The purple and gold took the floor at Staples Center for the first time since their seven game road-trip as the Phoenix Suns came to town. As has been the case lately for this team, the Lakers didn't put on much of a show, but picked up another much needed win against a struggling team. The final score in tonight's contest: 91-85.
Throw this one in the highly stacked pile of "ugly wins" that the Lakers have put on while they've managed to win 8 of their last 11 contests, but that's all we can ask for at this point. Kobe Bryant had one of the most awkward games of perhaps his career as he spent the first half of the game over-passing. He tallied up 9 assists on the night and didn't fire off a field goal until the second half. His first field goal make came with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Kobe ended the night with a team low 4 points (1-8), 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and 8 turnovers.
While his passing was welcome, it was well overdone. It's important for Kobe to involve his teammates, but balance is still necessary. He doesn't have to only pass, then only score. He needs to mix up both, keep defenses off-balance, and play within the flow of the game. Something he can do when he's clicking on all cylinders. Tonight was not his night.
Dwight Howard, however, had a very good statistical night. 19 points and 18 rebounds is a great night for any player, but for Howard it still felt effortless. Regardless, it was good to see him active and working on the glass. Despite his waxing of the boards the Suns were still able to keep the rebounding numbers between the teams locked up at 48 a piece, while also having 12 offensive rebounds each.
No other Laker starter had double digit rebounds, but off the bench Antawn Jamison served as a life raft for an otherwise sinking offense. He pulled down 10 rebounds, 4 of them off the offensive glass. While the Lakers struggled to put the ball in the basket, Jamison cleaned up the mess on a handful of putbacks that helped propel the Lakers to their victory tonight.
In the third quarter the Lakers offense was only able to scrape together 9 points. 9 points?! Yes, 9 points.
Metta World Peace hoisted up 16 shots and made 6 of them for 17 points while also grabbing 8 rebounds and picking up 4 steals. For the Suns, they were once again led by Michael Beasley off the bench, who had 18 points. Jermaine O'Neal went to work against a hobbled frontcourt and had 12 points, 13 rebounds (4 offensive), and even picked up a block against the non-springy Dwight. In the fourth quarter the Suns offense fizzled out as they only score 14 points, while the Lakers bounced back from their third quarter 9 point slump and put on 26 more points.
The Lakers improve to 25-28 on the season, three games away from reaching the .500 mark. It has gotten to the point where a win, no matter how it comes, is enough. With each win hope still flickers for the Lakers, and so long as there's hope, there's time for this group to stop stumbling over their own shoe laces and start running at full speed.
Anything is plenty, though. Another win and the Lakers train keeps chugging along. Next up, a romantic Valentines Day dinner with the Clippers.
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