If you’re a basketball fan this game was delightful, if you’re a Laker fan, eh not so much. It was fun watching them destruct the Mavs in the second half, but I’m sure we’ve all noticed them decline game by game. They’re still winning of course, but slowing down without a doubt. Slowing down in a way that makes me worry they’ll get blown out in an upcoming game.
Vlad- An ineffective night that none of us saw coming, but mostly due to his lack of effort. I think Phil benched him and Sasha both for an extended period of time out of frustration. On offense Vlad tried to do too much instead of sticking to his role as a shooter and it lead to bad things. It was obvious Phil had enough after he played poor screen roll defense on Barea in the 3rd quarter while we were going on a run. Final stat line: 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1-4 from the field, 1-4 from downtown, 17 minutes.
Bynum/Gasol- This was one of the best games they’ve played together all season. That’s scary considering we didn’t go to Pau nearly enough and he could’ve easily scored over 20 points. He was a huge factor in our second half run with his defense on Nowitzki and his energy on offense. Bynum had much better success against Dampier after he dominated him in Dallas earlier this season. His success around the rim opened things up on the perimeter for guys like Fish and Ariza. Marc Jackson mentioned during the telecast on ESPN that he played with the same injury Bynum has and didn’t miss any time. I noticed during the second quarter that he was limping kind of badly after a play for a few possessions and kept looking over at the bench but Phil didn’t notice. All we can hope for is that he feels strong enough to compete for a decent amount of every upcoming game. It’s too bad he didn’t get this injury during the very beginning of the season when we had those extended breaks in the schedule, huh? Final stat lines: Bynum- 18 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 6-12 from the field, 6-7 from the line. Gasol- 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4 assists, 7-12 from the field.
KB24- I was shaking my head during the first half thinking this was gonna be yet another bad shooting game for Kobe. I thought he was due against NJ but he more than made up for it tonight. What started off as out of control shots running towards the basket and forced ones on the perimeter turned into patience in the post and in the paint and hustle that inspired the team. The hunger in his eyes was similar to the one look he had at the end of the 2006-2007 season when we were losing so many games at the end of the season. He finally said “enough is enough” and went to work. Final stat line: 35 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 14-26 from the field, 6-6 from the lines.
Fish- Same as Kobe, Fish had me rolling my eyes during the early moments of the game with bad decisions on offense. He continuously tried dumping the ball in the post when the post player was double teamed and it lead to turnovers. On defense he kept leaving guys like Barea wide open and free lanes to the basket. If the player didn’t score on an easy shot in the paint a teammate had to cover for Fish by taking a foul. When Dallas went on a run, however, Fish was who kept us in the game in the first half. At one point he scored 9 straight points for us and it got the rest of the team going. Then in the second half he hit big shots during our runs that kept the momentum on our side. He delivered a performance reminiscent of the Fish from last season. Final stat line: 19 points, 8-14 from the field, 3-5 from downtown, 4 rebounds.
Bench- The bench was phenomenal tonight, the stat sheet doesn’t tell the story at all outside of Ariza. Lamar only scored 2 points but his energy was crazy. I’m talkin Lil Wayne crazy. He kept the momentum on our side by rebounding, passing, and taking care of the ball when one of the players was on the verge of turning it over. And I can’t say enough about Ariza’s hustle tonight. He did it all tonight, point blank. As I mentioned earlier, it looked like Phil was frustrated with Sasha; 1-4 from the field in only 8 minutes of play. Ouch.
Final Thought- We overcame another poor start and imposed our dominance on yet another team. Our slight decline is very noticeable, but with the attitude of Kobe, Fish, and Phil, I’m not extremely worried. I hate that we gave up over 100 points again, but maybe a strong defensive game against a high scoring team like Toronto on Sunday will spark a good 5 to 7 games of above average defense. Toronto is looking for a 3rd straight win; let’s end another team’s streak.