The Lakers closed out their preseason in style, winning 105-102 against the Warriors. In a game where Monta Ellis looked like Allen Iverson circa 2001 and where the Lakers trailed for nearly the entire night, I must say this was one of the more satisfying preseason games that I can remember. Because even though overtime was needed and the Lakers starters again struggled to find their rhythm (especially Kobe), the team found a way to win in the closing minutes and nothing, even in the preseason, beats a comeback win.
A few notes on the last game of the preseason…
*I really can’t say enough about Shannon Brown. I don’t want to put too much stock into preseason performances, but he’s looked very good and seems ready to take on a consistent role as a bench scorer while Kobe isn’t 100%. WOW is making shots, playing much more under control, and is finding sweet spots in the offense where he’s able to set his feet and shoot in rhythm. One shot in particular that Shannon looks very good taking is the 20 foot jumper from the extended wing when receiving a handoff from the big man at the high post. On Thursday night he made this shot consistently and throughout the preseason this has been a shot that he’s taken with no hesitation and with good results. Again, we’ll see if this carries over into the games that count, but I’m feeling very good about Brown.
*I said that Kobe may not be 100% (and likely won’t be for a couple more weeks at least) but down the stretch of this game he made some big plays to help cut the deficit and ultimately take the lead. Kobe still struggled with his jumper and took way too many three pointers (9 attempts from deep, making only 2) but he showed good movement around the court and was able to get some good looks from the post and by attacking off a live dribble. He also did a good job of setting up his mates (7 assists) and I’m hoping that’s a trend that continues into the start of the season if he’s struggling with his jumper.
*The guys that really impressed me were the rookies. Ebanks and Caracter showed that they can contribute and that can be relied upon to play to their strengths if given minutes. Ebanks played well on D and attacked the basket when he got the ball in the transition or had clean driving lanes in the half court. He also did a good job on the glass (4 rebounds total, 2 offensive). And after missing two games with back spasms, Caracter got in the game tonight and reminded us all of his polish around the hoop and his ability to finish inside. On one play in particular, Caracter made the catch inside, turned over his left shoulder, and made a short, high arching bank that showed good awareness. With Bynum out, Caracter may see some extra burn to start the year and he looks like he can help in short bursts.
*Blake was another guy that impressed me. Sure he missed all his shots (0-5) on the night. But he’s a floor general and that’s something the Lakers haven’t had since Van Exel donned a Lakers jersey. No disrespect meant to Fisher (who does a great job of organizing the Lakers sets and ensuring that the offense gets executed), but Blake is a PG in every sense of the word. He has good instincts on when players are breaking open and how to manipulate the defense to ensure that he can deliver the ball to his mates. He has excellent timing with his passes and always seems to put the ball in a position where the catch is easy and where he leads players into their shots. Not to denigrate Farmar (who I think is going to be very good in Jersey), but Blake is everything the Lakers hoped that Farmar could be as the PG for the 2nd unit and I think it’s going to show in the results achieved by that group.
*The Lakers missed LO’s rebounding, defense, and outlet passing tonight. Odom is just one of those guys that is so much easier to appreciate when he’s not around, if that makes sense. It’s been easy to start to take Lamar for granted with how well he’s been playing this preseason, but with him sitting out tonight it was easy to see the difference in the Lakers on the glass and in how they transitioned from defense to offense.
In the end, I would have been happy to escape with good health. So to get a win (and in exciting fashion to boot) was the cherry on my Sunday. But, I won’t let this feeling linger too long because the real games begin on Tuesday. So, while I enjoyed tonight, my focus is now on the regular season and what the Lakers will need to do to get things done when the contests truly matter. We’ll have our season preview up in the next few days. Until then, we wait, but not for too much longer…