DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 03: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Andre Miller #24 of the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on February 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 93-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Last night, your Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets, in Denver, by a final score of 93-89. This win was unusual for the Lakers in more ways than one: first off, they actually won a close game - even more unusual considering that it was a close game against a good team; also they won a road game, just their third of the season.
So, what did they do differently? Well, offensively, it almost appeared they combined the best aspects of both their last two games, contribution-wise. Whilst the big three all had decent games, Kobe's bad shooting notwithstanding, the Lakers still managed to gain good contributions from their supporting cast, with the non-big-three members combining for 36 points in total. Pretty mediocre by most team's standards, but hell it's progress for the Lakers.
Goudelock's stretch of good play continues, and whilst this author, for one, is still too haunted by memories of Shannon Brown to put much faith in him continuing this play on a consistent basis, it's still something that's nice to enjoy while it lasts. Fisher had a rare good game. Kobe shot poorly, but contributed in other areas. Bynum was beasting. Pau was a bit passive in terms of getting his shots, but still found plenty of other ways to contribute. Metta had a good all-round game. None of these are things we haven't heard before, but to be able to say all of them about a single game is rare, indeed.
So, what was different? I can't really tell, but it goes without saying that it's a key question: if the Lakers can recognise what they did differently to pull out this win, perhaps they can take it to heart and continue to improve their play over the season. If not, last night's game gets shelved as an anomaly, a fluke, and the team continues to wallow in their mediocrity of much of this season.
The Lakers also held an advantage on the boards, considering their downward spiral in rebound rate that Actuarially Sound noted in the latest edition of Laker trends; whilst taking better care of the rock than the Nuggets. Take out Andrew Bynum's three-point attempt, and the Lakers shot a mediocre (an improvement, for them) 33% from deep to supplement their 50%eFG for the game. They shot poorly from the line, but at least they were getting to the line.
Small victories, all of the above. Kind of like a 3-game winning streak is a small-victory, compared to some of the stretches of dominance one has become accustomed to witnessing from these Lakers over the last few years, and the decades before that. But small victories are where it has to start. These Los Angeles Lakers are no longer a dominant team which can simply out-talent and/or out-big all their opponents. They're too old, slow, and shallow for that. These small victories are desperately needed. They are how a team that has no business in the NBA Finals may steal victory. Even an elephant can be brought down if swarmed by enough ants.