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Lakers Final Score: Lakers Thrash Warriors 101-77

With Mike Brown out of the picture, the purple and gold roar to an easy win.

Jeff Gross

Tonight the Lakers took their first bounding step out of the Mike Brown era and into what we all hope will be cheerier times. A turbulent day that began with Laker management calling an end to the Princeton offense experiment and whatever else Brown was cooking up ended with the sort of victory that used to be routine and should be routine. A young, undermanned Warriors squad got spanked by 24 points as the Lakers played with a looseness and verve that frankly we never saw once while Brown was in charge. For the first time since Phil Jackson was around - anyone know what that guy's up to these days? - the purple and gold played basketball like they actually enjoyed it and moved around the court like they didn't have cinderblocks lashed to their ankles.

This was the fastest-paced game the Lakers have played this year, with both teams missing loads of shots and pushing the ball upcourt off defensive boards. Golden State kept things even in the first quarter. Early in the second, though, they went six straight trips without scoring, allowing the Laker bench (!) to open up a slight margin. Another Warrior dry spell toward the end of the second let the lead drift into double-digits. Very briefly the Dubs pulled to within two early in the third, but they just didn't have enough ways to score on the bigger, stronger Lake Show. With Kobe Bryant (27 points on 10-for-18 shooting) scoring effectively and making contributions in every phase (7 assists, 9 rebounds, 2 steals), the Lakers went on a 28-10 run spanning the third and fourth periods to blow the game open. The fourth quarter was relaxing, stat-padding garbage time. We used to take performances like this for granted. Tonight it felt like a long-withheld treat.

The most striking aspect of this game is how freely and energetically the Lake Show performed. As Dwight Howard said in the locker room after the win, "We didn't think as much as we have the last couple games." The offense was simple: pass the ball into the big men, force the defense to collapse, start moving it around until you find an open teammate. The results weren't sparkling - just 1.04 points per possession, mostly thanks to poor first-half shooting - but everyone looked more comfortable and confident. Kobe played just 33 minutes and Dwight just 24.

The Laker reserves actually resembled a reliable second unit. In relief of a foul-plagued Steve Blake, Darius Morris (10 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 turnover) played his best game as a Laker. Antawn Jamison (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Jodie Meeks (7 points, 2 steals) shot badly early on but started to produce once they got the feel for the game. Jordan Hill (14 points on 5-for-5 shooting and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes) was just excellent. All four guys had plus-minuses well above zero.

As for the Warriors, they just couldn't get any sustainable offense going. With center Andrew Bogut out with a sore ankle they had no inside scoring options. The game might've gone differently had their perimeter guys buried some open looks in the first half, but once the Lakers found their footing it was clear this would be an L for the Dubs. The result knocks them down to 3-3 and boosts the Lake Show to 2-4. Up next: the Kings on Sunday night.

By then we might have ourselves a new head coach. Reports emerged tonight that the Lakers' front office will soon speak with Phil Jackson and Mike D'Antoni about the job. It's clear which option the Staples crowd prefers: periodically in the second half chants of "We want Phil!" filled the arena. This weekend will definitely be an interesting one. In the meantime, let's thank Bernie Bickerstaff for unburdening this team and finally just letting them play.










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