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Stray Bullets: Picking Up The Slack

Imagine I gave you the raw box score of the Lakers starters from last night, but withheld the score, except to tell you there was no blowout.  Then you saw that Kobe Bryant scored only 11 points on 3-10 shooting, with 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and that Pau Gasol scored 8 points on 2-10 shooting, and 5 rebounds.  Most likely, you'd think the Lakers lost, right?  For the team's two best players to score and shoot less than Kobe does himself on any given night, it couldn't possibly be a good sign, right?  In a Playoff game at that?  In most cases, and probably for any other team in the NBA, it's the makings of a miserable loss.

Instead, the Lakers secondary stars and bench stepped up to carry the night, because they are the deepest, most talented team in the NBA.   This couldn't happen a year ago.  Or even two years ago.  Bynum wasn't able to step up and carry the team without being a blackhole.  Lamar wasn't consistent and confident enough to put the team on his back.  It always fell on Kobe and/or Pau.  The rest of the Lakers fed off of them this time. As time goes on, no longer do they need Kobe or Pau to be All-World to find their own game.  Pau's slacking?  Andrew raised the intensity.  Kobe's focusing on defending Chris Paul instead of scoring?  Lamar took over the game.

 Last night, Kobe and Pau rode Lamar, Andrew, Ron and the bench to a win.  Hopefully, it pulls the Lakers out of the semi-funk they've been in.

  • It was far from a perfect game, but the Lakers showed a glimpse again of why they are the most talented team in the NBA.  Anyone of five guys can step up and beat you. 
  • I'm cool with the Lakers scoring 84 points if they continue to play defense like that.  Last night's defense was similar to the D they played in their 18-1 post All-Star Game break.
  • I hate Carl Landry.  Not my Kenyon Martin kind of hate though.  I mean it as a compliment.  Dude is a straight up Lakers killer.  He wasn't as good as he was in Game 1, but he never hesitates to take it straight at Pau.  Want to know why Pau looks shell-shocked?  It's mostly because Carl Landry smells Pau's fear like a a shark smells blood.  I feel David West's injury is a secret blessing for the Hornets like Yao's injury was for the Rockets a couple of years ago.  West, like Carlos Boozer, is bothered by the Lakers bigs.  Landry isn't.  He's quicker, more athletic, and isn't scared to attack the basket, and it's keeping Pau off of his game.
  • Never mind Kobe's off night statistically.  I thought he played well.  It's not often that you see Kobe perfectly willing to let the game flow as it is.  He was asked to play D on Chris Paul, and play D he did.  Kobe only taking ten shots?  He might do that in one quarter alone some games.  Limiting Chris Paul was far more important than the 34 points Mamba put in Game 1.  
  • Chris Paul scored 20 points last night on 5-11 from the floor,and 8-11 free throws.  Take away the two quarter ending threes, and two silly Kobe fouls at the three point line (CP3 went 5-6 from the line on those), and Paul only scored 9 points within the flow of the offense.  Those threes and Kobe fouls didn't come in the expense of Paul controlling the pace and killing the Lakers D.  In Game 1, he carved up the Lakers, creating mismatches on pick and rolls, then leaving Pau and Bynum hesitant and unsure while he tossed up jumpers, runners, found Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry, and Aaron Gray, or earned trips to the charity stripe.  Due to disciplined defense by Kobe and company, Paul wasn't able to create as well.  Our bigs wer able to stay home and keep theirs from easy buckets.  The ball was forced out of CP3's hands and the Lakers in turn forced 16 turnovers last night, as opposed to 3 in Game 1.
  • When Kobe did shoot, the bulk of it came by beating Trevor Ariza off the dribble all night long.  Especially to the left.  I thought he took too long getting the shot up on some drives, and he was hacked and no whistle on a few, but his dunk on the other side of the rim was especially sweet.
  • Speaking of Trevor Ariza, he had a great game.  But as Saurav mentioned jn his preview, having Trevor take the shots is something the Lakers are probably fine with.  Ariza did a great job of not settling for jumpers and he attacked the basket with success, but his role as main scorer happened as Hornets were only able to score 78 points against tough Lakers defense.  More Ariza and less Chris Paul is something the Lakers will take every game.
  • Tony Brothers is the worst.
  • The Lakers seemed to want to push the tempo in Game 2.  I  wrote a preview for a Hornets game this season, and noticed that the Hornets used a slow pace to their advantage.  It allows Chris Paul to control the pace of the game, and kill you with his pick and rolls.  The tide really turned when the bench came in.  It seemed that the Lakers wanted to push the ball on missed Hornets shots and turnovers.  They did a great job of getting out and putting pressure on the Hornets defense before they could set up.  I thought Steve Blake did a great job of pressuring Chris Paul and Jarret Jack, while getting the ball to Matt Barnes and others in transition opportunities.  
  • Ron Artest had a plus/minus of -6, while Marco Belinelli was +7.  Go figure.
  • I wasn't sure if that was Steve Blake or Caillou.



  • Reggie Miller mentioned that Monty Williams stated that "his guys fight each other in practice."  I wish someone would fight Pau.
  • Bynum and Pau need to hedge the screens on every Okafor/Gray & CP3 screen/roll.  No way Okafor and Gray can do something with the ball 15-18 feet out.  If they think they can, let them.  Win/win for the Lakers.
  • Does Derek Fisher ever think about pulling up and holding the ball, or passing on any transition opportunity?  Whenever he's the first Laker over the half court line and he has the ball, he's guaranteed to put his head down and go to the hole.  Doesn't matter if it's 1-on-1 or 1-on-5.
  • So long as he breaks up more transition buckets than he botches, I'll deal.  He has an uncanny knack of breaking up fastbreaks no matter the numbers.  
  • Lamar was great, huh?  I can't say enough about him.  He single handedly ate up the Hornets early lead and along with Andrew Bynum seized control of the game for good.  No longer does he defer to Kobe or Pau when he has obvious advantages.
  • When Lamar was subbed in for the first time, he came in for Pau instead of Andrew.  That never happens.  That tells you how bad Pau is playing.  Kudos to Phil for making it a point to drive the point home to Pau.  He even called him out duirng the 3rd Quarter sideline interview.
  • If Andrew didn't get into foul trouble, Pau would have played less minutes in the second half.
  • Pau?  I really have nothing elseto say about you.  If you're going to struggle against the Hornets like this, what about the Mavs, Blazers, Thunder, Celtics, Heat, or Bulls?  You better step up homie.  I'm getting really tired of seeing these ultra-weak games from you.
  • Thank God Andrew is healthy.  
  • Knock on wood.
  • Don't worry Pau, I still believe in you.

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