Player of the Week: Steve Blake

Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers official Twitter account

Guard Steve Blake provided poetic justice for the Los Angeles Lakers with his game-winning three pointer over Dwight Howard on the team's lone victory in this week's road trip.

Heading into the second week of the regular season, the Lakers’ schedule appeared to be fairly daunting as the team would have to go on a mini road trip versus three potential playoff teams following the home win against the Atlanta Hawks at the end of last week. Odds makers expected (and fans would have accepted) a 0-3 week. Houston was a long-shot, given the discrepancy in talent, and New Orleans was on the second night of a back-to-back. The optimistic fan hoped the team could steal a win in Dallas, but those aspirations were put quickly to bed once that game tipped off. In the three-game stretch from Tuesday in Dallas to Friday in New Orleans, there’s very little doubt in my mind that Steve Blake, aka Vino Blanco, was the Lakers’ most valuable player over the past few games. And on Thursday, when most of the nation was watching either the Oregon-Stanford or Vikings-Redskins matchup, Blake hit a game-winning three pointer over the outstretched arms of Dwight Howard to give the Lakers its only victory on the three-game road trip.

In the short but so-far encouraging season, the one theme we know will continue to present itself all season is the 'living and dying' by the three. The Lakers are currently second in the league in three pointers attempted per game (26.3), and third in the league in three pointers made per game (10.3). The game against Houston, in what almost became a tragic tale of two halves, exemplified the team’s willingness to let their shooting carry them for as long as possible.

L.A. knocked down 11-14 (78.6%) attempts from behind the arc in the first half. Five different Lakers had hit one by halftime, with Blake, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks and Steve Nash each finding the mark on multiple occasions. The team finished the game 16-35 (45.7%) from three-point range. Meeks and Blake led the way with five and four each, respectively. It was Blake, however, who got free off a Steve Nash screen on a set play to hit the game-winning three with 1.3 seconds left on the game clock. Blake once again proved why he is one of Kobe Bryant’s favorite teammates.

When previewing the point guards for this season earlier last month, this is what I had to say about Blake:

More than his feistiness and shooting ability, what highlights Blake's value on the team is how he steps up his production when needed to do so. When Nash missed the final eight games of the season, Blake upped his averages to 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steals. In Kobe's absence, Blake averaged 18.8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.5 steals in the final two regular season games and two playoff appearances. No one expects to see these types of numbers for a full season, but having someone reliable and tough like Blake is a sigh of relief for the coaching staff.

As evidenced by the win and losses this week, the team’s success this season will largely be dictated by their effort and energy. With Steve Blake, however, there is a certain sense of consistency and reliability that comes with having him on the floor. This wasn't the first time Blake hit a big shot down the stretch, let alone a game winner against the Houston Rockets. Given his work ethic and on-court demeanor, it's a fair bet to say it won't be his last.

Stats for the Week (three games)

12 points, 3.7 assists, 2 rebs, 2.3 turnovers in approximately 32 minutes per game. He shot 12-28 from the floor (42.9 FG%), including 9-18 from three (50% 3PT), and 3-4 from the free throw line (75% FT).

Nick Young led the way for the Lakers against Dallas with 21 points on 8-12 shooting. Blake had 13 points and 8 assists in Friday night’s 96-85 loss at New Orleans.

The Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2) on Sunday at Staples Center.

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