Tonight is just one of those nights where the Lakers’ collective talent was enough to win the game, but you never got the feeling of this game being dominated by an obviously superior team. The Lakers’ inability to put teams away has been a pet peeve of mine of lately, and tonight’s game was no different. The Lakers held leads of 18 and 17 points at different points in this game, but the game never seemed out of reach, as the Lakers continued to let the Hornets get back into the game over and over again. Even though it never seemed as if the Hornets gained enough momentum to get over the proverbial hump, the Lakers never really put them away.
The Lakers got going early, getting the ball inside to Pau and Andrew Bynum for easy layups and dunks. Kobe saw some time in the post, knocking down short jumpers and getting to the free throw line by attacking the rim. Even Ron Artest muscled Marco Belinelli for a couple of easy buckets near the rim. Even though Derek Fisher wasn’t putting points up on the board, he had a few nice passes that led to easy points for the Lakers early on in the game. The Lakers pounded their way to a 30-19 first quarter lead, and really looked like they were finding a nice offensive groove going into the second quarter.
Unfortunately, the second unit went away from what was working for the starters and started taking jumper after jumper after jumper after jumper. During the first six minutes of the second quarter, the Lakers took a 15-foot or longer jump shot in nine of their 12 attempts. By that point, the Lakers watched what was once a 12 point lead, get reduced to a four point lead. This trend would continue throughout the rest of the game. The Lakers played fantastic basketball to open up the third and extended their lead to 18, but started taking more jump shots and watched as their lead dipped back below double figures. They, again, stretched their lead to 17 points, but watched as that lead was slowly chipped away until the Lakers finally put the Hornets away in the final minutes of the game.
Of course, not all is bad in a win. We’ve been seeing a more aggressive Kobe in recent weeks and he topped the 30-point mark for the third straight game for the first time since the end of January/beginning of February. What you have to like about his recent performances is the fact that he’s been really aggressive in attacking the rim, allowing him to pick his spots in his mid-range game, which in turn turns into more efficient outings. Also, he’s been getting to the free throw line at a nice rate. Tonight, Kobe was seven for eight from the free throw line. Pau also had a fantastic game, scoring 23 points and adding 16 rebounds. His mid range jumper has been outstanding in recent games, and was no different tonight. More importantly, however, was the fact that he was not only finishing around the rim, but he was finishing strong. He had a few and-1’s and a couple of dunks in traffic.
Andrew Bynum had a rough night with the referees for most of the game, but had a small takeover while out on the floor with the second unit midway through the fourth quarter. He had a nice baseline drop step that got him to the free throw line, hit a nice face up jumper over Aaron Gray, a big dunk off of a Luke Walton pass and hit one more short jumper before Lamar Odom came in to finish the game for him. Finally, Ron Artest had a really efficient game tonight. 4-6 from the field, 1-1 from three and 2-2 from the free throw line. He finished the night with three steals, and now the Lakers are 14-1 when Ron line in the box score shows three steals.
Overall, it’s hard to complain too much after the Lakers won their 15th game in 16 outings since the All-Star break. They got it done on the defensive end again, only giving up 84 to the Hornets. The Lakers have Dallas up next on Thursday.