Mar 14, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets small forward Trevor Ariza (1) shoots while defended by Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) in the first half of their game at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE
The Los Angeles Lakers managed to complete an epic comeback, erasing a lead that went as high as 17, and grinding out a victory
over two in overtime s by making just enough clutch plays to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies New Orleans Hornets by a final score of 116-111 107-101. 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.
That paragraph was taken nearly word for word from last night's recap, because today's game was the closest you will ever see to a carbon copy of the game that came before. There are some key differences, however. Tonight's opponent is not close to the quality of last night's opponent, even if the Grizzlies were missing two key players last night. Tonight's 1st half effort level was much more excusable due to the effort expended in achieving victory the night before. And tonight's performance by Andrew Bynum, while still extremely impressive, was not the primary component in keying the Lakers victory. That honor belongs to The Black Mamba.
Kobe Bryant is 33 years old. He's 4th among active players in terms of minutes played in his career. He's 2nd in minutes played this season. He played 52 minutes in a fine effort less than 24 hours ago. By all conceivable measures, Kobe Bryant should be exhausted as a human being. He had every excuse to lack energy, to settle for easy and lazy outside shots. When his first four shots of the game were from three point range, you could be forgiven for thinking that was exactly what might occur, leaving us to hope he got hot. Instead, we were treated to one of Kobe's most energetic and aggressive outings of the season. Not aggressive as in gunning, Kobe only took 23 attempts on the evening. Instead, his aggressiveness was displayed in the way he continued to attack the rim time after time. In addition to his 10 made field goals, Kobe added 11 free throws to supplement his 33 points.
The Big Three all came to play tonight. As previously mentioned, Andrew Bynum had another fine outing with 25 points and 18 boards. Pau Gasol was solid with 18 points and 10 boards (though six turnovers marred his evening), and perhaps the most impressive stat of the night is that every member of the starting unit had between three and five assists. The Lakers improved play over the past 15 games or so can be directly attributed to these guys getting into a fantastic rhythm offensively (sometimes including Steve Blake for Derek Fisher). They are looking for each other and finding each other in great position, especially the Kobe-Pau-Bynum triumvirate that seems to be in a real groove in terms of utilizing each other's strengths and weaknesses. Turnovers continue to be a problem for the Lakers, as do opposing point guards. Jarrett Jack and Grevis Vasquez combined for 2 billion points on 300-300 shooting in the first half (approximately), but they cooled down in the 2nd half to allow the Lakers to escape with another close victory.
All things considered, the long minutes played the previous night, the late arrival into town, the slow shooting and lack of energy displayed in the first half and the hot shooting start for the Hornets, this is a victory the Lakers are probably lucky to have in their pocket. Still, give credit to the team for sticking with the game plan, grinding their way back for the second night in a row, and executing again down the stretch to steal yet another win. The Hornets may be the worst team in the Western Conference, but this is a game the Lakers should be proud of winning nonetheless.