It’s said that revenge is a dish best served cold.
Tonight the Lakers proved that saying true as they got their payback against the Bobcats but did so by shooting only 38% from the field and playing a pretty poor game on offense overall. But that performance was good enough to take down the ‘Cats 92-84 to extend their winning streak to 6 games and remain undefeated since the all-star break. Some notes from this contest:
*This is the 2nd straight game that the Lakers offense struggled and it was more than just shooting poorly. The ball and player movement was choppy all night and the team as a whole didn’t look too interested in running their sets. There was too much one on one play – led by Kobe looking for his shot often in post up situations where he cleared a side and backed his man down – and not enough team play where the guys helped each other get their shots. What was most troublesome about the offensive attack was that the Lakers bigs all had good shooting nights going but didn’t really get the opportunities they should have. Gasol may have ended the night with 14 shots, but Bynum only took 4 FGA’s. Meanwhile Kobe (25), Fisher (6), and Artest (10) combined for 41. If you add LO’s 12 attempts to those of the bigs there’s a bit more balance but I’d still prefer for the Lakers big men to be closer to even in FGA’s with the Lakers’ wings. Especially when the combo of Pau, Bynum, and Odom shoot 53% (16-30) in comparison to Kobe, Fisher, and Artest’s 34% (14-41).
*The story wasn’t completely bad on offense though. I mentioned the big men shooting well, but the guards did do a good job of taking care of the ball. The Lakers only had 7 turnovers on the night and two of those were offensive fouls (one on Kobe and one on Bynum). The passes that the Lakers did make were normally on target and they were careful with how they decided to try and break down the Bobcat defense, leading to 19 assists on the Lakers 34 makes from the field. The Lakers also did a good job attacking the offensive glass, grabbing 13 on the night. I wish more of those second possessions would have turned into chances for the bigs to go to work rather than more jumpers from the perimeter, but I digress as it was just good to see the guys going after the ball hard after the misses.
*Where the Lakers really won this game was on the defensive side. They held the Bobcats to an equally abysmal 39.8% shooting from the field (including 1-10 from three point land), kept them off the FT line (only 9 attempts from the stripe), and forced 12 turnovers that became 16 Laker points. The entire team deserves credit but Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum deserve special recognition here. Artest was brilliant in covering Stephen Jackson, hounding him all over the court and not giving him an inch of space to operate freely. On several occasions Ron simply bottled up Jackson and then either stole the ball from him outright or forced him into a position where he lost the ball off the dribble. Jackson ended the night with more turnovers (4) than made baskets (3) and was a game low -16 in plus/minus. All of that was pretty much Ron’s doing. Meanwhile Bynum was simple a dominant force in the middle. Expertly contesting shots and closing down the paint all night, Bynum tallied 6 blocks to go along with his 12 defensive rebounds (he’d also grab 5 offensive boards for a total of 17 on the night) and didn’t commit a single foul all game. When you combine those tangible numbers with all the altered shots and shots that he deterred the Bobcats from even taking, I’m not sure if we’ve seen a more dominant defensive night from Bynum all year.
*The dark cloud over this game was certainly the injury bug. Before this game, it was reported that Devin Ebanks will miss at least three weeks with a stress fracture in his left tibia. This isn’t the biggest blow to the Lakers as he’s a seldom used rookie, but I’d love to have all the guys available. More troubling, though, is that Matt Barnes “irritated” his knee during pre-game warm ups and didn’t play. He’s now listed as day to day and while the hope is that he’ll be back soon (he’ll travel with the team on their upcoming 4 game road trip), it’s not yet clear if he’ll actually see any game action soon. After the game he did say that his knee felt better as the night went on, but until he gets to test it on the court, we’ll just have to wait and see. But Barnes isn’t the only Laker we have to worry about now. Derek Fisher hurt his elbow during the game when he got tangled up with Kwame Brown battling for a rebound and had his arm wrenched in a direction it’s not supposed to bend. Fisher let out an audible yell and was on the ground clutching his shooting arm in obvious pain only to leave the game and not return. Currently, the diagnosis is a sprained elbow and Fisher is listed as day to day. And while Phil Jackson is concerned about it, he did state that he thinks Fisher will be ready for the Spurs game on Sunday adding that “He’s strong as an ox so I think that he’s got enough strength to probably hold it together.” We’ll just have to see how this plays out on Sunday, though.
Overall this was a solid effort from the Lakers with the result mattering more than how they actually got there. To be perfectly honest, this wasn’t that much of an enjoyable game to watch as both sides missed too many shots and the Lakers, in general, didn’t seem intent on working their offense in a way that would have produced a bigger lead earlier in the game where some of the guys could have gotten some rest. And while the very good defense is always welcomed, I still would have liked to have seen a more complete game on both sides of the ball considering the opponent and also as a springboard going into Sunday. But a win is a win and I’ll certainly take it. Hopefully the Lakers were just saving some of their offense for Sunday. They’ll surely need it in that game.