Archives For December 2010

Happy New Year!

Darius Soriano —  December 31, 2010

I know the Lakers play tonight and for all things game related, we’ve got you covered.  But, as we transition from one decade to the next I wanted to wish each and all of you a Happy New Year.

And what a decade it’s been for us Lakers fans.  Five Championships and two additional Finals appearances gave all of us that root for this team the highest highs sports fans can experience.

2011 promises to be another great year for us fans as the Lakers compete for the game’s greatest achievement and for that I’m extremely thankful.  So, again have a happy and safe New Year and I’ll see all of you on the other side.

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Records: Lakers 22-10 (3rd in West), 76ers 13-19 (8th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.6 (2nd in NBA), 76ers 104.7 (21st in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (11th in NBA), 76ers 105.4 (13th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
76ers: Jrue Holliday, Jodie Meeks, Andres Nocioni, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff (out); 76ers: Andre Iguodala and Jason Kapono (both questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: A dominating win over the Hornets to end a 3 game losing streak has quelled some of the questions about this team.  By going inside, showing better focus, and executing better the Lakers have gotten back on track.  Bynum’s return to starter status aided the Lakers on offense and on defense and put Odom back on the bench where he flourished in his first game as a reserve since last season.  All that said, the point is to now build on that performance and find an extended groove.  What’s plagued the Lakers this year has been a combination of execution and complacency so here’s hoping that a much needed win where those negatives were a no-show further helps this team understand what needs to be done as the calendar turns to the new year.

The 76ers Coming in: Tonight the Sixers play their 7th game of an 8 game trip that started nearly two weeks ago (ironically, the day after these two teams last met).  So far on their trip they’ve split their 6 contests, going three and three against some very good teams.  In that time they’ve defeated Orlando and Denver, and just two days ago they blasted the Phoenix Suns by 13 when they put up a season high 123 points.  Even more impressive is the fact that they did it without their best player as Andre Iguodala has had to sit out the past two games while nursing a sore achilles.  You would have thought that with their best player on the pine Coach Doug Collins would have opened up his rotation more, but instead he did the opposite.  In the game Collins only used 8 players and the shortened rotation delivered for him with 7 of the 8 guys scoring in double digits (only Jodie Meeks was left out of the fun).  The player that seemed to play especially well was rookie Evan Turner as he scored 23 points on only 12 shots for what I’m sure many would say was his best game of the season.  So, just as the Lakers, this team is looking to build on a very good performance before we hit 2011.

76ers Blogs: Check out Philadunkia for all your 76ers hoops info.  Liberty Ballers also has you covered.

Keys to game: Not to sound too cliché but this game will come down to who’s style wins out.

Philly will want to play pressure defense in order to force turnovers and push the pace.  With Holliday and reserve guard Lou Williams, they have a PG combination that has the right ingredients to play a quick tempo against the bigger, stronger Lakers.  Whether or not Iguodala plays will affect this strategy some, but not too much.  If anything, having Nocioni in the line up means that Philly will try to run just as much, but with Nocioni running to the three point line rather than for layups like Iggy would.

Meanwhile, the Lakers will want to carry over their plan from New Orleans and pound the ball inside.  With Bynum now starting, both he and Gasol will have major advantages inside against Hawes and Brand.  The Lakers will surely look to slow the pace and look to get their inside players going with direct post ups into their sideline Triangle sets and weak side duck ins for Pau and ‘Drew when the ball reverses.

As for Kobe, look for him to do a lot of ball handling tonight (and moving forward in future games).  With Bynum back and Odom as reserve, Kobe moves off the wing (where he moves in and out of the post very easily) to a guard.  This means that Kobe and Fisher will be the primary initiators of offense in the two guard front of the Triangle.  A by product of this will likely be more semi-transition drag screens and standard P&R sets with Kobe quarterbacking to get himself and everyone else involved.  I especially expect to see this action a lot as Hawes is a slow footed big man that will have trouble containing Kobe coming around the corner while still recovering to his man (likely Bynum) that will be diving hard to the hoop.

Tonight’s game will also hinge on rebounding and who controls the glass.  When these two teams met last, the Sixers stayed close for most of the contest (at least partially) because of their great work on the offensive glass.  On that night Philly grabbed 16 of their own misses for an O-rebound rate of 30%.  By getting second shots and forcing Lakers’ turnovers, the Sixers attempted 9 more field goals, using the extra shots to ensure that they’d be in the game until the end.  So if the Lakers want to make this game easier on themselves they’ll control their glass (Bynum will help in this) and be more careful with the ball when operating in the half court.

In the end it will be easy for both teams to be a bit distracted, what with this game on New Year’s Eve and with every player likely having some sort of plans after the contest.  However, both teams are also looking to carry over momentum from their last games and bring in the new year with a W under their belt.  For the Lakers, this being a home game against a lesser team, I’d say that this is a game that’s pretty important.  In the large scheme a loss isn’t the end of the world, but they don’t need a set back tonight.  So, bring focus, smarts, and energy and this one should turn out just fine.  Here’s to a win to close out 2010.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start time out west on Fox Sports.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

AP Photo/Sean Gardner

AP Photo/Sean Gardner

When anticipating Andrew Bynum’s return I often focused on the impact he would have defensively.  While Bynum was out of the lineup, the Lakers missed his phenomenal size and length and his ability to block and contest shots both in the paint and when closing out on mid range shooting big men.  Since his return, Bynum’s impact on that side of the ball has been about as good as we could have hoped as he’s stepped right into the game as a paint protector and shot blocker/alterer that the Lakers have sorely lacked with only Gasol and Odom as the backline defenders.

However, last night against the Hornets, Bynum’s contributions to the win weren’t limited to his defense and rebounding.  Where he really helped the Lakers was on the offensive side of the  ball.  By establishing deep post position and displaying his great touch (and power) around the hoop, Bynum scored 18 points by making 8 of his 12 field goals.  Through the power of Synergy, I went back and reviewed all 12 of his shot attempts and have made notes on each one.  Below is what I saw:

Shot #1: Kobe brings the ball up the left sideline and passes to Gasol on the wing and proceeds to cut to the sideline as Bynum sets up in the hub to form the sideline Triangle.  Rather than pass to Kobe in the short corner or Bynum in the hub, Pau reverses the ball to Fisher at the top of the key.  With Artest at the elbow, Fisher dribbles right to use Ron as a screener and then passes to Ron who popped to the top of the key to maintain spacing.  Right when Ron makes his catch, Bynum (who was still on the left block) muscles his way into the middle of the paint and Ron hits him with a direct post entry 5 feet in front of the hoop.  Bynum turns over his right shoulder and shoots a simple jumpshot that hits the heel of the rim but drops in because of the soft touch he had on the shot.

Shot #2:  As Kobe brings the ball up the left sideline, Bynum trails the play but runs up the right wing ultimately setting up on the weak side along the right lane line at the lower block.  Kobe, rather than passing to the sideline as is the norm, reverses the ball to Fisher who is the top guard in the two man front of the Triangle.  Right when Fisher receives the pass, Bynum again uses his superior size and strength to duck into the paint right in front of the rim and gets a direct line post entry from Fish.  This time turning over his left shoulder, Bynum shoots a jump hook from 4 feet out that hits the heel and bounces out long.  A great look that just didn’t fall.

Shot #3:  The Lakers are in semi-transition and Kobe is jogging the ball up court.  Bynum is running to Kobe’s left and sets up at the top of the key to set a screen for Kobe to drive to that side.  Instead, Kobe goes away from the screen, jumpstops at the FT line, and then steps through to his left to shoot a jumper.  While this is going on, Bynum rolled to the hoop, bringing Okafor with him down the lane.  When Kobe elevates, Okafor leaves Bynum to contest the shot and Kobe executes a nice drop pass to Drew who then elevates at the charge circle and throws down a dunk.  Semi-transition plays like this have been a staple of how Bynum has gotten his baskets over the years as his size and ability to dive, make the catch, and finish blend naturally with the gifted passers the Lakers possess.

Shot #4: The Lakers are again in semi-transition and Kobe has the ball coming up the middle of the  floor with Artest on the left wing and Bynum trailing slightly on the right side.  Kobe quickly looks to attack by driving hard and spinning into a back down move at the FT line.  As he elevates to shoot his jumper, Bynum inches closer to the right lane line for rebounding position, but Kobe instead passes to Artest in the left corner because his man dug down to contest Kobe’s shot.  After receiving the pass, Ron drives hard baseline and forces Okafor to leave Drew to help.  Artest flips up a lob that Bynum snares easily and after coming down quickly elevates again for a simple lay in.  This was a relatively easy play but my one take away was how big a target Bynum is when making this type of pass.  Ron literally just had to throw the ball any where above Okafor’s hands and Andrew would have made the catch and finish.

Shot #5 & #6: Lakers run their classic sideline Triangle initiation with Fisher bringing the ball up the right side.  He passes to Artest at the right wing and then proceeds to cut to the strong side corner.  Bynum fills the post on that side to form the Triangle.  Bynum works his way up the lane line to make himself available for a pass from Ron, but the defender stays on his top shoulder to deny entry.  Ron then passes to Fisher in the corner who then makes  a quick pass into Bynum who has Mbenga sealed due to the fact that DJ is trying to recover from playing on the top side when Ron just had the ball. Bynum makes the catch and quickly shoots a righty jump hook that misses to the left.  However, Bynum immediately recognizes that his shot is off, quickly moves to the ball to recover the offensive rebound, and then shoots a quick fading shot from a few feet away right in front of the basket.  The Hornets announcer says “He’s just too big.”

Shot #7:  Kobe again brings the ball up on the left side and Bynum is running ahead down the middle of the court.  ‘Drew decides to stop and set up shop at the elbow looking to set up the hand off sequence of the Triangle.  Recognizing that his defender is playing him top side, Bynum spins away looking for the lob but Kobe doesn’t hit him right away.  Instead Kobe looks to drive, but notices that Bynum’s man never rolled to the hoop to recover but rather stayed near the elbow to help on penetration.  Kobe then passes to a wide open Drew for an easy dunk.  It really doesn’t get much easier than that.  (On a side note and in full disclosure, this was one of the first possessions of the 3rd quarter and David West was guarding ‘Drew.  West was testing his sore ankle and his lack of recovery could have easily been because he couldn’t move as well on his bum wheel.)

Shot #8: Kobe brings the ball up the middle of the floor with Fisher to his left and Bynum alone the baseline at the left block.  Kobe calls for Pau (who is at the right elbow) to set a screen for him to go to his right hand.  Kobe uses the screen, drives hard to his right hand, elevates and passes to Fisher who is still cross court on the left wing.  After making the catch, Fisher immediately touch passes to Bynum who had his defender on his back due to the fact that Kobe was attacking on the opposite side of the floor just a second before.  Bynum makes the catch, turns over his right shoulder to the baseline, and sinks a left handed jump hook.  “Wow he can even use the left hand…” says the Hornets announcer, who at this point sounds a bit discouraged by the combination of size and skill that ‘Drew is flashing.

Shot #9:  The Lakers run a classic Triangle set.  Fisher brings the ball up the left side, bypasses Shannon who’s in the two guard front to hit Artest who’s on the right wing and then proceeds to cut to the ball side corner.  Because the ball is essentially skipped from strong to weak side, the post is empty and creates what’s called “Center opposite” as the post needs to be filled by one of the players that was on the original strong side.  Pau fills the post to create the Triangle with Ron and Fisher.  Ron passes to the corner to Fish and then cuts top side through the lane.  Gasol then steps out to set a screen for Fish who uses it to go to the middle.  Off the screen Fisher hits Shannon Brown who is still at the top of the key in his original position in the two guard front.  Right when Shannon make his catch, Bynum (who is still on the left low block from the original set up as Pau filled the post) posts up.  With Ron finishing his cut on the left sideline and Brown bringing the ball over to that side, the Lakers have now formed the Triangle again after the ball has reversed.  Brown hits Bynum in the post and Drew turns over his right shoulder to attempt a baby lefty hook off the glass.  The shot misses long, but to this point this was one of the more drawn out sets that the Lakers ran and it was executed wonderfully.  By utilizing both sides of the floor and using both Pau and Bynum as post threats in the possession, the Lakers showed how easily they can involve their bigs without ever having to force the action in either one’s direction.

Shot #10: Lakers again run a Center opposite action this time with Odom (who had subbed in for Pau) filling the post.  As Odom flashes to the strong side he receives the pass and proceeds to make his move to score.  However, Bynum’s man (who was on the opposite block guarding Drew) came over to help and it’s created a passing angle for LO to drop the ball off to Bynum.  He does just that and after finally gathering the ball in traffic, Bynum makes a little righty hook form inside 4 feet.  There’s few things I love more than big to big passing for easy buckets.

Shot #11: Steve Blake brings the ball up the left side of the court ahead of the rest of the team.  As he’s known to do, he slows up and lets the rest of his guys get set.  Rather than a wing coming to fill the ball side corner, everyone stays to the right side as Bynum runs down the left lane line to set up at the mid post.  Blake hits ‘Drew with a pass and cuts through to clear the side and create an isolation for Bynum against former teammate DJ Mbenga.  After taking a couple of dribbles and not gaining any ground, Bynum passes out to the perimeter and reposts to try and get better position.  The pass goes back inside for ‘Drew to go at DJ again.  This time after taking a couple of dribbles, Bynum dips his left shoulder like a pass rusher turning the corner, takes two big steps, and tries to ram the ball on a contesting Mbenga’s head.  DJ bothers the dunk attempt enough that it hits back iron and bounces away.  This may have been a miss, but man was it nice to see ‘Drew attack the hoop like that.

Shot #12: After some passing around the perimeter, the Lakers finally get set up in the Triangle on the right side with Kobe in the corner, Blake on the wing, and Bynum in the hub.  After Kobe passes to Blake and clears the side (creating a two man side with Blake and Bynum), Blake calls Drew over to set a high screen.  Bynum sets the pick to for Blake to drive left and then rolls to the short wing on the right.  Blake drives to his left, passes to Shannon who’s the other top side guard in the two man front, who then whips a quick pass into Gasol who ducked into the mid post on that side of the floor.  Gasol turns and faces, drives to his right hand and then spots ‘Drew who is still on the short right wing after his P&R action with Blake.  Gasol delivers a pass to Bynum who then sinks a 12 foot jumper on the angle.  Again, great offense from the Lakers as the ball switched sides and then great big to big teamwork as Pau played set up man for Bynum’s easy face up jumpshot.

After reviewing the tape, it’s obvious that New Orleans didn’t have the size to combat ‘Drew.  Several of his baskets came on simple duck ins where his defender didn’t have the strength or length to bother entry passes.  However, the Lakers also did a lot of good things on offense to get Bynum the ball in position to score and he capitalized on his chances by making two-thirds of his attempts.  Obviously Bynum isn’t going to be that efficient every night, but his ability to score the ball and be a threat on offense is going to help the Lakers tremendously.  Maybe not as much as his defensive presence in the paint, but as a counter to the finesse games of Pau and Lamar, Bynum’s offense is going to be a welcomed sight in the Lakers’ triple post sets.

Around the World (Wide Web)

Phillip Barnett —  December 30, 2010
AP Photo/Sean Gardner

AP Photo/Sean Gardner

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The two-time defending NBA champions can still be the dragon that causes lesser opponents to shrink from their fire. The San Antonio Spurs didn’t wilt from the Lakers’ determination Tuesday night in the Lakers’ third consecutive lopsided loss. So the Lakers redoubled their efforts Wednesday night and delivered utter domination of the New Orleans Hornets, 103-88. “I sensed it early on that some of our guys were a bit overwhelmed,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. The Lakers stood even taller because of Phil Jackson’s decision to move Andrew Bynum back into his usual role as the Lakers’ starting center for the first time this season.

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: His season had been so strong, the numbers coming steadily night after night, that Lamar Odom wondered if he would be an All-Star for the first time in his 12-year career.?? On Wednesday, however, he continued being a vitally important player for the Lakers simply by accepting the switch from starter to sub, as he had done numerous times the last few years.?? It’s nothing new for Odom, and all he did was score 24 points, his career high as a reserve, making 10 of 15 shots in the Lakers’ 103-88 victory over New Orleans.?? Because of Andrew Bynum’s injury tendencies over the years, Odom has started 94 of the 96 games missed by the Lakers center, and it was back to the bench after Bynum started his first game of the season.??” Some people could have taken it personally,” Odom said. “It didn’t matter to me.” ??Odom was averaging 15.6 points and 9.8 rebounds on 57.4% shooting before Wednesday, enough to be an All-Star “for sure, no question about it,” Kobe Bryant said.

From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: Kobe Bryant walked onto the court more than two hours before the Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night and shared a laugh with teammate Luke Walton before his pregame shooting routine. Later, he joked with former teammate Trevor Ariza. The pregame scenes were in sharp contrast to the seething Bryant who could barely hide his anger and disgust near the end of the Lakers’ loss one night earlier to the San Antonio Spurs, their third consecutive defeat by 15 or more points. Bryant’s frustration seemed to sweep through the Lakers during Tuesday’s loss. He drew a technical foul in the first half after jawing with George Hill of the Spurs. Bryant’s backcourt-mate Derek Fisher received a technical in the second half.

From Brett Martel, Lamar Odom responded to his first time out of the starting lineup this season by scoring 24 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers convincingly ended a three-game losing streak with a 103-88 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. Kobe Bryant added 20 points, while Andrew Bynum, who started for Odum, scored 18 points. Pau Gasol added 11 points and 12 rebounds as the Lakers snapped out a funk in which they had lost by 15 or more points in their previous three games. Chris Paul had 20 points and Marco Belinelli scored 15 for the Hornets, who lost their second straight by double digits after falling 113-98 at Minnesota two nights earlier.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: After a San Antonio debacle featuring Kobe Bryant (by his own admission) hucking the ball too much and the ball moving too little (especially in the direction of anybody on the tall side), the Lakers got back to what works best for them: All hands on deck. The rock changing said hands at a steady rate. And the biggest hands (those belonging to the frontcourt players) were typically full. The first quarter ended with all five starters on the board and six points apiece for Kobe, surprise starter Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol. It set the tone for every Laker who played 10-plus minutes entered the scoring column, hitting at 58.6 percent against a host talented at the lockdown. Even more indicative of the balance, nobody took more than 15 shots. Patience was exercised in search of quality looks. Three-pointers were generally created from the inside-out and, in no bit of coincidence, were wet.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Exciting news, cats and kittens: 2010 will not end with a five-game Lakers losing streak. The purp and yellow pulled out of their late-December death spiral and battered the New Orleans Hornets tonight in an easy 103 to 88 triumph. The offensive attack that had grown increasingly feeble over the past few games roared back to life, and for the first time since last spring Andrew Bynum looked like Andrew Bynum. Just as a few dreadful losses were no call to write off the Lakers, one splendid game doesn’t mean they’re definitively back on track, but this was the right first step. Drew reentered the starting lineup in this one, sending Lamar Odom back to his familiar role as sixth man nonpareil. The change suited both players. Bynum regularly established deep post position against the undersized Hornet bigs and scored on a better variety of moves than he’d shown since his return from knee surgery. Baseline spins, alley-oop dunks, jump hooks in the lane: his repertoire is rounding into form. He scored 18 points on 13 shots (including free-throw possessions) and played a season-high 30 minutes.

From Michael McNamara, Hornets 24/7: After last night’s loss against San Antonio, some Hornets fans worried whether Kobe would come out with something to prove, but it wasn’t #24 who killed New Orleans tonight, it was their new 6th man- Mr. Khloe Kardashian himself. Lamar scored a game high 24 points in his first game of the season in which he came off the bench. Phil Jackson gave Andrew Bynum the start, moving Pau Gasol back to power forward, and the length of those two really bothered the Hornets on both ends of the court. The Lakers started the game pounding the ball inside on offense and pushing the Hornets out of the paint when New Orleans had the ball. In the first 15 minutes, the Lakers had 22 points in the paint and that opened up their outside shooting. Before you knew it, the Lakers were up 59-41 at the half and the game was all but over at that point.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Needless to say, we’ve been waiting for a night like this since last week (though it feels like much longer).  The Lakers played smart, focused basketball and took down the Hornets 103-88 to end their three game slide and regain some of the mojo that’s been lost of late.  This isn’t to say that the Lakers are all the way back, but this was a nice first step towards finding their stride after stumbling along in so recent many games.

When you have a dominating performance like the Lakers had, there’s usually many reasons for it and it’s tough to pinpoint one (or even two) reasons why.  And in pouring over the boxscore, this game would seem to be no different as the Lakers controlled the game statistically in many key areas.  But, for me, it’s easy to find the key to the game and what changed from recent contests: the Lakers went back to last year’s formula of big man dominance.

In a departure from what Phil and the coaches had been saying since his return, Bynum was unexpectedly placed in the starting lineup and his presence immediately paid dividends.  Big ‘Drew clogged the defensive paint, altered shots when involved in screen and rolls, and overall just provided very good activity on the defensive end.  But beyond just being big and active on D, he was effective on offense by providing the Lakers with another primary post up option.  Bynum scored 18 points on a variety of straight post ups and interior finishes after teammate penetration.  Several times he worked hard to get deep position and again showed that there’s little substitute for sheer size as he easily finished over the top of the Hornets after making catches off passes thrown at rim level.

The other benefit of Bynum’s presence was the proper slotting of the other Laker big men.  Playing a lot of PF, Gasol found his groove again on offense.  Able to more freely slide around the court and not have to consistently bang in the post, Pau found creases in the Hornets’ defense to get off a handful of good shots and earn trips to the FT line.  The big Spaniard may have only finished with 11 points, but he did it on just 5 shots from the field and looked as fresh as he has in weeks when he drove to the hoop for his rolling hook or cut from the weak side to receive a pass.

But while Bynum was an anchor with Pau complementing him wonderfully, the star of the front court was Lamar Odom.  In past years, it’s been no secret that when Odom plays well the Lakers become nearly unbeatable.  This year, with Bynum out, that became less true because LO’s contributions as a starter became more of a necessity than a luxury as the Lakers have needed him to perform to be competitive night in and night out.  Tonight, though, LO was able to slide back into his natural role of super sixth man and take over the game from a reserve role.  Odom came off the pine and didn’t miss a beat, leading the Lakers in scoring with 24 points (on only 15 shots) and sporting a +20 in plus/minus for the game.  Odom simply did everything on offense and flashed the brilliance of his all-around game as he knocked down a three, drove for easy finishes, posted up, and gobbled up offensive rebounds for put backs.  He even had the highlight of the night with a fast break play where he went behind his back, finger rolled a ball that back ironed, and then followed his own miss with a tip jam.

Not to be left out, the Lakers guards also played well.  A night after taking on the heavy lifting and firing up a lot of shots, Kobe let the offense come to him scoring a relatively easy 20 points on only 14 attempts from the field.  Several times he drew in the defense only to make a great pass that may not have been an assist, but rather the pass the set up the sequence that led to the basket.  Derek Fisher also played a very controlled game to very good results.  Fish rarely forced a play the entire night and ended the night making 4 of his 6 shots (9 points) and led the team in assists with 8 dimes.  He consistently made the right reads and often times penetrated the D with the expressed purpose of setting up a teammate.

This game wasn’t just about the individual play put forth by key players.  This was a team effort that reminded us of how good the Lakers can be when they get back to doing the little things well on both sides of the ball.  Defensively the Lakers were much more active.  The lack of outside shooting by the Hornets allowed the Laker wings to dig down on the post and better close off driving lanes by helping off their men.  When the ball did rotate back out to the perimeter, the Lakers generally closed out well and contested shots (though they were better contesting mid range jumpers than they were the long ball).  Even though Chris Paul was able to get his numbers (20 points, 7 assists), he never seemed like he was going to take over the game. I thought the Lakers did a pretty good job of making his life hard by battling him for the real estate he wanted to get to and contesting once he got there, limiting his ability to be both a scorer and distributor.  And while David West was bothered by a first half ankle sprain, the Lakers also did a good job of making him work to get his shots and making him shoot contested jumpers while limiting his post chances with the aforementioned dig downs by wings.  So from a team wide perspective, I thought the Lakers executed the defensive game plan very well, and it showed up statistically as they held the Hornets to 41.8% shooting and then cleaned up the glass, limiting the Hornets to 6 offensive rebounds on their 46 missed field goals.

Offensively, the Lakers were also much more crisp than they’ve been in long while.  The ball moved freely from one side of the court to the other.  The better ball movement meant that post ups were more easily set up as the Hornets were caught in the paint showing help on the strong side, only to have a ball reversal give the Laker’ big men easy inside position as they pinned their men.  There was no better example of this than on a play where Kobe had the ball on the right wing and after drawing the defense in while backing his man down, he skipped the ball to D-Fish on the other side of the court who then touch passed the ball to Bynum, who was 4 feet from the hoop getting rebounding position on Kobe’s original set up for a shot.  This entire sequence of the ball switching sides and Bynum getting a lay-in took all of 3-4 seconds and exemplified the greater commitment to ball and player movement that’s been lacking.  There’s a reason that the Lakers shot 58.6% from the floor even though they only made 5 of their 17 three pointers (29.4%).  They got the ball inside by being (mostly) patient, playing together, and working the offense.

This game wasn’t all positives, though.  The Lakers, at times, were pretty careless with the ball and committed 20 turnovers on the night.  Kobe alone had 7 miscues, mostly of the ball handling and offensive foul variety.  Matt Barnes had a late game ejection after he pushed a Hornet to the ground after committing a turnover of his own.  In the end though, these were relatively minor transgressions when looking at the big picture.  When you win by double digits and control the game from the opening tip to the closing whistle, it’s always a good night.  And when that type of performance comes on the heels of several consecutive stinkers, it’s even better.  I’m in no way ready to say that this game has the Lakers back to where they need to be, but it’s a great first step and that’s really all I was looking for before this game started.  Now, the work of building on this performance begins.