The Lakers were cooking tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. In the first half alone they made 10 three pointers, riding Darius Morris (15), Jodie Meeks (8), Metta World Peace (11), and of course Kobe Bryant (18) to a 60 point first half. Opening up the game with the energy the Lakers seemed to have in Philly made up for Dwight Howard's quiet start, scoring only five points on 2-7 shooting, and having trouble dealing with Kwame Brown's post defense. The Sixers made a run at the Lakers in the 4th quarter, cutting the lead down to single digits at one point, but the Lakers offense was just too much on this Sunday evening. Lakers defeat the Sixers with a little bit of everything, final score: 111-98.
Yes, the Lakers held an opponent under 100 points. Just the 3rd time over the last 10 games.
While Dwight Howard certainly struggled on the offensive side of the ball for the majority of the game (though once Kwame Brown sat and Spencer Hawes anchored the Sixers, things certainly done changed), he still left his imprint on the defensive end. Two blocked shots don't do justice to the amount of disruption he caused in the paint. His activity levels were in the "Dwight is Dwight" range, and certainly made a difference for a Lakers defense that still gives up far too many open looks. Still, his turnovers remain a serious issue and need to come down. Period.
For a player who lobbies to receive the ball in the post more often so he can work off the block, turning the ball over five times is no way to prove it's for the betterment of the team. This turnover problem is compounded with the lack of players trying to create for the big man, and his touches are coming primarily off of isolation post ups where he loses control of the ball, travels, or steps out of bounds. Overall Howard had a sound game as his point total eventually caught up to the rest of his game, and he checked out late in the 4th with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. On a night that Andrew Bynum called Howard the "2nd best" center in the league Howard still had an "off" night and finished with a line Bynum would love to have. Most important for the team aside from the defense, perhaps, was Howard's ability to pass out of the post. Using basic 4 out 1 in principles the Lakers rained threes on the Sixers. The three point shooting display the Lakers put on pushed the game out of the Sixers grasp.
The man of the hour though? Metta World Peace. He was everywhere. 19 points, 3-4 from deep, 16 rebounds (a career high), and 4 steals? Oh, and 2 blocks, the cherry on top. Effort is something talked about often around here, and this man's effort is exactly what the Lakers need. His three point shooting comes and goes game by game, but his effort remains at a consistently high level. The fact that he's beating his defenders off the dribble never becomes any less shocking, nor does the fact that he's finishing those once he gets to the rim. A rejuvenated Metta continues to be an X-factor for the Lakers; this is the Metta World Peace necessary for a Lakers team lacking in perimeter defenders and electrifying energy.
Jodie Meeks continues to play with confidence off the bench. His 12 points came off of a cringe worthy 2-8 shooting from deep, but similar to Metta, it's the effort he plays with on a nightly basis. 4 steals alone show that he's working the passing lanes both in the half court and transition. The nod of approval from Kobe he's been receiving will help him sustain the level of confidence necessary to make him a factor off the bench to keep defenses honest.
Darius Morris chopped himself up a career game by the end of the first half. 15 points on 3-5 shooting from deep, along with a few finishes around the rim, made for a great night for Morris. After tweaking his ankle at the close of the first half his minutes were limited, and in the time he was on the floor he wasn't able to find the rhythm he was in earlier, but nevertheless it was great to see both him and Chris Duhon spread the floor for the Lakers. Duhon had a solid outing as well, with 14 points (4-10 from deep, 5-11 overall) and 4 assists. Both point guards held up their end of the deal, hitting open threes and producing. It's unbelievable, but the Lakers had point guard production from two separate point guards. In the same game.
Despite all of this, the night still belonged to Kobe Bryant. Over the last five games he's averaging 34.4 points per game, and has had 30 or more points in each of those contests. 17 years in the league and he's still steadily slicing and dicing individual defenses and team defenses as well as hitting the most absurdly high degree of difficulty shots. Along with the scoring output, he had 6 assists and 4 rebounds, as well as 5 turnovers (to match Dwight's team high, of course). Clearly the tone in Philadelphia has shifted over the years as at this point he's receiving ovations as he takes to the bench. With the game put away in the 4th Mike D'Antoni pulled Kobe out of the game and the crowd serenaded one of their own. Another efficient night of work for Bryant, going 12-21 overall, but another long night of work. 40 more minutes off of his clock. The sixth straight 40+ minute game for Kobe.
The 76ers struggled offensively without their point guard and scoring leader Jrue Holiday, but Nick Young played well as he loves to do against the Lakers. He ended the night with 30 points on 13-23 shooting. Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and Evan Turner all scored in double digits, but clearly weren't enough punch as the Lakers were rolling tonight. Without Andrew Bynum the Sixers struggled rebounding the ball, with no player in double digits, while Metta World Peace (as earlier mentioned) worked his way to 16. Clearly, without two of their best players, the Sixers had issues. Something understandable from over here at Silver Screen & Roll as we await the return of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash.
Overall the Lakers looked good tonight. When the Lakers are dropping threes (14-34 on the night), finding a post presence with Dwight, and have Kobe Bryant on the floor things look rather easy for them. A night off tomorrow, and the Charlotte Bobcats Tuesday in one of two games next week. Enjoy your evening and the win everybody. Full recap in the morning.
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