Another bad team, another easy game, another big victory.
Tonight, the Lakers made easy work of an undermanned Sacramento Kings squad that wasn't very good to begin with. Without their star Demarcus Cousins, who was serving the first game of a bizarre two game suspension, the Kings could never cobble together much of an offensive threat. After a slow start, LA began to pull away in the 2nd quarter and went into halftime with a nine point lead, which they quickly built well into double digits in the 3rd quarter. The game was never competitive in the second half.
After four straight games with less than 10 rebounds, Dwight Howard came back strong tonight, scoring 23 points and pulling down 18 boards. He added three blocks and affected a quite a few more shots over the course of the evening, looking considerably closer to the defensive menace we've come to know him as throughout his career. Pau Gasol, who was matched up against a much smaller Travis Outlaw for most of the night, was aggressive in the post in scoring 18 points on 50% shooting, Kobe was controlled in getting his 20 points along with six dimes and six rebounds, and Metta World Peace broke out of his mini-funk to throw in 18 points, including 4-8 three point shooting. The only downside of the evening was an abdominal strain to Steve Blake, limiting his evening to just 14 minutes. Blake did play after the injury, suggesting that his lack of minutes in the 2nd half might have been more precautionary than anything, but the Lakers are already short one point guard. It would be a shame if Blake does miss time, since the Lakers are already thin at the position, and Blake has played far better than anybody expected he would in Steve Nash's absence.
Most important of all, for the first time all season, the Lakers looked like a team that genuinely enjoyed playing basketball. The win against Detroit was a relief, and there wasn't much joy on Friday night against Golden State because the team was dealing with the aftermath of having their head coach fired. But tonight, whether it was Pau Gasol throwing a full length outlet pass to Darius Morris, or Kobe Bryant throwing a lob to Metta World Peace, the Lakers were visibly more relaxed than they have been at any other time this season.
And why not? For the first time this season, the Lakers are officially on a winning streak. It might not mean much, because the competition has been extremely light, but these two games were just what the doctor ordered for a team very much in need of some happiness. Things will get real, real fast with the Western Conference leading San Antonio Spurs coming to town on Tuesday night, but with luck, the Lakers might be buoyed by some more good news by then.