The Lakers are lighting the league on fire, now on a monstrous two-game winning streak. Ok, the Lakers are winning, and it just feels good to win sometimes. Kobe Bryant set the tone early as he facilitated, much like he did against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Lakers offense got off to a roaring start. Specifically, and most importantly, they involved Dwight Howard early and often, and set him up the best they have all season as he finished strong around the rim.The Milwaukee Bucks kept the game competitive through the majority, but in the fourth quarter the Lakers pulled away. Final score; 104-88. There seems to be air in this stuffy room again.
In perhaps his most complete game on both sides of the floor, Kobe Bryant was brilliant for the Lakers. 12-19 for 31 points, 6 assists, and most surprising a very active game on the defensive side of the ball. Early on it was his ball movement and defense that had the Lakers engaged. In the fourth quarter he hit a handful of ridiculous shots, and eventually was able to sub out of the game with time to spare (36:40 on the night). A great game from Kobe, who didn't just talk the talk of taking more responsibility defensively, but walked the walk. He did a fantastic job of denying his man the ball, and played dedicated on-ball defense. This is the type of effort that needs to be made consistently, but is a definite starting point for his resolve in helping right the Lakers horribly wrong defense.
Dwight Howard was a monster for the Lakers. He dominated the Bucks bigs as he scored 31 points (14-18), 16 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, and was moving on the defensive end as well as the offensive end. The fact that he had a much more pleasing ratio of flailing layups vs. thunderous dunks than we've seen from his perhaps all season is one of the most positive takeaways here. With Howard finishing strong around the rim he ended his night with only 2 turnovers. We've seen "bouncy Dwight" games come and go this season (mostly go) so each time he looks a bit healthier there's fair reason to approach with cautious optimism. If he continues to build upwards from this point and doesn't regress, as we've often seen, then perhaps the Lakers season really did begin Sunday.
Yes, Dwight and Kobe combined for 62 points on 26-37 70.2% shooting. That's more like it, gents.
The Milwaukee Bucks couldn't find a consistent way to attack the Lakers defense. Their back court of Monta Ellis (17 points) and Brandon Jennings (12 points) had a mere 29 points on 10-30 shooting combined. Where they did their damage was on the offensive glass, as they pulled down 21(!) offensive rebounds. For all the good the Lakers did, their ability to keep the defensive glass clean continues to be a problem. Second chance points are killer for a team that is struggling on D. Beno Udrih was great off the bench for the Bucks with 14 points and 7 assists in 26 minutes of playing time. There just wasn't enough fire to fight the inferno the Lakers were blazing on both ends of the floor.
With Howard playing dominant and making the most of his touches and Kobe Bryant leaving it all on the floor (against the Milwaukee Bucks in January) on both ends, Steve Nash was able to operate as he wanted. His 11 assists were enough to keep the wheels turning on the offense despite his uncharacteristic 3-10 shooting night (0-4 from deep). Earl Clark had another solid night, benefiting from not needing to play beyond his game on the offensive side of the ball, and continues to play good defense both in the team and individual aspect. Another stat-stuffing night for Clark as he gave the Lakers 6 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 blocked shot.
The Lakers have once again began building up their momentum. The timing couldn't be better, as their next game is Thursday against the Miami Heat. Let's hope the Lakers didn't give us an anomaly, and can build on this complete game. The roller coaster ride is beginning it's ascension once again. Where will it be after Thursday night?
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- Brew Hoop was just blitzed defensively by Kobe Bryant. Soak it in over there.