Facing the absence of their superstar, Kobe Bryant, you would not be alone in thinking that the Los Angeles Lakers would need a strong team effort in order to continue winning at the strong pace they have established since the All-Star Break. If you were to hear that the Lakers received 43 bench points, you'd rightly think that a strong team effort was exactly what happened. There's only one part of the narrative you'd be missing ... that strong team effort, that bench production that is so vital in the absence of a superstar? It came from two people.
Yes, with Kobe out of the picture and Mike D'Antoni's rotations already finely tuned to an eight man unit, the coach decided to double down on the short rotations. Only seven players played for the Lakers tonight, which meant that the "bench" consisted of just two people. Those two people just so happened to be spectacular. Antawn Jamison scored a team high 27 points on just 14 shots, and Steve Blake had his 2nd straight fantastic all around game, logging 16 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds. You could make a compelling case for those two to be the best Lakers to see the court tonight.
Of course, you could make a compelling case for a bunch of other folks that didn't come off the pine. Steve Nash dropped 19 points and 12 assists. Dwight Howard only scored 12 points, but he pulled down 17 rebounds and blocked 5 shots, including a couple of straight volleyball spikes on shots by the Kings' diminutive Isaiah Thomas in the 4th quarter. And Metta World Peace broke out of his shooting slump in a major way, draining 10-13 shots en route to 22 points.
Valued contributions, in a variety of ways, from all over the court. That's exactly how you would want a team without its superstar to respond. Perhaps these Lakers really are figuring out how to be a team together at just the right time after all.