Lakers Final Score: Lakers Exorcise Demons, er Warriors 101-77

Jeff Gross

After handing Mike Brown a pink slip, the Lakers got back to basics and pulled away with a strong second half effort.

There is a well known phenomenon in basketball wherein any time a team makes an in-season coaching change, that team is likely to see immediate results in the form of improved play. It doesn't mean the team is suddenly better, but for whatever reason, when the man in charge is canned, it briefly changes whatever circumstances led to the dismissal in the first place. If the team was too tight, they relax. If they were tuned out, they pay attention. If they weren't focused, they lock in.

Tonight, with Mike Brown somewhere besides Staples Center and chants of "We Want Phil" ringing down from the rafters, the Lakers were very much the beneficiary of the phenomenon. After a first half in which neither team could hit the broad side of a barn, the Lakers pulled away in the 2nd half with a strong defensive effort and a bench which Freaky Friday'd their counterparts into being the less crappy of two bad units. The final score was a 24 point victory, and the relief felt across Lakers Nation was palpable.

No Laker came out with more intent than Pau Gasol. Gasol's line isn't exactly sterling due to a poor shooting effort (6-18), but just that he took 18 shots belied an aggressiveness that will always make Pau a better player. That aggressiveness could also be seen in his team high 16 rebounds (nobody else even hit double digits), and one could tell by his fist pumping every time David Lee traveled that Gasol was engaged to the fullest. This is no coincidence, since Gasol mentioned after Mike Brown's dismissal that the firing was as much a message to the players to pick it up as it was to Brown to pack it up.

Despite Pau's aggressiveness, Kobe Bryant stole the show. In the first half, Kobe had far too many turnovers, and was responsible for some very lax defending, but he reined it in after halftime and ended up with a pristine line of 27 points on 18 shots, with 9 boards and seven assists. And the best part? Just 33 minutes. Only Pau's minutes were concerning (he played 40) but foul trouble to Dwight Howard forced that situation. And Bernie Bickerstaff had a bit of trolling fun with me and the rest of Lakers Nation. With the Lakers up 20+ and 5 minutes to go, there was a full timeout that screamed for the starters to find their way to the bench. Instead, both Kobe and Pau were still on the floor after the timeout, leading your humble scribe to scream something about Mike Brown coaching by cell phone. But Kobe and Pau were both on the bench less than a minute later. Bernie Bickerstaff, what a freaking troll ...

Finally, big ups to the bench, who were surprisingly un-terrible tonight. Darius Morris had easily his best game ever, cracking double digits for the first time in his career, and adding 5 board and 5 dimes to boot. He's been knocking down threes this season, which adds a dimension to his game that just wasn't there last year, and certainly makes him an interesting proposition of a player going forward. Antawn Jamison didn't shoot well, but he did shoot, and that is progress. And Jordan Hill continues to be the Lakers' best bench player, this time doing it on the scoreboard with 14 points, instead of his customary work on the glass. Last, but not least, Jodie Meeks is alive! He played 15 minutes, and hit a couple shots en route to 7 points. Don't worry about calling the dairy company to get his face taken off of milk cartons, I've already taken care of it.

All in all, a comfortable win which is exactly what the Lakers needed. Now, if they could just find a head coach ...



Golden State Of Mind

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