Lakers/76ers: On New Year’s Eve, Ball Drops More For Kobe & Crew

Darius Soriano —  January 1, 2011
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

In a game that really didn’t need to be as close as it was, the Lakers closed out the decade with a win by defeating the 76ers 102-98.  Give the scrappy and short handed 76ers credit as they fought hard all night and refused to lay down in the face of a double digit lead throughout the game, but in the end the Lakers were just too good and hit the shots they needed in order to survive the night.

The game started with the Lakers finding their offensive rhythm against a Philly D that wasn’t too interested in defending the paint.  In the first 5 minutes of the contest the Lakers scored multiple times right at the basket including Kobe getting an easy finger roll after a back cut from the top of the circle, Bynum backing down Elton Brand for a power one handed dunk, and then Kobe following that with a two handed flush right over the top of Andres Nocioni.

Speaking of Kobe, he seemed intent on closing out the decade the way he started it with the dunk on Nocioni only the beginning to his vintage night.  Working mostly against single coverage, Kobe sliced through Philly’s defense to get the spots on the floor that he wanted and then converted on a variety of shots that have made him the elite scorer he’s been throughout his career.  If he wasn’t making his pull up jumper, he was executing hesitation dribbles to get all the way to the tin.  When he wasn’t working off the bounce he’d show off some of his post moves, displaying the footwork that has allowed him to continue to beat defenders even as his athleticism has tailed off some.  Going up against Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner most of the night surely aided in Kobe’s success – they’re young players that don’t have the familiarity to combat most of Kobe’s arsenal – but on a night where #24 has that bounce to his step and moves so well with and without the basketball, there are few defenders that can truly stay with him.  Mr. Bean ended the night with 33 points on 24 shots and added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals for good measure.  The only smudge on his game was his recurring issue with turnovers as he added another 4 to the ledger last night.

But Kobe wasn’t alone in doing work.  Pau Gasol also had a good night, playing the all-around game we’ve come to expect.  Working a lot from the mid post and the elbow, Gasol dropped mid-range jumpers against a sagging D and then drove by Philly defenders when they had to honor the shot.  The big Spaniard ended 2010 with a solid line of 20 & 8 while chipping in an assist, two blocks and two steals.  The last of his blocks being one that helped seal the game as he denied a Thad Young lay-in attempt with under a minute to play.

The rest of the Laker front line also played very good ball.  In another 31 minute effort by Bynum, the big man controlled the interior by grabbing 15 rebounds (to go along with his 8 points), blocking 1 shot, and altering several others.  Meanwhile, Lamar Odom’s move to a reserve role proves to be no big deal at all as he played his second consecutive great game off the bench.  LO poured in 18 points and grabbed 7 rebounds of his own (3 offensive), looking fluid off the dribble and consistently attacking the Philly D off the bounce.  He had several good finishes going both right and left (though always finishing with his strong hand), while his offensive rebounds were usually of the tip in variety where he slashed his way to the rim and used that long left arm to get the Lakers two points off of what originally should have been Philly’s ball going the other way.  When you add in Artest’s solid game of 11 points (4-6 from the field), 3 rebounds, and 4 assists the Lakers starters up front (and I do consider Odom a starter) combined for 57 points on only 37 shots and proved that their versatility was too much to handle.

You figure that if all of these things were going well for the Lakers, they should have won in a walk.  But credit the Sixers for battling throughout the game to stay within striking distance.  They turned the Lakers over 15 times and got out in the open court as much as they could to score 18 fast-break points.  With the game still close enough for a Philly run to close the gap in the final quarter, Jrue Holliday and Lou Williams got hot from the outside and made the game a nail biter down the stretch.  Williams scored 9 of his 18 points in the final quarter on a variety of long jumpers.  Holliday’s lone three of the period was a huge shot that cut the Lakers’ lead to a single point with only 2:45 left to play.  After a Kobe jumper pushed the lead back to 3 but a subsequent turnover leading to converted three point play by Thad Young to tie the game at 98, the outcome was in serious doubt.

But with the game hanging in the balance, Kobe finished the game the way that he started it by making the key basket that put the Lakers ahead for good.  After isolating at the right elbow against Evan Turner and the floor spaced wonderfully to counter any potential double team, Kobe drove right and hit a fading jumper along the baseline, the way that we’ve seen him do hundreds of times over his career.  After Philly scrambled and got off a couple of good three point attempts that rimmed out in the closing seconds, the Lakers held on to win the game.

In the end, there are still things the Lakers need to clean up as they weren’t able to close the game strong and had to fight much harder than they should have to pull out a win in a game they controlled for nearly the entire night.  Their back court trio of Fisher (0-7), Blake and Brown (both 2-6) didn’t shoot well and weren’t much better on defense.  But a win is a win and I’ll take it the same way that I would a 30 point blowout.  The Lakers ended the decade on the high note of a W and that’s what really matters.  So for your viewing enjoyment, below are the highlights from the game.  Enjoy this one as the Lakers are right back at it tomorrow.

Darius Soriano

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19 responses to Lakers/76ers: On New Year’s Eve, Ball Drops More For Kobe & Crew

  1. Good post. Couple of points:

    1. Although Iguodala is a fine player, some stats have shown a few of the young 76ers (Turner in particular) doing better without him. This has increased some of the trade rumors around him in the blogosphere the last week or so. I was not surprised Philly played the Lakers tough.
    2. Phil won’t do it, but I would like to see this lineup get a little run at times

    Bryant/Brown/Artest/Odom/Gasol

    instead of having Blake or Fisher on the floor the entire 48–think it might help the perimeter D.

  2. Happy New Year to all FB&Gers!
    @1. Agree with both of your points. One other thing I’d like Phil to consider is letting Artest play during crunch time if he’s been playing well during the game. He was clearly on his game last night, creating havoc on drives, under the boards, and on defense…but he hardly played at all during the 4th quarter, and was on the bench during crunch time. I can understand it if Barnes is on fire, but not on nights where Ron Ron is and Barnes isn’t.

    Pau was very quiet the last 18 minutes. I don’t even remember if he had a FG attempt during that time. Was it his lack of aggressiveness, too many early jumpers from our wings, or a combination of both? Even Drew didn’t get touches during the first part of the 4th when Philly made their run.

    Another lineup I’d like Phil to try is this one:
    G: Kobe
    G: Barnes
    F: Artest
    F: LO
    C: Pau or Drew

    It’s true that Shannon is a better option on D against PGs than Blake or Fish, but not by much. I’d rather see Phil put Kobe on the PG, with Barnes and Artest on the two wings in a few situations to see if it works in preventing penetration.

  3. @2

    That is a good point; when Fisher has struggled, people around the Laker blogosphere have always talked about “going big.” When Ariza was here, many wanted to see Phil try Kobe at the 1 and Trevor at the 2 for stretches. Never happened IIRC.

    So, that is why I suggested Brown–my caveat aside, I think Phil might be more likely to try that than actually playing Barnes or Artest on the 2.

    Along these same lines, I would like to see Phil try some zone. Dallas is in some ways similar to the Lakers: older, big, deep, skilled–but lacking quickness. At this moment, Dallas’ D metrics are better than their O metrics; they have used the zone to good effect.

    But, Phil is Phil–he stays with what he does, and you can’t argue with the record. There will have to be a major crisis before he makes changes of this sort IMO.

  4. @3. I’d love for us to try the zone against Miami and San Antonio. Make LeDouche and D-Wade become jump shooters. Slow down the penetration of Manu and Frenchy. Neither MIA or SA are real good offensive rebounding teams (except for Blair), so that wouldn’t hurt us too much after we force a miss.

  5. Normally I’d call for a bigger lineup, but with the way Kobe has been turning the ball over, I’m not sure if that’s a good idea, especially in the 4th when every possession counts, and with Kobe, who is very likely to amend for a TO with a defensive gamble.

  6. Playing zone would literally make Blair look like Dwight Howard out there; even with all our length, our bigs still somehow lose track of their box-out assignments.

  7. harold, and then with a quick, contested long jumper.

  8. I recall in the off-season a couple of people calling for Mitch to go after Dorell Wright. Wright tonight is 8/9 and 4/4 on 3s against Miami and is becoming a story.

    I see the point in #5, but Fisher and Blake turn the ball over a lot as well considering their roles.

    Also, Fisher will play in crunch time–that is a given. But I don’t see that Fisher and Blake are bringing much value right now. I LIKE them and they fit the system, but the productivity is an issue.

  9. The Dude,
    Please don’t talk about Le BJ like that. It’s not polite.

  10. @ things that I liked last night was…Kobe penitration was excellent. He was able to get much closer to the basket than in recent games, he needs to keep that up, because when the defense collaspes on him he can dish out to open shooters. Also, Artest shot the ball a lot better and seemed to be more sure of himself on the offense.

  11. I say trade for tmac some kind of way, he’s been running the point for the pistons and doin well, just throwing that out there with all the big lineup talk.

  12. off topic, but anyone else think the new ads with wade/jumpman are all somewhat taking shots at Kobe?

    guy with tons of rings, snakes, 24 second shot clock… all sorta seem to me as not-too-subtle hints that Kobe is working against Wade or at least stands in the way of Wade.

    somewhat amusing, nothing to fret about, but am I just too much a fanboy to even ‘notice’ or interpret the ads that way?

  13. harold – no, you’re right. It’s clearly the intention of the ads to fuel (or create) a rivalry there. Since Wade wears Jordans, and Jordan is simply a sub-brand of Nike, it’s just in-house stuff to build sales.

    To get back to basketball, it’s good to see that others amongst you think the same about the zone situation for LA. It seems like a great idea against the Spurs, keeping Parker out of the paint… but Blair would MURDER us on the glass. Our bigs just do not box out.

  14. harold,
    Yup, you are too much of a fanboy. The universe is much bigger than just the Kobe lovers/haters. They (the ad boys) just want eyeballs.

    Well, the season is starting to balance out. Caron Butler has what might be described as a probable serious knee injury. I have always liked the guy, but some of the frontrunners always have injuries every year and now it is a new one.

  15. RE a Kobe/Shannon backcourt: We saw that lineup for a few minutes against the Spurs and the thing I noticed is that Shannon was no better defending PG’s than he’s been in the past (which isn’t any better than what Fisher/Blake provide on most nights). And I think WOW’s defense is what this decision hinges on. If he can defend PG’s (or if there’s a match up that Phil likes – like against Deron or another bigger PG) we’ll probably see that line up some. But in the end, I think we’re more likely to see Phil stick with his normal rotation with Shannon backing up Kobe and Barnes/Ron splitting the SF minutes.

  16. Can someone link the Nike ad in question? I’m curious.

  17. @ 13–

    The snakes thing (IIRC they were black snakes) was what made me realize that it was a way to get people to think of Kobe/generate eyeballs as noted. I didn’t see it as anything bad though–just media stuff.

    What bugs me (as noted) is the Ian Thomsen-type Boston-biased stuff, subtly denigrating Laker success–both recent and current, and guys using national outlets to do so.

    The Bryant/Brown thing: like I said, I suggested it because I would like to see a little less of Blake/Fisher and it is hard for me to picture Phil going big and/or going zone–at least until post-season.

    Also, in that alignment maybe Bryant could guard the 1 and Brown the 2–at least for short doses.

    But like I said at the beginning of the post, I don’t think Phil will do it.