Some games are best forgotten quickly. This was one of those games. Facing an undermanned Hornets team, the Lakers played a relaxed and sloppy game but were able to pull out the win down the stretch by the count of 88-85.
The Lakers starting big men both had very good games on offense. Gasol went for 21 points on 8 for 14 shooting and added 11 rebounds with 3 assists. The Spaniard did most of his damage right at the front of the rim (shooting 5 for 7 in the restricted area via NBA.com) as a recipient of some good passes via smart cuts and when operating in the P&R. Gasol showed good hands and classic technique, keeping the ball high and finishing well even when in traffic. Bynum, meanwhile, had 19 points on 7 of 10 shooting and contributed 10 rebounds as well. Like Gasol, Bynum did all his damage right at the front of the rim, using his size to carve out space around the rim while using his power and footwork to get off good shots against a defense that was giving him extra attention all game. Both big men contributing a double-double was certainly a product of the Hornets’ lack of viable big men but considering how often the Hornets went zone, it was good to see both bigs take what the D gave them and not force shots once they got their touches. Both did a good job of playing to their strengths and finding the creases in the defense to get good shots.
Ramon Sessions also deserves some praise for his more than solid game. Sessions also had a double-double with 10 points (on 4 for 8 shooting) and 10 assists. Sessions played a controlled game but opportunistic game, seeking out driving lanes when they were there but also slowing the pace and setting up the offense in the half court when nothing was there. Once in the half court, Sessions ran the P&R well and had several good passes to Gasol and Bynum when they opened up near the basket flashing his vision and playmaking skills in the process. Sessions also assisted on two of Ron’s three 3 pointers and one of Blakes triples simply by moving the ball on time to his open mates. Overall, he showed his ability to be a floor general and lead the team.
The Lakers went in the 3rd quarter leading by 4 points but ended it trailing by 6. In the quarter they shot 7 for 19 (37%) and committed 5 turnovers all while allowing the Hornets to make 10 of their 22 attempts from the field. The Lakers came out with little energy on both ends of the floor and all too often let the Hornets get whatever they wanted on offense while allowing them to dictate to them on defense. The Lakers faced a fair amount of zone in this period and showed that they still don’t have a viable plan to consistently attack this defense, often settling for jumpers around the perimeter (Kobe settled for three 3 point attempts during this stretch) without attacking the middle of the zone via passes or dribble penetration. Losing the quarter by 10 allowed the Hornets to gain the momentum and put them in a hole that they tried to dig out of the rest of the game (finally breaking through with Kobe’s three pointer in the closing minute). Against a team that should have been beaten much easier, the 3rd quarter is where the Hornets gained all their confidence and was the reason the game had the tenor it did late.
Kobe may have hit the game winner but his shooting was horrendous on the night. He missed his first 15 shots and at one point was 2 for 20 (one make less than his horrid 3 for 20 game against the Jazz that was probably the worst game of his career). He missed jumpers and bunnies alike. He settled for too many three pointers (taking 8 on the night) and wasn’t nearly aggressive enough (showing in his 5 FT attempts) in attacking the basket. After a while it was almost comical (while also being painful) watching him miss shot after shot with the crowd ready to explode in cheers but ultimately letting out collective “oooooh’s” when the ball clanked harmlessly off the rim.
That said, this performance told me that Kobe’s tired. Nearly every Kobe miss was off the front rim and the fact that he settled so often against a team that didn’t have a good defensive option to guard him nor shot blockers to protect the rim were evidence enough. However, after the game when asked if fatigue played a part in his shooting woes he admitted that it had (the exact quote was “maybe a little”). For Kobe to even acknowledge fatigue tells me he’s probably very tired as he’ll rarely admit to any weakness in his game or in how he’s feeling. This isn’t to absolve Kobe from shooting poorly. If he’s in the game he must find a way to be effective. So, he either needs to make more of the shots he decides to take or augment his game (like he did in the 1st quarter) and be more of a set up man for the bigs. That said, it’s imperative that Kobe not be on the floor as much as he has been and that’s not on him. He’s not going to ask out of the game so the coaches (namely Mike Brown) must find a way to get him more rest by leaving him on the bench for longer.
The Play of the Game:
Obviously Kobe’s game winner is it, but since we covered that earlier, lets go in another direction. As a sucker for big to big passing, this Gasol to Bynum interior dime was great. Even better was how it was set up with Sessions and Kobe running a 1/2 P&R and then Pau setting another screen forcing his man to hedge out on Ramon. After the screen, Pau dove down the lane, made the catch and then shoveled to Drew for the easy dunk. A great action, here: