*In this current 10-1 stretch for the Lakers, they’ve seen their statistical profile as a team take a boost, especially related to their defensive efficiency numbers. They’re now 7th in defensive efficiency after another excellent game on D where they held the Magic to 98.7 points per 100 possessions. The team they just recently passed in def. efficiency is the Spurs who haven’t been fairing well on that side of the ball lately.
*Last night’s game also offered an update on the health of the Lakers. Both Kobe and Matt Barnes played while nicked up and both performed reasonably well. But, the guy I was watching was Andrew Bynum. As it’s been mentioned (by none other than Phil Jackson), Bynum is now “full strength” and it’s showing. One play in particular really stood out to me as the one that exemplified that Bynum is, indeed, 100% now. I’ll let Dan take it away from the comments of the game recap:
I thought one of the best plays of the game, that really showed just how far ‘Drew has come over the past few weeks, was the play in the 2nd half (4th Q?) off of a Laker missed jump shot, ‘Drew was on one side of the paint and tipped the ball up off the glass, beat Howard to the opposite side of the paint (!) and grabbed the O-board for the putback and one. Just a great show of his length and quickness.
*Another key play – at least in relation to a player’s health - was one where Kobe beat Jason Richardson off the dribble, got all the way to the rim, came to a jump stop and put up a floater over Howard. Even though Kobe had already knocked down two 3rd quarter shots priort to that one, the play showed that Kobe was willing to attack off the dribble and it ultimately opened up the rest of his offensive game. After that shot, Richardson could no longer crowd Kobe on his jumper and it led to 6 more points in that frame for #24.
*One guy that had an underrated game last night was Lamar Odom. He quietly poured in 16 points on 7-12 shooting and grabbed 7 rebounds too. With the recent rise of Bynum as a force, the contributions of Odom have gained a bit less recognition of late, but he’s truly having a superb season and his production remains so consistent it’s now almost taken for granted. Over at SB Nation Los Angeles, Dexter Fishmore makes his case for LO as 6th man of the year.
*Speaking of Lamar, one of the areas he’s really improved at over the years is as a finisher. He’s so crafty around the hoop now and he usually makes at least one play a game where I say “wow, that was a tough finish”. Over at The Point Forward, Zach Lowe had this to say about the great little bank shot that Odom has developed:
Tim Duncan gets all the love as the league’s preeminent bank-shot artist. But that may be a disservice to Odom, whose bankers come less predictably and from closer range — and thus might not draw the attention of Duncan’s patented angled jumper. Odom’s one-handed bankers have a craftiness and level of difficulty that Duncan can’t touch. There are so many times when Odom will appear trapped under the rim or blanketed by a long-armed defender at the end of one of his drives to the hoop. And then his left arm will rise into the picture, from under the backboard, beneath his defender’s armpit or between his defender’s arms, and Odom will flick up a banker from a weird angle and with a funky trajectory. And it will go in. He’s an underrated shot-maker.
*We covered this some when we revisited his signing, but I really like that Steve Blake commits 100% to running the Lakers’ sets on both sides of the ball. Last night he scored 0 points when he missed his only FG attempt and his only statistical contributions were his two assists. But, on the night he was a +8 and most of that was because of his dilligence in getting the team set up on O and methodically running the Triangle and his tireless work on defense when he picked up his man full court and zipped around the court rotating to open shooters on the wing. Goes to show that contributions really can be measured in more than the numbers.
*The Lakers don’t play until Friday but tonight there is a big game as Dallas visits Portland. If the Mavs lose, the Lakers will close the night as the #2 seed out West.
*Lastly, it’s NCAA Tournament time. You know what that means, it’s time to fill out your bracket. As we’ve done in years past, FB&G is hosting a bracket and all of you are more than welcome to join. Just click this link, hit “join a group” and use the group ID: 167853 and the password: CakewithKwame. Not sure what we’ll give away to the winner this year but we’ll think of something. Good luck beating me though. My bracket (Brackin’ II Electic Boogaloo) is going to be golden.