Well, the Lakers won. The fact that that is news is quite bluntly, depressing. Never mind the fact that the Jazz have been streaking like crazy for the last few months, never mind that they’re one of the best teams in the NBA, the Lakers should still win these games with regularity. Some may call me a ‘typical arrogant spoilt Lakers fan’ for saying so, but hey, it’s the truth. Nonetheless, considering the Lakers’ play of late, not just the 2-3 road trip, but their play since the All-Star break. Hell, their play near all this season, it’s nice to see Los Angeles add another ‘W’ to the column.
A ho-hum affair, this game. Every one outside the Playoffs is. While it seems impressive by the Lakers’ lowered standards of this season, this was the type of game one could expect against any good team by Los Angeles with regularity last season. A 14 point victory, when the Lakers’ top-heavy talent could have outplayed the less skilled Jazz to garner a 25-point victory. However, to even entertain the notion that this victory was not impressive considering the present circumstances is ridiculous (as much as I may have beliefs to the contrary).
Anyways, I better not depress all of you with my jaded and cynical outlook on all things Laker right now, so now to actual analysis.
Lamar Odom, Lamar Odom, Lamar Odom. When he is aggressive like that, chances of us winning are extremely high (sounds bland, I know, but I’m not one to subscribe to the common journalistic cliché of hyperbole). He was aggressive and efficient in the first, and it led to 11 points on perfect shooting and a 33-16 first quarter split. Then in the fourth the Lakers let the Jazz get dangerously close, and he hits two threes and puts another three on the board the Chuck Norris way to aid in the process of once again pulling away. 90% True Shooting. 26/10/3. ‘Nuff. Said.
After the killer first quarter by L.A, the Jazz started clawing back into this game thanks to Deron Williams catching fire (literally. There are burn marks on the Staples Center floor), primarily against Jordan Farmar until Phil had the sense to switch Artest onto him and force him further out. Then some cold shooting in the third by L.A had both teams playing to roughly a draw through the quarter overall, allowing the Jazz to get within single digits early on in the fourth before Lamar Odom and monsieur Mamba put the game away for real.
Derek Fisher had what, as Dex said, was possibly his best game of the season. 14 points on 5-7 shooting, 2 threes, 2 boards, 2 assists with 0 turnovers and somehow swatting some poor fool (seriously, how do you do that at 6’1" without any vertical?). All on good, in-control shots, too. Trust that bastard to step up when the Lakers need it most and going distance in making us somewhat forget of his shortcomings in lieu of his goddamned intangibles. Derek, you’re off my shit list, too. But still, screw you.
Pau Gasol had a mediocre at best scoring game by his lofty standards, making 4 shots out of 8 but only 60% from the line (though getting there 10 times shows some nice aggression). More impressive was the 16 boards. Granted, it was against a front line that is a combination of short and soft, but Boozer and Millsap are still nasty rebounders and 16 rebounds is impressive in any circumstance. Most impressive of all, of course, was his 9 assists (opposed to only 2 turnovers, for an assist-turnover ratio that most point guards would envy). Pau showed some of that masterful skill of dissecting opposing defenses with his ridiculous passing skills, that same skill that had some last year contending that he was a legitimate option for ‘best big man in the game’ (pfft. Chris Bosh, anyone?).
Kobe had a pretty atrocious game from the field (I may be guilty of an understatement there) and really didn't do anything special otherwise. However, Kobe being Kobe, he still managed to put 25 points on the board by getting to the foul line 18 times, which is pretty ridiculous for him these years - hell, a while back he trudged through three games without a single free throw. The fact that he only hit 15 of those 18 is still a worry, but I suppose one must grow accustomed to his finger injuries being a longstanding detriment to his shooting. Pretty subpar game by the newly-made 30-million-dollar man.
Ron Artest had a pretty standard ‘Ron’ game. Subpar shooting, but contributing in other areas with 6 boards, 3 dimes and some key defense on Deron Williams; stopping him from ending the Lakers. Ron is a streaky shooter, and there is nothing we can do for his mediocre shooting other than pray it will improve for the Playoffs, or at least the Finals.
Hell, our bench even showed some spark. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown both hit key threes in the second to stay Utah for at least a while longer, and didn’t play completely out of control as they are wont to do. Wait, what was that? That three was the only one of his three shots that Jordan hit, and excluding Shannon’s three he only hit 2 other shots whilst missing 8 (seriously, how the hell can a BENCH player jack up the third-most shots on the team for only 8 points?). Well, I guess beggars can’t be choosers. On a related note, LUKE WALTON IS BACK NEXT GAME! Maybe we’ll finally see some execution out of our bench (touch wood).
DJ played a solid three minutes, and I do wish Phil played him some more when Los Angeles put the game out of reach, as I’m not comfortable with Pau playing 42 minutes, particularly after his well-documented issues earlier on in this nightmare of a season regarding exhaustion. Most importantly regarding the active bench, Sasha finally swallowed his pride and bought the Lakers’ Coaches breakfast before the game, finally freeing him from their doghouse and getting him a handful of garbage-time minutes, which he converted into three points in none-too-ridiculous (for better or worse) play. Also, J-Peezy played. The world did not end due to his atrociousness (I still subscribe to the belief that what the Mayans predicted would occur in 2012 was mistranslated, and NOT the end of the world but rather the day Josh Powell makes the All-Star team. Same difference, really). That is all.
As Dex said, the previously vaunted Los Angeles defense held another team to below a point per possession for the first time in over a month, whilst early on in the season that was the norm. Maybe L.A can make it the norm again? While we’re at it, maybe I can swashbuckle this blogging gig into a full press pass with front-row seats (coupled with transport from Australia to Lakers games, of course)? Not likely. However, all we can ask is that our defense is maintained at a level that when it is paired with sufficient offense, can enable the Lakers to win Playoff and Finals games. Potentially, this game is a turnaround from the depths of mediocre-defense-hell the Lakers had descended to. No guarantees, though.
A nice win. I expected a ‘turnaround’ game like this eventually, it was only inevitable. However, the pressing question is whether or not the Lakers can maintain this level of play, and we have seen nothing to prove this yet. In fact, the occasional lapses in this game result in it not reassuring me whatsoever, as a true dominant team would respond to such a horrendous road trip by putting boot to throat for a full 48 minutes and 30-piecing the poor fools scheduled to play them, regardless of how good the opposition is.
No further word on Bynum’s return. The diagnosis still remains at ‘hopefully next weekend, or at the worst the weekend after that’. Considering the Lakers’ staff’s track record of underhanding recovery times and Bynum’s history of taking extended periods of time to recuperate, we should be happy to get him back any time before the commencement of the true season.
Saurav A. Das