conference contenders. But they didn't get to this awesome level of play just on the backs of their stars. As the Playoffs arrive, even the role players are fulfilling their roles, and it's making the Lakers seem invincible.
In considering the Player of the Week, every player has a shot to win because we choose the winner based on whomever played their role within the team best. This week, the winner is Steve Blake.
With a team this good, everyone is playing their role well. I could close my eyes and pick any player and make a case for them. Sometimes, I find myself looking for the small things to make a decision. The "intaglibles." So, why Steve Blake?
You might look at his stats and think I'm a fool, right? Sometimes I am, but that's a story for another day. The thing is, the Lakers don't need flashy production from Steve Blake. They need him to keep the offense flowing, hit shots when open, and hopefully play a little defense. This week, he provided just what they needed and even added some toughness to boot.
Hell, I could have named him Player of the Week based on Jason Terry's 5-point night alone. If you don't know, Terry is a 1st Ballot Lakers Killer Hall of Famer. He murders us every time. Blake harassed and smothered so much, the "Jet" felt the need to start this:
Earlier in the season, I thought Blake was a bust. Overall, he played tentatively, never shot the ball, when he did he'd miss, and even get roasted on defense. I'd still like to see him shoot a little better, but he's been more aggressive, and his defense has been better. Now, not only do the "Killer B's" hold leads, a problem that has plagued the Lakers' bench, but they'll erase deficits at times. A confident Steve Blake is a big reason why. This week, Blake epitomizes why the Lakers are playing so well; everyone knows their role and is playing it right.
I'll let C.A. take it from here:
Steve Blake in particular looks like a new man. His numbers are hardly what you would call special, with only 4 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists, but one play was the perfect illustration of his recent confidence with the team: A loose ball was batted out towards Blake and two Utah Jazz players on the Lakers' defensive end. The three players converged on the spot, but Blake was just half a step quicker to the ball. He grabbed it and, in mid-air, threw it around his back to start the break as the two Jazz players were left gripping nothing but air. Blake continued down the court in a fast break opportunity and, with no passing lanes available, calmly pulled up for a not-so-dreaded pull up jumper in transition.