I made this note yesterday but it bears repeating: The top four Lakers in +/- per 48 minutes this season are Jordan Farmar, Andrew Bynum, Luke Walton and Vladamir Radmanovic â€” all guys who come in off the bench. It is that second unit and this teamâ€™s depth that has carried it to a 6-3 record that surprised even the teamâ€™s optimistic fans.
Last nightâ€™s win against Chicago a perfect example â€” the run that put the game away came with Walton and Farmar making the key plays. They were running a beautiful two-man game on the weak side of the triangle and the Bulls could not stop it.
Let us review, we pick up the action at 2:02 left in the third, just after Kirk Hinrich hits a 15-footer moving to his left to cal a 9-1 Bulls run and bring the score to 63-60 Lakers.
63-60 Lakers: The Lakers do a nice job running the triangle, Walton with a good pass from the high post (he really looked comfortable there last night) to a cutting Farmar who kicks it out to Kobe who makes a nice move andâ€¦ Chris Mihm was enjoying all this crisp passing so much he stood around and watched it. In the key. Three seconds called and a turnover (that was 19 by the way).
Hinrich comes off a high screen but slips to the ground (but maintaining his dribble in a move the Globetrotters would be impressed with), giving the defense time to reset. Kobe gives Hinrich space to shoot, so he does but clanks the three. As was said before the game: Kirk is struggling, let him shoot.
Again Walton comes out in the high post (well, nearly top of the key this time, so itâ€™s hard to call that a post spot), Farmar gets it to him then cuts around him to the basket, and Walton gets Farmar the ball back. Farmar gets fouled driving and throws up a shot to get a couple free throws. Which he hits.
65-60 Lakers: Ben Gordon got the ball on a â€œRip Hamilton playâ€ â€” they start him on the weak side wing and run him off three picks, he gets the pass 18 feet out and tries to go up quickly. He misses, and Thomas fouls Mihm going for the board. Mihmâ€™s not a bad free throw shooter.
67-60 Lakers: Hinrich brings the ball up, moving across from the left to the right wing and takes a quick shot that Mike Dâ€™Antoni would like, but not so much Scott Skiles. It clanks.
Walton gets the rebound and pushes it up himself, drawing some defenders so he kicks it out to Jordan Farmar on the right wing, and Farmar decides heâ€™s open (heâ€™s not that open) but drains the high-arcing three.
70-60 Lakers. This time it is Gordon out top with the ball and he is waiting for Hinrich to come off the screens, and Kirk gets the ball at the elbow (the corner of the key). But Farmar never gives up on the play, comes up behind Kirk and knocks the ball free to Walton, who passes back to a streaking Farmar for a lay-up. Farmarâ€™s defensive effort is the catalyst for this team right now.
72-60 Lakers. Gordon comes off a high screen but Mihm plays it well, keeping him from getting inside, Farmar recovers and so with no good shot Gordon passes out to Duhon, who gets a good look at the three, but misses it. Tyrus Thomas makes a very athletic play going for the tip in, but misses that.
The Lakers work the ball around the perimeter and it ends up with a Mo Evans three from the corner, which misses, but Mihm gets the offensive board and the Lakers reset. Farmar decides he is going to wait for the last shot of the quarter, drives with seconds left and kicks it out to Luke Walton beyond the arc, who headfakes and Thomas bites like a starved hyena. Walton misses but draws the foul and heads to the line with 0.9 seconds. Walton hits all three.
75-60 Lakers, start of the fourth quarter. Lakers get the ball out to start the quarter. Farmar again comes off the high pick and is looking to get into the lane but the Bulls have seen this move and rotate quickly to cut that off with two guys. Farmar steps back like he wants to rethink this then tries to split the defenders, gets in the air and makes an ill-advised pass to Mihm that is picked off. See, he does make mistakes.
Early in the clock Gordon gets the ball on the right wing and drives the lane but a host of Lakers are there to greet him, so he passes out on the opposite wing to Ben Wallace. Gordon then runs behind Wallace as a screen, gets a drop pass and goes up with a decent look from 21 (Mihm was closing) but misses.
Farmar brings the ball up and the Lakers set up the offense, Walton out top gets it to Mo Evans in the high post, who slides into the paint then tries the 14-foot fade away, missing but getting fouled by Nocioni. He hits both,
77-60 Lakers. The Bulls probe the right wing but find nothing and Gordon decides to throw it back out top and reset. Except that Gardner gets the pass back out top and things that is an invitation to shoot from two feet behind the arc. He misses and Skiles hair gets a little more gray.
Then the highlight play â€” Odom pushes the ball up and gets it to Walton in the high post, who passes between his legs behind himself to a cutting Farmar, who lays it off for Mihm, who gets the dunk. Staples Center erupts and I wake a child with a scream of delight.
The Lakers score another basket before a Duhon three gets the Bulls off the slide, but by that point the game is over.
Things are going well for the Lakers and Iâ€™m enjoying this. Look around at how pissed Bulls fans are right now (and the very thoughtful and slow-to-anger Knickerblogger has started calling for his coachâ€™s head), and you see what my worst fears for this season were. The first nine games have been more like a dream (not a perfect dream, but pretty damn good).
Donâ€™t wake me.