In a game that Kobe ended up not playing, his replacement provided a nice impersonation. Shannon Brown, fresh off a less than stellar dunk contest on all-star Saturday, showed that he seems to do his best work in live game action. Shannon stepped in for Kobe, played a great all around game, and ended the night with a team high 27 points on 19 shots and added 10 rebounds for good measure. Sure some of his shots were questionable and I think we’d all like to see less jump shooting, but he played a pretty efficient game (he would have been even more efficient on offense had he not missed five of his six 3 point attempts) and poured in the shots when the Lakers needed them.
A few other notes from this game:
*The Lakers started off the game quite well and jumped out to an early lead over the depleted Warriors. Fueled by Shannon’s shot making and Bynum’s post scoring, the Lakers were showing off the talent that I thought would lead to an fairly easy win against an overmatched opponent. The Lakers were playing a bit faster than I would have liked and, to a certain extent, were playing the Warriors’ style but it did not matter as their size inside and superior skill was too much for Golden State.
*A twelve point first quarter lead would shrink to only a three point margin at halftime as the Lakers bench couldn’t hold the lead in the second frame. Forced shots, an abandonment of going into the post with any consistency, and overall sloppy play on offense fueled the Warriors fast break and the Dubs clawed their way back into the game. The biggest culprits in this were Sasha (and his failed attempts to be a play maker in the half court) and Artest (and his lack of touch from everywhere while continuing to fire away). It still baffles me that the Lakers bench doesn’t always play to their strengths as a unit by going to Gasol/Bynum/Odom in the post and letting them create easy shots and would rather try to create off the dribble and play a more freelance game. This style can work when players are making shots, but when the shots aren’t falling the entire team suffers with stalled offense and a lack of floor balance that leads to poor transition defense.
*Bynum really didn’t show any rust in his first game action in over a week. He was overpowering on several possessions and showed nice touch around the basket. I think it’s too early to say what Bynum’s effect is on the flow of the Lakers offense. The Warriors are a team that does not have the size to bang with ‘Drew on the block, so Bynum should be aggressive against this team and look to score. Also, when Bynum was operating on the post, cutters were not as active and the Warriors defense didn’t come with hard double teams that would force ‘Drew to be a passer. Combine that with Bynum’s tendency to use his dribble quickly and then attack when the opening presents itself and you’ve got a recipe for shot taking rather than ball movement.
*Shannon and ‘Drew were really the only players that deserve any sort of credit on offense. The rest of the players didn’t play very well at all and made shots for the rest of the guys were few and far between. Pau, Ron, and Odom were a combined 13 for 39 from the field and never found a groove on offense. Some of that credit goes to aggressive interior defense by the Warriors (especially Turiaf and Biedrins) and timely help from the Warriors guards. But overall, the Lakers front line was not sharp with its shooting and that kept the game closer than it should have been for most of the night.
*Besides the good interior defense, the Warriors should also be given credit for sticking to their plan on offense. They continued to push the pace the entire evening and took advantage of the openings that the Lakers gave them. Maggette barreled his way to the basket, Morrow was spotting up in transition, and CJ Watson was accurate from behind the arc and the mid-range. The Warriors fought hard all night, but just didn’t have enough to beat a better and deeper Lakers squad.
In the end, I’ll take this win and move on. Outside of Shannon and ‘Drew, no one player performed that great on offense and only Odom had an above average night in any one aspect of the game with his 18 rebounds. Overall, this was a pretty forgettable win but sometimes that’s what you get in an 82 game season. They can’t all be the supreme performances like the ones we got against Utah, San Antonio, and Portland.