Following a stretch of 10 losses in 12 games, the Los Angeles Lakers have come back to life, for the moment at least, and have won three straight contests entering tonight's 10:30 p.m. EST tilt with the Phoenix Suns.
The biggest reason for the Lakers' current winning streak has been 15-time NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant's decision to become a facilitator, rather than a one-man wrecking crew along the perimeter.
Obviously, Bryant will need to reach double-digit assists for a fourth straight game in order for Los Angeles to continue its winning ways, but what other Lakers have to step up and turn in outstanding performances against the Suns at US Airways Center?
First off, 32-year-old power forward, Pau Gasol, needs to play an intricate role in the offense for Los Angeles to defeat Phoenix.
Since returning from a concussion that sidelined him for five games, Gasol has been nothing short of spectacular for the Lakers. The 7'0", 250-pounder has scored at least 12 points in all but one of Los Angeles' last seven games, including a 25-point performance in a 108-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
The most important statistic to monitor tonight will not be how many points Gasol finishes with, though. The 11-year veteran needs to be more concerned with being efficient, rather than piling up the points.
In the two games leading up to the Lakers winning streak, Gasol went four-of-10 shooting against the Memphis Grizzlies, and turned dismal six-of-14 performance in a road tilt with the Chicago Bulls.
Los Angeles lost both of those games.
Over the last three games though, Gasol is 15-of-22 from the field and has managed to dish out 14 assists in those victories. The Spaniard should have no problems posting up Suns big men Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O'Neal, so look for him to do plenty of damage inside for L.A.
In addition to Gasol, reserve power forward Antawn Jamison will be a key to victory for the Lakers tonight.
During the month of January, Los Angeles is 4-1 when Jamison scores at least 10 points. The 6'9", 235-pounder poured in 16 points last night in a 111-106 win over the New Orleans Hornets, and he knocked down four-of-six shots for 12 points last Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The former North Carolina Tar Heels star no longer plays extended minutes for the Lakers as a result of his diminishing production on the defensive end of the floor, but Jamison has proven he can make plenty of contributions offensively.
Los Angeles should have no trouble topping the Suns in the desert tonight, and you can be certain Gasol and Jamison will play a major role in extending L.A.'s winning streak to four games.
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