Mar 13, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) dunks the ball during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
The Los Angeles Lakers managed to complete an epic comeback, erasing a lead that went as high as 16, and grinding out a victory over two overtimes by making just enough clutch plays to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies by a final score of 116-111. That the Lakers managed victory despite stretches in the first half and third quarter which were completely bereft of effort and focus shows that the team is beginning to figure out just how to be most effective when they put their mind to it. Of course, it helps when the answer to being effective is so simple .. see that massive human being you have near the basket? Give it to him.
Andrew Bynum had what had to be the best game of his professional career. He's scored more than tonight's 37 points tonight. He's brought down more than 16 boards on many occasions. But tonight, he scored in every possible way, and did so against an opponent that, theoretically, has all the necessary tools to give him trouble. The book on Andrew Bynum this season is that he can be a dominant force against smaller opponents, but big centers who aren't afraid to push back cause him problems. Well, Marc Gasol is a big center who isn't afraid to push back, and Andrew Bynum torched him. Drew scored on lobs, Drew scored on post ups, Drew scored on hooks, and Drew scored by simply overpowering a man that is pound for pound his equal.
Dominant centers aside, the Lakers also needed a strong game from Kobe Bryant, who was excellent in scoring 34 points on 25 shots, pulling down 9 boards and dishing 5 assists. More importantly, he struck a fine balance between hero ball (which was moderately successful) and facilitator (which was hugely successful) in the 4th quarter and overtimes. Kobe will always be Kobe, and so there will always be moments like his missed fade away at the end of the first OT (not necessarily a bad shot, but there was never a doubt that Kobe would be the one shooting it), but he kept that scorer's mentality from jumping the shark and the triangle of Kobe, Pau Gasol (whose 8 assists only partially mitigate an otherwise pedestrian 14 and 5) and Andrew Bynum formed an unstoppable connection of slip screens, dump offs, and lob passes down the stretch. The Kobe-Gasol screen and roll, with Gasol slipping the screen, receiving the pass, and lobbing to Bynum as Bynum's man rotates, is as unstoppable a set play as any team in the league has, and should be run at least 5-10 times a game.
On a quieter note, congratulations to Derek Fisher for reaching 10,000 points as an NBA player. It's awesome for Fish, and he deserves it as one of the league's true ambassadors. However, we must point out that It is ironic Fisher was able to achieve this feat on a night when his status as a starter became strictly ceremonial. By letting Steve Blake play the entire 4th quarter and both overtimes (despite Fisher's OK line of 8 points on 5 shots), Mike Brown has made it clear that, while Fisher cannot be replaced in the starting lineup, for legacy reasons, his place as the Lakers primary point guard has come to an end. Raise your glasses to the end of an era, going out in style.
And raise your glasses to the Los Angeles Lakers. 3rd place in the Western Conference, a win against their closest competition on their home floor (and don't give me any of this Grizzlies didn't have Z-bo and Gay nonsense, Marreese Speights went for 25 and 9), hell a win against anybody on their home floor, the Lakers are ebbing and flowing their way right into prime position for the season. This team may be dysfunctional as hell, but they apparently still have the talent to remain dangerous if enough things fall in their favor.